Talula’s garden is located on Washington Square, a beautiful part of Philadelphia. It is an offshoot of Aimee Olexy’s Talula’s Table, considered to be amongst the most difficult places to get a table at. The minute I sat down at the table and examined the menu, it reminded me of Alice Water’s Chez Panisse with it’s emphasis on the freshest ingredients cooked in disarming simplicity. The menu changes every month, reflecting the vegetables and ingredients in season.
Olexy is known for her expertise in cheeses and it is no surprise that Talula’s Garden has an entire menu devoted to different flights of cheeses. We ordered the “World Travel”, a collection of eight cheeses from across the globe. My personal favorites were the vintage Gouda (Holland) with its distinct sharp flavor and the Chimay (Belgium) which had been washed with beer to give it a special bitter flavor. The crackers along side the cheeses were some of the best I ever had and were so much fresher than the ones one finds in grocery stores.
While we were waiting for our entrees, our server bought us a platter of brioches covered with herbed butter. They were incredibly warm and soft and quite literally melted in one’s mouth.
I ordered the Crispy Pennsylvania Lamb Shoulder Confit which was accompanied with polenta and treviso with a Oregano-Rosemary-Zinfandel Vinaigrette base. It was a highly interesting combination of textures and flavors. The lamb was tender and the texture was similar to pulled pork. The treviso added an earthy flavor with the vinaigrette infusing a zing into the dish. The polenta base was also delicious and reminded me a lot of an Indian dish called upma.
My fellow diners had the Gnochetti Primavera accompanied by a medley of fresh spring vegetables with basil,mint and lemon nage. Every single dish at Talula’s Garden had some sort of vegetable incorporated into it which made one feel it could have been prepared in the back yard; it was so fresh. It is easy to compare it to Vedge, another Washington Square Garden restaurant focusing on locally sourced ingredients with a globally sourced cuisine. However, both are special in their own rights and both have clearly been influenced by the pioneer of using of locally grown, organic ingredients – Alice Waters.