after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Talula’s Table

East Coast Holiday Interlude

leave a comment »

t says:  g and I decided that the best time to run east for the holidays was the few weeks before Christmas – the flights were just so much cheaper!  It was a great visit, with good times had with friends and family.  Here are some food-related highlights:

asdf

Oh yes – here it is: Talula’s Table!!  Now, we’ve been to the Table a few times before, each time enjoying the parade of farm-to-table dishes, beautifully composed and riding the balance of “homey” and “contemporary American”.  This experience was no different.  Now, there were a ton of courses, ranging from the three fabulous amouse bouche, a welcome gruyere gougere (still sooooo good), and those mentioned above.  Each of us had our favorites (we went with a and v and a’s parents) … but because I’m in front of the computer, we’re going to focus on mine:

asdf

The sous-vide egg.  By the Table’s standards, this dish is a bit more hoidy-toidy than their usual dishes, but it was totally worth it.  The egg was custardy-creme-brulee smooth, accented with strong salty (bacon, chicken skin) and bitter (greens) flavors.  It was incredibly simple but got the job done, setting us up for a fabulous meal.  Sure, the rest of the meal was solid, but if I had to pick one of those to have again, it would be this one.

asf

Although g and I have our faves in Philly, we had to tackle a few new[-to-us] restos as well.  This one is only “kinda” new: Kanella Grill.  Back in the day, the original Kanella was one of our favorite Philly BYOs – one of our “go-to’s” for anyone visiting the city who wanted to really experience the “Philly” we love.  Well that Kanella moved, while the old location now houses “Kanella Grill”.  Dedicated to a more casual lunch-ish kebab-centric menu, we were psyched to taste all that is Cypriot lunch …  Above is g’s lamb shwarma hiding in pita, Greek salad, and some pickled vegetables.  I went for the gyro.  Let’s just say that both were delicious: tender meat, a bit of toasting on the pita, and great vegetables.  Overall, I feel that it was on the order of greatness of Souvla in SF.  Kanella Grill lightens it up with the bright crunchy veggies (i.e. afterwards, we could both still walk), whereas Souvla hits you heavy and hard (i.e. afterwards, we experience food coma).  Both are smile-inducing …  

asdf

But really, the star of Kanella Grill was the hummus.  It was just so crazy.  Now keep in mind: this is not Zahav hummus.  This is not Dizengoff hummus.  This is Kanella Grill hummus.  It was unrefined, a bit chunky, and a bit of a mess in appearance, with roughly chopped parsley.  But it was just so damn good – something in that mix of spices that I can’t even explain.  That, mixed with the blistered pita was sublime.

asdf

The last resto worth mentioning on our visit with DuBu Tofu house up near Elkin’s Park / Cheltenham.  Probably the best soondubu I’ve had yet, this kimchi stew was hot and spicy, with perfectly soft tofu and bits of meat.  I was sweating like grandpa by the end of it, but with the spice-induced endorphins running through my brain, my euphoric grin brought out laughs from g: “you’re crazy”.  The galbi was fine, the dolsot bibimbap was fine, but let’s face it: the soondubu was the star.

