after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘talula’s garden

How does your Garden grow [more delicious]?

leave a comment »

t says:  You know, there are some restaurants in the city that have been open for some time and have fallen out of the limelight.  Maybe the chef isn’t using the fanciest gastronomic techniques.  Maybe the decor isn’t minimalist-chic.  Maybe the menu doesn’t have enough hipster-ironic items.  But they still do a damn fine job.  Take Talula’s Garden.  Now I have to confess that it’s hard for g and me to be unbiased when it comes to all things Talula, so I won’t do a course-by-course breakdown … but I’ll leave the punchlines here:

1)  TG gives first-class service – prompt and frequent clearing and resetting of tables, cheery smiles from happy servers.  No one’s “cool”, no one’s stuck-up or snotty (i.e. no long tirades over the conception of the idea of a dish and sourcing for every single ingredient).  This is a lesson in old-school serving, where people appear genuinely concerned about whether you are having a great meal.

2)  Their food still brings the thunder …


“pumpkin gnocchi” … how could “pumpkin gnocchi” turn heads (actually, i don’t think pumpkin is in the gnocchi)?  I don’t know how – but it did.  I dare not try to dissect this dish because this is one of those times when knowing the components is irrelevant, because really, it’s about having the most perfectly cooked gnocchi on your fork, driving it through the sauce and ?cheese? and nuts, and sticking it in your mouth and realizing that you just had the second-best gnocchi you’ve ever had (sorry, first best goes to Vetri … still … although I’m not sure if those spinach gnocchi count because they aren’t the same type of gnocchi – they’re some kind of volatile ricotta gnocchi).  Maybe it would have been different had I been sitting in Mercato or Melograno or something, and I was expecting pasta greatness – but this just came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of us with its mix of rustic attitude (like “so what?  i’m gnocchi! no big deal”), burst of fresh flavors (despite “pumpkin”, I was feeling spring more than fall), and perfect harmony.  I don’t know if it’ll ever taste the same again, now that I have such expectations (and now you, the reader, does, too!).


pork belly.  So pork belly is “bait”, right?  You can’t mess it up.  Hell – I can make pork belly taste good.  But, can you elevate it to something otherworldly – and how do you do it?  It’s widely known that this blog LOVES the pork belly at Fond.  It has that sweet crisped crust on top of a delightfully soft pork belly.  It’s our undisputed champion, beating out competitors due to its shear hedonism (fat + salt + sugar).  TG’s strategy was to walk a completely different way.  On the surface, it looks like someone “put too much sh*t on their pork belly”: black garlic, fruit, pomegranate sauce, ginger, sweet potatoes …  It looks crazy.  It almost looks like a mystery basket on Chopped …  Shut up and eat it.  A. MAZ. ING.  It all worked.  I could not believe it.  Believe it!  Unlike the pork belly champions of yesteryear, this one seeks balance.  Acidity to keep the mouth watering.  Savory and sweet flavors to go with those from the pork.  Textural contrasts with the fruit and pomengranate.  A bit of starch so you’re not just eating fat on fat on fat.  This the pork belly you take home to mom – the one that’s tastefully dressed, delicate, and could keep your attention for a lifetime.

Sure there were other dishes we had that were also fantastic (other pasta, shortrib, crudo, vegetables), but I think what’s important is that TG still has “it”.  I know there have been chef changes, and I know that farm-to-table isn’t sexy anymore – but these weren’t the reasons to go.  The reason to go is because I cannot think of a place that expresses its ingredients as well as TG, no matter how far-fetched or familiar they are.  No fancy foams, mists, or meat glue – just a plate of ingredients prepared in such a way that honors and elevates the raw product.  When you’re done eating, the first question you ask isn’t “Holy crap – how did the chef do that?”, it’s “holy crap – where can I get me some ramps?”.  It’s a shame, because I think that this recipe will not yield chef stardom in the way other, more “unique” places will (i.e. those places with cutting edge techniques, or fusion of disparate cultures, who are in it for the “show” of it al), but for us, TG will always remain as one of our “special occasion” restaurants.

