"Taste this," someone said, thrusting a shake at us before the Michael Ruhlman event at The Butcher & Larder a couple of weeks ago. Having just seen Eddie Lakin of Edzo's come in, we had a pretty good idea where it had come from, but tasting it left us baffled as to what it was. It tasted like something between gingerbread and peanut butter. "Speculoos," its owner said, clearing everything up. So what, exactly, is speculoos? The answer would turn out to involve two countries, a couple of lawsuits and one airline, among other things.
According to this New York Times piece, speculoos, also known as biscoff, are a traditional Flemish cookie best known in the rest of the world because Delta Air Lines serves them. The idea of turning them into a Nutella-like spread came from a TV show competition for inventors, and apparently involves little more than grinding them and adding oil, which hasn't prevented the major makers of speculoos spread from suing each other over the rights to the idea like crazy.
In any case, Eddie Lakin first heard about speculoos or biscoff spread when a customer mentioned it as a natural followup to Lakin's popular nutella shake. He found a jar online and experimented with it; in no time he had ordered a case, though it's still apparently a secret menu item. Since then, Lakin says that he's found at least one place the spread is sold retail in the area— Fresh Farms, a multiethnic market on Milwaukee in Niles— but so far as he knows, he's the only one who's made a shake out of it. Not for long, we suspect.