31 January 2007

My Tea Things: 1

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I've been collecting tea paraphernalia for over a decade now, chiefly teapots. Thought I'd show you just a few of these. This one is my favorite teapot, purchased in some outlet mall in Pennsylvania in 1995. My cat, Cinnamon, was almost 3 at that time, and I was more than pleased to see an item that combined two of my most beloved things, tea and cats (especially orange and white cats,) in one teapot. Though Cinnamon has been gone for over a year now, the memories, and the teapot, remain.

29 January 2007

Big Mouth

I haven't done a Zeno post in a while. This photo illustrates completely what she does all night long. She's the chattiest feline I've ever encountered. Good thing I love her.

27 January 2007

On the go at St. Mark's Place

Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I really don't like to walk and eat. Ice cream, maybe...you know, some food is made for strolling and I've indulged in a pretzel on the go here and there. For the most part, I need to sit for a few minutes and digest - I have the most sensitive digestive system. If I'm dining out alone - which I am not afraid of doing, I'm not completely socially phobic, I like to have a book to read.

Passing by this place on St. Mark's Place, I couldn't help but find it intriguing. "Bamn!" sounds like a euphemism, or something heard on a food channel, but it works well for what it provides. It's an automat, all kinds of fast food, including some Asian entrees. It looks bright and cheery. I haven't actually tried anything from Bamn! yet, but maybe when the weather is outdoor friendly I'll pick something up to snack on in a nearby park.

24 January 2007

An Old Favorite

When I was still in college -way back when- I was just beginning to practice making bagless tea. I had only a couple of teapots (I still have the one from Lechter's - does anyone remember that place?) and a tea strainer from Dean & Deluca's. Whenever I had the chance, I would traverse Manhattan in search of a good tea supplier. This was some time before I shopped online, and most searches were undertaken by foot. When I found Porto Rico, I was really excited. As you walk in, you are assaulted by the coffee smell. Though I'm not really a coffee person, it's definitely pleasing. Sometimes being around such an overpowering amount of coffee is enough to wake me up. I, of course, was only interested in buying loose tea, which they scoop in little brown bags labeled with the name of the tea of choice. From this location (there was one on Bleecker Street, it might still be there) I bought Moroccan Mint Tea. That was when I was just getting into green tea, as it was mild on my sensitive stomach. I did not realize it had enough caffeine to keep me awake at night. I decided to drink a pot in the evening and ending up rambling to my Dad about all and sundry until well after midnight. Per Dad's request, I bought some loose herbal teas to add to my growing collection.
A similar buying experience was McNulty's...all those apothecary jars of tea to smell...my favorite at the time was Blueberry, though Rose Petal came in close second (come to think of it, I'd really enjoy a cup of that right about now.) This shop was on Christopher Street. They also sold tins of teas from different British companies. By the counter there was brick tea up for purchase. It was too pricey for me, but as a part of tea history I always made a point of looking at it.
I'd learned about these sources chiefly from books I'd borrowed from the Central Library. I never go there anymore, because I can request what I want online. Between Manhattan and Queens, I have access to so many books, it's surprising when something isn't available. Anyway, books about tea always have a Where To Buy section, and of course New York is always listed.
Thanks for indulging me in this tea nostalgia moment. I mean to collect all these memories into a book, but I procrastinate. Maybe a pot of Moroccan Mint at 8PM will motivate me.

23 January 2007

I got windburn downtown, but it was fun

Just the name of this restaurant (on East 6th Street, one of those Little India blocks) makes me want to give it a try. I've been to the real Brick Lane, and ended up not going to any of the restaurants, and I'm still curious. Instead I went to a vintage shop, similar to the one shown above.

18 January 2007

Gone! Gone! Gone!

The fact that it took this long for me to find out that Coliseum Books is closed for good is probably an indication of why it is closed. Someone had to mention it to me at work, and then I was like "huh?" Then I found out they'd had 40 - 70% off closing sales. Of course, I get wind of it after it's over. Can't even get the consolation prize(s).

On top of this, I pass by Gotham Book Mart every week. They've been closed for months now, seemingly on vacation, but now there's a "For Sale" sign on the window.

Then, of course, the Wild Lily Tea Room is gone. I knew that was coming, but I hate seeing a tea shop go down.

All this seems to coincide with my recent resolve to stop shopping. I've been good, rarely giving in even during the January Sales, but I suppose I'm not the only one with similar tastes who are crippled financially. It's really too bad. Much as I like Barnes and Noble, I was glad to have Coliseum, with their little cafe, a mere walk away from my job. Gotham was okay, a bit dusty, but I always had that feeling that it was a "real" bookstore.

It's really hard to be a successful independent bookseller nowadays.

On a cheerful note, the wonderful Wagamama is coming to the USA at long last. So far it's only opening in Boston, but as that was the first destination for a Lush East Coast store, I'm pretty positive we'll see some in NY in the future. I love Wagamama, with their big bowls of noodles and cafeteria seating. If they opened in Midtown near my job, I'd be in ramen heaven.

16 January 2007

Peaceful Tea Taking

Sometimes when I go out for a nice cup of tea in the City, no matter how good the food, how splendid the tea, I still feel a bit wrecked. I've always been moderate in my caffeine intake, so that's not it. It's the whole "no matter how nice the tea room I'm still in NY and that's stressful" vibe that gets to me. I didn't feel that in The Adore.
If you want table service, simply go upstairs. It's not a huge area but not minuscule - we got a table in mere moments. It's got a rustic feeling, simple and unassuming. As you can see from the picture, I had a person sitting directly in back of me, and staff milling around, and yet Bonnie and I felt rather private as we sipped our Mariage Freres tea blends. I had the one called Eros (kind of rose flavored), and Bonnie had the fruity Bolero. We each had generous sandwiches, and topped it off with a tart. I happen to love lemon tarts: they tend to destroy my stomach, but I was fine this time. Definitely would I recommend this place if you are in the Union Square area (my favorite part of the City, full of tea places, bookshops, and all other pleasant shopping.)
Notice Bonnie's magic hands as she graciously removes the tomatoes from my sandwich.