3)  Oh – and did I mention that their desserts are fantastic?  Have your cheese and eat your sweets, too!

Ok … so g and I love TG.  Nothing new there …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

17 March 2015 at 1:07pm

a fitting last meal

leave a comment »

t says:  Last meal?  Really?  Maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but let’s just say that I was really impressed with the meal that Talula’s Garden served up for my 32nd Birthday celebration!  Maybe it’s a “fitting last meal before we go on vacation …”

June 2014, Wednesday Dinner, Party of 4.   There were several more dishes than these … but here are the highlights … with one exception – we had these boquerones over herb-infused tomatoes that were absolutely amazing!  We ate them so fast, I forgot to take a picture!


Talula’s Garden now has a “pasta” section on the menu.  It’s pretty awesome, because now I can find the gnocchi dish even faster! (I used to have to search the mains and appetizers for it).  While the crab-and-spaghetti wasn’t quite as good as pop-pop’s, the above gnocchi over peas and a pea puree were delectable pillows of heaven.  So good.


g and my mom went for the tuna crudo (g? tuna crudo? surprised, right?)  It hit all the right signature Talula’s crudo notes: herbs, veggies, bright accents, scrumptious fish.  No wonder g falls into the crudo trap every time she goes.


yes, there’s still a scallop dish …  yes, it’s still amazing … and no, there wasn’t any left.


but now … it is my honor to introduce the new pork belly champion of adsz.  A title previously held by greats like Fond (I look forward to it on every Fall/Winter menu) and Bibou (it was one of those ephemeral Pierre Calmels specials that came and went in a blink of an eye), Talula’s healthily-unhealthy-sized portion has that oh-so-addictive crunch and sweet-sweet-pig-fat flavor that make this pork belly the poster boy of hedonistic meat (I know, I know … people like foie and caviar and wagyu … but come on – how you gonna dis’ pork belly like that?  why you gotta be such a gold-digger with your deep, benjamin-lined pockets?  think you’re too good for pork belly?  that’s ok – more for me.)  I’m sure there will come a day when I will not be able to consume such rich dishes like this … and that day will be sad indeed … but for now, I will count pork bellies on my way to sleep, ready to dream of the next opportunity to go back.  Oh, did I mention that there were some superbly prepared greens and beans underneath?  I ate all of those, too.  So it’s healthy, right?


every time there’s a s’more-themed dessert, talula’s kills it.  this one was called “s’mores cake”, and it was excellent.  The moist, chocolate-laden cake melted in my mouth, giving way to the scorched marshmallow and smoke-infused ice cream.  Desserts like this make me regret having eaten so well during apps and main courses (well … except for the pork belly above).


But this little bugger was the big surprise.  Don’t be fooled by this slab of white sitting atop a pile of crumbs; this marscapone cheesecake was un-real.  I would have expected Talula’s to try and make their cheesecake all light-and-fluffy with cutesy fruit accompaniments.  But no.  Forget that.  They went for rich-and-delicious.  ha declared it her new favorite cheesecake – and that’s with 28 years of cheesecake-tasting experience (inside joke).

You know, it’s meals like these that make me wonder why no one’s writing about Talula’s anymore.  Hell – it makes me wonder why it’s been so long since the last time I’ve gone!  But of course, we always come crawling back to beg for forgiveness for our absence … and Talula takes us in with open arms, feeds us delicious food, and sends us on our way with full bellies and obliterated expectations.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

20 June 2014 at 12:37am

several new openings on our side of center city!

leave a comment »

t says:  So g and I are really pumped with the new additions to the neighborhood:

Fitler Dining Room is opening!

Honey’s Sit-n-Eat is open!

Tria Taproom is coming!

And on the other side of the city, Talula’s Daily is coming!

