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Too many unrelentingly busy months of work and an unredeemed set of Kennett Square gift certificates for bed and board — a wedding gift — conspired with my birthday to lead Christina and I on a brief journey west for two much-needed mid-week days of rest and recreation.
After taking full advantage of being able to sleep late without the day-in and day-out need to give Izzy his 8 AM walk and his diabetically timed 12 hour apart daily meals, we headed to Talula’s Table for late morning coffee. I had read about the talented couple who opened the wildly popular Django a few years ago in Philadelphia, only to toss away the daily restaurant rigors and head to the countryside to fashion a splendid market and a simpler life. I jealously admired their decision to step off the merry-go-round.
Talula’s Table, State and Union Streets in Kennett Square, was the location of my perfect lunch.
As we could not resist a moist almond breakfast cake and savory scone with our coffee, we needed a walk around Kennett Square’s main street to rekindle our appetite for lunch. With appetite restored, I selected our lunch from the take-out case and took our seats at the long communal table that monthly is transformed into a tasting dinner for a dozen that must be booked a year in advance. Our take-out selections were simply bowled and plattered and bought to us to share.
My Perfect Birthday Lunch Menu
Sweet beet and orange salad with a touch of bitter chicory
Roasted Brussels sprouts combined with house-smoked bacon and the crunch walnuts
A heated foot long and inch thick strudel of gruyere, walnuts, apples, onions, squash and cabbage
House-made red-wine cured Tuscan sausage sliced paper-thin served with a house blend of olives
A warmed stew of posole, shrimp and chorizo. (Posole is a dried large kernel corn that is soaked in a lye-solution to remove the husk, re-dried and then re-constituted.)
A fist-sized meaty sourdough garlic roll
Pecan chocolate chip cookie
Why was this a perfect birthday lunch and what does it have to do with home entertaining? Special places — restaurants, markets, and yes, dinners at home, all possess a quality — an essence — that is unique — a sense that there is only one of these. In fact, that is an important part of what makes entertaining in your home so special – it’s yours — there’s only one of these. I could not imagine another Talula’s Market. The care and passion for food is evident from the smartly and seasonally selected offerings in the case to the carefully edited cheeses and packages of pastas and olive oils that line the shelves. Everything about the experience of Talula’s Market has the imprint of handcrafted care and by that I do not just mean the food. The experience transcended the food. Talula’s Table offered good taste and warmth and the sense that every detail is cared for but not sweated over. It also provided some menu inspiration as well as my solution to my Halloween Party hors d’oeuvres.
Roasted Corn, Pecans and Brussels Sprouts
The roasted Brussels sprouts of Talula’s Market rang all the notes of fall and altered my menu for Mike’s Halloween Birthday Party planned for this evening. I had in my mind’s eye to repeat the smokey bacon infused Brussel’s sprouts of my lunch. But a stop at a little farmstand on our way home to buy my Brussels sprouts, I found the last lingering ears of fresh sweet corn. I believe that ideally the food we cook should reflect the season. But the change from season to season does not involve a switch, rather one season yields to another. And so this corn offered the opportunity to make something that was the quintessential expression of summer yielding to fall by replacing the smokey bacon of Talula’s Table’s Brussels sprouts with the sweet nuttiness of roasted corn. Pecans seemed much the better compliment to my corn than walnuts to the bacon. And so came to pass the recipe that follows. If you can’t find the lingering ears of corn, file this away until same time next year.
Do ahead You may fully roast up to one day ahead. Remove from refrigerator early enough before serving to allow to reach room temperature.
6 medium ears of fresh farmstand corn
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
12 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup pecan pieces
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2 . Blanch corn for 2-3 minutes in a generous amount of salted water. Remove corn and immediately run under cold water to stop cooking. With a sharp knife, cut corn from cob taking care to leave behind the milky residue. This will yield about 4 cups corn.
3. Trim away a small amount of stem end of Brussels sprouts. Peel away any discolored leaves. Cut heads in half from north to south.
4. In a bowl, combine corn, Brussels sprouts, garlic, 4 tablespoons olive oil, pepper and salt. Mix well. Turn out mixture and spread onto rimmed baking sheets such that you have more or less a single layer. I needed two sheets. Place in oven and roast for about 1 1/2 hours until Brussels sprouts brown and start to char and corn begins to turn brown. About midway through, turn the mixture with a spoon or spatula and redistribute into a thin layer. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Add 2 tablespoons oil. Toss. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.
More dining around Kennett Square
Other highlights of our Kennett Square holiday included a pre-birthday dinner at The Gables with friends and followed by a wonderful birthday dinner for two at The Orchard. It is unusual that I walk into a restaurant and am greeted by someone who has been at this as long as me, but Chef Gary Trevisani traces his roots to the pioneering Morgan’s Restaurant that dates from Frog’s 1970’s era. After a career that included a long stint as Director of Culinary Arts at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, Gary took the plunge and took over The Orchard. Gary designed and presented a five course tasting menu – supplemented by a pair of amuse bouche – that began with cardamom-scented sweetbreads, moved on to sea scallops on salsify with a truffled cream to perfectly cooked squab served with a luscious puree of celery root. Cheese and chickory salad followed. For our fifth and final course we defaulted to the chocolate birthday cake that Christina had ordered. The Orchard is a BYOB. Our friends dropped off a bottle of champagne and we had brought with us a bottle of Chablis and a Breggo Pinot Noir from California’s Anderson Valley. Our Orchards dinner was a worthy nightcap to follow a our special lunch. Now, its back to my diet!
The Pennsbury Inn
Our accommodations were at the charmingly historic Pennsbury Inn, established in 1714. Our innkeeper greeted us with a tour that recounted the Inn’s development as she lead us from the original rooms with original floors through the more “modern” parts of the Inn that date from the mid-1800’s. Upon our return to our second floor bedroom I found the “Happy Birthday” balloon that our host had clearly traveled out into the night to buy for me after learning that this was my birthday. It was a happy birthday.
Reading Terminal next Saturday, November 7th.
I will be at Reading Terminal with a little At Home roadshow on Saturday, November 7th from 11 AM to 2 PM. I will work with selected Reading Terminal merchants on making your Thanksgiving better and easier. At Home will be available for sale.
Looking for Owners of The Frog Commissary Cookbook
If you know anyone who owns The Frog Commissary Cookbook — and you think they should know about At Home, please pass along to them information about At Home. You can do this simply by directing them to At Home’s preview website.
Giving Thanks by Giving At Home
Simple math suggests that far more people are guests at Thanksgiving than are Thanksgiving hosts. The perfect house gift for your Thanksgiving host is to bring them a copy of At Home. At Home is not available in bookstores so you will need to go to our At Home Shop to purchase it.