While the gorgeous Biltmore Hotel downtown serves lovely Afternoon Tea all year long, it’s even more special during the holidays. You get to see their stunning silver and white winter decorations and giant gingerbread house, and listen to live piano music on the week-ends (including Fridays) performed by Zaza Marjanishvili.
This past Sunday afternoon, the intrepid Eadie and I enjoyed doing just that. I had been stressed to the max, between my new writing gig for People.com, multiple events every night, starting on the holidays, and certain friends being anything but, and this special Holiday Tea is exactly what I needed.
[Sidebar: I’m not complaining about my activities; rather, I’m incredibly grateful for it all. It’s just that I haven’t had one second to relax.]
Leslie, a new pal, joined us, so we had three opinions on this one, and we all loved every second of it. (I think she’s the only person I know whose mother taught her to take tea, instead of me giving the lesson. I love a fun mom like that!)
After marveling at the gingerbread structure right at the street entrance to the hotel’s Rendezvous Court, we settled onto a couch in the more private section along the wall. (The basic middle area actually looked more fun to me, but they were both charming.) Eadie remarked that there couldn’t be a more lovely setting for tea. I was glad that it was cold outside, which is perfect afternoon tea weather.
We shared two never-ending pots; Leslie and I chose Apricot Cinnamon herbal tea, and Eadie went with Tahitian Mango Green. Our super-attentive server, Saul, kept pouring, at the perfect intervals. Never once did we need to look for him, for even one second! I’ve never been to a tea where they take the pots off the table for you, and always do the refilling of your cups. It was a very classy appreciated touch.
Eadie started with a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne, whose smoothness she admired, while I began with sparkling cider. Eggnog was the third choice of beverage. The three courses were brought at once on a triple-tiered tray, which is what most places do. The many holiday desserts made this an especially colorful presentation.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with tea service, in general, you always start with the sandwiches. We had four different delectable kinds here. (If you’re not a fan of any of them, they’ll very happily substitute another for you.) Leslie and I were most partial to the Chicken Salad on Walnut-Cranberry Bread, while Eadie loved the original Proscuitto and Swiss Cheese with Cranberry Cream on Chocolate Bread. That one sounds strange, but it’s actually pretty delicious. The other two were Salmon with Caviar and Quail Egg Salad with Asparagus, both of which Eadie loved. (Leslie and I didn’t try those.)
Next come the scones. For the holidays, the Biltmore is serving maple ones, which I’ve never before encountered, but hope to again. It was the most unique scone flavoring I’ve ever come across, and was positively scrumptious! The only problem was that I could have eaten ten of them, and we each got just one, which is plenty for most people. I loved them so much, though.
We got five mini-desserts each, which is generous. (I think that for the rest of the year, you get three.) The special seasonal selections were a fluffy Pumpkin Cheesecake round, and the down-to-earth Cranberry-Apple Tart. The usuals are Chocolate-Covered Strawberries, Florentine Fruit Cup, and Pecan Chocolate Tart, all of which were good.
When we could finally force ourselves to leave this heaven, we visited the hotel lobby to view the gorgeous Christmas tree. I was happy to see one with warm old-fashioned colors again. It seems that there’s a trend towards non-traditional decorations, and I forgot that Christmas is all about green, red, and gold. They have a table set up all day during December for guests and visitors to serve themselves eggnog and hot apple cider. Very special treatment from a very special hotel. I left there with my stresses a distant memory.
Millennium Biltmore Hotel 506 S. Grand Ave. Downtown 213-624 1011 www.milleniumhotels.com
Until recently, I spent a big chunk of my summers in Aspen, and had more fun each time than the one before. Once I met Gina, Alex, and Simone, my three dream friends, it got even better. This Aspen chapter of the Femmes Fatales is my favorite, and I’m always sad that we now live so far away from each other that I just have to re-live our heyday in my mind. (Simone lives in Austria, Alex in Australia, and Gina’s soon to be in New Zealand, all with their husbands and young children. How are we to work out a reunion???)
We went dancing every night possible, and were always smiling and happy. But the girls always dragged me kicking and screaming to 70s night. I really went only to hang with them. (And I’m so grateful to have those memories now!) We would stay till the bitter end on those nights, when they ended with “Last Dance,” which now brings me to tears knowing it really was that for us.
[Sidebar: my teen-age friend in RI, Ronnie Hazel, Jr., loves to see how quickly I can cry nowadays, by asking me, “Hey, Karen, how are those friends of yours?” It works every time. I’m actually crying writing this story!]
The point is that somehow, those 70s tunes really do seem to bring people together. I can’t really explain the attraction for most people, but it’s there. And now it’s back in Los Angeles in a new limited-run musical at the Coronet Theatre, which I caught on opening night.
This was a really fun night out. The only stress involved was getting five females together at holiday time, in order to have that fun! The play is “Girls Night, The Musical.” (Why do all shows nowadays put the words “The Musical” after the first part? Most of them weren’t anything before, as opposed to “Legally Blonde, The Musical,” which was.)
The adjective we all came up with after is “fun.” While the five women (on stage, not in my group) were all talented singers, the story and acting were pretty weak. We didn’t care about the weaknesses, though, because we got to hear fun 70s songs, performed by excellent voices, in a cozy theatre, in a relatively short show. Who really needs more than that? (Though, it’s about time the Coronet upgrades their sound system and cuts out the below zero air-conditioning!)
The audience members were upbeat and smiling throughout. I got the feeling that the actors wanted more participation from us than we had energy to give, but one fearless teen got up and boogied on opening night, which made it even more entertaining.
I feel like it’s being promoted as a show for chicks, but it’s not in the least. It’s for anyone who wants to hear old songs sung well. I think that everyone who knows 70s music will like it. If I hadn’t read the program, though, I wouldn’t have known the setting was a karaoke bar. I would have preferred the ladies to just sing, and cut-out the inane storyline.
There was one who touched her boobs way too many times, which I think was supposed to signify Girl Power. The talent was enough to prove that, and they didn’t need shtick, which I’m not a fan of.
Also, they were supposed to be friends from elementary school, but appeared to be five different ages! In real life, I know that some of us age better than others, but this was ridiculous!
I noticed that some older folk left at halftime, but it was their loss because the second half is better than the first. Quicker, too.
During this season of nothing but heavy films, it’s a pleasure to have some light, easy, live entertainment to head out to.
Girls Night, The Musical running through January 6, 2008
Coronet Theatre 366 N. La Cienega Blvd. 310-657-7377 www.GirlsNightTheMusical.com
After the opening night performance, we segued to Pane Y Vino for the party to fete the performers. I think they’re all from Arizona, so this night was probably really special for them.
I’m not a big fan of this restaurant, for no particular reason, but their pizza is really light and cheesy, which is how I love it. And the salad and pasta were particularly tasty this evening. My friends enjoyed the tiramisu for dessert, as well. And the service was accommodating, as usual.
The best part was the generous goodie bags, which the PR people were kind enough to make sure that we all got. I can guarantee you that there wasn’t a frown anywhere to be found this entire evening. And, in these troubling times, that is practically a Christmas Miracle!
Pane e Vino 8265 Beverly Blvd. 323- 651-4600 www.panevinola.com