Peep’s Hotbox

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https://twitter.com/PeepsHotbox

https://www.facebook.com/peepshotbox

Main Location: Areas throughout Twin Cities (except main downtown hub)

Another summer is slowly coming to a close, the days still sunny and warm but with interjecting weeks of chilled mornings, and thankfully the trucks are still on the streets in abundant number… in fact, they’re increasing. For as I was made abruptly aware one lazy afternoon, following a couple threads on my usual brewery-calendar-checking, thinking that I was close to finished with this year’s new-truck-explorations with only a certain mobile pizza business to go… and finding out I still have at least 5 more trucks to get through.

One of these trucks in my frantic year-end bucket list, and the only one I was able to plan a day for (gotta cross fingers on downtown trips), is Peep’s Hotbox. Showing up to its venues in a midnight colored van supporting a mural of rainbow-colored avians in flight, Peep’s brings an interesting site to the venues it vends from. And though it doesn’t contain any of the Easter-based candies (don’t you think it should around the holidays though? How fun would that be!?), the menu brings an interesting moment of ponder to our day.

I can’t actually figure out an official category or simple description for their offerings; there really is no common thread. If you read their Facebook page, it actually reads, under ‘Food Styles’: American, Breakfast, Japanese, Latin American, Mexican, Sandwiches, Vegetarian, Vietnamese… and there’s probably more they haven’t included, not to mention new items they might bring in the future. The one thing we can say is that every item is intriguing and has a feel of… scrumptiousness when reading.

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As for what’s on right now, the seeming forerunner (in my eyes) is a unique Mexican dish called Huaraches, offered using vegetarian Black Bean centerpiece or Pollo. After that is a Pork Chop Sandwich, offered in a long, tight-clenched hoagie/bahn mi bun. Other items offered, on and off, is a chicken thigh Yakitori, cups of Chili, Asian Noodle Salad, and an open-faced BLT with heirloom tomatoes in the good farmer market days.

Chug this down with a can of refreshing Coconut Juice, San Pellegrino, or whatever brewery offering you happen to be at, and see for yourself what this truck entails. Though, for those that have yet to visit, here’s the reaction from my visit, also accomplished during my first trip to the recently-opened Bauhaus Brewery!

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Food: 10

Well, let me start off by saying that if I had a category for Presentation then Peeps would have aced it! Man their food looks pretty, especially coming out of a truck.

My premier visit led me to what I’d have to say is THE menu focus, being the most interesting and unique item up for option, and not seen anywhere else: the Huarache (of course, I got Pollo). To describe what this is simply, one considers the basic anatomy of the best taco fillings, with ALL the meat, queso blanco, salsa, crisp veggie and some avocado, and pile it on a long, boat-shaped Arepa (similar to the masa cake style that Café Racer uses). And oh, it was good, the ideal and pinnacle of masa-topped/filled deliciousness. Tender meat, a sauce that was lightly spicy and deeper in flavor, some fresh radish and lettuce to counterpoint, and creamy sauce and queso to cool things down. A great mouthful of interplay. Now, if only it was easy to eat (see following score)…

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Sadly have not had the chance, yet, to try the Pork Chop Sandwich, but considering the results of the food here, other options and their seemingly high focus on palate-tantalizing fare, I bet it’s pretty darn good too. I’d actually want to try the yakitori too; I feel like they might actually do it justice, especially using only the flavorful, juicy dark chicken thighs.

Holdability: 7

HIGHLY variable, it really depends on what item one gets. On one end, the pork sandwich is extremely carriable, one could probably only need one hand; while on the other, the huaraches… the idea of an oblong arepa base is fun, and could be holdable in a sense, but the whole dish is a big mess. Seriously, you need a knife and fork if you want to eat it properly, it just can’t be picked up without spillage and getting your fingers messy (which does have some appeal); not a bad dish for a brewery lunch. Then there’s a cup of soup, skewered chicken which may be coming in a basket, a thai noodle salad at one point… at the very least, one has their pick of items depending on their needs.

Price: 7

  $8 each for the main two entrees and $7 for the chili and yakitori; great prices overall, though I wonder if $7 is a bit much for these notably smaller items.

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Speed: 6.5

A little longer than normal, not surprising considering all the little things they have to do for the sandwich and huaraches, but I don’t think I’d wanna be in a line with a few of those orders ahead of me. That said, wouldn’t be surprised if the chili and yakitori took quicker.

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The TOE: 8

A strong, distinctive personality showing, intriguing artwork, and a set of delicious food that doesn’t really show a common thread amongst themselves. Pretty much sums it up, I’d like to be creative and offer another one of my long, eloquently off-again-on-again ramblings to delve into other things affecting the score, but I can’t think of much for this one. Maybe it’s just a lazy day?

Tally: 38.5/50

Final Thoughts

A Truck where one can find options to fit multiple needs, it’s a solid option for when one doesn’t know which mobile vendor nearby is suitable for their situation. Or, if going to a brewery or other locale where it’s the only food option, one can go resting assured it’s a good limited menu to be stuck with. One simply has to know which menu items to get for their needs.

For the extreme travel-minded, the Pork Chop Sandwich is really the only, and best anyways, route to go. Though the Huaraches are much too messy, for now (here’s hoping they’ll fix it), they fit great in a brewery atmosphere or in any situation one wants and is able to sit down and focus on eating. When the day is cold, grab a warm cup of Chili, or a bright Noodle Salad when it’s hot. And when looking for something refreshing, an open-faced BLT or other item featured Heirloom Tomatoes is key.

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It’s not a place I would stop to represent and be ‘indicative’ of our street food scene, but if you just want some good food (street or otherwise) then it’s a keeper; I doubt there are any disappointing offerings.

Harriet Battle Roy-ally

2014-09-03 13_11_42-Youth Link Food Truck Battle & Rally _ Harriet Brewing - Internet Explorer

http://www.youthlinkmn.org/food-truck-battle/

So apparently Harriet Brewing is hosting a full-on Food Truck Battle on the Saturday of September 13th… and I’m gonna be working during it! Ohhhhhh the humanities!

For those like me who haven’t heard about it yet, Youthlink’s First Ever (indicating possibly more events year to year) ‘Gilded Spatula’, with a portion of the profit going to help homeless youth. The battle itself start at Noon and goes ’til Three, with each of the 8 trucks making a completely New Entrée dish, never seen before, to be judged by a panel. Entry fee during this time frame is $45, which not only allows one to watch the proceedings but to also sample each and every contestants’ food yourself along with two, count them, two of Harriet’s Beers to keep yourself amused while waiting.

Of course, if you don’t mind not being there when the judgment is called, not being able to sample the creations, or waiting a little longer in the day to start, these mobile contestants will be sticking around the parking lot until 7pm for a Free-to-Enter Rally after the show. Bands and music will of course be playing all day as-is Harriet’s custom, and beer will now need to be purchased, but it’s all gonna be a grand ole’ time like usual.

