Talula's: The Toughest Reservation in the U.S.?

Talula's Table i i

Up to 12 people can fit around Talula's Table each night. Alex Chadwick, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Chadwick, NPR
Talula's Table

Up to 12 people can fit around Talula's Table each night.

Alex Chadwick, NPR
Husband and wife proprietors Bryan Sikora and Aimee Olexy i i

Husband-and-wife proprietors Bryan Sikora and Aimee Olexy run Talula's Table. Alex Chadwick, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Chadwick, NPR
Husband and wife proprietors Bryan Sikora and Aimee Olexy

Husband-and-wife proprietors Bryan Sikora and Aimee Olexy run Talula's Table.

Alex Chadwick, NPR
Risotto i i

Currently only one group a night can try this risotto. Alex Chadwick, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Chadwick, NPR
Risotto

Currently only one group a night can try this risotto.

Alex Chadwick, NPR
Rigatoni with snails i i

Rigatoni with snails is one of the seasonal specialties that customers wait a year for. Alex Chadwick, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Chadwick, NPR
Rigatoni with snails

Rigatoni with snails is one of the seasonal specialties that customers wait a year for.

Alex Chadwick, NPR

When foodies hear "tough reservation," they generally think French Laundry in Napa or Le Cirque in New York — both known for their six-month waiting lists. That's a snap compared with a spot at Talula's Table.

Located in historic Kennett Square, a Pennsylvania town some 35 miles south of Philadelphia, Talula's requires a full year's wait — if you can get a reservation at all.

By day, Talula's is an upscale market, filled with luscious cheeses, mustards and fresh-baked breads.

In the evening, when the market closes its doors, it's a different story. A single farm table becomes center stage for one of the country's most exclusive dining experiences. A dozen lucky people gather around it to share an eight-course meal that runs from egg custard with Jonah crab to osso bucco made from pork, all prepared with local ingredients by husband-and-wife proprietors Bryan Sikora and Aimee Olexy.

Because of the restaurant's popularity and its single nightly seating, Olexy has devised a special system for selecting diners. Though the phone often begins ringing with requests at sunrise, she does not pick it up until 7 a.m. on the dot. The caller is then offered a reservation exactly one year later. Requests for earlier or later are denied, as are attempts to play the VIP card to skirt the procedure entirely.

These rules keep booking simple, Olexy says.

Sikora, the main chef, says he hopes to open a more traditional restaurant in Kennett Square one day.

It's unlikely that Talula's customers are craving a larger venue, however.

"The food is tremendous, and the fact that you feel like you are eating in your own living room is wonderful," said Tray Katzenbach, who sampled the fare on a recent evening.

New York actor John Turturro, known for films such as Quiz Show, is also a fan. "Each dish was a separate love affair," he told Portfolio.com. "It was the kind of a meal you'd request before your execution."

Talula's Smoky Spoonbread with Sauteed Shrimp, Chanterelles and Creamed Greens

Makes 4 servings

Spoonbread

3 cups water

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup buttermilk

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup cornmeal

3 large eggs

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

Salt, to taste

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Hot sauce, to taste

White pepper, to taste

4 thin slices smoked ham, each cut into 3 strips

Spicy Greens See below.

Sauteed Shrimp See below.

Combine water, cream and buttermilk in large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.

Reduce heat and stir in cornmeal, simmering for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Transfer mixture to stand mixture fitted with paddle. Beat at medium speed until mixture has cooled to lukewarm. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add baking powder, baking soda, salt and grated Parmesan cheese.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly butter muffin tin with 12 wells. Place strip of ham in each well, then spoon batter until nearly level with top. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, prepare spicy greens, mushrooms and — when spoonbread has been removed from oven — the shrimp.

To serve, spoon some creamed greens on center of plate, allowing it to pool. Top with spoonbread and sautéed shrimp and mushrooms. Drizzle with remaining cream sauce.

Spicy Greens in Garlic Cream

1 teaspoon butter

1 cup coarsely chopped greens (mustard, kale, chard or spinach)

1 cup heavy cream

1 clove roasted garlic, finely chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in greens, cooking just until wilted. Stir in cream and garlic, bringing just to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

Shrimp and Chanterelles

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup coarsely chopped chanterelles or other mushrooms

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil and butter in large skillet. Stir in mushrooms and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add shrimp and continue stirring, frequently, until shrimp turns pink and becomes slightly firm, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat immediately.

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