Talula's Garden, the new restaurant from Aimee Olexy (backed by Stephen Starr), will open to the public this coming Wednesday, April 13 (not Monday April 11, as we previously reported). But though the opening's been shifted back 48 hours, the restaurant (210 W. Washington Square) is raring and ready to go, if a mock tasting we dropped in on this afternoon is any indication.
When the Swift Half Pub closed its doors for good after New Year's, it left a gaping void in the Piazza at Schmidts' eats scene. After only three short months, though, Gunners Run has come in to pick up the baton. Slated for an official grand opening this coming Thursday, March 31, the bar/restaurant — owned by concert promoter Bryan Dilworth, booker Tim Borror, Old City Tattoo's Jason Goldberg and chef Shawn Sollberger — has been completely done over (think old English hunting lodge gone NoLibs). They offer 10 beers on tap, including many local options, plus a big botle list. Notable menu items of Sollberger's include chicken-fried chicken (breaded in panko), the trademark "Bad Luck Burger" and an awesomely retro-sounding "70s Salad," which consists of an iceberg wedge topped with Russian dressing, bacon, eggs, onions, and shrimp. You can take a look at the entire menu here; check after the jump for more shots of the interior.
Less than a week ago, Meal Ticket shared details on The Farmers' Cabinet (1113 Walnut St.), the new Center City spot from the crew that owns East Falls' Fork & Barrel, plus Bethlehem's Tap & Table and Bookstore Speakeasy. And just like that, they're ready to go — we swung by earlier today to find staffers deep in training mode, prepping to swing their doors open tomorrow, March 17. Hell of a turnaround, especially considering the interior was still very much Joe Pesce's less than two months back.
The photos are are hanging crooked on the walls, and it's driving Jason Cichonski insane.
The former Lacroix head man is deep into his gig as opening chef at Mica (8609 Germantown Ave., 267-335-3912), owned by Blackfish's Chip Roman, but the fussy frames hanging just outside the kitchen of the former ¡Cuba! refuse to cooperate — so much so that he's temporarily abandoned his cutting board a couple times to right the asymmetrical wrongs. If you've ever tried his food at the Rittenhouse Hotel, it goes without saying that he'll apply identical attention to detail to what's rolling out into the revamped dining room at the 40-seat Modern American eatery.
On March 1, Daniel Klein, a longtime baker who's put in pastry time at Striped Bass, Circa, Morimoto, Le Bec-Fin and Twenty21, took over what was Flying Monkey Deuce (1112 Locust St.) to open Cake and the Beanstalk, fulfilling his lifelong goal of running his own joint.
Klein, a Penn State hospitality grad, is keeping things simple to start out, offering house specialties like his banana/chocolate/walnut cake, chocolate/pecan/almond "tree nut" cookies (he also crushes these up for his cheesecake crusts), Chestnut Hill coffee and gigantic one-pound brownies, with or without walnuts ("If it's a $2.50 brownie, I want to make sure it's worth that $2.50," says Klein.) He'll soon begin offering a small selection of panini (on Le Bus bread) and salads, as well.
The seating/layout of Flying Monkey is pretty much the same. Klein's mostly tweaked out the décor — check out all the "Jack and the Beanstalk"-themed art on the walls, as well as the Dr. Seuss kid's table hand-painted by Klein's fiancée.
Cake and the Beanstalk is open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
March 10 is the official launch date for The Farm and Fisherman (1120 Pine St., 267-687-1555), a new neighborhood BYO from chef Joshua Lawler and his wife/fellow chef Colleen Lawler. He's from Conshy and she's from South Jersey; after meeting his wife at Drexel, Lawler cooked his way through the Philly restaurant circuit (The Fountain, Striped Bass, Buddakan) before the duo relocated to NYC. Here, the Lawlers put in work all over the place — Colleen cooked at BLT Market and Picholine, among other spots, while her husband's most recent gig saw him running the day-to-day as chef de cuisine of Dan Barber's Blue Hill at Stone Barns up until October 2010.
The Lawlers, who have young twin sons, wanted to relocate to the Philly area to be closer to family, but a restaurant of their own has always been a goal. They took on this small 30-seat white-tablecloth space (formerly Paul) without investors, and Lawler looks forward to handling most every plate himself, a far cry from the many managerial responsibilities he held at Stone Barns, overseeing a 20-person-plus kitchen staff. At that celebrated restaurant, Lawler says, designing courses and maintaining inventory for their elaborate tasting menus was a big part of the battle; at The Farm and Fisherman, he's cooking on a much more intimate level, allowing him to change his menu frequently and assert a head-to-tail, whole-animal approach in the kitchen.
