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Drake Hotel: 140 East Walton Place, Chicago, IL 60611

Tea at DrakeThe holidays are the perfect time for family traditions both new and old.  One tradition that my family has enjoyed for many years is tea at the Drake Hotel.  My mom used to take me and my sister when we were younger and now that we have children, our three girls come too.  When choosing holiday activities in Chicago for the show, we knew we had to include tea at the Drake!

The tradition of afternoon tea started in 1840 by the Seventh Duchess of Bedford and has evolved into a sophisticated affair that is celebrated around the world.  The occasion of afternoon tea affords a time to get dressed up and introduce your kids to some of the finer things in life.  Remember, pinkies up!

My friends D.C. and Alayna Crenshaw and their two boys joined me for a special holiday tea.  D.C. is a food and lifestyle expert, TV host and founder and President of Fête, the “World’s Premier Dining & Lifestyle Network.”  Clearly, the perfect guests to have on such an adventure!  We met in the beautifully decorated lobby of the Drake Hotel before entering the Palm Court dining room.  We could hear the harpist playing for the guests as we were escorted to the table.  It was the start of an elegant affair!

The tea sommelier walked us through the menu and helped us select the teas that he thought we would enjoy.  I picked the one that Princess Diana was known to have tried when she had visited the hotel.  The boys tried fruit flavored teas and added just enough sugar and milk to make it taste just right!  Once we were served, the sommelier taught us some tea etiquette such as how to stir our tea by moving our spoons in an up and down fashion.  You can watch us in action in the Chicago Holiday episode – the boys were excellent students!

The big hit with the kids was the three-tiered trays of food that made their way to the table!  One had finger sandwiches, breads and scones and the other offered scrumptious bite sized desserts.  The boys really liked the cake pops that were dipped in a sweet ganache – YUM!  Must be nice not to worry about calories at that age!  Don’t miss out on tea at the Drake Hotel when you are in Chicago for your next family vacation, especially during the holiday season.

Spice House: 1512 N Wells St., Chicago, IL 60610

Twitter TuesdayOur second culinary adventure was at the fragrant Spice House on Wells Street.  If you can’t make it to that location, you are in luck because the Spice House has multiple locations throughout Chicagoland!  For our holiday episode we wanted to showcase a wonderful Chicago staple for locals when it comes to cooking and baking.  Many of us equate food with the holidays and in our opinion, there is no better place to purchase the spices needed to make your recipes extra special.

Our producer’s son and step-mother joined us on set to shop for their cookie baking ingredients!  What we love about the Spice House is that you can buy the amount that you need in order to keep the spices fresh.  The variety was amazing with several different types of vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon, just to name a few.  The manager of the store let us smell and taste different varieties and she was a wealth of information about the spices available – where they came from, how they were grown, etc.  It always pays to ask questions and the staff are wonderfully knowledgeable!

Spices are an excellent souvenir especially if you can purchase something that is unique to an area…think saffron from Spain.  At the Spice House, you can buy special Chicago neighborhood themed spice blends, which would be delicious on steaks or other grilled meats.  The idea makes my mouth water!  You can ask that they place your spices in bags instead of glass jars so you can pack them safely in your bags although keep in mind that glass does keep your spices fresh so you might want to transfer them once you are home.  You can also find recipe ideas in the store and on their website so you will have no trouble finding inspiration.  And every time you use your special spice blend, you will think of your family vacation in Chicago.

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