Friday, September 16, 2011

What a City! Philadelphia and World Tea East

Philadelphia is the historical incubator of great ideas: the United States of America, the cheesesteak (pictured left), and,  thanks to my parents and Albert Einstein Medical Center, me. The thought of Philadelphia birthing another great idea, World Tea East, was an exhilarating one.
Would there be tea-themed fireworks? After all, Philadelphians love a celebration. Even if there were no tea cups formed in the night sky, World Tea East caused two of my all-time favorites to collide, i.e. Philadelphia and tea. So I registered, checked my SEPTA token stash, and started the countdown to September 9.
Starting the Tea Party Right
Tea industry professionals gathered to honor the first recipient of the Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award: Mr. John Harney, founder of Harney & Sons Fine Teas (please see the post "Worth the Wait - Tea & Orchids"). Celebrating a person who helped establish the specialty tea industry standards for growth, innovation, and education was indeed a special event. Congratulations!
Pour a Cup, Make a Friend
In between the focused tea tastings, the educational seminars, and the marvelous tea breaks, there were opportunities to connect with colleagues. For some of us, we were able to expand our acquaintance beyond Twitter avatars to meeting face-to-face for the first time. If there was any doubt, then please know that social media mavens Nicole Schwartz (@amazonv) and Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) are both worth more than 140 characters.
Attending World Tea East resulted in my circle of unapologetic tea aficionados becoming even wider. Alas, even tea enthusiasts cannot live by tea alone. So it was my honor and privilege to introduce these good tea people to the Reading Terminal Market, located across the street. Our dialogue, sealed over delicious and reasonably-priced food, left me satisfied for having made the trip. Philadelphia is a wonderful city yet being surrounded by tea professionals made it even sweeter. Until our next tea adventure, cups up!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Oo La Ladurée

Upper East Madison Avenue is not a location for the fainthearted retailer.

Walking along Madison I was both pleasantly distracted by the Tom Ford display window and deeply saddened by the closed Sonia Rykiel boutique. Thankfully for us shoe fiends, also known as fans if you're in denial, Yves Saint Laurent took its pumps a block over to Fifth Avenue.

What is the missing ingredient? Succeeding in New York City, it seems, takes more than keen fashion sense and a refined French accent. I tabled further analysis because my feet sans YSL had reached our intended destination: Maison Ladurée, 864 Madison Avenue.

Maison Ladurée (New York)

Entering Ladurée's doors, I noticed two things: the line and the palpable, curious anticipation. Maison Ladurée, the legendary Parisian confectioner exported its pastel 19th century decor and its cherubs into a luxury retail space offering assorted chocolates, preserves, candles, perfume, tea, and yes, le macaron.

There was no turning back now and this is not a place to count calories. How could one walk away without at least one macaron? Why make such a fuss over sweets? After all, how good can these ganache-filled treats be?

"They are the best in the world," my line neighbor assured me as we perused the laminated macaron menu. "When was the last time you were here?" I asked. "Last week," she replied, not a little embarrassed.

We exchanged ideas about enjoying food and life. She freely shared her favorite macaron flavors, the red Framboise (Raspberry) and the violet Cassis, and I solemnly received her confession of frequent patisserie visits. As we affirmed each other's staunch support of butter and sugar, it became my turn to place an order. Like a good New Yorker, I was ready with my six-piece ($20) box selection:

  •  Cassis
  • Orange Blossom
  • Rose Petal

À Bientôt (To Go)

Since New York's Ladurée has no patron seating, be prepared to take your purchased goodies elsewhere. Even though the staff is extremely polite as they adroitly moved the line along, American Express cardholders should also have another form of payment handy.

This tea trio containing Earl Grey, Ladurée Blend, and Lapsang Souchong provided enough inspiration for a calm and relaxing pairing at my favorite tea place: chez moi.

Until I next visit Paris, Ladurée New York is now here to help me keep Lapsang Souchong black tea in my cup and a macaron in my mouth. That's definitely worth a sip or two in any language. Let's drink tea. Cups up!