Competing Trucks will be: Cupcake Social, Big Brother Almighty BBQ, Brava on Wheels, Cave Café, GastroTruck, Gogi Brothers, Scratch Food (I’m laying my bets on them, GOOO Scratch! -holds up foam finger-), and Tru Pizza.

Tickets can be purchased Here, along with extra donations if you’re able.

Big Brother Almighty BBQ

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http://www.bigbrotheralmightysmokedbbq.com/

https://twitter.com/BBAlmightyBBQ

Main Location: Minneapolis

It’s always interesting when new batches of Food Trucks come in each year; the discover of which, usually, coming through various waves and instances as the 10+(usually a lot of +) come in unannounced throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall. 2014 has stood out as somewhat interesting, though, in how many articles and reports and postings I’ve seen come out, grandstanding around THE new group of mobile vendors coming out this year. This always being the same group of 5-8 Trucks being anticipated for by bloggers and media alike, setting themselves squarely into their own little ‘Rat Pack Street Food Style’ of the 2014 Generation. Though of course one or two of the trucks aren’t always consistent list to list, certain new businesses being more unique or informationally available for each article owner, there are a certain few that consistently stand out at the top of the list.

Of these, Big Brother Almighty BBQ seems to shine as the most intriguing of newcomers (well, next to Butcher Salt, but they came out much earlier), calling those denizens of the street forth in curiosity as the unique, Zeus-embellished logo. As for their story, it seems the business is originally based out of the bbq-joint-of-the-same-name, located on Hoover St in Minneapolis.

Like all BBQ businesses, there is no such thing as ‘menu specialization;’ no matter what their best and worst items are, they shell out everything. Ribs, Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, Rib TIPS, even Chicken Wings, one can get all the classics, every which one of them being smoked for flavor. Of the sides we have those mainly typical of a lower key place, or perhaps a picnic, with Baked Beans, Coleslaw, Mac n Cheese, Potato Salad, and French Fries (sad to say no bacon/ham and collard greens made the list). Besides the Pork and a Polish Sausage, all smoked items come in Full and Half orders, reminiscent of making the aching decision of whether or not you can handle double the ribs in your local lodge house.

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And did I mention every meat comes with a free slice of White Bread? Now that’s classic barbecue. Sadly, they don’t make their own sauce to accompany this or your meat, maybe a wet marinade for some items, but they carry a few classic options to choose from and distribute on your own desires.

Food: 5.5

                It’s a very, very difficult thing to get a grasp of any BBQ joint’s food and style when only having one or their items; whereas the ribs from one place are divine, that same business’ pulled pork may be abysmal (or at least just okay), or vice versa. Many places have noted strong and weak items, some may be strong across the board, but we can’t know the full situation with only experiencing one meat. Thus my exploring of this mobile shack had to be relegated in my schedule twice.

Thankfully for me, my very first visit provided a stroke of luck, walking up to the counter right as they were inspecting a slab of Rib Tip. Cutting off an end, the cook asked my opinion on its level of preparation; it did need more time, as it was still notably chewy, but the juiciness of that meat fully coated my mouth and fingers, accompanied by a lightly piquant red marinade that made me very hopeful for my meals to come.

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But that stopped soon afterwards, for though the side of Beans I acquired provided a nice flavor compared to the generic puddles of goo one is loathe to remember, still a touch chalky in texture but definitely a good basic experience, my regular Ribs left my feelings neutral. Not that there was anything wrong with the ribs; my teeth can bite through, one can taste a little smoke, the pork flavor is nice; but there’s nothing really ‘right’ either. They’re not bad, but they aren’t great, and ribs are one of those foods where any time you eat it the flavor should be GREAT and excite you. But they just felt decent, ‘alright,’ it was cooked well enough nothing was wrong with them but there was no special quality.

The Brisket sunk me even lower, finding something that made me disappointed. I love brisket, absolutely love it, but this just ended up tasting like roast beef, with barely any smoke flavor and none of the pink flesh from that heated carbon-curing. It was gray and brown with no bark (literal and figurative), and really pointed out the sadness that they don’t make their own sauce to slather over the finished meat. Because worst, worst of all, it was dry; and no, not as in the sandy, chewing on leather dry, but that texture right in the back tells you immediately there will be no juicy reward in this food, with just a hint of flesh scraping, which may be nothing for other meat but for a brisket is DRY. Oh, and did I mention I had a piece with a chunk of fat/gristle that I, of all people, COULDN’T eat? And I love chowing down on delicious animal fat with steaks and whatnot.

All this comes as no surprise when one reads on their homepage that the owner himself, a ‘Professional Cook,’ has been working only as a Prep cook he was 20 and ‘has even taken a course in BBQ from Jack’s Old South BBQ Cooking School in Unadilla, Georgia.’ Ooooh, a whole course?

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I now sadly doubt if the rib tips, though delicious when fresh, would actually come to customers near that level after having been sliced and kept ready to serve like these previous items. Could very well be wrong though, they may just keep that idealistic perfection, with a texture my teeth can actually cut through on their own. Finishing off, I did get a look at their Mac and Cheese, and for the typical thick, gooey yellow style one usually sees from BBQ and Sandwich trucks (like Bloomy’s), it looked to be of the tastier variation.

Holdability: 5.5

                 Though sides, when ordered solo, are placed in small, easy-to transport containers, any entrée choice immediately requires the characteristic giant styrafoam box, no matter how small the whole order is. Though options like ribs and chicken wings, when not heavily sauced by yourself, can allow for ease of consumption (despite the obtrusive packaging), brisket and pulled pork offer much cumbersome mess. Picking up the white bread that’s supposed to act as their sandwich bread base only ends in part of it ripping in half, saucy meat falling, and you turning around to grab napkins as you plan a better navigation plan. Put simply, these items are meant for shipping to an eat-focused-location.

Price: 3.5

                  The cheapest one will pay here, not counting only getting some sides or ordering the $7 Polish Sausage, is $9 for their ‘small/half’ orders. This applies to only 3 slices of brisket, 4 small ribs, 4oz of rib tips, or just 6 chicken wings (not sure how much pulled pork you get, but I don’t expect I’d be wowed). Oh and did I mention this is before the tax kicks in? So it’s almost $10. To actually get a decent sized order, one will pay around $14 for double the amount, $12 in the case of chicken wings (which isn’t actually getting a full double anyways), before tax again. And sides are $3-4 each.

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Very typical and not so surprising price listing when heading into some BBQ restaurants, but completely unacceptable from a food truck perspective; we either need some more affordable options or, at the very least, substantial quantities (and qualities) of food to match the higher-end price listing in the street vendor line-up.

Speed: 9

A relatively quick recovery of pre-finished product into your container, or spooned into Tupperware.

