It was 2015 when Aaron Rosko and Emily Thomas founded Press, a mobile food operation specializing in Belgian style waffles. In the beginning, they kept things simple. They had a table, a waffle press and a pop-up tent, which they transported to the Tosa Farmer’s Market each week.
But as folks fell deeper and deeper in love with their uniquely delicious liège waffles, it became obvious that it was time for an upgrade. So, they went on the hunt for the perfect trailer. They found it when they spied a 1962 Shasta Airflyte on Craigslist.
"Aaron and I are really passionate about food, but also the experience," notes Thomas. "So, Press has always been about giving people great service, a great product and a really special experience. It’s all in the details."
And those details played out in the design of their trailer, which was completely rehabbed with the help of numerous family members and countless hours of sweat equity, resulting in one of the cutest little food trailers you’ve ever seen.
The truck debuted last week at a variety of events around town, and it will be making its rounds at farmer’s markets, festivals and food truck gatherings all summer long.
Press will also be launching a brand new coffee program in the next couple of weeks. Options will include both cold brew and hot brewed coffee made with a custom blended coffee from Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co.
"We really wanted something that would pair well with the waffles," says Thomas. "Something robust, but that was also mellow and smooth. And we worked with the folks at Anodyne to create the perfect blend."
Press marries Thomas’s lifelong dream of owning her own restaurant with Rosko’s love for Belgium, which he discovered while studying there during college.
The two business partners met ten years ago while working at Gracious Events catering; Thomas is an interior designer by trade, and Rosko has a background in marketing. Over the years, they found themselves working together not only in catering, but also at at Eppstein Uhen Architects. While their day jobs weren’t unsatisfying, Rosko says they found themselves wondering: "What crazy thing can we do together on weekends?"
The food truck concept seemed a good fit. So, they toyed with a variety of ideas, including Belgian frites with a variety of sauces. But the more they brainstormed, the more the idea of introducing Milwaukee to a truly authentic Belgian street food experience resonated. Rosko says he practically "lived on" the waffles while he stayed in Belgium.
"They’re sold all over Belgium," explains Rosko. "There are little carts by the train station and kiosks in a variety of places throughout the city. And they’re open all day and night. In Belgium, people eat waffles just about any time of the day."
Even more importantly, when he returned to Milwaukee, he couldn’t find them anywhere.
More on liège waffles
If, when we say waffles, you’re picturing the batter-based waffles ordinarily passed off as Belgian waffles in the States, you’re sorely mistaken. Liège waffles, also known as gaufre de liège, are quite a different animal.
Yeasty and caramelized, these waffles are formed from an extra-rich buttery brioche dough that’s given a luxurious rise before being studded with pearl sugar and scooped into the waffle maker.
Their flavor is rich and intense, and their texture is stretchy and layered. Maybe most delightful is the faintly crunchy exterior, which is formed through the caramelization of the pearl sugar on both the exterior and interior of the waffles. In fact, these aren’t the sort of waffles you can have a singular bite of and quickly forget.
The waffles (priced between $5 an $8) are simply delightful on their own or dusted with a bit of powdered sugar. However, Press gilds the lily by topping them with a variety of housemade ingredients like the ultra-popular combination of lemon curd, blueberry compote and whipped cream.
Other options include Nutella or speculoos cookie spread, or strawberries and bananas. There are even slightly more savory choices like housemade honeyed goat cheese with candied bacon or SA Braai mild chutney, or candied bacon with Press peanut butter cream and bananas.
Meanwhile, seasonal flavors include options like bourbon cherry in the autumn or an early summer favorite: peaches with Clock Shadow quark, basil and honey.
The waffles also keep well. So, plain "Tomorrow Waffles" can be purchased a few at a time and reheated in a toaster or oven at home, providing a quick weekday breakfast that can be eaten right out of hand.
Like most mobile food operations, Press has a busy summer ahead. It will make appearances at area farmer’s markets (including Tosa, South Shore, Shorewood and Westtown) along with events like Jazz in the Park and regular food truck gatherings like the one at Schlitz Park.
Press is also becoming a popular option for weddings and other parties. It offers trailer service, as well as a catered waffle bar that’s perfect for brunch, dessert or as a special late night offering. You can find Press by checking the calendar on the website or by following it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
As it grows busier, Press will be looking for one or two part-time employees to assist with prep work at its commercial kitchen in Riverwest. Interested parties should contact them through the website at presswaffles.com.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.