I’ve got a black belt in keeping it real

On a recent rainy (football) Saturday, Dan and I ventured right into the belly of the beast; the eye of the storm. I had a hankering for miso soup and cupcakes and no crazed badger fans nor a lack of parking for a 3-mile radius was going to stop me. We negotiated the sea of red and white with my station wagon as our trusty vessel and headed straight for Monroe Street. Our destination? Macha Teahouse. We miraculously found a parking spot and sloshed our way (opposite the crowd) through the puddles and into the dry and warm tea lounge.

Despite what you may have heard,* Macha Teahouse is not owned and operated by the black belt and civil engineer-former manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, Ken Macha. But it is run by these friendly folks. We were greeted immediately upon entering and directed to take a look at the chalk board menu of teas. The selection may seem a little overwhelming, but don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations. Dan prefers his tea coffee-flavored, but I like to embrace my Scottish roots and drink tea occasionally, especially in the afternoon (it’s tea time!). We ordered a variety of black tea, two cups of miso soup and a dark chocolate and zucchini cupcake. Our host inquired if it was our first visit to Macha, which it was Dan’s- I had once ordered an iced tea to go a couple of years prior which I felt validated my comment, ‘Oh no, I have been here before’ (after living in a tourist destination for several years I have a heightened sensitivity to coming off as a gaper). But because it was Dan’s, we also had a few tea cookies thrown in with our order to sweeten Dan’s first visit.

The atmosphere at Macha is serene…

…yet eclectic.

I love manatees.

We took our tray upstairs to a room painted pink where we sat at a low wooden table with pillows as our seats.

Our tray came with a sand-timer hourglass that kept track of the minutes that our tea was to steep in its shiny ceramic black pot. I recommend that you feel free to use this time to discuss your favorite storyline from ‘Days of our Lives,’ which leads me to the first-ever poll featured on Wisconsin Fun Next Exit.

Thank you for participating.

As soon as our tea was ready to drink, our timely host arrived with our miso soup. I opted for a scoop of rice in mine, and it also featured shiitake mushrooms and bok choy.

The soup was hot, healthy and it hit the spot. It was just what I was looking for after a few nights of holiday weekend indulgence. The tea warmed the soul and the chocolate cupcake was nothing short of divine. The thai basil lemon tea cookies were also a welcome addition.

I look forward to returning to Macha and sampling more teas and cupcakes. That Saturday it was a much-needed rejuvenating late lunch that gave me just the boost of energy that I needed for sticker shopping at Orange Tree Imports (a rare but favorite pasttime of mine).

Happy tea drinking.

*Okay, so that was the rumor that Dan and I tried to start.

Macha Teahouse+Gallery on Urbanspoon

It’s always sunny in Seattle

Hello Wisconsin.

Yesterday as I got out of my car in the cool, drizzly rain my neighbor welcomed me to Seattle. Ironically, I told him, I just got back from Seattle and it was warm and sunny every day. Not to brag. Our conversation ended in solidarity signs and promises to keep fighting the good fight. Before I left for Seattle I kept catching myself holding my breath. While driving, doing the dishes, sitting at my computer. I noticed that I was doing it again yesterday and it occurred to me that this did not happen to me once while I was visiting my sister in the Pacific Northwest. I believe that it has gotten hard to breath here in Wisconsin the last few months. My state, my values and my current chosen profession are under attack. For one magical week I got to forget about all of this and simply indulge. I got to see old friends and make new ones. I am a very lucky woman. As I write this my sister is riding a ferry to the location where she will be working for the day. I can’t help but feel a tad bit jealous. This summer when I am sitting at the Union terrace drinking a beer or eating dinner out on our screen porch listening to the crickets I know that she will feel a tad bit jealous of me. Should we explore and expand our life experiences by moving to a new place or should we stay home and cultivate our roots? This is what I’m thinking about this morning. After last week, don’t be surprised if the new title of this blog becomes “Seattle fun next exit.” I’m just kidding… sort of. While I loved being in Seattle last week, I’m home now and I’ve got a line on a used canoe for this summer. I will keep fighting the good fight and wait for the sun to come out. I will feel happy to be home.

In the meantime, I bring you my picks for the Best of Seattle, April 18-23, 2011:

Favorite Coffee Shop: Makeda Coffee, Phinney Ridge

I thought that it would be appropriate to start with coffee, considering that this is Seattle. My sister’s favorite (and now mine) hangout is Makeda Coffee. I loved the relaxed environment and friendly owner. They have delicious coffee, lattes and treats, including squash bread and gluten-free, organic doughnuts (I love Seattle). There are excellent tables for playing cribbage and I love that they will give you a dollar off wine or beer on Friday evenings if you play a board game. They also have live entertainment, and Dan could have played over the weekend, but we had to hit the road… Next time.

Oh delicious 2% latte
Makeda Coffee

Favorite Cupcake Stand: Those two girls sitting in their driveway, Phinney Ridge

When Dan and I had finished our cribbage game at Makeda Coffee we decided to leave my sister alone for a few minutes so that she could get some work done. It was a beautiful day so we took a walk around the ‘hood. We were playing the game that I invented while babysitting, Cats versus Dogs (you count the cats, you count the dogs), when we spotted the bake sale. Dan said, “Whatever those girls are selling, I’m buying one.” It turns out the girls were selling homeade and home-awesomely-decorated cupcakes and donating half of the proceeds to Japan. Dan bought one and donated a little extra. We chatted with them for a little while and they gave us some information on the neighborhood cats. We said our goodbyes, but as you will read later, this was not the last time we had the chance to see these sweet two girls who give you faith in humanity.

Bake sale
Cupcakes!

Favorite Cocktail Bar: Oliver’s Twist, Phinney Ridge

Not only does this bar have the widest selection of bitters that we have ever seen (lavender bitters?!), they also make the most sinful and rich garlic truffle popcorn that tastes like heaven during happy hour. And although I do not drink a lot of cocktails (I like beer), I think that if I lived near Oliver’s Twist, I might. My sister recommended the Bullseye- tequila, mint, lemon, ginger beer, and a couple of other things that I had to look up in the menu’s glossary. It was refreshing and oh so good. Dan tried the Presbyterian- bourbon, soda and ginger ale. Yum. We went back the next night like old regulars.

Bullseye
The Presbyterian
Upon our obvious intrigue, the bartender pulled out all of her bitters for us to see

Stay tuned for more of my favorites, including my favorite Major League Ballpark in Seattle, favorite bar to avoid getting into a brawl over ping pong and my most serendipitous moment of the trip.