Archives for April 2014

Restaurant Review: Talula’s Daily/Secret Supper Club

Talula’s Garden is one of those restaurants that is so charming that I want to move in. What can I say, I’m a sucker for twinkly lights, pretty flowers, and pastel colors. I would happily pull up a chair in the garden and keep ordering cheese and cocktails for as long as they would let me stay (which probably wouldn’t be very long. Those of you who have seen me after a cocktail or two know what I mean).

Now, I’m similarly smitten with the new addition to Aimee Olexy/Stephen Starr’s empire, located right next door. By day, the space functions, as market/café called Talula’s Daily where patrons can grab a cup of coffee and a pastry or a take-out lunch to eat across the street in Washington Square Park. At night, the lights dim and it transforms into Talula’s Secret Supper Club, serving a five-course, seasonally inspired menu.

With its farmhouse tables and chairs, floor to ceiling shelves filled with gorgeous dishes, and country-inspired décor and linens, the place looks like something out of an Anthropologie catalog. And, that’s because it kind of is. All of the dishes, glassware, and utensils are from the retailer (It was fortunate that I wasn’t carrying a large purse or else some items may have found their way into it).

The food is prepared in open kitchen at the back of the restaurant and seating is limited to about 20 or so. There is a communal table for 8 in the center of the room, where there seemed to be a couple of unrelated groups eating together. I suppose that being thrown together with complete strangers, à la a random dinner party in someone’s home, is part of the charm, but I was glad that Chester and I had our own little table for two. The menu changes monthly. So, unless you make it over there this evening, you will be enjoying something totally different than Chester and I did over the weekend.

Our meal started off on a high note, with Parker House rolls and creamy, salted butter. We don’t use real butter at home, so anytime I get my hands on the good stuff, I tend to overdose on it in a way that is probably impolite. I don’t care, particularly when it melts into a light, feathery roll that has just come out of the oven. Bliss.

Next up were the risotto croquettes with mushrooms. Normally, these are one of my favorite dishes, but I found Talula’s version a bit lacking. They were a little too heavily fried (to the point of being a bit burnt) and the interior lacked the creaminess that is characteristic of risotto. The accompanying balsamic glaze was a nice change from the tomato based sauces that I usually see this appetizer paired with, and a nice complement for the mushrooms.

The asparagus soup was my favorite dish of the night.  A small piece of spiced, poached salmon floated in the middle like a little island, when our server poured the creamy soup into our bowls. The dish was simple–with just a bit of salt, pepper and onion and a dollop of mild crème fraiche to flavor the soup–but captured all of the best flavors of springtime.

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The main course was spring lamb, three ways—a medium rare chop, shredded neck and lamb belly. The latter, rich and fatty, with a smoky flavor, was my favorite of the three preparations. The other two styles were more traditional. In other words, I thought they were tasty, but not entirely memorable.

The cheese board was creatively presented, as deconstructed baked brie. Brie is one of the few cheeses that I don’t like, so this wasn’t my favorite dish. But, it was tolerable when spread on a bit of puffed pastry and topped with sweet strawberry rhubarb compote.

On the other hand, I was thrilled to see carrot cake on the menu! It’s one of my favorite non-chocolate desserts, but I have it so infrequently. The incredibly moist cake had just the right balance of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. The highlight of the dish was the tangy cream cheese ice cream (note to self: learn how to recreate this) and garnished with candied pecans. I liked the deconstructed nature of this dish, as well. Letting each element stand alone was a great way to experience to the different flavors.

The price point for dinner is $55 per person, which makes it kind of a bargain when compared to other tasting menu concepts in the area. There is an option to add on a beverage pairing for $35. The fact that the server will top you off your glass if you find it nearly empty during a particular course is a nice touch. Our waitress was very sweet and attentive throughout our meal, even giving me a complimentary glass of Prosecco for putting up with a wobbly table.

The Secret Supper Club is a nice little place for a night out. Overall, I think I enjoyed the food a bit more at Talula’s Garden, but I think most of my complaints are based on my own personal preferences.  The May menu looks delicious, so check it out and let me know how it is!

The Friday Five: Spring Favorites

It’s been a looooong time since I have done one of these posts. But, I’ve been doing some shopping lately to get myself ready for Spring and thought I would share some of the things I’m loving lately, in case you are doing the same!

