Talula's: The Toughest Reservation in the U.S.? When foodies hear the phrase "tough reservation," they might think of the French Laundry in Napa or Le Cirque in New York, both known for their six-month waiting lists. They're a snap compared with Talula's Table in the historic Pennsylvania town of Kennett Square.
NPR logo

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

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/89839156/89844958" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Talula's: The Toughest Reservation in the U.S.?

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

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/89839156/89844958" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick. The story today is Pennsylvania. But on an election reporting trip there earlier this month, I found something that left the politics tasting a little bland. Portfolio.com, which caters to people who have portfolios, says a local eatery in a small Pennsylvania town, Kennett Square, is the most difficult reservation-get in the country. Welcome to Talula's Table.

It's kind of small inside, more like a neighborhood market. It's got shelves of fresh bread, exotic mustards, and brownies and who cares about the diet cheeses. All selected by the co-owner. She's Aimee Olexy.

Ms. AIMEE OLEXY (Proprietor, Talula's Table): All these fridges are filled with, like, our own sausages, our line of soups, lobster pies, and then prepared food. It's probably 150 cheeses. This is my domain. All day, I pretty much just live here. I've spent my life studying cheese, so I pretty much bore people to tears about that stuff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. OLEXY: So come on back.

CHADWICK: Back, yes, back. That's in the kitchen, where we find Aimee's husband and partner at Talula's, the chef, Bryan Sikora, and he's whisking away at something.

Mr. BRYAN SIKORA (Co-owner and Chef, Talula's Table): Egg whites, four. The first course is a egg custard with crab. We use a little egg white in the sauce. It's a parsnip sauce. It's a puree. We add the egg white sort of at the last minute to aerate it, so it's frothy.

CHADWICK: This will be the first of eight courses tonight for 12 lucky patrons who plan ahead. You see, Talula's Table is just that. It is one large farm table that seats about a dozen people. One sitting, one menu, once a night. Be there at 7:30, if you can get your reservation.

Ms. OLEXY: It's really a first come first serve. At seven o'clock, we answer the phone. I mean, we go with, like, our computer's time, and that is the first we'll take a reservation for that day one year away.

CHADWICK: They are completely booked until then. So call tomorrow morning, and, if you are the first to get through at precisely 7 a.m., you'll be able to reserve the table for April 23rd, 2009. It's not a gimmick, says Aimee. It's simply the way things have worked out. For her own peace of mind, she will not book any farther in advance.

Ms. OLEXY: People with Fridays and Saturday nights. They just say, give me any Saturday night then, and they go ten years out, if you let them, you know. They say, just give me the next Saturday, then. You know, for me, I had to create a deadline.

CHADWICK: OK. So why is this place in rural Pennsylvania, about an hour from downtown Philadelphia, why are they taking reservations one year in advance? Well, to mangle a worn political phrase, it's the food - stupid. So let's start.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHADWICK: Out in the main dining room at the farm table, they're all ready. Meanwhile, I am with producer Steve Proffitt back in the kitchen again, where Aimee and Bryan have set a place for us.

It's remarkable how calm and organized this kitchen is. I've actually worked in kitchens before. I was a dishwasher. Kitchens are normally chaotic. There's all kinds of craziness. People yelling and screaming and banging and this and that. This kitchen is very calm.

At last, the first course, so simple, so elegant. A single brown egg on end in a small bowl, the top broken away. And inside, something wonderful.

Mr. SIKORA: It's an egg custard with Jonah crab meat. The frothy parsnip sauce with a little bit of cardamon. And then we're garnishing it with a little fried shallot and parsnip chip.

CHADWICK: Eight courses. They call this a tasting menu. The menu is seasonal. The same every day for five or six weeks, all fresh, almost all very local.

Dear listeners, it's an hour and a half now after the meal first started. We've had the first four courses...


CHADWICK: Beginning with the egg custard, going on to the mushroom risotto, the hand rolled rigatoni with snails. And on to a fish dish, pompano roasted with a mango saffron broth. We're ready now for the pork Osso Bucco followed by the lamb and then the blue raison chutney semolina, and then the... I have to say, all right.

The table settings, the food, wine, and the hours blend into a singular experience that ends in chocolate. Bryan likes to present dessert himself out at the main table.

Mr. SIKORA: It's a coffee-infused Bavarian cream with bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate, cocoa nibs around the outside. A shortbread underneath that has a little bit of citrus and then a blood-orange jelly on top with a little blood-orange salad along with it. So enjoy it. Thanks again for coming out.

CHADWICK: No, thank you.

Mr. SIKORA: Have a good night.

Ms. OLEXY: Happy birthday!

CHADWICK: Talula's served what was maybe the best meal I've ever had in my life and at a very reasonable price. And people are hearing about this place. The actor, John Turturro, came all the way down from New York, and, when dinner was done, he sat in the back in the kitchen, where we did. He said each dish was a separate love affair. It was the kind of meal you would request before your execution. So there it is, dear listeners, food to die for.

Eight courses, eight courses, good night now.

CHADWICK: We have pictures of Talula's Table, of the food, and we have a special recipe from the proprietors, Aimee Olexy and Bryan Sikora, all that at our delicious website npr.org. And oh, good luck with that reservation.

Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.

BRAND: And I'm Madeleine Brand.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.