As a child growing up in Britain, I never quite appreciated holidays to continental Europe as I would now. I was too young to appreciate the political significance of Brussels, the allure of Belgian beer and the complications of living in a country with three national languages - but there was one currency any 10 year old could handle, and that was waffles.
With an ability to quieten any squabbling family, a waffle well done is, to my mind, absolute perfection.
Now, I know what might be springing to mind, but that's not the kind of waffle I'm talking about. You're thinking about the rubbery textured, synthetic, buttermilk–flavoured, pre-packaged waffle of American yore. I'm talking about holiday waffles, the ones I'd watch being prepared in historic, touristy European squares.
Crispy, chewy, scented with caramel and crunching with crystalised chunks of sugar, this week I've learned they've got a name - Liège waffles, and they can now be enjoyed in Auckland, right on the pavement by Elliott Stables.
The man behind this pop-up container of perfection is Andrew Graham, freshly returned from a stint of working as a chef on some of the world's most prestigious super yachts.
At age 16, Andrew fell in love with cooking when he landed a job at Te Papa's fine dining restaurant, Icon. At age 22, he stumbled across the Liège waffle in his first week in Europe on top of a mountain in a French ski resort.
"A guy in the snow was pumping them out to a long line of skiers in the morning. I knew I was tasting European simplicity done well - a yeast leavened dough, aromatic with cinnamon, vanilla, honey and caramelized Belgian pearl sugar lumps."
The memory had stuck so strongly in his mind that on Andrew's return to Auckland, he set about recreating the Liège waffle as authentically as possible. He created a Belgian shopping list, and imported two industrial cast iron waffle irons, Belgian pearl sugar, chocolate, speculoos and speculoos spread...and probably many more specialist ingredients that seem to appear from nowhere during the cooking process in his tardis-like kitchen.
Let me linger on the speculoos spread a little longer. You might have tried a speculoos biscuit unknowingly - it's a little rectangular spiced biscuit that can often be found on saucers next to cups of coffee (or at least it can in Europe). Until this week, I didn't realise this delicious biscuit existed in spread form, and let me tell you, it's great. With the texture of silky, creamier peanut butter and the taste of gingerbread and nuts, it's incredibly sweet and moreish.
Andrew spreads it thickly atop a freshly waffled brioche batter alongside cream cheese and golden syrup, in a combination called a "Ginger Kiss". Each mouthful is as indulgent as that sounds.
If sweet isn't your thing, then you might enjoy some of the interesting savoury creations he's going to be introducing soon, in particular a breakfast buttermilk waffle with streaky bacon and a fried egg. "It'll be the perfect thing to get on the run to work in the morning," he muses, "as I'll be able to get them out in two minutes, and sort of wrap the topping in the waffle to make it easy to eat".
With summer fast approaching, Andrew's also looking forward to raspberry season to accompany divine pots of melted chocolate that can be poured over waffles or waffle bites. He's also hoping to go into retail with his multi-packs of Liège waffles, already available to take home in packs of five from the stall. Stored in an air-tight container, they should last up to 5 days, especially when toasted. I've just realised that's one for every work day of the week...a dangerous realisation...
Waffle Supreme is a bright red pop-up food container located on the pavement next to Elliott Stables, on Elliott Street, Auckland CBD. The stall currently opens between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday, and 10am and 7pm weekends.