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Travel Files: Artisanal Teas at Brooklyn’s Bellocq Atelier; In Cambridge, Ana Sortun’s Spice-Infused Cuisine

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Bellocq Tea Atelier, based in an “elegantly rustic former warehouse in Brooklyn,” gives a 21st century twist to the fusty English tea party, says Martha Stewart Living. Photo credit: Bellocq Tea Atelier.

Do you keep files on places you visit often (or destinations where you only dream of going)? I cerainly do. Here are a few spots I’m adding to the New York and Cambridge lists.

In “A New Leaf” (Martha Stewart Living, March 2012), Jenny Comita describes the the way Brooklyn’s Bellocq Tea Atelier has reinvented the traditional English tea party. “When in the mood to entertain, they light a candle in the window of their shop….Inside, guests might find an accordion player, a chocolatier hosting a tasting, or beekeeper debuting his honey—and they most certainly will be offered… [a] novel cocktail, blended with tea.”

One of those cocktails is The White Nixon, a blend of white tea and lavender with fresh Ruby Red grapefruit juice, vodka and ginger liqueur. Bellocq’s tea palette includes several unusual blends such as Majorelle Mint, a stunning (I’ve tasted it) take on Moroccan mint tea in which the herb is combined with marigold, citrus and green tea, and Le Hammeau, a fragrant herbal tisane mixing lemongrass, verbena, lavender, rose petals, mint and sage. (Wouldn’t this be prefect for la pause?)

The article, which recommends tea and snack pairings, such as Ceylon with fresh fruit, provides recipes for unusual teatime sweets such as jasmine shortbread and chocolate pots de crème with mahleb, a nutty Middle Eastern spice made from cherry kernels.

The dark moody atmosphere of the photographs accompanying Comita’s article is vaguely reminiscent of features in the late lamented Gourmet. One of Bellocq’s founders is a former food editor at MS Living.
And in Saveur….

In “Spice of Life,” (Saveur, March 2012, pp. 20-21), Corby Kummer, restaurant critic for Boston Magazine, writes about Ana Sortun’s ‘Levant inspired cuisine” at her 11 year old Cambridge restaurant, Oleana,and its newer “sister café,” Sofra Bakery.

Noting that Sortun’s cooking has become bolder and more experimental over time, Kummer describes a recent meal at Oleana. It included a dish of fideos, “a Spanish specialty, which she makes by roasting broken vermicelli, then simmering it in a broth infused with saffron, vanilla, fennel, coriander, chiles and cocoa…” Also on the table: “Chickpea terrine stuffed with apricots, golden raisins, pistachios, topped with a tahini sauce fragrant with Aleppo chile, cinnamon and cumin….”

At Sofra, a casual café with a seasonal menu, Kummer grazes on “piquant beet tzatziki, sweet Moroccan carrot salad, and romano beans stewed in plaki, a sweet-tart tomato onion sauce…” as well as yufka, “a nutty flatbread…made on a saj, a drum-shaped griddle that was produced for Sofra in Lebanon….”

The last time I was at Sofra I was entranced by the sight of a chef cooking dough on the saj, but then an ear-splitting fire alarm went off and nearly everyone fled the café. It was frigid outside and after 15 minutes of standing in the snow, I decided the the yufka would have to wait for a reurn visit.

You can find an interview with Ana Sortun and a review of her cookbook, Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, right here on SpiceLines.

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