With so many new options, I’m sure we’ll be broke in no time!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

18 February 2013 at 5:41pm

Pardon Our Absence …

leave a comment »

t says:  Yes, yes, it’s been very-nearly-forever since our last legitimate post.  We’re sorry!  The holidays have left us with very little time.  And with those little times that we have had, we’ve spent dining on already-proven-delicious foods (if you have limited time, why risk a bad meal?)  For example:

Han Dynasty is still blowing us away.  Lately, we’re digging the double-cooked fish (new to us!) as well as oldie-but-goodies, like Cold Sesame Noodles, Dan Dan Noodles, the fish soup (whatever it’s called), Cumin Lamb, Eggplant in Garlic Sauce …

Sotto keeps me coming back with their Matriciana and BYO policy – just the hug you need when it’s cold, windy, and rainy outside …

Talula’s Garden’s December menu rocked our socks with some delightful sweetbreads and cheese and lamb belly and dessert and everything …  We also used it as an opportunity to try out a wine we’ve been cellaring for some time:

it tasted like ... sea salt ...

it tasted like … sea salt … kinda weird, but very interesting

Ekta’s Laamb Saag, Masalader Chola, Vegetable Samosa … we love you!

Indian ....

Indian attack!

So, all in all, there’s a lot of old news here … we’ll hit up some new places in the new year … we promise!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 December 2012 at 6:50pm

“The Garden” keeps rocking it

leave a comment »

t says:  g and I revisited one our faves, Talula’s Garden.  Yes, it’s still a great place to go.  Let me just hit you with two highlights because anyone who’s seen our blog already knows that we talk about it WAY too much:

lamb belly appetizer

A long time ago, back when JG Domestic first opened 2 years ago, boasting a whole animal tasting menu featuring lamb and including lamb belly, I knew I had to try it.  After all, I had my pork belly phase, so I reasoned that lamb belly would be just like it, but mo-better by virtue of lamb.  Alas, JG was out of lamb that night (which to this day I haven’t forgiven them for), so I was S.O.L.  Since then, I’ve seen lamb belly on virtual menus, but never at the same time when I was actually in the restaurant serving it … until the above dish.  And yes.  Lamb belly is as good as pork belly in every aspect, but better, by virtue of being lamb.  Go to Talula’s and try this dish.  It’s soft and sweet and gamy.  Beautiful.  Yea, there were some vegetables on the dish, too, but to be honest, I totally forgot about them because I was too busy enjoying the glazed belly …

striped bass with curry sauce, pumpkin, greens

This fish is my new most-perfectly-cooked-fish-in-the-city.  Seriously.  And it didn’t just because the meat of the fish was oh-so-tender-but-cooked-through-perfectly, and not just because it was perfectly infused with flavors that balanced the bass-ness and curry, but also because that skin was absolutely perfectly crisped.  This is a fall fish dish.  Not fussy.  Not complicated.  Just some damn good fish and balanced accompaniments.  Everyone else take note.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

21 October 2012 at 4:50pm

Talula’s Garden crushes brunch

leave a comment »

t says:  We had heard that Talula’s Garden was now offering brunch – naturally, we just had to go.  Oddly enough, it actually took us quite a long time to get there – maybe a bit more than a month?  (That’s odd for Olexy-fans like us.)  Whatever the reason for the delay, we finally went this past weekend – and we were on a mission!  You see, this upcoming weekend, for Mother’s Day 2012, we’re going to do something absolutely stupid – we’re going to have brunch with our parents … in Philadelphia … at a restaurant …  It’s. going. to. be. insane.  It’s Mother’s Day, it’s graduation weekend, and Dad Vails are in town.  Insane, but I guess we’re up for a challenge.  In preparation for the insanity, g and I reasoned that we at least had to do some reconnaissance at the brunch candidates – namely the longtime adsz favorite Cochon and new-kid-on-the-block Talula’s Garden.  So we donned our service uniforms, packed our hi-tech image acquisition apparatus, and force-marched it to Washington Square … (btw – we went to Cochon recently – they’re still ridiculously tasty).

