Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer 2012: Island Hopping, Part 6

My summer of Island Hopping around New York has turned more into a loosely-collected explorations/adventures that include geographic, culinary, and cultural influences. There was the museum trip, the trip to the kitchen island, and then the various yummy foods.

If you can't afford international travel to various islands to experience cuisine and cultures, Manhattan is probably the best place to be. In fact, I've got plans to visit the Scandinavian House later this fall, so I can tick all of those islands off my list - and have some good food. So, when I got a lunch invitation from my gang of former library colleagues to have lunch at a local tea house, I thought it was a perfect fit to be my Asian-themed Island Hopping adventure for the summer.

Well, to a certain extent.

Do you know how hard it is to adhere to religious dietary prohibitions when visiting a tea house? Even the baked goods and dessert have tea in them!

So, a heartfelt Thank You to restaurants that post their menus on their websites, so I can do some reconnaissance and research ahead of time!

Last Thursday, I visited the Radiance Tea House & Books on West 55th in NYC with four of my former library colleagues from Mannes. According to their side: "Radiance Tea House & Books is committed to introducing the profound Asian tea culture and Chinese traditions to the general public. [They] have designed various programs to provide... unique, informative and fun events, which include tea tastings, tea ceremonies and tea classes."

In fact, in this lovely photo from the Radiance Tea House, we sat at that table on the left next to the glass divider (leads to the stairs up from the street), across the the counter. So very zen.
The five of us hadn't managed to get together in a large group in about a year, so we had to catch up on various career and personal news. My former boss also just celebrated his big 4-0, so there were toasts too. Ordering lunch with this gang, however, is always an endeavor - involving shared appetizers, many courses, and lots of laughter. It's not a lunch group you can only spend an hour with -- try about three! Whoever says librarians are a quiet bunch has not spent time with us!

It was only after inhaling lots of dumpling, and lots of plates of food that looked like the Radiance web-site glamor shot of the shrimp dish on the left, that I thought to take out the iTouch to document the three plates of desserts that were ordered to share around the table. Green tea scones (on right),

green and black tea ice cream (left), and mochi (right) in various flavors, including, quell surprise, green tea and black tea with a side of some tea based drink. It may look like a lot for four people, but they did divvy it up pretty well. I literally could only eat a piece of the peanut butter mochi (above right photo, mochi on the left next to the purple taro-flavored sweet).

I can almost sense the laughter from parents and my younger self at me eating exotic foods like mochi - As a kid, I wouldn't try anything new! This would be entirely out of my realm of imagination. It's amazing what all I've been able to experience over the years.

Because it's not always about the food, but the friends - and all that they bring to your life and table.

After an almost three hour lunch, I made an unprecedented decision not to go back to work. Never, since I started working at 16, have I just decided to skip out of work without telling anyone. However, with everyone in the office out on vacation, an early dismissal day planned for the next day, I decided if I ever was going to play hookey, this day was it.

It was a great way to wind the summer down and get off the Island early. I even went to bed -- before 9 p.m. It was marvelous what a good 10 hours of sleep will do for your frame of mind.

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