A Day of Mixed Experiences

               You know what it is they say about the “Best Laid Plans?” Well, that particular kind of bad-luck situation seems to cross my path quite often; in fact, almost every time I attempt to plan a day with someone else. Heck, I once scheduled a day to take off of school (special 1-time use card privelage thing) a couple months ahead of time, and it just so happened that day ended up being the 1 day after 10 years that we closed due to Snow.

                This of course was no exception yesterday, when me and Paige from Alcohol by Volume finally met for a day of Brewery and Food Truck mingling. So, after driving all the way down to Indeed, I suddenly found out that, not only do they open at 3 as opposed to the Noon time we had planned, but the Food Truck I was looking forward to was scheduled for Saturday, not Friday (darn their confusing Calendar). Called my meeting buddy to re-think, drove to meet at Fulton… which also wasn’t open. SO we just met at a bar Downtown, since she was already walking on Nicollet.

                So, after booking it all the way from Fulton to Nicollet and 10th (I had already found this awesome 10hr Parking Meter, paid 50c for 4 hours, I’m not letting that baby go) I entered “The Local” and went about searching. For those who haven’t been, it was my first time too, they have a fun old-school bar interior, divided right in half by a long, extensive woodwork. The rest of the pub is interspersed with private cubicles, glass dividers, wood stands, and other such patchwork forms of older-styled décor, designed mainly for creating senses of privacy. It’s a really cool and fun thing to walk through… but it sucks when trying to find somebody. I circled twice, and ended up having to sit and have her find me instead.

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                Took about an hour, but finally got the day kicked off. The rest went smooth and simple. Shared some talk over a beer; being quite tired from the run, I needed a creamy Kilkenny, and to our luck we found they held a Harriet, so she went for that. After expressing the interest, the bartender decided to find a growler of their Saison and poured us each a taster.  Really had that characteristic Harriet Fruity-Hoppy complexity on the nose, though my more experienced colleague pointed out its characteristics technically weren’t along what a true “saison” should be. At the very least we agreed it still tasted good.

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                Feeling the need for a change of venue, specifically one that held food, I offered two main ideas, and we headed off towards Marquette. Since, sadly, we only found one Truck still parked, I decided to take her to option #2: Devil’s Advocate. Shockingly this was the first time she had even heard of it, so I thought it’d be a fun experience, even if Food Trucks weren’t involved.

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                A nice, complex and darker Winter Ale for her, and my first glass of Dragon’s Milk Stout, and we went for a simple order of meatball sliders. Pretzel roll double of Beef w/ Red Sauce and a Single Chicken w/ Mushroom; it was my first time trying the fries too, which I definitely give them much applause for in their perfection of soft inside and crispy outside. It was my first time seeing their dessert menu, too, and I definitely suggest your next visit include one of their seemingly simple yet slightly twisted items. The cheesecake we ordered, for instance, was made with Mascarpone instead of the typical Cream; made a bit smoother and not as heavy.

                Talks had no real common thread, ranging from the complex and storied past of Finnegan’s Brewery to the practices of separate city Brewing Clubs (of which I’m thinking I might look into for joining), between Hidden Bars and Donny Darko, and a particularly noted discussion of various food-related TV Shows.

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                The day ended at Fulton, where at least I was able to show off one of our prided Trucks, Little G’s. Inside, I had my first glass of their newer War and Peace stout. Very powerful, punchy in style, you really got the bitterness of the Malts and Hops; a fun little version of one of my favorite malt-bases. To our delight, we also found out about their recent foray into making their own sodas, and we both just had to share a glass of Juniper-Blueberry. Much like all homemade sodas, it was awesome.

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                We ordered an Italian (Sausage, Onion, Pepper), a simple heavy style to fit their thicker, doughier crust. She certainly approved, though sadly was full from our trip to Devil’s to eat more than one small square. Finishing our drinks, we called it a day and went our separate ways.

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                It was certainly a fun get-together, and I enjoyed the chance of being able to share our respective loves and interests in these two growing culinary scenes. Very much looking forward to the next little experience, hopefully I’ll actually be able to show off more than one Truck next time. Until then, we’ll both keep on tasting and trucking for your reading pleasure!

