What possibiliTEAs!

20140718-161401.jpgDobra Tea is an excellent place to go if you’re looking for a low-key hangout where you can take your time, enjoy yourself and your company, and just lounge for a few hours. Their service is interesting: upon arrival, they deliver a menu and a bell to your table. After that, whenever you want or need something, you ring the bell and their friendly staff will come over to help you. (This means that if you never ring the bell, nobody will ever come to your table — an important point to listen to when they stop by your table to greet you.) At first, I didn’t know what to make of this kind of service, but it grew on me. Mostly, it means that their servers are not in a rush to get clients in and out; instead, you’re welcome to take your time and stay at your leisure.

The small menu of food items is fresh, locally-sourced, and tasty and the tea selection is…quite frankly, it’s off the hook. This means you won’t run out of good options to keep your table stocked if you decide to sit for several hours (as many of their guests frequently do). Their service is friendly and informative, and the atmosphere is unique. Definitely worth a visit to see if this is (ahem) your cup of tea!

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Wicked Weed Brewing on Urbanspoon

A True Treat

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I visited Treats in Wiscasset, Maine, several times during the short time I was in town. Their cute interior design made it a pleasure to stop in, and their creative menu added an element of surprise to my morning scones. My favorite scones were the Strawberry Rhubarb scone (above) and the Ginger scone. I also experienced some made-to-order vegan cupcakes (ginger) that we had for a friend’s birthday. They were, like the scones, a real delight. In addition to their delicious baked goods, Treats also boasts an extensive selection of Harney & Sons teas, and great, friendly service. I think this is one of the most aptly named food establishments I’ve been to. The name really does say it all!

Treats on Urbanspoon

A (Yummy) Elephant in the Room

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I went to Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro in Portland, Maine, and it was such a treat! First off, the decor was really lovely — contemporary chic meets classy & cozy. I was with friends, so we ordered several dishes and sampled off of one another’s plates. I started with the Fresh Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce (above), which were extremely light; they were mostly lettuce, with carrots, avocado, rice vermicelli, and mint wrapped in rice paper and served…and they were great for a warm summer day.

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I also tried the Hot & Spicy Soy Sticks (above), which were made of soy chicken on bamboo skewers and were covered in a spicy garlic-chili-cilantro sauce. I also sampled a friend’s salad (below), which was a seasonal special topped with fried fiddleheads! I’d never had a fiddlehead before, let alone heard of one, and they were really scrumptious!

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Finally, to finish everything, I had a cup of tea. Green Elephant serves teas by a local company called Homegrown Herb & Tea, and I had one of their hibiscus fruit teas that was absolutely delicious. It was a nice, light way to round off a fresh dinner.

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Green Elephant on Urbanspoon

Afternoons in Maine

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The afternoon I arrived in Portland, Maine, I stopped by a cute little cafe called Mornings in Paris. I just wanted a light snack and a refreshing beverage, so I picked a mini cupcake out of the case — a chocolate cupcake with strawberry frosting made from real, fresh strawberries (above). To complement the cupcake, I ordered a Green Tea Frappé (below), which was light and airy. The cafe itself was super cute, with bright table cloths on all the tables, tin ceiling tiles, and eclectic decorations. Even though I was only there for half an hour, this was a really great little place that I could see myself spending long hours in if I lived nearby.

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Mornings in Paris on Urbanspoon

Best. Galaxy. Ever.

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The Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. It’s an entirely-vegetarian restaurant, but not even the most avid meat-eaters would be able to find fault with it. The food is incredible. The staff is friendly and fun, and really quirky. The diner is super-cute inside. And have I mentioned the food? The food is to die for. I wish I lived in Cambridge just so I could eat at the VG every day. The first time I went (because, yes, even though I was just visiting I ended up making return visits to the VG) I ordered the Cambridge Street Omelette (above). Oh my goodness, was it delicious! The omelette is stuffed with chipotle black beans, roasted red pepper puree, Vermont jack cheese, and sweet corn…and the whole thing is topped with a homemade shallot and apple salsa. It was so good I almost want to fly back to Boston and stop by right now.

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Of course, I also ordered their hot tea, because that’s what I do with breakfast. I had several options to choose from, and was also offered not just cream, but regular milk and soy milk as well. It’s wonderful to have options! And speaking of options, have I mentioned the dessert case yet? The vegan dessert case? I took a picture of it (below) because it was so amazing.

