Off the Griddle with IHOPapotamus at…Ashton’s Alley

Ashton’s Alley on the East Side of Midtown is a fairly spacious restaurant.  Unlike my foray to the Clinton Street Baking Co., this is the kind of place you can make brunch reservations at.  Although, my friends and I were the only ones there at 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning so reservations might not be necessary.

(image from google maps)
The brunch menu is pretty diverse.  I, of course, ordered pancakes, but my friends enjoyed eggs, bacon, home fries, etc.  Truth be told, after eating the pancakes I was jealous that I didn’t order what they have.

I don’t recall how the conversation started, but I found my friends making Paula Deen jokes.  If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume you’re food savvy enough to recognize the name.  Funnier people than I have lampooned the woman’s overindulgence of butter in her cooking, so I won’t beat a dead horse.  Yet, somehow my friends’ conversation prophesied the pancakes I was about to have.

The menu offers “fluffy” pancakes.  I was hoping for some simple fare as a change of pace from some of my other pancake adventures of late.  Unfortunately, I found out that Ashton’s Alley’s definition of fluffy is greasy.  The pancake oozed butter and grease, which became more irritating with each mouthful.  I think my editor said it best when saying the pancakes might have started out fluffy, but were burdened by an overabundance of butter.  I’d like to go on and give you a better description, but I can’t.  The thought is making me lose my appetite.  This place gets one Paul Bunyan.

Fortunately, the drinks at this brunch were excellent.  $25 purchased me the aforementioned pancakes and bottomless drinks for two hours.  The drink menu is limited to the standards for a booze brunch: mimosas, Bloody Marys, & screwdrivers.  The mimosa was good, in the way the mimosas generally are.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve never had a mimosa with fancy champagne, but it sort of seems that if you’ve had one, you had them all (taste-wise).  

If you’re drinking at brunch at Ashton’s Alley, I’d recommend the screwdriver.  Like a mimosa, not the most complicated of drinks, but they do a good job.  It’s strong without the vodka overpowering your taste buds.  The Bloody Mary was also quite good, and I’m someone who doesn’t like Bloody Marys. In the past, the Bloody Marys I’ve tried were as thick as cold tomato soup.  This one was certainly thick, but not to the point where I felt I needed a spoon.

Well, my editor has told me I’m writing too much, so I’ll finish this quick.  Ashton Alley’s, good drinks, bad pancakes.  Go for the drinks and the other items on the menu; my friends all seemed to enjoy their meals.

4 Blue Oxen, 1 Paul Bunyan: 

A Cinnamon Swirl In Every Bite

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes – sounds amazing, I know.  I actually indexed this recipe a while ago for blog-purposes and ever since then, I’ve noticed it blowing up on Pinterest, punchfork, foodgawker, etc, so let’s get crackin’.  Get my version here, and the original here.

(looking a little burnt, but still good!)

I made these for a big group breakfast and I think the general consensus was that even with all my cooking-woops, the pancakes were really really good.  The pancakes are super fluffy and pillow-y.  You might think that I burned the cinnamon-sugar mix from that picture up top, but I prefer to call it bruleed.  Actually, quite a few of my fellow breakfasters really liked the crunchy texture that the burnt sugar created.

Despite the fact that I drizzled in a river of cinnamon-sugar-butter, the pancakes weren’t that sweet and we actually augmented the pancakes with syrup/powdered sugar.  I should have just sucked it up and made the cream cheese glaze that the original recipe calls for, but I didn’t have any cream cheese and I was lazy, et cetera.  Whatever, you should definitely make the glaze when you make these pancakes, which you will, right?

Honestly, I thought these pancakes were okay, but my guests seemed to LOVE them, 3.75 out of 5 pancakes: 

Currant Events

aka Crempog Gri aka Welsh currant pancakes!

Get the original here, and my converted version here!

