Saturday, February 26, 2011

Talula's Table in Kennett Square: The Restaurant with a One Year Waiting List

Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,1998 Tenuta dell Ornellaia
Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,BBQ Shredded Chicken
Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,Mushroom Tarts with Truffle Honey
Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,Menu
Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,Bisque of Maryland Shrimp
Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,Snail Caesar with Burgundy SnailsTalula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,Racelette Gratinee
Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,Raclette Gratinee
Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,Virginia Bass
Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,Pheasant
Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,Confit of Meadowset Lamb
Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,Winter Cheese Board
Talula's Table,Kennett Square,Pennsylvania,Farm Table,Milk Chocolate Pudding Tart

"There are two kinds of people who dine at Talula's Table; those that come because it's hard to get into and those that like good food." One of the chefs told me as we sat at the Chef's Table, tucked into the back of the minuscule, but extremely efficient kitchen. We were the latter. Although it's pretty surreal to be eating in a restaurant that has a one year waiting list, we weren't there for that. We were there for the food.

Talula's Table is just that, a table. One long farm table in the middle of the cafe-restaurant-gourmet food shop. However, there are also half a dozen seats in the front of the building where you can take your morning coffee and delight in their uber-delicious cookies, tarts, cakes and macaroons.

When we arrived, it was closed, save for the diners participating in the farm table. We were seated in the front section of the restaurant. The plush corner booth was all that separated us, from them. And I'm glad there was a barrier. As the other diners ushered in, tall, good looking people, designer watches, suits and blazers on full show, looking down at the little people who weren't dining at the farm table that evening, we realized these were clearly the prior. Those that came because it had a one year waiting list.

Within minutes we were brought the first of 3 canapes. Shortly after that we were taken back into the kitchen to meet the chefs and take our seats at the Chef's Table. The meal that ensued will be seared into my mind for a very long time. We dined for over 3 hours on 8 incredibly well thought out dishes. We chatted with the chefs like they were old college buddies. And we took photos in a totally unpretentious environment.

I will not go into every detail of the menu that night. Instead, I have listed it out here:

• Bisque of Hand-Harvested Maryland Shrimp, Shrimp Puppies, and Seafood Andoullie.

• Snail Caesar, Burgundy Snails, Braised Lettuce, Parmesan Crisps, and Garlic Toast.

• Raclette Gratinee, Potatoes, Speck, and Smoked Almonds.

• Virgina Bass, Squash Broth, Wild Rice Risotto, and Brown Butter Vinaigrette.

• Tender Pheasant, Sauerkraut and Apples, Riesling Sauce.

• Confit of Meadowset Lamb, Ribbony Rosemary Noodles, Sourdough Breadcumbs and Sheep's Milk Ricotta.

• Winter Cheese and Cottage Condiments from Vermont.

• Milk Chocolate Pudding Tarts, Banana Brulee and Dogfish Rum Sauce.

Although each and every dish was mouth watering, we all preferred the Confit of Meadowset Lamb over anything else. The Pasta that rested beneath the Lamb was stunning and the Lamb itself was mind-blowing. Not a dish for those that can't handle intense, deep concentrated flavors. If there was one dish that could have been eliminated without thought, it would have been the Virginia Bass. However, if everything else had not been so ultra-delicious, I wouldn't even mention it. But when compared to the other dishes, this lacked depth.

One could take any of the dishes listed above and write a dense review of it. Dissecting every gastronomic molecule. Let us just say, that Talula's Table is doing it right. In every way possible. My highest recommendation.

My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography

Talula's Table on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Burger 21, Tampa, Florida: In-n-Out Meet Your Match

Burger 21,Tampa,Florida,Gyro Burger,Tex Mex Haystack,BBQ Bacon Burge
Burger 21,Tampa,Florida,Gyro Burger,Tex Mex Haystack,BBQ Bacon Burger Burger
Burger 21,Tampa,Florida,Gyro Burger,Tex Mex Haystack,BBQ Bacon Burge
Burger 21,Tampa,Florida,Gyro Burger,Tex Mex Haystack,BBQ Bacon Burge
Burger 21,Tampa,Florida,Gyro Burger,Tex Mex Haystack,BBQ Bacon Burge
Burger 21,Tampa,Florida,Gyro Burger,Tex Mex Haystack,BBQ Bacon Burge

What does it take to make a truly tasty burger? Just ask Chris Ponte, Executive Chef at Burger 21 in Tampa. Chef Ponte has sated this foodie's appetite for a good burger. I only wish it was in West Sussex, England and not Tampa, Florida. Living in England since last year, I have not enjoyed nearly as many burgers as I would like. Actually, that's not true, but because England still hasn't mastered what's needed to make a great burger, I haven't had many that were good. The Hinds Head in Bray is the only restaurant in England to deliver something that resembled a decent burger. But even then, it was glorified and made regal by using Balmoral Venison.

There are many who have commented on my blog about my obsession with the great American hamburger. Nearly every time I post on a burger I get floods of comments and emails. People either hate them, or love them. One reader actually insulted not only all American's, but the entire burger industry saying, "burgers are for children, people that can't use cutlery and Americans." And, they're right. When you haven't tasted a proper hamburger, that's the impression that you get.

