Saturday, November 30, 2013

Going to Carolina Inn my mind (and the restorative powers of an elegant afternoon tea)

Carolina Inn, located on the campus of the University of North Carolina

Born, raised and current resident of Oakland County, in a suburb just north of Detroit, I'm proud of my Midwest roots, however, there's part of me that leans towards Southern sensibilities. Afternoon tea at the Carolina Inn embodies the history, charm and gentility of a society that, if I can't fully emulate, I absolutely adore. This beautiful Inn, on the campus of the University of North Carolina, in the heart of the quaint town of Chapel Hill, is all grace and decorum. After a bumpy "plains, trains and automobiles" trip to get there, an afternoon of Southern hospitality was especially welcoming.

In the back of a crowed van on the way to Detroit Metro

A short journey that sadly resembled a John Hughes movie, in the first leg of this two-day trip, I was victim to a canceled flight (just as we were boarding), an airport-chartered van that took a dozen hapless souls to Detroit Metro to catch connecting flights (missing mine by 5 minutes), a reschedule flight to Columbus with an hour layover and, finally, food poisoning -which I suspect came from a turkey panini I purchased at that Ohio airport kiosk.

Karolina Hooker, Restaurant Coordinator/Tea Director of the Carolina Inn

Afternoon tea cures all that ails

I rallied,  however, the next afternoon in time to meet up with Karolina Hooker, tea director of the Carolina Inn. We had exchanged emails earlier in the month and she invited me to join her for tea at 3:00 that Wednesday afternoon.  I am not a health professional, so I can't, with any authority, speak to the healing powers of tea. I can, however, attribute a direct causal affect to an afternoon tea invitation at one of the most beautiful Inn's of the South to working miracles in restorative powers. Within hours of experiencing a whole lot of hurt, I found the strength to call a rental car service a block from my hotel and put a compact car on hold. A short time later, I was barreling down  I-40, gaunt and a little shaky, but feeling the positive effects of tea - and that was just in anticipation.

The elegant lobby of the Carolina Inn
The Carolina Inn was, in every aspect, all that and more. From the moment I drove up to the pillared facade of the Inn and then entering the crystal-chandelier lobby, I knew my Southern leanings had found their home. Greeted by Karolina (pronounced Care-o-leena) in the elegant foyer, she escorted me to one of the private rooms near the main dining area. Rose walls with cream wainscoting served as background to chairs with toile (yes, toile!) cushions in the same color scheme. And, we're just talking decor- I haven't even started with the food.

Scones, chocolate torte, cheesecake, tiarmisu

Elmwood Inn's Carolina Blueberry tea is served at the Inn

The afternoon tea fare was, indeed, in keeping with all the ambiance. All the food is  fresh and prepared on-site. Karolina treated me to a large assortment of afternoon tea delights including the Inn's signature scones, chocolate granache tarts and petite cheesecakes. These were accompanied by pot of Earl Grey and a refreshing brew of Elmwood Inn's Carolina Blueberry tea. (For a more detailed account of the afternoon tea offerings, see the Detroit Tea Examiner's account, "Afternoon tea at the Carolina Inn:  Southern charm and history make any day special").

Despite the challenges to getting there, the trip was so worth the destination. I hope to get back there in the near future, but whenever I feel the need to get in touch with my Southern sensibilities without the benefit of trains, plains or vans, I'll take a cue from James Taylor and I'll go to the Carolina Inn my mind.