Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Talula's Table

Mention to someone in Philadelphia that you write a food blog, and they'll invariably ask if you've been to Vetri (I have, it was incredible). Mention to someone that lives just outside of Philadelphia that you write a food blog and the conversation usually turns to Talula's Table in Kennett Square. It's become the gold standard of the suburban foodie, and for good reason. There is no place quite like it - outside or inside the city limits. You have to make your reservation one year ahead of time. That's right, one year.  This is not the place for the impulsive.

It's less a restaurant and more of an adorable little market on the main street of an even more adorable town. Kennett Square could be the setting for a Norman Rockwell painting.  In the evening when the market closes they offer the chance for up to twelve lucky people to sit down at their solitary table and be treated to a luxuriously lavish meal. Every course is meticulously thought out and prepared. When you know you are cooking for exactly 12 people each night, you can really take your time - basically a chef's dream scenario.

It's also a BYO, so even though you are paying a decent sum for the meal it is not an exorbitantly expensive affair. You do however have to think about transportation. You are probably not going to want to pay for a cab or an Uber ride here. Septa is not taking you here. Driving means you can't really enjoy the meal you spent a year planning. You are going to need to hire a private ride. It's worth the money.

Lucky for us, we were going for a friend's 30th birthday and they just happened to hire a party bus to take us all down. Baller style. *Note - bring sippy cups for the champagne on the ride down. Our meal consisted of 7 courses - each described in vivid detail and served by a small team in an utterly ghost like manner. You would turn your head for thirty seconds and when you looked back there would be a new dish for you to ogle. 

Our table for 12. Shabby chic.

The rolls were actually one of the most amazing pieces of bread I've ever eaten.  They were light as helium balloons and stuffed with a bit of gruyere cheese. Some salted butter, served softened for spreading (bonus), and we were off to a great start. 

Marinated mackerel, pickled quail egg, microgreens/herbs and walnuts. I know what you're thinking - "marinated mackerel, really?"  It's a pretty strong tasting fish to begin with (great on the grill, by the way) but whatever they marinade it in really mellows out the flavor. The pickled quail egg is pure decadence. Yolky and dense  but somehow tasting of caramel. Pretty good trick. 

For the morel mushroom soup, they do the pour-over thing in the bowl in front of you for a bit of drama. The unbelievably earthy soup surrounds and island of wild rice, bone marrow and pickled ramps. It is expectedly good considering that we are in the mushroom capital of the US.  The broth alone would be enough to justify a bowl on it's own, inviting the other guys to the party puts this into the Gatsby realm. 

Probably one of the only disappointments of the evening was the wild alaskan halibut.  And I have to qualify that by saying that this was by no means bad - it just wasn't on the level of everything else we ate. The fish is sautéed nicely, but it's just kind of bland. Adding radishes, beets and wilted romaine didn't exactly take you to flavor town. Meh. 

The best thing I ate was definitely the rabbit roulade.  It's a rolled up little hunk, that must have been sous vied, then seared quickly for flavor.  Underneath is a snail & white bean ragout and sandwiched in the middle are fresh fiddle head ferns which are only good for an extremely short window in the spring. The bean ragout was incredible - reminiscent of a Tuscan bean soup but with the flavor amped up to 11. 

I swear there is tagliolini pasta underneath that pile of house smoked onions, spring greens and shaved ricotta salata. I wish I remembered more about the pasta, but it kind of got lost between all the other splendid dishes. I can definitely tell you that the onions were great. 

An incredibly tender and tasty slice of roasted veal strip loin, topping crispy sweet breads and  potato & creamed swiss chard puree. A little of that veal reduction forms a protective moat around the castle of protein. 

Birch RunHills Farm "Fat Cat" cheese & bacon crepes, drizzled with Meadowset honey. An impossibly luscious blend of cheese and crispy delicious bacon. All meals should end this way.  Now by this point you've undone at least the top button of your pants. I hope you came hungry, cause they are not going to stop bringing it. 

Lemon three ways, sweet roasted barley, almonds & thyme. Sorbet. Ice cream. Mousse. Yumm.

Chocolate truffles - not on the menu.  Just because.

Remember that if and when you get to Talula's Table, none of this will be on the menu. They cook extremely seasonally. Lot's of places claim the "farm to table" thing, but they are doing it, and doing it well like LL Cool J. Your meal will be completely different, based on the time of year, what is fresh that day, and the whims of the chef. 

Now I have to qualify this whole post by saying that this was not one of the best meals I've ever had. Although it did get me thinking about those other meals and there's another post coming on that topic shortly.  The food is amazing, but it would not be my last meal on earth. But really, you are going for the experience. Having the entire restaurant to yourself is pretty special. The setting is wonderful and the service is sparkling. Your every need is catered to the entire night. It is everything that a special occasion should be.

Food Baby Rating:  Triplets

Talula's Table
102 W. State Street
Kennett Square, PA 19348

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