Once Upon a Tea – A Romantic Tea of Scones & Nibbles For Valentine’s at the Windsor Arms Hotel, Part II

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Crisp white tablecloths, engraved and monogrammed silverware, a doorman opening the grand front door, lush tea rooms, and majestic crystal chandeliers.  If the Windsor Arms Hotel makes me feel like a princess, their afternoon tea is a model of royal treatment.  After the doorman let myself and my boyfriend in, I was in awe.  It wasn’t my first time at the hotel, but I was clearly seeing the hotel lobby and even other parts of the hotel with fresh eyes.  There were lush green palms in the lobby, a gorgeous, gigantic chandelier hanging  from the high ceiling, and a beautiful balcony view of the lobby and banquet hall courtyard cafe from the 2nd floor of the hotel.  I was so thrilled to be here again and I was ready to sit down to a beautiful tea full of tea sandwiches, scones, petit fours, and copious amounts of sweet tea.

I was beyond excited when I decided to go to my first afternoon tea here for Toronto’s Chocolate Festival back in 2010 and I was even more delighted with the prospect of going back for Valentine’s this month.  Not only was I looking forward to doing something sweet and romantic (and not to mention delicious) for the occasion of hearts and cupids, but after visiting the Windsor Arms tea menu page I was ecstatic to find out there were new nibbles!  I would have been happy receiving the same selection of tea sandwiches and such from the time before, but you know how I feel about new menu items.  The full afternoon tea comes with a selection of tea from their tea menu, cream, jam and preserves, scones, tea sandwiches, a mini goat cheese and caramelized shallot puff pastry tarts, fresh strawberries and whipped cream, and petit four desserts.

The menu of tea sandwiches this time around featured a mix of smoked salmon with wasabi sour cream and salmon caviar, cucumber with sundried tomato paste and dill cream cheese, and grilled chicken with granny smith apples, citrus mayo, greek yogurt, and chives.  As much as I wanted to inhale the sandwiches with grilled chicken, my allergy to raw apples (and my boyfriend’s throat tickle to raw apples didn’t help the cause either) deterred me so I kindly told the server about this and asked if we could either omit the apples in it or substitute it with something else and our server informed us that he would give us more of the other two types, which was perfectly fine with us.  The salmon lovers in us rejoiced!

The entire afternoon tea was fabulous, but what really blew me away was their selection of tea this time!  When we were given the tea menu, I flipped it open and was astonished to find pages of tea choices!  Not all of their teas are listed on the website so I was taken by surprise in the best way possible.  Green tea, white tea, rooibos, the possibilities went on for pages.  Windsor Arms had expanded their tea selection ten-fold and I was rapidly reading through loose leaf tea descriptions in an effort to choose one for to enjoy with my food.

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A Cuppa Tea, A Cuppa Love – An Afternoon Tea For Valentine’s at the Windsor Arms Hotel, Part I

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The love and romance surrounding Valentine’s isn’t over just yet here on Ate by Ate!  Besides cupcakes and cake pops and heart-shaped tins of M&Ms, there was also tea – and lots of it!  Surrounded by darling tea cups and teapots, plush seats, and the softest scones imaginable, I sat back and soaked in a sweet and romantic afternoon tea in the bright and lush royal purple tea room at the Windsor Arms Hotel in celebration of Valentine’s. 

As the years go by, I often reflect on all the special memories I’ve made during holidays and special occasions and undoubtedly, memories of Valentine’s past fit into this ever-growing mental scrapbook of mine.  Valentine’s past have been chock full of movies (which have become some of my favourite movies of all time), dessert dates, delicious dinners, cupcakes, sushi, visits to my favourite garden, Allan Gardens, and most recently, even a heart-shaped pizza!  I love doing different things for special occasions and having new things to look forward to on those particular days, so I thought, “why not do an afternoon tea for Valentine’s?  It would be perfect!”  Sweet petit fours, my boyfriend’s favourite scones, my love of tea, and delicious food in a fairytale-like atmosphere.  It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.

Given how much we had enjoyed our very first afternoon tea at Windsor Arms over a year ago, my heart was set on afternoon tea with my boyfriend as a little Valentine’s treat and I had a day plan in mind all ready to go.  I love making plans and planning “fun days”.  The joy I get from concocting these elaborate schemes stems from three things.  One, I’ve been conditioned to get the most out of my public transit spending.  If I’m going to be purchasing and using tickets and tokens to be out and about anyway, I’m going to make the most out of my day and that means cramming in as many activities and errands as possible.  Two, after being at the mercy of a topsy-turvy university schedule that didn’t leave me with a lot of time to myself for six and a half years, I relish the time I have to enjoy an entire day full of my favourite things and activities and in this case.  And last, because my boyfriend surprised me with a romantic day all planned out on our very first date, I’ve loved doing multiple things in a day, especially with him.  To have a specific day to look forward to like this, centred around tea and nibbles and making Valentine’s memories, is simply wonderful to me.   