The TOE: 4.5

                  Big Brother seeks to apply the same feeling and experience of eating at their restaurant or bbq catering table, I presume, without making any consideration changes towards Street Food culture. Nothing is made purely to eat mobile, the price system mirrors brick and mortar expectancies, and portion size for even the most affordable options are laughable. They do carry an ambiance and a unique enough design and attitude which initially draws us in quite well, but it never carries through unless one is tunnel-visioned enough about the idea of a barbecue stop that they simply don’t care (which I admit, and have for many of my reviews, that these may simply be the opinions of a self-obsessed ranting lunatic, but nonetheless…).

Tally: 28/50

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Final Thoughts

Unless one really has a craving for a BBQ lunch, and are dependent on getting it from a Food Truck, I would ultimately suggest finding somewhere else for lunch. That said, if one WERE to visit here, I have two main ideas for a decent experience.

1: for the BBQ-focused, I would bet the Pulled Pork probably allows for the better eating options, and you may get more for the money (pork used for pulling generally being cheaper, and since they only have one option for I would assume that means it’s not a half/dinky order. Then again, it could just be charging for a single, small sandwich). Then again, if the Rib Tips ever tender up once cooked, it should be pretty good, just one of the pricier street options. Though considering they’re the main two items they seem to push on the website, it’s not so surprising.

2: skip the BBQ all-together, get yourself 2-3 sides, some Mac and Cheese and Baked Beans. They open themselves up as a possible choice when creating a full-course food truck day plan. Though don’t get the fries, they’re pre-cut frozen things I can tell.

BF Sausage Cart

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https://twitter.com/BachelorFarmer

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/08/the_bachelor_farmer_opens_sausage_cart_a_house-made_twist_on_the_hot_dog_stand.php

Main Location: 200 N First St, outside of Bachelor Farmer

Despite the fact that Marvel Bar is indeed my absolute favorite place to grab a cocktail in the cities, I have in fact been there on multiple occasions (which I can rarely say for other alcohol establishments besides a bare few), my visits to their restaurant connection and origin Bachelor Farmer has been an absolute zero. Which is a shame, considering their dedication to organic, local produce turned into fully hand-made items, not to mention their very Germanic/Austrian inspirations (which I always love).

Well, now we can all enjoy a taste of BF’s handiwork, since they announced the early August opening of their new Sausage Cart. Parked right around the corner from their main restaurant is the traditional style hot-dog cart, shelling out a very non-traditional encased meat product.

Sausage, and I do mean that in a very singular sense; there’s only one thing you get when you go, and that’s their hand ground, spiced from scratch pork link stuffed in a Wullot Bakery Bun (the only thing they don’t make themselves; I think it’s Hawaiian style). From what I’ve seen, though, it seems that the specific sausage style doesn’t remain the same day-to-day; the meat source and maybe the spices do, but I’ve seen pictures of a typical weiner-shaped dog, longer and skinny footlongs, and thicker wurst styles.

You can top whichever meat tube of the day you get with a bevy of purely scratch made toppings: Mustard, Ketchup, Sauerkraut mix, or Spiced Peppers (and I’m sure they’ll have other things in the future). This automatically comes with a bag of their own slice-and-fried Potato Chips, with the option for a giant Dill Pickle. All of which can be washed down, if desired, with some Virgil’s Rootbeer. That’s basically it, but who cares about a lack of menu options when one has a single idea done right?

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So far they plan to remain quite stationary with this little side vendor, participating only in events that happen right outside or with the restaurant itself. Whether or not far future tendencies may have them becoming more mobile in location is still up in the air (as of the time I am writing this).

Food: 9.5

No reason to say what I did or didn’t get, considering the singular option.

That said, everything was pretty darn good. Potato Chips were deliciously crispy with those addictive potato flavors and textures, as a good fried item should have. The Pickle’s flavor was still kept in the same style as the typical large, kosher pickle one usually gets on their stereotypical sandwich plate, but kept refined, fresh and tasty, with a little hint of another flavor that I can’t quite name. Great for the traditional pickle lovers out there.

Sausage is… well, it’s what a sausage should be; the one I had today ended up as a thicker wurst shape as opposed to the classic dog. Juicy, meaty, nicely spicy and complexly flavored (for a sausage), and with that great snapping texture that all dog-lusters crave. As for the garnishes, both sauces are sweet and spicy, crunchy vegetables, a great fermented kraut and pickled peppers, getting any or all together coming to a favorable flavor addition that stands out but no way impedes the flavor of the sausage. They both stand strong and taste good together. Oh, and the bun is super soft (but keeps its structure), with a tasty little sweet and egginess, one of the few non-toasted buns I find perfect in its application.

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Holdability: 8.5

An order automatically comes in a basket with a side of fries, automatically making it two-handed, but still easy to consume while walking. I love that they serve the potato chips in their own cute, dinky little bag, brings an old fun to it plus it allows for its own separate stow-away carrying if needed. Getting a pickle increases the basket’s size and can create for more handling considerations, especially considering how much pickle juice leaks out while eating. That’s not even considering whether or not one chooses to get a root beer.

Price: 8

As-is, $6 gets you a good-sized sausage (loaded if desired) and a handful of delicious hand-made potato chips, with an extra $2 each for a pickle or soda, which can result in a decent combo meal.

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Speed: 9.5

As fast as putting a hot dog in a bun and loading with toppings… oh wait…

The TOE: 10

There’s something about getting a high quality, completely hand-made version of a simple nostalgic food item, like hot dogs, let alone apply that to all the fixings. It’s one of the reasons Natedogs is so successful and loved, and basing it out of one of Minneapolis’ new cornerstone restaurant movers of recent years brings another aspect of ‘connection’ to the experience. Knowing one is able to grab an affordable option made with the same love and attention is a great way to get the community off. Plus, I must say that being the first Minneapolis street vendor that’s located exclusively in a location that’s NOT on Marquette/Nicolette or the adjoining streets is pretty neat, and hopefully a start for our Trucks to begin spreading their area of influence out like they so sorely need again.

Oh, and dedicating your menu to only one real option, when doing it WELL; bonus points galore (it can be a curse otherwise).

Tally: 45.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Ummmm, get it? It’s a great lunch stop if one finds yourself close enough to walk to the North Loop area of downtown (or, you know, drive down from another city just to eat and do a blog post on it) for a stand that’ll always be in the same spot. Obviously this is a place that will not qualify as a small stop on food truck event days.

As for suggestions on order, I would probably say just skip the Pickle, unless you REALLY want a pickle (it’s a good one), and leave your focus purely on the Sausage and Chips. If thirsty, it sounds as if the Root Beer is of a unique and tasty enough selection to warrant an order.

