Thursday, August 1, 2013

Girls Getaway to a Chicago Legend - Day 2

Friday morning, the Palmer House’s Historian Ken Price took us on an enchanting historical
tour of the hotel, illuminating the love story between Potter and Bertha Palmer and the strong will, talent, hard work and luck that brought the hotel to life. We had a chance to explore the Empire Room, which used to be one of the swankiest nightclubs in the country, hosting performers like Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. Now, it’s available for private events. In the pastry kitchen we stole bites of Bertha Palmer’s brownie, the original dense, fudgy recipe topped with walnuts from when it was invented in 1893 during the World’s Fair. The most exciting part of the day was sneaking into the hotel’s secret vault, where millions of dollars of fine china and crystal glasses from Bertha’s fantastic parties are stored. I was so
scared that I would knock something over and spend the rest of my life indebted to the Palmer House. Ken, who has been with the Palmer House for 31 years, leads his “History is Hott!” tours daily, and the luncheon plus tour is just $65, a great value for history buffs or anyone looking to learn more about Chicago.

Later that day, I enjoyed afternoon tea for the first time. My French super blue lavender tea was fragrant and soothing, a
perfect pairing with cucumber watercress and egg salad finger sandwiches, along with scones, petit fours and a host of other goodies. The treats come out on a three-tier platter and are more than enough for lunch.

That same evening, Lockwood’s talented Executive Chef Joseph Rose treated us to an elaborate six-course tasting menu. A perfectly cooked Skuna Bay salmon dish with morels and English peas still has my mouth watering. Wine Steward Britton Sendra did a phenomenal job of choosing wine pairings, my favorite of which was the earthy 2007 Planeta Burdese she paired with beef filet, asparagus and blue cheese potatoes gratin. The rich red wine had notes of cherries and a little spiciness, to match the bold-flavored beef and blue cheese.

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