As you can tell, we had a lot of great food during our visit.  I wish there was one more place I could mention, but I can’t … because they refused to serve us.  Well – they refused to serve some of us.  g, a, v and I wanted to go toHungry Pigeon.  g and I had heard so many great things, and a is a Hungry Pigeon veteran.  We (the four of us) rolled in at 10:51 (exactly), when the lady behind the counter, upon seeing us enter, announced that breakfast would be over at 11 (that’s why I know the time – I got scared and looked at my phone).  Scared we’d miss breakfast, we immediately got in line behind a woman with a very convoluted drink order (it was 10:56 by the time she finished).  I ordered for g and me and paid using my credit card and signed.  I took one step to the side to allow a to the counter so he could order for himself and v.  The woman announced that breakfast was over (it was 10:59 – I checked my phone).  a was dumbstruck.  He thought it was a joke, but the hipster-glass-wearing barista deadpanned.  She offered up only silence and an empty stare.  No “sorry”, no apologies, nothing.  Not even a “you could buy something from our lunch menu” (actually I don’t know if we could or not – I don’t know when lunch officially starts) or “we have some yummy pastries” or anything.  Just a robotic emptiness.  We pleaded, as we had all come in together and were in line promptly, but nothing.  I had no choice but to cancel my order (what was I going to do? eat my breakfast in front of a and v?).  I actually wonder if she would have stopped me in mid-order had I attempted to order food for the four of us.  Afterwards, I did tweet at them to see if such Seinfeldian-soup-nazi rule was a “real” thing, and got a response directly from @hungry_pigeon indicating that “she was right. Lunch starts at 11. Sorry, we make no exceptions”.  Bummer.  I hate it when that Cinderella-at-midnight moment happens and the carriage turns into a pumpkin and the cooks get amnesia and all the ingredients necessary to make a breakfast bowl and an avocado toast instantly spoil (that brown rice porridge must be very temperamental!).  Although we left Hungry Pigeon still hungry, we were rescued by nearby South Street Philly Bagels and invited to enjoy them inside Ox Coffee – how civilized of them!  Now, I’m not sure if I’m over-reacting by vowing to never go to Hungry Pigeon ever again, but being as we don’t live in Philly, I’m pretty sure it’s a vow I can keep.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

8 January 2017 at 8:25pm

Post #500: Return to “The Table”

leave a comment »

t says:  This is our 500th post.  That’s a huge milestone for us!  And boy do we have a food experience for it: Talula’s Table!  This little psuedo-restaurant in Kennett Square needs no introduction, as we’ve been there several times before, so let’s just roll with the pictures:

menu

The Menu for the Evening!

hors

Bluefish, toter tot, green onion: a surprisingly strong (but delightful) fish flavor atop a wonderfully salty, crispy tater tot.  After demolishing the plate, we tried to pretend that we hadn’t received any … surprise – they were not fooled … so I guess we do have a criticism of this dish: it needs to be about 17 times larger …

hrs

golden beet ravioli with goat cheese, romaine salad on top: this was my favorite hors d’oeuvre – it starts off with a very vivid romaine that then has a palate-coating goat cheese and ends with the distinct crisp golden beet flavor – what a roller-coaster of flavors and textures!  nice!

hrs

soup of cauliflower, salmon roe, cucumber, chevre: most found this to be a refreshing start to the meal.  I found the cauliflower to be interesting because it tasted like straight-up cauliflower, but not roasted or anything.

omelette

Chesapeake blue crab omelette: holy crap – this dish totally blew people’s faces off.  I suspect it was because it had a benign name: “omelette”.  Seriously – when’s the last time an “omelette” ever did anything surprising?  Well this one was like a ninja to your palate because you take a bite expecting “egg”, but instead get rocked by crab and greens and herbs, with the egg plays some mellow background music – v’s favorite of the night!

foie

foie, turnips, radishes: a fun combination: an impressive demonstration of foie married nicely to its accompaniments.  I think that foie-lovers would have gravitated more towards this dish, while I tend to prefer my foie darkly seared and deeper (this one was more light-and-springy)

favioli

pea ravioli with pork belly surprise (hiding underneath!): this was my favorite of the night – and for the record, it was not just because there was a hiding mass of pork underneath (many attested to the greatness of the ravioli sans pork).  I can’t even begin to describe what made this dish so remarkable other than to admit that “pea ravioli” as I’ve called it does it a tremendous disservice.

asd;flkj

blue fish: this dish probably had the most fans – I give it props for having just the right balance of novelty (garlic flan … no, it’s not the next generation of cooking, but when’s the last time you had garlic flan?) and integration (putting the fennel and the fava beans and the perfectly cooked fish and the flan and the sauce together resulted in a symphony that forced you to stop and ponder the meaning of life …).  a’s mom just couldn’t get enough!