The afternoon tea ended up being more wonderful than I had expected!  I loved my first experience, but this time was even better.  Not only did I fall crazy in love with my tea and food, but I also took a mini tour of the majestic hotel (paying a visit to the ladies’ room on the 2nd floor will make you awestruck on the way there and on the way back like that) and I also found out some new information about the dining at Windsor Arms previously unbeknowst to me (hint: vegan menus abound!) that make me so much more excited about visiting the hotel again!  With a new menu, different teas and nibbles, and a tea room full of happy tea sippers, the place was abuzz with love and friendship.  Here’s a sneak peek at my Valentine’s afternoon tea.     

*****

The Windsor Arms Hotel is located at 18 Saint Thomas Street, just south of Bloor St. W, between Bay St. and Avenue Rd.  From Monday to Wednesday tea is served in 4 sittings: 12:30, 1:00, 3:00, 3:30, and from Thursday to Sunday 5:30 and 6:00 as well.  Teas are available at a range of prices, from $18/person to $45/person, with different menus for each price point.  Visit the Windsor Arms Hotel website for prices and menus.

Pinkies Up! Chocolate & Afternoon Tea at the Windsor Arms Hotel – Part II

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Once upon a time there was a princess who desperately wished to attend a tea party.  A tea with cute teacups, nice linens, delicious scones and sweet pastries, little cream cheese and/or smoked salmon tea sandwiches, and of course, a piping hot teapot of flavoured tea.  And as luck would have it, the Toronto Chocolate Festival held in October through November delivered the perfect opportunity to the princess: a chocolate afternoon tea at the Windsor Arms Hotel!  An afternoon tea devoted to the richness and decadence of chocolate with chocolate dessert tea and chocolate petit fours.  The princess certainly couldn’t say no! 

Located near the posh shopping neighbourhood of Bay & Bloor, the Windsor Arms Hotel was the epitome of sophisticated and lush.  Overcome with giddiness and with her Prince Charming in tow, the princess high-tailed herself over to the quaint hotel on the 2nd of November, and braced herself for what was to be a very sweet and delicious affair.  Tucked away on Saint Thomas St., just steps away from Yorkville, the Windsor Arms is what the princess would describe as fancy-pants: grand chandeliers, a ballroom, fine dining, afternoon tea seatings throughout the afternoon, and several tea rooms to boot.  As she “oohed” and “ahhed” her way through the front foyer and adjoining bar and lounge, the princess and her Prince Charming were whisked away to the bright purple room, fit for royalty, for their afternoon tea. 

 

The princess was in awe.  Only two words could capture the essence of the purple and white tea room before her: hush and lush.  Crisp white tablecloths and linens adorned the dainty tables, lush purple love seats and sofas sat regally in each corner of the room, sunlight streamed through soft and billowy lilac curtains, and a warm fireplace greeted its afternoon tea guests.  Tea tables were set with the whitest of napkins, engraved silverware, tea strainers, and dishes of jarred jams and jellies and fresh cream for scones.  The princess was overcome with excitement as she eagerly awaited the indulgences to come.

Her tea was brought forth, a steaming teapot of Tibetan Tiger: a sweet chocolate dessert tea with hints of vanilla, chocolate, caramel, and butterscotch that smelled as divine as it tasted.  The princess’s white and floral patterned teapot sat alongside fresh cream and dainty jars of raspberry and strawberry jams for the delightful scones that were to come.  The princess poured her tea through the strainer into her teacup and took a sip: if tea was heaven, the princess was floating in it.  Rich and sweet, and at the same time refreshing, the chocolatey, buttery flavour paired perfectly with the freshly baked, fluffy scones.  The nibbles, scrumptious in every way, were arranged on a tea stand, rolled out on a cart, and daintily placed on the princess’s table.  The princess felt as though her heart would burst from happiness.  Never in her life had she experienced an afternoon tea and she was ecstatic.  So very, very ecstatic!

 

 

What lay before the princess and her prince were four large and round, sweet and fluffy, cinnamon and raisin scones dusted with powdered fairy sugar; one dozen plump tea sandwiches made with grilled cheese and citrus peel topping, baby greens, asparagus, and creamy chive cream cheese, and smoked salmon with baubles of salmon caviar and roasted tomato cream cheese; and four chocolate petit fours that looked so extremely rich and decadent.  Each one of the chocolate petit fours highlighted either a different type of chocolate or a popular chocolate combination.  There was a creamy white chocolate petit four topped with a dark juicy cherry, a chocolate truffle A warm, flaky goat cheese and caramelized shallot tart; ; salmon caviar and roasted tomato cream cheese.  The food was fresh, delectable, and oh-so-delightful.  And the grand finale?  Rich chocolate petit fours adorned with a raspberry, a maraschino cherry, or crushed hazelnuts, and a bowl of fresh strawberries and whipped cream. 

In the magical land of foodies, the experience was enchanting.  After being stuffed to the brim with such splendid delicacies, the princess and her Prince Charming thanked the staff for a wonderful afternoon tea, rolled down the street on their full tummies, and lived happily ever after.

 

*****

The Windsor Arms Hotel is located at 18 Saint Thomas Street, just south of Bloor St. W, between Bay St. and Avenue Rd.  From Monday to Wednesday tea is served in 4 sittings: 12:30, 1:00, 3:00, 3:30, and from Thursday to Sunday 5:30 and 6:00 as well.  Teas are available at a range of prices, from $18/person to $45/person, with different menus for each price point.  Visit the Windsor Arms Hotel website for prices and menus.