Sunshine Café and New Mexico Tea Company
Special trick-or-treat edition! Eat on the sunny side and steep in tradition.
A late brunch and a nice cup of tea—is there a better way to spend a Sunday? (It sure beats finding blender recipes to alleviate my massive, pounding hangover and surfing Cartoon Network.)
These days, lox on a bagel and a mug of Moroccan mint tea are all I need to put an end to a long week, and Sunshine Café graciously supplied me with the grub while the New Mexico Tea Company hooked me up with several ounces of pure loose-leaf enjoyment.
The entire menu includes a lot of fresh ingredients, seasonal produce and organic products—even an organic white wine.
The sun had passed the yardarm, so I sampled some. A few sips into a glass of the 2006 Snoqualmie “Naked” organic Riesling left me perplexed. It tasted extremely young, as though I’d picked an underripe pear off a tree and took a few bites. There was just no complexity at all. The nose was green but not grassy, and it disappeared from my palate faster than a Jehovah’s Witness from my doorstep.
Sparky employee Carrie had taken my order of lox and a bagel ($6.50), goat cheese and fresh herb omelet ($7.25) and biscuits and gravy ($6.95) with a side of bacon ($1.25).
Together, the brunch (served Sundays from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.) reminded me of Duran Duran’s uneven catalog of albums—the first dish was good, the second meh, I liked the next dish but the bacon was meh.
The lox and bagel was a good-sized portion. Dill and capers came ingeniously blended into thick layers of cream cheese, the salmon was of excellent quality and the tomatoes were beautifully ripe. My omelet was fluffy with eggs and dotted throughout with creamy, pungent goat cheese. The profusion of artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes that came inside it, however, were just plain overwhelming.
My biscuits and gravy were pretty darn great. The biscuit was actually a house-made green chile/white cheddar scone, which came covered with house-smoked ham and a rich béchamel sauce (a classic white sauce made of butter, flour and milk or cream).
The ham was surprising. It was so pale—almost white—that I mistook it for sliced turkey. Apparently I'm not the only one who's done it: According to Carrie, the house-cured ham is sans the nitrates that give conventional hams that bright pink color and iridescent rainbow sheen.
The bacon was not exciting. I prefer the super-thick applewood smoked slabs glittering with pepper. This bacon was thin and really salty and lacking the abundant tour de smoke I love.
Sunshine's lunch and dinner menu features a grip of fine, filling sandwiches. The smoked salmon and mascarpone I devoured was dreamy with hints of lemon on toasty whole wheat bread. A roasted turkey and avocado was killer with a dogpile of house-smoked turkey, warm green chile mashed with meaty avocado, thick slices of moist, earthy Brie, butter lettuce, tomatoes and red onion slices on a dense, white baguette dressed with Dijon vinaigrette.
Stuffed, I walked across the street to the store that supplies Sunshine Café with its robust menu of teas and herbal infusions. New Mexico Tea Company is a small, super-classy storefront owned by 26-year-old entrepreneur David Edwards. I had an absolute blast hanging out and chatting with him about loose-leaf teas, blends and the comparative merits of the new silky pyramid tea bags (turns out they allow more room for tea leaves to expand) versus the old pillow-style dippers.
Edwards is a tea lover’s wet dream—his noggin houses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of everything tea-related.
“All tea comes from the same plant, all four types: black, green, white and oolong,” he said. Then he enlightened me about trendy herbal infusions like Rooibos.
“They’re called tisane [pronounced tee-saan], which means anything that is not tea, like leaves, twigs and berries,” he explained.
Edwards’ collection of teas is quite sophisticated and seems to have something for everyone.
The greens are comprised of gunpowder, sencha, matcha and long ching, the blended greens include Moroccan mint, genmai cha (with the little toasty popped rice kernels), jasmine pearl and a mint-and-lemon gunpowder blend. He carries traditional, pure black teas like lapsang souchong (think deep wood smoke), assam and ceylon, and black blends like Scottish breakfast, huckleberry black, black jasmine cream and Russian caravan.
I purchased an ounce each of jasmine pearl ($5.50), masala chai in sachets (Edwards blends this himself with black pepper, $.65 each) and Casablanca ($3.44), which is my new personal favorite. Casablanca's dueling flavors of green and black teas, infused with mint and bergamot, is spectacular any time of day.
When I asked Edwards if he had any advice to share with newbie tea drinkers, he smiled and said, “Pick a tea you like, and drink a lot of it. It’s really good for you—lots of different antioxidants in both green and black.”
Words to steep by, if ever I heard them.
The Alibi Recommends:
Roasted turkey and avocado sandwich
Smoked salmon and mascarpone sandwich
Sunshine Café, 1134 Mountain NW, 242-1499. Hours: Mon-Thu 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday brunch 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Price range: moderate. Credit cards, beer and wine, large parties, kid’s menu, gourmet frozen takeout dinners, bakery, tea and coffee.
New Mexico Tea Company, 1131 Mountain NW, 962-2137. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. every day. Price range: more than Lipton, but that’s a good thing. Credit Cards, tea, teaware, incense and incenseware and, yes, they have the blooming tea flowers. Tea tastings on Friday evenings from 6-7 p.m., and tea classes with tea expert Yatoe Huang, call for details.