Tea at Three // Bar Pleiades at The Surrey

Instead of crowded and noisy cafes with tables that are too close to each other, I much prefer the quiet and luxurious setting of hotel bars for tea breaks in the middle of the afternoon, around 3PM. 

A reader of the blog, JoAnn, told me she loves to go to Bar Pleiades, Chef Daniel Boulud's bar within the The Surrey hotel for warm madeleines. WARM MADELEINES. 

So I'm kind of obsessed with these madeleines. And this obsession goes back to the time I had dinner at Daniel years ago and they were served as part of the dessert course. Freshly baked and warm, fluffy, and miniature in size, the madeleines were so good that I couldn't stop talking about them for months. I was so happy when Dominque Ansel (who was the executive pastry chef at Daniel) opened up his bakery and started serving them. (See my post on the best madeleines.) But the presentation of the madeleines is completely different (and way better) at Bar Pleiades and Daniel. Instead of a dinky little paper tray, they're served like this...

Nestled in a floral origami napkin, they're best when they're eaten as soon as they land on the table. With tea, of course.

Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, tea isn't on the bar menu but they do serve a small selection of teas from In Pursuit of Tea. I got an oolong, which was very good.

But really, go there for the heavenly madeleines in a gorgeous setting with fantastic service.

INFO: Bar Pleiades at The Surrey | 20 East 76th Street | New York, NY 10021 | 212.288.3700

Posted on September 11, 2014 .

Lie Sangbong at New York Fashion Week Spring 2015

It's that time again! Everyone in fashion flocks to Lincoln Center for Merceds-Benz Fashion Week. I was lucky enough to attend the Lie Sangbong show this season and loved every minute of it. (See my post from when I went to see his show in Paris.)

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For each Fashion Week, Lincoln Center sets up a temporary building to house the fashion shows. As I was walking towards the entrance, a Bill Cunningham spotting! The legendary fashion photographer for the New York Times (he's the one in the bright blue jacket) was busy taking photos while everyone was taking pictures of him. (Have you seen his documentary Bill Cunningham New York? YOU NEED TO WATCH IT RIGHT NOW.)

Inside the show space, I was floored (ha!) by the runway! Absolutely stunning. Tiles made up of images from themes and looks from Lie Sangbong's previous collections.

And at the end of the long runway was a huge cluster of photographers all ready to start clicking away.

The lights dim, the music starts, and the show begins! The spring collection is bright, airy, and ethereal. Structured pieces mixed with loose, flowing ones walked the tiled runway. (See entire collection.)

The room was packed with people standing in the back rows and everyone had their phones out, snapping away.

And just as quickly as it began, it was over. It's unbelievable how much work goes into the 15-20 minute show. MONTHS of preparation. 

After the show, I took a couple of shots of the room and the runway. 

And went backstage to get a look at the racks where the clothes were organized for each model. (Vita was busy with 3 looks!)  

If you're in New York City, Lie Sangbong is opening up a new store in the Meatpacking District on 30 Gansevoort Street and they are having a pop up sample sale this Thursday, September 11th from 11AM - 8PM. I'm totally going!

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Posted on September 9, 2014 .

10 Things to Do in Florence

Here are 10 things I do every time I go back to Florence.

1/ Eat Gelato 
I'm not even kidding around when it comes to gelato in Italy. I eat gelato like it's my job. MY JOB. Two a day at a minimum. Three a day at maximum since I don't want to return home with diabetes. 

My favorite places in Florence to get a scoop (or two):

- Vivoli | Via Isole delle Stinche 7r
Gelateria dei Neri | Via dei Neri 26r
- Perche No! | Via Tavolini 19r
- Carapina | Via Lambertesca 18r
- Antica Gelateria Fiorentina | Via Faenza 2A

2/ Get Breakfast at a Local Cafe
Go to the pastry display and pick a baked good and order a cappuccino or latte to enjoy at the bar, standing. Quick, delicious, and you're all fueled up to start the day.

3/ Take Pictures of the Duomo
I do this on every trip. It's hard not to since the duomo is quite a sight and hard to miss. If this is your first trip, definitely walk to the top of the duomo bell tower.

4/ Have Afternoon Tea at the Four Season Hotel Firenze
Not only is the afternoon tea wonderful, but it's inside a centuries-old Tuscan palazzo. The hotel and the grounds are simply stunning.