So, currants are another one of those fruits that I’ve always heard of but never had. If you read about my gooseberry adventure a few weeks ago, you may notice certain similarities between this post and that one.

Sizewise, currants are about the size of blueberries.  The ones that I used were “black” but there are also red currants and pink currants (albino red currants) – apparently the flavor varies a bit depending on the color, but for the most part they have very similar flavor profiles.  Currants have that gooseberry-y texture (which = slimy).  They’re quite bitter and tart and have a musky, wine-y flavor…interesting, to say the least (and probably the most).

The actual pancake part of the crempog gri is similar to a crepe – lightly sweet and pretty thin.  In fact, I really liked the pancake base, I think they’d be really good with some citrus zest.  The currants, however, were a different matter.  I’m just not into slimy fruit and they were a bit too bitter for me – I compensated by adding a lot of powdered sugar.  The pancakes were also really messy – I didn’t take a photo, but there were currant smears ALL OVER – on the counter, on the table, on my legs, on my roommate’s face…it was a currant-astrophe.

2.25 out of 5 stackies: 

These Are Healthy Because They’re Vegan…Right?

If you asked me what ingredients make a pancake delicious, I would definitely think of milk/buttermilk, eggs, and butter…so when a few of my vegan friends asked me to make vegan pancakes, I was concerned that I’d get some weird tofu/soy/flax patty of grossness…oh, how wrong I was!

I got this recipe from my friend, Kate, who referred me to Isa Chandler’s website which is a pretty excellent resource for lots of delicious-looking vegan recipes.  (You can see what I did and some more photos here).

One nice thing about this recipe is that there really aren’t any “exotic” ingredients, I actually had all the ingredients except the soy milk which is pretty easy to get.  I did have to grind the flax seeds I randomly have which was a bit of an ordeal.

(my fancy looking spice-grinder)

My spice grinder is sort of fickle and it took me awhile to grind enough flax, but I think it turned out fine in the end.  At one point I tried to use my mortar and pestle but that was a fail…oh well…the flax got ground in the end and that’s all that counts, right?

(some nice-looking batter)

The batter came out pretty firm, but jiggly, and the pancakes were super fluffy.  Actually, the original recipe says that the pancakes will be about 1 inch tall…mine weren’t quite there but they were definitely fluffy. FLUFFY.  I was really pretty pleased with this batter and I think it would be a good base batter for a lot of toppings (berries, chocolate, etc.).  It’s light and vanilla-y, but other than that, can probably handle its fair share of toppings.  

(looking thick – how’d that owl sneak in?)

With a sprinkling of powdered sugar, these pancakes were reminiscent of fried dough…and that’s always a good thing.  In fact, my only critique, and this is me being nit-picky, is that the pancakes were a teeny tiny on the gummy side – almost as if I’d used some rice flour (which I didn’t).  You all should definitely try this recipe out, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

4 out of 5 stackies: 

Duck Duck Gooseberry

When I was little, I definitely thought that gooseberries were imaginary…what real thing would have such a ridiculous name?

Apparently the name comes either from the Dutch Kruisbes, German Krausbeere, French groseille, or the fact that the berries apparently look like geese-heads. (I don’t see it…well, maybe a little)

The gooseberries are about the size of red grapes and are fairly tart.  My roommate described them as “austere” grapes – they sort of taste like the part of a plum that is closest to the pit.  The odd part of the gooseberry is the texture – it’s got sort of a slimy, thick, gooey texture that I did not enjoy.  Despite their ooginess, they did provide a tart contrast of flavor against the whole wheatiness of the pancakes…so they played their part, I guess.

The pancakes themselves have an excellent texture, very fluffy and hearty, and the whole wheat flavor comes through well.  (Get the original recipe here and mine here.)  Note: they’re actually super fluffy, so they need to cook for a bit longer at a slightly lower temp so that they cook all the way through and you don’t have weird pockets of liquid batter.

2 out of 5 stackies: