Tuesday, January 3, 2012

White Oak Tea Tavern

Tucked away in Troutville, VA, in a tall, thin, old style log building that was built in 1783, lies a quaint, dainty tea room.  Containing only about five tables in one room with a couple tables in an upstairs room, the White Oak Tea Tavern offers the tea room classics you would come to expect, and some that you might not. 

For those wanting a tea experience, there is a shelving unit that features about 14 black teas, 3 green teas, 4 fruit teas, and 2 whites.  Several things remind you that White Oak takes their tea seriously.   You can smell each tea before you order.  The tea pots are clear so that you can watch the gradual changes in hue.  The biggest tell, each table has a gadget that has three sand timers to gauge how long you want your tea to seep.  When served, the waitress will recommend which timing option goes best with the tea, and the tea pot is rigged to raise the tea out of the water to stop brewing.   
In a previous summer visit, my parents and I all got the iced tea of the day which was blueberry.  Fruit teas always worry me a little because they can be syrupy and artificial tasting.  This tea had a slight blue tone, but carried a refreshing hint of fresh blueberries.  Pairing a subtle fruit note with a mellow black tea, the tea tastes blueberries having seeped in black tea.  For this visit, I got the seasonal appropriate hot option, Wassail.  White Oak makes their Wassail with White Oak tisane, cloves, cinnamon sticks, sugar, and water.  I think they could cut back a little on the sugar, but I loved the mixture of warm, bright, fruit, and spice.  My Dad described it best as a cross between cranberries and  cherry with a touch of orange. 
Food options are limited to two chicken salad variations—hot and cold—and develop your own sandwich or build your own bagel concoction.  I really have come to appreciate places that offer just a couple of menu options.  It represents a certain care in honing those few items as well as pride in doing them well.   
My parents got the cold chicken salad, the “Chilled Cranberry-Almondine Chicken Salad.”  The description of the cranberry chicken salad boasts that it is made of 21 ingredients.  Between the three of us, my family got to about 16: water chestnuts, three kinds of nuts, dried cranberries, onions, spices, etc.  After brainstorming for the course of the meal, though, we couldn’t quite figure out the rest.  Together, the concoction is more savory than sweet and is served with a carboliciously satisfying, freshly baked “paesano” Italian bread and an oil-balsamic dipping sauce.

Since Mom and Dad got the cold, I tried the warm chicken salad option: the "Baked Spinach and Artichoke Chicken Salad" that is cooked in a paesano bread bowl.  The effect is something that is warm, gooey, rich, and deeply satisfying.  The combination of squishy light bread and rich sauce with big chunks of chicken, artichoke, and swirled with spinach is an effect to be savored and relished.  I don’t often allow myself such a carby and creamy luxury, but I figured I owed it to my blog community to take one for the team. 

White Oak Tea Tavern makes a great place for those wanting to relax with some tea or enjoy a meal.  Make sure to call ahead and make a reservation because table availability is limited.    The helpful staff will do their best to make you feel at home and you will enjoy this quaint, simple definition of a tea room experience.   My Mom described White Oak Tea Tavern as having a homey feel with a step back in time, and I think upon visit that you’ll agree with this observation.  

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