22 April 2015

Tea Gallery: Alice Reading Beside a Cup of Tea by Roger de la Fresnaye



Tea and Books, Books and Tea!  Always an ideal pairing.  Also, Alice's Tea Cup.  I'm done here.

Still Here!

I began my first blog entry on the 19th of April, 2005 with a simple "Here I Am"!  

At the time, posting anything on the Internet was an unusual thrill for me.  It was my first attempt at social networking online, and I would write about anything and everything.  Now, though I don't post nearly as frequently, it's centered along the subject of tea and its periphery.  

I was limited in some ways.  My first laptop was a year away, and my home computer was ancient.  Most of my writing was done on breaks at work.  I didn't even know how to post pictures at first, and needed my friend Marie, who had also just started blogging, to help me put up a profile pic.  Eventually I figured things out - just in time for the arrival of Zenobia.  I also retroactively shared pics from my trip to London/France, which I'd embarked on right after my first post.  It was my pretend version of being a travel writer, and it was enough.

Then it became a community thing.  A bunch of my friends started keeping blogs, and we'd all comment on each others' posts, and I got to see people I was close to personally in a different light.  Some of these people ended up leaving New York, and now it was like a newsletter from (slightly) far away.  Yes, we could've just emailed each other, but this had a shinier format.

When everyone started to join Facebook in earnest, and later Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr (which is a form of blogging but feels different), Pinterest, etc. - and I joined many of these as well - things changed once again.  I posted less frequently on my blog, because I had other outlets.  I received fewer comments on the blogs - and now I'd extended to other blogs, in an attempt to be organized - and my friends were accessible in other ways.  

So, after ten years, why do I still have this blog?  Why bother?

Why not?

Some things never change



23 March 2015

A Tale of Two Cat Cafes


I've had the inestimable opportunity to visit two cat cafes in the space of three months.  Imagine being able to combine a love of cats and tea, and even books - and not even paying that much for the privilege!  I mean, unless you count the airfare to London.  

London and New York have a great deal in common, not least of all the problem of living space.  Unless you're loaded, being able to have even a decent sized apartment is a challenge, never mind a house with a garden.  Many people sacrifice a fairly proportioned kitchen, in-house laundry facilities, and other things most non-urban folk take for granted because location, location, location!  One of the greatest sacrifices, in my opinion, is being able to keep pets.  I'm a cat person, yes, but I'd love to have dogs (not to mention ducks), and the only reason I don't, besides the veterinary bills, is because I'd have to walk them in soggy weather.  I'd have more cats, but I stay balanced with one or two, because of cleanliness - and allergies. 

Many have had to forgo even one cat because it's not allowed in their building - which is ridiculous because it's not like the cat is going to scratch the walls off - or because they split rent with someone who's allergic.  These cat cafes are perfect, then, because it possibly fills a gap in their life for a space of time.  Or like me, you just like to go and see more kitties because there's not enough of them on the Internet...

Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium

As you know by now, I had and always do have a good time in London.  The past two trips I was a solitary traveler, which isn't too bad, though this time I was happy to reconnect with a friend from visits past, and meet some new friends. At my Sunday meeting I found a lovely family who asked me to their home for a tea break.  Besides their hospitality, and the excellent cuppa you only find in a British home (can nearly replicate it in my apartment), I met the family's Jack Russell terrier and two hilariously adorable Singapura cats.  It was my second day, and already I missed Zenobia, so this was a welcome encounter!  Instead of being satiated, though, it made me look forward to Monday's reservation even more.

On Monday, I did something I rarely do:  I gave myself plenty of time.  One thing I know about London is that I still get lost far too easily, and hitting an area like Shoreditch was bound to be a challenge.  And it was.  I took a wrong turn, ended up on the opposite side of Brick Lane, and took an unnecessary train or two, but at least it was a nice day for it.  

Got to Lady Dinah's a few minutes early, and those of us who had the 1 PM (aka 13:00) reservations were led into an anteroom where we washed our hands and were given brief instructions as to behavioral policies. Then we were in a cat Wonderland!


