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For My Mother's Birthday Brunch in a Nostalgic Place: “Peacock Alley Restaurant"

What do you get the woman that has everything, including me?
It turns out the answer would be found right in front of my face. As the bright light from my computer blinded me one morning I somehow ended up with the perfect way to celebrate my mother’s birthday. The answer was to partake in the infamous, historic Sunday Brunch at Peacock Alley Restaurant in the magnificent Waldorf Astoria right here in New York City. I don’t know how it didn’t occur to me to do it sooner.
My mother’s birthday is a national holiday in my house. I am serious ask anybody. She always insists on having a birthday week and I can remember years not long ago when she had a birthday that seemed to go on for months. There are always surprise guests, incredibly thoughtful gifts from her children, her favorite blue roses from my dad, and pretty much anything else you can think of. I think the only thing that could top those amazing gifts is perhaps the food that surrounds her birthday; for sure we are all going to eat our hearts out that day.
Since I went to Stone Park Café back in May of this year ( I had been planning to celebrate my mother’s birthday brunch there. That would have been excellent and I still plan to go back there before the year is up.
But once I landed on the Waldorf brunch there was no turning back. I mean how could I? The glitz, the glamour, the history, and tradition were too much for me. I HAD to go.
When the big day arrived my brother and I decided not to tell my mother where we were going. The surprise just upped the anty. Instead we just shoved our three Sunday wearing best selves into an Uber and off we went to the Big Apple.
I knew she wouldn’t have guessed this was where we were going in a million years. When we pulled up we were down a side street so we had a few more moments before our surprise was announced. To say that she was thrilled was an understatement.

I ran into that hotel like I had been waiting to all my life. You see I have paid to be at the Waldorf Astoria before but never actually went there. On my parent’s twenty-fifth anniversary some years ago, my brother and I sent them to the hotel, as it was where they spent their honeymoon. We had prearranged the travel and the day/evening plans. Again I say I am a good gift giver ( Now it was my turn to visit if only for the brunch.
According to the Waldorf Astoria, Peacock Alley became famous as the place where anyone who is anyone wanted to be.
“Peacock Alley became so famous and popular that its moving population on any day could total 25,000 or more. On days when a president, prince, or other notable visited the hotel, upwards of 35,000 people might visit the grand promenade…the city’s most extravagant Sunday Brunch that wrapped around the famous two-ton, nine-foot clock from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.”
It appears nothing has changed. When its not broken there is no need to fix it.
Besides being world renowned for beauty and quality service has also led to the creation of some infamous dishes. The Waldorf salad seems like an obvious one but I had never had it before. Everything was proportioned out in these circular bowls that I saw as nearly everybody walked by with one. On my second or third trip (they all kind of fused together) back to the buffet I grabbed one. I have to say it wasn’t my cup of tea. It was a salad more like coleslaw than tossed salad with grapes and walnuts and what looked like a Pepperidge Farm Pirouette wafer stuck in there. I was confused more than impressed but when at the Waldorf…

The next dish I didn’t actually have at the Waldorf that day but have had it before and no doubt some of you will have also. It is Eggs Benedict. That is more my speed. I had planned to have some that morning/afternoon but I had to do some triage and I didn’t have any room for things I have already had no matter how tasty. I meant business people. Fancy buffets are not for the weak at heart.

The third original dish is one I know you have had: red velvet cake! I would have never assumed this was not created in the South. I don’t know what about it made me think so but so it was. I have never been a fan of that red chocolate tasting cake with cream cheese frosting until I had it here. The hotel brought it over to sing happy birthday as well as complimentary champagne for a toast. It was perfection! It’s a shame everyone’s birthday can’t be celebrated here.
I shoveled that cake in my face so fast I couldn’t believe what I tasted! I am now permanently ruined for red velvet cake for the rest of my life, such a small price to pay for such a treat.
I also loved the individual baked Alaska pops they were making. It was frozen and hot at the same time. If I was on death row it is what I would order for dinner.
In addition the almond creamed croissants went down so fast I am not even sure how many I had. The rest of the food is sort of blurry. I know I tried and enjoyed the lobster bisque soup. There were bites upon countless bites of other foods I can’t seem to live without despite them escaping my memory right now.
Anything else you need to know about the food you will find out by watching this video.
As if I needed any other reasons to attend this brunch: it is considered one of the top ten brunches in NYC by OpenTable as well as one out of the four brunch exceptions by the Wall Street Journal. But my favorite recommendation came from Conde Nast Traveler- a magazine I am devoted to. They listed the brunch at Peacock Alley as number seven on their list of the most amazing unknown facts about NYC, the fact being that this is the location where Eggs Benedict was created. Another fact I learned from the hotel itself is that the honey, fruit, and vegetables they use are harvested from a roof top garden! The more I learn the more I love.
On a related side note, I swear, has anyone been watching The Knick on Cinemax? The repeats will eventually air on their sister channel HBO. I am a HUGE fan of that show. It combines many elements that I love namely history, true stories, and my fair city. For those who don’t know it is a period drama-taking place in New York City in the early 1900s and how medicine was practiced. Everything is exceptionally done mostly particularly by their leading man Clive Owen.
Any hoo, while doing some research for this blog I accidentally stumbled onto a site that linked the Waldorf Astoria and The Knick. It turns out that in 1867 the Women’s Hospital moved to the location that now houses the aforementioned Waldorf Astoria. Additionally:
“This had been the burial ground for New York in the 1832 cholera outbreak. 47,000 coffins were dug up to make way for the new construction. In 1906 Woman's Hospital moved to 110th Street and Amsterdam. In 1953 it was merged with St. Luke's Hospital, forming St. Luke's Hospital Center. Finally, in 1965, it was moved to 114th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, just across the street from St. Luke's.”
This is what I love most about New York City; you literally never know what you will find from the past in the present. The secrets held by the land adds layer on top of layer of mystery and history.

For those who intend to attend brunch beware that it does not occur during the summer months returning at the begging of September. At the beginning of October the price jumps slightly higher so make sure you are paying close attention to the dates when making your reservation, which by the way is mandatory to get in when you want. I suggest making it at least a month or two out from the date you envision to make sure there are still openings, this is especially true for large parties.

No matter what they are worth EVERY single dollar, nickel, or penny you have scrapped together just to be there. I promise you will not regret it that is until its time to go home again and back to the land of reality. We tried to avoid that at all costs staying until it closed at two p.m.
Some people might feel out of place at such an exquisite venue. I am not one of those people.
The fancier the transport, venue, activity, the more I feel at home despite living outside of my means. These occasions are rare so I make sure I enjoy every single second.
For me, living like this just feels right. And of course now my mother agrees.
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