Carrie Nahabedian recently added a weekend tea service to the menu at Kostali, her restaurant in the Gwen hotel (521 N. Rush St., Near North Side). This being Nahabedian, don’t expect your standard fare of Earl Grey and cucumber sandwiches — she’s assembled a tower of sweet and savory bites accompanied by boozy tea cocktails. Here, the chef breaks down six favorites.
1. Fraisier Cake Bites “The fraisier is a classic, luscious French dessert. I make a super-light buttercream mousseline with pastry cream and crème chantilly, which I pipe into all the nooks and crannies over a mountain of strawberries.”
2. Traditional Tea Sandwich “We spread whipped caviar cream cheese onto buttered brioche and garnish it with breakfast radishes and chives. You don’t even see the caviar until you bite into it, but it adds a mild salty flavor.”
3. Smoked Salmon Panisse “People think that tea always has to have sandwiches, but not every dish needs bread. Here, the panisse is draped with smoked salmon and a dab of dill crème fraîche.”
4. Kostali Popovers “Popovers are timeless, and the light crunch on the shell is a fun bite to start. They’re served with a fruit jam that’s blended with butter — peach ginger rum jam, blueberry mint, or rosé Champagne strawberry preserve.”
5. Sea Salt and Dark Chocolate Tart “The bittersweet Guittard chocolate in this tart just melts in your mouth. The gold leaf adds exuberance, like in the Gilded Age.”
6. Tahini Shortbread Cookies With Dark Chocolate and Sesame Seeds “These are loosely based on my mother’s famous Armenian tahini rolls. Tahini has a distinct nutty chickpea aroma and is more savory and crumbly than traditional shortbread.”