Normally, when I venture into a cafe alone, I want to be left alone, with my food, my drink, and my book(s).  Like a cat.  A cat who reads.  But this is a place where even cats aren't left alone (though you mustn't pick them up or wake them if they'll sleeping, them's the rules), so I attempted to tap into my social side for a few moments here and there.  


This is Donnie, the one that reminded me of Cinnamon, so probably my favourite.  The lady on the left worked at the cafe, and she was good at keeping the playful cats interactive, and answering our questions (mainly, 'What's his name?')


I was seated at a cozy couch, facing two sisters on a couch, and we shared the coffee table between us.  We shared photos of our own fur babies, as you do.  I'd already had a Full English Breakfast, so I couldn't go to town, but I think I got the gist of the place's menu.  Anyway, I was more of a Cream Tea girl on this trip than Afternoon Tea - the reservation is listed as Afternoon Tea, but ordering is a la carte.  So I had a cup of  perfect Darjeeling, excellent scone with clotted cream and jam, and a slice of cake - the Chocolate Mandarin Loaf, which is listed as Gluten and Dairy Free, and so tasty.  The cake would also pair nicely with an Earl Grey.

I was able to wander around the rooms too.  In most restaurants, even tearooms, that seems a bit forward, to say the least, but when there's kitties in every nook and cranny - well, you have to go exploring!  Plus, there's a fair amount of bookshelves, which is always fun for browsers.  

An altogether fine experience, with my fill of felines for the week, until I got home and received a full dressing down by the lonely Zenobia.



Fast forward two months, and we're in the dead of winter in New York.  The snow is no longer fun, and the cold is biting worse than a mean kitty.  It wasn't the kind of day I prefer to venture into the Lower East Side - a place I get nearly as lost in as I do Shoreditch, but I had a reservation and was meeting a friend.  I'm glad I didn't flake out.


Meow Parlour is a different kind of cat cafe.  There are rules to observe, and of course cats everywhere, but after that the similarities end.  

You need to take your shoes off straightaway.  I'm not a fan of this, especially in snow boot weather, but I knew I needed to do this in advance, so I wore decent socks.  The Macaron Parlour around the corner provides the food, and though you can (I think) order from the cat cafe, we personally went to select our macarons.  How cute are these?



The tea was Harney and Sons, and I picked an herbal, which was good. I was recovering from an incident where I'd smacked my face into a wall in the middle of the night, and it took a bandaid and much more makeup than usual to look presentable, so I didn't need much in the way of caffeination.   There weren't as many food items to choose from, but then again, the reservation is for half hour increments, so you don't really need much.

Copy Cat...get it?


  This was a one-room deal, but it was airy and the tables were more of a communal setting.  I mean, I shared a couch at Lady Dinah's, but that felt more plushy I think.


The other main difference I could see was that all the cats in Meow Parlour are up for adoption.  There's a process to it; you don't just point and say "I want this one", but either way, you know that though these cats are wonderful, and sweet and well-behaved, you might not want to get too attached, 'cause they may not be here next time!


Talk to the toe beans!










Both cat cafes fill a void, and I'm glad for their existence.  They seemed to fit their respective cities, and the cat/tea/book trifecta is fulfilled in each.

25 January 2015

Candella

I have a problem.  The most beautiful of problems.  I have too many choices!

In my earlier visits to London, my Kensington day wouldn't be complete without a stop to The Muffin Man.  Still, I wanted to visit The Orangery at some point, so Bonnie and I managed to get to that our last time together, while at the same time doing The Muffin Man on another day.  Obviously I have enough tea spots in that area.  Of course I had to find out about Candella!  

Yumchaa was discovered through Yelp, but Candella was a find via Instagram.  Yes, businesses, it works!

Kensington Church Street is one of my favorite streets to walk, and one that I only discovered in my past few visits.  It connects Kensington Hill Street with Notting Hill Gate, and it's a charming walk.  Of course, most of the shops are out of my league - antiques mostly - but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the view.  Also, the High Street isn't Oxford Street crazy, but it can be busy, and Church Street is always quieter without being deserted.  A perfect street to place a tea room!

