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Tea-ry Eyed
The Pfister Hotel pays homage to that harbinger of gentility – the afternoon tea.

It’s the return to a “gentler era.” Words used by the Pfister Hotel to describe its afternoon tea. Images float across a river of Earl Grey – flashes of china teacups, raised pinkies and cloth-napkin dabs at each corner of the mouth. The restoration of civility.

It’s 1893 again. Sort of. (Ignore the laptop plug-ins.) The Pfister’s Club Lounge – on the 23rd floor, next to Blu – is the latest spot to host this afternoon repast, which is a late-fall/winter (through March 30) tradition at the hotel. Fashioned a bit like a library, the lounge has various seating configurations, including upholstered furniture facing a gas fireplace and tables next to the panoramic windows.

Whereas before the hotel offered a truncated list of teas, it has now embraced the local movement and all that is Rishi. The hotel tea sommelier’s descriptions of the 12 selections (peach blossom, Ceylon single estate) don’t resonate until he waves each cup of dried leaves under your nose and notes disparate and distinct take flight. The tea-leaf man may suggest grated ginger steeped in your chamomile or flecks of mint to amplify your jade oolong. Rishi even made a special tea, just for this venue – the 1893 Pfister blend white tea rose mélange.

The food offerings are like menus within a menu. “Simple Elegance” ($14) is scones with whipped mascarpone, strawberry preserves and lemon curd. “Sweets” ($18) features the scones, spreads and other confections – madeleines, macarons, dipped strawberries, shortbread and an opera torte. The Victorian Tea ($30) includes most of the above, along with curried quail eggs, turkey pinwheels with red onion marmalade, and bite-size sandwiches.

I reach for the tiny, fragile quail eggs and crab Louis more than the blue cheese mousse piped inside a soft waffle cone (weak). The lemon curd and mascarpone brighten up the rather flat scones. Better are the torte (moist, mocha flavored) and macarons (crispy, chewy).

But the ritual of tea time transcends the individual parts. And the Pfister’s elegant rendering is engaging. It’s one of those reservations-compulsory sort of things. And at the time you book it, they ask which menu items you’d like, the explanation being that the food is prepared before your arrival, and this ensures you have time to linger over your repast, not sit around waiting for it to begin. Civility has its advantages.

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