By Terry Trucco
From the NFL, whose big bruisers sport pink cleats to the comic strip artists who added pink ribbons to their strips, the color of Breast Cancer Awareness Month pops up a lot in October.
So why not at a hotel?
For the month of October staff members at The Peninsula hotel flaunt pale pink ties. Big bouquets of hot pink flowers bloom in the lobby. And guests who indulge in high tea in the hotel’s Gotham Lounge get a choice when they order the pastry portion of the spread – an assortment of seasonal tartlets and sweets or the Pink Pastry Plate.
“Last Friday I put the pink pastries on the top of the tier, and once people in the room saw
them, everyone wanted to order them,” says executive pastry chef Deden Putra, who devised the new nibbles.
Small surprise. The pink pastries look like they’re straight out of the second act of The Nutcracker and are almost too pretty to eat. They’re also clever, an edible tutorial on what a smart confectionist can do with mixed berries and white chocolate.
The medley includes a rosewater macaroon with a thick dollop of creamy filling, a delicate sliver of strawberry shortcake, a large strawberry cocooned in pink chocolate and the showstopper, a tiny glass filled with white chocolate raspberry trifle and topped by a pink meringue lollipop that melts in your mouth.
The pink pastries are part of the Peninsula’s new afternoon tea, rolled out this fall. We love hotel teas, but their charm depends on getting the mix of old and new just right, a balancing act that’s oddly tricky. Too much tradition and high tea feels fusty. Not enough and it’s not High Tea.
The Peninsula confronts the High Tea Challenge head on. They’ve kept the basic elements – loose-leaf tea in a pot, miniature sandwiches, pastries and scones with clotted cream – and recast them with 21st-century food trends in mind.
Ingredients are seasonal. The current pastries, for guests who don’t choose pink, are autumnal – a tiny square of pumpkin cheesecake on a bed of chocolate, a round little apple cake and a butterscotch pear tart (a sliver of white chocolate glazed in orange tops the tiny pastries with an autumn glow). Come Christmas expect eggnog cupcakes in the mix.
Repetitions are avoided. The quartet of manicured sandwiches features four different
types of bread in addition to a mix of ingredients. The egg salad is nestled on brioche. Roast beef livened with horseradish cream is enveloped in whole grain. And surprises occur. A hint of mint updates the classic cucumber sandwich on whole wheat. And a dot of caviar crowns the organic smoked salmon on pumpernickel.
Choice is an option.The pink pastries disappear from the menu come November 1, but
look for other themed pastries throughout the year. “We like to have two choices,” Putra says.
Not everyone wants Earl Grey The Peninsula offers nine loose leaf blends including Jasmine, Japanese Sencha, Assam, Ceylon and our favorite, Lapsang Souchong as well as two herbals in silk sachets. And Earl Grey.
The backdrop for all this is a quietly stylish art-filled room whose high ceiling and domed Beaux Arts windows backdrop big silk club chairs and low tables ideal for tea or for drinks. When high tea is over the top — and let’s face it, the best ones are — a serene setting is appreciated.
It’s not your grandmother’s afternoon tea, in other words. But she’d like it.
Afternoon tea, 2:30 pm to 5 pm. $55 (includes a $5 donation to the American Cancer Society); $71 with a glass of Peninsula Deutz Brut, NV champagne (includes a $5 donation to the American Cancer Society).
The Peninsula, 700 Fifth Avenue at 55th Street; 212 956-2888.