Monday, January 16, 2012

Afternoon Tea at L'Espalier

While my mom was here in Boston, we went with some of my girlfriends to afternoon tea at L'Espalier, a fancy restaurant on Boylston Street in Back Bay (right by the Prudential Building).  

The meal started out with the waitstaff pouring hot water into wine glasses.  We were quite confused.  Then the tea sommalier came by with flowering tea, a bundle of tea leaves wrapped around flowers.  

(from Wikipedia)

We placed them into our glasses and watched the flowers bloom!

A toast!

Look at the red and white flowers!  So lovely.  You can buy them at any tea shop, though to me they are far prettier than they taste. 

(Starting at 4 o'clock and moving clockwise)---Scottish Smoked salmon with crème fraîche and American caviar, English cucumber with fines herbes and lemon cream cheese, Casco Bay Lobster profiterole (I had to look this up, Casco Bay is the bay in Portland Maine), Jonah crab croissant with sauce gribiche, roasted chicken walnut salad with fall spices and apricot jam. While we initially looked at the actual amount of food on the plate skeptically, we all left quite satiated.

Tea!  The sommalier suggested that we order four to five different kinds of tea, in order of strength of the tea (so you end with a very strong tea).  We tried their afternoon blend, Yunnan Gold, Darjeeling, a Nepalese, and finished with the breakfast blend (plus one more that I can't remember).  My daily tea is either bagged green or black tea, and usually over-steeped at that, so it's really remarkable to taste tea with so many different flavors, none of them the least bit bitter.  If you think you don't like tea, this is the place to try it. 

Next was the pastries plate (starting at 4'o clock and moving clockwise):  panna cotta with rounded apple truffle and coconut cake crumbs, passionfruit g√Ęteau with a blood orange sassafrass gelee (won oddest taste of the day award, rootbeer-toothpastey mint with citrus), chocolate decadence cake, pâte à choux swan with espresso chantilly cream, (citrus scones not pictured, and there's a trifle in a shot glass above the plate; it had chestnuts and mango, so delicious!).

A bit more about the tea sommalier:  her name is Cynthia Gold, and she's a chef that decided to bring tea into greater prominence in her cooking.  She wrote a book called Culinary Tea which looks quite intriguing.  I can say that I have used herbal teas in making ice cream (rosehip ice cream is quite possibly one of my favorite creations) ---but I've never used "real" tea in cooking.  Though I do have an Earl Gray Pudding recipe in my list...

The other thing to do, I think, is continue trying different afternoon teas around Boston.  The Boston Harbor Hotel was lovely: gorgeous room, lots of light, and right on the water.  The pastries and sandwiches were more traditional with a focus on mini sandwiches and scones (plus clotted cream!).  L'Espalier was far more modern and I would say the actual tea service was better, and the food was really rich and had interesting flavors.  Other places to try include The French Room at The Taj Hotel, The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library, The Athenaeum (which is members-only, so out of our reach unless an invitation is extended to us as it was to these Boston tea reviewers), Upstairs on the Square in Harvard Square, and the Bond Restaurant and Lounge at the Langham Boston (The Gallery at the Boston Common Ritz Carlton and Swan's at the Boston Park Plaza no longer serve afternoon tea).  I think I know what I want to do for my birthday in March!


Aimee said...

Hi Bridget, is the tea you're missing the Afternoon Blend? I think that is the first one we tried.

Bridget said...

Yes! I guess the blend in the name threw me off, since I remembered trying the morning blend last. :)

Mary Kay said...

I like the idea of a tea sommelier and tasting different teas. You've definitely got some interesting options for your birthday tea.

And I loved your photos!