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I ended up walking away with a slice of the Coconut Citrus Layer Cake (front and center in the picture below), and a friend of mine walked away with a slice of the cheesecake (that beautiful concoction that’s topped with strawberries and blueberries in the picture below). I have never had vegan cheesecake, but this one was every bit as delicious as any non-vegan cheesecake I’ve ever had. I don’t know how they did it, but boy oh boy did they ever do it! Both desserts were incredible.

So you can imagine why I went back for more. I returned another day and ordered the Stuffed French Toast for breakfast (below). *Best. Decision. Ever.* What’s it stuffed with? Vanilla Nut Vegan Cream Cheese, that’s what! And it’s topped with Caramelized Banana Butter, Strawberry Basil Sauce (an unexpected but absolutely delicious choice), and Maple Syrup. It was so good! As I mentioned earlier, the Veggie Galaxy is one of my all-time favorite restaurants in the world. It’s at least in the top 5, but might be right up there at #1. You definitely have to give it a try if you’re ever in the area. You won’t be disappointed!

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Veggie Galaxy on Urbanspoon

Tabard Inn Restaurant

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We The Restaurant at Hotel Tabard Inn is a lovely old joint. It’s full of nooks and crannies, and the bar staff is incredibly sociable and nice. While I was a guest at the hotel itself, I made a habit of swinging by the bar in the evenings on my way up to my room and grabbing a hot cup o’ tea to take with me. They serve Harney & Sons tea, and always gave me my tea with a side of cream, sugar, and lemon. I also ate at The Restaurant for the complimentary breakfast. Oh man, this was the best complimentary breakfast I’ve ever had. The scones were literally fresh out of the oven (I was there really, really early), so they were all warm on the inside, and steamed when I broke them open. They were some of the best scones I’ve ever had. So yummy! On my last day in town, I also spent a few hours in the lounge portion of the restaurant — a cozy room with dark wood walls, an eclectic assortment of old stylish old furniture, and a cozy candlelit vibe.

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Tabard Inn on Urbanspoon

Rainy Day Fare

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I had never heard of Le Pain Quotidien prior to the day I ended up on their doorstep during a rainstorm. I was wandering around Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, when this happy bit of inclement weather occurred. Luckily, Le Pain Quotidien’s Dupont Circle location was nearby, and what a great place it ended up being for me to dry myself off and have a delicious lunch. The waitstaff was friendly and efficient, and the food was really tasty. I started with the Organic Black Bean Hummus Tartine (pictured below) — one of their signature open-faced sandwiches. In this case, it was served with avocados, roasted red peppers, radishes, black bean hummus spread, and spicy tahini (which I opted not to use). I did use the lemon wedge to spritz some extra tartness onto the tartine, and it was a yummy choice.

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After my main course, I ordered a pot of Earl Grey tea (below), which came in the cutest little tea pot and bowl-like cup ever. To complement my tea, I ordered a tart sampler (pictured at top) consisting of a chocolate tart, blueberry tart, pistacio tart, and (my personal favorite) a lemon tart. It was a delicious experience, and even though I’m not usually a fan of large chains (and Le Pain Quotidien is a huge worldwide chain!) this one is vegan-friendly, healthy, and fun. I’d recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re caught in the rain while wandering around Dupont Circle!

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Le Pain Quotidien on Urbanspoon

Zen Lunch

Zen Cha Tea Salon in Columbus, Ohio’s Short North district is one of the best places to go on a snowy winter day. It’s warm and steamy inside, and the staff is always helpful and friendly. It seems that every time I visit Zen Cha I’m offered a free sample of the day’s featured tea, complete with a brief but illuminating explanation of its flavor and benefits. I usually linger for a few hours working, socializing, or both, and the staff is always pleasant and nice. They never try to hurry me along, and appear to be quite happy to host me for as long as I stay.

The tea selection at Zen Cha is hard to beat. They have Chinese, Japanese, Indian, French, and English teas (And more!) and a delightfully creative menu to complement this selection. I’m a fan of their hazelnut chai, personally, and get it almost every time I’m there.

This time, I also ordered the Earl Grey Apple Brie sandwich (above), which comes with tea-infused apples, cinnamon, cranberry compote, walnuts, and lettuce. It was absolutely incredible: warm, sweet & savory, and flavorful without being overpowering.

