Afternoon Tea at The Ritz-Carlton New York

Saturday afternoon. Strolling along the south side of Central Park.

Time for a a break. Walk across the street. Settle into a two-top with April. Afternoon tea in The Star Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton. A menu just for tea time, love it.

Sore throats healed with a selection of teas by “T” Tea Company (the January 2012 issue of Fresh Cup Magazine has a great article about “T”, a must-read if you’re interested in the tea/hotel industry). I went with the BC Forestea while April had the house Chai, creamy and served complete with milk and sugar. I wound up alternating between both drinks throughout the afternoon tea service. It’s all about balance. Gorgeous teapots to match the teacups. If you come for regular lunch service, tea is served in these rather chic teapots.

Starting with sandwiches. Instead of presenting all courses (savory, scones, sweets) on a single three-tier tray, the Ritz presents each course separately with mini-tiers.

Bottom: Smoked chicken with dried apricot on whole wheat, Egg salad and pear tomato on pan de mie
Middle: Cheddar pepper scone with endive and caramelized onion, Half poached shrimp with capers cream cheese on pumpernickel
Top: Smoked salmon with cream cheese and caviar on pumpernickel

And in place of mini scones (like the ones served at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman), we each received one large “Sugar-Raisin” scone, just warm out of the oven with a crackly, browned sugar top. Our waiter declared it the best scone in all of NYC…and while that might be an exaggeration, it surely was an excellent scone down to the plump golden and and purple raisins studded throughout the pastry. A bit messy to eat (which is why most tea places serve mini-scones)…

…but nothing that couldn’t be resolved with little pots of devonshire cream alongside strawberry and blueberry jam. I could eat devonshire cream by the spoonful and one day I’ll have to learn how to make my own.

A little breather and change of plates before petit fours make way to our table.

Bottom: Chocolate Tart, Financier, and Opera Cake
Middle: Cream Puffs, Pumpkin Tart (the tart filling changes seasonally)
Top: Almond Sponge Cake, Red Velvet Cake

A three-hour affair, afternoon tea is rarely “just” a snack. Food and conversation go hand in hand. I’m a big advocate of afternoon tea in small groups (never more than three people). Otherwise it just becomes a chaotic group meal, and the thing that makes afternoon tea so satisfying – the peace and quality conversation, is lost. The sun was gone when we left The Ritz, I’d say it was a mighty good Saturday.

The Ritz-Carlton, New York
50 Central Park South
New York, New York 10019
(212) 308-9100

NYC: The Wedding Party

Whew, exhausted! Just got back from The Wedding Party, an annual event organized by The Wedding Library and Martha Stewart Weddings. I went with Lisa for work and devoured one too many cupcakes and wedding cake samples. Nothing scares me more than crazy brides-to-be, and while the event was both fun and hectic, it confirmed that when my day rolls around…eloping is the only option I’ll consider ;)

Frites ‘n’ Meats, Gorilla Cheese Truck, and Eddie’s Pizza Truck provided the lunch portion of the event. The trucks were stationed in a cluster in the courtyard of the New York Palace Hotel. They served mini-portions of signature dishes and we made sure to try everything. Gorilla’s American grilled cheese and tater tots proved most addictive.

The actual event took place on the 5th floor of the hotel. Caterers, floral design, stationary, makeup, photographer, travel services, venues, fine bone china, and even a dermatologist. Everything you need for a wedding, and then some.

I just zeroed in on all the cake vendors, so indulgent and whimsical.

Can you imagine how excited I was to see L’arte del Gelato at the event? Hands down, the best gelato in NYC.

Here’s Salvatore (the owner) and I…he’s a genuinely nice guy and I love seeing how his business has grown over the years. Mom and dad always make sure to stop by the West Village location of L’arte whenever they visit from Hawai’i.

Classic combo – pistachio and strawberry.

We also spotted Ron Ben-Israel and his fabulous cakes…

…as well as his cake samples! On the left: almond cake with coconut and Nutella buttercream. And on the right: graham cracker cake with lemon curd and marshmallow filling. A little meringue kiss to top.

Plenty of beautiful table displays…wish we had room for a long dining table at home.

Marcia Selden Catering showcased an all-white food display with candles to match…think endives and white asparagus on the savory side, marshmallows and petit fours for sweets. Callahan Catering was in a different room. They didn’t have a noteworthy display, but I’ve been to BITE by BITE, it’s at the top of my to-buy list!

One Girl Cookies was another standout vendor. They also just came out with a new cookbook, and their second bakery location is supposed to open in Dumbo next week! No mini whoopie pies today but we did have…

…raspberry-lemon and hazelnut cupcakes.

Some rooms were more crowded than others…

Lisa made friends with a photo vendor…and then we definitely took advantage of the photo booth on the way out, heheh.

NYC: Ramen Misoya

Ramen Misoya recently opened on 2nd Avenue and we’ve been eating there on a weekly basis. Cold weather, hot ramen, can’t think of a more perfect combination. Ippudo still serves our favorite bowl of ramen in the city, but the long wait times often borderline on ridiculous. Misoya to the rescue.

Three types of ramen on the menu. Hard to pick a favorite, so I just rotate between the three. First up, Kome Miso Ramen – a salty red miso broth, Hokkaido-style with roasted potato wedges, bamboo shoots, and sweet corn kernels.

The also do a “Winter Snow” version of Kome Miso in which two big pats of butter and a hefty amount of parmesan is grated on top just before serving. So picturesque! A close middle school friend always grated cheddar cheese over her instant ramen…the cheese + ramen combination just seems natural by this point.

Add on char siu for $1.50 a slice, truly juicy and meaty, though certainly not melt-in-your mouth tender. They usually serve char siu in the soup, but I ask for it on the side so I can eat straight-up with a bowl of rice.

Shiro Miso Ramen is the second type, made with white miso, almost creamy in texture and fairly heavy (in a good way!) Bean sprouts, ground pork sauce, and fried tofu to top. Sometimes you get lucky with a fresh fried batch of tofu, but sometimes we get the end of the batch…a hit or miss, huge difference in taste.

And finally, Mame Miso Ramen which comes with shrimp tempura. It’s the sweetest of the three and most complex in terms of flavor.

Dine during lunch hours, and ramen comes with your choice of fried rice, gyoza, or chicken karaage. The latter two come with a bowl of white rice.

None of the sides are worth ordering on their own…but since it comes with the lunch set, chicken karaage, with a well-seasoned and crisp crust, is your best bet.

Ramen Misoya
129 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 677-4825

Grand Cayman: Laurent Gras at Periwinkle

Have you stepped outside today? The rain! I love this kind of weather – grey skies, non-stop pouring. With no obligations, I am content to stay inside, cuddle with hot chocolate (like this one Kat made), a book, and even laptop to get work done. Hope you are having an equally good end to the work week. Wanted to share photos from a guest lunch cooked by Laurent Gras at the The Ritz-Carlton’s Periwinkle restaurant.

Never had a chance to eat at L2O in Chicago before Laurent Gras left…but if this meal was any indication of what’s to come, I’m excited to see what he does next. First course: Conch with fresh coconut, caviar, parsley, and lime.

Then Caribbean Lobster, butter poached with a savory dark rum sauce and lettuce.

More local fish – Wahoo, seared outside, raw inside with tomato, ginger, and cilantro.

Ending on a tropical, fresh note – Melon Consomme and coconut gelée cubes, lemon ginger sorbet and butter cake. It’s a wonder I didn’t gain dozen pounds from this trip ;)