The Jersey City Project's Project Eats 2017 is back on 6/24 and 6/25 with new vendors and returning favorites, all ready to serve up some delicious, indulgent eats. To help get you ready, I'm excited to be collaborating with The Jersey City Project to spotlight some of the vendors from this year's Project Eats, learning more about their business, their food, and what they love about Jersey City.
|Photo courtesy of Emily Tan|
Tell me about Waffle It & Co. - how did it get started?
This is easy! My husband was born and raised in Belgium, and he moved here to be with me in 2010. Back in Belgium, he owned and ran a family restaurant and spa for 20+ years. He was a French Cuisine head chef at the restaurant. When he came to NJ, he had some odds and ends chef positions at different locations but never really found his niche again. He spent a long period of time observing his new environment and noticed that there were very few Belgian cuisine restaurants, especially in NJ. We would have to trek into NYC to get some Belgian inspired food! As expected, he missed and continues to miss a lot of his country's unique bites, including the Liege Waffles so this is how it all began- the combination of missing some Belgian treats and not having too many NJ options got us thinking that perhaps we could do it!
We thought to start with the Liege Waffles and then expand as we grew and learned... hence, the original name Waffle It & Co. ... we always knew that the waffles would have company :) We had our very first event as Waffle It & Co. at the Bayonne Street Fair in October 2015, and we were hooked! Fun fact here: Our first customers were a very nice couple that day in Bayonne. They gave us a chance and actually came back for more that same day. They continued to love our product so much that we have seen them at Project Market & Project Eats ever since... :) They specifically mentioned that they came out to these events because they knew we would be there:) We are so grateful for this cool experience.
What is the inspiration behind your food?
Steve's inspiration literally comes from his background. He creates the combinations he knows will taste amazing... I can't say enough about his talent to be honest. But since I am American, I do my best to let him know what Americans crave. In fact, the Liege Waffle in Belgium/Holland is enjoyed on its own with no toppings, but I made sure he understood the importance of toppings here!
Other inspirations will come from whatever event we are part of or what holiday is being celebrated. Steve created The Merry Eggnog (Custard Eggnog, Ginger Cookies and Raspberry Sauce) last year at Project Market after I asked him to google traditional holiday treats, meals, etc., and it was a hit! He has also created The Holy Cannoli for the La Festa Italian Festival in Jersey City (this one we kept for months after because it was so popular). Another recent creation for St. Patrick's Day was The IRISH Cream (Cream of Bailey's, Bananas and Chocolate Mint). We even created The Chicpea JC Special when we were part of her event after hearing her favorite combos!
Steve and I want to keep the menu fresh and inspired because that is important to us. One of my favorite things to do is to see a repeat customer and tell him or her what's new on the menu!
Obviously, you're a frequent vendor around Jersey City and you also recently opened The Belgian Plate at Harborside. What keeps bringing you back to Jersey City? What made you want to launch The Belgian Plate here?
Our first year in business was truly a learning year for us. I booked us at so many different events all over NJ... we went as far south as Cape May. We truly learned so much from our all of these experiences at all of the different locations, and after the year was done, we knew exactly where we wanted to be - Jersey City. JC has honestly received us with OPEN and always so POSITIVE arms. No matter where we were - at the Hamilton Park Farmers' Market or All About Downtown - the JC residents and/or the foodie people who attend these events, have been nothing short of amazing. Most customers were open to tasting the Liege waffle or already knew what a Liege waffle was so it was a truly rewarding experience each time- still is!
When we were accepted to be part of Harborside in JC (yay!), we knew we needed to adjust our name a bit more because they wanted our menu to include breakfast and lunch in addition to our waffles and crepes. We wanted to keep it Belgian and European inspired and not lose the small following we already had so The Belgian Plate by Waffle It & Co. it became! Now, when we have outside markets like Project Eats or Market, we are still Waffle It & Co. but we are often asked if we have a brick and mortar, so combining all of this was important to us. Now we are even working with Fastboy. We embrace Jersey City fully and appreciate this city so very much. We hope it shows.
What excited you about being part of Project: Eats?
First, Kristen and her crew run and host an amazingly organized and fun event. The marketing, scheduling, set up, etc. are simply so easy and vendor-supportive. We know exactly what to expect when we arrive and that is so important - so key. Next, the people! My goodness.. the people who come out to these events are always in such good spirits and friendly. They come to EAT and have fun! They are not afraid to try new things - what every food vendor hopes for!
Any other vendors you're particularly looking forward to?
Oh my goodness...nothing but talent at these events- ALWAYS. We are excited to try them all really. We have too many favorites to mention and don't want to leave anyone out so will just say eager to try them all!
Do you have a personal favorite on your menu?
Our favorite menu item is simply the Liege Waffles. We enjoy them without any toppings often. However, I am a big fan of bananas and Nutella so when asked, I recommend The Berlin Banana, which is exactly that- bananas, Nutella and fresh whipped cream on a waffle. However, we are both excited for our latest idea, inspired by that fact that we are now part of The Lutze Biergarten as well. We will have Waffle Flights (just like beer/wine flights) where our customers can try THREE mini-Liege specials from our menu. We debuted this concept this weekend at The JC Brew Fest at Harborside, and the feedback was great! Yay again!
Thank you so much to Waffle It & Co. and make sure to try out their delicious creations, crepes, and crisp but tender waffles at Project: Eats - they'll be there both days, so you have plenty of waffle-eating opportunities.