To Elevate the Simple

(Alright, THIS is my last post before I leave, I swear!)

            When we take a look at some of the most iconic, some of our favorite items offered out of the various Food Trucks throughout the country, we tend to see a hodge-podge of different approaches taken to elevate the food to such heights. Some keep purely traditional to their style, just doing it fantastically. Others look to fuse and twist, add a little extra something, while others purely take certain dishes and channel it to the Street styles. They work hard, do a lot, and come out with a fantastic product.

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            Of these different approaches, there is one more that has recently been standing out to me, and which I think many may not be giving the credit it’s due. That is, leaving something as it is, but in its best version (yes, I will explain what I mean here). Taking a very simple, very staple menu item, not changing it in any sense, and making sure each element is of heightened quality. This particular style has been seen in a few of my recent burger reviews, such as Melch’s extremely simplified burger, elevated purely by the quality of the meat and the fantastic pretzel bun. If anything, though, my last post on AZCanteen’s burger offers an almost perfect example.

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            The use of goat may be debatable, but it has no differing in burger flavors and formula in any sense besides that. Onions and Tomatoes are just roasted, the bun is Brioche, and the handmade Pickles are still of the traditional variety. Already this combination is fantastic, yet somehow this strategy, this ideal, of sticking to the true nature of the dish itself with only changes of quality, is somehow able to increase the quality of it all in an exponential way, creating an eating experience at the same level, if not even higher, than some of the other previously mentioned.

            Though I didn’t really start thinking about this until dinner last night. We decided to do a good ol-fashioned Chili Dog meal, as we already had a can of Hornel in the pantry, and it was my job to grab the dogs and buns.

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            Yeah, not homemade or anything, but it’s still chili. As this was one of our last meals before vacation leave, however, I wanted to make it a little special, so my eyes were peeled in the store.

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            My first find was a Jalapeno-Cheddar stuffed bratwurst. Grilled up, it offered a simple, juicy brat with flavors to match the traditional chili.

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            And what is a chili dog without its bun? What did I happen to find but a small 4-pack (exactly what I needed) of Pretzel Roll Buns. Sliced and toasted, these offered a fantastic way to eat these awesome dogs, while still keeping in the whole “bar food” feeling.

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            Didn’t have everything I’d need to TRULY elevate these (would love queso fresco on top, then make my own beer chili) in the same style as AZ, but it turned out tasty, and we both ended up very satisfied at the end.

            So next time you’re on the street, or at the store, and you wanna try a new version of a particular craving (burgers, dogs, taco, etc), maybe edge away from something “different,” and think about finding a way to make it as-is, just better.

            And yes, this shall be the last strange and oddly-worded post that you’ll have to read through for at least 12 days

BBB: “Burger Before Break”

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             With my leave for a 10-day vacation looming, I’m a bit determined to get at least one more Truck experience done before Thursday. Though as we can see, Minnesota’s trying to take us on a mass-delorian trip back to December, which isn’t really helping any of our Trucks get outside. The whole “Food Truck Day” I had planned with my cousin for yesterday became cancelled, leaving me to re-think my strategy.

            Luckily for me, I didn’t need to re-think too much, my daily plans leading me to downtown Minneapolis and straight towards AZCanteen. Finally returned after a long winter in Florida and other states, AZ has been making up the time lost, parking in all sorts of weather conditions despite any obviously-lacking crowds. It was a particular fun stop in the day for me, one for meeting up with an old classmate who happens to work in the Truck now, but secondly because I finally had the chance to get the Cabrito Burger.

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            Just a reminder, I definitely suggest one’s first try of the Burger be from the Truck as opposed to the Stadium. Not only does one get the “Truck Experience,” the line probably won’t be as long, and it costs $4 less than their $13 charge at a Twins game.

            Overall an interesting little experience; good chance I shall be adjusting some of the scores on my review. The wait was pretty long for the burger vs my other orders at the previous excursion; not that I had anywhere to go, and it was nice to see them take their time, shift the burger around, really cook it RIGHT. It’s quite a thing to see, watching the cook turn it ever-so slightly, nudge here and there for heat distribution, all while your little pile of onions and tomatoes just sit caramelizing on the griddle.

