Thursday, December 03, 2015

b. street waffles

Update Review

It has been a little while since I've updated my review for one of my absolute favorite businesses in San Francisco: b. street waffles.  That doesn't mean I haven't been enjoying Gerald's waffles regularly, it just means I've been quietly taking notes, gearing up for a big update review, and here you have it, 2 years later.

You can read the backstory in my original review introduction, so I'll not repeat myself this time, except to tell you, that these are, hands down, the best waffles I've ever had in my life.  If you've never had a Li├Ęge waffle, you need to go discover one, as they are nothing like the American counterparts.  The dough is yeasted, rich like brioche, and sweetened, and the sugar crystalizes on the outside, making them dense, doughy, moist, and crispy, all at once.  They are amazing, and b. street waffles has perfected them.

I've included new reviews below, alongside the originals, categorized by flavor.

Original Review Intro, October 2013

I eat waffles at least 4 days a week for breakfast.  Yet I never write about them, because I enjoy them at work, and I don't review the food from my work cafe.  So, even though I have great waffle expertise, you've only ever read about a single green coconut waffle from Saigon Express, or the amazing Vadouvan waffles with foie gras from Spruce, back in the glory days.  Time to change this, and review a proper waffle :)

I discovered b. street waffles several months ago, when they were doing a popup at Capitol One 360 Cafe.  Apparently they do free waffles the first Wednesday of every month. There was crazily no line, and um, I love waffles, so I eagerly wandered in.

The idea behind the waffles is that they are street style.  The ingredients are baked in, so you just grab one and go, no syrups, no utensils needed.  They come in many flavors, from fruity (lemon blueberry, key lime, apple cinnamon), to sweet (vanilla, salted caramel, chocolate), to even savory (maple bacon).  They also offer a seasonal flavor of the month.  They are made with high quality, local ingredients: Straus for the dairy, Giusto's for the wheat, TCHO for chocolate, etc.  And you can tell.

b street mostly does popups around town.  Whenever I've seen them, they are set up with their impressive, massive, heavy duty waffle irons, cooking waffles fresh to order.  Each mega-waffle is then cut into quarters, a more reasonable size, and handed over to the eager recipient.  Waffles are also available online, packaged up, and delivered, although obviously not fresh and hot, which seems like a lot of the point to me!

b. street also does catering; they'll bring the waffle iron to your venue and bake them fresh, and I assure you, the aroma of the waffles cooking will add a touch to your event that you cannot achieve in any other way.  Always drool-worthy!  And, the staff have always been really friendly and personable when I've seen them, even when the line for waffles is crazy-long, they are always there with a smile.

Whenever I spot them around town, I'm certain to try out the latest flavors, as they offer up a special monthly flavor every mouth, and they always sound amazing!  Mmmm, waffles!

Classics

Classic Vanilla Waffle with Nutella, Whipped Cream, and Powdered Sugar, January 2015.
"The classic Belgian Liege-style waffle that dates to the 17th century made with pure vanilla."

A simple vanilla waffle. “How good can that be?”, I thought to myself. Even though I know I don’t really like Nutella, I told Gerald to load it up, as I thought the plain waffle, since served street-style with no syrup, would be too boring.

How wrong I was. The waffle demonstrated exactly why I am so in love with these waffles. Even a simple vanilla waffle from B. Street Waffles is perfection. It doesn’t need toppings. The inside was moist and doughy as always. The outside, perfectly crispy. The dough had a lovely sweetness to it, reminding me slightly of fried dough that I used to get at the fair in the summer as a child. The powdered sugar, and the sugar inside the base, caramelized the outside just a bit. Seriously, so good.

As I said, I don’t really care for Nutella (I know, I know, the horror), and I wish I had left it off. The whipped cream melted into the waffle, which is a touch I always love, although a bit difficult to eat sans plate or utensils.

