Material Culture, a retail store and auction house at 4700 Wissahickon Ave., has an unending selection of treasures from around the world. Looking for a statement coffee table from China to complete that new living room? They’ve got it. How about an ornate Moroccan chandelier to anchor your dining area? Sure thing! But Material Culture houses another treasure--and it’s not a piece of furniture.
As you walk through the auction house’s front doors, you enter Baba Olga’s Cafe & Supper Club, a space that is part eatery, part Material Culture showroom. The cafe serves global food made from local ingredients, with a wide selection of vegetarian options. And the room is adorned with oriental rugs, multi-colored and multi-shaped chandeliers, vintage Syrian tiles, and a central woodstove.
Feeling particularly hungry, I order the mushroom & goat cheese panino, with herb-roasted mushrooms and spinach on sourdough, and because I’m an absolute sucker for bread pudding, I request the New Orleans bourbon bread pudding with caramel sauce.
My friend and I take a seat at a round table toward the back of the cafe to wait for our food. The tables and chairs in the dining area are all for sale, and we glance around quietly, marveling at the light fixtures and the array of textiles hanging from the walls.
It takes about 20 minutes to get our food; it seems like there’s one cook in the back and one woman working the front. But luckily, we aren’t in any rush. By the time the food gets there, I’m so hungry that I’m just happy to watch the plates hit the table.
The panino is wonderfully crispy, and the mushrooms are earthy and salty. The sandwich comes with a side of chips, a homemade pickle, and a side fruit salad, which ends up being the star of the plate. The small side bowl holds pineapple and pear pieces, orange slices, and pomegranate seeds. And the secret ingredient? MINT! It’s such a light and refreshingly yummy side to the cheesy (and a little greasy) sandwich that I miss it when it’s gone.
Then comes the bread pudding.
Decadent doesn’t even begin to describe this bread pudding. It is moist and gooey and swimming in a pond of this amazing caramel sauce that I’m pretty positive gives me diabetes on impact. And the bourbon flavor is front and center, so much so that I dare call the dessert a little boozy. (No complaints here!) This bread pudding is one of the best I’ve ever had. My spoon is happy, my mouth is happy, everything is happy. My only complaint (if you can consider this a complaint) is that the serving size is gynormous. It’s basically gluttony in a bowl.
But even though I felt a little disgusting after finishing ¾ of my dessert, and even though I probably could have made the same panino at home, I’ll be thinking about Baba Olga’s bread pudding for awhile. And dare I say it? I might even return for a reunion.