Address:102 West State Street Kennett Square, PA
Miles from La Colombe Torrefaction: 40.5
Best Blend: Haiti-Blue Forest
Paired Best With: Daily made pastries
(Also check out our photo feature of Talula’s Garden here)
Hidden in a historic village away from the city’s hustle and bustle, Talula’s Table is the a quintessential example of a cafe and gourmet market by day, farm-to-table, 10-course private dining room by night. Owned and operated by Aimee Olexy, Talula’s Table carries the best produce from around this village that is rich with local farmers, as well as a medley of international cheeses and other goods. We had the pleasure of meeting Aimee on a typical busy morning and got a chance to listen to in-depth stories about this “Tasty Place”:
“This place is a process of discovery” You don’t see it, there’s no big sign to grab you and like, “Oh. OK. I think I’ll grab a sub or hoagie there” or something like that. You have to have heard about it. So, people discover it and then they usually bring a friend. I think when they discover it they have a little ownership.
“A town center” Six years ago when we opened [Talula’s Table] my original vision was a modern version of a general store that would create a town center for this very affluent community mixed with a great agricultural scene. And it has. I am a devout restaurant person but I wanted to do something that would allow me to have little more of a strong-hold during the days. I wanted to gear my life towards a little less of nightlife and have a little more of a functioning daytime business. At the time I’d walk around town and it was dead! You couldn’t get a cup of coffee. Many of the shops were empty. I wanted my daughter to be part of a community and grow up in a community. I thought this shop could be an anchor in town. I mean it was a cute town because there’s Longwood Gardens and there’s a major mushroom culture, but everybody had moved away to strip malls. There was like three things left in town. There was a tuxedo store that an old guy owned, the newspaper stand, and a couple of little things. Half Moon is actually a good bar that was always here. I just kind of had this feeling that the timing was right. And the crowd that comes in here is exactly what I imagined it would be; families, couples, retired people have met here – people have met here and are now married and have babies.
Aimee I’m from this area. I was raised here and then, like a lot of kids, I moved away after I went to college at St. Joe’s. I moved out to Colorado with my brother (he was an avid skier) for like 10 years. As I got a little older I had an inkling to move back home and plant myself. During that time I always worked in restaurants. I went to school for English and Business and I’ve always been kind of entrepreneurial, I’m always like the kid with the paper route, you know, always scamming something! I worked in a little French restaurant when I was a kid. I had a really wonderful French woman who was a mentor for me and learned a lot about French culture, cooking, language and stuff. Then I kind of went through the ranks of restaurant management. I worked for a great restaurant group called the Kimpton Group in CA and then Four Seasons. When I landed back in Philly I started to work for Stephen Starr in management. I kind of got aggravated at the corporate life and I was fixing on my own place at that point. I opened Django on 4th and South Street in 2000 and it was very successful. It had real foodie clientele. It was on the cover of the New York Times, that whole thing. Then I had my daughter, moved out [to Kennett Square]. I had kind of worn out on the city so opened [Talula’s Table]!
“Most Romantic Side of Coffee” There’s some chain coffee places outside on the highway so the people that are coming into town here and having coffee here, they believe in their coffee and they believe in this place. They believe in coming to the village and saying, “Hello” to like the same baristas every morning and taking the time to sit down to chit-chat. To me it’s the romantic, magical thing that some people elect to do and then some people don’t see the beauty in that in their daily process. So, I’m very grateful for that. I’m one of those people so I know it’s a pain in the ass to pull up here, parallel park and come off the highway probably on your way to work. We use an old-fashioned register, we’re not the fastest, but we make a good drink that’s worth waiting for and it’s a beautiful environment to say “Hello” to somebody. It’s pretty beautiful! Over here we get almost the most romantic side of coffee here at this specific place.