Green + The Grain

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https://www.facebook.com/greenandthegrain/info

https://twitter.com/GreenNtheGrain

Main Location: Minneapolis

By now I’ve made quite a few things known about what will and will not set me off through my various mobile visits. For example, the most puzzling oddity of someone indulging themselves in the street food culture only to get an item that is the most counterproductive I can think of; a Salad. Even more grievous are those places that seem to ruin what would otherwise be one of the perfect Food Truck offerings; my time at a certain vehicle still leaves a bad taste in my mouth from their attempt at Wraps.

So imagine my intrigue during my first visit of Green + The Grain, a very healthful and organic-inspired truck which made its way on the streets in June of this year, when my eyes sweep over a menu filled with nothing but these two different items which have made such an impact on me this past year. Only this time there actually seems to be a proper focus, and it’s actually done WELL.

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As you’ve surmised by now, GtG focuses on Salads and Wraps; or, to be more surprised, has a menu filled with different salads with the option of stuffing those same mixes into wraps (or vice versa). Peaking inside, one can see a whole row of mise en place stretching from one end of the giant order/delivery window to the end, each little container filled purely with greens, veggies, and the rare protein additions.

A seasonal menu, with various mix options supposedly changing at least once a week, future items may reach well beyond those discussed here (as should be considered for all seasonal Trucks I review, though I often fail to include the disclaimer due to laziness), but there seems to be a bit of a pattern so far. Chicken is the often-seen protein, commonly on the menu in Asian (also seen with Beef Tenderloin), Caesar, and Buffalo iterations, though the Berry Natural seems to be a set menu favorite, adding a delightful handful of fresh and dried fruit to the herb roasted poultry. If there’s anything that’s constant, outside of perhaps the Caesar, it’s the shared load of ingredients every single salad is filled with; greens, multiple veggies, croutons, apples, dressing, and who knows what else, the specifics of which morph and adjust depending on the final decision on focus.

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But of course there technically IS one other thing we can enjoy on our visits here; Organic Frozen Yogurt, supplied by Cloud Top and churned by GtG, garnished with whatever fruit and granola one desired. Their site does also make mention of a “signature tart,” though my luck in seeing it on my visit seemed to be quite poor. Ice cream machine wasn’t working either, luckily I wasn’t in the mood… maybe on future visits though…

So, what kind of potential can a downtown mobile Salad-based caterer have? Let’s find out.

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Food: 9.5

                I’ll admit, though my thoughts of it as street food is notably questionable, I still LOVE a GOOD Salad. An even dressing coating, with bright flavors and a range of crunchy texture, maybe some creaminess, just the best of lettuce and accompaniments. This pleasure has always been heightened even more when enjoyed inside a tight, soft tortilla shell.

So being able to have a wrap that properly fulfills these cravings, unlike the sad weak and dry versions seen in convenience stores and certain businesses, was quite the pleasure. All the vegetables were fresh, some apple slices brought the juicy crispness, and the croutons… oh the croutons. When I saw it opened up, I actually worried they may have already gotten soggy; silly me, their crunchiness was glorious as it should be. As for my salad of choice, Buffalo Shrimp, the shellfish was cooked properly with that nice snap, not dry or mealy. It wasn’t actually as “buffalo-y” as I though; the one thing I could say is that the flavor didn’t come through quite as much with everything else going on, but I still got some of that nice little heat here throughout. A good kind of hot sauce marinade, not the cliché traffic-warning-orange-colored stuff some places get in gallon jugs. Their use and manipulation of it allows my assumptions to stay positive in how they handle their other proteins and sauces/marinades.

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Holdability: 7

                 The first hurdle in a truck like this is, of course, their handling and display of the salad; and though one can never change its inability to eat with one hand when served plain, I do like and respect GnG’s packaging for the copious vegetation. A nice, tight, compact bowl that seems easy to carry and likely easy to consume out of. Ironically, it’s where the wraps come into play that issues pop up. It’s such a great way to eat on the go, a nicely tight, folded package around delicious filling, wrapped again in parchment to handle/avoid mess… and then they cut the damn thing in half, completely negating the whole purpose. I mean, I don’t mind having it halved in a restaurant, but now a one-handed ease venture turned into using both hands and trying to figure out how to ease it from its parchment bindings without everything collapsing on itself (I couldn’t quite figure it out, had some spillage). It makes something that should have been simple into an annoying challenge.

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Price: 6.5

                  Besides a $4 Soft Serve Yogurt ($6 for the large) and I’m assuming similarly priced Tart (or fruit cup in today’s case… interesting), every main-menu item is $9. Or, to be more honest, almost $10 with the tax; definitely one of the higher “set costs” on the street, though at the very least they DO give out a good amount of product for it. Tasty ones at that.

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Speed: 8.5

  Somewhat faster than average, it doesn’t take too long to pile and mix the various greens and fillings of these ingredients together and in a bowl or wrap of your choosing, even (or especially) with the decently sized serving.

The TOE: 9

                  Gotta give them credit for taking a style that makes my approach quite cautious and dubious and being able to turn it into a pretty fun and interesting visit. Image is clean and bright, sense of place is strong, and menu options are intriguing enough to create a need to come back (dessert… need…). Now if they only stop cutting our salad burritos in half then they could be a fully-load, strong warrior of the street.

Tally: 40.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Sad as it is to say, despite the Wraps this is still not one of the ideal mobile stops for those wanting to eat their main items while walking; best enjoyed sitting down. That said, whether your cravings lead to a boring salad (boooooooo) or an exciting version wrapped inside a tortilla (Yaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy… I’m not biased at all am I?), there are some fun ways to go.

There seem to be a few customer favorites, though overall I think the best experiences would lead from ordering the Asian Chicken/Beef, perhaps a Buffalo option, or one of the more interesting Seasonals (we still have yet to see what all they may have yet to do). Outside of this, their Tart looks to be a great small item as the snack-on-the-go, between stops or when one just wants something sweet. Frozen Yogurt is always good, but one can get that at a lot of places, I wouldn’t put it high on one’s list until they’ve tried other things desired.

Dredi’s

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https://www.facebook.com/dredispatties

https://twitter.com/DredisPatties

Main Location: Minneapolis

You know, I really like those big, flashy, Caribbean and Southern BBQ catering trucks we tend to see at various neighborhood events, music fests, etc. Sadly, mental quandaries still seem to abound in my head, ruining my desire to review them by dancing around my own arguable and annoying rules for what I consider a “food truck,” at least the kind that’s centered around this blog. They’re rarely if ever seen on the common streets or by breweries, the businesses are more a colorful catering vehicle (huge, by the way), not to mention the menus are often so relatively intimidating in scope, don’t think I’d ever be able to get through all I’d need for a review after even two visits!

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Fade to Dredi’s, a relatively new (officially they opened last August, but I don’t think they were really even present until this year), shiny metal trailer box, or whatever they’re called, with a centered focus on one of the ubiquitous items seen in many Island catering trucks: the Jamaican Pattie.

