Monday, August 31, 2009

Alice's Tea Cup, New York, NY

After a productive morning of jogging, buying textbooks, running errands and setting up the apartment a bit more, I decided to treat myself to some untried scones. I had heard very good things about the three Alice locations in the city, but have never visited. I did not sit down, so I cannot write a full review, but I did get scones and can tell you how wonderful they were!

Taking the Q to 42nd St, and transferring onto the 2 up to 72nd, I exited into the Uptown air and quickly found my way traveling down 73rd St. The storefront is extremely cute and the clerks inside were so welcoming and kind. I picked out a pumpkin scone and an unsweetened buttermilk scone. There were a couple of other varieties, and other sweets on display, including an elaborate and delicious looking carrot cake. I also received tiny to-go containers of clotted cream and raspberry preserves which was a delight.

Upon returning home, I boiled myself a pot of Serendipitea's loose Coco-Loco tisane and slathered the cream and preserve onto my pumpkin scone. The tea is a favorite of mine (tisane, so not exactly a tea, but naturally caffeine free and very delicious), and paired with the scone worked excellently.

The scone was sweet and pumpkiny, but not overly sweet. The clotted cream and raspberry preserves were divine. The texture on the scone was nice and crumbly, and the scone was shaped properly and baked just right. The pumpkin glaze was also a definite plus. I took a nibble at the buttermilk scone and it tasted very adequate, but very good nonetheless.

I look forward to enjoying more scones from Alice's. I hope to take tea there soon and report on it afterwards.

Thanks for checking in!


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lady Mendl's Tea Salon, New York, NY

After reading splendid reviews on yelp, I was quite excited to try out this rather pricey, traditional afternoon tea. My grandfather and his wife, both avid tea drinkers, invited me and best friend, Amita, to accompany them this afternoon. The tea room is located in a lovely old brownstone on Irving Place in The Village. It has gorgeous Victorian charm both inside and out. A doorman opened the door and led us into the gorgeous first floor lobby where we were promptly greeted. We were a bit early for our 2:30 reservation, but we were taken right away to our table. We were led up a staircase. The main dining room was being occupied by a bridal party, but looked quite nice.

The upper room had only three tables and was gorgeously decorated in antique furniture and beautiful wall hangings. China teaware was displayed behind a glass case. Each place setting included fine bone china matching sets (white with golden rim). Sitting on the saucer was a beautiful sugar cube, delicately adorned with a sugar daffodil. The surroundings were too much to ask for! SO lovely.

The tea service promptly began, and this is where the review takes a rather negative turn. I had read such lovely things about the tea room, so I was looking forward to a traditional afternoon tea like what I had just one month earlier at The Dorchester Hotel in London (an extremely wonderful tea). The tea menu was set at each place. I ordered the Lady Mendl Blend, a Darjeeling infused with scented oils. I had to ask for milk and sugar, as it was not offered when the tea came. The tea had a rather bitter aftertaste, although it was not over brewed. I tried Amita's Assam, and although better than my blend, it still lacked the body of other Assams I have tried in past. My stepgrandmother ordered an Elder Flower tea which smelled delicious, so perhaps it was the black teas that were troubled.

We were quickly served an amouse-bouche of artichoke quiche with sun-dried tomato topping. It was quite good and a nice way to start off the meal.

The Sandwich course followed. The staple finger sandwiches included cucumber and mint creme fraiche on brioche, a turkey cranberry sandwich on white, smoked salmon and cream cheese of wheat, and egg salad on grain tea bread. The sandwiches were a bit bland. Cucumber, my favorite, lacked body and the bread tasted a bit dry, as though it had been sitting out for a bit, and not freshly made. The turkey cranberry was quite good, and different from what I had expected. I also enjoyed the smoked salmon, but for the most part, they were plain and certainly not as fresh as they could have been.

Scones followed. We received two varieties, a typical plain scone, and a cranberry-raisin scone. These scones were done right for an afternoon tea. They are the smaller variety, just like what I received when taking tea in London. The texture was nice and crumbly, and the clotted cream and raspberry preserves were delicious. This was probably my favorite course of the tea. The setback was that the scones were not warm. The texture and consistency made up for the lack of warmth, however I wish they brought around seconds.

The dessert course came next. We were served a layered crepe cake, divided by a fresh whipped cream served over raspberry coulis. I had never eaten a crepe cake, so it was quite new and refreshing. Light and moist, just as any tea cake should be, it was. However, I did not love it. That is not to say I didn't like it, because I did. I just would've preferred Victoria Sponge or something of the like instead.

The last course included Belgian dipped strawberry and vanilla-fondant and sugar-brushed cookies. They were all very good. Keep in mind, these are sweets hard to screw up. I particularly enjoyed the heart-shaped vanilla-fondant cookies. They had a nice sweet flavor that went quite well with the tea.

While finish our pots of tea, we all enjoyed conversation regarding Ted Kennedy (RIP), foreign culture, and travel. We were rather surprised when the waiter came over to tell us that we had to leave in five minutes. The whole tea felt rather rushed to begin with (one course right after the next) but no one was really complaining. It was just rather disheartening to be rushed out.

