Toward the top of Canyon Road, where Palace Avenue terminates and the art galleries taper off, lies a bit of aromatic alchemy. It is there The Teahouse—a fixture of quiet time, tasty teas and mellow ambiance—rests in a little old adobe.
Established in August of 2003, The Teahouse recently acquired a beer and wine license and now operates later into the evening. The food menu also has changed and includes more substantial offerings, a range of nibbling treats and additional sweet temptations. Dionne Christian, who lived in Indonesia before relocating to Santa Fe, founded The Teahouse "for locals and visitors who are genuine tea lovers," but is more importantly striving to craft "a perfect space" to enjoy what she describes as "comfort food."
Christian's idea of comfort food is not your typical spread of grilled cheese, chicken pot pie or brisket. Head chef Francisco Asturias Collado, a New Mexico native, spent the last eight years primarily in Spain attending culinary school and then cooking in cities from San Sebastian to Valencia. Since returning to the US, his emphasis has been on "Farm to Table, bold flavors and creating a community place."
And while the menu and outside patio suits daytime and summer weather most naturally, the beauty of the Farm to Table philosophy lies in its seasonal flexibility.
My taste buds were pleased The Teahouse has a kick-ass garden burger ($10.75), pliant, savory and laden with a blanket of sprouts, shredded carrots, tomatoes and baby greens.
Asturias Collado establishes the base of many sandwiches, salads or rice bowls without meat, but offers numerous add-on proteins. I sampled the Farm to Table entrée rice bowl ($8.75), the steak sandwich ($12.50), the intriguing herbed potato wedges sautéed in duck fat ($10) and, lastly, the paella special ($5.50 for the small). Excepting the paella, the items were a bit under-seasoned for my taste, which is certainly the lesser of two evils in my book with regard to sodium and spice. Foremost, Asturias Collado maintains ingredient freshness and purity. And my umpteenth order of the oatmeal ($4) confirms The Teahouse produces the most gorgeously glopped-up hot cereal known to humankind. It transcends mere porridge and is a divine union of stewed black sticky rice, wheat berries and steel cut oats fortified with maple syrup, butter and clotted cream.
My introduction came as a dare after I scoffed at the idea of eating oatmeal a. at a restaurant and b. as a mid-afternoon snack. Many a fiber-filled dish later, it never disappoints me whether as a hearty breakfast, a winter's midday comfort or a shared post-meal rice pudding-like delight. Who knew clotted cream turned average oats into "mush à la mode" nirvana?
Christian is furthering her quest to provide superb tea accompaniments by attending an intensive baking and pastry course at the San Francisco Baking Institute in the fall. And in its observance of community values, The Teahouse is in the process of transitioning the ownership into a cooperative.
As for its expansion into dinner hours, serving wine and beer is a work in progress that will ebb and flow with the arrival of balmy weather. Christian says her customers kept asking for later hours so she listened. She echoes a philosophy that "every day is a new day and I want to see people happy."
It's hard to argue with that.
Open 8:30 am to 9 pm daily
821 Canyon Road