12 January 2007

84 Charing Cross Road

The movie was on last night - I'd seen it for the first time last spring, at which point I also read the book (usually I do it the other way around, but there's always the exception). It became an instant classic for me - both book and movie - a feat that is rarely reached for me, with the exception of some Jane Austen novels and Anne of Green Gables. I'm not sure I listed it among the 51 books I finished last year.

Helene Hanff was a writer living in New York. In the movie she is portrayed by Anne Bancroft, who seduces the reader with her smoker's voice, both rhapsodising about the texture of British books and ranting about slow deliveries.

Hanff was a voracious reader, possibly even more so than I because in the age of little to no television and before the Internet, reading was it. She may have lived in Manhattan, but she was wary of the word "antiquarian" as she was certainly not rich. Her love for English literature led her to an advertisement for Marks & Co., a used book store on 84 Charing Cross Road, London. Charing Cross Road, even now, is well known as a book lover's haven, and conveniently located in the theater district. It's also bordered by Trafalgar Square. My first London book purchase was on this road, though I think it was in a chain bookseller. (It was a Queen biography - the band, not the royal one...that realm of interest came to me a few years later.)
Moving on... Helene (now we're on a first name basis) established a relationship with Frank Doel at Marks & Co., who found British books rarely sold in America - at reasonable prices anyway. From the late 1940's to the late 60's she requested mostly non-fiction - her tastes were a bit different from mine as she rarely read fiction.
What I loved is that from such a long distance, she could rant all she wanted about slow deliveries, and receive nothing but mild-mannered replies from Frank Doel. So when she heard about the post-war food rations in England, she found a company in Denmark that sent all kinds of meat and other limited products to London and sent these as gifts to the employees of Marks & Co. Eventually she began to receive notes from the other employees, as well as Doel's wife Nora.
Of course Helene began to consider a visit to England. When I first saw the movie I kept wondering what was taking her so long? I know she wasn't rich, but neither am I and I've been there a number of times. But we are talking about over fifty years ago. People didn't just jump on planes when the mood struck them. She did, though, finally plan to come over for the Queen's coronation, but then she found out she need root canal work, which took a large bite out of her funds. (Groan!) I kind of related to this, because my root canal cost me $1000, and this was with dental insurance. So she continued her written correspondence instead. In fact, she didn't make it to England until 1971, when both Frank Doel and Marks & Co. were gone.
I loved the movie and the book in different ways. I wanted to live in Helene's apartment in the movie, sans the smoke. Like me, she was happiest surrounded by books, though she was not afraid of throwing out books when she ran out of room. But the book offered further details not mentioned in the movie, so I can't put one over the other.
Shortly after buying the book I also bought The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. After last summer, I never even had a chance to open the book, I just knew it was written by Helene Hanff. So when I finally looked into it this week, I was surprised to realize this was in fact the sequel to 84 Charing Cross Road. It's more in the form of a travel diary - her long-awaited visit to London. So far, so good.
Don't look for a bookshop on 84 Charing Cross Road now - last time I checked, it's a wine bar. Things have certainly changed since Helene Hanff and Frank Doel kept in touch. Now if someone in New York wants a book from England, they can simply visit Amazon's UK site. Hardly anyone writes letters anymore, so I don't think the book would have been written if Helene was born sixty years later. I wonder if she would have kept an online journal.

07 January 2007

Tea for (Chapter) Two

Pam and I had a lovely afternoon tea at Alice's Tea Cup, Chapter II. I know, I've complained about this place before, but on Friday afternoon there was no wait and excellent service. I could seriously live off the Lapsang Souchong chicken sandwich. We tried Cholestea, which was kind of chai-like, and Trafalgar Square - I obviously chose it for the name, but like the menu promised, it tasted like a Peppermint Patty. And as usual, we couldn't finish everything between the two of us. The orange currant scone was resurrected for the next morning's breakfast (with a cup of tea, duh.) My only complaints, 'cause there has to be some, was the usual minimal serving of clotted cream, and the two girls near us with their laptops. I'm sorry, it's just not the kind of place for laptops! Can't we escape from this millenium for one hour? Guess not.
For the first time we were seated in the fairy room or whatever it's called. It's pretty cute with all the wings and kids' pictures. Cozy, too.
By the way, a Chapter III is coming on East 81st Street. I'm sure I'll be checking out in the near future. Doubt they'll ever come to Queens.

04 January 2007

A Nose for Details

Recently I was in the Battery Park area, somewhere I don't frequent. I passed by the American Indian Museum, which I actually visited on a school trip. I only remember two things from that trip: I bought a rubber tomahawk (don't think I still have that thing), and a boy sitting in front of me on the floor during a presentation had much space between his jeans and his, um, crack. A kid sitting next to me but a pistachio shell into that gap. I guess I wasn't paying much attention to the presentation. And I obviously never noticed these statues. You can guess my favorite - the lion's nose. Maybe it's supposed to represent justice (there's a bankruptcy court on the same block), or something impressive. I just thought it looked like a kitty sniffing the air. I wonder if you could fit a nutshell in that nostril

03 January 2007

My Hero

I usually feature articles on my other blog, but this one is worthy of a main feature to me. This guy made a split-second decision to risk his own life in order to save a man who had fallen onto the subway tracks. I'm glad there was a happy ending to this one.