January 2016 Tea and a Book

Jan 13, 2016 |

This past weekend I accompanied Steve on his trip to NYC for the AALS conference. Once he was finished with sessions on Saturday, we took a long walk through Central Park and rewarded ourselves with afternoon tea in the Plaza Hotel’s Palm Court. (We booked in a advance, of course.)

We loved the vibe in the Palm Court — jazz music, lots of chatter and laughter with great people-watching opportunities. It was especially fun to watch the young ones enjoying their Eloise teas, which included pink lemonade, pb&j sandwiches, and cotton candy, along with more traditional tea fare. (See more about Eloise below.) Here’s a more detailed review of the afternoon tea, from which I gather that the Palm Court used to have a more formal atmosphere. Steve and I rather liked the buzzing, upbeat feel to the place. I suppose some might find the music a bit loud, but we did not strain to hear each other.

The tea was perfectly steeped. I enjoyed the Big Ben English Breakfast (a blend of Assam and Yunnan), while Steve chose Thé des Amants, (black tea blended with apple, almond, cinnamon and vanilla). Both teas can be ordered from the Palais des Thés website.

The “New Yorker” tea tray is divine, don’t you think? The warm scones are snuggled in the napkin on the lower rack.

Here is a closer look at the sandwiches, which were traditional and tasty, along with the sweets, which were extraordinary. There was no way we could finish it all, but the “leftovers” made for a perfect snack that evening.

And now for the book: The Absolutely Essential 60th Aniversary Edition of ELOISE.

I had a vague notion of who Eloise was, but prior to this tea had never read the book. Of course, I rectified this omission as soon as I got home! The 60th edition of Eloise is quite nice, and I appreciated the essay and scrapbook from Marie Brenner, which included a biographical account of author Kay Thompson and charming notes from illustrator Hilary Knight.

The book is clever and often endearing, but I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as a child. If memory serves, I was more wrapped up in books about animals or pioneers. Eloise’s life at the Plaza would have seemed very alien to me, and though I’ve always loved books about children with wild imaginations, I think her “trickster” tendencies might have stressed me out a little.

Fortunately, Marie Brenner’s essay helped me better understand the appeal: “[Eloise] lived mother-free in a poor-little-rich-girl paradise without rules. As she raced from a mint raid in the Empire Room to spy from the Baroque ceiling of the Grand Ballroom, she lured us into an intoxicating urban fantasy. […] Eloise was free to express the dark gleams of her inside. She could offer rubber candy to adults and let fly with her opinions. My daughter, Casey, on discovering Eloise when she was six, said of her reverentially: ‘She is a bad girl!'”

I’m considering tracking down Eloise in Paris, and Eloise at Christmastime. Any other Eloise fans out there? Please feel free to enthuse in the comments!

ETA: Oh my — do check out Jama Rattigan’s celebration of Eloise!

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