Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tuesday Tea and Tomes: Coffee, Tea and Chocolate (companion book to DIA Bitter/Sweet exhibit)

Coffee, Tea & Chocolate companion book to exhibit (and mug!)

Take today's Tuesday Tea and Tomes Quiz:

What is "Coffee, Tea and Chocolate"?
  1. A current exhibit at the DIA
  2. The subject of the DIA exhibit companion book
  3. My everyday essentials
Of course, it is "all of the above"!

Bitter/Sweet: Coffee, Tea and Chocolate exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts tells the story of three revolutionary morning drinks that launched rituals and industries around the world.

Amazingly, this tantalizing trio all arrived around the same time in England in the mid-1600's.

This special DIA exhibit takes visitors through the discovery of coffee, tea and chocolate and how they became a global presence in so many societies.

As an added bonus to this exhibit, there is the companion book, "Coffee, Tea and Chocolate: Consuming the World" by  Yao-Fen You, Associate Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the DIA.

Yao-Fen You introduces Marc Meltonville at the DIA

The exhibit includes a video starring Marc Meltonville, Food Historian of Historic Royal Palaces, filmed at the Chocolate Kitchen of Hampton Court. We were fortunate to hear Marc Meltonville present at the DIA and later meet up with him and Yao-Fen You. (BTS was at the actual Chocolate Kitchen in 2015 - stay tuned for future blog!)

Yao-Fen You, and  Marc Meltonville chat with Chris after the presentation

Although I took several pictures (they are not only allowed, but encouraged - without flash!), the companion book captures all the exhibit beautifully and with a lot of additional information and interesting essays.

Tea service with fitted case, 1728-29

Coffee pot (1789) Chocolate pot (1781). Chocolate pot lids had openings for wooden stirrers.

Tea drinking defined polite society, shown in this family portrait by Charles Philip, 1732

Barb's TEA Service (Rachel, Barb & Pam) enjoy sampling hot chocolate

At the end of the exhibit, there is a chocolate tasting of two drinks: one Aztec and the other an 18th century French recipe.  Both were delicious!

The gift shop features local tea and chocolate 

There's also a special gift shop at the end of the exhibit which includes local tea, chocolate and this wonderful tome, "Coffee, Tea and Chocolate".

Two thumbs up for the Coffee, Tea and Chocolate  exhibit and companion book!  Wonderful experience and wonderful keepsake!

Bitter/Sweet:  Coffee, Tea and Chocolate runs now through March, 2017. For more information see the DIA calendar page Bitter/Sweet:  Coffee, Tea and Chocolate.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

My Gilded Pleasure: Newport Mansions and Vanderbilding

Indulging in my "gilded pleasure" at the Viking Hotel on Bellevue Ave.

As a Gilded Age enthusiast, a visit to Newport -  where America's very rich and famous of the late 19th century built "cottages" along the Atlantic Ocean - was a must. Last month, I indulged my "gilded pleasure" and traveled to the east coast resort town and toured the five historic mansions that are still open this time of year:  The Breakers, Marble House, Rosecliff, The Elms and Chateau-sur-Mer.

One side of the great foyer inside The Breakers

During our visit, we stayed at the Viking Hotel, on the famed Bellmont Avenue, home to many of the Newport Mansions. In fact, the hotel was built as a joint effort among some of the upper crust families to be a place for the overflow of guests to stay. Many of the cottages, although large by any scale, typically had bedrooms for members of the family only and maybe one guest room. It's hard to keep in mind, these were summer homes and used just for a few months out of the year.

First on my list were the Newport of homes of the Vanderbilts:   The Breakers and Marble House. They were built by the grandsons of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt who created the family fortune with shipping and railroads. The competitiveness of the wealthy families to outdo each other with extravagant domiciles gave way to the term "Vanderbuilding" according to Gilded by Deborah Davis (see November 8, Tuesday Tea and Tomes: Gilded). And, no question, there was a lot of  Vanderbilding going on in Newport!

 The Breakers, the biggest cottage in Newport

The Breakers is the largest of all Newport mansions, built in 1893, to replace an earlier wood frame house of the same name that was destroyed by fire. The 70-room cottage was designed by architect William Morris Hunt and inspired by 16th century palaces of Italy.

