by Alicia Lieu
Recipe at the end of this post. Check back every month as Alicia shares her adventures of How I Met My Dinner!
I will not get to see my mother for Mother’s Day this year because I’m in New York and she’s in California, but if I did, I would take her out for a Mother’s Day Tea. When I was packing my bags to return to New York from San Jose, I told her that I wanted to start drinking more tea instead of so much coffee. So she reached into her cupboard and brought out the best quality tea that she had and packed it in my bag. One was a “high mountain” tea from Taiwan and the other was a green tea that she ordered from Equator Coffees and Teas. She had me sample four different teas that night, just so that I could taste and appreciate the difference between good tea and really great tea.
Upon deeper thought, she has always taught me to hold myself to high standards and to appreciate things that stand out and to recognize them as extraordinary. Not just with fine foods, but art and culture, and qualities in people, as well. She always had my best interests at heart. Even when I had trouble seeing what she was seeing, she would always encourage me to go beyond my comfort zone. And every time I was tempted to do something half heartedly, she would say to me in Chinese, loosely translated, “If you’re going to do something good, you have to see it through to the end.” She instilled in me a great work ethic, strength, and perseverance. When Amy Chua’s book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother caused such a stir when it was released a few years back, she asked me if she was a Tiger Mother. I answered, “Not at all.”
If I could, I would take my mother to afternoon tea at The Plaza Hotel. Thanks to the popularity of Groupon some time ago, I was able to afford afternoon tea at The Plaza, the home of Eloise. I was with a good friend and we chatted the afternoon away under an ornate stained glass ceiling with a pianist playing unobtrusively while we enjoyed delicate savory sandwiches and attractive, eye popping desserts. I recently came across an article about places in New York to have tea, so I shall be starting on that list as soon as possible.
When a friend from upstate came to the city for a visit, I took her to Laduree, which recently opened up a cafe in Soho. I’m not sure how many times we said, “Wow, I love this place!” Too many times to count. So when I went upstate this past week, we made sure we went to tea at a place called Sarah’s Patisserie in Ithaca. I had a vanilla hazelnut cake, a pistachio-port macaroon, and pineapple-lychee tea. The company was fantastic, the afternoon tea was delectable, and price was unbeatable. It was about half of what it costs in New York City.
My friend is a wonderful pianist and her husband is a pretty big deal in music theory. They hosted me for the week while I attended a conducting master class at Ithaca College and Cornell University. The maestro had such a packed schedule and was giving the class 150% percent so I thought that a few lovely macaroons would give him a little pick-me-up. This was a person about whom you could say his mother really raised him right. He is not only a brilliant conductor, but also a caring teacher, genuine and honest soul, a giant presence clothed in humility, an incredibly gifted leader. What a gift that week was.
Below are two takes that I have on Tea Sandwiches, Asian style. To be served with Asian tea, of course. Jasmine, barley, or brown rice tea would be good. I wish I had my mother’s recipe for Chinese beef but alas, American roast will do in a pinch. I can’t wait for my mother to visit me in New York and I will take her to Laduree or The Plaza!
Spicy Spam Tea Sandwiches
2 slices of white bread
2 ounces of Spam
Sriracha Hot sauce
On one slice of bread, spread the mayonnaise. On the other slice, spread the Sriracha sauce. Place the Spam in the middle and then trim crusts off the bread. Cut sandwich into any shape desired.
Chinese Beef Tea Sandwiches
2 slices of whole wheat
2 ounces of roast beef
cucumber, thinly sliced
On one slice of bread, spread the mayonnaise. On the other slice, spread the hoisin sauce. Layer the roast beef with the cucumber slices and chopped scallion. Trim crusts off the bread. Cut sandwich into any shape desired.