March 19, 2014

ladies who lunch

I found such a lovely poem to share with you today!  And it ties in beautifully with the first adventure I'm sharing with you today from my weekend in Milwaukee.  It involves delicious pots of tea, an elegant store and "ladies who lunch."  Do you remember browsing through the slightly mysterious department stores of the fifties and sixties and their oh-so-refined tea rooms?  While the store itself has shrunk in size, now hosting a bridal shop and an art gallery as well as its china shop (I was terrified of getting too close to the displays and knocking something over!) the Watts Tea Shop has been a mainstay of downtown Milwaukee for years.

The roots of the shop go back to 1870, when George Watts, an immigrant from Bristol, England, took an excursion boat from Chicago to Milwaukee. While walking along Reed Street, the 18-year-old responded to a “Boy Wanted” sign hanging in the window of Massey and Co., merchants of china, glass and sundries. He was hired and immediately put to work, tasked with sweeping the floor and unpacking merchandise. Watts was able to buy partnership in the company with a loan, and later the entire store.  When it outgrew its original digs, the store, now under the George Watts banner, moved to a narrow three-story building on North Milwaukee Street in 1879.

The Cook sisters, who opened the Cook Tea Shop in 1901, moved their restaurant from Jackson Street to a space designed according to their specifications on the second floor of Watts’ new building. They brought with them their recipe for Sunshine Cake, a stunning triple-layer sponge cake filled with French custard and topped with a boiled frosting that is still served today. So my friend and I shrugged off our every day personas and became, for two blissful hours, ladies who lunch.  In style.

Quiche, fresh fruit, English muffin and Earl Grey tea, followed by the famous Sunshine Cake

As I dined and conversed with my friend, I couldn't help but think how much I would have loved growing up having tea at the Watts on special occasions with my mother.  And looking around at all the gracious older women having fun with their friends, I vowed to make this a special place for any granddaughters that I may be blessed with in the future.  I can't wait to experience the famous Watts Tea Room children's tea special!

Displaying hat 4.png
My friend and I a few years ago at a garden wedding

And...did I mention how elegantly the customers were dressed?  Clearly, dining at the Watts is an experience--as such an occasion should be.  And this is where Robert Hedin's lovely little poem comes in. My father also loved to watch my mother head out the door and always remarked what a fine woman she was.

My Mother's Hats

She kept them high on the top shelf,
In boxes big as drums—

Bright, crescent-shaped boats
With little fishnets dangling down—

And wore them with her best dress
To teas, coffee parties, department stores.

What a lovely catch, my father used to say,
Watching her sail off into the afternoon waters.

Displaying 181669_10151344899721106_1771998787_n.jpg
My mother and I all decked out in our finery!

Happy Wednesday--let's have a wonderful day!

1 comment:

  1. I miss the department store tea rooms like Hudsons here in Detroit. I still enjoy the restaurant at Nordstrom, but it's not the same as the ladies who lunch era :-)