The story of how they stepped off the Django escalator - walked away from it at the top of their game - doesn't exactly spill out here in their brand-new digs in Kennett Square.

It's Day Nine of Aimee Olexy and Bryan Sikora's new baby, Talula's Table, a prepared-foods shop named for their flesh-and-blood baby, 20-month-old Annalee Talula Rae; staffers are still learning the register.

Down the road a piece, there's an ambitious agenda - picnic baskets for the steeplechases, gnocchi-making classes, supplying a handful of stores (with their sausages, bread or house-made Belgian-chocolate "Nutella"), a Web site with, say, about 20 specialties, a closet of wines from a nearby Avondale vineyard, the sunny room alive ("like Mr. Hooper's market on Sesame Street," says Bryan) with baskets of purple asparagus and buckets of flowers.

But that is then, this is now.

So let's be patient, take in the scene in this onetime shoe store, sample the wares: a sweet, smoked scallop (recommended as a complement to the lentils for sale on the shelf), a bite of creamy Vermont farmstead cheese, and a taste of Bryan's first, unsteady foray into making home-ground kielbasa.

Actually, chopped up in his choucroute garni, with odds and ends of bacon and whatnot, and juicy shreds of cabbage and buttery spaetzle, it is presentable stuff when - the next night - I warm up a take-out tub. (He's perfecting the sausage weekly, refining the texture and spicing.)

There are only 80 cheeses, some stored for aging, a few residing in a countertop humidor, at room temperature and ready should a luncher find it necessary to have her cheese plate right then and there.

Talk about shifting gears. For close to four years, Django cafe off South Street seemed to outdo itself. It charmed with flowerpots of fresh-baked bread. And signature goat cheese gnocchi. With creme brulee somehow stacked in sheets, and earthy Eastern European cameos. Reviewers ran out of superlatives.

Then in the fall of 2005, they up and sold and - for a while - seemed to vanish.

Whatever became of Aimee and Bryan?

It was a lament as much as a question.

They had good reasons to go. Not that they knew where, particularly. How about coastal Maine, they thought, north of where Aimee's Uncle Lowell has a woodworking business, Humblewood, where - after their decision was made to stay hereabouts - he planed thick planks of Chester County long leaf yellow pine into the shop's massive centerpiece, a rustic, open-grained, 10-seat farmhouse table?

Parts of Vermont were in contention: Aimee loves cave-aged cheeses from Westfield's Lazy Lady Farm and the Jasper Hill blues from over in Greensboro. But the couple found a wonderful spread nearby, right down the road in Unionville, Pa., in the thick of mushroom and horse country - monied rural gentry all about, and their own rich reputation still fresh in the air.

Their Kimball Street rowhouse in Philadelphia had gotten tight: "It wasn't big enough to be a trinity," says Aimee. "We called it a 'divinity.' " Bryan was physically taxed in the Django kitchen, oppressed cooking under the wheezing exhaust. Their lease was in its last year.

The question: Find a bigger space? Borrow big-time for a liquor license? Upgrade on all fronts - the silverware, place settings, chairs?

Or step away, and put together a Plan B?

Next to the Talula's woodcut-like graphic, a headstrong child tipping over a table (art by Bryan), the stenciled type offers, simply, "gourmet food."

But just as they refined what a BYO could be in Queen Village, Bryan and Aimee are redefining "gourmet" takeout in Kennett Square. Not tins of pate, or snails, or foie gras or caviar. No, food with terroir (off Route 926?), food touched by human hands, "comforting, but elaborated on," like the house-made baked beans, sweet, but mildly tart, too, with sherry vinegar and smoky with Bryan's applewood-smoked bacon.

Or the flaky pockets of chicken pot pie stuffed with free-range poultry from Eberly Farms. Or, from their patissier-partner, Claire Shears, bear claws, sticky buns, yielding baguettes, and low-key buttermilk-lemon tarts.

The brown eggs in the wire basket are "Mrs. Wickersham's eggs," supplied by Mrs. Wickersham herself, who raises hens on a dairy farm in Unionville. The bottled milk is grass-fed. The beef, organic from Dr. Elkins, who pastures his steers a few miles to the north.

After I leave, I'm informed, the take-away counters continue to fill up with the harvest from the big back kitchen - individual lobster pot pie, smoked quail, duck confit, casseroles of chicken and white beans, seared tuna loin, calamari pasta, and, at $12 a bird, whole roast chickens.

Aimee Olexy and Bryan Sikora haven't re-created Django, that's for sure. But they're open here seven days a week, from 7 to 7, at the center of town. And 37 miles west of the city, they've answered, finally, what became of Aimee and Bryan.

In Kennett Square, they're what's for dinner.

Talula's Table

102 W. State St.

(at Union)

Kennett Square, Pa.



Contact columnist Rick Nichols at 215-854-2715 or Read his recent work at