Friday, June 17, 2011

Talula's Garden

Wade's Take:

This was definitely my most anticipated meal of the year thus far. We've had this reservation for Talula's Garden for months, and it finally came to be.

I walked off the street into the outdoor entrance to Talula's Garden and immediately felt the change in atmosphere. I was instantly reminded of an outdoor summer wedding. People were all well-dressed in their summer best, happy, socializing, nibbling on food. I walked mid-restaurant and stopped, observing and adjusting to the new scene. There were two women standing near me, casually talking. They started a conversation with me like we were old friends, asking me about my work day, how I was doing and other pleasantries. I was starting to think I did in fact know them until they asked me if I had a reservation. They were restaurant managers or owners, not life-long friends of mine! They walked me to an equally perky hostess. I realized right away this wasn't going to be a typical pretentious new restaurant scene - this was going to be different all around.

Our table was outside in a setting that matched the restaurant's name. There was a garden wall around us, plants sprouting from every possible position, and our table and chairs were straight from someone's patio. With a nice warm breeze blowing Dave's hair like he was a super model, it was a great summer scene.  

Now to the cheese plate. Jess and I selected the "In Kind" cheese platter. It was described as four rare and ridiculous cheeses. They were right. Fantastic. My meal could have ended with this plate, and I still would give Talula's Garden a four out of four. Hours later, I'm still thinking about the L'Amuse Gouda and calculating how to get another fix.

I can't pass up sweetbreads on a menu anymore. It's been a fun game to compare and contrast this dish at restaurants over the past few years. Talula's Garden had a nice version, but it didn't come close to trumping the sweetbreads from Fond a few months ago. The sweetbreads were lightly breaded and milder than I'm used to. They were served with an asparagus royale (read: asparagus jello), but my favorite addition was the crisp, fried kale on the side. Potent with salt and actually crunchy, I could have had an entire side of this and been happy.

My entree was a beef and ribs dish, with a foamy brown butter/banyuls and turnips. The beef was succulent and tender, sprinkled with a coarse salt. The rib meat was a cut that was soft enough to crumble apart under my fork, yet still dense. Confusing to the senses. The meat wasn't just infused with the smoky sweet barbecue, it was married. I can't comprehend how they made the foam of brown butter and banyuls (wine/vinegar). It tasted like polenta air. The turnips were neutral, but probably best that way with all the other players on my plate.

I was jealous of Dave's lamb shoulder and very fond of the scallops Jess ordered.

Dessert was a state of euphoria after everything else. Some petite doughnuts were on the table and a soft chocolate dessert with toasted marshmallow and crumbs of smoky bacon. It was bliss.

The meal took time, clocking at two and a half hours. Was it worth it? Absolutely. My one lingering question about Talula's Garden has to do with vegetables. Where were they? Perhaps it's because of the name, but I expected to have more splashes of leafy greens in the dishes for a restaurant that's founded on the concept of farm to table.

Nonetheless, I proclaim Talula's Garden to be four out of four hippy chic garden locales.


Saturday, June 04, 2011


Wade's Take:
Settling into a table at Kennett on a Friday night post-work week felt warranted and just right. This Queen Village pub has history in the neighborhood going back to 1924. Now rehabbed and under new ownership, it works perfectly in the neighborhood.
Kennett has a variety of local craft beers. It was a tad difficult to find something light on the hop heavy beer menu - but my choice of the Rogue Somer Orange-Honey Ale seemed to work.

We delved into one of the specials for our first course... anchovy and cucumber bruschetta. The anchovies were mild enough, but paired with the neutral cucumber and some light olive oil, the dish was nicely balanced and none-too fish-rich. 

Another of the appetizers was beans on toast. The dish was large butter beans (a derivative of Lima beans) served on a Paul Bunyan-sized piece of toasted brioche. The fresh brioche was dense yet spongy, and the beans were smeared atop the bread, soft and paste-like. For a crown the dish had a fried egg. Cracking through the brioche and its layers with a fork made for many a delicious bite.

My entree was a white pizza special. The pizza had a thin-crisped crust, farmer's cheese, arugula, pork belly and chive blossoms. It was a nice pie for the most part. The farmer's cheese was a good choice, it melted evenly across the pizza and was more neutral than a mozzarella. This was ideal, because the arugula, large pieces of roasted pork belly and chive blossoms sang loudly. If it were up to me, I would have portioned the pork belly pieces and chive blossoms a bit smaller. These larger-sized items made the pizza just a little cumbersome to eat. All in all, I was happy.
Dessert was ideal for what we wanted and expected on a warm Friday night. We ordered the chocolate bark with vanilla bourbon ice cream. Although there was nary a bourbon flavor, the ice cream was rich and good. The chocolate bark broke easily into bites of dark chocolate, almonds and sea salt. It was a nice simple dessert to go with the straightforward meal. 

Kennett had good, paired-down dishes that were perfect for those wanting a nice non-complicated Friday night. 

3 out of 4 happy Fridays.

Dave's Take:
I was only able to make it through a round of beer and the starters course at Kennett (I had a small, upset, little girl to take home and deal with... and I don't mean Wade). But what I saw, I liked.

The tomato pie was my starter. It was done well. There was an herb in the sauce, perhaps cinnamon, that made it unique. Definitely worth trying.
3 out of 4.

Jess' Take:
As Dave mentioned, we had a very cranky little girl with so, so the first part of the meal entailed me taking walks outside trying to entertain her. I guess she just wasn’t ready for the explosive flavors that Kennett had to offer. Once she was whisked away by the best husband in the world, I settled in with Wade and a good beer. Please keep the bad mother comments to yourself.

We had a smorgasbord of starters, including roasted chickpeas, which were served with smoked paprika and citrus. They were really smoky and delicious. And also went quite well with the beans on toast.

I opted for the veggie burger for my main. It was a very hearty burger, made of wheat berries, red beans, walnuts and sunflower seeds. It was also served with a spicy 1,000 island dressing that unfortunately overpowered the nutty tasting burger. I ended up scraping most of it off, and then eventually finishing the burger with a fork and knife and only one side of the bun. It also came with a side of sauted greens, which were pretty darn good.

Wade mentioned our dessert, chocolate bark. It was so-so. I wouldn’t order it again. I was pretty excited about the bourbon ice cream, which turned out to be very good vanilla and not much more. Eh.

Like my comrades, I give Kennett 3 out of 4 smoky chickpeas. Next time I hope to be back with a delightfully pleasant little girl. One can hope, right?

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