May 2012, Sunday Brunch, Party of 2.  After sitting down, g and I dove into the brunch menu – we were quite hungry from the morning stroll.  And it hit us: the menu oozed pure awesomeness.  My mind was boggled – there were too many dishes to try: blintzes, pancakes, butcher’s breakfast, pastries, cheese, donuts …  I’d say 50-67% of the menu was totally t-worthy.  This conundrum was great news, as all of the preliminary reports featured so few dishes that I feared a lack of selection (which would have stunk for Mother’s Day if there was nothing that mom liked …).

After much consideration, g and I forced ourselves to limit our choices to 3 selections – three that we were pretty sure most people in our party next weekend would choose (Party of 12 baby!).  Here they are:

breakfast pastry trio + lemon curd + butter + berries

Hidden in the menu was the breakfast pastry trio – as it’s not called that at all.  Nevertheless, as soon as we spotted a single item, we knew we had to start with the breakfast pastries.  That item: lemon ginger scone.  While I’ve mentioned them in passing in Talula’s Table posts (although I’m currently failing to find them right now), I think that this blog has failed to completely capture g’s (and my) love for Talula’s Table’s scones, especially the lemon ginger ones.  And if TG’s scones are even 23% as good as TT’s, we would be happy.  How did it stack up?  We’ve decided that it was almost as good as anticipated.  It was a bit cakier/cakeier/more-cake-like than TT’s, which makes for a lighter pastry – but the flavor was spot-on.  There’s pluses and minuses to this, though.  On one hand, there’s a certain richness that TG’s scone lacks, but on the other, you don’t feel completely full after eating just one scone, so it’s definitely not too much of a letdown because we had more food to eat!  And while the muffin and coffee cake (especially with the lemon curd) were also very good (giving Parc’s pastry basket a run for its money), you just can’t beat a lemon-ginger scone, even one operating at 87% of max-deliciosity (you have to try them when they come straight out of the oven at 7am at Talula’s Table in Kennet Square … only then will you understand our obsession).

g’s main = “crab benedict” over fresh English muffin + potatoes

g ordered an egg-based savory breakfast dish … surprised?  Not I.  This one was featured egg, crab, and some kind of ?tomato-based? Hollondaise/Bearnaise-ish sauce and accompanied by those wonderfully-gold brown potatoes … and it totally rocked g’s socks.  It was funny, because although there weren’t massive chunks of crab, that sauce tasted so much like crab it was kind of like what would happen if capo giro made crab-flavored gelato.  Ok, maybe that’s not the best picture to paint, but you get the idea – it had a very vivid crab flavor!  The eggs were perfectly poached with good yolk runniness.  And then there was that English muffin … that English muffin was crazy!  We got word from one of our fave TG staff that these were made in house and required some time to perfect before they released this dish – well let me say it was perfect!  (I’m contemplating swearing off Thomas’s.)

t’s main = wheat pancakes + bruleed bananas + pecans

What you see before you is my main.  The wheat pancakes pictured above were oh-so-fluffy – coming within a hair of the reigning pancake champ at Cochon in terms of thickness,  but still pretty impressive!  The bananas (with accompanying sauce like a bananas foster) and pecans were fantastic (although perhaps obvious) accompaniments, and reminded me a little of the bananas that Cochon used to put on their Elvis French toast (back when they used to offer the Elvis French toast).  Actually, I loved the Elvis-themed toppings so much back then that I frequently asked them to put them on top of their super-wicked pancakes.  But alas, they Elvis no more.  Ok – back to TG’s pancakes: while “wheat” is normally not a desirable flavor for me (just ask g about my thoughts on wheat bread), it actually added a little bit of a savory pinch in the background of all the sweet on the plate – I liked it!  I think overall, the dish needed some salt – maybe a piece of bacon or something, which I guess I should have ordered, myself.  Be that as it may, in light of Cochon’s lack of gussied-up pancakes (they only do French toast dressed with sausage gravy on their menu right now – pancakes are a “side dish”, and while they’re still fan-frickin-tastic, they lack to bananas and bacon ice cream of old …), it seems like there’s a new pancake champion in town … Talula’s Garden!  Woop woop!  Raise the roof!  And other such cool exclamations!

