Monday, January 28, 2013

Not So Vanilla Vodka

When I tell people that I have a food blog, I generally get asked if I prefer baking or cooking.  And while a fair number of the recipes I post generally lean towards the savory, I do enjoy making the sweet. About five years ago, a very good friend gave me an amazing birthday present, a gift that has continued to give. He made me home-made vanilla extract.

It was so simple and so perfect that I’ve used it ever since. 

For those of you who bake, you know how expensive good vanilla extract can be. A small bottle, one fluid ounce of the pure stuff (not the imitation), can cost around seven to nine dollar at the grocery store. If you bake more than three different items, you’ve gone through you little bottle of extract and have to buy some more. 

Initially when I received the home-made extract, I was a little wary. I mean, it was literally a vanilla bean inside a bottle of vodka. How was this going to compare to the stuff I buy at the store?  But because my friend took the time to make this for me, I decided to use it when I was baking some cookies. I figured I’d make a batch, if they tasted like vodka, I’d just toss them out and remake it.

New Years Resolutions and What Not

I've been rather remiss lately. Work has been pretty busy and our dining out has been drastically reduced. We're attempting to....gasp....budget. I don't handle things like budgeting well, especially when every other email I get to my personal account is about a new restaurant opening or the best dish/cocktail/bite that's out right now. The list of restaurants and bars that I want to go to grows daily. And it doesn't help that we DVR The Mind of a Chef  and Check, Please! and get Lucky Peach in the mail. Seriously, I recommend doing all of these things, but only if you have self control. I do not, but The Husband is a fountain of steely control, thank goodness for that. Otherwise we would probably be the most well fed, destitute people in Chicago.

 I can't totally complain about our budgeting, because it does involve another round of Season Tickets to Next. So you will be seeing postings about The Hunt, Vegan and Bocuse D'Or as well as maybe another trip to El Ideas or Grace or Elizabeth's or something exciting like that  over the next year, but I've also decided to try and post a little more about the dishes I make at home.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Talula's Kitchen Table

I have a list of hard to get reservations that I posted on my Challenge Accepted post.  According to this list, Talula's Table in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania was made ineligible because it is considered “an exclusive experience” and because it is technically not a restaurant.  Talula’s is a gourmet market by day and a farm to table, BYO restaurant by night.  Talula’s has one Farm Table that seats 10-12 people per night and requires dinners to make a reservation one year, that is correct, I said it, ONE YEAR in advance. You have to be incredibly dedicated to Sparkle Motion in order to get in. Reservations start one year to the day before and the phone lines open at 7am or you could be one of the lucky few and get an invitation to sit at their 8 person Kitchen Table.

So based upon the above statement, Talula’s Table is most definitely a hard to get reservation. And it should be, the food is amazing and worth the wait. It recently received Philadelphia’s coveted Four Bells, basically Philadelphia’s version of stars.

So when my adoptive brother, The Kern, called back in September and informed me that he had gotten a reservation for his girlfriend’s birthday at the invite only Kitchen Table on December 29th and asked The Husband and I to join, I immediately said yes.  Of course I said this without thinking about The Husband’s rather hectic work schedule, so we spent a good part of September, October and November wondering if he would be able to join in on the fun. As it turned out, he was placed on the Nice List this year and was able to fly in the night before.

As I said, Talula’s is a BYO and they are kind enough to send an email out with a rough approximation of the menu, along with recommended pairings. As The Brother is a beer geek, he was placed in charge of that. The Husband and I were charged with wine. Once the menu was received, I promptly printed it, along with the pairings and headed over to Perman's  for his expert opinion.  As we were going with my siblings, many of which are in school or about to head to school, or alcohol budget wasn’t huge. He did an amazing job of finding really fantastic wines, which paired perfectly with the dishes for a reasonable price. 

Kennett Square is a beautiful historic town outside Philadelphia, it's also the mushroom capital of the United States. With that being said, it’s surrounded by a fair amount of countryside and not exactly close to where The Parent’s live, also it had snowed a fair amount that day and the roads weren’t exactly plowed. The Kern’s Family was kind enough to not only be our designated drivers (I’m so used to Chicago, that I forget cabs aren’t plentiful outside of our bubble) but also gave us all bedrooms to sleep in for the night. The Husband and I are eternally grateful for that. I mean, who wants to pull the short straw on a meal like this and be the designated driver?!