after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Birthday Fun: Talula’s times 2, and Zama

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t says:  For my bday this year, g and I went to a variety of food-related places.  We hit up Talula’s Table for some lunch (we were heading back from Total Wine in DE so we made a pit-stop).  We hit up Zama with my parents for dinner on one night, and then we hit up Talula’s Garden for dinner on another.  Here’s the quick-and-dirty …

Talula’s Table is still cute inside.  I wish it was closer so I could go more often, but it’d probably make us go broke, so it’s better that they’re not so close.  We sampled some cheeses, ate some pesto pasta (yum), and Aimee sent out an Almond Joy dessert with a candle in it – she’s very thoughtful.

Zama served us up some fantastic sushi.  We did what I call the “bizarro sushi sampler” which featured 4-5 maki that had odd combinations (e.g. fig and cucumber and something else) and some other, more normal maki/nigiri/sashimi.  My parents seemed content, but I don’t think anything really blew them away.  I ordered the Bibou roll (featuring escargot).  In retrospect, I should have taken g’s advice and ordered the Vetri roll (featuring eel), as no one except me liked the snail on the Bibou roll (just snail in general, not having anything specifically wrong with the roll).  Darn.  The meal was fairly pricey – I promised to go to all-you-can-eat sushi places in the future.

We returned for our fifth visit at Talula’s Garden.  Don’t worry if you’re sick about reading about this place, because after this, I’ll just have to stop writing about our visits.  What we can say is that we think the food is getting even better over time – the chef and crew are really hitting their stride, it seems.  Our recommendations are the following dishes:

Best App: Sturgeon Rillette.  This was the appetizer we ordered most recently, and, quite frankly, I think it’s the best appetizer we’ve ever had.  Something about this rillette is oh-so-addictive.  It’s zippy and salty and sweet and has a little accompanying mustard seed to give it some aggression.  The mini-salad off to the right has some profoundly fresh lettuce (that’s weird, right?  “profoundly fresh lettuce?”  it’s just “lettuce” – but g did remark upon trying it, “hey – taste this lettuce” – so something about it tasted like you just pulled it out of the ground) but is dressed simply so your focus is definitely the rillette.  Yes, the goat tortelloni and the braise rabbit pasta are delicious and deeply flavored (and are tied for second place – but in the colder winter months, they might overtake the rillette because they’re served warmer), but for the summer, and as a light start to your meal, the rillette wins.

For mains, this most recent visit we went for the mushroom gnocchi and the beef that we encountered at our first visit.  They were even better this time and retain the title of our personal faves.  The muhroom gnocchi is absolutely amazing (that raisin puree is out of this world) – just make sure you mix it up using the egg yolk.  And that braised short rib is fabulous (the other cut of beef is good, too, but that short rib with the sauce is ridiculous).

The best surprise dish we ever received was this duck dish pictured below – or at least, we think it’s duck.  We actually have no idea how it was prepared, and it’s not on the menu as far as I can tell (maybe they took it from the duck dish that is on the menu?) and added some sort of green vegetable and shaved pecorino.  It was ridiculous – more ridiculous than the foie-based concoction we had some time ago.  I hope I see it on the menu soon!

My favorite dessert has to go to the dark chocolate cremeaux we had on our first visit (the bacon was ground finer the first time so it was easier to eat – the bacon was a little more chunky last time).  g prefers a cheese plate – doesn’t matter which one …

Finally, we do want to mention that they swapped out the brioche with ramp butter that I complained about last time.  Now it’s some sort of multigrain or wheat bread with apricot butter that g likes to roll her eyes back and say “it’s soooooo good”.

In summary, if you haven’t gone yet, you now know our choices for an optimal first impression (if you like the kind of food we like).  If you have and weren’t impressed (I’ve been informed that not everyone has been was as blown away as we were), don’t write ’em off yet – they’re getting even better.

P.S.  This most recent visit we were taken into the back and shown the kitchen – we even spent a few seconds to say hi to Chef Santoro.  He’s much younger than I was expecting, but seems like a nice guy.  I wish him the best of luck in churning out the dishes that keep us coming back for more.  Of course, he probably thought we were teenagers or something (g and I look fairly young) so I’m not sure we made the best first impression on him, but over time, maybe we’ll sway him with the many more compliments sent back to the kitchen …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

9 July 2011 at 12:31pm

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