Happily Ever After at Philadelphia's RIttenhouse Hotel
Every girl's fantasy (confused with reality) is to be a princess, to be doted upon and to wear long, tulle, Cinderella ball gowns just because she can. The day when a girl can truly emerge from the fast paced city life to a coveted “Disney princess,” is her wedding day.
Summer weddings, indoors or outdoors, are refreshing as cucumber juice. The event where two join in holy matrimony, should be pictured as women being pampered hours prior to walking down the aisle, and men taking puffs from cigars to calm their nerves. The Rittenhouse understands this to the finest detail; in their wedding package, they offer brides to snack on tea sandwiches while sipping champagne, and beers for the grooms to become hoppy before the ceremony; all aided by a world-class service team.
The Rittenhouse hotel, located in the heart of the city, recently had their 25th anniversary while luxuriously celebrating their multi-million dollar revitalization. Two years ago, the Hersha Hospitality Trust, a real estate investment trust, which owns 67 hotels mainly in the Northeast corridor, bought The Rittenhouse and initiated the $42 million revitalization. The revitalization includes a new swanky library bar, five breathtaking Park Suites overlooking Rittenhouse square, and also establishing Philadelphia's largest salon, spa and health club.
As you walk up to the building, two friendly-faced doormen greet you and gracefully open the doors to the five-diamond hotel. The interior design of the hotel resembles an antique dollhouse, where the furnishings are polished to a glistening shine and are delicately placed throughout the lobby. The thought behind the carpeting in The Rittenhouse is ingenious. The Tetris like patterned carpet rolled in the lobby and Park Suites floor, elongates the hallway in an Alice in Wonderland trance of a never-ending hall. The Suites itself are mesmerizing as well. When you enter the suite, a bathroom is cleverly placed directly to the left side of the entry, the kitchen a few feet up, and a homey dining/living room area with a wide screen TV sitting in the middle. The bedroom has a bed so fluffy, it would be suitable for elated jumps after a few glasses of Chardonnay. Despite the Park Suite in all its glory, the best part of the room is the main bathroom. A tub so deep and long, it has a luring invitation to take a pleasurable nap in; the walk in shower has a nice ledge to sit on in case you need take a break from a long and draining day before you turn the shower knob. The Park Suites is seamlessly designed for a Mr. and Mrs.
One of their newest expansions from this revitalization is their library bar. As you walk through the French doors in the lobby, pivot to the right and you are faced to a library filled with dictionaries, encyclopedias, and travel books. A jet-black chandelier hangs in the middle of the room to compliment the sultry, Great Gatsby atmosphere of the library. To the left of the library sits the bar with a mirror of a map view of Philadelphia carved in it hanging behind their master mixologist - Papi, crafting perfectly balanced cocktails.
The food at The Rittenhouse is worth every penny. Lacroix, the hotel’s elegant restaurant is incomparable to any Top Chef, Iron Chef, or James Beard awarded restaurant in the city. Lacroix’s seasoned executive chefs - Jon Cichon, banquet chef - Mary Lochary, and pastry chef - Tova du Plessis, are the talented trio that crafts the sweet and savory foods of all events and occasions. With the help of the rest of the culinary team, they create dishes that will satisfy your palate with just one bite. As the French eat, three bites should suffice for one dish.
Lochary is a gift to the culinary world. Her dishes are small but the taste is triumphantly delectable. Normally cooking for a wide range of guests, from 20 to 400 in number, Lochary modestly stands off to the side in the banquet kitchen and watches guests taste in awe in her small plated dishes. A Caesar salad that consists of a sort of eggplant concoction, sits on top of a leaf of lettuce accompanied with a cylindrical shaped crouton so delicate, it looks like lace. Even though this salad is hardly considered a "salad" per American standard, it is hands down, the best Caesar salad your palate will come across in Philadelphia. The best plate though, would be her seared scallops. The fluffy, browned scallop laid on top of an edamame puree, was crispy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. The creaminess of the scallop resembled the texture of mashed potato and the crispiness had the crunch of a Pringles chip. Lochary, born and raised in Philadelphia, started her culinary journey at The Rittenhouse as an intern 14 years ago and worked her way to the position she holds today. In fact, it was this past December when she was named the executive banquet chef.
Pastry chef, Tova du Plessis, originally from South Africa, is a petite woman with an exemplary artistic technique for desserts that will confirm every gluttonous desire you've ever had. Her iconic dessert to make is cheesecake. Plessis says in response to her likes in making the creamy delicacy, "I love cheesecake. I like experimenting with all cheeses, like goat cheese and aged cheese." Plessis is also the mastermind behind the creation of all desserts and writes the menus for banquets and for the elegant restaurant of The Rittenhouse, Lacroix. She mainly draws her creativity from past work experiences. She likes to work with modern techniques and enjoys experimenting with new flavors, which can be tasted in her dishes. For one dish, she used a small, circular, ceramic bowl, and sandwiched a dollop of key lime custard in between two piped rounds of whipped cream. She then proceeded to scoop the whipped cream into a pot of liquid nitrogen. After a few seconds, she spooned the whipped cream out and onto a plate, and garnished it lightly with grated lime zest. This creation looked like a meringue and tasted like key lime flavored dipping dots. As the spoon cuts it in half, it breaks through the hardness of the outer shell that protects the key lime custard resting inside to preserve its soft and creaminess. The bite instantly melts in your mouth and slides down the throat with pleasure. Another small dish Plessis made had a base of Yuzu custard, topped with Elder Flower pearls, lychee, pound cake, and caramelized white chocolate. The sweetness from the lychee and white chocolate was complimented nicely with the subtle attack of citrus flavor from the Yuzu. Even though Plessis has only been the pastry chef at The Rittenhouse for three months, it is clear that she is a prized possession for them.
By having an ABC's bachelorette/bachelor "fantasy" suite look and romantic vibe in their newly renovated five Park Suites, a talented, dream culinary team of chefs, and a scenery looking over Rittenhouse Square park and Philadelphia's skyline, The Rittenhouse should be marked down in the wedding books. For future wedding plans, if you're looking for an intimate gathering of close friends and family, reserve 6 months - 1 year in advance. If you're looking to celebrate the day with every person you've met in your lifetime, reserve a year and a half in advance. The dynamic duo, Lori Maslowski, director of catering, and Dayna Leaventon, assistant director in catering, will cater to your every specificity.
The atmosphere of the hotel is absolutely breathtaking and the food, as it goes, will change any previous opinion on fine dining. Not only are there interior renovations, but also the exterior will be undergoing a change to the greener side of the fence. The landscape designers for Urban Outfitter's restaurant, Terrain at Styers, will be putting their artistic touch on the exterior of The Rittenhouse. If you have never been to Terrain at Styers, it looks like a gardener's dream playground. With this project in the works, in addition to everything else, let The Rittenhouse be the location to have the dream wedding you have ever wanted.