Monday, July 25, 2011

A Russian TEA*Vent Moment

In the life of a working Mommy, it is a rare treat to be transported on a "school night" to something completely unrelated to work or kids. In this particular case, I got to indulge in an "evening out" that included a trip to Beverly Hills and a Russian Tea Pairing TEA*Vent hosted by American Tea Room. Could the timing have been more perfect? I submit that it could not! I am knee-deep in Russian research/obsession revolving particularly around their tea and food. It was fate!

Admit it, David. You scheduled this Russian TEA*Vent just for me!
 My good friend (and L.A. local), M, joined me in the experience. The evening consisted of a brief introduction to the tea and food offerings, and then the guests (it was a full house!) were able to taste as they desired.

We started with blinis and caviar, a Russian must-have. The secret is the dollop of sour cream to balance the salty richness of the caviar. This was paired with a tea-infused White Russian cocktail.

Next, a shot glass of borscht. A bright crimson-pink puree, this was an eye-catcher. While I've had (and made) many types of borscht, this one, in my opinion, leaned toward the Moscovite borscht, with more of a pickled beet flavor and no competing ingredients. Pure beet.  A Siberian borscht is more of a beef and beet stew, hearty, chunky and completely unrefined.  To complement this sophisticated borscht, however, was the Samovar blend, a serious, smoky blend that tips its hat to a traditional Russian Caravan. It smells of camp fires and feels like you can sink your teeth into. Listening to the comments around me, this was either their least favorite or their absolute favorite. No in-betweens!

Next, a blini topped with smoked salmon, complemented by a Lapsang Souchong. While Samovar smells like camp fire, this tea tastes like campfire and leaves your throat coated in embers. While too smoky for my developing palate, there were again many enthusiasts who love-love-loved the blend.

With the savories behind us, we jumped into the sweets with scones and blood orange Romanoff jam paired with the Romanoff blend. This strong black tea blend has hints of blood orange, so the combination  was divine. I will admit that I went back for Romanoff refills more than once.

And in the tradition of saving the best for last, the most divine presentation of handmade chocolates paired with the delicately floral black tea blend, Anastasia. There was a great deal of debate in the surrounding tables on which of the last two teas was the best. But, of course, it all comes down to individual preferences. There are those who lean more toward floral undertones, and those who prefer fruit or citrus undertones. Personally, I could bounce back and forth between these two blends all day long.

The TEA*Vent is a marvelous creation: a way to introduce a variety of teas, pairings, and general knowledge to anaudience who is eager to learn and try new things. The entire presentation is sophisticated without being the least bit intimidating. Team members interacted comfortably with guests, answering questions, making suggestions, asking about favorites. It had the intimacy and interaction of a gallery opening.

But best of all, it was an Evening Out. One of my favorite environments accompanied by one of my favorite people. And, of course, we did not leave empty-handed.