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                Oh, one final note. Since I had another hour on my meter, and was still a bit affected from the drink, decided to stop into the nearby Saffron for a little waiting snack. Sadly, they didn’t have the Lamb Brains available (could have sworn I saw it on one of their Happy Hours at one point, but apparently I was wrong), so I tried a little dish of house-cured beef called “Bastirma.” Rubbed with Turkish spices, one could really get that gentle complexity in the aroma, and the chew was nice with the clean fat and concentrated meat. Certainly a nice, simple appetizer to end the day with.

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ARTCRANK Opening

              So, there be a new little operation called “ARTCRANK” that will be hosting its opening party on the 6th of April. Far as I can tell, the actual operation is an Art-focused place centering around Posters with a little encouragement in the bicycle-riding community. Please don’t quote me on this, though, as I’m just basing this off of their twitter.

             The important thing to consider, though, is the opening night. Going from 5-11pm at the Grain Belt Studios, they will be featuring 6 different Food Trucks. A few of my favorites will be there, such as Chef Shack, Potters, and Natedogs, along with one that I apparently need to return to for a re-review, Sassy Spoon.

             Hopefully I’ll be able to make it, and you will too. Until then, enjoy the fantastic new weather we’re having, and good luck to all you Foodie’s and other Truck Hunters out there. Viva la Revolucione! (probably spelled that wrong… ahh who cares)

http://artcrank.com/minneapolis

https://twitter.com/ARTCRANK

SFC: Grilling Excitement

                You know, I came to a surprising realization last night after dinner: after 5 years of going into the food and cooking industry, yesterday was the first time that I actually cooked lamb. Bit of a shock, really; it’s not THAT difficult of an ingredient to come by, I really like it, and am quite eager to cook different things. I mean heck, I’ve cooked Goat in class, but not lamb. Just an odd little situation it seems…

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                Oh well, it happened. And it left me with a big bin of juicy, leftover meat to do with as I please. It just so happened, this morning I was pleasing for a little Lamb Taco or two.

                Now, for actually cooking the lamb, I just used the “Alton Brown Grilling Method” found here:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/silence-of-the-leg-o-lamb-recipe/index.html

                Guy just does fantastic recipes. An important note, though; apparently I was using a Leg of Lamb, completely different cut, and it took longer to cook. So, if anyone wants to follow this recipe with a Leg, make sure you use a lot more coals.

                So, the Lamb I got was a “Semi-Boneless” piece… which makes me wonder what makes it Semi when it has this giant club of a bone going right through it. Either way, I got that fella out, cleaned the Leg up a little bit, and scored for some nice cookmarks. Only later did I find that there were some pretty big rivers of Connective tissue on the INSIDE that I needed to get too… soooo be careful of those home viewers.

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                Don’t forget to save the bone and other scraps. Roast them up someday and you can use for the base of an awesome soup/broth/sauce/ice cream (You heard me…. There’s a place in San Fran that flavors one of theirs with roasted Prosciutto Bones).

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                Next, make your favorite marinade mix, flavor generously with Mint, Rosemary, and Brown Sugar for glazing purposes. In my case, I used some Mint Jelly, dried Rosemary, and Molasses… I work with what I have. Slather it all over the meaty insides and undersides, save the fatty top for halfway through grilling. Then Truss it up (hopefully better than I did) and transfer to the grill.

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                Look how nice and roasty that looks… and yes I did a Hobo Packet of squash and veggies for a side.

                The dinner was nice, the lamb’s unique gentle grassy/gamey flavors really came out nicely. Now it’s onto breakfast, cubeing up a slice of the leftovers and sautéing in a pan.

                I felt like keeping a little Mediterranean , gyro-like feeling to the dish, so I topped with some yogurt instead of sour cream. Slices of cherry tomato and onion, few leaves of cilantro (in place of mint, also keep that latin feel), and since it’s lamb I have to have just a bit of the good stone mustard. Finish with a few drops of hot sauce and wrap in a corn tortilla (no masa in the pantry sadly), and I’ve got a tasty taco. A good morning for me!

