Tag Archives: brunch

Let’s do Lunch: Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub

15 Mar

Considering what seems like half of the search hits to this blog have come from queries related to my earlier posts on the impending opening of Sprecher’s Restaurant & Brewery, I figured it was high time I made an appearance to get the lay of the land.  Sunday lunch with Pops seemed like a good time to see what they’ve done with the former Houlihan’s space.  Now I’m not sure I ever went to that particular Houlihan’s but based on the Wisconsin Dells location I’m sure it was lots of booths and dark wood and lamps and appeteasers.

The location, on John Q. Hammonds Drive in Middleton, is pastoral meets office park and the building itself is your standard national chain-style box.  Inside, they’ve done a respectable job of creating a comfortable dining and drinking atmosphere with a mix of table and booth seating and display cases of German beer glassware flanking the large U-shaped bar.  Several flat-screen TVs in the bar area were showing typical Sunday afternoon sports fare, namely golf and World’s Strongest Man re-runs on The Deuce.  The walls of the bar area were adorned with impressionist-style “paintings” depicting scenes from around Madison including Camp Randall and the Memorial Union Terrace.  It’s a nice reminder that even though I’m in a bar/restaurant between a field and an office park that I’m still technically in Madison.

Their selection of Sprecher beers on-tap was surprisingly robust with 14 offerings including year-round, seasonal and special releases in addition to 4 draft sodas (even more beer and soda available by the bottle).  In my post-racquetball tournament body coma, the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Doppelbock was my poison of choice today.  Served in a snifter, this doppelbock went down silky smooth thanks to the softness imparted by the oak and bourbon and finished with a vanillin’-laced malty sweetness.  I’m glad to see them really committing to carrying the entire Sprecher catalog.

The menu spans the familiar territory of soups, salads, burgers and sandwiches, with a selection of flatbreads and entrees ranging from steak and ribs to a “Thai Peanut Bowl”.  The eclectic menu evokes similar wide-ranging ethnic-fusion dishes present on the Great Dane’s menu which also includes a peanut stew and Ahi tuna salad.  The lightness of the latter dish appealed to my weary digestive system and overall “morning-after” disposition.  It mimicked the Dane’s rendition in the execution of its sesame-seared tuna, peanuts and crispy wonton strips, but veered from the Thai theme with the inclusion of a chile-lime dressing and jicama.  It was crisp and refreshing, if somewhat less inspired than some other versions I’ve had.  My dad opted for the Sunday brunch buffet which included a selection of standard breakfast meats and sides, prime rib and a design-your-own-omelet station.  He was feeling a little under-the-weather and didn’t end up indulging with his usual gusto, but said it was otherwise satisfactory and comparable to similar brunch buffets around town.

I think the place has potential to do great business with the built-in office park crowd and nearby lifestyle shopping centers and the Sprecher brand name certainly carries a certain caché among those who dabble in the craft beer scene.  It would certainly be a place I would stop in after work or drop by if I was in the area, though I doubt its location would land it on my regular nightlife rotation.  I can’t help but continue to think of Sprecher’s as a sort of Great Dane Lite for the Far West Set, which is certainly no major slight to Sprecher’s as they could pick far worse establishments from which to draw inspiration.  I foresee some post-shift Sprecher-sipping in the near future now that I have a decent beer spot between my two places of employment.

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You never forget your first: Fried Chicken and Pecan Waffles with Apricot Syrup

13 Oct

Chicken and Waffles

The first time I heard about a culinary phenomenon called fried chicken and waffles, I must admit to being a little perplexed by the combination.  Sure, both things are great in their own right, but I wouldn’t think to pair them in a single meal.  This confusion is largely tied to my region of birth.  Chicken and waffles traces its roots to the soul food traditions of The South though its specific origin is somewhat murky.  One account has Thomas Jefferson bringing a waffle iron back to America from France in the 1790’s with the combination becoming commonplace shortly thereafter.  Others describe the dish as a delicacy stemming from mid-Nineteenth Century slave culture where both poultry and waffles would have been rare treats reserved for special occasions – a tradition commonly maintained by modern African American food culture as a special Sunday family meal.

The beauty of the dish lies in its versatility.  Another legend from the Wells Supper Club in Harlem spells its origins as a dish served to late night patrons who were too late for dinner but too early for breakfast.  I’ve always been a fan of breakfast for dinner as I love heart breakfast food, but rarely have the time or appetite to make or eat it in the morning.  As I mentioned in my earlier post on Curried French toast, my tolerance for sweet, bready breakfast foods is low, so the savoriness of the fried chicken plays a great foil for the sweeter waffle.  This was my first time making waffles from scratch and I must say they turned out amazing.  The pecans and apricot syrup proved to be a great match for the savoriness of the fried chicken.  This really is a meal that hits all the right spots, any time of day.

Dish: Fried Chicken and Pecan Waffles with Apricot Syrup

Ingredient Roll Call (Serves 4):

Fried Chicken –

  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1 egg, beaten with a splash of water
  • ~1/2 cup all purpose flour, seasoned, for dredging
  • ~1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • enough vegetable/canola oil to coat a medium/large fry pan with ~.5cm layer

Waffles –

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp cornmeal (optional)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp granulated or brown sugar (I used 1 tsp of each)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • ~1/3 cup chopped pecans

Apricot Syrup

  • 4 tbsp apricot preserves
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • ~1/3 cup water
  • dash of cinnamon

How I do it:

  1. Prepare chicken for frying by dipping in egg wash, then seasoned flour, again in the egg wash, and finally in the breadcrumbs, coating evenly
  2. Prepare waffle batter by combining flour, cornstarch, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in large mixing bowl.  In another bowl whisk together egg yolks, milk and vanilla until combined.  In yet another bowl, whisk egg whites to soft peaks, add sugar, then whisk again to stiff peaks.  Slowly add milk/egg yolk mixture to the flour mixture, whisking lightly until most big clumps have been eliminated, then stirring in melted butter.  Finally, carefully fold in egg whites making sure not to over-stir.
  3. Prepare syrup by combining preserves, honey, sugar, water, and cinnamon in a small saucepan over high heat.  Mix together and boil for a couple of minutes until sugar is dissolved and liquid reduces to a syrup like consistency.  Set aside to cool.
  4. To make waffles, preheat waffle iron per its directions.  Lightly grease both surfaces with oil or spray and sprinkle a light coating of pecans over lower surface.  Add enough batter to fill lower mold (obviously, this will vary depending on your machine, but is likely between 3/4 cup and 1 1/2 cups per waffle as pictured above).  Cook waffles to preferred doneness, againm per the directions that come with your waffle iron.  I prefer mine dark golden brown with a healthy crisp outside and soft interior.
  5. While waffles are being made, heat oil in large frying pan over medium/medium-high heat.  Fry breaded chicken thighs until golden brown, approximately 4-5 minutes on each side.
  6. Waffles and chicken can be kept warm on a wire rack in a 250 degree oven depending on how quickly they are made.
  7. To serve, butter a waffle, cover in syrup, then fried chicken, and more syrup.  Chow down.
  8. Extra waffles can easily be frozen for later consumption and keep and reheat really well. Just pop them in the toaster like you would a store-bought frozen waffle, except these are, you know, like way better.
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