To be specific, the BEEF Pattie. A savory package of stewed and lightly spiced ground beef enclosed in a somewhat flat, square little package of savory, craveably golden shortcrust (same style as pie) dough. This is sold as-is or “Full House,” an intriguing idea where it’s sliced horizontally and turned into a Sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. One can get either of these as-is, in drink+chip combos, or alongside your own bottle of “Ting,” a Caribbean Grapefruit Soda. But that’s it, nothing else on the menu to arduously ponder over.

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So thankfully I finally have some sort of Caribbean truck on the scene; one of my favorite cuisines, I now have the chance to unabashedly review a business based on this spicy food subset. Now if only we can get some more out there to grab some proper Jerked Chicken Sammies!

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Food: 6.5

             I don’t know what it is about pastry doughs, the flaky texture of a pie, the crunch of a shell, possible juxtaposition with a softer inside, or just a subconscious reaction to all that butter we know is in there, but you’ve just gotta love them. This one was nice, with good color and savory crunch in it. The filling itself was pretty good, a moist beef stew with a decent flavor of spices to it. Not extremely exciting, though, being all ground beef; especially as it’s the only option.

In particular I found noted disappointment in the “Full House,”or more particularly the toppings used in it. Just simple, cold slices of lettuce and soft tomato, neither of which seemed to be of great quality, standing on either side of a floppy, limp piece of cheap American cheese. A combo I expect to find in a fast food joint, only stuck on top of something that deserves much better.

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Interestingly enough, though, the Ting didn’t remark upon me that much as-is (tasted like most lemon-lime sodas), it made a surpisingly nice pairing with the lightly spiced beef. Oh, and don’t forget to get some Hot Sauce!

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Holdability: 9.5

              Much like Potter’s, these dough-enwrapped items make for the perfect walking snack on their own, coming in a simple brown sleeve one can slide down as needed (a-la McDonald’s hash browns). The Full House though, while still really well kept together, can be a touch messy with the inner stew now exposed, particularly when having one’s other hand full with a Ting.

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Price: 9.5

               On their own the Pattie and Full House are $4 and $5 respectively, adding 50c for combos leaves a pretty good deal for one’s wallet. My only gripe is that the Ting is a set $2 with no seeming way to reduce, which isn’t even that bad on its own (I’ve paid that much for Mexican Coke on the Street… man that came out so wrong. You know what I mean).

Speed: 9.5

              Other than taking about a minute or so to cut and assemble a Full House (gotta be careful with that pastry crust), instantaneous delivery of warm pocket goodness.

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The TOE: 4.5

               Though many of the points indeed hit home with ideal Food Truck operations (by my ratings), Dedri’s seems to be currently lacking full spirit behind the food they serve. It’s a great, perfectly mobile option with an interesting promise in the idea of turning it into the sandwich, but they haven’t really done anythingwith it. There’s only the one, really simple beef patty, of which they use only the most basic and cheap burger toppings for its transformation. I wanna see them have a few more options for filling, like a jerk chicken or pork or a starchy vegetarian (or whatever really), and then take it up a knotch with different KINDS of good, tasty sandwich toppings. Sauteed mushrooms, roasted peppers, sauces, not-shitty-cheese, bacon, it could be anything but not JUST what I got today. So much potential is behind this simple idea, but the lack of realizing even part of it in any exciting sense ends up bringing me down a bit further. I hope I can see them try some fun things in the future.

Tally: 39.5/50

Final Thoughts

For those requiring similar needs as the mobile greats such as Potter’s and Nate’s (hey it rhymes), grab yourself a Beef Pattie(with Hot Sauce!) and bottle of Tingfor a tasty $6 treat and drink on the street. Separate or together they’re also great as smaller, cheaper, not-so-filling in between snacks on the longer Food Truck Day ventures. And though interesting, I wouldn’t suggest getting the Full House until Dredi’s has updated the topping selection.

Food Trucks that Don’t Exist: a Dedication

So I was gonna post this guy a while ago, but apparently I wrote the draft, took a break before I looked up pictures, and completely forgot about it! So pretend it came out right after this article did!

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/06/fleet_of_dreams_the_best_food_trucks_that_dont_exist_yet.php

                I am in much agree-al with this latest CityPages Hot Dish article! If you have yet to read it, click the link above to view their opinions on Food Trucks we have yet to see. The Dip-based idea seems a bit odd to me (though I can see us having a market for it), but the make-your-own Pie concept could be heavenly.

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                Either way, it got me thinking about OTHER kinds of Street Food our mobile army has yet to tap into, for one reason or another. I did do a post about a year ago about people/restaurants that I’d like to see get in the business, but hashing out the food itself is yet another fun endeavor in itself.

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All things Japanese

                I’ve mentioned it at times in the past, and I’m sure by now many of you have seen some food show or another traveling through Asian, only to learn that the large Continent is a veritable wealth of various stands shoveling out mass amounts of traditional street foods. There are so many things we still have yet to be completely brought in from China, Korea, Vietnam, etc. But the country that excites me most with their Street Food is Japan.

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                Hot Dish already covers our sore need for good mobile ramen, but I would also so love to see someone shoveling out Takoyaki, spherical little “pancakes” cooked in their own grate with different savory fillings (usually Octopus) and covered in sticky sauces and bonito, just waiting for you to toothpick it into your mouth. Similarly, Dango, little sweet rice flour balls (similar to Mochi) already skewered with a bit of sauce on top. Could have a truck that serves both, sweet and savory oriental orbs!

                Then there’s Okonamiyaki, big savory pancakes that are cooked to order and whatever you want in them (drizzled in special mayo and sauce); Bento Boxesfor those on the go and wanting something “special;” Onigiri, simple rice balls stuffed with various fillings, think of all the cool fusion things we could do with that, while still keeping super-simple and affordable options for others; and of course, who could forget Yakitori, skewers of very simply and very skillfully grilled meats from every part of an animal, covered in a perfectly balanced sauce.

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Juicy Balls

                Subs, skewers, sandwiches, soups, fry baskets, what can’t a meatball be used in? And what can’t it be made from? So versatile with such a soul-filling warmth and joy when done right, there’s huge potential for doing something along these lines. And though we do have One Stand that uses a meatball sub, it’s just the one item on the menu; we need a true Specialty, like Devil’s Advocate before they changed their menu up (such a sad thing now…).

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Desserts Galore

                I’ve said it at least once before and I’ll say it again, we need a Dessert Truck! I’m sorry but Cupcakes don’t really count that much anymore, and our one Crepe Truck is… well… either way, all the other cities have one! Why can’t we!? Moooooommmmmmm.