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                Can’t wait to enjoy the rest of this leftover juiciness. If it seems street-food related, I’ll make sure to post some follow-up pictures.

 

                And speaking of things I’m excited about, tomorrow looks to be quite the monumental day! Me and Alcohol by Volume’s Author will be getting together for a joint venture of Brewery and Food Truck visits. I can’t wait to share and discuss ideas with my fellow Foodie, have her show me the ropes on our cities’ Beer Scene (I’ll certainly be doing the same for our Food Trucks). We’re both gonna be in for a stroke of luck, too; not only is tomorrow’s weather gonna be fantastic, “Motley Crew’s Heavy Metal Grill,” new to our streets, will be parking outside the first brewery. It’ll be my first visit, and I’ll be sure to have a review of it out by Monday, right after the post that will surely be soon to follow my review of the day’s other events.

                Until then, good night, good luck, and good mobile eating to all!

Devil’s Advocate, Downtown

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               Those who are familiar with my posts know that I don’t normally write about restaurants, other than an off-handed mention in one of my ramblings. However, spending the day with my cousin, we decided to stop at Devil’s Advocate for a large lunch/dinner (helped that we also had a groupon for it). Now, I’ve already stopped by before, but I only had a single slider and some Devil’s on Horseback (dates, stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon); haven’t had the chance to really explore the rest of their menu.

                The groupon was for $50, so we ended up getting a LOT of food for the two of us. One of those dishes, however, so reminded me of that feeling, that SPIRIT of a Food Truck item, which I just couldn’t help but want to write about it. It just helps to reinforce my feeling that this Meatball-focused Bar should get a Food Truck, and soon (see my other Truck-pics Here).

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                Before I get to that, though, a look at a few other things we had; ‘cuz they may be meatball-based, but that doesn’t keep them from making everything else above-and-beyond. We of course had some meatball sliders; one Chicken w/ Tomato, and my first try of the Beef w/ Pesto. Both were soft in all the right ways, juicy, filling; the Beef with that nice, rich undertone familiar with Roasts, and Chicken almost tasting like a Pork in how much flavor they got out of it. Sauces paired perfectly of course.

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                (Okay I forgot to take a pic and hate to use the ‘net. Still…)

                I also decided to try one of the “combos,” pre-paired dishes of two balls on one of their sides. The one that immediately drew my eye was the Pork w/ Polenta. I expected them to use the firm, baked polenta, but to my joy they did the uber-creamy, soft, spoonable style, my favorite! And it actually stayed creamy on the plate w/out stiffening (not everyone pulls this off), while being loaded with richness, cream, all that’s good with it. Topped with the spicy Pomodoro sauce, it made for a fiendishly hooking guilty pleasure… and found me licking the bowl at the end.

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                Not much of a trip to the “Devil’s” Advocate without trying the “Devilled” Eggs, now is it? Not to mention they’re only a couple bucks, so it made a fun little bite. Small, quality eggs, cooked perfectly, with a creamy devilled-mixture, which I can only guess is made purely from the yolks, a touch of cayenne, and a highly flavorful integration of the ubiquitous Paprika, turning their Eggs into an (un)holy revelation of deliciousness. Almost wish I had more, but since it was Cousin’s first time I offered him the uneven extra half.

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                We also had nachos. Yeah, I know, my thoughts were the same; sure everything else is good, but nachos of all items? So simple. But my cousin wanted to get nachos… and thank god he put in the order, because they are AWESOME. First off, and here’s the only thing I really NEED to say: they use MASA tortilla chips for it. Even some of the better places only use corn, so this was a great surprise. The rest of the ingredients are simple but combined nicely; ground beef, red onions, cheese, spicy-cheese-sauce, touch salsa, green onions (or chives, not sure), and a couple jalapenos. May not have been a huge platter compared to others, but I thoroughly enjoyed every single bite, as well as going on a ramble with my cousin on the wonders of true Mexican taco experiences and masa tortillas.