duck

chicken: perhaps the weakest dish of the evening – the chicken was nicely-done, as were the curried carrots, but ultimately it didn’t quite come together in the end as we would have liked.  v felt that this flavoring of this dish didn’t quite “fit” with the progression of the rest of the meal, and I tend to agree.  Sorry chicken – every meal is going to have its weakest link, and that’s you (even though technically, every single item was indeed perfectly cooked).

steak

steak 2 ways: this was a’s favorite dish of the evening, and he’s not a guy to just give props to meat for the sake of being meat.  Maybe it was the squash blossoms?  Maybe it was the perfect seasoning?  Maybe it because the main character was given an opportunity to shine, and shine it did, with a tenderness I have never seen in a skirt steak?  Or maybe it was because a brought out his 2004 Opus One that was drinking beautifully, with aromas of cigar box and dark fruit and a palate of cola, raisins, and tea?  Whatever it was, it was an appropriate finale to the steady crescendo the meal had been trending towards.

cheese

cheese: cows: gouda, parm reg, cheddar, something else, and a local blue.  All in all, a nice cheese plate.  Personally, I would have preferred a variety of milks on a cheese plate, but the point of the plate was there to be all cows, so I understand why they did it.  I think I was most surprised by the pickled asparagus and pickled cauliflower – they really reset your palate between cheeses, which I appreciated (especially because I was getting full by this point).

lining up

and now the final course …

dessert

dessert!  pancakes!  yay!  nuff said …

asdlfkj

double-dessert: chocolate truffles: because every meal needs a little chocolate, otherwise, it’s not really a meal …

This was one of the best Table experiences we’ve had!  With really only the chicken being a little snooze-y, it’s safe to say that Chef is doing a wonderful job – I haven’t had this good a food there since Sikora’s time.  The Table still delivers amazing flavor combinations despite unassuming ingredients and simplistic plating – it never fails to surprise me.  The service was top-notch and the staff was very approachable, not hesitating to allow us to get up from our seats and watch them cook up and plate the dishes (even though we clearly were a few glasses of wine into dinner).  The kitchen table is a fabulous experience – we [still] highly recommend it and feel that it’s totally worth the price of admission (e.g. go to Vetri once, but go to Talula’s Table as many times as you can).  And so, I went to end by thanking sr and ha for their generosity that allows us to eat out like this – thanks guys!  Thanks to a and v, as this event would not have been as much fun without them – we love having friends with a similar love of and priority for fine dining.  And, of course, thanks to a’s parents – it’s always a pleasure to eat [and drink] with them.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

2 July 2013 at 9:41pm

a few pictures … and a break …

leave a comment »

t says:  It’s that time of life again: “standardized testing time”.  And it’s all goin’ down at the end of this month.  In an effort to limit distractions, we’re going to put the blog on hiatus … but of course, I’ll leave us with some parting shots and a preview of what’s to come …

garces invasion

jose garces has invaded a local children’s hospital’s cafeteria with distrito tacos … trust me – they are ten times better than the previous taco-related foods that were being offered and at least 2.3 times better than anything else they have ever offered.  My source (i.e. the dude running the station) says they’re coming back in June sometime – I hope they stay!

from belgium

kp was so kind as to bring us a gift from his international travels … we couldn’t drink any of that super-crazy beer that he had to drive up a mountain to some kind of monastery for in Belgium, but we do sure like chocolate!

cool

g liked how the chocolates, themselves, were labeled with what they tasted like – it was very cool.  and the chocolates were great!  they had just the right proportion of chocolate to filling (i.e. the imprinted flavors were just a thin layer so they didn’t overwhelm the chocolate so much as accent it). I think these’d be a great dinner party thing to have.

party

speaking of parties … well let’s just say that someone special is having their 80th birthday party pretty soon … and that person put g in charge of putting a and me in charge of acquiring EtOH for the party … so a and I went shopping this weekend for the party …  Funny thing happened – with our combined infinite wisdoms, neither of us stopped to think about how much we could actually transport in the car when we made our purchases – we just stopped buying things when we felt like we had “enough” … and we come out to my tiny clown car (our adorable volvo C30 named FiFi) and panic strikes us – was it all going to fit?  Well, as you can see, it did!  But we literally could not fit a single other case of beer or wine in the car (a did have to hold a case on his lap).  Crisis averted!  Now that I have scrutinized the layout, I suspect that with some reorganization of with putting some cases on their side, I may have found another way to fit at least 2 more cases back there … next time!  And when we come back from hiatus, I’m sure we’ll have updates as to how the party went.