And then we were full …

g and I were bummed – there was still so much food our mouths wanted to taste, but our stomachs had had enough!  We decided that TG was the way to go for Mother’s Day brunch – not to say that Cochon would have been worse, but there really is something special about their brunch.  While it’s not as heavy as Cochon (which g and I like – we were full, but we didn’t feel disgusting), it’s also not as inexpensive as Cochon, so I don’t know how often we can afford to go.  I think Cochon will remain our usual adsz Sunday brunch pick, with TG winning “special occasion Sunday brunch”.  So great job TG!  We look forward to seeing you this weekend.  I hope you guys are ready for the crazy that is Mother’s Day.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

10 May 2012 at 9:01am

Revisiting Sean McPaul’s Talula’s Garden

leave a comment »

t says:  Talula’s Garden has seen some very big press and changes recently.  First there were a slew of mixed reviews, from a 2-bell review by Craig LaBan and 3.5 star review by Trey Popp to the food-fights of comments on foobooz posts every time they Talula’s was mentioned.  I wasn’t really sure what to make of the disparities except to say that g and I enjoyed Talula’s very much under the helm of Chef Santoro.  But then Craig gave three bells (just today) to Sikora’s, a place that we felt was unremarkable – Trey Popp semi-agreed with us, awarding only 2.5 stars.  How bizarre – I guess everyone has their favorites – and g and I are Aimee fanboys.  Now that would have been enough up-and-down, but there’s more.  Right after Talula’s made Bon Appetit’s “Best New Restaurants in America” list, there were chef-changes-galore going on, from Santoro to Talula’s Table’s Moon, and now to Sean McPaul.  So basically, in the setting of some fairly high volumes from the Bon Appetit review (basically, it’s been nearly impossible to get a reasonable dinner time unless you know well in advance), they needed to change captains.  Yikes.  g and I feared for the Garden and hoped that they could deliver the food that was expected of them.  To make matters worse, we, ourselves, really couldn’t quite get in there to see how things were going … until yesterday.  So now that the dust seems to have settled – how are things?  Here’s the quick-and-dirty (because I know we’re all tired about reading about Talula’s).

October 2011, Sunday 6pm, Party of 2.  g and I set out to visit Talula’s on what happened to be a nice warm night – the first in a week or two.  As we walked across the city with a bottle of Sancerre in hand, ready to pay the $25 corkage in lieu of acquiescing to the alcohol mark-up (our biggest Garden gripe), we found ourselves in the mood for a good last hurrah for summer, intending to partake in some outdoor dining and some lighter fare (“light” for me, means “no big slabs of meat” … little slabs are still permissible).  We took our seats outside in the perfect weather and this is what we got, what we thought, and a few pictures before it got too dark.

Tuna Crudo

We started with the tuna crudo.  Why?  Because if there’s a raw fish as an app, there’s a high likelihood that g will get it.  Thick slabs of fresh tuna (good temperature, good consistency, clean flavor) with a few greens, cooked carrot (little firmer than the tuna), surprisingly mild onion, chunks of avocado, some avocado cream, and a few other things.  At first, I was wondering if this was going to be too busy of a dish, as it didn’t really look, feel, or eat like a “tuno crudo” – it was like a cross between a ceviche and a salad.  It was a “rustic” tuna crudo.  But I tell you what – it was delicious.  The fish delivered a note equal to and complemented by the accompaniments – it was summer on a plate.  What a relief!  I was worried that Craig’s “too fussy” comment was coming to kick me in the butt.  Earth-shattering?  Not necessarily.  But a non-stuffy way to have delicious raw fish?  Absolutely.

