28 January 2010

The Best Afternoon Tea in New York City

It's not where you think.

As promised with yesterday's blueberry coffeecake muffins recipe, here's where to go and linger over a perfect pot and pastries that you will swear have come from the gods: Locanda Verde (377 Greenwich St.).

I think I have found my spirit baker, and it is pastry chef Karen DeMasco. It's almost embarrassing to admit I've tasted- OK, inhaled- practically everything offered here, but it is all absolutely irresistible: lemon-rosemary scones, olive oil coffeecake, pistachio-huckleberry tart, apple cider donuts, pumpkin spice bread, even a straight-up buttermilk biscuit slathered with quince butter.

And hold on to your hot water, because Locanda Verde also has well-prepared, high-quality loose-leaf tea. That may not seem terribly exciting, but in all the tea drinking I've done here in New York City, it's shocking but true: most restaurants- the fanciest, high-end afternoon tea spots included- cannot brew a decent cup. Either they use dusty old teabags or pay no attention to water temperature and brewing time, resulting in a bitter, overpriced drink.

But you don't have to take it anymore. A selection of three pastries ($11) and a pot of loose-leaf tea ($4) here is about half of what you'd pay for a hotel high tea, and it is all prepared with outstanding care. The tea is from In Pursuit of Tea, one of the better large loose-leaf merchants (try the intriguingly lilac-scented nantou oolong, or the springy, vibrant lemon verbena), and the staff is trained to treat it right: the leaves are steeped for the correct amount of time, then removed before the pot is brought to your table.

And keep in mind, this is from a restaurant, not someplace promoting itself as a tea shop. Could this be an indication that chefs and owners realize tea is as precious and venerable an ingredient as organic, locally-sourced produce or sustainably-caught seafood? Let's hope so.

If you live so far from New York that tears are now mixing with your drool, be heartened: DeMasco's new cookbook The Craft of Baking has many of the treats served at Locanda Verde, and they're truly simple and satisfying to make.

All you have to do is bake some cookies or quick breads, plate them on cutting board, and brush up on how to brew a perfect cup. It will be almost as good.


Anonymous said...

happy 2 c new blogs

Unknown said...

Ooh, neat! I've never been there but a (now former) classmate of mine was interning there during school. I'll have to go check it out - that oolong sounds magical and I've heard such great things about Karen Demasco and her pastries!

montague said...

lemon rosemary scone? yes please!

cha sen said...

I certainly hope that there's a trend afoot of restaurants serving real quality teas as well as brewing them properly. I found out recently that there are several high end foodie places in Chicago which have started doing that. What a concept, food and good tea going hand in hand and hand:)

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Anonymous said...

Oh, how spendid! Finally, proper tea in NY! I used to live stateside, a favourite trip was NY shopping, but this Brit was living abroad without her tea! Have you found tea and sympathy in Trebecca? I loved their puddings. I have just started to blog, about tea and living, with Britishness and tea shops and afternoon tea for inspiration, would be mavellous if you could take a sneek peak:Cornish Delight at Carnewas Tea Room « Tea With Mary Kate – Inspiration for Tea and Living http://bit.ly/bnkStp look forward to hearing from you, k

Unknown said...

Hi Ana,
Judy R and I are having fun reading your blog.