                -cough- Sorry ‘bout that. Anyways, it doesn’t matter what kind, whether it’s one of those trucks that shells out all variety of sweets or a specialist; Pie, Cheesecake, Sundaes, something stuffed in a Cone, I don’t care, and neither should you! Give us more sugar, MOAR! I will say though, a good, proper Ice Creamtruck that makes their own custard from Quality ingredients would be extra awesome. Or hey, if Izzy’s wants to get in the game I won’t complain.

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Tapas for Everyone

                I know I know, we have A La Plancha now which serves up various “tapas” with their food, but it still doesn’t feel like they’ve gotten so deep down into the spirit and wealth of it that they could (and I’ve seen their truck out a few times). There really are SO many different tapas out there, traditional and non, a having a truck focus PURELY on these various small Spanish things which we could pick up and take around could be so fun. And let’s not forget about Pinchos, Tapas close cousin, basically semi-sandwiches or other “small” items with a thin skewer through them to hold together (and also keep track of how many things you’ve eaten). When I go for Tapas, I really want to get into the feel and culture of Spain, so let’s get a mobile eatery that can really do that.

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All Roads Lead to Dim Sum

                So Yeah, I want Dim Sum. If you want to hear my argument why, read this Post I did a while back.

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A Bit of Our History

                You know, now that I think about it, we really don’t have any trucks yet that focus on some sort of Eastern Europeanspecialties (besides that one Strudel Truck, but we barely see it anywhere). No Germanic, Russian, Polish, Czech, or anything like that, which is a shame ‘cuz it’s all really good food. True the idea doesn’t immediately conjure up “Street Food” images, besides bratwurst covered in sauerkraut (and we already have plenty of that), but there are some foods we know of (and many that we don’t I’m sure) that could do a great job on a truck. There’s Pierogies, cuz who doesn’t love dumplings; Piroshki, which are like Pasties but with a more bready dough (there’s a market stand in Seattle that makes awesome ones, perfect street food); Borscht and the Crepes like I said; many many regional snausagesto be used in dogs, sandwiches, what have you; various stews like Goulashwhich could be shoved in something; etc. And don’t forget the many many uses of sauerkraut and potatoes. It’s basically like talking about our favorite MN foods, so why not express them on the street?

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Everything Cake

                It hits me that we, and many others, have a Crepe Truck, a Waffle Truck, but why not have a Pancake truck? Thick and fluffy, but one could still wrap it in a cone or fold in half. Could fill and top it with anything, sweet or savory, as all different versions of pancakes do. Which is another thought, instead of just doing the one basic kind, a Pancake Truck could offer different batters (either pick and choose or each with their own crafted fillings): Potato, Johnnycake (cornmeal), Buttermilk, Thin European, etc. Who wouldn’t love the joy of taking something simple and nostalgic and getting serious with it, much like the Grilled Cheese idea (thank god I no longer need to add a “grilled cheese” section to this list).

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Fried Fury

                A lot of people like Anchor, our local Fish and Chips based restaurant and truck, but it feels like the menu is more restaurant-based than fish-and-chips-based; I mean they only have the onefish. How cool would it be to have a pure, simple, and classic Fish and Chips truck that, like the shops back home, have a whole selection of different fish to go in the fryer! Or maybe they take the fish and fries and stuff it in a grinder or tortilla (or, with the nation’s Indian ties, Roti) to make it fully portable! Slather on that Tartar sauce (per request of course) and really give us a Deep Fried delight. And why stop there, why not make a whole Deep-fried themed menu, span more than one kind of food item, cover some random crap in batter and crisp it up with heart-destroying deliciousness. I know there’s a place in New York (I think it’s called The Chip Shop) that does it, and they’re quite successful.

                Or at the least, maybe get a truck that specializes in Fried Chicken. We have some that do it (very well I might add) in sandwiches, but let’s get a place that really does it justice as the MAIN item.

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Temaki

                Oh come on, you knew I was gonna say it at some point (well, if you read my blog frequently). Sushi Fix STILL has yet to offer this perfectly walkable coneof Nori stuffed with sushi rice and filling. I won’t go into it much this time, but I still believe it would be such a great, fun, delicious Toe Ring type item to sell for the sushi lover on-the-go.

                Well, that’s my list, what’s yours? Do you have any particular Foods or Cuisine you’d like to see on the Minnesota Street?

Red River Kitchen

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https://twitter.com/RedRiverKitchen

Main Location: Breweries, Markets, Etc

            Have you ever been in that situation where you visit a restaurant, maybe one that had recently opened, been totally not impressed by the food for very obvious reasons, and then half a year or so later you see these articles or posts from people saying how great and fantastic it is? Did they improve their food? Have we ordered the wrong menu items at the time? Are they talking about a different location that’s better than the one you went too? Is everybody else taste-deaf? Or am I just too cynical an @$$hole in this particular occasion to give proper credit?

            That was my experience with Republic, a new bar which popped into the Cedar and Riverside intersection (also known as 7 Corners) during my last year of College Student Housing, replacing one of the main corner bars that sadly couldn’t last. The beer selection is great, but my food experience was quite… bleh. It’s left me quite confused after the more recent accolades.

            So when I found the excuse spend money on and try them again through the introduction of their new “Menu Testing” based Food Truck, Red River Kitchen, I jumped at it eagerly, heading out as soon as they parked at one of the breweries near me. They aren’t ever really out on “the streets,” mostly sticking to specific farmer’s Markets and Breweries; Excelsior seems to be a favorite, along with many other ones not-that-close to the Twin Cities.

            Using the mobile eatery as a way to round out and experiment with possible new restaurant foods, options change quite frequently, so it can be tricky to narrow down what one should expect going in. I think I CAN safely say, though, that one will very likely find at least one burger and/or Sandwich on the menu; a simple Bacon Cheeseburger seems to be a standby for customers not interested in experimenting. Another standby, likely to satisfy those brewery go-ers craving a fatty, salty food snack, is the restaurant’s classic Cheese Curds.

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            Other items on my visit were Barbacoa Tacos, Handmade Jerk Chicken Sausage, and a Quinoa-Mushroom Burger(pictured). Their own versions of typical Modern Day Bar Food, at least those better suited to the Food Truck Menu concept, is ultimately what one will find. Now if only they had their famous beer tap attached on the side.

Food: 8.5

             It was hard to choose between the Tacos and Chicken Sausage Sandwich (the burgers, though probably good, didn’t look THAT special to me), but after a bit I settled on seeing how well they got the Barbacoa, supplemented with some Cheese Curds, which seemed to be quite the popular item that day. Can’t imagine why, they were practically awful.

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            Well, I guess that’s a little harsh. To have their own little “personality,” I guess, River swayed from the classic batter for a drier dredge before frying, possibly cornmeal based. They were actually pretty good for a couple minutes after receiving it, still hot from the frier; a little gooey, an ‘interesting’ crust, and that “Yum Yum” sauce (from what I can tell, a simple aioli of lemon, cayenne, and possibly other simple spices) was quite good with it. After those two minutes though, as soon as it cools down… just rubbery, chewy, bland starch-coated cheese that makes you put effort into eating the rest of it, even with the delicious mayo.