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            They finish the burger with an herb butter, let it melt on the grill, and finally move your perfect little bundle of ground goat and lamb(?) to the griddle-toasted brioche bun. No cheese required, the only toppings one gets being the stained-glass pile of grilled onions and roasted tomato. A little cup of their handmade pickles, to add with your own preference (aka, pile all of it on your burger cuz they’re delicious and awesome), and the plate is finished. Have you ever had those thoughts of making a gourmet burger and wondering what it would look like? Well, here you go:

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            Now that’s just plain picturesque. Just burger, bun, tomato, onion, and pickles, all kicked up to their most simple deliciousness. And for those who always like having a bit of spicy with their food, jalapeno and ancho chile hot sauces stand guard to the side (I tried a bit of the ancho on half of mine)… need a lot though if you wanna taste it, I didn’t get too much of mine.

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            As for the taste, what else is there to say? It’s all highly flavorful, the condiments are just plain IDEAL, and the bun is crispy. Well, crispy at first; it has a LOT of juices it needs to handle, and even this crispy bun can only hold out for so long. But hey, crispiness is ideal, but if it’s lost texture simply from all the flavor and juices it soaks up, I guess we don’t mind suffering.

            The one thing of note I have, though the burger is flavorful and nice, it really does NEED all the condiments and herb-butter. On its own, the meat is sort of dry, which is to be expected as ground goat is one which sometimes needs COMPLETE cooking through; and well-done or medium-well it was, which explains the wait. Again though, as an entire package it’s all pretty damn good. Think it’s a fun little comparison to Melch’s, whose excellence is purely based on the burger patty, as opposed to AZ’s elevation in condiments (their Buns are tied… I knew a girl who liked that once actually).

            For one little visit, it was a pretty fun experience, and now I NO LONGER need to go to AZ again! (…. that’s not to say I won’t… just ask Vellee) I think I can safely head out on my little vacation without regrets now.

            Let’s hope Minnesota finally gets over its little temper tantrum and accepts the fact we’re done with winter when I get back. I’ve still got Trucks to review, and I will be looking forward to getting those done for people as soon as I get back!

SFC: Mexican Joe

           Been a while since I’ve done one of my cooking posts, even my last one 8 days ago was only two paragraphs.

            Well, had a nice night in yesterday, and with my cousin coming over for another one of our special anime-movie binges it was up to me for dinner. Since I still had almost a whole pack of hamburger buns leftover, but no hamburger patties, that little craving for Sloppy Joe’s decided to crawl up. Luckily I was going to the store anyways, so I could get whatever I still needed.

            You know me, I rarely like doing things normally (at least not for this blog), so I was thinking of how to change my Joe up (funny thing is, I didn’t even think about doing a post about it until after starting cooking; really shows how long it’s been right?), and dropped by that fantastic, super fresh, plastic-wrapped variety meat isle for my beef. In my search, I found a little tube of chorizo which, to my surprise, actually cost less than ground beef. Now, that’s probably a noted indication of the actual quality, but as I was penny pinching a bit, really wanted it, and didn’t have the time to make my chorizo, a plastic tube it is.

            Ultimately, I always suggest, as with any quality product, that one either make their own or ensure they buy a decent-enough version from a good store. To that end I found a post online which details the steps to the home chorizo process pretty well; would love to go through it myself, but as I didn’t actually do it I don’t have any pictures to back it up.

             http://userealbutter.com/2012/07/25/mexican-chorizo-recipe/

            One thing I’d like to add; make sure you wait at least a day before using your chorizo, that way you let the meat “cure” a little bit in the salt/spice mix, as well as allowing the flavors time to blend and settle.

            Now, back to my Joe. Start off with my onion, which I chop large a-la Rick Bayless when he makes his chorizo-onion taco filling. Add to a HOT pan (don’t forget that butter!) – these we are not caramelizing, nor are we sweating; the plan is to get them cooked but keep a little more of that nice little bit of onion texture in the final product.

