Monday, November 6, 2017

En Route to Chicago

I picked my girlfriend up around noon last Friday, and we drove to Portage, MI [near Kalamazoo] where our lodging [Homewood Suites] for the next two nights was located.  We checked in and took our luggage to our room, then got back in the car to drive 45 miles to Middlebury, Indiana.

By now it was after 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon, so our taste buds were looking forward to dinner at Das Dutchman Essenhaus family restaurant.  An online description stated 'comfort food in a folksy setting.'  It's located just off US 20, and is well worth the drive in Amish country.  We arrived before the onslaught of dinner guests.

They're known for their chicken dinners, so for the second time in one week I ate a delicious chicken dinner.  [On Wednesday Jerry and I drove to Frankenmuth, MI for one of their famous chicken dinners.]  Essenhaus chicken is broasted, and I like it even better than Zehnder's.

The highlight of the meal, however, was the German Chocolate Pie.  I order it every time I go, and it was worth the drive just for the pie alone.  Yum!

After our meal we went to The Clothes Line, a woman's apparel shop on Essenhaus property.  I saw lots of nice things but didn't make any purchases.  Linda said they host a great fashion show in the conference center every fall.

[Internet Photo]

Before going back to the hotel, we made a stop at ChocolaTea in Portage, the shop sponsoring our bus trip to Chicago.  If you're ever in Portage, visit ChocolaTea [a tea and chocolate shop] located at 7642 S. Westnedge Ave.  We took a carry-out cup of tea and rooibos back to our room to enjoy.

Since we had to be up early Saturday morning we tucked into bed around 11:00 p.m.  We  boarded the bus at 7:45 a.m. for departure at 8:00 a.m.  As you can see, it was still dark outside when we arrived in the Meijer parking lot, just across the street from our hotel.

We were one of the first in line, so our seats were right close to the front of the bus.  On each seat was a lovely gift bag from ChocolaTea.  Inside was a sack breakfast that included an apple and delicious bakery granola bar;  an Asian handle-less teacup that we used for tea tastings during the bus ride to Chicago; a bag of 'Windy City' tea blended by ChocolaTea [Japanese green Sencha tea flavored with strawberries and papaya pieces];  three pieces of gourmet chocolate; a box of assorted tea bags and chocolates; and a tote-bag [with ChocolaTea's logo] for carrying our Chicago purchases.

Polly also owns The Pantry - a gourmet grocery store in the same shopping complex as ChocolaTea, so inside the gift bag were two products from there.  I can hardly wait to use the Maple Balsamic Vinegar on Butternut Squash soup, and I'm sure the grilling spices will be great too.

Pictured below are Polly Kragt [left] owner of ChocolaTea and Susan Baker [right] from the Sweet Spot. This was the 6th Chicago bus tour they've hosted for Macy's State Street Christmas tree lighting on the first Saturday of November.  The chartered bus was filled.   I was especially grateful for Susan's prayer before our departure asking for God's protection over us on the highway, as well as in Chicago.  In today's world you just never know what could be encountered in a crowded downtown city.  Thankfully, our visit was devoid of any crisis.

I've had tea and chocolate pairings, and tea and cheese pairings, but never a tea and cookie pairing, and this is what we enjoyed while traveling down I-94 to Chicago.  We sampled six teas and one herbal [Rooibos] all available at ChocolaTea, with a different cookie to go with each tea.  I LOVED the pairing!  It was so creative.

There was one rest stop in Indiana, and after all the tea we had been drinking we needed it!  By now it was daylight.

Back on the bus there were several door prize drawings, and Polly shared lots of knowledgeable information about tea.  I've taken many tea classes, but never heard tea from China referred to as 'old tea' and tea from India 'new tea.'  Nor had I thought about Japanese tea having a salty taste acquired from the salty sea and ocean water.  Both make perfect sense.   To see who was listening to her talk she asked questions afterwards, and gave away gift cards for the right answers.  I received a gift card for correctly giving tea's botanical name - Camellia [pronounced cam-MEHL-ee-ah] Sinensis. It probably wasn't totally fair since I had a bit of an edge on the subject, but I discovered I've pronounced it improperly for the past 19 years, so it turned out to be a learning experience for me.   

By the time we reached Chicago it was warm [in the 50's] and misty, but we were prepared with rain ponchos and umbrellas.  The bus had two drop-offs - the Water Tower, and Macy's on State Street.  We got off at Macy's and immediately went to the 7th floor where the Walnut Tearoom and the huge Christmas tree waiting to be lit, is located.  

We had reservations for later in the day, but we got in line in hopes of getting in sooner to be inside the tearoom for the tree lighting.  We were fortunate and got in during the first seating.  Young girls donning beautiful fairy gowns wandered about with their wands and fairy dust.  Two of the cutest little girls [sisters a year a part in age] were in line ahead of us, and I asked permission from their grandmother to take their picture.

It was such a festive, magical time.  To be continued tomorrow...


  1. Your trip sounds like such fun - I look forward to the "rest of the story".

  2. Loved hearing about the trip. Looking forward to hearing more. The tea tasting sounds wonderful.

  3. I looked up how to pronounce Camellia Senensis, and the American way is different from the British pronouncation! Here's a link.


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