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?!

We pulled up to an adorable store front at promptly 7pm. We unloaded our three cases of alcohol and stepped into a delightful market. The front of the house people took our wine and beer as well as our coats and told us to feel free to wander around for a while.  I think it’s a good thing (for The Husband, bad for Talula’s) that the registers were no longer open, or I would have walked out with a fair amount of their offerings. Salted Carmel spread, delicious cheeses, mustards, it’s a food lovers heaven.

While we were waiting for our passed hors d’oeuvers , one of our servers, Sarah, brought out glasses for our first bottle of wine Perman suggested, a Fournier Cremant de Bourgogne Cuvee (a sparkling wine)The first of three passed hors d’oeuvers came out, a tiny biscuit sandwich filled with house made sausage, scrambled eggs and drizzled with a bacon infused maple syrup.  I’m not a breakfast lover but if all breakfasts tasted like this, I would be.

Teeny biscuits 

As we were laughing and attempting to use our fingers to take off the remaining syrup from the plate, our second course came out. A tater tot covered in salmon salad and chives. The tater tot was salty and crispy; the salmon salad was rich and creamy. It paired perfectly with the Cremant.

Potato and Salmon
Our final hors d’oeuver was a Majol Date that was stuffed with house made ricotta and covered with braised pistachios. Their house made ricotta is to die for (it comes back later in the meal). The dates were beautiful and rich. These three bites were a really awesome way to start the meal.

Dates stuffed with Ricotta

During this time, we also finished 3 bottles of the Cremant. So going into the Kitchen to get seated, we were all happy campers.

The Kitchen Table is a large square butcher block table that seats two people on each side.  We were seated and our second bottle of wine, Hirsch Gruner Veltliner (a really wonderful Austrian wine)  was already poured for us.

Our first course paired beautifully with the wine. A terrine of potato and horseradish, covered with smoked trout and trout roe, garnished with an apple salad and a parmesan tuile.  The trout was smoky and salty, the terrine was a creamy and the citrus vinaigrette on the apple salad did an amazing job of cutting though the potato and the trout and bringing it all together.

The terrine
Between the first and second course, our server Kevin brought out an amazing cheese brioche along with some house made butter topped with Fleur de Sel. Growing up, we did not eat butter in my house, it just wasn’t a part of our meals. However, as I’ve grown up, I’ve learned that there is some butter that is worth eating. This butter, this was worth eating a whole lot of. All three of my siblings are lactose intolerant (poor souls) and they also indulged in the butter. The bread was amazing, light, cheesy, crispy on the outside. 

Amazing bread

Course number two was served with a white Burgundy, the Benoit Ente Bourgogne Blanc. Really lovely chardonnay that is super fresh and dry. It was served alongside a Slow Braised Pork Belly, Ragu of Clams, White Beans and pickled Fennel. As we ate the dish, everyone kept commenting on the pickled fennel and how perfect it went with the dish.  The clams were delicate and cooked perfectly (when overcooked they become like little sawdust packets) and the braised pork belly was tender and falling apart.

Pickled fennel for the win
Our third course was a superb Creamy Cauliflower Soup scented with Almond, Wilted Romaine, and Crisp Sweetbreads. I love Sweetbreads, I think they are the most delicious food on the planet. And this dish did not disappoint. The soup was creamy (given the name, that is obvious), and the Sweetbreads added a really great texture to the soup. The chef not only wilted the Romane, but also crisped a little of it too and placed it below the Sweetbreads and around the soup. We all licked our bowls clean. 

Creamy Cauliflower soup
For the soup, Perman thought it would be fun to do a play on Old World vs New World Chardonnay’s so he paired the Anaba Chardonnay from Sonoma along with this. Most New World Chardonnays are really oaky and buttery, but this was minerally, crisp and clean.  It did a great job of cutting the creaminess of the soup while bringing out some of the more delicate flavors.  We drank this for the fourth course as well.

