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Whiskey & Waffles

This year for St Patrick’s Day, I decide to eschew the grand traditions of drinking copious amounts of green beer and eating a bunch of food that has all been boiled together in a giant pot for something a little more upscale. Seeing as St Patrick’s Day fell on a Sunday this year, you couldn’t ask for a better new tradition to start then the Whiskey & Waffles brunch at Ela, helmed by Scott Schroeder & Mark Regan from South Philly Tap Room. It consisted of five delicious courses with twists on some of your favorite brunch concepts; there was also an optional whiskey pairing. (I opted to get a Truffle Bloody Mary instead. My problem is I always think I want a bloody mary so I order one and get bored with it halfway through because it’s either too tomato-y or too spicy, but the truffle really gave the tomato a nice flavor; they had a few other non-traditional bloodies as well.)

First up: A pancake with syrup shot, a whiskey and OJ starter shot with maple syrup. I didn’t find it too be too sweet, but some of my dining companions found it to be too sweet to drink all at once.

Next came the cereal doughnuts: Fruity Pebbles encrusted fried balls filled with a cream based on the milk that is left behind after you eat all the cereal. The batter for the donut tasted great, wasn’t too heavy, and paired nicely with the sweetness of the cereal. (It’s about time the East Coast had a cereal donut trend like Voodoo in Portland – but these certainly blew those donuts out of the water!)

I’d never had oysters before, so I was nervous for the next dish. I’m really weird about giggly, slimy consistencies in food; they make my skin crawl. But the oyster was a lot better than I expected. It wasn’t slimy at all and had an almost  hollandaise-like sauce on it. I enjoyed it so much that I ate someone else’s oyster because they didn’t want it! This was paired with a hashbrown drizzled with bone marrow gravy and now I may never want to eat a McDonald’s hashbrown ever again (unless I’m really hungover).

On the more savory side, the next dish was coffee-coddled eggs with duck hash. Piercing the egg and mixing the yolk in with the duck made for an amazing flavor combination that was only heightened by the coffee infusion. Now this would definitely be the perfect hangover food! It also came with a little bit of bread to sop of the extra yolk and coffee gravy. I finished this before everyone else at the table, so clearly I hated it.

Last, but certainly not least, the piece de resistance, the reason we were all here in the first place: sausage waffles with foie gras whipped cream and smoked maple-whiskey syrup. They were delicious, fluffy and decadent. It was almost like the Willy Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper of breakfast foods: First you tasted the sausage, then the waffle, then the whiskey, then the foie, then the maple, back to the whiskey, and then you were practically licking the plate clean. I was glad they only gave us half a waffle because I don’t think I could have managed a full portion of this without having to take a break and do some light cardio in between.

We all agreed once we finished eating and spending another 45 minutes digesting  – both physically and mentally – that the best part about this brunch was that  you didn’t have to choose between any of your favorite aspects of brunch. Normally you have to pick one dish: Sweet (waffles, pancakes), Savory (eggs benedict, omelets), or salty (sandwich and fries) – but this brunch had a little something from every category. All the portions were just enough and every course was spaced out with plenty of time for you to get psyched for the next dish.

The Ela/SPTR crew is hoping to make Whiskey & Waffles an annual St Patrick’s Day weekend tradition, so if you missed it this year, make sure you mark your calendar now to get a spot in 2014!

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Hole-y Moley!

It seems like just the other day I was talking about donuts. Oh wait, that’s because I was. Well, it’s with good reason: donuts are delicious! And also, because Federal Donuts just opened their second location. Proving that the strange mix of fancy donuts and fried chicken is the key to success, FedNuts is now serving up fancies, birds and hot donuts in Center City Philadelphia on 16th and Sansom. Not only that, but their menu is completely different from their Pennsport location, giving you some great new variety not just for donuts, but in the types of dry/glazed chicken as well.

I ventured out early on their opening day (Tuesday, October 2nd) and was please to find the place all to myself! Oh wait, that’s right, because they pushed up the opening from Wednesday and I pounced on the chance. (Which was great because there was a massive line the next morning which I wasn’t about to try and fight people on.) Overwhelmed by all the attention on myself, I wasn’t sure where to begin! I thought maybe I’d get a minute here to mull over a menu as a dozen other people went before me, but I had to be quick on my feet!

Process of elimination: Don’t like mint, don’t like lemon, don’t like butter pecan.

That left me with Green tea-sesame, Maple Bacon (!) and Spicy PB&J. I ordered. I paid on their super cool, totally high tech iPad (which they use with Square), which I can’t tell if it’s a good or bad thing; if every person paying with a card has to sign an iPad & then select a receipt option (email, text), won’t that slow down the ringing up process? Meh. Moving on! I got my donuts, I got my coffee and then, as I was putting cream in my coffee I was given a hot, fresh Turkish Mocha!! Yay bonus free donut!

