Monday, November 19, 2012

Chicken and Waffles Pop up in Temescal

By Luke Tsai
Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Hey Temescalians, here’s an antidote for your Monday morning blues: Today, Beauty’s Bagel Shop (3838 Telegraph Ave.) will play host to a chicken and waffles spot called Ronca’s Kitchen — a new weekly pop-up enterprise serving legitimately tasty waffles and a Bakesale-Betty-worthy fried chicken sandwich you don’t have to stand in line outside for.

Ronca’s is the brainchild of Ingrid Ibarra, a St. Helena-based personal chef, and her daughter Julia Ibarra, who is a friend of Beauty’s co-owner Amy Remsen. Since the bagel shop was normally closed on Mondays, and since it was already equipped with a fryer, the Ibarras saw it as the perfect opportunity.

Julia Ibarra told me her mother drew inspiration for the chicken and waffles concept from Thomas Keller’s Yountville restaurant, Ad Hoc, which is famous for its Monday night high-end fried chicken dinners — and occasionally serves chicken and waffles for Sunday brunch. (“Ronca” is the mother’s nickname — an endearment in Spanish for someone with a deep, loud voice.) On Mondays, Ronca’s serves chicken sandwiches and waffles during lunch service (11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) and fried chicken with waffles, cole slaw, and corn bread on the side for dinner (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.).

There’s also a savory prosciutto waffle and seasonal waffles (a pumpkin-spice version, recently). And they serve a vegetarian fried “chicken,” made from a textured soy product from the Layonna Vegetarian Health Food Market (Oakland Chinatown’s fake-meat emporium), that Ibarra said tastes “just like real chicken.”

“I’m definitely not vegetarian, and I almost always get it,” she said.

Fried chicken sandwich and waffle at the Roncas Kitchen pop-up
  • Luke Tsai
  • Fried chicken sandwich and waffle at the Ronca's Kitchen pop-up
I had lunch at Ronca’s a couple weeks ago and ordered a half-and-half combo ($9.75), which came with a waffle and half a sandwich. The sandwich falls roughly into the Bakesale Betty school of fried-chicken sandwiches, except with crunchier bread (an Acme torpedo roll): Here, too, you get a very lightly battered boneless breast and a vinegar-based cabbage slaw. Ronca’s uses Mary’s Organic chicken that’s brined for several days, and the slaw has a pleasant, lingering heat. It was messy enough a sandwich that I needed a fork to eat it, but quite tasty.

The waffle, on the other hand, had a satisfying heft to it — dense and chewy (in an enjoyable way) and a completely animal from, say, the light-as-air version everyone goes crazy over at Brown Sugar Kitchen. Ibarra said the style is similar to a Brussels waffle, characterized by its crispiness and larger pockets.

All waffles are served with organic butter and a side of Vermont maple syrup — a nice bonus, unlike, ahem, certain other waffle purveyors in town, where there’s an upcharge for real maple syrup.

If you’re planning on heading over today, Ibarra told me they’re doing a special sandwich in advance of Thanksgiving: fried turkey breast with cranberry horseradish sauce and caramelized balsamic pearl onions.

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