We celebrated another local bounty at Head House Square Sunday, simply because Center City's premier farm market is springing into bloom. It's far from full speed yet in only its second week, but I somehow still managed to spend way too much. The highlights: pencil thin asparagus and sweet salsify from Culvert Organics (plus a bottle of Tom's homebrewed, super-dry, Granny-crisp hard cider), curried lamb sausages and smoked scallops from Talula's Table, some wonderfully hearty pot pies from Mountain View poultry (the poultry stand across from Griggstown), a fantastic new cheese from Birchrun Hills farms called Little Chardy (a bloomy rind disc with a bit of Camembert in its runny soul), plus some amazingly delicate macaroons flavored with peanut butter and jelly from Garces Trading Co., which were dangerously addictive.
Reader: It would be great to have some local farmers on a chat like when the brewers were on last year.
C.L.: An excellent idea - we should definitely plan that this summer.
Reader: We went to Talula's Garden last week and it is certainly a "WOW." The dining room and garden are extremely attractive and comfortable and the food is great as well. Especially good was the rabbit lasagnetta, the marinated halibut with sea beans and saffron, and a veloute of sweet peas, squid and a buttermilk creme fraiche. Service was great as well. A great addition to the food scene!
C.L.: Glad to hear another good early report on Talula's city digs. Wonder where in that garden they're growing the sea beans? Still, I've gotten some unusually enthusiastic reports on this newcomer. Better reserve now.
Reader: I have discovered a lovely Brazilian restaurant in the burbs called na'Brasa. Without question, a wonderful restaurant to spend a special occasion that I did for Mother's Day. The meats were out of this world! Feeling a little guilty for bathing suit season, but it was definitely worth it.
C.L.: Thanks for reminding me of na'Brasa, which has gotten a little juice on the chat in recent weeks. I really should try it. Also, don't worry about the bathing suit thing. My understanding is that Brazilian beaches rank amongst the most scenic in the world. Certainly, a steady diet of churrasco-grilled sirloin went into making that happen.
Reader: I managed to squeeze in one last dinner at James last week. It was outstanding, as always. I will miss them. Any skinny on their next gig? I wonder if we will find them on North Broad Street (this is pure conjecture on my part) . . .
C.L: I heard the swan song meals at James were fantastic, something about fennel pollen risotto with langostino ceviche? Wow. Wish I'd made it. But I do think, at least I've heard, that James and Kristina Burke plan to resurface somewhere closer to Center City. As good as that restaurant was - despite the constant complaints from readers about portion-size, price, etc., it was a very good place - they were never able to quite find the kind of audience in that corner of South Philly that could sustain and grown the contemporary fare they were putting out. Of course, the neighborhood's changed a lot now, evolving faster than ever, and I wonder how the story would have played out if they were the new kid on the block? I hope they resurface soon, and land somewhere their style will be more at home.
Reader: Wanted to give you an update on Marabella's Meatball Co. . . . tried it for the first time last night and thought the "Classic" beef meatball sub was great. 4 meatballs that definitely had a homemade taste and great sauce and cheese. Was worried at first when I saw the roll (I'm a Sarcone's roll guy and theirs seemed like a Wawa classic roll) but it was actually perfect. Do you ever review places like that, meaning more of a take-out place then full service restaurant?
C.L: Thanks for this report from the busy Meatball Front, Hank. I've heard good things about Marabella's, but have yet to make it there myself, so many darn meatballs to roll through in the restaurant world right now. But a fantastic meatball is worth paying homage to - and I would, though probably a feature not a formal "review" of a take-out place like Marabella's. Best one I've had recently? It was Greek, and you'll be reading about it this Sunday. . . .