Between our third and fourth course our friend Kevin brought out a rather large basket of breads. German Pretzel rolls, a buttery rolls and about four other types of bread.  None of us could stop eating it, that’s how good it was.

Enjoying dinner
The fourth course was some of the best risotto I’ve had. Oven-Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Risotto with Mascarpone and Sage topped with toasted Pumpkin seeds. If I could make my risotto taste like this, I’m pretty sure I would make it for every single dinner party we ever had and people would never complain.  You would think from the Butternut Squash and the Pear that it would be on the sweeter side, but it wasn’t. It was savory and rich and the mascarpone was beautiful.  I kept making odd sounds as I ate this dish, it was that good.  

Course five and six was pared with the Piaugier Sablet Breguieres, a Cote du Rhone.  Course five was a Saffron marinated Monkfish that has shaved Brussels Sprouts on top along with Lemon and Thyme garnish. This course went phenomenally with the wine and I loved the saffron marinade, however it was the only dish that I felt fell a little short. The Monkfish was a little dry for me. That could have been from the marinade, or just that it was slightly overcooked. But for that one reason, I felt the dish fell a little short.

The Kern and his Girlfriend (the reason for our dinner)! 

However short the Monkfish fell, our final savory course made up for leaps and bounds; Duck breast, Foie Gras and Mushroom patty topped with roasted Cippolini mushrooms. I love duck but it’s really easy to mess it up; this was breathtaking. The duck was slightly seared and placed over a patty of Foie and roasted mushrooms. The richness of the duck, the salty and buttery-ness of the Foie combined with the earthiness of the mushroom. This dish was a Grand Slam.

Duck, Foie, Morels and other amazing mushrooms
We transitioned into the dessert courses and Perman thought that instead of getting dessert wine, we would try two different Sherrys. The first, Cesar Florido Moscatel Chipiona Dorado, was a light golden brown dry wine. It was paired with House Made Ricotta that was sprinkled with fresh cracked pepper, Soft Herb Bread and Local Honey. I told you earlier when we had the Dates that the Ricotta was amazing and I was so happy to have an entire course dedicated to it. Soft, rich, just a little sweet from the honey and the addition of the fresh pepper was perfect. The sherry was an excellent pairing with this; it really brought out the botanicals from the honey.
Best Ricotta EVER
Our final course came and we were all rather sad and the evening was winding down.  Our last wine was the El Maestro Sierra Pedo Ximenez , a dark rich sherry that tasted like raisins. Our final course was a beautiful Chocolate Terrine, that was covered with Candied Hazelnuts, and Endive semidfreddo. You may say to yourself, Endive ice cream? But I can assure you it was a perfect pairing. The Chocolate Terrine was rich and Endive when cooked endive becomes a little sweet and the dusting of Cardamom Chocolate was deliciously decadent.

We were offered coffee or tea alongside our final dish, house made tuffles. Chocolately, rich, and perfect. Normally I’m not big coffee drinker, but while we were having our passed hors d’oeuvers, I smelled some of their beans and they were so fragrant. (I later learned they carr La Colombe).  When we were offered coffee, I jumped on a cup of half decaffeinated half caffeinated.  As someone who generally finds coffee bitter, this was really mellow and nutty. And it was amazing with the coffee. So if you make it to Talula’s (even the market during the day) I would highly recommend a cup.

When they brought us the check, they brought an assortment of scones for the morning (blueberry, cranberry and apple).  The baked goods alone were worth a return trip to Talula’s during the day. However I would highly recommend dinner.  After the check came, we sat around for a little waiting for our ride, finishing our wine and beer, chatting with Kevin, Sara and the chefs. We thanked them profusely for the amazing meal and headed out into the night, satiated and thinking about how we were going to come back again.

End of the night shenanigans

If you’re looking for a way to get in and don’t want to wait a full year, read this interview with the owner and try to hand at a reservation. I promise, it’s worth it. 

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