           Which is a shame, because that Taco was damn good. The meat was tender, juicy, and tasted like the grill from which they were cooked on (in a good way), carrying that slightly smoky characteristic that good Barbacoa demands. The white corn (I do believe it’s masa, but it’s hard to tell with only the one wrap and all the food on top) tortilla is lightly grilled to amplify this experience, and filled to the brim with meat and typical accompaniments, which are quite poignant on their own, lending a strong flavor to the whole taco. I loved it, for the sole reason that everything tasted exactly like how you expect a proper Barbacoa Taco should, with every flavor present.

            I would like to say, if I was basing this solely on the execution of the Taco, I would gladly have scored Red River a whopping 9.5-10 points easy. But taking other dishes into account, not to mention the variable factors with changing dishes, lowering it somewhat seems the more prudent choice.

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Holdability: 6.5

             Outside getting a sole basket of Curds or Fries, every food item (on their own, not counting container) is a pure two-handed affair, with wide burgers and tacos which, though conveniently wrapped, made quite the little mess while eating (they are quite stuffed with toppings, very delicious but not condescend to portability, especially since they didn’t provide any napkins). A shame they didn’t sell them with the proper double-tortilla wrapping to sop up the fallen garnishes and juice.

Price: 6.5

              Restaurant-influenced pricing is pretty obvious, with $8 and $9 for all mains despite their simplicity. Not as crazy and psycho pricing as certain other places I’ve been, but there’s not as much range and variation either outside the $4-5 Fried Sides.

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Speed: 7

              Well, I had just enough of a wait time to head back in the brewery, stand behind two people taking their sweet ass time just to order a glass of beer, and head out just as they were calling my name. It can feel slow if there are multiple orders in front of you, but it’s not a bad speed if you consider the individual orders.

The TOE: 6

             They feel solid, with a bar-like sense of “place” that I’m sure those familiar with Republic could probably work out even better, with a nice design and set theme. Not to mention a bit of fun in the understanding that there should be often menu changing, all of it being part of the Testing period to see what may make the old restaurant menu. I never did feel much of an “impact” when I was there though, overall the place doesn’t seem to want to stand out in my mind, not much that makes me want to drag myself back.

                      Tally: 34.5/50

                       

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Final Thoughts

            Though my overall opinion of Republic’s kitchen offerings has certainly improved compared to my first visit, I can’t see their mobile operation as being a particular favorite of mine on the streets. At a Brewery and Event, however, with choice seating and a predication to not mind spending an extra couple bucks on my meal, I’d have little problem popping in for a choice edible. Due to the supposed ever-changing offerings, suggestions towards what this should be end up difficult.

            What I can probably say is, first off, if one desires Curds of Fried Cheese, their best bet would be to get it “as a group” so that it’s all eaten quickly while still hot and delicious. Otherwise, don’t bother. Similarly, if one is looking for a quality burger, I would strongly bet there are much better options on other trucks; I’m sure they’re still good here, but the quality of other Trucks like Melch’s and Neato’s should easily trump what I’ve seen so far (though I will go on record saying that I could easily be wrong, I do have yet to actually try one, but appearances CAN convey a lot if you know what to look for).

            Thus, one’s best finds are likely to be any newer items, look for things that are “Homemade” or, at the end of the day, just sound really good on the menu. It sounds lazy to say it like that, but those Tacos sounded like the most appetizing thing on there that day, and they definitely did NOT disappoint. Maybe it’d be good to say that anything “Grilled” will go best for your nearest beer source?

Flavor Wagon

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https://twitter.com/Flavor_Wagon

Main Location: Minneapolis

            Ideally I prefer to wait some time after the opening before I visit and review a truck, say give them over a month or so to get in a rhythm and focus what they’re doing (you know what they say about a place on their opening day). Sometimes, though, circumstance leads me towards a business still fresh after their arrival on the scene.

            Opening in the early weeks of May 2014, my visit to Flavor Wagoncame less than a month later, when they still had yet to set up anything besides a Twitter account. Be that as it may, their menu had luckily gone through a bit of updating, and the food I was able to sample seemed pretty focused and solid for what they were trying to get out.

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            Cuisine is Middle-Easternin style, the top of the Menu portraying (at least for now) an intriguing dish from Egypt called Koshary(see Food section for description). Other items take the regional flavors, with a protein focus on spiced Beef or Chicken, and wrap it up as “Flavor” Burritos, Tacos, or at times Sandwiches. They also offer the oft-typical Tabouleh Salad, Hummus, and Baklava. They used to have a Rice Pudding too, which I was quite excited to try, though after querying the owners found out that it apparently had issues working out in a truck (something about it separating). Which, though I missed it, I’m much happier to see them making a good, level-headed decision not to display an under-par dish.

            I’m curious to see if any of this may change in the coming months.

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Food: 9

            Holy Sinister Starch Bomb Batman!!

            That was my first impression when I was finally handed the Egyptian Koshary, basically just a big pile of Rice, Lentils, and Pasta (traditionally all macaroni, they mix in some spaghetti amongst the masses), “garnished” with Chickpeas and Fried Onions. Soooo starch, starch, and more starch. Then we get a glob of bright red tomato sauce which, on first sight, you think “this can’t possibly accommodate all this pasta and rice… just not enough…”. Then you decide to take a small bite of chickpea with a half-teaspoon scoop of the sauce and actually realize, with a mix of joy and self-loathing, the spicy, pepper-based nature of the red-hot condiment.

            Your fork dives in, now eager to blend all that sauce in with its carbohydrate base, covering everything in a thin layer of reddish-pink; not enough for any other tomato sauce, but just perfect for this Egyptian-style hot sauce. Consumption begins, and satisfaction soon follows. After getting it, I so did NOT think I’d actually like it as much as I did; I mean it’s just rice and pasta and other different starch things. But there was something surprising to it, the flavors weren’t that heavy, the spiciness helped you to keep coming back… it was good. And filling, very very filling! Don’t doubt that. Certainly I don’t need anything else with it; though some other additions in the lines of protein, veggies, and/or crunchy texture could easily launch the completion even higher.

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            The Burrito was similarly a nice surprise. A first bite of lightly flavored Tomato rice gave me doubts, but I soon got down to the good stuff. Ground, Cumin-based Spice Beef, tangy fresh White Cheese, Lentils and Cilantro all create a flavor that’s distinctly Middle Eastern and definitely not as heavy as the typical Burrito. Large chunks of hot, spicy raw onion invade the mass with its crunchy texture and a flavor that, usually, I detest on its own, but actually lovedwith the rest of it. Again, a happy surprise which I fully enjoyed.