“A Very Daily Process” We don’t have a freezer. In and out. A very daily process. Every once in a while you know we think we should work on a recipe book. I mean we do recipes for pastries and things that are a little more scientific but then it just doesn’t make sense with this kind of food. When a huge batch of awesome watermelons comes in, it’s like “Oh, OK. What should we do with it? We’ll make watermelon gazpacho!” and we’d make 20 of them and when it’s gone we may never make that again. For the dinners every night both tables have a ten course menu, but we change the menu every 6 weeks, so we’ve never ever repeated a course. We’ve repeated a method, like sure there’s awesome risotto maybe. Each time it comes from an instant inspiration – especially in that kind of little incubator, our kitchen.
The mushroom capital A hundred years ago or so a botanist was doing his gardening (because this is a gardening community, too) and underneath his benches, he noticed that mushrooms flourished really well in his gardening environment. He became the big grower and became one of the people that was developing the equipment. Then other growers came here because they wanted to learn from him. They set up shop. And the community grew organically. Mushroom farming is completely sustainable. It’s a sustainable compost medium that gets inoculated. So really, it has nothing to do with the region necessarily, although there is like a lot of foraging and stuff already here so it’s kind of natural.
“I’ve sourced people that are personally in love with food” A very high level of service is really important.When you go into a boutique and you have a shopping experience and somebody really helps you, but they don’t help you if you look like you want to be anonymous… Somebody that could really kind of coach you and see what you need. You could walk in the door and say, “I’m giving a party tonight and they’re like major foodies and I really need help with cool hors d’oeuvres.” Every person on this staff has to be able to handle that and they also need to be able to make a cappuccino.
“The most stinkiest and delicious cheese” We would source cheeses through PASA, which is the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture. We would talk to farms in California and all over the country. I’d go to other cheese shops and spy. I’ve done a lot of like cheese traveling and studying myself, so I know what I want. And then, to be honest, we learn a lot from our customers. There would be a high school kid that will walk in after school to get a coffee and a cookie and you know, he’d be like “You know I went to Spain for a year and I had these awesome cheeses. Do you guys carry them?” You can get inspiration from places you would never think. I’ll have people at dinner, “Oh, we were just in France and we had the most stinkiest and delicious cheese. Can you get us this?”. And then Abby and I will go on a search. So, it’s a good give-and-take. And that’s a good sign if your customers are pushing you.
“People want to ingest good product” For a good couple of years here you know, people had come in and we had to like teach them our thing. And sometimes the prices would seem high or we have to put a sign out, “Yeah, it’s King Arthur Organic Flour. So definitely this baguette is made with starter flour, water and salt.” If you go to Giant, you buy a baguette, there’s an ingredient list like this big and you’re like, “How can this be in my bread?” But I try to educate them because I think that people do want to take care of their body and they do want to ingest good product. And like at both places we take it very, very seriously. We’re not assholes about it. We’re not like, “We’re better than you!” or anything. It’s just, to us, it’s serious business. Like bread doesn’t make money. Every time someone buys a loaf of bread we might as well give them like 10 bucks because it costs way more labor and ingredient that we can ever charge for a $3 baguette, but you know, you hope that maybe they’ll get some prepared foods or buy some products and become a routine customer who will dabble in other things.
“A culture of goodness” I really do try to be a voice for bringing back community, – a little more strength for the village. Like that mill, Bailey’s Mill is a farm right down the street in Unionville right here in Chester County. They’re milking cows, they are bottling milk. We can get chocolate milk – every kind of milk from them. It’s like 2 miles from here. It’s gorgeous! You look up a hill side it’s filled with cows. You use it for the coffee bar, you can get butter from them. I mean that’s completely different than getting it from Giant. It’s a couple that runs this farm. They’ve got history in the area and they keep everything really green. They have an honor box; when you want to go buy milk you can just go put a dollar in and you can grab the milk. How can we not use this amazing thing in our community? I feel inspired all the time by stuff like that. I meet little kids who have no idea where milk comes from and they have no idea that it could be grown right here. Of course, not everybody has that in their community. We’re lucky. And that’s one of the reasons I planted myself in Chester County, definitely. It has a culture of goodness and still close to the city.