Thursday, March 28, 2013

Slobblog: In the Garden

Do the Slobs belong here?

When it was announced that Slobfest would be taking their act to Talula's Garden, the response was overwhelmingly positive. As noted, we've already attended many a Stephen Starr run restaurant - to mixed reviews - but still, people were excited about the food, foodies were aggressively promoting the place, and after a month off we were all hangry (hungry + angry) for some Slobfest antics.

Upon arrival, however, there was some uncertainty among the group. Was Talula's really for us? Was it too nice or classy? Is it more of a date spot? Would there be enough food for Christ sake!?

To answer these questions, it's important first to pull back and get to know what Talula's Garden is all about. While Mr. Starr certainly is involved in the Washington Sq. Eden, the showrunner, if you will, of this enterprise is successful restaurateur Aimee Olexy. Her brioche bun and butter is her renown restaurant Talula's Table in Kennett Square, PA. The restaurant has become such a success and seats so few that if you're interested in checking out the farm to table tasting menu, make sure you have your calendar open around October as reservations are typically months and months and months out.

Sorry, Heisenberg. No use for you here.
It was Starr's ability to take a backseat and work with Olexy in Washington Square that in a way created a restaurant that is surprisingly non-Starr like. The food is the main attraction here. The drink menu would be dialed down, the menu would constantly change to reflect the fresh ingredients Olexy had available, and the ambiance would be rustic and real not make you feel like you're eating dinner just after hitting some of the best crystal meth of your life - with lights flashing and big bold art pieces everywhere. No, if you didn't know it going in, you'd hardly know it was a Stephen Starr establishment.

The food is a tick above many Starr joints, but with the lowered sensory experience and wow factor; Talula's Garden still gives off a fun atmosphere that everyone enjoys from Starr. The ambiance is fantastic. Inside the restaurant is nice to see, but there's also an outdoor seating area that I'm quite sure is excellent during warmer weather. Going out there for some brunch, wine, cheese, etc. will definitely be happening soon - however, that is certainly more of a date activity.

Seating can be a little tight (there was one two seat table set up to the left side of the bar in front of the coat rack ... I can't imagine why anyone would want to sit there). The visual aspect of Talula's was one of the best Slobfest had to offer, but it was a little too nice that it could make things initially uncomfortable. So in regards to if the Slobs belonged there, the answer is a hesitant yes.

One of many cheese plate offerings.
Needless to say, eventually we got over the hesitation. After one rip-roaring belch from one Slob we started rolling. Starting with drinks and a cheese plate we quickly moved on to catching up with everyone. Some haven't seen each other in months, others just a couple of weeks, but what makes Slobfest what it is is really just all of us getting together.

**A quick side note: All of the pictures I took were atrocious. I don't know what happened. All the pictures I'm using for Talula's is just from the Internet.

Sure the food plays a part, but when we start playing around with the idea of having a Slobfest at a Boston Market, it becomes clear that it's more the people and the place is basically window dressing.

The fast food talk did go on for quite some time. One Slob even owned up to not knowing that Burger King doesn't sell the quarter pounder with cheese. He had a craving for the burger and I guess just thought they served them everywhere. My how disconnected some have become with common paupers and vagrants. Even more weird was when he asked if BK had a similar alternative, they said no! What the fuck is a Whopper then? Of course, it's no Big Kahuna burger.

After we dismantled the World Travel cheese plate, it was on to the appetizers and entrees. The Slobs had all decided that this place was without a doubt an appetizer/entree per person place. There was no room for outright sharing, only a bite here or there if one was feeling generous.

We quickly transitioned to what everyone was checking out on TV. The Americans had certainly caught the attention of many a slob, as well as an increasing curiosity over The Bates Motel. Then a Slob raised a question as to how could TV possible load up Easter Sunday with the Season 3 Finale of The Walking Dead then have the season 3 premier of Game of Thrones on the same night? Have they no ability to give us some rest? Surely many of us would be in some kind of travel or drunkenness so as not to be able to focus on these important television events. However, after a quick deliberation session it was clear that Easter plans would be altered to accommodate the shows. In the final rank of things it went Dead and GoT in some order and Jesus Christ's resurrection a distant third.

Some of the apps that made their way to the table were kale cavatelli and veal, spicy curry tuna, the foie grais, the sweetbreads, and the fettuccine.

They were all engulfed.

The only sign of distress came from one of our more voracious Slobs who ordered the foie grais. Now, I'm a big fan of the food, but he was displeased with the portion. Perhaps this is more what he had in mind for where the berry stuffed liver would end up.

At this point, while we had been assimilating to the "niceness" of the restaurant, it became clear that the food, while excellent and undoubtedly fresh, may not be enough to satiate all of us. Well, thanks to the entrees as well as a hearty serving of vegetables we were on our way to maximum capacity.

There was a nice sampling of the entrees available. The swordfish was proclaimed as the best swordfish one Slob has ever tasted. The brisket, snapper, and pork loin were all paired wonderfully with the fresh vegetables on the plate as well as an assortment of oven roasted brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and sweet and regular potatoes.

Let's face it there is no goddamn better way to cook vegetables than roasting them. If I had to break it down, it's as follows:

  1. Roasting
  2. Grilling
  3. Boiling (fresh)
  4. Steamed
  5. Boiling (canned)
And I'll tell you what, 3-5 are a long ways away, daddio.

For our reactions to the food, well the cumulative thoughts of the Slobs were tantamount to a private act that Cyndi Lauper and The Vapors (and I'm sure millions of others) wrote a song about. Yes, if we did anything this past Slobfest it was consume more vegetables than probably at any other Slobfest combined as well as make reference to masturbating. It was a varying array of banging the table, mentioning 1 1/4" jokes, judging the social acceptability of taking care of yourself right then and there. Oh, we were a delight. There was a brunette the next table over that was thoroughly enjoying our conversation ... or trying not thrust the cheese knife down her ear canal to rupture her eardrum so she didn't have to listen to our filth any longer. 

Either or, we didn't care. We were all pretty stuffed at that point, but that never holds us back. Especially with a fantastic dessert menu and french press coffee (that they actually bring out in mini-french presses). While the warm banana crepes (with the same sauce the dump on their pancakes they serve at brunch) weren't nearly that of the chocolate and peanut butter crepe at Max Brenner, many seemed pleased with that as it was the runaway dessert pick. The coffee was really fantastic. I own a similar french press to the mini ones they served, and I was even able to get info as to how much coffee beans need to go into a regular size press to get such good coffee. 10 scoops the waiter tells me. 10! That's like half a pound of coffee beans. Suddenly french press, while delicious seemed less economical.

When the bill came, we were all slightly surprised at the cost. It wasn't nearly as expensive as our record setter (which took place in January and will be written up soon), but we thought our server was trying to TAKE MY MONEY. Although he did treat himself to a 20% tip for slow and meandering service. What a gold digger. 

Overall, Talula's served as a fine meal for us Slobs. Did we acclimate to Talula's or vice versa? I don't know. We came, we ate veggies, and we mimicked jerking off. All in a night's work. 

-Slobs Out.

Talula's Garden
210 W. Washington Square
Philadelphia, PA

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