Long weekends are wonderful for all those who work in offices with nine-to-five, five-days-a-week jobs as they get an extra day off. But for people like me, with their own business and working from home… well, they are a nuisance. I avoid doing things and going places on regular weekends as there are crowds everywhere. On three-day weekends that is even worse, and for one extra day!
Somehow, though, on the Sunday of last year’s Memorial Day weekend – of all the possible ones we could have picked – my friend Tracey and I found ourselves on our separate ways towards The Kahala Hotel, hoping to be seated for tea without reservations. It was an impromptu decision and we just went with it. Basically, we were expecting a miracle.
The miracle happened. As we walked into the beautiful lounge, we saw it was pretty crowded, but the server kindly welcomed us and informed us that there were tables outside on the lanai (patio). Big smiles!
As you can see, the indoor/outdoor room is just beautiful. Welcoming, spacious and airy, it gets magically lit by the glow of the late afternoon light. The outside lanai may not be as glowy, but it has a glorious view over the dolphin pool and the ocean. The Kahala Hotel and Resort is one of the loveliest on O’ahu, and The Veranda lounge is my favorite space there – besides the spa, that is.
I have been here for afternoon tea several times, with friends usually, but also by myself. When in need of an escape from my home office space, I would grab my laptop and work paraphernalia, drive over and plop myself on one of the comfy sofas to spend the afternoon blending work with tea and scones.
One time, there was a birthday party for a couple of little girls. Everyone was all dressed up, there were lovely party favors, special order colorful cupcakes, macaroons and other treats. It was like the birthday fairy had exploded, and it was wonderful to watch them having fun, even the photographer that was chasing after the children. I could certainly relate to her.
As Tracey and I walked through to the lanai, I noticed that all the furniture was brand new. The Veranda lounge had just been freshened up. I miss the old sofas, but I do love the way it looks now, and it is still very comfortable, which is the main thing.
We sat at one of the tables outside, enjoying the breeze and the view, eager to order. I don’t know about you, but for me – and usually for my friends, too – afternoon tea becomes the main meal of the day. As delicious as they can be, all the carbs and sugars involved mean that I have skipped lunch and there is no way I will be having dinner. All of this is code for: we were hungry!
At The Veranda you can choose from four options: Afternoon Tea, simply a single pot of tea, for $8; the Simple Tea, which includes freshly baked scones and either a plate of sweet treats, or a plate of savory ones, for $17; the Classic Tea Service, which includes both sweet and savory treats besides the scones, for $28; and the ultimate Royal Tea Service, which adds a glass of Champagne with a strawberry to the Classic one for $42.
Not being particularly fond of Champagne, we both opted for the classic tea service. We each selected our own tea from the nice assortment by Harney & Sons Tea. I chose the Dragon Pearl jasmine, and Tracey chose the Pomegranate Oolong. The teas were both fragrant and delicious. I just wish the “hot” water had been truly hot, as in boiling hot. And I also wish there had been either tea cozies or a trivet with a candle to keep it hot. This is an issue in every tea room I have been to in Hawai’i and California, so far at least. Not even the kind and attentive servers moving around making sure we always have all we need can keep the water hot.
Once the teas were selected, it was time to select four sweet treats and four savory ones from the menu. One sweet and one savory of our choice were no longer available that day, so we had to default to second best. Of course, we tried to choose different things from each other, so there would be more assortment to taste and photograph, but because of said unavailability, a few items were doubled up.
Our sweet selections were: Lilikoi Madeleine, Yuzu French Style Macaroon, Brown Sugar Shortbread, Profiterole with Pistachio Cream and Chocolate-Raspberry Tart. The other item on the sweet menu which was no longer available was the Kona Coffee Ganache Pave. Maybe next time.
Our savory selections were: Chichen Tarragon & Grape Salad on Endive, Smoked Salmon on Rye Toast, Ka Lei Egg Salad with Watercress on Mac Nut Bread, Ham & Manchego Cheese with Parsley Butter, and Rare Roast Beef with Romaine. And here, the item that was no longer available was the Hamakua Springs Farm Mushroom Turnover. We were told it was the most popular savory item, something which I can easily understand, being a fan of mushrooms. However, since it is the most popular, how about making more on a long holiday weekend? Pretty please?