My conundrum upon hearing about it, though, was when to visit.  Even I can have too much tea in one day, but I knew I had to fit it in.  So I made it a breakfast/nearly brunch destination on a Thursday - the same Thursday I went to Yumchaa - and this worked out well.




Piano Piano Piano!


Anyplace with this much cake is a PLACE TO BE!

It's not a large place, but some of the best places aren't.  However, when I sat down, I was a table over from a woman who seemed to be a regular, and being in close proximity to people makes me want to be extra careful with my table manners.  This doesn't just apply in London, but it certainly makes the pressure even stronger.  I mean, the Tea Queen of London is the Queen, and we were just blocks from a palace (like anyone cares what I do, but this is how my head works so deal with it.)  

You'd think the aforementioned conscientiousness would induce me to order a dainty finger food, especially considering the fact that of course I'd be reading a book whilst partaking.  Nope. I ordered the Eggs Benedict.  Hey, it seemed filling enough for the upcoming park stroll AND I believe it was the first time I'd actually had an English muffin in England (it was good.)

I can deal with this.

Of course, I was in for an awkward treat!  Everything tasted wonderful, and my appley black tea was perfect...and I should have tried some of that cake!  However, it's me, and attempting to eat with a fork and knife and basically one and a half hands would inevitably lead to disaster.  Okay, maybe not disaster, but anyway.  First of all, I was struggling with the background music.  It was the solo featured on Seinfeld when Elaine had the Pez dispenser on her lap and busted out.  I'm trying to eat gracefully and I keep visualizing Tweety Bird.  At long last my knife did a little flip and landed on the floor.  The lady next to me saw this and said something like , "No worries."  I need to adopt that attitude to life, I think.

Once my issues were fully dealt with, I realized this was a real winner of a tea shop.  Perhaps that's premature, as I didn't have my usual accompaniments, but this rough estimate came from the all-important ambience, and the fact that they served loose tea.  Nothing wrong with a good bagged tea, but in a place like this, you want to see the effort.  I'm spoiled for choice AND picky!

4 out of 4 teacups - Tube: High Street Kensington or Notting Hill Gate, both on the District/Circle lines.

13 January 2015

Tea Gallery: Sunday Morning, Woman Reading by Isabel Codrington


To me, the only thing better than a tea gallery is a bookish gallery.  Here's a bit of both.

Now that teapot is huge!  I'm hoping my eyesight is overlooking a samovar aspect to it, otherwise I predict a messy table.  No wonder she's holding up her book.  Also, if I were painted reading on a Sunday morning, the surroundings would be far less elegant.  Still, it'd be a fun picture to do a modern interpretation of - doubt I could find that particular floral arrangement.


24 December 2014

Yumchaa



Like I mentioned before, London 2014 did not see me partaking in any afternoon teas.  This doesn't mean I don't like them anymore, but I find they're a bit much on my stomach, and I wanted to be in excellent shape this time.  Well, it worked: I was in good health pretty much the entire week.  There was no shortage of cups of tea though, and here's another spot I was able to try for the first time.

I'm not a manic yelp-er.  Oftentimes I find my opinion isn't the same as others'; for instance, too many people have less than kind words for Tea and Sympathy's service, whilst I've had as much satisfaction with the staff there than with most places I frequent.  Still, in my planning for London I did search on yelp for tea shop locations, as it's more or less up to date.  I read many rave reviews for Yumchaa, and particularly for their lemon drizzle cake, so after an invigorating walk through Hyde Park, and Oxford Street (which wasn't too bad in the late afternoon), I veered off a block to give it a chance - and to get off my feet.

The ground floor of Yumchaa has more of a communal feel to it, which is not my preference.  And straightaway I was able to assess that this place was more in line with an Argo or Communitea (RIP) than an Alice's or even Muffin Man.  I don't mind; sometimes I like to deal with ordering and paying and not having any further human contact for the duration.  I went for a tea called Regents Park, because London, and because I was in a fruity tea mood that day, and the lemon drizzle cake, and headed downstairs where there was ample seating.  I had a Chesterfield-ish couch to myself, and plenty of time to unwind with my favorite trifecta of tea-cake-books (scones come in a close second to cake.)