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            (Excuse the foggy picture, lotta steam in the room, haha) Chorizo is added, in my case squeezed out like a spicy, meaty toothpaste. Sorta creeped me out a bit, but I was prepared for weird-textured chorizo, so long as it cooked up to a tasty final.

            Didn’t want to do just a chorizo, so I grabbed a bag of diced, cubed chicken meat. If you’ve seen these things, in the same isle as the packaged and canned tuna, you open it up and it smells like cat food. This isn’t of course the chicken, but the weird liquid they decide to “preserve” it with. Definitely don’t use it if you have a choice, cook your own or get a better quality. But the parents like keeping it around to put on top of nachos, so I took advantage. Poured it in a strainer and washed thoroughly, the resulting is very plain diced of dried chicken, which I then chopped to a nice shred.

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            Add this to the chorizo, which is now fried completely. At this point, one could easily stop and use this to fill whatever tortilla one has lying around for a nice lunch. However, we’re going for Joes, so more steps it is!

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            I also had a really nice can of diced tomatoes and green chilies, so that went in as my sauce base. For some reason we didn’t have any of those “tomato sauce” cans (surprised me), and I needed more liquid to better allow things to “stew.” Quick fix; put some water in the empty can, swirl to get any leftover bits of tomato, and add. Gonna reduce almost all of it anyway. In the ideal world, would either puree a nice can of whole, peeled tomatoes, maybe add a bit of flavorful stock/broth and some Spanish wine to deglaze the pan.

            I wanna take a little break right now and talk about canned tomatoes. Some people reading at the moment may still be at the point of wondering “why would you choose canned tomatoes, shouldn’t you be suggesting we use fresh?” (For those who aren’t, just skip this, save the 10 seconds and do something fun!) And to a point the question is true; who wouldn’t want to use the freshest, richest flavored tomato that one can get?

            The thing is, we can’t get that tomato (at least not easily). Most store tomatoes, though good, aren’t at this heightened level of freshness and quality, especially since they’re gotten out of season. Canning, in opposition, gets a very bad rap as low-quality produce, which is only exacerbated by those bowls of horrible del monte green beans, peas, and beets we were forced to eat as children. True canning, though, was ultimately developed as a technique for preservation, and when it comes to tomatoes this aspect shines. Real canned tomatoes hold a lot of quality in them; they’re peeled/diced/crushed (depending on style) soon after being picked, and canned immediately. Like this, they still hold almost all of their flavors, while at the same time creating this flavorful little tomato-liquid we can use in our cookings. This as opposed to a stem of out-of-season picked tomatoes that have been sitting in a box for who knows how long.

            If one looks, one can find even higher quality, organically made canned tomatoes. So unless one has their own garden of this little vegetable-turned-fruit, and doesn’t need it in a purely raw sense, don’t be remiss to take a pause in the tomato section of the canned veggies.

            Alright, that’s another ramble done, I still need to finish this sandwich. Remember, even if one has a quality-made chorizo, and especially if they don’t, taste the Joe after it’s been stewing for a bit. I’m glad I did, as I found the spices quite lacking where I wanted them to be, so a quick trip to the spice pantry and I fixed that up nicely. Not to mention one always need to adjust their basic Salt-Pepper seasonings.

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            Tomatoes and onions are soft, everything is blended to that fine “Sloppy Joe smudge,” and the liquid is reduced enough, dinner was finally ready. As with all Joe’s, we don’t bother with toasting the bun, as the true height of the Joe is that LACK of textural components. We savor in the uniform softness, taking our joy in how the simple white bread soaks up the flavorful meat-sauce.

            Top it with shredded cheese (Mexican Mix, of course), and we now have our “Mexican Sloppy Joe w/ Chorizo and Chicken.” I think it turned out good overall, very tasty final product. If I were to think of the “ideal” method for making this again, though, think I’d stick with pure Beef Chorizo and onions, and for the sauce use a really good, spicy Red Mole, some Queso Fresco for the cheese. That would just be awesome I think.

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            Though it’s not a true Mexican meal without some Mexican, Glass-bottled, pure-sugar Coke. A side of tortilla chips to pick up all the Joe that fell out.

