19 September 2011

Great Expectations and a Pairing

I've made an unofficial point of reading two Dickens novels a year since 2008.  It's not an impossible task, though it helps when you get one that doesn't go on and on.  Nicholas Nickelby was a good story but went into tangents that had nothing to do with the plot. Bleak House was another one, but there was something about the story that made that appropriate. It ties in with the impossibly long course of a legal case. 

My version of Great Expectations was over 600 pages, but it was a small volume, one of those gilded pocket-sized Barnes & Noble classics that came out a few years back.  There was very little in the way of excess - most characters fit into the story somehow, even if you don't realize it until you're near the end.

Though nearly all Dickens novels have some depressive themes, things are usually well resolved at the end through a series of coincidences and sudden returns of fortune.  Great Expectations has these elements, but the expectations are not what they seem.  The protagonist, Pip, isn't fully likeable.  He's not bad, but he's a snob who wants to rise higher than what those who really care about him are capable of giving him.  He gets put in his place and manages to pull through the many disappointments that inevitably find him.   On the plus side he wasn't simpering and sanctimonious like some of Dickens's orphans (I'm looking at you, Oliver!) The lawyer, Jaggers, was supposed to be this important personage in the story, and although his position was important, he didn't strike me as thoroughly interesting.  Estella, the pretty girl raised by Miss Havisham and the one who steal Pip's heart, is of course unlikeable, but not evil by any means.

The title is applied to Pip in the story, but it works for others too, particularly Miss Havisham.  She's a caricature like only Dickens could invent, but not an entirely unsympathetic one.  I wonder if she would have benefited from modern-day therapy. Anyone who hangs around a house wearing an old wedding dress and surrounded by the detritus of her jilted youth could at least use a professional shoulder to cry on.

There's also an element of mystery to the story.  Who is the benefactor who has given young Pip these Great Expectations?  Is it the obvious person or an entirely new character?  And how is pretty much everybody connected?

This one veers into the favorites column.  I'd pair with a tea that starts out sweet but has a bitter aftertaste. Drink this with an old, stale piece of wedding cake. 

12 September 2011

Not Another Cupcake Blog!

I know.  The Blogosphere is inundated with cupcake blogs, and I've done enough posts myself on places that are both legendary and fleeting.  But let's face it: cupcakes and tea go together like coffee and donuts.  So how 'bout another one?

On Friday evening, I went to 'Little Cupcake Bakeshop' in Soho, or Nolita, or West Chinatown, I never know the boundaries of these neighborhoods.  It's by Prince and Mott Street, so you decide.  Bathy and I had already eaten at Caffe Reggio (yep, I still go there, though it's been a while), and after taking a nice stroll east, we found this place in all its gleaming white and pinkness.

About pink and me: For a certainty I'm feminine, but despite my love for tea time and fairies and baby animals, I'm not a girly-girl.  I'm not dainty, despite my small hands, and I don't wear high heels.  I giggle, but I rarely squeak (unless I see a particularly cute baby animal.)  Pink -not the singer, the color- can be too much for me sometimes, so it's one of the least represented colors in my wardrobe and home decor.  I don't mind if others are into pink, or in this case pink-and-white.  For these folks, you really need to try this place.  For everyone else, well, it's not that pink.  As for atmosphere, I'll give them this: love the chandeliers!  Someday I need to put a few of these in my apartment.  There was also a decent amount of seating, which means the baked goods come a tad pricey, though not any more than most nowadays: cupcakes go for $3.

Bathy had a kind of lemon cake, which I only had a bite of so I can't in all fairness offer my judgement on it.  I did taste lemon, which is half the battle.  I could not resist trying a Blue Velvet cupcake.   It was made with blueberries, though I'm pretty sure it was food coloring that give it that turquoise interior.  The frosting was a cream cheese, and altogether it was somewhere between moist and dry, and definitely more cupcake than muffin.  I did taste blueberry but it wasn't overwhelming.  It went well with the raspberry iced tea - they use Harney's which is always a favorite in my books.

Their bathroom was nicer than home, which was probably why a male patron decided to use it for his evening shave.  I guess I'd rather walk in on that activity than anything else he could've been doing in there.

I'd still say one of the best cupcakes (and cheaper) you could find in downtown Manhattan is in Sugar Sweet Sunshine, but Little Cupcake Bakeshop is pretty lovely.  And (here comes a plug), it's a lovely backdrop for a discussion of beauty products a la Pretty Opulent.

More useless camera-phone pics coming your way!

The Before Picture: 

Teddy Bears!  Squeak!
Guys come here too!  Don't be afraid!
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Subway: N/R to Prince Street; 6 to Spring Street, M to Bway/Lafayette

06 September 2011

Physical Graffitea...a different kind of pairing

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I don't get to St. Marks Place as often as I used to, and it's certainly changed a lot since then. Like most neighborhoods in Manhattan, it feels more like a theme park version, or even a movie set version of itself nowadays.

A couple of years ago I'd make time to go down there, if only to stop at Sympathy for the Kettle. That's long gone now, sadly, and though I've noted a few places that look bubble-teaesque, nothing has replaced SFTK in my heart, though Physical Graffitea has managed to do its best.


Here's where the pairing comes in. Normally I'll pair tea and books, because to me that's the pinnacle of pairings, but tea is complemented well by other things, and I do love to combine my old favorites. So...Beatles and teapots? Don't mind if I do! It doesn't actually make sense, since Physical Graffiti was a Led Zeppelin album, and the location in question is a building that was featured in the album cover. I'm not complaining, though, I love the Beatles. Short of a Queen-based tea shop, this is fantastic.


There are plenty of teas to choose from, which is good. There isn't that much seating in the place, and so they can't possibly do that much business in a sit-down tea capacity. Also, there's no bathroom, which doesn't encourage long-time seating, and only small snacks on offer. I had one of each: a madeleine and a mini corn muffin. It went well with the Angel's Dream tea: a blend of black and green tea lightly flavored with maple and blackberry. It wasn't sickeningly sweet, but I definitely didn't need to add sweetener either. And pricewise, everything was reasonable.


The ultimate appeal: the walls are painted a similar green to my home library. I've always wanted to paint a tree like this at my place, so this was simply delightful! The bench I was sitting on was a little shaky, though. I think besides the lack of bathrooms, that was my only complaint. I do hope Physical Graffitea is here to stay.


You might not be able to tell from my camera-phone shot, but from this view, I really felt like I was in London. The 'A' grade drew me back to reality, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Subway Directions: 'R' to 8th Street, '6' to Astor Place.