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                Now, we get to the dish which made me want to do a Restaurant-post in a Food Truck-blog. As I’ve mentioned, some of the most lauded and memorable items in Street Food are the ones that take a familiar, nostalgic dish, and then give it a noticeable twist. This can be to add something to our nostalgia, offer something special, or to change an item that doesn’t fit their mold/focus (for so many trucks stay on one specific style) into their chosen unique style. This latter is what Devil’s focuses on, turning the ubiquitous Buffalo Chicken Wings into “Mini Buffalo Chicken Balls.”

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                This is such a SIMPLE dish; and so easily done by a kitchen which spends 90% of its time (I’m guessing) making meatballs. But the spirit behind it is huge, and the result mimics. Tiny little meatballs of chicken, which are just as soft as their bigger brothers, are covered in buffalo sauce and served with skewers on the side.  The blue cheese is blended so it’s silky-smooth, turning that nice blue-grey shade, which I wish more places would do. You get the cheese taste in every bite, it sticks so much better to what you’re dipping into it, and you don’t have this little pile of chunky cheese on the bottom after eating all the actual dressing.

                This dish is absolutely perfect for Food Trucks. It tastes just like a buffalo wing, but… it’s just NOT. It’s soft, the meat even more flavorful, and the skewers make it fun to eat (and if they WERE in a truck, could easily spear all the balls on 1-2 skewers for service). I would certainly give it a Toe Ring if ever I ended up rating this concept.

                Overall, it was a fun day, but Dinner was the absolute highlight (sorry Cousin, I love the food more than you… I’m sure you feel the same though). I can’t wait to go back with someone else, try some more items and Beer (oh crap, I forgot to talk about the beer… oh well, that’s Alcohol-by-Volume’s turf anyways. Just know they have good stuff).

                Oh, quick shout-out to my buddy Yohan! (sure I’m spelling it wrong, sorry!) Worked with him when I was at the Red Stag, he just happened to be our Waiter at Devil’s, it was fun!

 

What other restaurants or menu items just make you think of Food Trucks?

Help a Minnesota Maker Succeed

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http://www.hammsevent.com/#  

                Our cities, our states, our economies are all founded, at one point in time, by small businesses of one sort or another. These are the local places, the family places, the places filled with good neighborhood people working hard to deliver a quality product for the rest of us nearby.

                This is an idea that hits me hard, especially considering how much our local Food Trucks tends to fit into this category of business. And this April 20th (a Saturday), from 10am to 7pm, these and other Small, Local businesses are being celebrated, displayed, and supported in the “Hamms Help a Minnesota Maker Succeed”  event.

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                Taking place at the old Hamm’s Brewery, the large area is going to be filled with a plethora of different local vendors, from clothing and apparel to soapmakers to chocolate, and everything in between. Some of our favorite Trucks shall of course be stationed for our dining pleasure, including Gastro and Messy G’s (more to come I’m sure); but really it’s about our community, and about supporting all our neighbor’s in whatever way we can.

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                By supporting, we mean that up to $5000 worth of ticket sales will go to one lucky vendor to help in their business. Tickets themselves only cost $10, which I don’t think is much for an afternoon of fun browsing, talking with the various owners, and finding new and fun local entrepreneurs we haven’t heard about yet.

                I think it’s a great little event to participate in, with such variety everyone is sure to find something fun to do and/or eat. To learn more, check out the link I posted, I’ll admit they explain the whole concept on their site much better than I do in a small post. I’ll certainly be sure to buy a ticket myself; hope I can see some of you there as well.

SFC: The Juicy

                I’ve been in a mood for some experimentation, and lucky for me last night we were all in the mood for burgers, of which we already had three ground patties. So I figured I’d try a little riff on a Juicy Lucy that’s been floating in my head for a few days.

                So, split each patty in half, flattening, and in the middle put a couple pieces of good-ol American cheese (the only REAL cheese one can use for a Juicy Lucy) and a whole egg yolk. Sadly, didn’t think about turning this into a blog post until after I added the top patties, so no pics of the yolk-in-burger. There is a nice shot of the little meat packages though; a good display of proper Lucy seal-age. And all of us who have tried know how important a good seal is along the edges.

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                Treated the buns like any good burger place would: Buttered and Grilled; makin’ sure of course to keep that 60-40 split.