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            And for later on in the night, to better celebrate the warmth after the December-reminiscent snowfall, a bit of Mexican Hot Coco. Not sure how proud Rick Bayless would be at the night, but I think he’d at least appreciate the effort.

Best Ofs and Blowouts

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http://www.citypages.com/bestof/2013/section/food-and-drink-24/

            It’s been quite the wait for our local businesses, but our very own City Pages Magazine just released its “Best Of” listings yesterday for this year. Among the categories, a notable selection in the Food and Drink section is sure to appease many, especially us Food Truck Foodies. Giving quite the strong showing, 5 separate Food Trucks earned a spot in the listings, as well as an interesting little category relating to them (will detail in a bit).

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            With little surprise, Chef Shack came out on top of quite the random category, “Best Restaurant Worth the Drive.” Not just alluding to the oh-so-familiar feeling us Foodies share in tracking Trucks to all their interesting destinations, Chef Shack takes the distance factor up a notch with their recent weekend-open Shop opening in Bay City, Wisconsin (I was wondering what all the recent facebook posts about Bay City were about… thought they just changed locations). Quite the accomplishment for being open for so short a time (I wouldn’t expect any less from our cities’ Food Trucks, especially Chef Shack).

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            Speaking of Truck-turned-Restaurant, Foxy Falafel grabbed best in “To-Go.” As any truck should, Foxy successfully translates the “grab-and-go” aspect of the street to their new digs. Along with their Falafels, to quote the article, “The cold case is also stuffed with snack packs.”

            A particularly fun surprise, keeping the roll of Truck-staurants (phrase patent-pending… excuse the alliteration) going, the selection for “Best Sushi” went to Minneapolis’ very own Sushi Fix. I’ll admit, they’re not my first thought, but I haven’t actually had their full gambit of rolls and nigiri, reviews of which have been wholly positive. And considering the training and history of the main sushi chefs behind the concept, certain levels of success are to be expected.

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              Outside the award, there was something interesting which caught my eye as I read Page’s little “posting” of Fix’s greatness. In my opinions, I cannot help but bring my point-of-view on the specific comment.

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                “Edo-style sushi was served on the streets to the busy city dwellers known for having little patience. Not only is this a perfect business model for a food truck.” Though I certainly agree on the historical notes of Sushi as it relates to Street Food, as well as the commonality between some of the greatest Truck foods and their relation to history. But that doesn’t automatically equate all street foods to food trucks. This is especially true with sushi; not to say that Sushi Fix hasn’t made a great truck out of it, however I don’t think I’d ever equate the general idea of sushi to a “Perfect Model” for a Truck. If you’ve read my review on them, you know why.

              And here is where we start our impasse within this little “Best Of” featurette. For where there are salutations, disappointments are bound to follow, and City Pages just happened to make two very odd, very noticeable disappointments.

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              The first comes in the opposite trend of the previous three, awarding “Best Fries” to the restaurant-turned-truck Anchor Fish and Chips. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to let out a disheartened sigh upon reading this, with quite a few other restaurants and trucks pulling to get to the top of this list. Truthfully, I didn’t even know this one was in the running; maybe they knew the days Page’s guys were dining there, cuz I’m not sure I’ve gotten THAT fry yet (and I’ve been there TWICE). They do make one good point about the fries, though: “If you are looking just for flavor, it is hard to beat the “chips” at the Anchor.”

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              Very wise and accurate words; the one aspect Anchor’s fries has always had was the flavor from the oil (and savory brown potatoes). Now, if you’re looking for any aspects that actually make a good fry/chip, such as uniform/consistent quality and actual texture, then please, please run in the opposite direction.

              Another decision I just can’t help but question comes, sadly, into the actual category of “Best Food Truck.” For some reason, and I don’t quite know why, out of all the Trucks which run our street, they gave the award to Dandelion Kitchen. Actually, hold that, I do know why; heck, they basically come out and say it themselves.

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              “The choice of which truck to visit becomes more harrowing. We get but one lunch break a day! We can’t squander that precious time away from our desks eating subpar food.” Or, to put it simply, the reviewers work in Minneapolis and Dandelion is the closest lunch location, and one of the few consistently-located Trucks, with decent food. Though I think it’s funny they make mention of “precious time” in relation with Dandelion, especially considering the long, slow line I often see during their regular season.

