Off the Menu: Tea sandwiches at The Drake
Experience the finesse of Chicago’s finest afternoon tea with Leah Turowski, executive sous chef at The Drake. | By Alison Cavatore | March 9, 2023
A stay in Chicago isn’t complete without visiting the city’s famous Magnificent Mile. This vibrant neighborhood in the heart of Chi-town offers all the best shopping, dining, sightseeing and nightlife.
It's also where you’ll find The Drake, a 100-year-old hotel steeped in glamour and charm, and that’s as enticing to locals as it is to the tens of millions of tourists who flock to the Windy City each year. Such was the case for Leah Turowski, who visited the historical property’s Palm Court with her mother for afternoon tea as a child and was blown away by the decadence on display.
Now executive sous chef at The Drake, Turowski is sharing her artistry and expertise through the dainty pastries, gourmet tea sandwiches and elegant delicacies on offer during the Palm Court’s celebrated afternoon tea service.
An Ohio-native, chef Turowski grew up helping her mother in the kitchen, and soon realized she wanted to be a chef and share happiness through food.
Says chef Turowski, “I feel pride in the kitchen. Pride in teaching a new dish. Pride when receiving positive feedback. Pride in learning or seeing something new.”
That pride is certainly warranted when you partake of afternoon tea at The Drake — an experience enjoyed by royalty and former presidents. “The Drake hotel is second to none offering beautifully crafted French teas, artisan pastries and creative tea sandwiches. A plus would be the perfect glass of Champagne.”
Chef Turowski’s top tip for preparing accompanying tea sandwiches at home? “Prep a day ahead of time so when your friends come and join you, you’ve made it look effortless!” Whether you’re preparing for a high tea or a simple tea party, preparing finger sandwiches, scones or other snacks in advance is a great way to save from being stressed the day of your event.
For accompanying tea selections, the chef recommends digging “into flavor profiles of tea and pair similarly to that of wine. But, at the end of the day, you like what you like. I’m really partial to Tropical Garden [herbal tea].”
So, break out that tea service, don your fanciest attire and invite your friends to gather for an elegant new tradition.
— 1/3 cup sugar
— 1 cup apple cider vinegar
— 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
— 1 cup red onion, diced ¼ inch
— 1 cup red pepper, diced ¼ inch
— 1-2 tablespoons grain mustard (Recommended: Maille Old Style)
— Chili flakes, optional to add some heat
— 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and ¼-inch diced
— 1 tablespoon canola oil
— ½ lemon, for zest
— Cream cheese spread
— White or rye bread, sliced
— Smoked salmon, sliced (Optional: Bourbon smoked salmon, sliced)
In a saute pan over medium to high heat, combine red onion, red pepper, apple cider vinegar, sugar, grain mustard, salt and ground pepper. Add a pinch of chili flakes for some heat (optional).
Reduce mixture for about 10 minutes until it becomes a little sticky in appearance.
In a separate saute pan, heat canola oil and add diced apples. Add thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently stir the mixture until apples become translucent.
Pour the agrodolce mixture over the apples and cook until the apples start to shrink in size and the moisture evaporates. Add the zest of half a lemon.
Chill before serving.
Spread cream cheese over slice of bread and place smoked salmon on top.
Cut off the edges of the bread and cut the remaining bread into 5-6 triangles. Top with generous spoonful of apple agrodolce.
— 1 cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise
— Cream cheese spread
— 2 slices white or rye bread
— Spiced tomato jam spread
— 1 heirloom cherry tomato, quartered
Spread cream cheese over one slice of bread.
Layer the cucumber ribbons across the bread with about a quarter of an inch in between ribbons. Set aside.
Spread spiced tomato jam on another slice of bread and place slice of bread with cucumbers and cream cheese over top of the jam. Cut crusts off.
Slice the two layers into four equal pieces. Place a dollop of cream cheese on top of each tea sandwich and a wedge of heirloom cherry tomato on cream cheese dollop for garnish.
(Recipes from Leah Turowski, executive sous chef, The Drake, 2022.)
Alison Cavatore is the assistant editor for the content marketing team at Hilton. She has written and copyedited for numerous print and digital publications in the U.S. and abroad. Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Alison has lived in Miami, Scottsdale, Holland, France, Switzerland and Canada. She currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area.