“I just liked the play on words, and I wanted to make it happen, so that’s pretty much how it came to be,” says Ria Wilson. She’s referring to the Falafel Waffle, a fun-to-say special that’s been popping up lately at Wild at Canelé. The dish is exactly what it sounds like—spiced chickpea batter that’s been pressed into waffle iron—but despite its simplicity, the Falafel Waffle took a long time to perfect.
The couple first started playing with the concept back when they were still cooking at Sqirl, but it was at Canelé (where they run the lunch concept Wild Wednesday through Friday), that Ria got the chance to really start experimenting with the recipe. The main challenge was keeping the waffle from getting too dry. “It’s such a wide format as opposed to a rolled up ball, deep fried very quickly,” says Ria, who used feedback from a regular customer to rework the proportions and create a waffle with a browned, crispy crust that gives way to soft, savory insides.
While the waffle itself is handmade with a mixture of garbanzo beans (which soak for at least 12 hours before preparation) and socca (garbanzo bean flour), it’s topped with a colorful seasonal salad that combines an intriguing mix of flavors and textures. There’s parsley, pickled ramps, fennel, tiny slivers of pickled dried apricot, and thinly shaved summer squash, cucumbers, and carrots. There’s also a lemony garlic sauce that pools in the squares and sinks into the waffle as you eat.
“You know, falafel is not really heavy, but it’s a lot, so I wanted to pair it with something brighter and not as heavy because it’s still summer, and it’s still warm, so I like to have that balance,” says Ria. “The salad has things that are crisp, things that are crunchy.”
Ria also says that, though an inadvertent surprise, the dish is completely vegan and gluten-free. “It’s not really our focus point, but it’s just a nice bonus that you can have something good to eat and not have to feel completely overindulgent doing it,” says the chef.
The Falafel Waffle will probably stick around as a special for a couple more months—Ria says as summer turns to fall, she looks forward to incorporating new produce into the salad, especially pomegranates.
Wild at Canelé is located at Canelé, 3219 Glendale Blvd., 323-666-7133. Lunch service from Wednesday-Friday only, from 11:00 am- 3:00 pm.