              Certainly I’m not trying to knock Dandelion; as I’ve mentioned a few times in my review on them, they have some really good products, and do some fun home-made sodas. But in the selection of 60+ Trucks our city has generated, many of which have already lauded themselves up to quite epic proportions (and counting at least 6 so far successful enough to open a restaurant), can one truly claim for Dandelion to be THE best? Or is this a decision born from a simple sense of Favoritism formed from multiple visits and the ignorance of our many other hard-working businesses?

            Now I don’t want to end this post on such an objectable note, and there just happens to be one more interesting happening within the listings. I’ve already made a few mentions of some trucks which have opened up shop, and just recently made a visit to one of them. Seems me and the rest of the local foodies aren’t the only ones to take notice, as City Pages awarded the “Best Restaurant Trend” to, as they put it (-clears throat, reading-): “Food trucks go brick-and-mortar.”

           That’s right, the explosion has gone past the insiders and out to the public eye to be an official Trend. I was very excited to see the level of attention, praise, and respect this symbolized. It really shows how many people recognize the importance these Trucks are to our growing culinary culture. Once again, I’m very proud of where they’ve gotten to within these short 4 years. Whether the decisions are debatable or widely accepted, earning these 5 spots within the list is quite the feat; and that’s just this one.

             Can’t wait to see next year’s decisions, all I have to do now is survive the second winter of the year…

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Potter’s Restaurant 2: First Visit

                While spending the day with my cousin, we both got the delightful opportunity to spend our lunch at the newly opened Potter’s Pastiesrestaurant.” It’s rare I get the chance to actually go down to eat at sit-down locations (at least compared to my various Food Truck ramblings of course), so I was very excited to hit it within three days of the opening.

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                Located in Dinkytown near the intersection of 19th and Como (for those like me who don’t actually frequent that location… memorize the directions. I won’t go into detail about our travel there… it’s too shameful), Potter’s has taken its residence underneath a local convenience store and deli.

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                The entrance, as the sign says, is in the back. We didn’t actually notice this at first, so we spent about 5 minutes trying to figure out how to get Potter’s from inside the store… don’t judge us, it was an off day.

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                Yeah, not exactly hard to miss the entrance once you get back there… Potter’s is sticking to their flamboyant British self. Oh yes, and that’s my cousin… now that I think about it, he sticks his tongue out on almost all the pictures he poses for me.

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                Once in, one heads down a simple staircase, the walls decorated in Potter’s trademark colors and London fare. Now do what the sign says and carry on…

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                … all the way down to the bottom, where one gets to Potter’s window of excellence. Now, as you saw, they don’t exactly qualify as a restaurant (thus the quotations); they’re a hole, a corner, a little booth in a dark corner (there’s probably a proper term, but I forget it). And you know what? They’re absolutely awesome!

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                The giant black wall in the back is covered in their menu listings (though for a more mobile way to read, they have some small laminated offerings). Besides the truck regulars, this includes an option for smaller pasties, Pork Pies (held in the Mini-fridge alongside drinks and Yesterday’s Pasties, only $4), and a “Couch Change Pastie” for the monetary challenged. Supposedly this uses puff pastry instead of their regular dough, and is of course smaller.

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                After reviewing the menu with the bandana-covered employee, who graciously pointed out a few features of their awesome kitchen (not to mention stopping for a pose), we made our decisions and got our food, which took about as long as it does in the Truck (in that wait is… well, there is none).

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                Had to of course stop for napkins and forks before heading up, taking the time to admire Potter’s Rack of Condiments, Heinz Beans, British Candy Bars, and their own Pickle mix, the latter 3 all available for purchase. As for seating, though they currently have none, plans are in the work to bring in tables outside once the weather warms up. For the moment, we took residence in the convenience store (along with a glass bottle each of pure sugar Sprite and Fanta… now that’s quality) and chowed down.