Ankle length pants

Being short poses a whole array of problems. I have to spend a small fortune getting pants hemmed so that they don’t drag along the ground; Capri pants are an awkward length for me and end up making me look even shorter. Thankfully, ankle length pants are a thing this season. My favorite styles right now are the slim cropped variety at the Gap and the Pixie pant from Old Navy (PSA: Both stores have sales going this weekend, if you are in the market for these pants and other Spring wardrobe staples). Both are super comfortable, with just the right amount of stretch, and can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion. I predict that these will be in regular rotation for me this season, either with a tailored jacket and blouse for work or down with a t-shirt and cardigan for the weekends.

pixie pants

The Pixie Skinny Ankle Pant, Old Navy

Slim cropped pants - motorcross khaki

Slim Cropped Pants, Gap

Pointed Toe Flats

I love a good four inch heel, but now that I’m frequently carrying fifteen pounds of baby around, they aren’t the most practical shoe choice. These flats pair perfectly with the pants mentioned above and give a more professional look for the office than a standard ballet flat.

PG.NWSPEAKUP.JJC49B9.PZ

Speakup Flats, Nine West

All Things Nautical

Lately, navy blue is my new black and I can’t get enough stripes and anchors in my life. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

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Blue stripe sateen fit-and-flare dress, Gap

Anchors away earrings

                           Kate Spade Anchors’ Away Studs

striped tee

Striped Sunwashed 3/4 Sleeve Tee, Loft

Urban Decay Naked 3 Eye Shadow Palette

naked 3

I know that the Naked Palettes have been incredibly popular for awhile, but I finally decided to treat myself to one when Sephora had their Beauty Insider sale lately. The set includes 12 shadows, in shades of pink and brown. The colors are vibrant and I haven’t noticed any creasing or fading throughout the day.

Sugar Honey Lip Treatment

sugar honey

My standard lip balms just were not cutting it during the winter-that-would-not end, so I splurged on a tube of this amazing stuff and have been wearing it every single day. It’s super-moisturizing, without being too heavy. It comes in a variety of colors, but I’m sticking with Honey because it’s the most perfect shade of nude.

What are you loving for spring so far?

Little B: Seven Months

7_Month_Test

I know I sound like a broken record, but, seriously, how do the months fly by so fast?

Due to the winter that just wouldn’t end, B’s six month doctor’s appointment was pushed back. When we finally went last week, she weighed in at 16 pounds and was 25 inches long (Judging from how much my arms ache from hold her and the rate at which she is filling out her footie pajamas, I think she must be more than that). She was a real gem at the appointment, too. And, by that, I mean, she screamed her head off from the time the doctor entered the room until the time we wheeled her out of the office. I’m pretty sure that the med student who was shadowing our pediatrician immediately went to the registrar’s office at Penn to try to get a different residency assignment.

B is a budding foodie and continues to eat almost everything we put in front of her. She even seems to have had a change of heart about green beans, which she hated just a few weeks ago. New foods this month included carrots, peas, pears and squash. We are still doing purees twice a day, but she is definitely interested in feeding herself. So, we introduced a sippy cup and are going to start giving her some finger food over the next few weeks.

sippy cup

She continues to be very vocal, and is starting to put some sounds together. “Ma-ma” and “ba-ba” are in heavy rotation at the moment. It melts my heart when she says the former, even though I know she doesn’t associate it with me just yet. There’s nothing wrong with pretending, right? I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that her first word will be some variation on Tracy, as the dog continues to be her favorite source of entertainment.

So far, she has yet to crawl in the traditional manner, but prefers to do a funny little backward scoot on her belly or on her backside to get where she needs to go. She is super strong, particularly when she is angry. On occasion, she has been able to pull herself up to a standing position by tugging on our clothes and can stand pretty well on her own if she has something to balance on, like the coffee table. Maybe she’ll skip crawling altogether and go right to walking!

st paddy's pjs

Caught in mid-scoot

Unfortunately, the more she is able to move around, the less she tolerates being confined. Strapping her into the car seat, stroller or high chair, getting her to stay still for a diaper change or attempting to cuddle her (unless she is really, really tired) can be an epic battle. I’ve learned that there are a few songs that can calm her down when she gets worked up in these situations: The “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” (with hand motions), “Five in the Bed,” and the theme song to the show The New Girl (in which I replace “It’s Jess!” with “It’s B!”).

Sleep continues to be pretty awesome (I’m sure I’ve jinxed it now). Strangely, she prefers to sleep with her head in one of the corners of the crib (out of sight of the video camera, of course, so we can’t see her) with her hands behind her back. It’s hilarious to see, but I guess she is comfy because she pretty much sleeps straight through from 7:30/8 p.m. to 5/5:30 a.m. I try to leave her in her crib for as long as possible in the morning, but so far, she isn’t the kind of baby who will babble to herself for awhile and fall back to sleep. So, she hangs out with me because I don’t really enjoy listening to her cry in the crib first thing in the morning. She sits in her Bumbo while I get her bottles ready and eat breakfast in the kitchen and then we move to the exersaucer or the floor in the living room while I put my make-up on. She really isn’t a morning person, though, and mostly just whines and wants to be held which makes things a bit challenging (I’m hoping that it’s not obvious that I’m not entirely skilled at putting eye shadow on with one hand just yet). She has consolidated and become more consistent in her daytime sleep as well. On average, she takes two naps per day of 90 minutes to two hours each. This makes it easier to do things with her during the day, since we no longer have to live our lives around an every two hour nap schedule. More often than not, I join her for one or both naps on the weekend, and enjoy the extra sleep and snuggles.

