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How to Host a Tea Party Today

Chef David Vandenabeele shares tips on creating the chicest possible experience

Afternoon tea has strongly stood the test of time in certain circles, but to keep the age-old tradition out of the Downton Abbey realm and into modern sitting rooms, it may need a little makeover. Here, Chef David Vandenabeele of Langham Place New York’s Measure Lounge lends his expertise.

The most important part of afternoon tea—besides, of course, the tea itself—is the china. Gone are the days of the traditional tiered plates. Chef David serves his afternoon tea in tiered bento boxes to give the place setting a modern twist. Each bento box reveals a new course filled with pleasant bite-sized dishes. “They invoke the guest’s curiosity—the first course is presented on top of the box, and when that course is complete, the lid slides back to reveal three surprising desserts.” 

Afternoon tea, all photographs by Eric Vitale

Afternoon tea, all photographs by Eric Vitale

Instead of dainty finger sandwiches, consider other light substitutes. “Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box,” says Chef David. “At Langham Place, we incorporate a mix between traditional, British items with ones that better represent New York City.

Chef David creates a King Crab Roll mixed with Thousand Island dressing and a warm scotch egg made with pork and chorizo topped with curry mayonnaise. His third dish, hummus gougers with vegetable Provençale, helps clear the palette for what’s coming next. For dessert, he serves passion fruit and chocolate macarons, cookies and cream profiteroles, chocolate-dipped cheesecake-filled strawberries and nutmeg-cinnamon scones.

Complete the experience with a mix of traditional and exotic teas and sip to your heart’s content.