Gift giving is HARD. Especially when you’re trying to think of something for your mom who doesn’t need more STUFF, and who even when you [promise to] do something that’s practical stuff (things like: I’ll knit you a cowl!), sometimes you just fail at making happen. That is totally not me that I’m talking about right there, and Mom since you’re probably reading this, I do promise to make you that beautiful cowl eventually.
So yeah – stuff is bad, homemade stuff can be complicated when you’re busy, and what does that leave? Consumables or experiences. And this is what I’ve found in the last few years works best as gifts for people my parents age who have all the things that they really need, and unless they have a specific request, don’t need more stuff cluttering up the house. With my Dad at Christmas the last few years, I’ve gifted him a meal-and-a-movie outing, and it’s been great. We saw Ghostbusters two years ago, and Dunkirk last year. I could theoretically do that for my mom’s nearly-immediately-after-Christmas-birthday, but it seems like cheating. So I had to think of something else.
And then it hit me – probably the best idea I’ve had for a gift in a while – a fancy tea outing. You know, the kind where they serve scones and jam and clotted cream with tiny sandwiches and puff pastries. It’s something my mom would like, something I would enjoy doing with her, and give her the gift of quality one-on-one time with me. Which is a thing all moms love.
I was partly inspired by a baby shower that I attended last year at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City, where we did traditional baby shower things, but then all got to have this special tea party. Being able to choose your own type of tea, and at the baby shower more than a year ago, also getting to have a glass of sparkling wine was really special. So I did a little research. The Ritz in Pentagon City (the closest one to me) has the traditional tea with scones and sandwiches. The Ritz in Tysons Corner does a seasonal tea that is centered on a seasonal theme, though it’s possible that they do the normal afternoon teas as well, they’re just not advertised very well on their website. The Ritzs in DC theoretically have tea, but I have a hard time finding it on their websites. And I know there are other fancy hotels in DC that do afternoon teas, but I was just not super interested in driving into the city to make that happen.
Basically, it was a genius idea on my part, and I think my mom would agree – feel free to chime in here Mom and agree, but not in the forced agreement way, ok? Doing a fancy thing, something that the recipient wouldn’t necessarily choose to do for themselves, spending quality time together, and having it not be a physical thing made this an idea choice. And on top of that, the Ritz does a great job with their teas. There is valet parking at the Ritz that normally runs for $19 per day, but as a customer at the tea lounge, you get a discount down to $8 – only $3 more than you would pay to walk halfway across the mall in the main garage (and trust me, it’s a very confusing walk). We walked into the lounge, and I didn’t even need to tell them my name – somehow the hostess knew who I was (Google? We were the last to check in for our 3pm reservation?), and took us directly to our table.
From there the service continued to be excellent. All our servers were cheerful and eager to please. They were happy to tell us about the options for different kinds of teas, and checked in the right amount of times during our time there. Our server even offered to take our picture, which was super nice of her. When we ran out of tea in our pots, we asked if we could each have another pot of tea, and we were rewarded with more tea (which – yay!). And because I had mentioned that this was for my mother’s birthday, despite being nearly a month late, they brought her a giant slice of chocolate cake which I was not charged for, and which they were happy to box up for her to take home.
We did the “afternoon tea”, which is everything you imagine in an afternoon tea, minus the special offering of a sparkling wine drink. The scones that they give you are giant, and served with jam, lemon curd AND clotted cream. It’s almost too much goodness to try and fit onto one dense-yet-cloudy piece of pastry. There’s a display tower of sandwiches and more tiny pastries that is brought over as well. I didn’t eat everything (because of a mix of pregnancy and pickiness), but we worked things out between us and had all kinds of yummy treats.
Basically what I’m saying is we had a great time. If you are in the market for a similar semi-fancy enjoyable experience, afternoon tea at the Ritz is not a bad way to go. Moms love it. Ladies in their 30s who drink a lot of tea (that would be me) also love it. People who like eating tiny foods will love it. And anyone who enjoys being properly taken care of in a restaurant-setting will definitely enjoy it. And if I decide to use this as a gift again for someone (or even a repeat event for my mom), don’t be surprised.
Details: Afternoon Tea at Fyve Restaurant Lounge, Ritz Carlton, Pentagon City. Saturdays and Sundays, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. For reservations, call 703-412-2762.