Another winning waffle, although next time, I’d leave off the Nutella. Some things are better left alone.
Vanilla Waffle with Nutella, August 2016.
I think this was my favorite ever.   Which is shocking, since it was just a vanilla base, and I’m not crazy about Nutella like the masses.

The waffle was piping hot, and it melted the Nutella perfectly, so it became ooey-gooey.  The vanilla base was everything I’ve come to love in a b. Street Waffle, dense, sweet, delicious.

I devoured this, for breakfast, but, it really was one of the least breakfast appropriate waffles I've had.  Add the whipped cream, and then, dessert it is.
Classic Waffle with TCHO Dark Chocolate Sauce.
I had this at a special event at the TCHO factory.  It was a plain waffle, topped with TCHO dark chocolate sauce.  Since it was a huge event and b. street waffles was rapid fire handing out free waffles,  it wasn't hot when I got it.  Which is a bit sad, but it still had nice flavor to it, even the base waffle seemed to have some tang to it, which I always love.  And I applaud their efforts at giving out waffles so quickly!

The star was the chocolate sauce though.  It was absolutely delicious.  I think if the waffle was hot, it would have melted slightly, even better!  I've always found TCHO to be just kinda ok chocolate, but this sauce was better than their standard chocolate.  I'd get this again, just for more of the sauce :)

Fruity

Blueberry

Blueberry Jam, April 2015.
"Inspired by weekends in Maine, these blueberry-infused jam waffles bring me back to my childhood."

While waiting for my waffle, I learned all sorts of interesting facts about this one from Gerald. The “jam” he uses is made by a German company, specifically for baking. Rather than a normal sauce-like jam, it actually comes as pellets, that he adds to the mix. This way, the jam doesn’t add extra moisture, messing with his delicate recipe. (The same supplier also produces the caramel bits he uses for the salted caramel waffles). He takes his sourcing of perfect ingredients seriously, as obviously, it would be far easier to just get a mass produced product here in the US!

Anyway, I was actually a bit disappointed by this waffle. It was still good, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t as magic as some others. Specifically, I think that it either cooked too long, or perhaps the dough didn’t rise as much as it normally does? It just wasn’t quite as doughy, moist, and light as I am accustomed. I missed the doughy interior. The blueberry bits were flavorful and tasty, but, I only had a few little bites in my waffle. I would have preferred more bits, or perhaps a spread on top to go along with it, as overall it was just a bit plain.

Raspberry

Raspberry Jam Waffle with Fresh Whipped Cream, December 2013.
I think b. street waffles just gets better and better.  This was December's seasonal flavor, and at first, when I heard "raspberry waffle", I admit I was a bit disappointed.  Raspberries aren't in season, why would I want this?  Where was the holiday appropriate gingerbread or peppermint?

But, this turned out to be my favorite one so far.  The best part was the crispy, caramelized outside.  I honestly don't think I've ever had a waffle nail this so well.  And yet, it was still moist and doughy inside.   The batter was the same quality batter they always use, nice base flavor.  It was studded with bursts of a very delicious raspberry jam.  And then, homemade fluffy whipped cream on top.  Such a winner.  Finally, I agreed with the street style.  It truly didn’t need anything else, as it was absolutely perfect like this.  No syrup, no fork, no extra sauces needed.  The only that was needed?  Another, as this disappeared far too quickly.
Raspberry White Chocolate, August 2015.
This wasn't a favorite.

Raspberry came in the form of the little jam bites like he uses in the blueberry waffles.  They were flavorful, delicious little pops of intensity and sweetness, but, there just wasn't enough of them in the waffle to really taste unless you sought one out.  I didn't taste any white chocolate nor see any chips either.

This was one of my least favorites, as it just seemed plain.  I wanted more raspberry.  I wanted any white chocolate.  I wanted whipped cream.  I wanted ... something.

The waffle itself also wasn't quite as crispy, and the dough not as sweet as I am used to.