I mentioned previously that B and I like to read together. We tend to stick to board books because she likes to pull on the pages. Regulars in our rotation lately include That’s Not My Snowman, Guess How Much I Love You?, Love is You and Me, and Bubbles, Bubbles. But, the one she gets most excited for lately is the The Three Little Pigs. We have a rhyming version, which features the wolf fantasizing about all of the pork dishes he could make out of the pigs. For example:

“Three little pigs left home one day. They packed their bags and went on their way. Mother Pig said goodbye, bye, bye. But, a wolf saw them and thought—Mmmm. Pork Pie.”

(It’s amazing that my memory for things that really matter is completely shot, but I can now recite many children’s books in full.)

When B is in a really good mood, we do a bit of audience participation, in which I’ll pause and she will say the “Mmmmm” part. It’s adorable.

In terms of toys, she pretty much likes anything that she can bang together to make noise. She likes to dump all of the blocks out of her shape sorter box and drop them back in again. She loves to topple the stacking rings off the peg and watch them roll around the floor. Sometimes she can even get one or two back on to the peg, with help. Lately, she has really taken a liking to the Poppin’ Park Elephant. She likes when the air from the trunk blows in her face. She can press the red button to start it off and likes to watch us chase the balls around the living room.

Our main challenges over the past several weeks have been stranger and separation anxiety. She really doesn’t like hanging out with people she doesn’t know well. And, she  can’t stand if I’m out of her sight for even a minute or two. I know it’s just a phase, but I can’t help but be embarrassed when she goes all demon-baby on the kindly, grandmother-types who try to say hello to her in Target, and frustrated when I can’t even leave her in her crib for two minutes while I go to the bathroom. Sometimes, it’s not good enough for her even to see that I’m in the same room with her—she wants me to hold her as much as possible. And, I of course, oblige because the sound of her crying is like nails on a chalkboard for me. If anyone has any strategies for dealing with this kind of behavior (in addition to the “wait it out” approach), I’m all ears!

7_Month_Cry

I left the room. This happened.

We can’t wait for all the fun that springtime will bring! B seems to love the breeze blowing through her hair, so we are looking forward to plenty of time outdoors in the coming weeks. Bring on month number eight!

What I Read: March

donna-tartt-the-goldfinch-book-cover

Well, it took me more than a month, but I finally finished The Goldfinch! I haven’t read a book that held my attention the way that this one did in quite awhile (maybe since Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which I read last year).

The story is told from the point of view of Theo Decker, who at the age of 13, survives a terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Unfortunately, the attack kills his mother. In the chaos and confusion that follows, he impulsively steals The Goldfinch, a small painting by Dutch painter Carel Fabritius, which was his mother’s favorite work of art.

The remainder of the novel traces the next fifteen years of Theo’s life and all of the upheaval that comes with it. He bounces from New York to Las Vegas and back again, struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction, sells fraudulent antiques, while obsessively protecting the painting and the memories of his mother that it evokes.

The characters, which seem to be modeled on the staple actors of a Dickens’ novel, are well-written and human. There’s the angelic, beautiful mother, taken too soon from the son who adores her; the absentee father, who resurfaces when he sees a chance to profit from a tragic situation; the rich, eccentric family who takes in the orphan; the charming, but troubled, teenager (Boris, a Russian immigrant who teaches Theo how to shoplift, drink and do drugs) who befriends said orphan and provides a dose of comic relief; the kind-hearted soul (Hobie, a furniture restorer) who eventually becomes a guardian and lifelong friend.

There were some sections of the book that could have benefitted from more careful editing. In particular, I thought that the last 50 pages, in which Theo waxes philosophical about what the whole ordeal meant to him, were overblown and a bit boring.  For the most part, though, Tartt’s writing was descriptive and packed with all the right emotions.  The passages in which Theo describes the carnage of the attack and his grief at the loss of his mother were heart-wrenching and I was on the edge of my seat during the climax of the book, which finds Theo and Boris in a bit of a dangerous situation in Amsterdam.

The story is moved forward by a series of events that often seem ridiculous, but somehow manage to put everyone in the right place, at the right time. At some points, I had to suspend my disbelief that all these seemingly random twists of fate could happen to one person. But, isn’t that the best kind of book to lose yourself in?

Now that I have finished with The Goldfinch, I want to check out Donna Tarrt’s other two books. I have heard that The Secret History is her best work, so I’ll be adding that to my to-read list for the next time I am in the mood to tackle a 700-pager.