live blog: the difference between ooh and ahh

Starbucks’ new 31-ounce Trenta iced beverage has finally made it to The Big Apple, following a successful rollout across America’s Frappuccino-starved Heartland. Is it me, or does Trenta make the already oversized Venti cup look downright demure in comparison? Oh, and the difference between ooh and ahh: that would be an additional seven inches ounces.


live blog: tea (towel) for two, or prezzies



windsor weekend: an-tea establishment

Ditch all the stuffy royal hoopla and embrace London’s punk rock history instead at the Metropolitan London. Through the beginning of May the Met Bar will be offering an “An-Tea Establishment” afternoon tea just in time to save you from monarchy overload – a quintessential British tea with a funky Metropolitan twist. Cheeky dishes include the “Quiche a la Fergie” along with reimagined classics like no-bread cucumber sandwiches. Rhubarb and custard cupcakes are topped with iconic slogans and images to capture the feeling of the era and if tea isn’t quite strong enough, try the Sex Pistol-inspired cocktail “God Save The Queen,” and do a little head banging to the punk rock playlist drifting from the speakers.  If you can spend the night, however, even better. The clean, modern design and Zen-like atmosphere at The Met are a distinctly new take on the classic British hotel experience – and there’s the bonus of everything you’d expect in a five-star hotel without any of the unnecessary fuss and pomp.  It’s an antidote to the city, overlooking Hyde Park.  Plus, I love a hotel where everything is monogrammed with my initials.


in residence

Since we are taking a break from all the food porn, let me take a moment and fill you in on my posh digs at The St. Regis, Atlanta.

The story of St. Regis begins at the forefront of New York’s Gilded Age, where an elite group of supremely wealthy families rose to form the country’s first aristocracy.  The leaders of this new social class were the Astors, with matriarch Caroline Astor at the helm of high society. Visionary and tenacious, “The” Mrs. Astor created the first true expression of New York society by hand-selecting those with whom she associated – forever after known as the “400.” This new experience of exclusivity made even the wealthiest and most renowned eager to become a member of her inner circle.

It was also at this time that Lady Astor’s son, John Jacob Astor IV, sought to develop a new style of luxury, focused on tangible advancements in the comforts afforded the wealthy. These innovations debuted inside Astor’s classic Beaux Arts landmark, The St. Regis New York, when it opened off Fifth Avenue in 1904.  Before his death aboard the Titanic, Astor was able to fulfill his vision of creating a hotel where gentlemen and their families could feel as comfortable as they would as guests in a private home. This was in no small part due to the acumen of Lady Astor, who helped cultivate a sense of luxury and refinement in all aspects of the hotel’s operation. Fresh flowers were brought in daily, an English-style butler and afternoon tea services were implemented and exclusive social gatherings such as a midnight supper all created an air of grandeur inside the St. Regis.

Set in the exclusive community of Buckhead – near virtually all the good shopping, natch – Atlanta’s St. Regis oozes a Southern charm that might even have pleased Lady Astor herself.  On entering the 26-story building you’re greeted by a pair of dramatic, curved staircases that serve as the centerpiece of the hotel’s lobby. Two magnificent fireplaces, like those found in traditional Southern estates, create an inviting atmosphere, along with opulent crystal chandeliers casting a warm hue over the rich hardwood floors.  You don’t feel like you’ve just arrived at a hotel; you feel like you’ve come home – well, a lottery-fueled dream of home anyway. Macassar ebony furniture, leather-wrapped writing desks and luxurious ivory bed linens are just a prelude to the spacious five-fixture marble bathrooms.  And then there’s your personal butler, trained in the English tradition, should you need anything.

After a few hours lounging in the Remede Spa or the 40,000-square-foot outdoor oasis that is the Pool Piazza (or both) follow in the footsteps of Caroline Astor and take high tea, with an assortment of tea sandwiches, freshly baked scones, tea cakes, seasonal jams and chutneys, petit fours and other delightful desserts, in front of the fire in the elegant Long Gallery.  If you prefer your afternoon repast a bit more substantial, the Special Selection in the Bar and Wine Room is a smoky bourbon with butterscotch and crème brulee on the nose and a long cherry finish.  (The result of a collaboration with Woodford Reserve Distillery, The St. Regis is the only hotel in Georgia to create a namesake blend.) It pairs perfectly with the aged cheddar, 1000 island chow chow and BBQ sauce-topped house sliders.  It’s also a fantastic prelude to Mark Alba’s seven-course truffle menu across the lobby at Paces 88.  Oh, no … I’m talking about food. Again.


game, set, tea?

This time last year I was donning my white flannels and taking the District line out to Wimbledon for strawberries and cream – in addition to the tennis, of course.  Stranded stateside this year, it looks like I’ll have to make do with Breakfast at Wimbledon.

Still, it puts me in a veddy British frame of mind.  And even though it is positively sweltering here right now, I am craving a full-on tea. What could be more British than tea?  Taking a proper cuppa with the Queen, of course.  And at Buckingham Palace, too.

