A dish that was once only the province of down-home soul food restaurants, chicken and waffles has become nearly as ubiquitous as pasta, dotting haute cuisine menus and fast-food specials alike.
At the newly opened Brier Creek Beer Garden, the weekend brunch menu delivers an intriguing surprise: duck and waffles. In the grand (marketing) scheme of things, there are trash bins full of failed plates featuring clever substitutes for tired ingredients. Lucky for us, BCBG's duck and waffles isn't one of them.
The generous duck portion, a quarter comprising breast meat and an attached leg, wears a satisfying sear that gives the meat a slightly crisp coat. It also locks in the fat of the bird, which essentially melts and permeates each bite. That hefty juiciness takes center position on your palate. One bite and you'll recognize why duck fat is a popular flavoring tool for many chefs.
The duck arrives plated atop two well-crafted waffles—crunchy on the outside, airy and light on the inside. A house-made blueberry compote smothers the dish, and sweetens without cloying. The result is a lovely brunch meal well worth its $16 price.
A glass of stout from Louisville's Goodwood brewing was the perfect accompaniment the first time I tried the dish. The stout's vanilla finish and coffee notes are comfortable companions to the compote, while its hints of bourbon and roasted malt stood up to the duck. Unfortunately, the Goodwood is tapped out. But since BCBG constantly updates its fifty-two taps, there's always something good to sip (especially with roughly 75 percent of the taps devoted to North Carolina-brewed beers). Bartender Chris Lindsay helped me navigate through a mid-July lineup with samples of stouts, ciders, and an IPA or two. Easily the best complement I found was the Son of a Baptist stout from Epic Brewing in Colorado. I love my local beer, but this imperial stout's chocolate and coffee notes make for the perfect brunch libation. Epic uses a Peruvian blend from Larry's Coffee in Raleigh for this particular batch. (Epic releases multiple, numbered small batches of Son of a Baptist.) It is rich enough to hold its own with the duck; the coffee notes are harmonious with the blueberry. If, for some reason, you're not a stout drinker, look for New Belgium's Lips of Faith, a tart lychee-flavored beer that makes a crisp accompaniment, piercing the rich dish with refreshing clarity.
Whatever pint you choose, you'll be pleased with a new pairing that adds life to a tired menu offering.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Brunch Is for the Birds"