As The Bee’s film critic and entertainment reporter with a major presence in the Friday Ticket section, Carla Meyer is followed by thousands of Sacramento-area moviegoers. Her reviews affect our filmgoing habits, and her work is distributed nationally. Her job carries serious responsibility.
Though she regularly interviews movie stars, big-name directors and Oscar-winning screenwriters, she herself is something of a celebrity among Sacramento cineates, though she would be the first to downplay that role.
The tables were turned the other day at the Waffle Experience in Natomas, when I did a brief interview with Carla while we waited for lunch to arrive.
How many movies has she seen in her life? “Something like 3,000, maybe more,” she said. “Since I’ve been doing movies reviews, I’ve seen three or four a week for 15 years.”
What’s her favorite movie of all time? “‘All About Eve.’”
Favorite classic actors and modern actors? “I have so many,” she said. “For classic, Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis. For modern, Sally Hawkins, Marion Cotillard, Taraji P. Henson, Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale.”
Top three directors? “Paul Thomas Anderson, early Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Altman. And Sidney Lumet and Sydney Pollack.”
What movie does she never want to see again? “The Madonna version of ‘Swept Away.’”
What Sacramento movie theater has the best popcorn? “Esquire IMAX,” she said without hesitation.
Before our chat, we’d looked at the short Waffle Experience menu ($6 to $14) and settled on three dishes, plus one of the specials, the Pig Latin, chalked on a wall along with a few others (All About the Berries, Farmyard Foghorn).
Here’s the tweak: Instead of serving breakfast items and lunchtime sandwiches with traditional breads, they’re served on top of a single waffle or in between two waffles made from house-made French brioche dough. The waffles are spiked with various ingredients, including herbs, cracked pepper and lardo (cured fatback).
Why waffles? “Because our executive chef, Michael Donoho, is insane,” said general manager Jeffery Belaski, on the phone later. They’re two of the trio of former U.S. Marine buddies who pooled their talents a few years ago to open the restaurant. The third is Dominic Dolar, owner of the micro-batch Liberty Coffee Roasting Co. of Natomas.
Belaski and Donoho hadn’t seen each other in 20 years, when Donoho – who at the time was the executive sous chef at the Waldorf Astoria in Boca Raton, Fla. – approached Belaski with the concept of ingredient-infused waffles.
“His real passion is gourmet cooking, the waffles are just something on the side,” Belaski said. “We’re going to offer fine dining at night here shortly, with stuff I can’t even pronounce.”
As Carla and I finished our chat, the server brought heaping plates of good-looking vittles to our table. First up was the We Found the Beef, a hamburger patty of grass-fed beef with applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar, arugula, tomato, onion and garlic aioli between caramelized-leek waffles.
Next came the Farmer in the Dell, a breakfast item of chicken-fried steak, an egg, cheddar and kale, with buttermilk gravy and roasted tomato on a cracked-pepper waffle.
Those were followed by the Pig Latin, a heap of carnitas (roasted and shredded pork shoulder) topped with sautéed peppers, slaw, pico de gallo and chipotle aioli in between jalapeño waffles.
Always looking for healthful alternatives, we added an heirloom tomato salad, a well-organized plate of of tomato, arugula and onion, topped with a pour of blue cheese vinaigrette and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top of mini-herb waffles.
For us, the best dish was the deeply flavored and colorful carnitas concoction, delivering heat and a lot of texture. Next was the fresh-tasting salad, in which the mini-waffles served as croutons.
The burger was a handful, true, but awkward. “A waffle and a burger aren’t a good fit,” Carla said. “Every time I pick it up, my fingertips go into the ‘slots’ of the waffle.”
We had a hard time cutting up the huge chunk of chicken-fried steak. It was tough and lacked flavor, a surprise because it was gravy-covered and looked like a prime example of the roadhouse staple. The dark, skin-on fries (from fingerling potatoes) that accompanied the meals were excellent.
Most of the individual ingredients in the dishes were imaginative, fresh and impressive on their own, but conglomerating so many of them and adding the novelty of waffles produced more of a confusing melange of tastes than a series of distinct flavors. Too, things got messy, necessitating knives and forks. Still, the concept is unique and worth a try.
Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.
4391 Gateway Park Blvd., Sacramento (Natomas)
Hours: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays
How much: $-$$
Information: (916) 285-0562, www.thewafflexperience.com