And now … the main [other] main June event …  So, my testing ends on the 27th of June … and on the 29th: we go to Talula’s Table!  Woohoo!  There will be food and wine galore.  I’ll be posting pretty shortly thereafter – I promise!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

3 June 2013 at 8:56am

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

g’s happy dance

leave a comment »

g says: Today, I jumped out of my chair and did my happy dance.

Why, you ask? Because I CALLED IT.

t and I dined at Talula’s Garden on Sunday evening, rumored to be their first weekend since the announced departure of former executive chef Michael Santoro. As we sat in the garden, I sipped my beekeeper cocktail (t stared longingly at it, sad that he could not partake in its bubbly goodness), and we discussed possible next moves for The Garden. I said that I hoped Matt Moon would come since he just left Talula’s Table – since his food is the closest thing to having Bryan Sikora’s (back when it was sprinkled with magic) and because Bryan doesn’t seem to be cooking in a super-creative manner at a.kitchen, Matt and Talula’s Garden could really bring something special from the ‘burbs back here.

t claimed that this would never happen. Unfortunately for his ego (but very fortunately for his stomach), my wish has come true.

Boo-yah.

t says: I wonder what the new menu will look like …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

9 August 2011 at 8:18pm

Some ridiculous goats …

leave a comment »

t says:  g and I ventured to Talula’s Garden [again].  Rather than go through the whole spiel (we’ve already been there a few times), let me just tell you about the two items in particular that stood out.  As the title of the post suggests – they both have to do with goat.  The first:

What a crappy pic! iPhones must be afraid of the dark.

What is poorly photographed above is a goat tortelloni, with ricotta gnudi, peas, and a herb-goat jus.  The tortelloni were perfectly cooked, with wonderfully textured goat meat inside – it was more like a pulled goat, not like a pocket of ground meat – and the meat was not the least bit “stringy”.  The peas made g smile (she loves peas), as they had some bite to them and were full of flavor (both from the pea and from the jus).  And yes – that sauce/jus was ridiculous[ly good] with an herbiness and a meatiness that I could not believe for how thin it was.  Actually – I kind of want to know the concoction of herbs used so we could grow them in our garden (i.e. our one pot on our patio) and could use it, ourselves!  The ricotta gnudi are the same as the past appetizer we’ve had; they are of a familiar texture (like a ball of mozzorella), and I really want to like them more, but I just wish they’d take on more flavor from the jus surrounding them.  Otherwise, they taste of mild cheese that I, personally, find hard to appreciate, as compared to the surrounding elements, it comes off as a bit bland.  But it didn’t matter for long, as I simply cut them into smaller pieces to increase the surface-area-to-volume ratio and dunked them into the jus, thus solving the problem at hand.

The other amazing goat of the evening was a goat cheese that they put on the “Masters Collection” cheese plate.  To be honest, g and I generally don’t love goat cheese, but if it’s on a cheese plate, we’re going to give it a whirl.  We find that the goat cheese flavor is all too often overpowering, and the texture can sometimes be a gritty nightmare or so thick that it’s challenging to chew/swallow.  But not this goat cheese.  The texture was superb – something between “creamy” and “goaty” (I couldn’t think of another adjective than “goaty” – by this I’m referring to that characteristic way goat cheese crumbles in your mouth), and it had this mix of savory cheese funk with some inherent sweetness that was addictive.  I felt that I could eat it for breakfast (stick some honey or preserves on it), or lunch/dinner (stick a slice of prosciutto on it), or even dessert (stick a dab of chocolate on it).  Actually – it reminded me a lot of the goat cheese we had at Ad Hoc.  I wonder if it was the same or not.  Hell – for all  know, this could be some simple $3-a-pound goat cheese made in Jersey.  But I wouldn’t care if it was – as a matter of fact, I’d buy it by the pound!  I’d make some gnocchi and cheese cake with it!