Apple

Apple Cinnamon Waffle, March 2014.
"A Mom’s favorite, the classic American mixture of apple pieces and organic cinnamon"

I somehow missed out on waffle Wednesday in January and February.  But, March rolled around, and I finally wasn't busy on the first Wed of the month, so I braved the cloudy weather and trekked to Capitol One 360 Cafe.

The March offering was apple cinnamon, a bit of a strange choice since I associate apples with fall.  But it was described as being like apple pie, in a waffle.  Chunks of apple, organic cinnamon.  Um, yes!

The line this time around was longer, and seemingly slower, than usual.  But, I've grown to love b. street waffles, and I knew it would be worth the wait.  The apple spice aroma drifting through the crowd was a tease.  But such a delicious smelling one.

The waffle was dense like always, moist inside, slightly caramelized on the outside.  Hot and fresh.  There really is nothing like a waffle literally right out of the waffle iron.  Even the fanciest SF brunch place can’t beat this, as there is a fair amount of time between waffle leaving the waffle iron, being plated, and brought to you.  At Capitol One Cafe, only a minute elapses between it being plucked from the waffle iron, and delivered to your eager hand.

I didn’t really taste much apple, nor find many chunks, but the waffle was super moist, I think due to the apple.  Powdered sugar was sprinkled on top, which melted a bit and caramelized even more, and I added extra cinnamon and nutmeg from the coffee bar to amp it up a bit.  Perfect for a slightly gloomy day, as it was warm, comforting, and would be a perfect fall treat!
Apple Cinnamon Waffle, September 2014.
September rolled around, and the apple cinnamon returned, this time, totally seasonally appropriate.

I am a broken record when describing the waffles, but it is worth repeating: these waffles are just amazing.  Incredibly moist, dense, flavorful batter.  Slightly caramelized on the outside.  Piping hot.  And this time, loaded up with little chunks of apple, which provided great bursts of flavor.  I again added cinnamon from the coffee bar to amp it up just a bit.

Loved it.

Lemon

Lemon Zest Waffle, April 2014.
And the monthly flavor for April: Lemon Zest!

I'm not even that big of a fan of lemon, but I have learned to just trust b. street at this point, and I'm glad I did.

This waffle was perfect, as always.  Seriously, exactly what all waffles should be.  It was hot and fresh, the outside crispy and caramelized, the interior moist and dense.  The lemon added a zing, but didn't overwhelm.  Powdered sugar sprinkled on top, optional, added a bit of extra sweetness, and I definitely would recommended adding it.  Whipped cream might have been even better.

I really can't get over how amazing these waffles are, and the street style has really grown on me.  I originally wanted syrup, but that is just because it is what I was used to, and I can safely say now that these waffles are perfect as is.  And eating without a fork and knife is obviously much easier!
Lemon Ginger, June 2015.
To be honest, I didn’t taste any ginger, and I was expecting a zing from it.  The lemon was also very subtle, so there wasn't much overall flavor here.  My waffle wasn’t quite as dense or doughy as I’ve come to expect, and, it had almost a slightly burnt flavor.

This was one where I wanted something more, some syrup, some whipped cream, something, to just amp it up a bit.

I’m being hyper-critical though, as I’ve come to expect absolute perfection from b. street.  Even this, one of the worst I’ve had from b. street, is far better than any waffle I’ve had elsewhere!

Cranberry

Cranberry, November 2015.
Finally, a flavor I haven't tried before!

Cranberry, seasonally appropriate for November, since, Thanksgiving.

The waffle was quite plain, besides the whole cranberries inside.  This allowed me to really, really appreciate the quality product that is the base.  Slightly sweet, doughy, moist, quite tasty.  Nicely crispy on the outside.

Overall, good, although I'd never pick cranberry, and I did want a little more oomph of some sort ... whipped cream would certainly work, but, then again, when would I ever turn down whipped cream?

