POSTED ON OCTOBER 17, 2012:
Year of the Dragon
Midtown tearoom offers homey retreat
It's not what one would think of finding at the busy intersection of East 21st and South Harvard Avenue, but right there among a slew of fast food, fast service businesses is Dragonmoon Tea Co.-- almost defiant to the fast-paced motion around it.
Dragonmoon Tea Co. manager, Vladimir Levin, explained how this little oasis came to be. Sisters Sara Creed-Piper and Susan Blair began the business a little over four years ago, naming the place after the tea they were sipping -- Dragonmoon -- while chatting with Susan's daughter, Kelley. The coincidence of the three of them and the three tea leaves which comprise Dragonmoon tea (Assam, Darjeeling, Dimbula Ceylon) coined the name, Dragonmoon Tea Co.
Walking into this house built in 1924 was like walking into a cozy home. A main room (possibly a former sitting room) in this converted house serves as a little shop with more than 100 types of teas (brands such as Rishi Organic, Harney & Sons Fine Tea, Metropolitan Tea Co.) honeys, jellies, jams, lemon curd, fresh pastries, tea pots and more. The first floor has three little rooms for those coming for tea or lunch: the dog room, with paintings from local artist Matt Moffett; the French room, with paintings from French artist Angela Aubrey; and the glass table room, which Levin said "is more intimate, seating just 4-5 people."
We asked to be seated in the dog room, a room which barely accommodated three small tables. Dragonmoon Tea Co. is open for pastries and tea from 10am to 5pm and lunch is served 11am-2:30pm. The menu consists of salads, sandwiches, quiche, soups and desserts. Levin said, "We offer gourmet food at a reasonable price," saying $8.95 is the average price for a meal. Most all is made "from scratch," he said, and most are the sisters' recipes. "We keep everything as healthy as we can. The fruit is especially very fresh and tasty." He especially bragged on the cranberry chutney which he said "is very good and is made in house." This chutney is added to sandwiches, such as the Sliced Breast of Roast Turkey.
Once seated, we ordered our teas and lunch. I selected the Cheddar Apple Croissant ($7.95) which Levin said is a very popular menu item. This sandwich had layers of very thinly sliced Granny Smith apples, sharp white cheddar cheese, Black Forest Cheddar Spread and Stonewall Kitchen maple champagne mustard. I added ham to this for an extra $2. A warm soft and buttery croissant held it together. Great sandwich! The tartness of the apples juxtaposed with the creamy cheesiness throughout the sandwich. For a side, I had the Chilled Rice Salad. This was an interesting mix of dried cranberries, green onion, orange thyme dressing and pecans. Each bite was a surprisingly good (and different) blend of flavors and textures. I enjoyed a pot of the Dragonmoon Tea, a mildly flavored blended black tea, with my meal.
Another person in my party ordered the Mexican Quiche ($8.95), made of cream cheese, green chilies and Monterrey Jack cheese. The quiche was light, with just a hint of spiciness; the green chilies were prominent. The crust was a traditional flaky pie crust, holding up well to the filling. This also came with a side; she chose the fruit salad of mandarin oranges, bananas, pineapples, kiwis and blueberries.
The Croissant Melt ($8.95) was the choice of another diner. This comes with one's choice of sliced turkey or ham with melted cheddar cheese, red onions, tomato and maple champagne mustard. My friend selected the turkey; she particularly enjoyed the champagne mustard taste on this sandwich. The sandwich was tangy, and warm and creamy with the melted cheese. She also had the fruit salad which she said was very fresh and sweet.
One other person had the B.L.T., which Levin said is one of the favorites among guests. It is no ordinary BLT. Made with a croissant, its contents are tomato, lettuce, a creamy sauce and Raisin River Bacon, which Levin said "is a top of the line apple wood-smoked bacon by duBreton." This is grain-fed pork raised without antibiotics.
We said we saved room for dessert -- whether or not we really did. We could not pass up what Dragonmoon had to offer. The options include a selection of three tiny tartlets from apple, key lime, lemon or raspberry; Chocolate Chip Croissant Bread Pudding; Truffles; Baked Chocolate Pudding; Honey Baked Custard; Pumpkin Bread; Zombie Hug Shooter; Fig Moon; Chocolate Peppermint Marshmallow; Raspberry Almond Cookie; and Maple Pecan Tea Cookie--all ranging in price from $5.95 - $1.
I had the Baked Chocolate Pudding ($3.95), which Levin said is one of the best items on the dessert menu. He explained that it is made of only five basic ingredients -- Belgian dark chocolate, cream, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. This dessert is served nicely chilled with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top. The five ingredients bake to perfection; the result is thick and creamy, full-bodied chocolate love. We all agreed it brought back memories of pudding like mom used to make.
The Zombie Hug Shooter($2.95) -- one of us had to order this just because of the name alone -- is served in a slender glass, layered with cinnamon cappuccino mousse and chocolate ganache. This also was topped with a high dollop of whipped cream. It was very creamy, smooth, rich and surprisingly light.
Another had a Raspberry Almond Cookie ($1), a small buttery cookie with raspberry jam baked into the center with a white glaze frosting zigzagging across the cookie. It had a very fresh taste, a perfect pairing of the raspberry and the almond.
Stacked Scones. Sweets and other specialties make a visit to the Dragonmoon Tea Co. a unique experience.
One last dessert we tried was the Honey Baked Custard ($3.95). This was typical custard but made with honey and topped with a sprinkling of nutmeg and cinnamon. It was not too sweet, but very creamy -- a great version of a classic. With hot Dragonmoon tea, it was absolutely perfect.
Levin said Dragonmoon Tea Co. is a place for men and women alike. "We hear that some men are a little hesitant to come here to 'have tea,' but we have many men who dine here for lunch. We're even children friendly -- we're not a stuffy place," Levin said. With advance reservations, Dragonmoon will prepare a proper high tea with quiche and soup among other items for groups.
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