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                Onto the burgers. Had to be especially delicate with these, considering its valuable cargo, but I think I pulled it off quite nicely (as you’ll see). Though, if you look closely, you can see one did end up squirting on the grill, which wasn’t surprising; had problems sealing that one anyway. It was fine, though; Dad decided he wasn’t going to tell us when he was coming home, so he got the one missing most of its filling.

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                Was a quick-make dinner, so ended up keeping the toppings simple. While I’m here, a little lesson on sandwich architecture! We’ve already covered the foundations for our structure, the bread (see Pulled Pork), now we get to the cement and woodwork. I start with a little mayo on the bottom, like a club; now, why is it that we usually spread some sort of butter, mayo, melted cheese, mustard, sauce, etc on the tops and bottoms of our sandwiches? Besides, of course, being easier than trying to spread it on a piece of lettuce, these oily sauces serve a very important function in Burgers: moisture retention.

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                By placing a barrier of rich, oil-based spread between the bun and other ingredients, one prevents the juices of said meat and/or watery vegetables from leaking into the bread and making it soggy. Which is why Bulldog NE covers the bottom of every one of their burgers in a flavorful aioli.

                Has anyone actually wondered why we like tomatoes and ketchup so much on our burgers and sammiches? Besides tasty factor, the answer is quite simple, that being the tomato’s high amount of Acid. This is always a key factor when creating balance in quality dishes, and in a burger’s case it helps cut through the fattiness of cheese and meat. Speaking of which, ignore all these people who say how much better “lean meat” is. May be healthier, but all the juiciness, all the real FLAVOR from steaks and burgers come from the Fat. So ignore the expensive 95% “lean meat” and go for the high-fat, high-awesome stuff; hell, I’ve heard of a chef who take 70/30 and adds in ground fatback.

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                Mustard also helps with this, considering all the vinegar used in its creation. Last on my burger, a nice piece of lettuce; not much to say other than it stays crisp, helps with moisture barriers, and all that. Just remember kiddies: grab your leaves of lettuce from the CENTER of the head/heart/leaf-bundle-thingy. The best, sweetest part of any greens is the one hidden away from that bright sun, where it’s developed all but none of that bitter chlorophyll (and it is bitter, taste a dark green leaf to an inner light-green from the same lettuce head). Though the bitterness can come in use with some dishes… but I like the sweeter center better.

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                Burgers have rested a couple minutes while I finish building my sammich, and I’m ready to chow down. I will say, it’s a good thing I cut this thing before I took a pic, cuz there was a LOT of gooey-juicy stuff inside; lost quite a bit on the cutting board. But the cheese was perfect, the yolk was still nice n runny… and look how photogenic it was!

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                I say was since it didn’t last long… that was quite the successful experiment. Could really tell that the burger and cheese tasted “richer” from that yolk-fat, which also really heightened the naughty messiness of a good Lucy eating. If I did this again, though, I would SO add me some bacon, then do this on an English Muffin for a Breakfast-Lucy. Just need to find a big enough muffin to hold it… or try and get some smaller yolks…

                As far as Street Food goes, this so does not fit the “holdability” factor at all. That said, I think it still has the spirit of a Food Truck item, even if one wouldn’t be caught in their right mind trying to produce it for a menu.

 

Where’s your favorite stuffed burger made?

SFC: Breakfast Time

              Well, it’s breakfast time for me, and we just happen to still have some fleishgnadle in the fridge. Oh, I still haven’t told you about fleishgnadle yet, have I? Well, I can’t give you the recipe (family secrets and all), but what I can say is that it’s basically a giant ball of ground sausage wrapped in potato dumpling; pure Austrian goodness.

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               It’s also known as the Best Breakfast Leftovers Ever!!!

               Whenever Dad makes this, we love eating it for dinner. But what we REALLY get excited for are the mornings after. In the past, this was even better scrambled with eggs than it was cooked fresh for dinner; but Dad’s been making some adjustments over the past couple years, so he’s gotten the recipe much closer to perfection.

               And breakfast is so simple. Chop the dumpling n sausage up, pop it into a hot, buttered sauté pan until it’s warmed through and a little crispy. After that, we simply beat some eggs with milk, add and scramble it up.

