Cheers! Downton Abbey is back, so why not celebrate over a cup of tea? Classic, fragrant Earl Grey for me, please, in a pretty china cup and saucer.
It's been far too long since I've been to a tea party, and what better occasion than to herald the return of one of my favorite shows. I have fond memories of Valentine's Day and winter solstice tea parties at Alice's Tea Cup with office mates after work and cozy lunches at Tea and Sympathy with two dear friends, both in New York City, but I forget I have a wonderful tea room in my own backyard: Harmony Tea Room in Westwood, New Jersey. I celebrated my birthday here when I was expecting Grace.
Their dining room is bright and cheery.
Differing from other tea parties I have been to, this one encouraged dress-up, something we do not do enough in our very casual society. How many fleece pajama pants have you seen people donning in shops and out and about?
With my sister and mother as dining companions, I donned my best vintage: a dress I picked up in San Francisco on my honeymoon, a hat and tweed coat from an estate sale, my grandmother's bag with a crocheted floral design and one of her pins, and a pink and green necklace from the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop. I even dabbled on some Chanel No. 5 which is thrifted too. The only item I forgot was the vintage gloves. I'm often impressed by the longevity and craftsmanship of a lot of vintage fashion compared to today's clothing. It felt so ladylike to dress up. Since I don't work in a nice New York City office anymore, it's far too easy to be casual all the time, especially in the cold, blustery winter. It was a reminder that life is worth dressing up for and not just for tea parties but on a regular basis.
Fashion was one of the elements that attracted me to Downton Abbey, likewise for Mad Men, a series I liked so much at one time I wrote a Mad Men column on my blog. However, I tired of Mad Men and no longer watch it. Mostly, I was offput by all the self-destructive characters and their extramarital affair shenanigans.
I still adore Downton Abbey, now in its fifth season, for its English scenery, historical context, the acting and characters, even its riveting score. Most of all I love the smart writing, from Carson's wise observations, "The nature of life is not permanence, but flux" to the witty zingers from everyone from Mrs. Patmore to the Dowager Countess and Violet Crawley.
Back to our tea party, we were served on this beautiful cake tier. Doesn't food look so much more inviting when artfully presented? Everything was vegetarian-friendly except one item with beef I skipped
An apricot oatmeal scone with the trimmings: lemon curd, clotted cream and strawberry preserves, and bites: a deviled egg, a cucumber dill cream cheese sandwich, a roasted red pepper, spinach and artichoke sandwich, and brie cheese with fig jam.
Sweet endings: a raspberry white chocolate cheesecake bite, an almond cookie and a dried fruit cookie. There is such gluttony usually at restaurants, but this was enough.
We were encouraged to come up with our Downton names: Lady, Princess or Duchess, with your middle name, street name and county of birth. For the night I was Lady Elizabeth. Party games to be had: Downton Abbey bingo and trivia too. I wasn't lucky enough to leave with any of the Downton Abbey jewelry or totes sporting a crown. The tote would have been so cute to carry items for Grace. She does share a name with a very famous princess after all!
This quote by Henry Fielding seems so fitting for Downton Abbey.
Last season, I made the mistake of googling Downton Abbey and came upon a major plot spoiler involving Anna. Lesson learned this time. I also spotted episodes up on Youtube, but I am not giving in to temptation to watch them. With all of this on-demand entertainment and instant gratification, there's something to be said for the anticipation of each week's show, like lingering over one chapter at a time of a really good book. For Downton Abbey fans, happy viewing this season!