            Sadly didn’t have the chance to try their Baklava, but it looks pretty darn good (I’ve seen “meh” baklava before at the Festival of Nations, I can tell Flavor’s is notably better).

Holdability: 7

             Rice/Pasta Bowl, a Salad, Hummus, multiple two-handed hold-and-scoop foods. Even the Burrito, wrapped tight in its foil, finds a thankful relief in having a cardboard basket underneath; it’s still a bit messy apparently, not everything wants to stay in!

Price: 9.5

             $7 for most of the Taco/Burrito entrees, $4and $3 for Sides and Dessert, a very good and decent range of price options. The $6 Koshary comes in at a great deal, giving you a lot of filling food for the cost; though so do other items, but the starch-centric bowl really highlights this.

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Speed: 5.5

            I feel like the wait was longer than it should have considering the simplistic preparation dishes than it should have; though I don’t know, maybe they were cooking some things to-order, but that’s not the impression.

The TOE: 7.5

             The Truck itself doesn’t have much personality to it (the name’s a bit generic and doesn’t have any relation to the theme), but the food easily brings plenty enough to spare. Singular, niche-fitting, with a light enough twist to push it onto the street. There’s a decent gap that needs filling, but it’s a pretty good start.

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                      Tally: 38.5/50          

Final Thoughts

               Probably one of, if not the, best places to completely fill your stomach for a good price; or, you know, if you wanna Carbo-load. For either of these, the Kosharyis the obvious item of highlight, especially considering it’s their signature dish.

               For the more mobile-inclined, or those who don’t want to JUST eat starch for lunch, the tortilla-centered options they provide are the other must-haves. The Burritois my favorite, though the Tacosdon’t look too bad either (expect them to be a bit messier of course); as for Beef or Chicken the choice is up to you.

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               Final suggestions; though it hasn’t reached Toe Ring status, I would definitely get the Baklavaas a lunch or food truck day dessert over the generic brownie/cookie anyday. Though I would NOT get this naturally, if you’re the kind of Truck eater who enjoys getting Chips and Guac on the go, the Hummusoption would be a fun and different change (from what I’ve seen so far, I bet it’s quite well made).

SFC: It’s All Cheesy

If you’ve read through any of my other SFC recipe posts, it’s easy to see that I do, on occasion, love making things from scratch. That said, I’ve really only ever scratched the surface at this; it’s quite apparent that there’s a cavalcade of in-depth, complicated, time-heavy, and even still just plain simple recipes I have yet to get to. One of them, to my own disappointment, has been making my own fresh cheese. But, a recent recipe foray in my Other Blog called for the use of young, fresh ricotta-ish style cheese. Since I didn’t have much else I needed to do for the project, I figured what the hell, time to pop that cheesecloth.

It also called from Crème Fraiche, which I HAVE made before, but had never found much luck getting it satisfactory to how I wanted it, at least consistency wise. So I wanted to try one last time, make sure I got a recipe that seemed to yield a positive result, and there we go.

Simple Crème Fraiche
1 cup Heavy Cream, Pasteurized
1 Tb Buttermilk

Very simple to do and put together, just warm the Cream up to 105F; if you want to monitor, some form of instant read thermometer will be best for it. If you don’t have it, it’s basically just a bit above body temperature, take it off the heat when it feels “warm” to the touch, not hot. Stir in Buttermilk, transfer to some random container, cover loosely yet completely (plastic wrap, not tight, is what I’ve learned is the ideal version of this).
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Now just let it sit at least 24 hours on the shelf or other room temp (ideally, 70-76F) location. Can leave it longer if you like, some might take up to 36 hours depending on scenario, but I found it wouldn’t get any thicker than sitting one day. There’s no need to stir the cream, in fact it might be detrimental if one did (I’m wondering if it might have been a factor in my not-so-successful past attempts, either that or its covering). Once it gets to the point where it jiggles when shaken, can transfer to the fridge to cool down to ideal texture (obviously it won’t be as thick when warm). And oila, we have our own thick, beautifully tart and creamy dairy mixture, our own French version of sour cream made in house.
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At this time, I could probably be a good writer, research what the actual molecular reactions and reasons it is that makes our simple cream into a sour, almost gelatinized bundle, but I don’t really feel like ranting today. Onto cheese!

Homemade Fromage Blanc/Farm Cheese
3 cups Whole Milk
1 cup Cream
3 Tb Lemon Juice or Vinegar
1 Tb (or more) Kosher/Sea Salt
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Before I start, note how I didn’t name this “Ricotta” like many other recipes may. That’s because this is NOT Ricotta. Ignoring the whole Italian-only and Sheep-milk thing, any true ricotta is made purely from Whey, the leftover liquid in cheese making, and not from any pure dairy; though it uses the same method as follows (but with pure vinegar and a higher cooking temp). On a similar note, Marscarpone is also the same method, but using all cream instead of milk+cream (of which, this ratio isn’t required, one can use more or less cream for richer or drier consistencies in the finished product).
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Start the same way as with the dairy from previously, only this time we head to about 190F,stirring only briefly to allow full heat distribution. Remove from heat, stir in your Lemon Juice/Acid and let sit 5-15 minutes for the curds to separate from the whey.
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While this is setting, prep your straining station. Set a colander, doesn’t have to be fine, over a bowl (or if you don’t want to save the whey, right in the sink), and line it with cheesecloth or other similarly fine fabric; I use white tea towels often.

Now, quite a few people say to “carefully scoop the curds from the whey into the strainer,” which works well if your mix has ended up with good, big size pieces that all float to the top (maybe with very large batches). Since all the curds in mine were basically mixed in quite thoroughly, and I bet yours will be to, I just say dump it all in, a bit at a time just to be gentle. I don’t quite see any real need to be all elegant here, it’s getting strained anyways.
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Leave this for, say, a couple hours; it doesn’t need long. Let it drip naturally, don’t press it, and it’ll turn into a soft mass of creamy, tender fresh curd. Leave it longer and it’ll go further into a firmer white fromage; less and it’s a loose cottage cheese-ish thing. The final texture is up to you. All that’s required is to mix with that Salt for seasoning. Eat now or look into ways to store and age as desired.
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As for me, a certain French ‘pizza’ known as Flammekeuche was calling my name. Check the link for its history and recipe, which calls for a blending of both Fraiche and Fromage for its cheese/sauce base. And pizza’s street food, so I just had to connect it to here.
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By the way, don’t be afraid to hold onto that leftover whey. It’s great to use in various recipes as a substitute for water to make things tangier, or substitute milk with it for less dairy impact. Boil things in it even.
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Well, hopefully some of these projects coming up will lead me to explore even more ‘from scratch’ preparations to use. I will certainly make sure to keep this blog updated whenever I do! For those looking to reproduce these or any versions of these fresh dairy products, good luck and good eating.