In totality, I would give Lady Mendl's full points in appearance. The dining room and whole facility are just beautiful. But in food quality and service, the tea room would be wise to improve. I expected an afternoon tea that would so beautifully match my surroundings, however I was disappointed with the final result. And, with a $35.00 price tag per person, plus tax, plus tip, this is no cheap affair.

I will not be going back any time soon, but perhaps if I hear things are changing over there, I will revisit the facility.

It was quite an enjoyable afternoon in all. We followed tea with a walk through the Union Square Green Market. After parting ways, Amita and I strolled along Greenwich Ave to my favorite haunt Tea and Sympathy, where in the store we purchased loose leaf teas (T&S English Breakfast, and Serendipitea Coco Loco) along with a china teacup for me, and a brown betty teapot for her.

Thanks for reading and come check back soon!


Friday, August 28, 2009

The Scone Shoppe, Point Pleasant, New Jersey

I am going back to Manhattan on Sunday to begin my sophomore year at NYU. I am very excited, yet saddened to be leaving my humble state of New Jersey after a wonderful summer. I have spent the summer well: a balance of working and traveling and hanging out with my closest friends. On this rainy Friday afternoon before I leave to go back, my mother and I decided to do something special. I wanted to take her to The Scone Pony*, a beautiful little bakery in Spring Lake, New Jersey (The BEST scones I have EVER eaten!!!) Before that, though, we decided to take tea and a light lunch at The Scone Shoppe, in Point Pleasant New Jersey.

Located in a small strip mall along Bridge Ave, the Scone Shoppe's surroundings are not prepossessing, and the parking lot was rather small. However, upon entering the quaint, little shop, I knew I was in for a treat. Each table was delicately covered with fine linen. Napkins were fanned and fashioned inside a teapot napkin ring. Beautiful bone china teacups sat at each place setting upon a matching saucer. Our waitress was a lovely middle-aged Jersey Shore native. Adorned in bright pink nail polish, and a grin from ear to ear, she was wonderful from start to finish. She treated my mother and I like close friends and took precise attention to detail when we gave our orders. The selection of tea was not extremely elaborate, but definitely plentiful. My mother and I shared a large pot of British Breakfast blend. They use Republic of Tea brand. The only complaint I might have had about the shop was the use of tea bags over loose leaf. Although the tea was still quite good, there is a slight taste difference.

After enjoying a cup or two, our orders arrived. I opted for the chicken salad on croissant with lettuce (without tomato for me). My mother had turkey with mozzarella in a balsamic glaze served on a crusty baguette. The sandwiches are served with either soup or salad. We ordered one of each and then shared the two. The fresh greens were dressed in a balsamic dressing and the homemade lentil soup was delicious and perfect for the rainy day! My chicken salad was extremely fresh and the croissant was just the right amount of crusty and golden. My mother thoroughly enjoyed her sandwich as well.

With more than enough tea left, we happily prepared for the scones. Upon entering, you immediately see the large glass case displaying more than TEN varieties of scones! What a decision to make! I went for the white chocolate macadamia and my mother had chocolate delight! The scones were baked triangular, in the American fashion. Each scone was served with a side of jam and lemon curd. They were delicious! The texture was perfect. Nice and crumbly and not too cakey, just the way a scone should be. Also, the prices were nice and low. Our plentiful and filling meal cost a total of $23.00.

I will most certainly bring friends back to The Scone Shoppe. An enjoyable afternoon with my mom. The clientle seemed to be mostly older women, although there was some testosterone (three gentlemen, including myself). If you are in the area, definitely visit!

The Interior

A Fine Presentation

My Mother Enjoying a Cuppa

Thanks for reading! Happy Friday!


*The Scone Pony is located at 305 Washington Ave in Spring Lake, NJ. Although cakey and softer than typical scones, they are delicious! The vanilla bean scone is OUT OF THIS WORLD! If you have the chance to try one, TRY ONE! So delicious! Clotted cream and fine jams are sold at the shop as well.

A Warm Welcome!

"If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you. Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea! I am glad I was not born before tea."

-William Gladstone
British Prime Minister

Welcome! I am so glad you have dropped by to take a peek at my blog! About two years ago, I gave up the daily cup of joe and switched to something a bit more soothing. After taking tea in place of coffee for a while, I became enamored by the effect these fine leaves had when interspersed with boiled water. I soon had my first true afternoon tea; I fell in love with the elegant act of relaxation. Nothing compares to imbibing a hot cup of Darjeeling from fine bone China, while nibbling on dainty finger sandwiches, petite sweets, and of course a crumbly scone adorned with clotted cream and fresh jam. "There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea", said English novelist Henry James. How right he is. Over the past few years I have worked to accrue knowledge about tea and teaware, as well as the ceremony Anna Maria, the seventh Duchess of Bedford began in 1840. The following entries are my very own tea musings. I will reveal my thoughts and feelings about certain products, tea rooms and shops in my native New Jersey and school home of New York City, as well as must haves for any tea lover. Boil a fresh pot of your favorite tea, sit back, relax and enjoy!

Thanks so much for stopping by. I truly wish you an enjoyable reading!


The Tea Gastronomer.