Tea Time at Hazel Hall
Last weekend I had the pleasure of being one of the first few people to experience The Hazel Hall, a modern afternoon tea brought to you by a couple of my good friends and popping up this summer at the renowned Han Oak restaurant space in NE Portland. Today I am sharing a few fotos and a (glowing) review from the very special experience.
Before I jump in, two caveats. One, I am not a food writer or food critic. I can barely string a proper blog sentence together. Two, I am a tea time novice. I had never been to an afternoon tea. I’ve seen them in movies, on pinterest and Instagram. But never really understood the brief. Was it fancy? Was it expensive? Was it just tea? I had no idea. So when my friend Pauline Kim shared the news that she was on board as creative director, along with two good friends Vanessa Todd-Holmes as founder & visionary tea queen and Lisa Hulick as executive chef, to launch a new and different afternoon tea for the Portland food scene I was definitely curious to know more. If Pauline was involved I knew this was going to be something unique, intentional and beautiful.
Over the past few months I was able to offer a tiny bit of guidance in their marketing, branding and social rollout strategy over conversations and mini meetings with Pauline. My invitation to their friends & family soft launch was a little ‘thank you’ from the crew.
Not sure what to expect, I wasn’t sure how much it was gonna be ‘my thing’. I thought it might be a bit fussy or complicated but was immediately put at ease when I walked into the space. Sun shining through the open concept dining space decorated with strong feminine touches like gold silverware, delicate flowers in bold colors and a really beautiful type face on the menu greeted me as I was sat at my perfectly imperfect & curated communal table. I arrived at the event solo and was seated with three others. Each who had offered various degrees of service, support and guidance to our Hazel Hall hostesses as they brought this dream to reality.
The service started off with champagne and then your choice of organic hand blended tea offerings from local purveyor The T Project. I opted for the signature Hazel Hall blend, duh. It arrived at my table in my own personal glass teapot so I could see the tea leaves, flowers and more blending into the water as it steeped. It was beautiful and came to life just as Pauline had described it to me months earlier.
We then moved on to the meal, an amouse bouche (fancy!) followed by a light salad alongside a beautiful board of tea sandwiches. Each put together with artistry and flair allowing for the flavors and ingredients to playfully be on display. Next up was a basket of both sweet and savory scones with clotted cream and house made jam. If that wasn’t enough the most inventive serving of desserts came after this. I was overwhelmed by the options and gobbled up the chocolate covered grapes almost immediately. They were D I V I N E. Deep in conversation with my tablemates I was able to leisurely snack and nibble on the offerings.
The whole experience was a gift. It felt like a mini vacation. I was introduced to new people, new flavors and of course a new experience. Taking a look around the space I began to understand what ‘tea time’ really was. It was a time to connect, to converse and enjoy. Thank you Pauline, Vanessa and Lisa for the opportunity. I needed this.
As I continue reflect on that Saturday I realize that not only did I need this. But we needed this. The food scene needed this. The world needs this. Three women from different backgrounds came together to create something from nothing and it is resonating with people. For all sorts of reasons. People can take from it what they want, or bring to it what they want but the takeaway is that these women did this. They saw an opportunity, found inspiration and made this happen. Pouring their hearts and souls into something. Creating a space and a time to share their ideas, skills and love. I am left feeling inspired and grateful.