To celebrate its new brunch waffle, Tilth is soliciting suggestions for creative waffle preparations, the best of which will be featured on the restaurant's November menu. But a Chicago writer who earned national acclaim for his short-lived "Will it waffle?" blog says the bar for waffle originality is surprisingly high.
"The single biggest thing about the waffle iron is that it's instantly transformative," says Dan Shumski, who's kept The Waffleizer online since he concluded his recipe-testing project. "Most cooking is about transformation, of course -- but with a waffle iron it's almost alchemy. You put in one thing and out comes ... a waffle. Or something like it at least."
According to Shumski, the waffle iron's alchemical powers make it a magnet for inventiveness: "Your brain expects waffle," he says. "When you twist that, you've played with your food -- and that's a drive that lurks in a lot of people." Shumski's experiments included s'mores, aloo parantha and falafel, which is leading the "likes" race on Tilth's Facebook page.
"With falafel waffles, the name alone gives them an advantage right out of the gate," Shumski says. "It's hard to beat that on a menu."
But cooks who've messed with non-traditional waffles know falafel doesn't pose much of a challenge, since it's derived from a chickpea paste. When Bon Appetit earlier this month posted a slide show of "10 Crazy Waffle Recipes," featuring cheddar waffles and sweet potato waffles, Shumski tweeted a demurral: "I have to say, some of them don't seem that crazy to me."
That's because, as Shumski told Grub Street Chicago when he concluded his blog, "When you move away from batters and doughs, you're probably pushing the boundaries of what people would consider making in the waffle iron."
Shumski cited Thai squid salad as his closest strike at waffles' frontier, but was intrigued by Tilth's proposal to waffle an Old Fashioned. Although Shumski wasn't sure whether cocktails typically translate well to waffle form, he likes the idea.
"I am certainly in favor of the concept of boozy waffles," he says.