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               Now, I LOVE scrambled egg breakfasts. It’s one of the best way to use leftover veggies and meats; cook them in pan and add the egg however one wants, fried or scrambled. Scrambled is still my favorite though, and it’s not just childhood memories of avoiding yolks.

              I think a lot of people, in general, tend to disregard scrambled eggs nowadays, because it’s the “easy” cooking method. It’s what you do when your yolk breaks, either that or “over hard.” But from what I’ve come to find is that there’s a lot of mastery to scrambled eggs, a certain aspect to them that one can’t find in other methods of cooking: Variety.

               Other main methods tend to have a specific set of requirements to be what they are: Fried Eggs have “Over Easy, Medium, Hard;” there’s Sunny Side Up; Poached; Hard and Soft Boiled; and now “63 degree Eggs”. All of these have developed a set amount of cooking required to get the white and yolk to a particular completion; the only difference is if it’s just cooked a little more or less, and that’s usually accidental.

                  The beauty of scrambled eggs is how many different end products one can create. If you’re not quite sure if what I’m saying is bull, try it at home. Take two pans, heated to the same Low-Med temperature, and add a decent amount of eggs (no thin layer in the pan). To one, stir the eggs almost constantly; the other, cover with a pan and stir ever 1-2 minutes (the temperature should be low enough it takes 5+ minutes to cook). You’ll find the one stirred constantly, when finished, almost looks like a custardy, yellow cottage cheese, and tasty super creamy; while the one with little stir-age is firmer, a little fluffy. Both fantastic, delicious extremes of the same dish.

                And that’s just with the same temperature. Think of what one can get with hotter or lower heats, using different liquid additions (milk, cream, water, LEMON JUICE: adding noted acids can reduce the heat eggs need to scramble, making them cook quicker on lower temps), adding a Tb of water for steam, a thin layer of egg vs an inch of depth, etc. The possibilities number in the thousands, creating an almost infinite strata of possible outcomes. So many extremes, so many grey areas, so many ways to cook something seen purely as “simple” for years on end. This is one of the reasons why I love scrambled eggs so much.

                  Yet the best part? Everybody has their favorite.

                  As with my other Street Food Corner posts, my rambling is done and I can now finish my original thought. We usually tend to cook our eggs to the bigger, slightly-fluffier style, but that’s often due to the heat in the pan from cooking the sausage n dumplings; even stirring fast one doesn’t get the curd (unless doing a giant pot…).

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                Doesn’t it look good? Those thick dumplings just add that comforty heaviness that we love about family foods. The sausage in the pan is only ever rivaled by bacon for breakfast meat category, and the egg brings them all together in a rich, creamy way. Couldn’t you just see a Food Truck stuffing this into a hoagie bun with a little hot sauce (maybe sirachi)? Oooooh, or maybe wrapped in a burrito; a little bit of cheese, crème fraiche, and dill-lingonberry salsa for a Scandinavian Breakfast Burrito… think I know what I’m doing next time we have fleishgnadle.

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             For now, a little bit on an open-faced sammich did it for me. With all the sandwiches I eat for lunch, I like to just do them with one slice to help with the diet/portion control; think of all those extra slices of bread we eat each year.

            Besides, the filling is still the best part.

 

What’s your favorite Egg Dish? How do you like using Leftovers for Breakfast?

SFC: Something Sticky and Fried

            So, every year now, one of the main facets for celebrating my Sister’s birthday includes a dinner at our house with the menu of her choosing. Meat usually involves Crab, or a “Parent’s Special” like Lasagna or Fleishgnadle (see my next post); I’m usually tasked for the simple vegetable side. And every single time since I decided to make it 4 years ago, she has expected me to make Gelato. Most of the time, this is the simple Peanut Butter which I made originally (and, to my chagrin, decided to freeze with hard-to-get dry ice), with each year having to add yet another new component to it. This year, however, she decided to cut the Peanut Butter entirely for something inspired by our recent England Trip, of which she had found many new Obsessions. In particular, she wanted me to make “Sticky Toffee Pudding Gelato.”