We did eat other things which were very good, too (they brought back the squash blossoms appetizer!).  But it’s really hard to think of those dishes when the goat was this good.

I am going to take a second to be critical, though …let’s talk about the brioche with the ramp butter.  It’s just not the same!  When Talula’s Garden first opened, they started the meal with these “rolls” (if you call them that) that had a skinny cylindrical stem and a bulbous top – kind of like a mushroom or a muffin.  I thought that it was a brioche – but maybe I’m wrong.  They were probably a nightmare for servers to carry on a dish (they easily fell down with the slightest nudge), but something about them was so delightfully airy and warm and inviting.  Now, we’ve noticed that they’ve been replaced by what seems to be just the top, bulbous part of the former roll.  And somehow, this is a very different animal – I think it’s a textural change, as the ones we had were a little more dense/crumby.  I’m immediately reminded of the Seinfeld episode where they try to make muffin-tops without the muffin-stumps – it just didn’t taste as awesome as making the whole muffin and ripping off the top (although in this case, the stump and top were equally good in the original and superior to the new, revised version).  Perhaps it’s a completely different recipe (i.e. a completely different bread), and I’m just longing for the former.  I don’t know.  Either way – it’s not like I’m not going to eat it – it’s still a darn good bread.  And it’s still some darn good ramp butter.  And really … nothing compares to the original pot-bread, anyways (i.e. bread baked in a terra cotta pot ca. early 2000’s at Django).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

7 June 2011 at 8:13pm

Aimee Brings Some Thunder: A Review of Talula’s Garden

leave a comment »

t says:  Ah yes, it’s now time to put up our Talula’s Garden experience.  We’d done Talula’s Table a number of times (the farm table and the chef’s table … twice), but now it was time for Episode 3: Return to Philly (Episodes 1 and 2 were obviously Django and Talula’s Table).  Here we go!

4/2011, Sunday 6:30pm, Party of 2.  We first arrived and were greeted by the friendly hostess.  She did offer us a seat at the “communal table” and wasn’t the least bit dismayed when we said no.  While we normally wouldn’t mind something like a communal table, g and I feared a JG Domestic-esque nightmare (which apparently has been rectified since the last time we went) and instead went for a normal two-topper.  And it’s a good thing we did (more on why later – it has nothing to do with the communal table being bad or anything like that …).

g noted that everyone appeared to be friendly and happy; it was nice to see that while they were most likely stressed out of their mind (it was their first weekend officially open), they were quite pleasant!  As our server greeted us, she let us know as nicely as possible that there was a corkage fee for the wine that we brought (I knew there was – it’s $25, but as soon as you order 3 glasses of wine, you’d spend more than $25 anyways …) and then proceeded to explain the menu and how cheese could be incorporated whenever/wherever you wanted.  It was a neat idea.  Knowing g, she’d probably make a whole meal out of cheese if she could.  But alas – we went a more traditional layout: app, main, cheese, dessert.  So let’s bring it!

veloute of sweet pea with squid

g was very impressed with this dish.  The texture was velvety and lying underneath was what we can only presume was squid ink … and she ate every last drop.  She even ate the squid … she normally avoids tentacle-containing animals, but she couldn’t resist!  But as good as it was, it paled in comparison to mine …

oxtail consomme with marrow dumplings

So here’s the skinny on the oxtail consomme ….  It doesn’t look like much (and it’s not helped by my camera and photography skills that suck).  And that hunk of meat doesn’t look flattering … but it was magnificent – tender and flavorful – not as gamy as oxtail can be, but definitely in-your-face cow.  And then there was the consomme, which was equally flavorful (it was so good that g even snuck her spoon in to taste the broth inbetween my spoonfuls), the perfectly brunoise veggies (at least, I think they were 1/8″ cubes), and those little dumplings which had a nice bite to them with a subtle flavor – mostly getting flavor from the broth around it (so I’m not sure if the marrow added a whole lot – it might have been too subtle for me to really appreciate amidst the rest of the dish).  At first I felt that the crouton was a bit unnecessary – but then I realized that it  allowed me to completely clean the bowl, not letting a single drop escape, so it was indeed useful after all.  So I take the lead, 1-0.

