I'm sorry I don't have pictures. A date to Tallent was a special occasion. I was so giddy figuring out what I was going to wear (cute, but comfortable enough to accommodate a food baby) and excited that I was FINALLY going to go to David and Krissy Tallent's shrine to homegrown cuisine that I completely forgot to grab my digital camera. I've even been practicing flash-free macro shots. But I still worry that I'm not discreet enough to pull it off at a fancy restaurant.
Restaurant Tallent is something special. It's Bloomington's own fine dining establishment. White tablecloths. Local ingredients, creatively transformed into something in between comfort food and culinary voodoo. And the menu changes every season, to keep up with south central Indiana's bounty.
Being the pragmatist that I am, I waited on couples on Valentine's Day dinner rather than being one of them myself. Which was great, because I had the extra income to go dutch on an all-out Restaurant Tallent dinner. Not the prixe fix, which is $60 a person (add $12 for tip, more if you want a glass of wine, at least $165 a couple), but the pragmatist (read: on a budget) way to go white-tablecloth: Monday night Tallent. Buy one entree, get the other half off. You'll save around $12. But share an appetizer, get a really reasonably priced bottle of wine (or a glass, but if you're both going to have a glass, get a bottle), and share dessert, and you'll still get a once-in-a-lifetime experience at a "yeah, I could do this once a year" price.
We went Dutch this year. There's no shame in it. We're both saving for a move at the end of this school year, and it seemed more practical. But my, what a feast. We started with the house smoked whitefish with potato latkes, horseradish foam, spoonfish caviar and fresh herb garnish ($15). To my surprise, it was all served hot, but the temperature worked. The warm, crispy hash-brown potato worked perfectly with the intensely savory smoked fish. Horseradish added a nice spicy snap and the caviar on top gave perfect bursts of brine to cut the richness. And despite looking like a light seafood option, this dish IS rich. And delicious.
We also had the lamb pappardelle, made with local braised lamb, house made egg noodles, and broccoli raab, the perfect, slightly bitter, green for such a rich luscious sauce. The whole affair was dotted with Capriole Chevre, locally made soft goat cheese, the funky sweetness of which married perfectly with the savory lamb tomato sauce. If I didn't know any better, I would say that the lamb pappardelle would make a very nice main course. But you'd still be hungry for dessert, which is perfect.
Before dessert, and our entrees for that matter, there was salad to contend with. This is not your light "frou-frou" salad. This is serious gourmet matter. Roasted beets, cauliflower, parsnips, and fresh butterey brioche which is in part topped with creamy, earthy Old Kentucky Tomme from local goat cheese producer Capriole ($11). I really wish licking your plate was acceptable. It's not. Don't try it. Even though you want to.
Entrees were a treat. I forgot how much both of them cost. It didn't matter. Tallent is reasonable, and they were both exceptionally good enough to warrant the $25-$35 price tag (most of the entrees are in that range). I had a special: artic char (similar in taste and texture to salmon), served on top of butter beans (white limas) cooked with bacon, wild mushrooms, winter herbs, and magic. It was delicious, savory, and totally not your momma's fish special. My date, at the advice of our incredible server, got the elk loin, wrapped in ham, pan seared, and served on top of braised greens and chestnut polenta. Holy dear sweet food porn. The elk, once again at the advice of our saintly server, was served cold rare, almost sushi-like in tenderness and minerality, with a crisp porky exterior. Elk is a lean meat, and the rich crispy pork really added to the texture and lusciousness. The nutty, silky grits and savory greens rounded out each bite, and we both delighted in being able to cut through the center of each purple-pink meaty morsel with a fork. Bacon-wrapped elk sushi. Who knew it was so delicious?
Dessert was impossible. We were too full. But the menu looked incredible. I was transfixed on a citrus tart. I'm a grapefruit (and any-type-of-orange) addict, and mix that tartness with some kind of richness, and I'm all over it. I promise to come back for some sort of dessert and a glass of wine. And I'll probably get something off the bar menu, because it all looks so good and is a way I can try the Tallent's creativity without making it a super-special occasion.