I'm smitten. I can't help but confess it.
I'm enchanted by Bona Dea Teahouse & Emporium, the converted Colorado Avenue Victorian where passions for tea and travel merge to create a beyond-quaint eatery.
Owner Lari Trogani, a criminal defense attorney by day, initially purchased the property for office space. But walking through the little house, this child of a tea-loving father had a different idea: turn the detached garage into her office and funnel her creative juices into opening Bona Dea (meaning "Good Goddess") in 2006.
Bona Dea welcomes you with a striking purple fence that frames a garden of wild flowers, tea roses and lilies. Walk into the building, and Trogani's careful designs immediately capture your attention.
A main dining room features themed seating, each spot representing a stop from Trogani's much-cherished travels. Two petite high-heeled-shoe chairs under a canopy represent France. A square, raised seating area with luxurious pillows signifies Asia. And, of course, England and Ireland also appear, their tables bearing unique bells ready for a ring once you've navigated the immense tea menu.
Past these international enclaves of lovely murals and chandeliers, you'll also find another room, the "chocolate den" and emporium, awash in rich fabrics and thoughtfully placed travel souvenirs (some for sale).
Fortunately, Trogani has applied as much attention to her edibles as she has the décor.
Alongside teas from China, India, Japan and Africa, Bona Dea offers a small assortment of diverse treats. Instead of fussing with bread and butter, Trogani serves her eccentrically named creations in hollowed puff pastry (all $8.95), each with a side of sweet pineapple, coconut, cranberries and slivered almonds.
The perfectly seasoned chicken salad with pineapple, green pepper and almonds is a highlight. "Apsu's Imperial Delight" of finely chopped crab, lime, sesame seeds and cilantro, and "Rosemerta's Magic" with salmon, cucumber and cream cheese pureed to a mousse-like consistency don't disappoint, either. If you can't decide, go for "Laverna's Plethora," basically a chef's choice (also $8.95), in which bite-sized pastry cups are filled with samplings.
As for a couple of the 180 available teas: The Melange du Chamonix ($5.50/pot, $1.50/cup) proved fragrant and delicious with hints of cocoa, cardamom and mint. And the iced almond green tea ($1.50) had the aroma of what I can describe only as cake without the guilt.
Not that you can't get into delicious, sugary trouble at Bona Dea. I recommend the Morgana Le Fay ($6.50), which is every bit as decadent as it sounds — Grand Marnier dark chocolate cake with a Chambord white chocolate mousse.
As for the thick, rich "sipping chocolates," an odd miscommunication — the only bump in my visits — introduced me to some wonderful cocoa-scented teas instead. Needless to say, I'm going back for the chocolate.
Since Bona Dea is open only from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, you may need to plan your visit. But considering the gracious service and fine food, plus the "secret garden" in the back and its small teacup graveyard (pretty china that won't be making it back to the table), you'll be glad you did.
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