A Return to Gnocchi

The last time we went, a little part of me wept like a little baby when I found that Talula’s had removed the gnocchi entree from their menu (i.e. the gnocchi-and-mushroom dish).  I needs me some pasta!  Then, yesterday, I saw a new gnocchi dish – an appetizer in which the pan-seared gnocchi were accompanied by a bitter green and a ?telaggio? cheese.  As you can see, we got it.  When it hit the table, I must admit that I was a little uneasy that McPaul was playing with fire by making the gnocchi with some Italian-esque flavors in there (in my limited experience, farm-to-table gnocchi rarely go for the cheese-and-greens combo).  Hell, it was a tomato or two away from a fight with Mercato or Barbuzzo … But this was damned good.  I mean really damned good.  Even g, who isn’t super-obsessed with gnocchi as I, was very impressed … and she’s Italian.  Just the right seasoning, just the right flavors.  This was a dish stripped down to a dainty loin cloth to show off some superb gnocchi cookery (you’d figure that’d be easy, right?  trust me – I’ve had some bad gnocchi in my time).

But then it got dark, so no more pictures.

Before moving onto our next course, we had a surprise course!  The kitchen sent us the foie appetizer.  How thoughtful of the Garden!  It had been probably two months since had visited last, and even though Aimee wasn’t there that night, someone had remembered us – we did have some table visits by servers we had had in the past (or maybe we’re just flagged on opentable or something).  Now I have to admit – g’s not a huge fan of foie, and I’m not a huge fan of cold foie.  So when this hit the table, we flashed each other looks of despair, as it’d be rude to not try this gift horse.  The dish was foie “parfait” that came looking like a large hunk of soft cheese flanked by a mini-salad, some sort of apple-y chutney concoction, and some bread.  We loaded up our bread and hoped for the best.  Holy crap.  This was the best cold foie I’ve ever had – it reminded me of Fond’s “Apple Pie Foie” I had some time ago.  The foie flavor was mild (which die-hard foie fans might not like) and, like the texture, oh-so-creamy. Furthermore, when coupled with that apple “thing” (really, I have no idea what else was in it), it was truly sublime.  The dish wasn’t about “I am foie”, rather, “We are foie and more” – kind of like comparing a super-funky cheese alone versus a not-as-pungent cheese with the appropriate accompaniments.  We ate every bit of it (actually, I was a bit greedy and ate more than g).  It was yum.  I’d actually order it again!

We then finished he meal with some familiar-but-new-ified dishes.  We did the oxtail tortelloni which had beefy broth and tender pasta/meat as well as the new scallop presentation (g was there – we obviously did the scallops), which were once again beautifully seared and accompanied by some good veggies (in the past, they were accompanied by a puree).  These were par-for-the-TG-course (we’ve written about similar dishes before, so we’ll stop here).  And, of course, we ended on cheese – if you’re at Talula’s, you gotta have some cheese.

g and I feel that the “new” menu at Talula’s (or at least what we had of it) is just as good as the original, if not a half-step-or-two better.  The new appetizers and the new-esque scallops that we had were delicious and showed a little less subtlety than I had seen from the Garden in the past, which I enjoyed.  It was as if the songs are sung a little louder and with more harmony.  Also, it seemed like there were fewer purees and more actual foods (or maybe it was so dark I couldn’t see them?) – but I’m not sure if this is a reflection of the new chef or the new season.  At the very least, the new chef is able to keep Talula’s going at the same pace it was going when it received its first accolades.  That said, we look forward to his future dishes, as if you really think about it, the dishes that were the newest to us were the most impressive.  Are McPaul/Aimee/Starr going to be able to change Craig’s mind?  Your guess is as good as mine – in the same review he went from “fussily precious” to suggesting it’s a contender for “restaurant of the year”.  We’ll see.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

10 October 2011 at 8:40am