I’ve never been a huge fan of ginger. My parents love it and put it in a lot of the dishes they make at home, and so growing up I learned I had to pick it out of my chicken stir-fry or get a rude, spicy awakening when I chomped down on what I thought was a slice of garlic. Not fun. :-\ I’ve come around slightly to the idea of ginger in my savory foods, and now mostly keep it around so I can grow plants in my balcony garden from kitchen scraps. (But that’s a whole other blog post!) Ginger in sweet things, however, has never fazed me. Candied ginger slices and gingerbread, both soft and brittle, have been favorite treats of mine since I was a kid. I remember going to my friend’s house in the wintertime, because her birthday was three days after Christmas, and making a gingerbread house out of homemade kits: the hard, sturdy pieces of gingerbread for the walls and roof, royal icing acting like caulk to cement it together, gumdrops and M&Ms sprinkled on top as the roof shingles. And who didn’t bake gingerbread men as a child, filling the kitchen with the heady scents of spices and warmth, waiting impatiently for them to cool on the cookie sheet so you can give them icing faces and little candy “buttons” on their clothes? Gingerbread always brings fond memories of childhood to me as well as a lot of others, warm thoughts of the holidays and homemade baking.
So why is National Gingerbread Day in the middle of June instead of sometime in December?? (Because no one really gave a thought to when 90% of these national food holidays are celebrated? :P) Even historically, gingerbread has been a food for the winter holidays. Although gingerbread was probably created before the 10th century in the Middle East and brought to Europe by monks, it’s been popularized as a Christmas treat in Germany since the 13th century. Hard gingerbread cookies formed into shapes have been sold in German Christmas markets for centuries, and were traditionally dunked in port wine to soften them before eating. There are many other ginger-spiced breads made throughout the world–including the British and Middle-Eastern soft gingerbread cakes–but the hard German variety is the one that’s flourished in the United States.
But even in New York City, where you can presumably get anything you want to eat, anytime you want it, finding gingerbread for sale in the middle of June isn’t an easy task. If you’re desperate for that warm, spicy flavor, but don’t want to fire up your own oven for some homemade cookies, the trusty Wafels and Dinges truck has got you covered. I don’t think there’s a foodie soul in New York who hasn’t yet discovered the wonder of Wafels and Dinges’ light, fluffy Belgian style waffles, but what really wins people over are the truck’s dinges (translated as “thingys”), or toppings. You get your first dinge free with purchase of a waffle, and then you can add on as many as you want for an additional price. The truck’s most popular topping–they love it so much they label it as their “favorite” on their menu–is Spekuloos Spread, a buttery version of the Belgian speculoos cookie. These spicy Christmas cookies are very similar to German gingerbread, which is evident in the taste of the Spekuloos Spread. Many patrons glob this Dinge on their Wafels for that warm, spicy taste, a perfect substitute for authentic gingerbread in the middle of summer. And speaking of summer, Wafels & Dinges has started, since last year, to offer this amazing Spekuloos in ice cream form! It tastes just like the spread, but inside a creamy, cool vanilla ice cream base. You can also get this as a Dinge on your Wafel, but it’s considered a “premium” topping, so it’ll cost you an extra $2. But you’re still entitled to that one free dinge, so if you’re really feeling the gingerbread taste, get a waffle with Spekuloos Spread and Spekuloos ice cream! Gingerbread overload!
Wafels and Dinges
“As mentioned above, spreadable Speculoos (we’re talking delicious, next-level stuff, here) can be found at the Wafels & Dinges truck. They actually label it on their menu as “our favorite.” And believe it or not, you can get it for free —well, technically that is— because when buying a waffle, your first ‘dinges’ (topping) is on the house, or the truck rather. The Wafels & Dinges version is in the peanut butter and Nutella school of the spreadable world. It has hints of caramel and cinnamon, is thinner and lighter than peanut butter and more gooey than Nutella. But it’s less sweet and a tad saltier. Unlike a heavy hot fudge sauce that can hide the waffle’s flavor, Spekuloos complements it perfectly.”–Always Hungry NY
“It goes perfectly on a sweet, chewy liege waffle. The warm flavors of the sauce and the hot, comforting textures of the waffle feel like Christmas, which I’m perfectly happy to celebrate even in the middle of August. Another amazing discovery, and something you can bet will make my Top 100 this year, is that these guys are now also serving Spekuloos Ice Cream, which is ridiculously good.”–Eat This NY
“For the uninitiated, speculoos are traditional Belgian spice cookies. At Wafels & Dinges they serve it as a spread, basically crushed cookies whirled together into the consistency of nutella or peanut butter. The guys manning the truck offered me a free sample when I arrived. The ice cream was rich and had the same sweet, buttery, spiced caramel-esque flavor of the speculoos spread. It tasted so much like their speculoos spread I figured it had to have been custom made. Turns out it is in fact made with W&D’s spekuloos spread by the Chief Wafelmeister’s friend, Benoit Gerin, former Jean Georges pastry chef and owner of Mont Blanc ice cream.”–Midtown Lunch
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
” I had the ice cream sandwich with gingerbread ice cream and it was delicious! The waffle was thin and crunchy and the sandwich itself was enormous! There was no way you’d be able to pick it up and eat it like a real ice cream sandwich, but with spoon in hand, I definitely tried. The gingerbread ice cream made the sandwich. It was probably some of the best ice cream ever and I would go back just for the ice cream alone. It was way too big to finish by myself, which was a huge disappointment as I can eat a three course meal and the plates as well. The ice cream sandwich was to die for and the next time I go back, I’m trying a waffle again!”–Michelle W.
“The first bite hit me with this amazing flavor and texture. The wafel itself was soft and chewy with a surprise of caramelized chewy chunks created by the pearl sugar pieces. The spekuloos spread lent itself very well with its gingerbread cinnamon cookie flavor. Another way to describe spekuloos is that it tastes like the Teddy Grahams snack but in a peanut butter consistency.”–Richard Y.
Can’t get to the Wafels & Dinges truck’s yummy food route today? Then head to Kitchenette, a popular brunch hangout in TriBeCa that won’t be moving to a different location all day 😉 They don’t have Spekuloos Spread or gingerbread ice cream there, but they do offer a spicy-sweet short stack of gingerbread pancakes that has everyone talking. The pancakes have all the gingerbread spices baked in, but are soft and fluffy like pancakes should be–the best of both gingerbread worlds. They’re served with a special pumpkin butter that just makes everything feel as warm as a late autumn morning. Come here with an empty stomach for brunch and order them as a part of the “lumberjack” special: two eggs and sausage are added to your gingerbread pancakes for a truly filling experience!
156 Chambers St (between Hudson St & Broadway)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“My friend got the lumberjack: two gingerbread pancakes with pumpkin butter, an omelet, and bacon strips. All of this was phenomenal and I would come back JUST for those pancakes. It was like fall wrapped up in a perfect pancake. Yumm!!”–Pauline M.
“The bar area has a 1950’s soda shop style going on – and the menu has (omg) about 50 flavors of milkshakes. For brunch, I splurged on the “lumberjack” — got my egg white fix AND two out-of-this-world gingerbread pancakes with pumpkin butter. So good! Kitchenette fills its counters with homemade desserts – pies, cookies, you name eat – all of which looked good enough to, well, eat.”–Taylor B.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!