Mmm.. Donuts. *drool*

Ate the Turkish Mocha first because WARM FRESH DONUT, duh. Other then being hot and sugary, the flavor didn’t really stand out to me. In fact, I wouldn’t even have known it was Turkish Mocha unless the employee told me when he gave it to me.

Next I tried the Green Tea-sesame. OMG soooo good. I loved how rich the green tea tasted. It reminded me of powdered matcha that they have in restaurants in Japan where you pour the powder directly into your mug and then use a table side faucet to add hot water. Matched with the sesame, it was a perfect combination.

After that was Maple Bacon. Now, I tried the Maple Bacon bar at Voodoo Doughnuts and wasn’t impressed. I wasn’t sure if this was just a ploy to hop on that bandwagon or not, but I took a bite and WHOA. It definitely packed a punch. It was maple and bacon in all the right places. And definitely not as sweet as the bar at Voodoo (or as stale). I don’t know if I could have eaten one of these all by myself. Good thing I had co-workers to help me! I put the leftovers on my desk to share and immediately, my one co-worker stopped short and went “ARE THOSE FEDERAL DONUTS DONUTS!?” and then they just all swarmed my desk.

Lastly, Spicy PB&J. I’m not a big PB&J fan in general. Never ate the sandwiches as a kid. In fact, I pretty much hate jelly, period. But I gave it whirl. I was waiting for the spiciness and then POW! It hit me. Please note, I have very mild taste buds and am not good with spicy/hot things though, so I’m not sure how you “normals” will react. But the jelly – ugh. I just couldn’t get past it. So my co-worker gladly finished the rest and kept coming by my office throughout the day asking if I had anymore left. I think I created a monster fan!

Eventually once the crowds die down, I’m looking forward to trying the different types of fried chicken. (And by that I mean convincing my new supervisor, who has an affinity for throwing fried chicken parties, to order FedNuts chicken for us on a bi-weekly basis.) So look forward to a bird update soon!

Doughnut Believe the Hype

Doughnut. Donut. Do-nut. However you spell it, it’s a ring of delicious that you can essentially enjoy any time of day. (Well, ok, maybe not later on in the day once they start getting kind of stale. Unless the place is making em 24/7.) You’ve got your chain donut shops: Dunkin Donuts, Twin Donut, Krispy Kreme – and then you’ve got a bunch of awesome regional places that you see on Food Network or the Travel Channel like Voodoo Doughnuts, Top Pot, Doughnut Plant, and even Philadelphia’s own Federal Donuts. Just like everything else in life, there are the good, the bad and the downright awful when it comes to donuts. Plus, the age old battle between Cake vs. Yeast. (I’m partial to yeast donuts myself.) Here’s a recap of some recent treats I’ve indulged in.

First up, Seattle’s Top Pot Doughnuts, which touts a menu of “hand forged”, primarily cake donuts and a few yeasty bars as well. We got a little over-zealous and just grabbed anything that looked good which included 3 different glazed old fashions and a chocolate covered with sprinkles (a classic fav!)

Maple glazed, original glazed & chocolate glazed.

I honestly found them to be way too sweet for my taste. Plus, there’s just something about cake donuts that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. They feel too dry, even with all the glaze on top. The maple one was almost tooth decaying, that’s how sugary it was. And while the chocolate one had the sweetness of the glaze, the chocolate cake part itself was kind of bland and un-chocolate like.

Then you’ve got Portland’s infamous Voodoo Doughnuts. Yes, there will be a line but if you’re not willing to wait with the crowds, they’re open 24/7. They’ve got a huge menu board plus some rotating displays if you need a more visual way to decide.

They’re most famous for the maple bacon bar (because DUH, bacon on a doughnut. HELLO ULTIMATE BREAKFAST), but I didn’t find it to be appetizing at all. The bacon just tasted bland and soggy and didn’t really add anything to the overall flavor of the doughnut. Then there was the little raspberry jelly stuffed voodoo guy doughnut. WAYYYYY too sweet. Like, disgustingly sweet to the point where I just spit it out. The doughnut that looks like a Bob-om from Super Mario was filled with a Bavarian Cream; not so bad but I’m not a big fan of cream filled donuts. The fruit loops one would probably have been better if the cereal didn’t taste super soft and stale. And the chocolate rice krispy one with the peanut butter drizzle was the best out of all 5. If I hadn’t already taken bites out of 4 other donuts, I would have just eaten that one alone and been satisfied. (Because let’s face it – anything with chocolate & peanut butter is amazing.)

I also recently wrote about an amazing Cafe Au Lait doughnut from Dough in Brooklyn that was out of this world. And I’ve been less than impressed with Federal Donuts since they only do cake donuts and the good ones are always out by the time I get there. However, I do love the fact that they do hot, fresh donuts all day long – and that they have a donut called the Apollonia! (Hello, Purple Rain!)

Long story short: I don’t need all the fancy toppings and fillings; just give me a plain old chocolate frosted with sprinkles any day.

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