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                Of course we normally wouldn’t need to sit, but I wanted to try their Pork Pie. Traditional British pastry, the meaty and fatty ground pork is covered in a thick layer of natural gelatin, wrapped in a specially-made pie crust. I was surprised to find they didn’t use the same dough as for their pasties… though I’m not sure if I like it or not. On the one hand, I love the special attention to the pie, but on the other I sorta miss the feeling of using one awesome crust for multiple endeavors. As for the pie as a whole… they say it’s best eaten cold (natural, most traditional English Meat Pies are), but it’s just meh. I seriously suggest taking it home and heating it (in the OVEN, no micro); like that, it’s absolutely fantastic with the rich, meaty gelatin-sauce, toasted crust, and hot pork meat.

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                 Had to get a Pastie, and for the special today they had a coffee-rubbed Pork with Goat Cheese and Cherry Compote. Again, no reason to go into details, cuz it was just as delicious as always.

                Overall, let me just say this. If this place does not become consistently packed with customers after a few months, I will be shocked. This is the kind of unique, special little holes in the wall that any Foodie just goes insane for. There’s an air, a mystery to it, you have to go through a little journey to get there, and at the end you’re just face-to-face with a hole in a wall that dishes out deliciously hot, edible hand-warmers. Ultimately very reminiscent to the same reasons which Marvel Bar has received its own cult following. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t be surprised if this got featured on a Travel Channel or Food Network in the coming years (in fact, if it didn’t, I would be downright pissed).

                Potter’s Pasties has created the perfect little outlet for their non-mobile (besides delivery) Food Service, and go through it without losing any hint of the experience one gets at the Truck; if anything, they’ve added more to and enhanced it. I am so happy for their success in this venture, and wish them all the best luck in the future. Can’t wait to visit sometime soon when I’m in the area.

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                On a side note, I would like to make mention of the convenience store they share the building with. It’s a pretty cool little store, and they have some nice items. Like a mentioned, they actually offer the Mexican, all-sugar sodas (Coke too), and on the way out me and the cousin spotted my favorite Italian ice cream, Talenti. Didn’t get a full review, but I’m sure one can find some more interesting items, as well as a Deli counter that I’m sure is anything but low quality.

SFC: Playing with your Food

We had some ravioli for dinner a couple nights ago, which lead as it usually does to leftover ravioli. It was the kind that looked like a mini flying saucer, or possible a fried egg turned into pasta; wide, very flat, tempting you to fling it like a frisbee if it weren’t for the messy sauce still on it.
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Since then, I’ve been doing a bit of subconcious brainstorming, seeing if there was a way to turn leftover ravioli into an interesting Street Food item. Obviously, this isn’t something that could be easily approached with the smaller, compact, higher quality ravioli (besides skewering and deep-frying), but a wider, pasta-focused style could lead to something interesting. In particular, the shape almost reminded me of those japanese sticky-steam buns. You know, the ones they put pieces of pork belly and other goodness in for a little sammich.
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So I tried it myself. The filling for this ravioli was shrimp and seafood, so I kept it simple; shredded some celery and put in a few slivers of date (it worked surprisingly well with the other flavors). Now, since our leftovers already had sauce on it, it was a bit sticky… but if you left it dry and separated when putting away (remember, do not let un-dress cooked pasta store together, the starch on the sourface makes them stick together). At the end maybe get a very similar holding texture to those sticky buns along with a little package of flavor. Could even steam them to re-heat.

What do you think? Any other fun ravioli or pasta leftover ideas pop up?

Look what I Found!!

fulton beer fest

Quick post before I head to bed. Just happened to spot this little flier on AZCanteen’s Facebook page, and I am officially intrigued. Far as I can tell, Fulton is now introducing a whole new monthly event into our Food Truck City culture, and the very first gathering is this Saturday. As this information is hot-off-the-press new, there is very little to no data around the net for me to pull from. Thus, I don’t know if the Trucks for this event will always be the same or shift month to month (though good chance it’s the latter).

Our first group, as the flyer dictates, shall thus be the recently-returned AZCanteen, 1-year veteran Midnord Empanada, and the new kid on the block Cafe Racer. The actual gatherings will be taking place DURING the Twins Game, so Fest-goers be wary of parking and traffic (not to mention the crowds this is likely to pull).

