Appetite: Time for tea

William Werner's dessert delights make a fine accompaniment to Naivetea's blends at Kettle Whistle

Ever a fan of a civilized (and delicious) respite for afternoon tea, here I present to you two divergent ways to raise your pinky in the city.

Kettle Whistle at Burritt Room: A gourmand's pop-up tea

Currently scheduled to take place on the last Saturday of every month through October, Kettle Whistle launched its inaugural tea this past week in the spacious back room of Burritt Room's turn-of-the-century-style bar, tucked upstairs in the Crescent Hotel.

The brainchild of pastry chef par excellence William Werner of Tell Tale Preserve Co. and tea mavens Lawrence Lai and Ann Lee of Naivetea, Kettle Whistle is essentially a pop-up high tea, one where ladies (and men) meet over crumpets and scones. But this is no typical tea.

At a pricey $55 per head, it's even more costly than high tea at the stunning Palace Hotel -- but Kettle Whistle has vastly superior food and drinks. Though dishes and tea pairings will rotate, you can be assured of three themed courses: savory bites, followed by scones and crumpets (the passion fruit olive oil curd on this tray will blow your mind -- regular old lemon curd might never seem the same), ending with dessert. There's even a take home bag of tea and a snack (mine came labeled "damn good granola," a savory-sweet mix).

You'll be full after three courses because the savory and dessert courses offer four to five different bites, each from Werner's creative hand. An heirloom tomato sable on a homemade cracker with lemon and a strip of lardo iberico de Bellota was revelatory. Spheres of tomato and pig fat dissolved in my mouth like a dream I wish I could have over and over again. On the dessert platter, a chocolate and salted caramel fondant was silky save for a crispy strip of chocolate on top, enlivened with avocado and lime layers. I'd go back just to see what Werner will serve next.

Naivetea's Taiwanese teas (a local Bay Area company run by Taiwan natives) are elegant, worthy companions -- not overpowering nor overshadowed by any of the courses. My favorite was their award-winning (it recently took home first place at the North American Tea Championship) Dong Ding Oolong, a gentle beauty with backbone, whose toasted rice and caramel notes shine.

Kettle Whistle's two July 23 seatings are already filling up, so I'd look into reserving a spot now. Dress up, wear a hat, and come hungry.

Through October. 417 Stockton, SF. (415) 400-0500,

Rose Tea: Casual tea cafe

Rose Tea, an open, airy new shop, is a peaceful respite off Irving Street that doubles as take-out cafe and flower shop. It's only been open a few weeks, but my two visits there have been rewarded with herbal teas (I like the Fire on Ice: ginger and lime steeped with fresh mint leaves) served in a bottomless pot with a mini-French almond cake and jam for $6.50.

Sandwiches ($5.95-7.50) are made with care on rye bread with sides of fruit and nuts. I liked the chicken, apple, cream cheese, and raisins version, and the feta, avocado, and walnut with tomato and basil. Plates come finished with house macarons or baklava. With what appears to be Armenian and Greek roots (if the jams for sale are any indication), the cafe also offers Turkish coffee, an espresso bar, and spiced rose chai. It's a welcome neighborhood spot for a pot of tea and a bite.

549 Irving, SF. (415) 592-8174,


Subscribe to Virgina's twice monthly newsletter, The Perfect Spot


Related articles

  • Our 50 favorite San Francisco bars -- all on one page!

  • The G50: San Francisco's top bars

    From splashy dives to upscale classics (and everything in between) — our favorite spots to grab a drink

  • Latin highs

    A new chef livens up beloved Italian tradition Oliveto, and sexy Gitane intensifies its regional Spanish focus

  • Also from this author

  • Our 50 favorite San Francisco bars -- all on one page!

  • The G50: San Francisco's top bars

    From splashy dives to upscale classics (and everything in between) — our favorite spots to grab a drink

  • Fresh sips

    Cocktail, food on the side: What to eat when you're sipping around town