The New York Times recently wrote an article entitled “Now, Chefs Court Farmers for the Best Ingredients.” The article is about how Jonathan Benno – the former chef de cuisine at Per Se – will use local ingredients from specialty farms in NY, NJ, CT and PA at his new restaurant at Lincoln Center in New York. Benno explains, “These days, carrots are in the ground Friday and on the plate Saturday night.” Local is certainly the trend in dining these days, but some restaurants have been doing it for years. Talula’s Table is one of those restaurants.
I first expressed my desire to go to Talula’s when I visited their stand at Headhouse. I fell instantly for their truffle white bean dip and have been infatuated with the idea of going ever since. However, reservations are difficult to come by since there are only two tables – one in the main market area and one in the kitchen. It was only through a cancellation and a very nice invitation by a friend that I was actually able to go. The meal and experience lived up to all of my expectations. It was a perfect combination of fine dining using fresh and local ingredients and a cozy and warm atmosphere.
Talula’s website describes the dinner perfectly:
- “After the market closes each day we serve a seasonal eight-course tasting menu – our “Farmtable Dinner”- to just one party an evening. One group of between eight and twelve guests is served an elaborate menu of only the finest ingredients at their best. Each item is sourced and prepared specifically for each evening…”
By day, Talula’s is a market, so an amazing assortment of specialty foods lines the walls. You can find jams, breads, coffee, teas, chocolates, granola, meats, cheeses and so much more.
Our menu for the evening was presented to us when we sat down, although I’m pretty sure all twelve of us memorized the menu online on July 1 when it was posted :). We had one vegetarian in the group and she was given an alternative menu, which turned out to be just as delicious.
We started with appetizers, which included Barbecue Chicken on a Mini Bun…and Lobster Tarts. Each small bite was incredible and a perfect start to the eight course meal ahead.
Talula’s is a BYOB and prepares a list of wine pairings according to the meal that is being served that night. We followed every recommendation and showed up with 12 bottles of wine in tow from Moore Brothers.
After enjoying the Hors d’ oeuvres, we were presented with Hot Smoked Salmon, Foccacia Tartine, and Sunny Girl Beets. The beets were unlike any I’ve ever tasted before.
Next up was the White Eggplant Soup, Eggplant Frites and Fennel Pollen. Now the restaurant was definitely cozy, and I was among friends and family, but it’s never really appropriate to lick your plate. Although I wanted to…
So instead I used this warm bread with Gorgonzola cheese inside to clean my plate :). I should really just called this “butter with flour” because that’s what it tasted like. It literally melted in my mouth.
Now this is where the dinner really took off. This would be Goat Cheese Gnocchi, Sweet Corn Veloute, and Kennet Mushrooms. I’m not really sure how to describe this other than to say it was perfection in a bowl.
Talula’s owner, Aimee Olexy, was gracious enough to let me into the kitchen when the chefs were plating our next dish, the Local Flounder, Zucchini, Garden Herbs, and Tomato-Anchovy Vinaigrette. It was wonderful to meet them and watch them in action. Every dish received special attention.
The first meat dish of the evening was the Marget Duck and Confit, Fat Fried Potatoes and Berry Scented Duck Sauce. I’m not a huge meat eater, but I heard many claims around the table that this was “the best duck I’ve ever had.” However, that was not the last “best ever” I heard that night.
The best ever? The Beef Cheek Risotto with Arugala Gremolata and Cave Aged Cheddar. This. Was. Incredible. Again, I don’t eat much meat. But I’ve decided that when I do, I won’t discriminate. So…duck? Sure. Beef Cheek Risotto? Bring it on. This was by far one of the best dishes I’ve ever had in my life. There was a chorus of “ohhhs” and “ahhhs” echoed in the presence of this dish.
Cheese is cheese is cheese, right? Not so. When a market that specializes in artisanal cheese gives you a cheese plate, you savor every bite…and your neighbor’s if they’ll allow you to.
Coffee was served as we tried to find room in our stomachs for dessert.
Dessert was a play on “peaches and cream.” We had a Summer Peach Tatin with Chester County Cream. It was the perfect light ending to an amazing meal.
Dinner at Talula’s was truly an amazing experience I won’t soon forget. Thank you to everyone at Talula’s for an incredible evening!
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