Sunday, March 29, 2009

Don't TEAse Me: Williamsburg Tea Houses

During the week, I prefer my caffeine in its strongest form: coffee. For most, I think its a necessity for powering through the workday. Weekends, however, are a different story. You have time to sip, savor, recouperate and enjoy the antioxidant power of the ancient healing potion: tea.

Alright, I'm not going to act like there are any ancient teahouses near me in hipsterville. But there are a couple of places I have been frequenting more often now that spring is here. Greenpoint doesn't have any teahouses, but Williamsburg sure has its share. First up: Saint's Alp Tea House. I actually had my first bubble tea experience at Saint's Alp on the lower east side when I first moved to NYC. I wasn't a big fan of it; I think it's an acquired taste. But now that I'm an old hand at hunkering down those gobs of tapioca from an oversized straw, I was all about it when I saw they opened an outpost on Bedford Ave. It's orange, it's sterile, the plastic chairs make you think you're back at the kiddie table, but that's OK with me. Bubble tea really is a kid type of drink to begin with, right? Unless, of course, we're talking about the vodka green tea that used to be served at Bar Q (RIP).

We went with a bunch of friends and we all tried something different: black tea, chocolate, coconut, etc. Pretty tasty. And, more importantly, fun.

Saints Alp Teahouse
164 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 486-3888

The other Williamsburg spot recently put on the brunch rotation is the Roebling Tea Room. They have over 70 types of tea to speak of, and each is served in an individual pot so you can steep til your heart's content. I've tried a few so far, and haven't been crazy wowed by any of them. The almondina is probably my favorite, it's sweet and tastes faintly like a Christmas cookie. I tried the red macadamia last time with milk and honey; it wasn't very memorable, as the others I have tasted. The food and the atmosphere make up for it, though. It has the quaint bustling feel a Brooklyn warehouse-type place should. The gorgeous green wallpaper evokes an old-timey fox hunt. And the menu actually serves up a few unique options. No huevos rancheros or eggs benedict here. I'm not hating on these weekend favorites, but sometimes you need a change of pace.

The steak tartar with a deviled egg and truffle oil can be a bit much for the first thing in the morning, but if you're up for it, it's a treat. Great quality meat, and the mushy egg and steak is well-complemented by the crispy pieces of bread. They don't give you very much, but I guess that's a good thing. It's probably not all that great for you. The fruit dish with apples, pears, honey, mint and walnuts is a good accompanyment. Makes you feel a little less guilty for eating all that raw meat.

Rob's favorite is the cheddar baked eggs with grits and fennel toast with apple butter. The eggs are a little heavy for me, but that toasted bread is both sweet and savory.

I wouldn't get the drunken beans again, because, too many beans. But it has a great strong flavor -- whisky, maybe? -- but it just gets boring after awhile. Maybe it's missing something? The well-done egg halves and generous heaping of shredded cheddar is appreciated, though.

I'd recommend the ricotta and fig paste on toast. Great soft cheese, but that one can get a bit boring too. The side dishes help spice things up a bit -- bacon, sausage, grits or above mentioned fruit and honey.

There are still a few other Williamsburg tea places I've been meaning to try. Blackbird Parlour is at the top of that list right now. I have yet to find that perfect atmosphere in which to enjoy my weekend drink of choice.

Roebling Tea Room
143 Roebling St. at Metropolitan
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 11211
(718) 963-0760

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