For dessert, I split the Tea Cookies (a set of 2 for $2.50, pictured above) with a friend. We got 1 lavender cookie and 1 chai cookie, and they were well worth the small cost.

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A Sweet Start

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I used to eat at Jeannine’s Bakery and Restaurant when I still lived in Santa Barbara, California. I remembered them for their relaxed and sunshiny atmosphere and their scrumptious baked goods, and when I went back after about 7 years, they were just as good as I remembered them. Perhaps better, since their menu strikes me as being more creative than it was last time I was around (but that’s based sheerly on old memories, so don’t quote me on that). I knew immediately that I had to try their coconut and pineapple scone (pictured above). Oh man, it was incredible. And my friend ordered the strawberries and cream scone (below), which was equally delicious. The strawberry scone was milder and would have been great with a glass of cold milk, while the coconut scone was just amazing all on its own. Of course, for old time’s sake I also had to get a croissant for later (pictured at bottom), and it was just as light and fluffy as I remembered it being. I’ll be back next time I’m in town, and you can believe I’ll be counting down the days for this treat.

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Jeannine's Bakery - Upper State on Urbanspoon

Tea Surprise

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The Tehku Tea Company in Dublin, Ohio, is one of my favorite winter hideouts. Their staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and their tea selection is creative and expansive. This isn’t your ordinary assortment of black, white, and green teas. In addition to the standard fare, Tehku offers an eclectic mix of blended teas with names like Holiday Dream and Sweet Paradise. They also have a nice selection of snacks and light meals to complement their tea selection. I only planned to order the lemon-poppyseed scone (on the right side of the plate), but I was seduced by the aroma of the cranberry matcha scones (on the left side of the plate) that were baking in the oven as I ordered. The gentleman behind the counter was kind enough to bring me my scones as soon as the cranberry matcha scones were finished baking, so I had two fresh scones — one wonderfully warm and fresh out of the oven. He was also very thoughtful and, since I’d said I’d be working there for a few hours, opened a tab for me so I could order more food and tea as I wished without having to use my card each time.

Tehku Tea on Urbanspoon

fushion tea house

photo by Anne Jansen

Now that I’ve been to the Zen Cha Tea Salon, I can’t believe it took me almost three years to try this place out! Not only do they have a fabulous tea assortment with over 50 different kinds and flavors — ranging from Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.) to European (English, French) — but they have amazing food as well. I tried their veggie Chinese Dumplings (pictured below) and their Samosas (above), and both were scrumptious. If I had to recommend only one, I’d have to push for the Samosas because their flaky crusts were baked to perfection, and that mint yogurt dipping sauce was the most refreshing complement to these tasty little treats. After one visit, I’ve become a repeat customer. The ambiance of this little tea salon is warm and romantic, and in the winter the windows steam up from the constantly-brewing tea, making it a great place for couples on a cold winter’s night. Rumor has it they’ve got an amazing brunch…I hope to blog about it soon!

photo by Anne Jansen

o-high-o tea

photo by Anne Jansen

After two years of living in Columbus, I finally found my way to a place that serves a decent afternoon tea: the Cambridge Tea House in Marble Cliff (near Grandview). This little tea house had a delicious high tea for a reasonable price, and they really served up a great tea. I made reservations a day in advance (a good thing because it was packed for lunch when we went) and requested that one of the teas be made vegetarian.

photo by Anne Jansen

They were happy to oblige me, and while most of their sandwiches were veg-friendly (I’m an ova-lacta vegetarian, meaning I eat eggs and dairy — if I wasn’t, I’d have had to tell them) they did go out of their way to alter the grape and tuna tart for me, giving me a carrot and hummus tart (pictured above) instead. The other sandwiches, pictured below, included a uniquely spiced egg salad sandwich and a wonderful apple, cheese, and almond sandwich.

photo by Anne Jansen

They also had the requisite scones (pictured below), which were their currant scone (a regular fixture at the CTH) and the scone of the day. Both were delicious, baked to perfection.

photo by Anne Jansen

Finally, to conclude the tea (and by the way, the tea itself was amazing — I’d recommend the Florence tea, a hazelnut and chocolate black tea, to anyone who enjoys a sweet cuppa) there were two different desserts (both pictured below): a chocolate mini-muffin with creamy peanut butter frosting, and a refreshing lemon pastry with a fresh raspberry on top. If you enjoy afternoon tea, you should definitely give the Cambridge Tea House a try!

photo by Anne Jansen

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