This summer, from July 27 to September 29, as part of The Queen’s Year exhibition, visitors to London’s royal residence can have their cakes and eat them, too – almost – with tea on the terrace overlooking Buckingham Palace’s famous lawn and lake.  But don’t expect to see Her Majesty dropping by – the royal family takes up residence at Balmoral Castle in Scotland for the summer.


time for tea

Put that cappuccino down.  Walk away from that latte.  You’re in London, mate, and as the Mad Hatter shouted to Alice: “it’s 4 o’clock, time for tea!”

Afternoon tea – arguably the most celebrated, fetishized, and durable of British institutions – is suddenly fashionable again and brewing up a storm.  Tea rooms are popping all around the capital, turning teatime into the new cocktail hour.

You’ve always wanted to “do a tea,” but didn’t want to look like a tourist. Now there’s no excuse for not getting comfortable with a proper cuppa.  Iced or hot, tea is cool.

Up in Notting Hill, the neighborhood nearly destroyed by Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, The Tea Palace offers an adventure in tea tasting.  For those who don’t know as much as they would like, the equivalent of a sommelier, called a “tea master,” is on hand to guide you through their enormous collection of favorites and rarities. Home made crumpets with honeycomb are to die for, not to mention the organic clotted cream.  At the traditional tea counter you can buy your favorite loose teas to take away.

The elegant tearoom at The Savoy is immune to passing fads. Burton & Taylor and Bogie & Bacall may have given way to more down-to-earth types but the Savoy is never anything less than sophisticated. Aside from the traditional afternoon tea, a new Theatre Tea bridges the gap between lunch and dinner, providing the perfect pitstop before heading to a show in the neighboring West End.  The Savoy even has its own theatre historian who can give you a tour through the theatre district and deliver you back in time for tea.

After touring Kensington Palace, the last residence of Princess Di and home to her dress collection, make like a royal and recharge your weary self with tea at The Orangery, where English monarchs once housed their delicate plants in the winter. In good weather, go al fresco.  Nibbling cakes and tarts outdoors makes for peaceful, chic people watching and the views of Kensington and Hyde Park gardens are lovely.

At the whorishly glam deVille in trendy Marylebone, it’s only appropriate that their Fashion Tea for Two would be an homage to style icon Zandra Rhodes.  You can’t help but think pink munching on Zandra’s Pink Meringues, Queen of Hearts Tarts and the most delicious itty bitty cakes and treats served on her own bone china.   But if you’re looking for a masculine alternative, the Men’s Afternoon Tea is a one-of-a-kind affair perfect for the modern man about town.   Tea with the boys comes with a round of games at the bar, roast sirloin sandwiches, and a range of proper whiskies.

Get on your glad rags and head to Piccadilly, where The Ritz is celebrating in a style to which you’d like to become accustomed.  Afternoon tea in the Palm Court is about as close as you’ll ever get to the elegant era of Coward, Chaplin and Cole Porter.  Limoges china, impeccable service and enough silver to gild the Chrysler Building will have you feeling like British nobility.

Yauatcha is the sister restaurant to Alan Yau’s popular Hakkasan in the heart of SoHo and the hotly anticipated Park Chinois here in New York. It’s also one of the best designed eateries in town, with beautiful fish tanks on the walls and beautiful people to ogle in the civilized upstairs tearoom.  The intricate, hand made cakes look almost too good to eat.  Almost.  With a staggering 150 varieties of tea to choose from, plus nibbles and dim sum from the downstairs restaurant to keep you entertained, you might happily lose track of time.

The swanky Athenaeum recently underwent of major makeover and the installation of a living botanical facade, but updating the casually elegant main rooms hasn’t scared away the boldfaced names that call it home nor changed the impeccably comfortable atmosphere one iota. Tea is a relaxed tradition here: finger sandwiches, homemade scones with Devonshire cream and honeycomb from nearby Regent’s Park, plus Granny’s cakes (for wrapping in napkins and stuffing in your pockets for later).  Thankfully some things never go out of style.


live blog: tea with tiepolo

teaAfternoon tea is one of those fabulous traditions more closely associated with Great Britain than Italy, yet at the Rome Cavilieri they do a gold-plated high tea against a spectacular backdrop:  a triptych of Tiepolos.

The three large Renaissance panels by Giambatista Tiepolo were bought by the owner of the Cavilieri at an auction of the contents from the Venetian Palazza Sandi.  The Sandi family commissioned Tiepolo back in 1723 and the panels had been hanging in the family home ever since.

Tea with Tiepolo2Under the hammer at Sotheby’s the triptych – Hercules suffocating Anteo, Ulysses discovering Achilles among the daughters of Lycomedes, and Apollo skinning Marsia – set an auction record for a painting in Italy:  7 million euro.  As cultural patrimony they’re considered priceless and recognized as one of only fifty Italian works of art unable to leave the country without approval from the government.

Twenty euro for a proper tea is a steal anyway, but getting a private audience with your own Renaissance masterpieces is priceless.  Dressing like the Doge, alas, is optional.


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