My experience was just fine. The cake wasn't as legendary as it had been described, but it was good, as was the tea.  Everyone else who was sitting downstairs was talking about hipstery things, or as you can see in the picture above, looking like they were thinking about hipstery things.  It put a mild damper on my time there, but it was expected.

I understand there's a few other branches of Yumchaa, and I'm glad for that.  One thing I will always agree to is a surfeit of tea spots - and as for this branch, well, it never hurts to have a little sanctuary from an otherwise overbusy shopping area.  A proper tea from a pot is always a plus, too!  7.5/10 teaspoons.


28 November 2014

The Muffin Man

So I'm back from another wonderful visit to London.  It went so fast, I hardly had a moment to let it all sink in, so here we are now.  I thought I'd kick off my coverage of the trip with the next to last day, because why do things in order?  Also, I'm reaching into the far past (for me, that is) to realize the present.  

Though I've strayed here and there, Kensington remains one of my favorite parts of London.  In fact, though we stayed in Southall that very first time in 1994 - it was close to the airport but a good distance from anything else - Pam and I chose as our first destination Kensington, and I have to admit, the first place we ate was Pizza Hut.  Yeah, not even Pizza Express.  Although since then I've grown well away from Pizza Hut, and my stomach thanks me for that, I liked seeing this particular one every time I came back to London.  

The pretty building's still here.  That's great.  Still, it's now a memory added to my list of other past-and-gone places, like Kensington Market, and Shelley's shoe store apparently, to mention a few in stone's throw of this picture:


However, just as London is a constantly changing city, there are always some mainstays.  Thankfully The Muffin Man, which I've mentioned plenty of times, was waiting for me once again.

It looks like they're given the outside a paint job recently.  I could be wrong, but it seemed brighter.  It's a wonderful color.



I was seated in the middle of the shop, which normally makes me kind of nervous.  In fact, for a very short time I thought I felt a panic coming on, but I did a quick stretch and all was well.  In truth, I think I was just a bit overexcited to be back in a favorite place.  My poor delicate psyche.

These ladies had my favorite spot in the shop, but I won't begrudge them as they looked so happy!  And how could you not be?




YAY!!!

I'd had a Full English Breakfast earlier in the day.  In fact, I'd had three in the entire trip.  It was my substitute food coma for the afternoon teas I guess.  So I kept it simple at this point - tea with milk, unsweetened, and two still amazing scones with that unbelievably good clotted cream and strawberry jam,  Pair this with a book I'd just picked up the night before at Waterstone's in Angel, Islington, and it was a tea time fit for a happy me!

The Muffin Man: a living legend.

23 September 2014

Coffee is my Stalker

Okay, I mainly chose the above title because it's hilarious to say out loud when you're trying to hide your native New York accent. 
 
I have a mild case of paranoia.  It's mostly under control, as I know firmly that none of this is grounded (ha - coffee joke) in reality, but I tend to have dramatic relationships with objects.  For instance, I used to have an ongoing dialogue/rivalry with a copy machine in an old job.  It wanted to annoy me!  The street cleaners just had to pass me every time I left the house early.  Oh, and bicycles are coming to get me.  Ask my sister Bonnie - I'm often close to getting wiped out by bicycles when I attempt to cross a street!  Okay, that could be down to the growing amount of bicyclists in the city, but it sure keeps me on my toes!
 
If you're still reading, and not googling psychiatrists on my behalf, recently I find myself face to face with coffee nearly everywhere I turn.  It seems to be on the increase since I had to forbid myself from drinking caffeinated coffee altogether.  As you may had read in previous posts, I actually like coffee, but it's just not worth the side effects.  If I get a particularly aggressive craving, maybe I'll do decaf, but even that I keep to a rare treat. 
 
(By the way, if you're getting deja vu to pair with my paranoia, it's mainly because I've written about this problem before.  It had abated for a bit.  Now it's back.)
 
