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Ain't dainty

Though elegant, Monument's Wisdom Tea House pleases even the burger-loving crowd



Wisdom Tea House culminates a dream of Tom and Diane Wisdom, who met as University of California, Berkeley undergrads in the late '70s. Initially the couple, who envisioned a gathering space to build and welcome community, thought of a coffee shop. But their preferred Monument location was already overrun with coffee beans.

A trip to Las Vegas' World Tea Expo a couple years ago spurred a new vision — one that, in Diane's words, looks nothing like "your grandma's tea house."

She's got that right. For one thing, I'd never have dreamed of finding one of the best burgers I've ever had at a tea house. Wisdom's buffalo burger ($8.50) left me wanting to unhinge my jaw. Thick and juicy with roasted, mild Poblano peppers, a roasted red pepper aioli and spinach (that day; the kitchen takes liberties), it relied on ciabatta bread to hold it together. Normally, I'm not a fan of a messy burger, but my husband and I couldn't get enough.

"You know it's good," he said, "when you haven't finished the first bite and want to take another."

This dish was meant for the male clientele, says Diane, but I suggest women wear a print and order it anyway. Not that the Wisdoms treat their salads or desserts with dainty fingers, either. Chef and baker Mary Anne Komar, who ran a Whole Foods kitchen for four years, brings her passion for natural ingredients to the fore.

My Waldorf salad ($7; with added shredded chicken and soup, $13) arrived as a mountain of fresh red and green apple chunks, with crunchy celery and raisins and walnuts. Not overly dressed, the flavors of the fresh fruit and celery were enhanced — a great version of the classic.

Desserts range from $5 to $7, but given their sizes, you'd think the Wisdoms would sell them by the pound. The stunning gluten-free Sacher Torte coated the tongue in thick, rich chocolate with a tang of sour cherries, and the three-tiered wedge of moist, yet crunchy carrot cake had us humming.

All that said, ordering Wisdom's special tea is where it's at — you get excellent service and nice touches like choosing your own cup and saucer. A Centennial Afternoon Tea, which must be reserved two days in advance, initially seemed a bit steep (no pun intended) at $20 per guest. But with taxes included and the opportunity to sample a variety of teas and treats both sweet and savory, I couldn't find fault.

My earthy, mild, green Da Hong Pao oolong and my sister's jasmine white matched the beautifully presented, three-tiered offering of savory sandwiches and sweet confections. Chicken salad with blue cheese and apricots, in puffed rolls and triangles of rye bread, delighted. Tiny white-bread sandwiches of sliced cheddar cheese and apricot jam raised our pinkies. Scones, prepared by Diane, come with a fabulous lemon curd and Wisdom's expedited take on Devonshire cream: a satisfying mix of mascarpone cheese and heavy cream. Delicious tea-infused chocolate truffles and piping-hot, flaky and sweet pumpkin turnovers rounded out the afternoon.

From the modern tables and chairs downstairs to the antique variety upstairs, the house beams with personality. If that and the fine eats don't ensnare some of the coffee crowd, perhaps the free Wi-Fi will. Regardless, wisdom certainly infuses this realized dream.

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