Sunday, December 14, 2008

Talula's Table

So, Dave and Jess had an unbelievable opportunity to experience Tulula's table in November. The reservations were made in January, truly a dedicated wait! Located in Kennett Square (so you know it had to be good to get us out of the city), it's a farmers market by day and a two table restaurant by night. Eight courses based on seasonal ingredients, emailed out a week before with wine suggestions (as it's a BYOB). The experience was amazing.

We're going to throw it out there right up front. The dinner we had at Tulula's Table was the best meal we've ever had. Yes, better than Vetri, LaCroix and the old DJango when they used to run it. Start to finish it was creative, complex and very tasty. At eight courses, it was difficult to fight pallet fatigue but the chef's creations made it worth it. Believe it or not, eight courses was just enough due to the small complex portions. Full but not exploding.

1st course was the only possible low point but that's really only because we were expecting so much. After all, with a year's plus waiting list, you want your first taste to be life changing. This was very good, but it was overshadowed by the other freak'n fantastic courses. Fluke "Naturel" with cauliflower puree, orchard apple and foamy pomegranate. Think fluke Ceviche. Very good, creamy and a very interesting ingredients that worked well.

Next up, Citrus-drop Ricotta Ravioli with butter poached red (king) crab and melted leeks. Now generally I am not a fan of ravioli but this was awesome. Super creamy and rich but somehow light. This was certainly not the ricotta you get the in grocery store. The hint of citrus and sweetness of the crab and leeks played well with the ravioli so much that we started to feel guilty that Wade wasn't there. Yes - we were cheating on him which we felt a extremely bad about but we're food whores and this was too tempting to pass up - and our friend's Seth & Tara were nice enough to let us crash their reservation.

3rd course was Chicken Liver and Beech Mushroom Terrine, Duck Confit, Fresh Cranberry Sauce and smoked brown sugar. Again, liver is iffy with us, but this was a fantastic dish. Imagine a tiny little square of mushroom and liver that was bursting with mushrooms and just enough liver to make it savory and meaty. The accompanying duck confit was out of control with amazing deep flavor and richness that was cut by the fresh cranberries resulting in a perfect balance. I'm sure the smoked brown sugar would have gone nicely with the other flavor but it never made it. Dave couldn't get over how cool of an idea it was to smoke sugar that he quickly ate the small dusting with a few quick swipes of his finger. He's now dreams about smoked brown suger.

4th course - Spiced Black Grouper with glazed little carrots and saffron infused swallowhill squash broth. Make no mistake, this was not a soup, the broth was a thick coating on the plate to add a depth to the flavor. It was like a thin, perfectly complimenting consumee to the wonderfully cooked and spiced grouper. The small piece of grouper had more of a stripped bass consistency and was perfectly cooked - moist and tender with a slight crisp on the outside.

OK, at this point we're feeling good and not just because of the wine Seth picked up at their suggestion for the pairings. It was because of the bad-ass meal we were enjoying and the anticipation of the next dish. If you know us, especially Dave, you will understand that he loves game meats. Wild boar, elk, bison, venison, quail, etc. Not sure why everyone doesn't. They have more flavor and most likely lived a good life out in nature. Anyway, this was our highlight. Tenderloin of Bison with a Bison sausage choucroute, spaetzle and horseradish b├ęchamel. The chef came out to explain this dish to us, which we were told was a Bison tenderloin medallion that was poached slowly in duck fat. Our heart cholesterol increased immediately and we began to salivate. We can tell you that if you haven't had a meat poached at low temps in duck fat, you will probably live longer than us but we've experienced the finest preparation possible of tender meat. You hear melt in your mouth good often. We may never use that phrase again as this was truly the definition. Meat so tender and flavorful. It was amazing. Just seasoned enough to bring out the flavors but certainly not cover them. We almost forgot, next to that bison medallion, was a bison sausage choucroute (basically slice). That was great too. That smoky, salty favor only a cured meat can add. Together they were even better. This dish is what the filet mignon wrapped in bacon strives to be but this was exactly 423% better.

The 6th course, if served on the same plate as the bison course would be illegal in most states so Tulula's table took the safe route and separated them. The best risotto we've ever had. Amazingly creamy. You still knew it was rice based but it was so moist and creamy it could have been easy to forget. The quail flavors shined through and worked perfectly with the sweet, tart and spicy peppercorn syrah sauce. For good measure they threw in some cured meats - whcih seem to make everything taste better. Culatello is basically a super fancy small production prosciutto they make in house. If you stop by the shop and they sell it, you would be wise to purchase some.

Course 7 was a cheese plate to rival all cheese plates. This was also Jess' high point as Dave doesn't eat cheese, so Jess got double the goodness. One cheese in particular, a hard cheese that had a hint of black truffle olive oil, was the most amazing single bite all night - only to be topped by Dave's black truffle olive oil cheese. Yes, it's a spoiled life...

The last course was a dessert of bittersweet chocolate soup with brandied cherries and crunchy almond financier. This, to our surprise, was not a drunken perpetrator of the financial crises we were to carve up for their sins. It was a little almond cake/cookie-like square with some really intensely favored cherries and a chocolate "broth." We really enjoyed it but at this point had so much fat, sugar, alcohol and endorphins running through our system it was time to end this ordeal and get back to the real world.

So it's a few weeks later and we're sure we missed some of the details but the theme is spot on. This was an awesome dining experience. Our only wish was that there was an intermettzo and a stretch to take a break - and that Wade could have been with us to enjoy it.

Big props to Seth for organizing this whole ordeal and getting the wine. It's not cheap but a value for the level of food you got. We've have had more expensive meals, but never a better one. And by the way, Kennet Square is ridiculously far!

5out of 4 cardiologist bills!

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