A trial for waffles? It’s time for the taste test.


And a snack company, Eastern Standard Provisions Co., launched in early 2019 by successful Boston-area restaurateur Garrett Harker and baker Lauren Moran with the goal of making the “best soft pretzels on the planet.” It looks like they could have succeeded. In 2019, Oprah Winfrey gave Eastern Standard Provisions a boost by including a gift box of her pretzels with flavored salts on her annual “favorite things” list. An endorsement from Winfrey, the ultimate influencer, translates directly into sales – the “Oprah Effect”, as it’s called. (Side note: Winfrey’s first name was originally Orpah, Goliath’s mother in the Book of Ruth. Whoa!)

Then Eastern Standard Provisions added a new product: Liège waffles, named after the Belgian city and made with a leavened brioche dough and coarse pearl sugar. Winfrey loved them too. A gift box of waffles with toppings went straight to her 2021 list.

Eastern Standard Provisions waffles (left) and Burgundian waffles (right).Handout

This is where Burgundian comes in. A lawsuit filed by the company earlier this month alleges, among other things, that Eastern Standard Provisions approached Matlock about the possibility of a co-branded waffle business, learned of Burgundian’s waffle recipe after signing an NDA, submitted waffles made by Matlock to Winfrey without credit, took advantage of his recipe and severed the relationship, thereby violating Massachusetts trade secrets law and engaging in “a ‘bait and switch’ by selling Liège waffles from a company other than Burgundian which Mrs.. Winfrey did not taste or try.

According to Eastern Standard Provisions, it was exploring relationships with several suppliers. The agreement between these two companies failed and was finally concluded with another waffle maker. “I can only say unequivocally that [Burgundian’s] the recipe is not the recipe that was promoted on Oprah’s Favorite Things,” Harker told The Globe last week. “These claims are unfounded, inaccurate and false.”

If only we had Winfrey around the house to do a taste test and tell us which waffle wins her heart. (In my dreams, this is the stage on which the trial rests, as Oprah speaks in a beautiful costume and pearls, a fork in each hand.) Instead, you’ll have to settle for me, because I sampled the standard Burgundian and Eastern layouts side by side, and here is what I can tell you:

I have no idea if the waffles I ate were stolen.

The Burgundian in Attleboro. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

But I know both versions are really good. Have you ever tasted a Liège waffle? These things are ridiculous. Sugar crystals crunch between your teeth; where they hit the hot waffle iron, they caramelize into a beautifully sticky goo. They don’t really need syrup or toppings. (You can also sample them locally at places like Curio Coffee & Wine, Sweet Waffles + Boba, and Zinneken’s.)

I also know that the versions are different. Taste them together and you wouldn’t think they were made with the same recipe. (I will testify to this as long as the court does not force me to consume more waffles, which would endanger my life; these things expand in the stomach.)

Burgundy waffles are more of a half-moon shape, with a straight edge starting from the iron. They are moister, more breaded and denser than the Eastern Standard Provisions version. Their flavor is more complex, as if the dough had a longer rise; there is a taste of waffle yeast. Because the outside is fresh off the hot griddle, the pearl sugar is visibly candied in spots, which is my favorite thing about these waffles.

Mail order waffles from Eastern Standard Provisions are rounder, lighter and fluffier than the Burgundian version. Their flavor is simpler, more buttery, sunnier in a way. They come in a box with instructions for eating or freezing the waffles, which should be heated for 3-4 minutes at 425 degrees or 4-6 minutes at 400 degrees. Without contact with the heating plate, the pearl sugar offers a lot of crunch but not a lot of caramelization.

The Eastern Standard Provisions Gourmet Liège Belgian Waffle gift set is one of Oprah’s favorite things.business thread

If I had to vote, I’d call it a tie. I prefer the flavor of the Burgundy waffles, as well as their caramelization with pearl sugar, but I am won over by the softer texture of the Eastern Standard Provisions version. At brunch, I kissed the cook who was also serving me.

I can’t wait to hear the other side of the story. So far, here’s my takeaway from the trial: Far beyond this case, it’s worth thinking about how intellectual property law protects and doesn’t protect revenue, and whether that currently seems sufficient. Considered “a mere list of ingredients or contents, or a mere set of instructions”, a recipe cannot be copyrighted (although its creative twists, photos and illustrations may). . On the one hand, from cookbooks to kitchens, it’s historically how cooking evolved, how culinary inspiration spread, freely. (That’s how Matlock himself came to the Burgundian recipe, after training with a master waffle maker from Liège in Belgium.) On the other hand, there’s now this thing called the Internet which is expanding the field of application, and receipts are raised without attribution all the time. It takes work, money, time and thought to create a good one. Should creators have more recourse if someone else benefits?

Shane Matlock, owner of Burgundian, grabs a waffle dish from the kitchen window for a customer.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

And also until then, here’s what I take away from the taste test: when I want to send someone a gift or fill my freezer with waffles, I order from Eastern Standard Provisions Co. And when I want to visit a fun restaurant to eat waffles, I’ll get the bourguignon, which is the kind of place everyone dreams of having in their neighborhood.

Sunday morning I stop by, it’s crowded with people of all ages, a long queue winds its way through the room. The waffles are served plain, but also with fried chicken; bacon, ricotta, fig and basil spread; Nutella, biscuit butter, fruits and whipped cream; and more. There are coffee drinks, pastries, breakfast sandwiches, Venezuelan corn cakes, and a list of brunch specialties, from breakfast tacos to poutine. Lunch includes Peruvian pork belly bowls, Korean jackfruit sandwiches, and burgers. There is a great beer program. The work of a featured artist hangs on the walls. As the writing on the window promises, there is “culture and community”.

You cannot order this delivered in a box, not for any amount of dough.

Burgundian is located at 55 Park St., Attleboro, 774-331-2754, www.weareburgundians.com. To order from Eastern Standard Provisions Co., go to www.esprovisions.com.

Devra First can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.

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