As I had mentioned, g and I opted for a two-topper.  The table we were assigned was seated somewhat near the hostess stand, which is where Aimee was fluttering about, so we were in prime position to try and get her attention (we wanted to say “hi”!).  I tried to convince g that it’d be a good idea if I did my over-eager smile and wave, but she felt that it was too creepy.  So she kept the look-out and eventually caught Aimee’s eye sometime after our appetizer.  She came over to greet us, making us happy and giving us an opportunity to shower her with praise for how great everything looked (and to thank her for moving back to the city) and the successful first course.  She seemed a little nervous, but it was her first official opening weekend, so she seemed a bit excited, too.  It was nice to see her!  As I’ve said in the past, she really has a way to make you genuinely feel like you’re special – which we appreciate – it really makes us want her to do well (which, in retrospect, is perhaps a very good talent to have for someone in the food industry).  So now that we had seen Aimee, it was time for our next course!

double the beef, double the fun.

g went for a manly entree (it seems like she always gets the manly entree) – but she promised to share (I was going to get it, too, but it’d be dumb to get two of the same!).  Those puddles of white were almost like a potato foam, and it was accompanied by a turnip and a carrot, both of which were divine (a divine vegetable?  yep – beautifully cooked texture).  But the real star was that rib (?boneless short rib?) hiding under that thick brown glaze on the left.  It … was … ridiculous.  It’s probably the single best short rib I’ve ever had – including the short rib we had at the Inn at Little Washington.  That’s no easy feat.  g wondered if it could have taken on the Inn’s sous vide filet as well, but I’m not quite sure that this braised piece of meat could have matched the texture/flavor imparted by the sous vide method – it was close, though.

Just some gnocchi and mushrooms, right?

Gnocchi and mushrooms.  No big deal, right?  In fact, you always see gnocchi and mushrooms (I think we’ve had it at Django, Talula’s Table, Osteria – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it at other Italian places and contemporary American places all over the city).  So what?  Brace yourself.  This, my friends, was no normal gnocchi-and-shrooms.  First off, there were a few different kinds of mushrooms on the plate – so it was a bit of fun trying each.  And yes, these gnocchi were a step up even from the normally exquisitely texture Django/Talula gnocchi in that they were lightly pan-fried/roasted/seared/something, so there was a  slight browning on the outside, giving it a bit of a super-thin-shell.  And there was the round yellow egg yolk that added a wonderfully unctuous sauce-like mouthfeel.  But it didn’t end there – because if it did, it would have only been on par with ever other gnocchi-and-shrooms dish in the city.  No, there was something different – something weird about this dish – and I still just can’t figure it out!  Everything I’ve described to you so far would suggest that this was going to be a rich-and-heavy dish (courtesy of gnocchi and egg yolk).  But no.  There was something else going on.  It had some sweet, but it had some liveliness to it.  Or was it some kind of acid.  Whatever it was, that some kind of something livened up the dish.  It made the gnocchi, mushrooms, and yolk have a lighter, zippier, more playful taste than what I was expecting.  At first I thought it was maybe those little red specs, which at first I thought were paprika, but I couldn’t get any of that smoky paprika flavor on the palate (so now I have no idea what those were, either).  You know – it was probably something so simple that I’m overthinking it (someone’s going to be like, “duh t, it was balsamic vinegar”) (EDIT: raisin puree!!  that’s what it was!), but it was definitely there and made this one of the best gnocchi dishes I’ve ever had (I would have said best, but it’s been a while since we’ve been to my former favorite: Babbo).  Nevertheless, it at least so far beat out Vetri (Vetri’s was a volatile gnocchi – I prefer a denser gnocchi), it beats out the old Django/Talula’s, it beats out Gnocchi and La Viola and Mercato and Melograno and Modo Mio/Monsu …  Maybe I’ll leave it as the best gnocchi dish in the city?  Will that piss off the Italians?  Probably.  *Shrugs* I’ll happily eat my words if they give me a better gnocchi dish.