So how is this stalking happening?  Here's just a few examples: last week I went to a Capital One Cafe in Midtown.  It's been there for years, though I think it was under another name before, but I'd never stopped in, and thought hey, I'm in the mood for a scone, let's do this!  All well and good, but as I was leaving, a lady working there gave me a paper swag bag - I believe they're closing for a couple of weeks and this was a little promotional reminder for their reopening.  What's in the bag?  A tumbler (nice), and a big old bag of Medium Roast from Peets Coffee!  I took it, because -free-, but I gave it away later.  That same day Starbucks had a man with a tray of little samples of coffee.  I did have that, and no other caffeine for the duration of the day.  I went to a coffee shop on Saturday - for lunch, not coffee, and of course a waiter brought a cup of coffee over to me, because my friend had asked for a fork.  This makes total sense.  Then yesterday I stopped into Starbucks for a banana loaf cafe slice only.  I had tea in the office, but wanted a little something, as one does.  In the short course of making my order and receiving it, three baristas asked me more than once if I was sure I didn't want something to drink (presumably coffee.)  What part of climbing up the walls do they not understand? 
 
These examples are not the only ones - after all, it's the best season of the year (closely rivalled by spring), and Pumpkin Spice Latte ads are everywhere!  Did I mention I work in Manhattan???  Yep.
 

Not my pic, couldn't find the source. 
 
 
 


 



22 August 2014

Tea and an English/Tisane and a Belgian

I haven't been to nearly enough barbecues this year - though I've been treated to some nice ones, and let's not forget Texas!  If we factor in the extraordinarily mild summer we've had, though, I'd say everyone in my region should be eating outdoors more often.  For the first time in ages, I don't want this season to end!

I was thinking about a particular barbecue a few years ago when it was probably more oppressively warm.  My sister and I were probably reminiscing about the wonders of autumn, and all the indoor times we could enjoy.  We humans are never satisfied with what we presently have - and that goes double for New Yorkers!  I tend to mention during such conversations that I almost never bake between June and September, or even cook much, and though I do spend time indoors, it's not quite as cozy with the a/c blasting.  Well, along these lines my sister brought up a mini ritual she shared with her husband on some evenings, which they dubbed "Tea and an English."  This was comprised of cups of likely herbal tea, maybe cake, and a period film or televised drama, or perhaps a mystery program.  For the most part, the evening's entertainment was of an English nature.  In case you haven't gathered from previous posts, this very much reflects the evenings we'd spent as a family growing up, though now there was a name to it.
 
Despite it being pleasantly mild, I'm still a little allergic to summer mentally.  This was brought home to me during an otherwise good week in July when I ended up in the hospital after a rather violent panic attack.  Though these things have a number of underlying causes, it was no coincidence that I'd had my "monthly coffee" the previous afternoon - an iced vanilla latte from Starbucks.  Now I know that I must never, under any circumstances, drink a whole cup of caffeinated coffee - even decaf is a little risky to my system but if I get a true craving I might go there.  I need to keep even my caffeinated tea drinking down to maybe one cup a day - which means I'll make sure it's a good one each time!  And I've brought in even more herbal tea - tisane - into my life.   
 
 
 
My own "Tea and an English" usually consists of either a choice from Netflix, or the occasional broadcast TV moments.  There's still a touch of loyalty to the "Masterpiece" programs on PBS, and there's nothing like watching a mystery program at the time it's airing.  After Endeavour was over for the year (more cliffhangers!), it was advertised that PBS would be airing two new Poirot stories.  I hear that for some reason the two final episodes would not be aired in the US, which I don't understand, as there are the truly last ones Agatha Christie wrote.  Nevertheless, it occurred to me that I hadn't watched a Poirot on my own...ever.  I know it wasn't one of the favorites in my family growing up - though my other brother-in-law liked it apparently - but neither was Doctor Who, and...well.
 