Lawler, who's been visiting local growers and green markets to build up relationships for the restaurant moving forward, views his cooking as "the next step with farm-to-table" — not merely sourcing locally for the sake of it, but sourcing the best of what's close. "You're getting local pork," says Lawler, "but who's [raising] the best local pork?" Particulars of the pictured dishes:
- Bluefish confit over a warm potato salad, with a smear of unadorned local grass-fed yogurt and multi-grain bread
- Poached farm egg wrapped in Berkshire pancetta, served with Tuscan kale in a pickled mustard seed sauce
- Salad of various raw, roasted and pickled fruit/veg (carrot, pear, beet, cauliflower, etc.) in a light lemon vinaigrette, over housemade cottage cheese
- Pork duo: roasted loin and 12-hour sous vide belly, over spaetzle with Swiss chard and pancetta
Though Colleen will run the front of the house, she'll also hold it down in The Farm and Fisherman's kitchen from time to time. The restaurant will be open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday for now, with lunch and possibly brunch coming in the near future.
Stopped into Fathom Seafood House (200 E. Girard Ave.) yesterday, its first official day in business, to snag a few pix for all y'all Meal Ticketers. (Some previous coverage here and here.) Mike Stollenwerk's casual oyster-slurping bar looks great, from the nautical-themed tables looking out onto Girard to the fully stocked shucking station elevated on a platform abutting the open kitchen. (The Fish/Little Fish owner jokes that it'll double as a DJ booth when the sun sets.) Fathom's menu, accompanied by 10 beers on draft, is bar food Stollenwerk's way, its main portion topping out at $14. (Pictured: the cod-filled pierogi, with bacon, onions and brown butter, and salmon burger with maple mustard.) The lobster grilled cheese and swordfish schnitzel sound like surefire signatures, but we're also lusting after the raw bar offerings — rotating East and West Coast oysters, Jonah crab claws, marinated mussels and halved lobsters among them. Stollenwerk says Fathom will go from 4 p.m. to "close" on weekdays, and open around midday for lunch on the weekends. His plan is to eventually open in the a.m. hours on weekends for kegs 'n' eggs-style service.
I don't know when was the exact moment I decided I hated San Diegoans, but it was probably around the time Mark Lane, proprietor of Poppa's Fresh Fish, a nomadic "shuck 'n' slurp" raw bar and fixture of SD's righteous farmers-market scene, handed me plastic fork and a just-slain sea urchin. "We get them right off the coast," he explained, pointing down the street, where the Pacific glinted just beyond San Diego Bay and Coronado Island. "My friend is a diver. He hand-harvests them for us." Californians, man. What a bunch of lucky fucks.
Of course, I don't really hate San Diegoans — they are, by all accounts, a lovely, disarmingly friendly race — but after spending the weekend in their sun-washed, spit-polished city (a pit-stop before heading down to Baja), I've been quick to cultivate some good-natured envy. True, living in Philly, a killer earthquake will never crush me beneath a plank of highway, but my chances of eating uni that fresh again are even slimmer.
"As soon as the uni hits the air, it begins to disintegrate," Lane explained, getting to work opening a second spiny sphere with a pair of sharp kitchen shears. "They sell these for 80 bucks at Nobu, but it's not as fresh as what we've got here."
"Here" was the Saturday "Mercato" in SD's Little Italy neighborhood, a buy fresh/buy local mecca of 100+ vendors, peddling everything from olive oil and gold chanterelles to artsy-fartsy wind chimes and citrus in fresh, juiced, jammed and rosemary-infused popsicle forms. You think Headhouse and Clark Park roll deep? Mercato makes 'em look like lemonade stands — and it's not even the biggest market in town.
That distinction belongs to the Hillcrest Market, where I gorged myself at the following day. Breakfast consisted of little Hugs of pulpy orange juice kissed with guava; fresh tangerines, passion fruits and strawberries; moist slabs of banana bread from the gods (or a French patissier); fiery shrimp ceviche; delightful coconut pancakes a little Thai lady cooked in a cast-iron griddle; tamales; dried apricots; onion quiche. I tried for another urchin, but Lane was already sold out.
With just one weekend, restaurant action was limited, but I did manage to pop my In-N-Out cherry with a double-double, fries and chocolate shake. Also hit up the Linkery in North Park, a repeated reco where they brew their own kombucha and curate a dreamy Cali cheese plate, as well as the très-charming Cafe Chloe for one perfect prosciutto/cheese croissant (thanks @yournotunique!) and La Jolla's lively Whisknladle (like Mémé-by-the-sea).
If it were feasible, I'd eat all three squares at San Diego's markets. (It is feasible: Except for Monday, there are no less than half a dozen happening on any given day in different districts around the city.) I'll make one exception for Sushi Ota, a hideaway tucked into a Pacific Beach shopping center with a 7-Eleven, where the omakase experience at the low-slung sushi bar lived up to Drew Lazor's glowing recommendation. There was toro. There were oysters. There were salmon bellies and hamachi bellies, giant prawns and giant clams. There was an embarrassing amount of uni (delicious, but not as transcendent as Lane's) and fish I'd never tasted in sushi form: three breeds of halibut (who knew?) and a coral-skinned snapper specimen our omakase maestro, Toshi, hit with a blowtorch. When I said I was from Philly, Toshi got all aflutter: "Charlie Manuel, I watched him play in Tokyo when I was little."
Toshi, you've absolutely ruined sushi for me. After Ota, nothing else will compare. Another reason to hate San Diegoans. And another reason to go visit them again soon.
|Click to enlarge|
|Courtesy of John Longacre|
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
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