Holiday

Pumpkin Spice Waffle with Fresh Whipped Cream, October 2013.
The seasonal flavor for October was of course ... pumpkin spice.  I was already sick of everything being pumpkin spice when I headed in to get the waffle.  Now, I love pumpkin, I love cinnamon and nutmeg, but wow, mid-September hit and it seemed like everywhere I turn everything is "pumpkin spice". And in most cases, that just means a heavy hand with nutmeg, making things taste like soap.  So let's just say I approached this with apprehension.

I shouldn't have been worried.  It was wonderful.  Served hot and fresh directly from the waffle iron.  The pumpkin puree in the batter kept the whole waffle very moist.  The cinnamon and nutmeg spicing were present, but not overdone.  I would have like it to be a bit more crispy on the outside, but that is really just personal preference.

The last time I had a b. street waffle, I noted that while it was good, I wanted maple syrup.  This time, fresh whipped cream was offered on top.  Not quite syrup, but still something to push it over the top.  And that it did.  It was the icing on the cake ... er, the whipped cream on the waffle :)  Fresh, real whipped cream can be such a perfect treat sometimes.  This was creamy and, I have no better way to describe it, it REALLY tasted like cream!  Luxurious mouthfeel, yet slightly sweet.  It melted into the waffle, making it even more moist.  It was also sprinkled with powdered sugar, and I added a little extra cinnamon and nutmeg from the coffee bar.

I quite enjoyed my treat, and look forward to trying out next month's special flavor!
Pumpkin Spice w/ Whipped Cream. October 2015.
I'm somehow part of the population that doesn't go crazy for pumpkin spice.  Still, I missed September Waffle Wed because I was in Paris, and July Waffle Wed because I was in New Hampshire, so I really wanted to make it to the October day, even though I wasn't super excited about the flavor.

The waffle was about what I expected.  Moist, not too strongly spiced, sorta pumpkin-y.  Just not my favorite.  I did like the crispy edges as always.

I also loved the whipped cream.  He must make fresh whipped cream.  It always has an incredible flavor of fresh cream.

I was really torn about the whipped cream though.  I loved the whipped cream, but, I almost thought it took away from my waffle, as it melted quickly, and destroyed the crispy exterior that I so love.  But I loved the flavor and creaminess of it.  Really, I just wanted a big bowl of the whipped cream!

Anyway, overall, this was fine, but not ever a flavor I really love.
Gingerbread, December 2015.
And another new flavor: gingerbread for December!

I'll be honest - gingerbread isn't a flavor I get excited about.  Not actual gingerbread, nor gingerbread cookies, gingerbread lattes, etc.  But, as always, this choice was very seasonally appropriate.

And ... I liked it!  The gingerbread aspect came in the form of a subtle, sweet, deep molasses flavor.  It added just a bit more interest to the base than the usual sugar.

The waffle itself was an example of a perfect b. Street Waffle, the doughy, dense, yeasty interior just gets me every time.

As always, I sorta wished for some whipped cream or something on top, just to really finish it off, but, as I was having it for breakfast, I think it is better than it came without :)

Unique Flavors

Maple Bacon Waffle, 2013.
"Real pieces of bacon drizzled with maple syrup".

The waffle was hot and fresh, served right out of the waffle iron.  This was a big selling point.  It had a subtle bacon flavor due to tiny chunks of bacon throughout, but it wasn't in your face bacon.  I didn't really taste any maple however, which is where it fell flat.

Since it is served street-waffle style, there is no syrup available to add on, and without the maple in the waffle, it was lacking something.  The powdered sugar sprinkled on top added a bit of sweetness, but it wasn't enough.  I found myself wanting syrup very badly.  Then again, I'm a New Hampshire girl who grew up with some seriously good maple syrup readily available, so I know I have strong opinions in this area :)

I like the idea of the grab-and-go, flavors-cooked-in, but this didn't quite deliver.  The super fresh waffle was nice though, it had a good crispy exterior while staying very moist, and the batter was clearly quality.  I'll definitely try another flavor.

