Friday, May 13, 2011

Liquid Satisfaction - Tea and Chocolate

Being a connoisseur means that an individual invests considerable time and knows much about the subject matter. When it comes to tea and chocolate, well, I've decided to be a lifelong learner. Thankfully, they pair well together so it makes studying tea and chocolate a delicious culinary endeavor.

Passing The Cacao Bar

It's amazing how my walks around New York's five boroughs usually terminate in food and tea shops. Walking remains my primary form of exercise towards increasing my oxygen intake and all the other good food I intake. Additionally, my doing Pilates sessions regularly help me walk gracefully and maintain an abdominal core conducive to exploring tea and food establishments.

Yes, tea and chocolate rank very close to oxygen as items which add vigor to my life. One day while taking in some oxygen, I developed an intense craving for full, rich, dark chocolate. Wait to exhale?! The desire grew more insistent with every step. Finding a suitable place to satisfy a chocolate desire became my quest. Who knew exercise would have such an effect on the psyche? After considering several therapeutic options, I remembered The Cacao Bar at MarieBelle Chocolate, located at 484 Broome Street, has food, tea and chocolate in abundance. Relief was literally at my feet.

Experiential Education
Although MarieBelle carries a great tea selection, drinking chocolate is a must-have for every first time visitor or tea aficionado craving chocolate. It's also a fantastic place to learn more about chocolate.

Chocolate originates from the seeds of the cacao tree, usually found in tropical climates. These seeds are dried, cleaned and roasted to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground into cocoa mass, rough but pure chocolate. Once liquified, chocolatiers like MarieBelle take the chocolate liquor and transform it into wonderful beverages. For example, the "Spicy" drinking chocolate pictured here features 60-70% Colombian cacao blended with chipotle and ancho chile. How does it taste? Every cup speaks for itself...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rites of Passage - Tea and Commencement

Lady Mendl's Tea Salon (New York, NY)
Rites mark our significant life events. They provide a clear signal for all observers that the familiar and comfortable season has reached its natural conclusion and another new season has begun.

Although subtle cues may preview a work-in-progress, rites officially proclaim major shifts: weddings, graduations, or someone's first afternoon tea. Recently two brilliant young ladies and I shared tea at Union Square/Gramercy Park's Lady Mendl's Tea Salon to commemorate their respective milestones.

Bucket Lists and Final Requests

Diligently pursuing homemade chicken and dumplings and peach cobbler led to my discovering my name included on the college senior  bucket list. Shocked yet intrigued, I wanted to know how "having tea with Ms. Hamilton" merited such an honor. The expression bucket list, popularized by the same-titled movie starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, is a wish list of things someone would like to accomplish before dying, i.e. "kicking the bucket". Thankfully, this list detailed their desired must-do items before graduating and departing New York City.

I consider my inclusion on this bucket list a singular honor simply because there's quite a bit a college student can do in New York. These soon-to-be graduates chose to pause their senior thesis writing, wedding plans, and graduation preparations to receive the rite of afternoon tea. Truly, this tea clearly marked the end of a season.

Herbert Von King Park (Brooklyn, NY)
Time for New Beginnings

Spring is the season which unveils what fall planted and what winter covered. The weather shifts often as each element, e.g. rain, sun, and snow, attempts to navigate the essential seasonal changes. If we are wise, then we learn to appreciate every season for its own characteristics rather attempt to prolong a season which has passed.

Regardless the season, tea continues to smooth whatever turbulence we encounter in our lives. So, let's drink tea and keep things in perspective. Enjoy the season because one day it too will pass. Cups up!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Regal Cupping - Tea at The Painted Teacup

Opening an otherwise uninteresting e-mail inbox, my heart leaped at a recently received invitation. (No, it wasn't to fly to London in time to attend the Royal Wedding. It was an invitation to tea.) Suddenly, the day seemed luminous and I didn't notice the date coincided with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding. Tea makes every day a special occasion. Needless to say, I gladly accepted and made plans to meet great company at The Painted Teacup.

The Painted Teacup (Upper Darby, PA)

Located just outside of Philadelphia's city limits, The Painted Teacup is a Victorian-style tearoom featuring a small staff who delight in making each guest feel like a peer. Even though I didn't wear the faux sapphire ring they provided (pictured), I did appreciate the Royal Wedding-themed tea. The Painted Teacup's decor manages to strike a good balance between being full without seeming cramped.  The overall atmosphere is intimately comforting.

More than tea themes, The Painted Teacup's tea selection features familiar brands like PG Tips, Twinings, Tea Forte' and Stash Tea. Additionally, house blends such as Queen Elizabeth, which combines Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan black teas, are served daily.

Savories Worthy of Sovereigns

Our entire table remarked over just how tasty every morsel was. There were four courses, including an appetizer and a separate dessert plate. Among the savories, the Broccoli Cheddar quiche converted new fans, so I only managed to "help" one person finish hers. The Painted Teacup's attentive staff made sure that our teacups remained full throughout our meal. Considering our copious consumption, this was no small feat.

Tea is a celebration. The Painted Teacup understands this and it showed in every sip and nibble. To seal the memory until the next visit, tea-inspired gifts tempt you at the checkout. This is a tearoom where we resolved to pause often. Cups up for a tea well done!