Chris strolls through The Breakers second floor hallway

Around the corner and down Bellevue Avenue sits Marble House, also designed by William Morris Hunt, but with much direction from owner, Alva Vanderbilt, spouse of William K. Vanderbilt. William K. gave Alva the house as a 39th birthday present.

Happy Birthday, Alva! Marble House, aptly named,  has 500,000 cubic ft of imported marble 

Built to resemble a chateau at Versailles, the cost of the home in modern-day currency amounts to $11 million with over half that amount going to 500,000 cubic feet of marble.

Marble walls, staircases in Marble House

Alva Vanderbilt's ambition was a double-edged sword. Her strong-will rebelled against the social convention of staying with a philandering husband and she  risked ostracism from her friends for insisting upon, and obtaining, a divorce. She was also a great supporter of the 19th amendment and held suffragette meetings at the Tea House she had erected on the grounds of Marble House.

Cosuelo's bedroom at Marble House, designed entirely by Alva

However, that same drive  had a downside. Alva groomed her daughter, Conseulo, to be the bride of an English lord.  Consuelo had fallen in love with an American gentleman and wanted to marry him instead of a British aristocrat. Domineering and manipulative, Alva insisted her daughter marry the Duke of Marlborough, which sent Conseulo to Blenheim Castle in England and trapped her in an unhappy, loveless marriage.

Gothic Room where the Duke proposed to Consuelo 

Mother and daughter reconciled and eventually Conseulo left the Duke and married the second time for love - so there are some happy endings!

We visited  three more Newport mansions over the next few days of our stay: Rosecliff, Chateau-sur-Mer, and The Elms, the latter of which we took part in the  "Servant's Life" tour, which showed the equally fascinating "downstairs" life of cottage living.  More of those in Newport Mansions: Part II.

Marble House lawn overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, spectacular views inside and out

We had been to Newport over ten years ago, but only had time to tour The Breakers. This trip was amazing - time to visit five mansions, partake in afternoon tea and get our fresh seafood fix. But, most importantly, I indulged in my gilded pleasure in Newport, learning more about this fascinating era in such a beautiful setting.

More Gilded Pleasures coming to the blog. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Special Edition Election Night Tuesday Tea and Tomes: Gilded with an accent on 'Votes for Women'

Gilded by Debora Davis tells the tales of the vintage one-percenters in Newport

While much of the Gilded Age was filled with ostentatious displays of wealth that included ornate mansions, fancy private clubs and lavish parties, it occasionally hit a note of social progress. In Deborah Davis' "Gilded: How Newport became American's Richest Resort", such over-the-top lifestyles of the 19th century one-percenters in the vacation spot on the Atlantic Ocean are detailed, but  there are also tales of fierce independence and trail blazing. In particular, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont's support of women's suffrage.

Marble House, home of Alva Vanderbilt,  in Newport, Rhode Island

Gilded is fascinating account of the wealthy families (Astors, Vanderbilts) who set up camp in Newport with "cottages" - some over 100,000 square feet - and the hectic season of summer entertaining. However, along with daily multiple wardrobe changes and recruiting the best French chefs and English butlers, some found time to take on more serious endeavors.

In the Marble House foyer which, as you would expect is all marble

Last week, we were in Newport and visited five mansion ("cottages"), including Marble House, the creation of Alva Vanderbilt. Aptly named, the home is filled with imported marble and displays treasures worthy of  a museum. Another in her collection of showpiece residences,  it eventually became a gathering place to supporters of the 19th Amendment.

Portrait of Alva Vanderbilt hangs on marble walls at Marble House

In the summer of 1914, Alva hosted the "Conference of Great Women". Gatherings were held in the tea house on the grounds of Marble House and Alva even commissioned special china with the script, "Votes for Women".  This serving ware is still in the kitchen cabinets at Marble House.  (Of course, I purchased my own reproduction tea cup and saucer in the gift shop).

Tea House on Marble House grounds currently undergoing a face-lift

While much of the Gilded Age will be remembered for lifestyles that were expensive but void of substance, there are a few, true shining moments, like the support of the women's vote, that won't tarnish no matter how many years go by.

Votes for Women china in the kitchen cabinets of Marble House

More of our visit to Newport and the Gilded Age coming in future blogs, so stay tuned!