                Luckily, she let me decide how exactly I worked gelato into something resembling this stark contrast, and of course had no problems if I wanted to cook other things to go with it… she’s such a good sister like that. So, I set the thought in the back of my mind, thinking of it every now and then as the months led up to March.

                Quite often, my many conceptions brought me to think about Potter’s Pasties desserts, as well as the roll of Food Truck Desserts in general. Most of the time in Minnesota, these items fit into a very specific strata of styles: Rice Krispies, Cookies, Cupcakes, Cookie-Ice Cream Sandwich, Mini-Donuts, etc. These are the handheld items, the make-ahead and wrap in 5 inches of plastic, the generic items… but at the same time these are the items that, when done right, tug at our nostalgic heartstrings, bring us joy in their simplicity. Like when one goes to a really special, “higher end” bakery (Angel Food in Minneapolis comes to mind) and get a double-chocolate sea salt cookie that’s made just right.

                We rarely see any of the more “composed” dessert styles out of these trucks, outside of maybe a Crepe stand. And why would we? So many of these trucks spend so much time and focus showcasing foods that are unique, different, representative of who they are; and when it comes to those people, “composed plate desserts” are rarely who they are. Not to mention all the stove and oven space being used for cooking the savory items, adding a dessert that’s not pre-made, or needs only half a minute to do, can be suicide. Especially if you don’t NEED to do it.

                Right now, the only trucks I’ve seen here really try and attempt this are Potter’s and Chef Shack; and even they don’t count. Chef Shack simply turns nostalgic pies, cookies, etc into a crush bowl of goodness, and I still haven’t heard of too much success on Potter’s Banoffee and Sticky Pudding (which are still pre-made, just topped to order).

                I’d love the chance to see a truck that finds a way to make a dessert that’s just… different, going a little more on the composing side yet it really feel like it came out of a true Food Truck. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Fran have a whole plethora of them; I think it’s about time we in the Twin Cities kick up our own movement of special Dessert Trucks to really match.

                Well, back to my original thought, Sticky Toffee Pudding Gelato…

                I originally thought I’d convert a Burnt Caramel Gelato recipe I had and just do it with Toffee, but I found another idea I liked better. For those who don’t know, one of the main things that makes Sticky Toffee Pudding unique is the use of Dates in the dough. I myself LOVE dates (fighting urge to make really bad pun joke…. fiigghtttiiiiinngggg…..), so I figured I’d use them as my base. Then I found a really good recipe for a Date-Rum Ice Cream, see here:

http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2011/06/17/date-rum-pecan-ice-cream-recipe/

                Now, before you say anything about the “this is Ice Cream, not Gelato” thing, I’ll just stop you right there. From my experience, the official qualifications of what makes “Gelato” are constantly changing depending on who’s saying it. Some say it’s ingredients, some say serving temp, not using eggs, or any other reasons, separate or together. I myself used egg yolks and milk in my hand-done recipes quite often. So I’ve just decided it’s a matter of opinion and left it at that.

                Next, the Sticky Toffee. If I’m going to do this dessert right, I have to make the actual pudding to serve with the ice cream. The problem I’ve found, though, with this and so many other Internationally-Famous recipes, is how difficult it can be to find one that’s actually made, and tastes, authentic. Luckily I found this one that talks about, and uses, that oh-so-ubiquitous English Sweet, “Golden Syrup.” This be the recipe I used (well, mainly… love making my own little tweaks):

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/12/warm-sticky-toffee-pudding/

                The toffee alone in this recipe is sooo good; great caramel substitute. And the writer understands that sometimes substitutions need to be made (though, I was luckily able to find my Golden Syrup at a local Byerlies).

                After making, and leaving in the fridge overnight to cool and COMPRESS, I chopped some of it up and mixed it into the Gelato at the end of its Churning Period. Now comes the part where I make this “special.”

                The one thing I immediately wanted to do is bread a couple sides of the Pudding slices and fry nice n crispy in a pan. While I was shopping, I happened to see this box of the old cake donuts (you know, the ones with all those ridges). So I bought it, broke a few pieces up and let it sit overnight to stale (Don’t make fine breadcrumbs out of fresh ingredients, they’re too moist and soft to get that texture you want. There are always special situations, of course, but that’s another post), and ground the next day.