queso

Obviously, if you dine at Talula’s, you have to get some cheese, too.  We went for the three-cheese “special” – they were described as being in the style of brie/camembert.  They were definitely on the lighter side in terms of flavor – no extremely-vegetal/musty/fungusy flavors here – just butter and creme and a pleasant twinge of ammonia towards the rinds.  Of course, there were more subtle flavors going on up in there (it’s not like they were all the same or anything), but I’m no cheese connoisseur so my feeble attempts to describe the differences would be met with laughter and ridicule.  I will say that the Inn at Little Washington gave us a bit more variety (and quantity) than that which we had here – but maybe that was our fault – there were some more elaborate cheese options on the menu which we had not chosen (I think kp would have disliked our cheese choices – he likes them stinky and funky).  For a split second, I was about to regret not being a bit bolder in our selection … and then the unexpected happened.  Aimee showed up with two glasses of cava.  She said, something to the extent of, “and nothing goes better with rich cheeses than cava.”  Aww – how sweet!  A simple gesture like a splash of free cava really put the dot in the exclamation point of the meal.  And you know what – g found that the cava was indeed a perfect accompaniment, and it really pushed these cheeses show off more of their subtle flavors.  Personally, I can’t drink more than a single sip of bubbles, so g also helped me with my glass, too (much to her chagrin I’m sure … rriigghhtt).  Meanwhile, I stayed with my red wine and enjoyed the cheeses and the substance that was in that jar all the way to the right, which was filled with what can only be described as liquid crack.  Ok – some people might call it “rhubarb compote” … I call it liquid crack.  It was delicious.  And it was versatile.  It paired nicely with each of the cheeses (although that’s not too hard to see – it’s not like the cheeses were assertive personalities) and it even worked well with our dessert:

Looks weird, right?

Welcome to the real dessert of the evening – I love me a good cheese, but I like to end on sweet.  This was the dark chocolate “cremeaux”, as it was called, which I can only describe as a cross between chocolate mousse and boardwalk fudge (i.e. it maintained the rectangle shape).  It was accompanied by some caramel (with salt I believe) and some chocolate crumbles, and some BACON DUST, and those marshmallows.  Ok, right off the bat … caramel and salt.  Winning!  Then bacon dust … winning again!  But why bacon “dust”?  I believe it was a good way to introduce the flavor in a very restrained manner.  While I would have been happy with bacon bits, this was a more tasteful/playful way to do it – not like an over-the-top-bacon-on-everything (it seemed to be mixed in with the chocolate crumbles the most).  We had seen bacon dust before at Talula’s Table when Bryan was there and were glad to see it back in action.  But wait – and then there was those marshmallows … winning even more!  I don’t know what  they did, but it wasn’t just a plain blow-torched marshmallow – it really tasted like it had been roasted over a campfire (and if it was just a plain blow-torched marshmallow, someone please tell me and I will go out and buy that blow torch, myself).  In summary, what you had was a chocolate-based dessert with a variety of textures (the crumbles, the marshmallow, the fudge-ness, the caramel sauce) and intriguing flavors (bacon, smoke, caramel).  It was a very solid dessert …

Now by this time, g and I had polished off a bottle of red wine.  We have never been able to conquer a full bottle of wine above 12% alcohol (we did a bottle of white … once).  So naturally, we started doing things we wouldn’t normally do with our food.  Like have some cheese with our chocolate.  Or some rhubarb with our chocolate.  Or some rhubarb with our cheese with our chocolate.  And throughout these experiments we came to the conclusion that the triumvirate of that cheese plate with the rhubarb compote with this chocolate essentially turned out to be the best dessert we’ve had in the city (I’m trying to rack my brain to see if we’ve had something better outside the city – and while I can’t think of any, I’d like to remain conservative).  Shazam.  Zahav’s hold over me since whatever desserts I had way back when I had lunch there with k was over.  Of course, a lot of wine had been drunken, so maybe we should go back and re-try this just to make sure we weren’t hallucinating (actually, it’d technically be an “illusion”, not a “hallucination”).