Update, 11/13:  Another event, another maple bacon waffle.  And this time, I really loved my maple bacon waffle!  It had plentiful chunks of bacon in it, and the maple flavor also came through.  The powdered sugar on top added sweetness and flavor, which I really appreciated.  Since I remembered wishing it had syrup last time, I drizzled some honey on it, since that was the closest substitute I had available, but that really didn’t work.  I shouldn’t have messed with it, it was good on its own.   Besides the great flavor, my favorite part was that it was nice and caramelized on the outside, yet moist and doughy inside.  A very tasty waffle!
Toasted Coconut Waffle, May 2014.
Starting to get summer-y ... the May flavor was Toasted Coconut.

This was my least favorite waffle from b. street, for two reasons.  The first is the flavor; I don't think I could have identified it as coconut if I hadn't been told there was coconut inside.  The coconut flavor was just not strong, although my waffle did contain a few shreds of toasted coconut.  It was very plain.

The second was the consistency.  It was hot and fresh, as always, but it lacked the crisp outside that I love so dearly.  I think it was pulled off the waffle iron just a little early.  Inside was doughy and moist, as always, but I was missing the crisp exterior.

I still enjoyed my waffle, don't get me wrong.  The base flavor of their waffles is so good that even a plain waffle from b. street is delicious, but, I when promised a coconut waffle, I want to taste the coconut.  And although the outside texture didn't live up to their standards, it was still better than any waffle I've ever had anywhere else.
Toasted Coconut Waffle + Nutella, May 2015.
A year later, May again brought toasted coconut.

I wasn't super excited for it, since I remember it not being one of my all time favorites.  This time however, it was awesome.

To be fair, it still didn't have a very intense coconut flavor.  There were some shreds of coconut inside, and I think he said it was made with coconut milk and coconut sugar?

It didn't need the additional coconut flavor, though, the base waffle itself was magically perfect.  Super crispy exterior.  Moist, dense interior.  Sweet, but not too sweet.  It didn't need anything.  This was exactly the sort of b. Street Waffle made me originally fall in love with them!

He offered Nutella to spread on top, which I agreed to, but to be honest, I think I might have liked it more without.  The Nutella was great, don't get me wrong, but the waffle itself was just so near perfect on its own that it almost took away from it.

Anyway, an example of how well executed these waffles can be!
Toasted Coconut, June 2016.
Third time is the charm?  Nope.

This time, the coconut waffle did have plentiful shreds of coconut inside, but, I didn't really care for that aspect.  The shreds were a bit strange to have mixed in, texture-wise.
Salted Caramel Waffle, August 2014.
"Delightful pieces of caramel and a dash of sea salt."

Sadly, I was out of town for July waffle Wednesday, so I missed that one.  For August, the flavor was Salted Caramel.

This was a pretty standard b. street waffle.  Hot and fresh, right out of the waffle iron.  Doughy and dense.  I would have preferred a crisper exterior, but otherwise, nicely made.

Inside were little tiny bursts of caramel.  I loved the sweetness, but they were tiny, and there weren't many.  The waffle itself wasn't very sweet at all.  Powdered sugar on top helped it out, but I found myself wanting something sweeter, for the first time in a long time, I actually wanted some maple syrup or whipped cream or possibly even a caramel sauce, just some other topping, on my waffle.
Salted Caramel Waffle, March 2015.
The salted caramel strikes again!

This time, I read my previous notes, and arrived prepared, armed with my own whipped cream (don't ask).  It turns out, it was totally unnecessary.  This waffle was awesome, as is.

It was dense, doughy, moist, with a slightly sweet base.  Inside were little bursts of caramel.  I didn't pick up on much salt, but the caramel was certainly there.  The powdered sugar on top was perfect for additional sweetness.

Another one that I couldn't help but devour in seconds.
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