The Lilikoi (passion fruit) Madeleines were lovely, as were the Yuzu Macaroons – though I found it a tad too sweet. The Brown Sugar Shortbread was good as shortbread goes, but let’s be honest, shortbread is rather boring in such a context. It’s basically a cookie, no matter how you dress it up, and a rather blah one at that. And yes it was one of the “second best” choices we had to make, so not an exciting choice to begin with.
The Chocolate Raspberry Tart was delicious, with its buttery pastry and the fresh raspberries. I am just not sure what happened to the chocolate part, as I could not taste any. And usually you can’t miss chocolate. The Profiterole with Pistachio Cream was fresh and light, with the choux being just right and not soggy – not easy in the humid environment of Paradise. However, the pastry cream, which we logically expected to taste of pistachio, actually tasted of almonds (or almond extract), and the lovely looking squirt of fresh whipped cream was not fresh whipped cram at all, but that substitute that almost everyone here (in Hawai’i) seems so fond of using and which frustrates the heck out of me because I cannot stand it. I know what fresh whipped cream tastes like (divine), I also know what fresh whipped cream with stabilizer tastes like (almost divine). I even know what industrially produced whipping cream with too much stabilizer tastes like (not divine, but still ok). That was not fresh whipped cream.
The savories, which we actually devoured first and wished we had more of, were quite good, with one exception: the Rare Roast Beef with Romaine, Ponzu Mayonnaise on Baguette garnished with Tobiko. The beef was chopped very fine, and the whole thing did not have a definite taste, certainly not of beef. It could have been anything. Maybe too many ingredients?
I did not taste the Chicken Tarragon & Grape Salad on Endive because I don’t eat chicken (or turkey, or any fowl for that matter), but Tracey assured me it was very good, as was everything else on the plate. I was also happy to notice that the bread supporting the various sandwiches was fresh and moist, and not dried out around the edges as it often happens in many places.
The scones were excellent, actually the best I have had at The Veranda so far, and among the best I have had in general. They were the usual chocolate and cranberry scones that are served here, but they were super fresh, flakey and moist just right. They hardly required any cream and jam, but we still lathered those up.
Savories get devoured first, then come the scones, with sweet treats left for last. Except the scones are also in the sweet end of the spectrum, so we just could not finish the desserts, which we took home in a to-go container. I know that the three groups are part of the tradition, but we always wish there were more savories, even though we would not want to do without dessert, or scones.
Little glitches apart, this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience – or I would not have done it so many times over the years. If the glitches were taken care of the experience would be a wonderful one, as the quality would then be elevated to where it should be in a place like this, and to where most of it already is. I am certainly looking forward to that. Over time, I have noticed that the Afternoon Tea food offerings vary somewhat about two to three times a year, and I like that.
Besides daily Afternoon Tea, the Veranda also offers a Pupus & Drinks menu between 2pm and midnight. It looked very enticing and we will go back and enjoy that as soon as I can get everyone organized. Tuesday to Saturday between 7:30p and 11:00p the whole experience is further enhanced by live entertainment. Resort Casual is the simple dress code. Basically that means: please do not show up in your swimsuit and slippahs.
The best way to park is with the Valet service at the front entrance. Other than a couple of $$ tip, valet parking is free with validation. Unless the parking lot is full you can also self park and get that stub validated, but since it is free either way, why bother! Valet parking is definitely one of the things I love about this country, and something us Italians can only dream of back in Italy, where parking in the modern versions of ancient cities is a major hassle.
One more thing: you might get lucky like we did, but on weekends it is best to make reservations for afternoon tea, as it is a popular event with the local residents and it gets quite busy.
Do you enjoy afternoon tea? Where have you had your best one yet? What are your favorite treats? I really would love to know if you have any suggestions, so I can put them on my list.
The Veranda @ The Kahala Hotel & Resort
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