And there you have it.  This was a stunning meal.  It started off with a “very good” veloute and just kept climbing from there, ending with a bang.  Time for some critical analysis …  The food here is definitely not as fussy as the Inn.  Duh.  It was also less than 1/4 the price.  And it wasn’t as rustic as our Philly favorite, Bibou.  The food came off as something inbetween, appearing a bit more polished than Bibou.  As far overall “feel”, the food reminded me a little of what I think JG Domestic is trying to be: a homage to local ingredients, but cooked superbly.  But, as you can see from the pix, the food is presented with a little more of rustic touch versus JG – it’s not like they were stacking veggies into pyramids or making intricate sauce smear designs everywhere.  As far the quality of the food – it was just as delicious as Bibou (which I prefer to JG … Jidoori chicken be damned) and a better cheese/dessert course (keeping in mind that we’ve only tried one dessert and one cheese plate thus far).   I found it interesting that Aimee described Talula’s Garden as “trying to do something that people say ‘only a small retaurant can do’ … but for a bigger restaurant.”  I can see that.  But I also can’t even imagine how hard it must be trying to produce food of this quality as they take on larger and larger parties – I hope the quality won’t go down, because if Talula’s is going to last in this erratic restaurant scene, it’s going to have to rely on the food (surprise!), alone.  At this point, g and I are going to give Aimee the nod over JG – however, I have heard that JG has stepped up its game, so this will probably be a heated battle as the months pass.  I’m not sure who would win in a Talula’s Garden vs. Bibou fight, as Bibou comes in at a lower price point (per dish, and it’s BYO), but it is far more difficult to get to/from (cabs, even when called, don’t exactly come right away to Bibou for pick ups) as well as get in (Bibou reservations have become scarce since the Philly Mag list).  The FTC has a meeting therein June, so we’ll find out!

Drawbacks?  There was a bit of lag-time in the beginning between the bread and the first course and and the first and second courses.  But for the remainder of the meal, everything was smooth.

The only other drawback I have relates to my longing for a more intimate environment.  It’s tough for a space like that Washington Square place to come off as intimate or garden-esque – there’s super-tall ceilings, distinct eating sections, lights, colored walls, etc … but I really have to just get over it – Django is gone, and this is the future – take it or leave it.  And trust me.  I take it.  Plus, it’s not like Aimee could lower the ceilings or cut the dining room in half or anything.  I will say, however, that I’m really excited for the outdoor space.  Hell – I’d put a retractable roof and walls on that outdoor space and make that the restaurant because that’s what I think of when I think of “Talula’s Garden” (aside from the obvious garden-esque theme, it just really feels homey and close – I like that).  Yes, I know that the outdoor space has gotten a lot of criticism with people/bloggers claiming that it looks too much like a Terrain store or something like that – but what’s wrong with that?  It’s pretty.  It’s got character.  It’s got a splash of up-scale (gotta do something with Starr-bucks).  What more do you want?

In conclusion, we wish Aimee’s new venture a ton of success – the food and vision is deserving of it (also, all this time, I have neglected to mention that the chef, Michael Santoro, deserves a lot of praise, too!  Double-duh!).  I must admit some reluctance in giving Mr. Starr any of the real  acclaim (the parts of the business that I [perhaps falsely] attribute to him – the large space, the liquor license – aren’t exactly my highlights, however, if he comes with Aimee, then so be it), he has won these compliments out of me by hooking up with the right people and finding a way to deliver actually good food and not just an over-shnazzified environment (looking at you, Pod).  g believes this to be the best of the Starr restaurants.  I reminded her that Morimoto was a Starr restaurant.  She thought an extra 2 seconds and was like, “yea, so?”  Shazam again.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

18 April 2011 at 11:22pm