Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wafels and Dinges

Liege Wafel

Wafels and Dinges, $4

When I first heard about a truck that roams New York dispensing fresh Belgian wafels, my stomach began to flutter with both hunger and nerves. The wafels sounded great but I was afraid that I'd have trouble finding such a small moving target during my limited time in the city.

It turns out that while the owners of Wafels and Dinges embrace the serendipity that causes some customers to cross their path, they also recognize that other people need a wafel RIGHT NOW. W&D's charming website and blog detail the truck's regular weekly route, and both a hotline and a Twitter feed offer more up-to-the-minute information. In keeping with W&D's role as spokesnack for a country most of us know next to nothing about, the website also spreads the word about Belgian-related happenings and community events. A daily password grants wafel buyers one free dinge (topping) from a long list that includes fruit, nuts, and dulce de leche. Every week one lucky wafel fan (known as wafelettes or wafeloons) is awarded a free WMD ("wafel of massive deliciousness") piled high with the dinges of his or her dreams.

Sadly, the aging wafel truck conked out during my trip and my visions of chasing it into the setting sun were replaced by an anticlimatic visit to Chelsea, where it sits on a side street, tethered to a generator. I decided on a dinge-less Liege wafel. Also known as "the other Belgian wafel", the Liege is not as geometric, crispy, or famous as its cousin; as W&D's menu explains, the Liege is the wafel Belgians kept to themselves.

For a moment I regretted my decision, as the friendly staffer flipped a pale, misshapen, and soggy mass out onto the counter. It turns out that unlike the batter-based Belgian wafel, the Liege is made from dough, liberally seeded with pearl sugar. When an order comes in a par-baked wafel is slapped back onto the griddle where the dough crisps up; the sugar inside melts into tiny pockets of nectar while the surface sugar caramelizes into a crispy, crackly, golden crust. It was hot, chewy, sticky--perfect street food for a bright, crisp, winter day.

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