It wasn't fair to leave Poirot out, actually.  After all, I played Agatha Christie - or a satirical version of her - in our 6th grade production of "Murder on the Orient Express Subway".  I grew up in Queens, remember.  It was the only chance I'd had to act in a school play, since most of them were Christmas productions and I've never celebrated Christmas.  Anyway, it was a cute adaptation, and one written I believe when Christie was still alive - she died the year I was born.  We put on the play around the same time David Suchet helped make the Belgian detective a household name again.  Decades later, with the magic of streaming whole television series, I became (re)acquainted with this character.
 
All in all, I like Hercule Poirot.  He can be a little arrogant, but no more than Sherlock Holmes who I still adore, and he's a little more personable I think.  He's incredible clever, fussy with his appearance - and that mustache!  I don't prefer mustaches, but on Poirot it's perfect.  There's a poignancy to his being a foreigner - one from a not too distant land but viewed as lacking in understanding in some quarters - that gives him a sort of relateability to anyone who's felt like an outsider.  The stories themselves can be repetitive - many jewelry robberies and readings of wills, people in poor disguises...and how many times does Poirot and Hastings visit the seaside and well-appointed country homes?  Yet I'm glad for watching.  It's a good show to wind down with after a long day. And it coincides with my need for a relaxing beverage - the tisane.
 
The word 'tisane' was popularized through the preference of this fictional detective.  Poirot expects his tisane as a specific time each day, and it's not an easy task to make it correctly.  He likes other drinks, but this one is his essential one, and there is consternation on his part if it's not accessible at any of the many hotels he stays at (where someone usually gets murdered.) And now, when my caffeine intake must be further diminished, it's nice to find a co-drinker of the herbal infusions where I can. 
 
Of course, these observations only come from one particular adaptation, and to get to know Poirot well I may have to read some of the novels they're derived from.  A book lover's life is never dull!
 
I still have some episodes to go through - Poirot, Endeavour Morse and others have kept my fictional life steady throughout the summer - but now that autumn is coming (more hot beverages!), I'll have some new television to look forward to.....
 
NEW DOCTOR WHO TOMORROW!!!!!!!  Tea and a Gallifreyan!
 


10 July 2014

Tea Gallery: Tattoos?

I would never get a tattoo.  This I know for a certainty.  I used to put those temporary ones on in the late 90s, and within a day or so I'd get sick of looking at it.  One of them - a flower on my ankle, lasted so long that when I started a new job, it was assumed that this was an actual tattoo.  I guess I wasn't much for exfoliation back then!

My opinions on tats notwithstanding, it is still an art form, so I had to share this Buzzfeed article (Buzzfeed is one of my guilty pleasures, by the way.  It's like a mug of PG tips tea with milk and sugar - quick, tasty and effective, but maybe not the finest of tea-taking.)  Enjoy!

30 May 2014

Recent Books and Pairings

I'm a bit behind on my reading.  Granted, I'm still a voracious book inhaler, but I'm not up to maximum capacity.  Either way, here's some titles I've enjoyed recently:

Shada by Douglas Adams and Gary Russell
aka The Lost Episodes of the Tom Baker years.  Yes, we're in Doctor Who territory here.  In this case, I'm sort of going back to the beginning.  You see, when I decided one winter's day to finally sit down and out see this Doctor Who thing for myself, I kicked off with The City of Death, which was a story from the same time period as Shada - the same Doctor and companion, and the same writer! I loved the humour of it, and swiftly continued on to the series starting in 2005 - which was actually more serious in tone, but fantastic in its own right.


Romana II

I was hesitant to read this novelization, as I knew it was Douglas Adams' story filled in by someone else in novel form.  It's been a long hiatus since the most recent episode though, which is the best time to go to the classics.  Of course it turned out to be just what the Doctor ordered (sorry)...a bad guy with a god-complex intent on rewiring the universe, an aged Time Lord spending retirement among his books at Cambridge, whose entire answer to entertaining visitors is making them endless cups of tea (!), and a nerdy love story.  In any event, once I'd read the book I also discovered that a DVD had been released of all the available Shada footage, with the rest being filled in by Tom Baker's narration.  The footage was very good indeed - a rare on-location filming, though getting more commonplace at the time, as City of Death was shot in Paris - and though I liked the book I find it a shame that complications revolving around a strike killed the episodes dead.  To pair, I'd take a black tea, with milk if there's any left, two lumps and two sugars...

