At the Table: Much more than tea brewing at newest Whistling Kettle

The exterior of the Whistling Kettle on Jay Street and a Cobb salad, right.
The exterior of the Whistling Kettle on Jay Street and a Cobb salad, right.

Categories: Life & Arts

I’m not much of a tea drinker, except for an occasional iced tea made from mundane teabags in the summer. Once in a while I get adventuresome and steep a little tea from the fresh spearmint in our herb garden.

I had never visited the Whistling Kettle in Ballston Spa or in Troy, but I was curious when a third location sprang up on Jay Street in Schenectady. The pedestrian brick walk that runs from Proctors to City Hall already boasts an array of small shops, restaurants and a few businesses offices.

News of the Whistling Kettle’s opening on Jay had created a local buzz, so a week or two ago I visited the newest addition with Favorite Nurse.

A server opened the door for me and pointed to my friend, who was already seated in a comfortable booth, one of about 30 booths and tables inside. Ten outdoor tables were packed into a protected space carved out in the front of the restaurant.

The interior, including booths, was decorated in muted shades of celadon, beige and terra cotta. Backs of booths were covered with varied paisley and other designed tapestries. An exposed old chimney climbed one wall, while an array of clear light bulbs lit up the huge words spelling out “Whistling Kettle” on the opposite wall, lest we forget where we were lunching. 

Server Chris (wearing the official “WK” shirt) distributed menus. Ice water was already on the table with half slices of lemon thoughtfully placed on the edge of the glass so customers could squeeze it in the water — or not — as they chose.

The menu, though extensive, was easy to navigate. An array of meats, fish, cheese, veggies, fruits, sweets and of course, teas were offered under categories of Sandwiches (panini, club and scone), Soups and Salads, Quiche of the Day, Crepes (both savory and sweet), Sweets and Beverages.

My guest chose the Afternoon Tea, a three-tiered affair consisting of a savory, a soup or salad and a sweet, starting from $16. Her savory was the quiche of the day: broccoli and three cheeses, according to the daily special menu, broccoli cheddar on the sales slip. Either way, the personal-sized quiche sported a tender, flaky crust with a flavorful, egg-y filling.

Her soup was a cup of slightly thick roasted red pepper with smoked gouda ($4 if purchased separately). Bisque-like, its color was bright orange-red, but the soup lacked a pronounced smoky flavor. Nevertheless, the overall affect was pleasing. 

The sweet part of FN’s Afternoon Tea four S’s (savory, soup or salad, sweet) was Chocolate Malted Caramel Pie ($4 surcharge). Wicked sweetness oozed from all six layers: chocolate sauce, chocolate crust, a chocolate mousse-ish filling, a layer of melted caramel, a swirl of chocolate fluffy stuff and a drizzling of more chocolate sauce. Sweet, sweeter, sweetest. I was able to manage a single bite before lapsing into diabetic shock (kidding!). Another guest referred to the point of the Afternoon Tea as being able to see your entire life (or at least your entire lunch) before you. 

The outrageous sweetness of the fourth S was washed down with a beautifully decorated china cup of the day’s lemon peach sorbet, a green tea blend brewed in a silk purse ($4). My Moroccan mint green tea was iced ($3) and served in a tall glass, lacking only a green mint sprig for garnish.

I had been craving a salad, and chose the Cobb ($13) from among the eight offerings. The arugula in the fresh mix of greens compensated for the lack of prescribed avocado. Along with the small cubes of roasted chicken, which lacked taste and moisture, crumbles of bleu cheese and a single serving of bleu cheese dressing added to what the chicken lacked intrinsically.

If the chicken in the salad lacked perfection, the Bananas Foster crepe ($8) I had for dessert more than compensated.

Folded twice to form a triangle, the thin crepe was filled with sliced bananas sautéed in butter, brown sugar, with a splash of rum and scone cream with a hint of cinnamon. The neat package was sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar. Quite wonderful in part because the dessert was cooked to order and served piping hot.
Other crepes enfolded lemon curd, berries, apples, peaches and chocolate with peanut butter.

The establishment appears to go out of its way to serve the customer. Large containers of coffee and tea are available to take out, as well as a shop full of about 100 exotic flavors of loose tea and tea paraphernalia to purchase.

Whistling Kettle

WHERE: 138 Jay St., Schenectady, 12305; 518-630-6933; 
WHEN: Monday-Wednesday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday-Friday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $56 for two appetizers, two dinners, two desserts, two nonalcoholic beverages without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Lot/street parking, major credit cards accepted, noise level permits conversation, accessible, liquor license coming soon, outdoor dining, Kettle’s Express Lunch, platter options available, gluten-free and vegetarian options, kids menu, no reservations needed.

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