Happy Ending Matcha Friday

My big news for the day: I finally mastered Brioche! And they were beautiful, buttery babies. The recipe was from a Jacques Pepin party cookbook, which I selected for authenticity and because the recipe included booze. (The stuff all good pastries are made of.) But I left work in such a hurry that pictures and recipe will have to wait for tomorrow.

Another recipe coming soon will be olive oil + rosemary brioche. Since the holidays, I have really fallen for my Veganomicon cookbook. Isa, the author, is really amazing and creative with replacing dairy. I have already tried her recipes for Cashew Ricotta, Walnut-Mushroom Pate, Cucumber Cashew Dip (like tzadziki), and Zuchhini Tomato Pancakes. All were amazing. SO today, while perusing my already splattered copy of the big book over a bowl of puffed wheat and soymilk, I dreamed up a dairy-free brioche made with really good extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. Then I thought about the rosemary-studded table bread I used to sneak from the stash in the kitchen at P*ong. I think the combination would make a sublime breakfast food. Stay tuned!

Tonight I took a break from my working weekend to see my friend Gary in a hilarious play called The Lesbian Vampires of Sodom. His costume changes, including gold lamé gladiator skirt, bicycle short with feather boa, and giant afro, were enough to have me rolling in the aisle, but the great acting helped, too. After the show, I was so proud of him, but for some reason, I did not have it in me to go out and celebrate with everyone. Instead, I headed over to this sweet little Japanese teahouse on East 9th Street that I kind of have a crush on right now, for some quiet time and nonalcoholic beverage therapy.

Kristen and I discovered Cha-An one chilly night while wandering around 3rd Avenue looking for a place to celebrate her last day of work with good beer (me) AND good tea (her). We checked out a few places but nothing worked for us. Then I noticed this little glowing sign by a doorway. It looked like you had to get buzzed in, but the door swung open when I pulled it, and we climbed up a flight of stairs and ducked through a curtain. It already had all the symptoms of an Anita favorite. The mood inside was warm and dark, and accented with wood and stone. The navy blue smocked waitresses smiled from behind a low bar, where you could look beyond to an all-girl staffed open kitchen. We were seated at a low table and I enjoyed a truly delicious buckwheat soba beer.

It was more lively inside this time, and I had to wait for a table. But there was a little stone pillar with a softly glowing window at the top for me to stare at while lounging in the waiting area. The waitress stirred me from my trance and led me to a small table. Jean was on the way, but I couldn’t wait for a bright green matcha latte, which was delivered in a big, beautifully painted earthenware bowl. I wrapped my hands around it, took in some steam, tipped it back, and became just as relaxed as could be. At the bottom of the bowl, there were some tiny red beans. That sent me back twenty years, to my first happy ending sundae from Friendly’s–with the Reese’s Pieces at the bottom. And I felt…HAPPY.

Jean arrived and we each ordered a “set,” which turned out to be a multi-course meal of extremely tiny but satisfying dishes. Mine was basically a bowl of multigrain rice porridge with different garnishes, like pickled ume plum (my favorite one) and marinated enoki mushrooms; and some delicate octopus and vegetable fritters. Jean’s included a smoked salmon salad and some soulful-tasting stewed kubocha squash.


We gobbled everything up in a very un-teatime-like way, and were rewarded with these two beautiful desserts, which we decided to savor more slowly. Mine was a square of caramel mousse on a dense and gooey chocolate cake base, and Jean’s was a tea flavored mochi stuffed with sweet red beans. We let each other sneak heavenly bites. The whole meal was less than $40, which is a lot for us, but a great value when you consider the quality of the food and the fact that you get amazing tea (with free refills for most brews), and dessert too.

Cha-An Tea House
230 E. 9th St, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues
East Village


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