This led me to a well-overdue reading of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  It was a quick read, with a few good laughs.  It was sci-fi that didn't take itself too seriously.  I can get on board with that.  I'm currently reading The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which is a little slower going for me, but going nevertheless.  Something about these stories makes me recommend choosing a tea made from a Keurig machine - particularly a miserable machine if you can find one.

1066: The Year of the Three Battles by Frank McLynn
I should have known that a book with the word 'Battles' in its title would be not quite my cup of tea.  I didn't hate it; in fact, there were a couple of chapters that I would recommend.  The actual year in question takes over 200 pages to reach, but in between there were a few people of note that had readable lives  The problem for me, and this could just be a personal difficulty, is that there was an extensively long cast of characters introduced into the story.  Many of them were integral, but all those Viking/Norman/Saxon names were dizzying after a while.  A few more diagrams and family trees may have helped. As for tea, you'll need some help staying alert at times, so try a hearty Assam-rich blend like PG Tips or Extra Strong Tetley, or whatever is close enough to these in your area.  If you like green tea, I find Jasmine scented greens tend to be stronger in caffeine content. 

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
I'm not particulary good at the outdoors.  It's one shortcoming of mine I'd really like to do something about - well, that and procrastinating, but I'll take care of that another time.  I spend more time in Central Park than many New Yorkers, for sure, and I made it up and down Bear Mountain (which technically, the Appalachian Trail runs through), but to rough it from Georgia to Maine is something I can safely say won't happen anytime soon.  And let's be honest, it's not something most people even of a decent constitution could pull off.  Bill Bryson is not the poster boy of fitness, but he's willing to give things a try which I admire. Of course (spoilers) he didn't actually traverse the entire AT, but he invested many nights eating soggy ramen noodles, bad weather, and a lack of reading material to pull together a good story about endurance, and putting up with various personalities.  I'd read this in the comforts of home, or you know, leaning against a tree pretending to be a part of it all, while sipping any kind of tea you'd like, because it would have to be better than anything Mr. Bryson digested in his CRAZY LONG WALK.

Making Masterpiece by Rebecca Eaton

After years of watching Masterpiece programs, the name of the Executive Producer of Masterpiece lurked somewhere in my subconscious, but her memoirs brought it to the fore. I've watched PBS shows since I'd say always, but only came into Masterpiece Theatre, and especially Mystery! since about the time Rebecca Eaton was involved in it.  These programs shaped me to an extent - I'm sure I've recounted here a number of times how my family would have tea parties before settling in to watch Miss Marple and Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes on the weekend.  I want to pronounced that 'week-end', like a confused Dowager Duchess from the most successful endeavor of Ms. Eaton's career...

I liked the behind the scenes look at some of my favorite TV moments, though she was quiet about certain people - I feel like she could have said so much more about Jeremy Brett, and only ONE passing mention of David Tennant? For shame!  Still, she was open about many of her career errors, the largest one in my opinion being the rejection of Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth version), which I don't think I'd have wanted to admit.  Also, the reasoning behind Downton Abbey and Sherlock airing later than it does in the UK didn't really float for me, especially since she chases that down with her dismay at the piracy of said shows.  In this day and age, when people live-tweet spoilers, what does she expect?

It was a little rambling, but another good quick read.  I'd pair this with either the official Downton Abbey tea, or considering Ms. Eaton's line of work, a nice blend picked up from a shop in England.


Yep.



16 April 2014

Stray Observations, Mostly Tea-Related

In the name of completion, I'd like to go through a few more snaps from my trip to Texas last month, along with a little commentary.


A very notable location...


The River House Tearoom, in Gruene, s quick drive from San Antonio.  The town itself was perfectly lovely; apparently it had its name from its German population.  The best wurst I've ever had!  Of very course we had to visit its tearoom.  I was disappointed that Afternoon Tea was only available in reservation form, but it was a cozy place with wonderful muffins.  I felt at home - basically because I have the same teapot - that one, top shelf, fourth item from the left.  