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                Chopped my pudding into 6 large blocks, then dredged completely in my special Donut Crumb mixture. The great thing is, this can be done ahead of time and left in the fridge for most of the day, so no worrying about time constraints.

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                All that was left was heating a pan, adding butter and frying the Puddings. If doing at home, two things one needs to take into consideration: Low-Medium heat or Thinner Slices; it was hard to heat these fellas through. Secondly, flip often after the first side, the rest will sear a decent amount faster. But it gets this nice, hard, crispy crust (aided by the toffee which leaked out and caramelized with the crumbs).

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                As for serving, I ended up making a caramelized apple-date-banana compote with rum for the bottom, soaked some fresh diced apples in a limoncello-syrup I still had in the fridge, and of course got more of that Toffee on the plate. You’ll notice I didn’t take any pics with the actual Gelato… let’s just say I made some modifications to it that didn’t work all that well in the Ice Cream Machine. We were still able to eat it, and it was very good, just not “camera-ready.”

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                Now, in looping back to my earlier comments, am I saying I think this is a dish that would work in a Food Truck? Heck no, I made this for home and that’s where it stays. But the Pudding by itself, fried in a pan… something about it just gives me that feeling of potential, that feeling that if worked right, it could fit somewhere on its own. It’s that special little twist on a nostalgic base, that if worked right could fit in among the greats. Maybe cut into smaller cubes and served in a bag, or put on a stick, covered in batter, and deep-fried… that’d be a fun thing to try.

              Either way, we all ended up happy and full that night, just like the many years before.

 

What’s your most memorable dessert? What kinds pull at your heartstrings?

SFC: My Italian Sandwich

              The Grilled Cheese has seemed to become one of the most ubiquitous and popular items on Food Truck menus. Home Street Home, Fork in the Road, and R.A. Mac Sammy’s all seem to have their own special version lauded by the many customers. It’s certainly no wonder, though; it’s crispy, buttery, nostalgic, a gooey-melty pile, yet despite all that cheese it is somehow the easiest sandwich to eat with your hands ever. I’ve been waiting to try my own special version lately, and got my chance this afternoon.

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            We just recently bought this loaf of “Honey-Sunflower Seed Italian Bread,” of which we still had half leftover from the Spaghetti Dinner last night. Soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to make some really good sammich from it (I know that’s not grammatically correct, and I don’t care, I want sammich). The question is, what to fill it with?

            The answer: Fried Spaghetti.

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            For those of you who don’t know what Fried Spaghetti is, time to celebrate; this is by far the best way I’ve found to use any leftover spaghetti noodles and sauce. Extremely simple too: take some butter, melt it in a warmed-up sauté pan, and then just toss in the leftover spaghetti (mine had pieces of sausage and veggies in too, so it was even better). Toss around, and just cook until it’s warm again and all that extra buttery goodness makes your spaghetti shine. The end product is just soooo good and bad for you, you can really taste the butter in the now-oily/concentrated tomato sauce. Seriously have to give it a try next time you have spaghetti.

            Well, back to my lunch; we take the sliced bread, butter the sides like we usually do. For cheese I used Swiss, since I didn’t have Mozzarella (until of course someone got back from the store an hour later with a whole log of it… of course), but I actually found that unique tanginess went pretty well with the buttery-cooked tomato pasta.

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            Top with the recently-fried spaghetti, a sprinkle of parm and another cheese slice on top, then move back to your just-used spaghetti pan to griddle. No need to waste all of that spaghetti-enriched butter still coating the bottom.

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            I always find it amusing how, whenever you start these sort of sandwiches they’re all tall and wobbly, yet somehow by the end they get pressed flat and succinct (with the help of your handy-dandy spatula of course). At the end, it cut nicely, and ate even better; all that good grilled swiss flavor on a slightly different wheaty bread, with that extra addition of sausages and Italian stuffing. Gotta admit, it was quite the Grilled Cheese, I hope you have the chance to try it yourself sometime.

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            Until then, I’ll have to figure something else out to do with lefotvers.

 

What’s your favorite Grilled Cheese Fillings? Do you have any restaurant/truck that you just like the best for it?