5/ Go Shopping for Italian Products
When in Florence, I always visit the Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella. It's the oldest pharmacy in Italy and it's housed in a building that looks like a museum. A gorgeous one.

Another place I like to visit is Scriptorium, a handmade leather book shop near the duomo. 

6/ Visit a Museum
Whether it's the Uffizi, Pitti Palace (and the Boboli Gardens), or that one where you pay too much to basically see David, take in a little culture and history since the art it's housed in is equally worth seeing.

7/ Walk Around and Take in the Art Around the City
The entire city is really a giant outdoor museum with treasures around each corner.

8/ Explore and Stroll the Streets with Gelato in Hand 
Go beyond the main tourist spots and discover the quaint streets of Florence.

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9/ Eat Bistecca alla Fiorentina
I'm drooling just thinking about it. When this steak is ordered, servers usually won't ask how you want it cooked. It's best to get it for at least two people. 

10/ Walk Along the Arno River at Night
It's pretty safe in Florence, so after dinner, a stroll down the Arno is a must. (With a gelato, of course.)

Posted on September 4, 2014 .

Afternoon Tea Review // BG Restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman [2014]

Last month, I met up with Andrea for afternoon tea at the BG Restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman. (Read her post.) The last time I went for tea at Bergdorf Goodman was spring in 2013, and since then, the afternoon tea has gone up by a couple of dollars, from $35 to $38. 

SETTING: ★★★★☆
I love these high-back whisper chairs, so when making reservations for two, I make sure to request them. These by the window have views out to Central Park, but we sat further inside where the blue whisper chairs are. The room is light and airy with lovely details that elevates the tea service experience.

SERVICE: ★★★★☆
It was solidly good, although when the three-tiered tray was dropped off at our table, I had to ask the server to describe what was on the trays. 

Somewhere along the line, the server not describing what is being served has become a pet peeve of mine. 

TEA & TEA SELECTION: ★★★★☆
Same as the last time, I got the 
Nuit à Versailles, a green sencha blend that I enjoyed. There are only nine teas listed on the menu, but all the blends by Dammann Frères sound really good.

SAVORIES: ★★★★
These dainty, two-bite tea sandwiches are excellent. Tasty, fresh, and at six per person, plenty to keep you full. 

SCONES: ★★★★☆
On the second tier, scones. One per person, which is a great portion size. I love the extra touch with the BG logo on the butter cover. I knocked off a star since I don't like jarred preserves.

SWEETS: ★★★★☆
Four little sweets per person and they were good, but nothing was spectacular. 

OVERALL: ★★★★☆
At $38 per person, this is a great afternoon tea experience. It's one of my favorites and is number six on my list.

LOCATION: BG Restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman | 5th Avenue at 58th Street, Seventh Floor | New York, NY 10019 | 212.872.8977
AFTERNOON TEA HOURS: 
3PM - 5PM
COST: $38

The Mandarin Tea Room

I've had the Mandarin Tea Room bookmarked and had been meaning to attend a private class for more than year and finally went recently with Georgia. 

I emailed the tea room to set a date and time and before attending the private class, Georgia and I answered some questions regarding what we hoped to learn in our session. Tim covers Chinese teas, so we decided to focus on oolongs.

Located in Soho, The Mandarin Tea Room is an space where Tim runs his book design business and gives his tea lessons. The space is gorgeous and Tim's giant dog greeted us at the door. 

Across a long table with Tim on one side, and us on the other, he started to prepare the oolong for steeping. The private class is very much a conversation rather than a lecture. 

First, we started with breathing into the oolong to warm it up a bit and to take in the essence of the tea. 

Then came the steeping. Many, many steepings. Expertly prepared, the true flavors of the tea were experience between each steep. And each steep tasted differently. 

Loud sips and slurps were encouraged and even with the tiny cups, we got tea drunk pretty quick. I was starting to get loopy.

Tim prepared about 3-4 different kinds of oolong and it was surprising how different they tasted. I lost count of many steepings we had for each kind. Toward the end, I couldn't even finish a tiny cup.

Each session runs about an hour and a half, with ours lasting about two. It costs $85 per person and is limited to three people per private class. 

It was a delightful way to spend an afternoon and I learned a ton about oolong teas. 

Posted on August 28, 2014 .