And then there's Burger 21. A gourmet burger bar that serves burgers with names like The OMG!, The Tex-Mex Haystack and The Gyro Burger. A great burger is not the same without great sauce to go with it. And to that end, Chef Ponte provides not just one type of sauce, but 8. Thai Ketchup, Apple Cider, Chipotle Mayo, Ragin Cajun, Toasted Marshmallow, Honeycomb Mustard, Mustard, and of course, regular, good 'ole fashioned Ketchup.

On this visit my fellow diners and I had the BBQ Bacon Burger with Lettuce, Tomato, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Crispy Onion Strings and a Hickory BBQ Sauce on a Brioche Bun. We also had the Tex-Mex Haystack with Lettuce, Tomato, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Smoked Cheddar Cheese, Guacamole, Crispy Onion Strings and Chipotle-Jalapeno Sauce on a Brioche Bun. And finally, the Gyro Burger; Burger 21's Burger of the month, it had Mediterranean-seasoned Lamb with Vine Ripe Tomatoes, Cucumber, Red Onion and Lettuce topped with Cucumber Tzatzki Sauce.

It is fair to say, that Burger 21's burgers were the best I've ever had. In fact, they make In-n-Out, based on the West Coast of the U.S. look like a mediocre, half-assed operation. And that takes some doing.

For all of those out there that think burgers are for children, people who can't use cutlery, or American's, please take a trip to sunny Tampa, Florida, you'll become a believer and nothing will satisfy your craving for tasty, messy food quite like a good 'ole fashioned hamburger.

My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography

Burger 21 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wallace Station: Good Eating in the Heart of Horse Country

Wallace Station,Versailles,Kentucky
Wallace Station,Versailles,Kentucky
Wallace Station,Versailles,Kentucky,Big Brown Burger,Guy Fieri
Wallace Station,Versailles,Kentucky,Bourbon Trail Triple Crown
Wallace Station,Versailles,Kentucky,Santa Anita Club
Wallace Station,Versailles,Kentucky,Mediterranean
Wallace Station,Versailles,Kentucky,Mediterranean and Big Brown Burgers
Wallace Station,Versailles,Kentucky,Mediterranean and Big Brown Burgers
Wallace Station,Versailles,Kentucky,Ginger Nut Cookie
My wife and I recently took a trip to Lexington, Kentucky to see an old friend. She lives in an area that, from what I can tell, has three main sources of entertainment: food, bourbon and horses. A deadly combination if enjoyed in that order. I was lucky enough to get my fill of all three. Our trip started with lunch at Wallace Station Deli. A local favorite, this tiny restaurant in Versailles, pronounced VER-SALES, lies literally right in the heart of horse country. There is horse paraphernalia everywhere. It's on all the walls, in the bathroom and on the menu. My friend, Simple Foodie even got asked if he was a Jockey. He did what anyone would have done when being called small, "yes, I am." He answered.

Ordering was fairly easy. I noticed on the wall a spray painted sign that said Guy Fieri had been here and rated the Wallace Station's Big Brown Burger as one of his top 5 burgers on his show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. "I'll have that one," I told the uncommonly nice woman behind the till. The others ordered and we sat down. I had heard that Wallace Station was always extremely crowded, but on this occasion, we were the only diners there. After a few sips our of Ale-8-One, a Kentucky soft drink that tastes like ginger and caffeine, our food arrived.

I was a little disappointed with my Big Brown Burger. At first sight it doesn't appear to be much. But when I bit into the Giddled on the Bun Burger with Ham, Bacon, Tomato and White Cheddar Mornay I became a believer. The meat is tender and juicy and the Bacon and Ham add extra layers of flavor. This is not a Burger for those on a diet. This is a serious, calorie infused monster that will have you wishing for sprouts and apples for a week. But it is delicious!

Simple Foodie's Mediterranean Burger with Creamy Feta, Local Lettuce, Roasted Peppers, Olive Salad and Thin Sliced Red Onion was the best of all of our meals. There was still that huge, juicy, tender burger meat, but with the delicate, fresh flavors from the Vegetables and Feta. I much preferred it. My wife was struggling with her enormous Bourbon Trail Triple Crown with Roast Turkey, Cheddar, Bacon, BBQ Sauce, Mayo, Lettuce and Tomato, which is stacked three layers high, so I decided to help her out. Once we dislodged the middle layer of bread we could actually get our mouths around it and it was quite tasty. A little boring, but it would do in a pinch.

And finally, I tried Picky Foodie's Santa Anita Club with Roast Turkey, Pepper Jack Cheese, Bacon, Guacamole, Lettuce and Tomato. Picky Foodie got her name because she simply cannot make up her mind in a restaurant. We have to go around the table umpteen times before she's finally ready to order. And when she does, she usually asks the poor waiter to change one, or more of the ingredients. Case in point, we went for BBQ and she asked them if they could use only white meat. It was no different at Wallace Station. She opted to have the Guacamole left out of the sandwich, which left it tasteless and dead. She regretted it later. And so did I. But that's why we love her so much! Dining with Picky Foodie is always an adventure.

To round out the meal we had a giant Ginger Cookie, which helped settle my stomach after so many calories and different meats.

If I lived in Versailles, or near it, I'd probably be a regular at Wallace Station. There's nothing spectacular about their food, but for a quick lunch, it's pretty darn good y'all.

My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography

Wallace Station Deli and Bakery on Urbanspoon