I enjoyed several exceptional foods this past weekend I’d love to tell you about.
I’m sure you’ve had a “Belgian” waffle, right? Haven’t we all. But have you ever experienced a Liege waffle?
I learned last Saturday morning at Jubala Village Coffee that this unique waffle originated in a Belgian town of the same name, and is a variation of brioche bread dough (one of my favorite breads — so no wonder I like the waffle).
Unlike its American counterparts, a Liege waffle is leavened with yeast instead of baking soda. And it differs from the more-familiar-to-us Brussels version because it’s made with pearl sugar. (Aptly named, the grains look like tiny little pearls or crystals.)
Jubala’s Andrew explained that correctly preparing the batter and cooking the waffles require great meticulousness — precise temperatures and timing, multiple steps and a specially made waffle iron are just a few of the critical elements. (I’ve since done some online research and believe every word he said. Apparently it’s a skill that takes a while to perfect, and initially often results in outright failure.)
One of Jubala’s wall boards describes a Liege waffle — I’m sure it helps cut down on staff explanation time. But Andrew was more than happy to talk about the waffles, their history and their preparation. Just like when he first explained the shop’s coffee-brewing techniques, his passion for what he does shines through.
Jubala offers just three versions of this breakfast treat: cinnamon, chocolate chip or (fresh) blueberry. No whipped cream or gloppy canned fruit here.
When my waffle was delivered to my table I thought that perhaps a mistake had been made; I’d asked for cinnamon, but it looked like blueberry. I was wrong — the dark flecks on the outside of the waffle were from the iron’s seasoning.
I didn’t ask for syrup for my naked waffle. I’ll confess that I considered it, but decided to have a taste first.
I’ve never had another waffle quite like it. The texture was completely unexpected, with a slightly crunchy and sweet exterior, and a bready inside. Drier than other waffles I’ve eaten, but not in a bad way. The taste was sublime, and certainly didn’t need any enhancements.
Andrew said he loves when customers ask for syrup. He tells them to taste it first, and then watches as realization dawns on their faces.
I think I might have stumbled upon a new weekend breakfast tradition. French press and a Liege waffle …
Saturday night I had an equally gratifying meal at Capital Club 16. It was my first visit to the downtown Raleigh eatery. I liked the space — hip, but not too. Airy and simple. Comfortable.
I’d perused the online menu before arriving and knew exactly what to order: the Crispy Garden Skillet.
Described partially as “pan-seared vegetables over crispy rice,” I imagine the effect they’re after is like Korea’s Bibimbap, which is brought to the table sizzling in a very hot stone bowl. You let it sit for a minute before scraping the crispy-indeed rice from the sides.
Capital Club 16’s rice wasn’t what I’d call crispy, but that didn’t detract from the overall dish. Served in a small cast iron skillet, it featured (as best I could tell) these seasonal veggies: mushrooms, asparagus, lettuce, yellow crookneck and zucchini squashes, carrots, onions and tomatoes. A couple of pickle slices added an interesting flavor, and the egg on top was perfectly fried and had a nice runny yolk. Perhaps best of all was the delicious and pretty sauce, which featured smoked paprika (another of my favorites). It was a hearty dish that I couldn’t quite finish. I think it would be even more gratifying during cool weather months.
I’m looking forward to returning to Capital Club 16 soon — maybe on May 12 for their spargle (special white asparagus) dinner.
And one final photo before I bid you goodnight. Sunday potluck brunch with friends was so brightly colorful I couldn’t resist sharing a peek.
Goedenacht (“goodnight,” Belgian style).