Brackenridge Park, San Antonio.  There was a small tea shop by the Japanese Tea Garden, but I was left confused as to why it was called The Chinese Tea Garden.  Mysteries abound!


Austin - a fun, funky capital - the day before its South by Southwest Festival was to begin.  An influx of hipsters, as a result.  Sadly, this includes, well, this:
I shall say no more on this subject.




At a gathering, I was interested in the iced Hibiscus that I almost mistook for Sangria.  Actually, during my entire trip to Texas I didn't imbibe once.  Usually on vacation I'll drink at least once or twice, but this trip was an exception, which is just fine. I didn't have coffee either, but tea is always on the menu for me! I'd had Hibiscus tea before, mostly in herbal/fruit blends, and it's a good source of Vitamin C, or something healthy like that.  Iced tea, particularly Sweet Tea, is all over the South, but I didn't realize that iced Hibiscus tea was so common, until I also saw it on the menu of the cafe in Book People.  And of course, not long after I'd returned home I saw it in a menu of a New York spot - isn't that always how things go?

Oh, and Book People was worth the unnecessary Crazy Long Walk on Austin's 6th Street.  Sadly we had precious little time to browse, but it's a large, excellent independent bookstore that I'd love to return to someday.  Check out what was written in one of the bathroom stalls:


More on Texas whenever I get a chance to return - who knows when that will be?

06 April 2014

Tea Gallery: Trust Me, John Everett Millais, 1862


Looks like someone's having a tense moment among the tea things.

31 March 2014

Bigger in Texas



It seems strange to go looking for tea spots in a place like San Antonio, Texas.  Shouldn't one search out barbecue joints instead?  Well, of course I did that as well.  Still, I would be remiss if I neglected my duties as Tea Queen of Astoria, no matter where I was on the globe.  And thankfully, my efforts were rewarded.  This was evident especially in the oversized Mad Hatter Tea House & Cafe.

 

I always thought Alice's Tea Cup was large, and none of its 3 locations are tiny, but Mad Hatter's is the overgrown version of its New York counterpart.  There's multiple rooms, and the building itself takes up most of the street.  Real estate prices alone would keep you from doing that in Manhattan!  

You make your order at the counter, then wait for the staff to bring it to your table.  You select your own teacups, which I kind of liked.

However, though the staff were friendly enough, it was a little off-putting when the man who brought our teapots to the table stuck in nose in the pots to see which was which.  Ew.  Even so, he got our teas mixed up.  Doesn't everyone know Bonnie gets the rooibos?  I'm the Darjeeling girl!  I mean, that might change in the evening, but still..


One thing I love is a cafe of any kind with bookshelves.  It's why I love a good cuppa in my home library, and why I'll take the bus from Port Authority to Van Gogh's ear in Union, New Jersey.  There's just something about being near books.  I can't articulate what it does for me.  Also, you'll have something to occupy yourself with if you're along, nevermind the phone.


But I digress...OUTSIDE SPACE!!!!




We ordered the Afternoon Tea, which was $18 for two.  Pricewise that's quite satisfying.  However, there were only two choices of sandwich in this deal: smoked salmon and cucumber cream cheese.  I don't like smoked salmon, and cucumber sandwiches are all well and good, but one gets bored of it after a while.  There were other tea sandwiches, but they could be ordered separately.  I'd do that next time.

The scones were fine: bear with me, I didn't take notes and it's been nearly a month, but I think they were cinnamon and blueberry.  They were fine on their own, and I wouldn't recommend the cream/jam conglomeration.  They were mixed together and looked like things I wouldn't speak of here.  The petit four were really sweet, another reason why I always say you don't need to add anything to your tea!




Look at the size of this place!  Bonnie went to a Bridal shower lunch not long after I'd returned to New York, and she had good things to say about the turkey sandwich.  I am glad such a place exists near Bonnie's new home.  Definitely drop by if you're around, though with the state heating up already I might recommend some iced tea.  More on that in my next post!