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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!

Me vs. Maradona vs. Ela

Forgive the confusing post title; I’m just running with the theme at Ela, where all their cocktails are named after songs by the band, Brand New.

I’d been meaning to come to Ela for some time now, mostly because they have an elusive burger that is only offered on their happy hour menu Tuesday-Friday and they only make 10 of them a day. Made from house ground sirloin and short ribs and topped with aged cabot cheddar, watercress, shitake, sauce and a house black sesame bun that’s baked an hour before serving, the Ela bourbon burger is as rare as a four leaf clover!

And boy was it rare alright! I ordered the burger medium and it was still bright red inside when I bit into it – yet perfectly cooked at the same time. The bottom of the bun fell apart a little bit when I was eating so it was hard to maneuver this massive patty. It was still pretty tasty though! The side of tots were just alright. They were more like little potato puffs – and they kind of had that fried, carnival food taste, almost like a funnel cake without the sugar on it. (And I didn’t even get any ketchup, you guys!)

I also got 2 of the pop-punked themed drinks off the ELIXIRS menu as well: The “Last Chance to Lose Your Keys“, which had tequila, rosemary, kaffir lime, citruses. I didn’t really like it. Maybe it was the kaffir lime and rosemary combination, but it tasted a little too chemically to me. And it was gray. I don’t know about you, but that’s about the least appealing color I want to see in a cocktail glass. I also got the “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad“, not just because that’s one of my favorite Brand New songs, but because it sounded delicious.

It had gin, burnt sugar, absinthe and lemon in it – absinthe rinse on the glass and then it appeared that the gin and lemon were already mixed because the bartender squeezed it out of some kind of seltzer bottle into my glass and waited for it to settle. (That’s where the foamy bits come from) Then she topped it off with the drizzle of burnt sugar. The effect was pretty cool and it tasted great; I just wish that there had been more actual liquid in the drink. I felt like I was getting nothing but foam at the first few sips.

I’d definitely love to come back and check out the rest of the drinks, as well as their regular food menu. The couple next to me were doing the chef’s tasting and everything that came out looked amazing.

Burger rating: “C”

PS. Rumor has it they will be rolling out the burger on their new brunch menu this Sunday so you won’t have to run to happy hour just to get it (but you’ll still want to because, c’mon guys, it’s happy hour).

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