Saturday, February 18, 2012

Valentine's Day at the White Castle: tea, tablecloths, and sliders by candlelight

After spending the first week of February visiting Denver, highlighted by a trip to the Brown Palace, we continued on our royal theme by spending the next week, Valentine's Day, at a castle - the White Castle, home of the Slider.

According to its website, White Castle is America's first hamburger fast food chain. It came onto the scene almost twenty years after the Brown Palace, opening its first diner in 1921. But, it too is rich in history and, although not typically singled out for it's lavish decor, that all changes on February 14th.

For the last 21 years, White Castle has gone all out for the night of romance with reserved seating, wait staff, candlelight, flowers and tablecloths.

I told my husband I had made reservations for Tuesday's 6:00 seating. He accepted, and with barely any trepidation.

I will readily admit, we had a great time, and I plan to go back next year. The staff was courteous and attentive and I was truly impressed with how shiny clean the dining room was. Tablecloths were on every table with Valentine's Day decorations throughout the room. We were quickly seated and given a "goodie bag" filled with candy, pink fortune cookies and a souvenir clear plastic heart inscribed with "White Castle, February 14, 2012" as commemorative of this special evening.

Reverse sticker shock came when our menus, specially printed for the day, were presented. Nothing listed on the left side of the menu was over $3.00 and on the left, even the snack meals were barely double that. The only two high ticket items were the exclusive Valentine's offers: the "Sweetheart Special" for $14.98 and the "Group Hug" for $23.88, which are meant to feed up to three to four people, respectively. So, even at those prices, they are a heartwarming bargain.

A complimentary dessert was served after our sliders, fries and iced-tea. Already packaged and clearly labeled, we finished our meal with a fudge dipped cheesecake . . . on a stick! It was short, sweet and tasty - like our romantic evening at the self-proclaimed "Love Castle".

Just before we left, the hostess took our picture which will be posted in a few weeks on the "Hot and Steamy" Valentine's Day promotion page of White Castle's website. It will provide yet another opportunity to relive the magic of the majestic fortress just minutes from home.

I think a new Valentine's Day tradition has begun!

Royal tea time: from the Brown Palace to the White Castle in less than a week

In less than a week's time, I had tea in two regally named establishments: The Brown Palace in Denver and a White Castle in Detroit. Although the menu, ambiance and, final bill were on extreme ends of the dining experience, we were treated royally and had a lot of fun at both establishments.

Last week, my husband, Chris, and I were able to combine business and pleasure with a quick trip to Colorado. Chris had work that brought him to Boulder and it gave us the opportunity to visit with my sister-in-law and her family who live in nearby Denver. Aside from spending time with our nephews, top on my list was a visit to Celestial Seasonings tea tour (future blog) and a stop at The Brown Palace for afternoon tea. After reading about the latter a few year's back in Bruce Richardson's, The Great Tea Rooms of America, it became a fantasy destination for me.

Last week, my sister-in-law made those dreams a reality. On Thursday afternoon, we sat across from each other at an intimately-sized round table in The Brown Palace's impressive eight story atrium lobby while background music played from the grand piano in a corner of the room. Built in 1892, the hotel's rich interior drips with elegance and grandeur. It takes little prodding to relax and assimilate to the environs.

Silver tea pots and a three-tiered tray were soon placed on our table and we were enjoying the ambiance while nibbling on delicious scones and egg-salad sandwiches. We sampled the hotel's signature brew, "Brown Palace Crown Jewel", a rich black tea blend of Assam and Ceylon. I liked it so much, I bought two tins of it from the gift shop to take home to keep the memories steeping a little while longer.

Good times, good tea, good day!

And, although one would find it hard to top such an elegant affair, especially within only a few days, we found a majestic venue in our own backyard upon our return home - and for Valentine's Day, to boot! We paid a visit to a White Castle restaurant complete with wait staff, tablecloths, candlelight and flowers. But, I'll save that story for the next blog.

For more information on the history and location of the Brown Palace, see The Detroit Examiner's recent article featuring this delightful tea room.