Afternoon Tea, My Mini & Me
Angelique LeDoux, Jade’s ToyBox Inc.
Growing up in the Deep South, every bridal shower and fancy soiree seemed to have the same delicate bite-sized staples: southern chicken salad, egg salad and cream cheese and cucumber tea sandwiches, with super sweet iced tea or even better, a slightly frozen southern strawberry punch and petit fours that have the potential to be the next cupcake craze.
To this day, afternoon tea sends me right back to Alabama and I compare every tea to that formative experience. Now it’s my turn to pass on the tradition to my little girl, and luckily New York City has some great options for sharing the afternoon tea experience with your little ones, and no crayons or distractions are necessary.
My NYC Afternoon Tea Bucket List
I’ve had amazing afternoon tea at the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town and the Ciragan Palace in Istanbul, but I’m still looking for the perfect afternoon tea experience. Whether you're introducing a family tradition or using tea time as an opportunity to teach meal manners or expand your kiddos culinary curiosity, consider these must visits in NYC.
Eloise Tea at the Plaza
With names like Eloise Tea and Chocolate Tea, there’s no question that kids will enjoy the famous afternoon tea at the newly renovated Palm Court at The Plaza. For starters, sandwiches are sure to please with a sampler of no-brainers like grilled cheese, organic peanut butter and jelly, cucumber and buttered bread and strawberry and cream cheese. The scones are a nice size and served warm with double Devonshire cream and preserves, and the pastries and sweets are perfect: a pink jello shot (no, not the adult version), lemon tea cake, chocolate dipped strawberries and chocolate cupcakes and cookies. Kids may choose either cold pink lemonade or peppermint iced tea. The Chocolate Tea is a chocolate lovers dream- essentially chocolate fondue in tiers, plus a champagne add-on for mommy to boot. And a warning ladies, do not dress the girls in that new white sweater like I did.
Palm Court at The Plaza. Afternoon tea is served from 2 pm -5 pm daily. 5th at Central Park South. For reservations: 212-546-5300.
Madeline Tea at the Carlyle Hotel
Even if the Madeline Tea isn’t available until the holidays, it’s still worth a visit to Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel to experience afternoon tea. The adjoining room serves up fairly standard tea fare with a selection of familiar choices: cucumber and cream cheese, ham, smoked salmon, turkey and egg salad. And while my 5-year-old went to town on the bite-sized rectangles, I thought the cucumber sandwich on white bread was slightly soggy; the egg salad not discernable; the ham had what tasted like horseradish, but my daughter liked it; and I thought the turkey was chicken salad. The mini raisin scones are traditional tea staples, served with Devonshire cream and strawberry preserves. This is where all etiquette lessons were lost, and sopping up preserves with morsels of scone was allowed. Mini pastries included a strawberry tart, a lemon curd treat and a layered chocolate coffee flavored pastry.
As afternoon tea goes, it wasn’t the food that made the Bemelmans Bar experience onto my tea bucket list, it was the history of the bar itself, the four cups of perfect cinnamon tea and a special mommy daughter outing. But as we headed out the door, my daughter gave Eloise the better score. (See The Plaza for the Eloise Tea)
Around the holidays, make reservations for the Madeline Tea at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel. Other times of year, walk-ins are fine while Afternoon tea is served from 3 pm- 5 pm daily.
35 E 76 St between 5th and Madison. Reservations: 212-744-1600.
The Peninsula Hotel, NY
The Peninsula Afternoon Tea is another personal favorite with a fancier assortment of tea sandwiches for the adults, like Maine lobster on a mini brioche, beef sirloin, roasted turkey with cranberry on a pretzel roll and chopped ham on mini Pullman bread. But the kids afternoon tea is kid-friendly, with chicken fingers, pb&j, a cheese sandwich triangle and desserts galore like a mini cupcake, a rice crispy treat, fruit parfait and hot cocoa. As evidenced from my 5-year-old, it really doesn’t matter what order they eat the food, since at this place it will all be eaten, so pick your battles.
The Peninsula Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula Hotel, 700 Fifth Avenue at 55th Street. For reservations, call 212.903.3918.
Tea & Sympathy
Though this tiny Greenwich Village staple has no place for strollers or a changing table, no afternoon tea list of NYC would be complete without it. It’s still one of my favorite afternoon teas since nothing comes closer to replicating the taste I grew up with down to the strawberry preserves and chicken salad sandwiches. While the desserts taste like they use the same ingredients of the scone tier- strawberry preserves and clotted cream, Tea & Sympathy’s sandwich selection, cinnamon tea and overall experience keep me coming back, despite the wait, strict seating rules or lack of kid features beyond the kid-friendly food. Oh, and seeing Johnny Depp sitting behind my mom one day didn’t hurt either.
Tea & Sympathy, 108 Greenwich Avenue near Jane Street and 9th Avenue.
Home Sweet Home… as in at YOUR home
Consider making your kid's next tea party, school lunch or after school snack a special etiquette and culinary experience with a sandwich sampler in different shapes and bread choices. Here’s your chance to try something new like hummus with yellow, green and orange bell peppers. Make a dessert sampler too with old favorites and new flavors like homemade coconut macaroons. And for the thermos, try the strawberry punch...
Southern Strawberry Punch
2 packages of frozen organic strawberries
1.5 bottles of caffeine-free organic ginger ale
3 cups of fresh pineapple juice
Let strawberries thaw (you can cut and freeze fresh strawberries, but you want frozen for texture) then add to a freezable pitcher or bowl. Add ginger ale and pineapple juice. Mix and freeze. Thaw 4 hours before using.
Optional, for tea parties: Freeze gingerale in a bundt pan with strawberries, chunks of pineapple, lemons and edible flowers for garnish. Add frozen ring to the punch bowl just before serving.