I've been jonesing to check out Langham Pasadena's Chocolate Afternoon Tea ever since I read Pleasure Palate's post on it; and lucky for me, that time came in mid-April when my friends wanted to splurge and check out this fancier-than-usual tea service too (it's $59 here, considerably higher than our usual ~$30 tea outings.)
Unlike other tea rooms which can be overly stuffy and precious with the decor (a.k.a. lace doilies, tea cozies and porcelain dolls galore!); the one @ the Langham takes place in their expansive, airy Lobby Lounge take takes advantage of the sun with its near-full-length windows. And the chairs and couches were super-comfortable so we didn't have a qualm sitting there all afternoon long.
Our experience started off glasses of Champagne that, to our delight, turns out to be free-flowing for the duration of the afternoon tea -- along with sparkling cider or fizzy pink lemonade. We placed our tea orders and proceeded to scan, gawk (and maybe drool...) at the dessert bar that awaits us.
Their tea selection is on the small side, but give nods to both classic varieties (Organic Earl Grey & English Breakfasts) and dessert-themed twists (Chocolate Mint Truffle & Pear Caramel.) Our group wound up picking Mayan Truffle, Pear Caramel and English Breakfast to share (and, like the sparklies, are all-you-care-to-drink.) Thankfully, the sweet-sounding teas are only sweet-smelling while still tasting very much like teas, and totally enjoyable without any additional sugar and milk (actually, the only tea I used them on was the English Breakfast!)
A little while after the teas, our afternoon tiers arrived. It included five chocolate-themed, open-faced tea sandwiches that were thankfully a lot more savory than the menu suggests. While my friends were enamored with foie gras mousse profiterole with chocolate dust, I'm more impressed with their vanilla-marinated shrimp sandwich with white-chocolate & avocado mousse. Meaty and succulent with just a subtly sweet scent of vanilla and cocoa butter to make it intriguing. I also enjoyed the serrano ham with burrata mousse & 'chocolate caviar'.
The scones (in cocoa-marbled and chocolate chip varieties) were warm, fluffy and delicious with their clotted cream, lemon curd and assorted preserves (the blueberry is my favorite.)
And then, the moment we all have been waiting for... their "pastry presentation", which included:
a chocolate fountain for fruits and sweets ready for DIY dipping (though I found almond nougats, flavored marshmallows and fruits excellent on their own... particularly the strawberries to accent my Champagne.)
truffles served in a chocolate sculpture
a mini-desserts buffet of mostly-finger-friendly sweets (the only thing that really required utensils was the white chocolate-green tea panna cotta)
Of course, it's only blogger duty that I wound up sampling at least one of everything offered (the above was the first of three plates I went through) -- they all pretty solid, but my faves included the panna cotta, the chocolate-orange tea bread and cardamom-spiced truffles.
I'll also add a note that throughout the three hours (and beyond) of the tea, the service was exceptional - with frequent refilling of sparklies and teas, allowing us to finish our beverages in the adjacent Tap Room bar when they had to close out the Lobby Lounge after official tea time for a bridal shower, and even giving us some nuts for feeding the resort's squirrely residents when we took a stroll around their gardens afterwards...
It made for an absolutely blissful afternoon that left us full of food, teas, conversations and plans for future gatherings in this little luxurious oasis that feels strangely so far away from the city (even though we were only 15 minutes away from Old Town Pasadena.)
What Do Others Say?
- LAist managed to squeeze in a visit for this "stately and delightful rituals" during their wildly popular annual "Hats Off to London" promotion, when they offer afternoon tea for its original price of one shilling and six pences (15 cents in US money)
- Gastronomy found "few things in this world more pleasurable than enjoying afternoon tea in a pretty room" here and also loved the chocolate fountain foods sans the chocolate itself
- Life on a Silver Platter notes that this place is "serious about its chocolate" during the tea
More photos in flickr set here
Chocolate Afternoon Tea @ Langham Pasadena
(Sundays noon to 3 p.m.; they also offer a traditional afternoon tea on Thurs. - Sat.)
1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91106