Cake and Culture: Afternoon tea with Adele in NYC

When I left for New York City I was feeling low. Really low. I had just been fired. When I got to the airport the next morning, my eyes were still swollen from all the tears. It was awful, but it was also perfect timing. Why? Because I can’t be sad in New York, it’s impossible for me. I don’t know any other place in the US where one can immerse themselves so deeply in art, beauty, and good food. NY is nothing short of Paradise for me.

My first day was spent browsing the Whitney (which I wasn’t terribly impressed by), but on my second day I had planned a little afternoon tea with the dear Adele. No, I had never met her before, but I knew we were going to be great friends. By the time we met, I felt like we already had a bit of history together.

But first, I got my hair done at Warren Tricomi on Madison Avenue (after stuffing a sinfully delicious Levain cookie in into my belly). I got an awesome hair cut from a guy called Anthony, and I left the salon feeling like a million dollars. I was ready for my visit with Adele at the Neue Galerie, only a few steps away.

The Neue Galerie is much more my thing than the Whitney. In fact, it’s exactly my thing. The focus is on early twentieth-century German and Austrian art. They have a lot of paintings by Gustav Klimt, one of my favorites. The painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer (aka Woman in Gold) is probably it’s most famous inhabitant. At $135 million, she is the most expensive painting ever to be purchased. Back in 2006, there was great controversy  and a lengthy legal battle surrounding her move to America. She was stolen from a wealthy Jewish family by the Germans in Nazi occupied Austria.There is an absolutely wonderful movie about this painting called Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren. It was a real tear jerker for me. Maybe it got me so deeply because not so long ago I thought I would end up moving to Vienna, or maybe  it’s because my grandmother’s grandmother was an Austrian Jew herself. She came to this country when she was already an old woman, but she was the first of our family to make the journey. While aesthetically this is not my favorite of Klimt’s paintings, the story behind it gives it great meaning and beauty to me, and so it was a great pleasure when I was finally able to meet Adele in person.

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As with any painting, the images you see in books or on the computer screen never come close to standing right in front of the real thing. You loose the sense of scale and texture. You loose the feeling of luxury conveyed by the heavy usage of gold leaf. I like Adele. She is a true woman. While her body is painted in a very two dimensional format, her expression is definitely complex. Although surrounded by opulence her face has a kind of disquiet about it. She looks unsure of herself, questioning, slightly tired … hmmm, maybe we are related LOL.

Adele was surrounded by some other beautiful examples of Klimt’s work:

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Pale Face, by Gustave Klimt –Who knows this could be one of Adele’s friends. Many of Klimt’s subjects new each other. I think I shall invite her along for tea and cake too. I like her face.
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Forester’s House – a little cottage where the artist was known to stay. I think I should like to live there, it’s tres charmant!
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Girl in the Foliage, by Gustav Klimt: this one looks like she is going to go mental if we don’t invite her for cake too… better reserve another seat at the table.
Alright, it’s tea time. Housed in the Neue Galerie is Cafe Sabarsky. I have been to Vienna twice, and I can tell you, this cafe would not be amiss there with it’s discreet and unrushed service, the dark wood paneling, and the glow of the chandelier above. Sitting there I was flooded with so many memories. Thank goodness I was armed with my fab new haircut and these beautiful ladies by my side or it would have been quite likely that I would have teared up a little. Nope, instead I focused on the tempting cakes on display. Let’s do this proper and order the Sacher Torte, shall we?

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Now to the nitty gritty, the cake! When you look at this slice of cake, or any slice of Sacher Torte for that matter, I have found that they always look a lot more chocolatey than they are. Except for the slick layer chocolate ganache on top, in the actual cake part, the prominent flavor is apricot believe it or not. There is a layer of almost invisible apricot jam in the middle of the cake that is meant to keep this very dense cake moist. The chocolate flavor pretty much all rests in that glossy coating. While it would be lovely if this cake offered an intense chocolate hit, I wasn’t disappointed, because I’ve had this cake in Austria, and I knew what to expect.  I just wanted to relive a memory … food is awesome like that. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this cake as a NYC must eat, I would most certainly recommend a visit to the bijoux beauty that is the Neue Galerie, and of course, some tea and cake at Cafe Sabarsky… just maybe a different cake LOL. I’m sure Adele would appreciate a chance to shoot the breeze. She has an amazing story to tell.

18 Comments

      1. I’d love to see the painting. It was indeed a great movie. I’m not Jewish but it seems almost every friend I’ve ever had, has been. It’s difficult for me to watch movies like Woman in Gold and Schindlers’ List. It makes me wonder where God was.

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  1. Looks like a lovely day with new friends! I enjoyed the Whitney. We just spent about 3 hours there with our older son on Sunday. It was his third trip, but he does live in NYC and loves modern American art. 😊 I enjoy almost all art so am never disappointed, and they have two nice Edward Hopper paintings at The Whitney. He’s my favorite American painter. I really loved The Woman in Gold movie although I had already been to the Neue Galerie and seen the painting prior. It’s an amazing story. I might just go back there, it’s been a while. We had friends who lived right across the street. Now they live in LA, but not bad digs! Did you ever visit Demel when it was at The Plaza? Incredible!!! They closed there a few years ago and this huge Todd English food hall opened. They are set to reopen in a new location I believe. Our older son loves making Sacher Torte. He just made one over the holidays to take to my parent’s house. The reason the cake is not as chocolatey is because the torte is made with whipped egg whites to give it that airiness versus rich denseness. With the sweet apricot preserves and hit of ganache, plus mandatory whipped cream, it’s a nice combination. Nothing beats the Levain cookie though! Mmm. ❀️

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    1. Yes I saw those Edward Hopper ones, those were my favorites in the Museum. I went to the original Demel in Austria. They have some awesome hot chocolate!
      I can’t believe your son makes Sacher torte, he is talented. Too bad he isn’t my age LOL. It’s not an easy came to make. But totally, I’d take the cookie any day ❀️

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      1. We had Thai food with him and his friends in Soho last night and I sent them home with a chocolate chip walnut, and a double chocolate. They’re probably in a sugar coma still!!! 😜

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  2. The lady who makes my raceday hats and headpieces (sounds bizarre, like I have a pet milliner!) is Austrian. She adores Sacher Torte and often posts pics on her instagram when she finds traditional Austrian delights in this far corner of the globe. Delightful post x.

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    1. You sound like a lady of distinction — “my race day hats” I love it!!!! I like Sacher tortes I just always wish they were more chocolatey! I like my calories to pack a punch 😜❀️🍫🍫🍫

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