I’ll have to consider schedule and weather myself for going, but don’t let my absence or fear of mobs stop you (there are much more rational, sober reasons for that!)

Good luck and good eating.

Melch’s Meat Wagon

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http://melchsmeatwagon.com/

https://twitter.com/MelchsMeatWagon

Main Location: Minneapolis

             New to the scene, Melch’s Meat Wagon is already making an impact with its Big Bull of a Food Truck, standing massively next to most any truck it’s parked by. Brown, rough, with a giant red steer decorating its side, Melch’s firmly identifies itself in the eyes of us seekers of the bloody, of the fatty, of the MEAT.

            True to their name, burgers is their game (well that and a fried pork and chicken sandwich). Toppings are pretty simple, they also offer a vegetarian black bean, but more importantly any burger can be either single or double. The true claim to fame, however, is the “Melch Me:” an artery-clogging, heart-stopping stack of a burger, chicken breast, two slices of cheese, and bacon, all held together in a toasted pretzel bun (as are their other burgers).  THAT is what I got on my first stop.

            In an interesting turn of events, it seems I wasn’t the only person reviewing Melch’s on the day in question. Right after ordering my burger, I see someone in a checkered cap pop out of their front door, waving a camera and telling me that my burger’s going to be the star of its own photo shoot. After watching him talk to the truck owner about where to take it, getting a base and napkin, etc, I finally had the chance to ask if he was with the truck or not.

To my delight, it seems Thrillist was doing their little post on it as well (it’s fun, see it Here), and we both got the chance to share a nice little talk about food trucks and the different sites devoted to them. Listings, mixed review, or the full focused blogs such as this own, it was fun to discuss the various benefits of each. He also mentioned the Owner’s plans on introducing the idea of “interesting meat items;” think game, but I have nothing to prove that. Either way, I’m already excited at the thought, and I’ll be sure to head straight back soon as they start.

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Now, the real fun in the day came in being able to take a picture of the guy taking a picture of my burger! Look at him ANGLE that shot!

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Yeah, that burger’s posing nice and sexy, that pretzel bun barely covers its skin. So indecent how it shows him its bacon too…

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Overall, as you see they were able to get it into a nice, perfect little stack. As we joked, “It’s like a McDonalds commercial… only real.” Shared a laugh, I took my burger, transferred it back to the to-go box…

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And immediately ruined the perfectness. Oh well, doesn’t diminish the taste.

 

Food: 9

              Let me tell you how good this burger is; by now, I had already eaten all of my House of Hunger dog (the monster that it is), and I had PLANNED on only eating part of the burger for now. Despite my obvious love for all that’s delicious and drags me closer to the verge of a heart-attack, I am currently watching my weight. Problem is, the burger wouldn’t let me… it was gone in under 10 minutes.

            Aside from the burger itself, which I think is already at the point of rivaling Neato’s for best Burger Truck (I really need to go back soon to make the final confirmation), this single item is filled with everything it should be. The chicken is juicy and cooked well, pretzel bun is toasted fantastically and brings an extra flavor along with its firm base, and that bacon… it ain’t the thin kind. Taking a look at it, one may be dubious of the boring American cheese, but when used with the right foods one can see why they’ve become so popular in our culture.

            And the burger itself… cooked to medium-well, it still retains that nice burger juiciness. It has to be their own grind, or at the very least a mixing of good-quality, high-fat beef. It just has this little note, little angle in its flavor that reminds me of R Burger Bar, which, before sadly closing, was home to the best burger that I have eaten to this day (I still think of how heavenly my first bite there was). The fact that there’s even a slight reminiscence of this special note earns them huge a lot of respect in my book.

            As for fries and rings, though I haven’t ordered, from what I’ve seen in pictures and other plates, not to mention how well they must fry their pork and chicken, it’d be strange to consider them low or even average in quality.

Holdability: 6.5

            Juicy and served in a big to-go container, this is certainly a sit-down burger. Ultimate experience depends on the items; fried chicken and pork are likely to be much easier to eat and walk, but the Melch Me and Self-Centered (stuffed) would err on the other side.

Price: 8.5

 Prices range $6-8, with $9 for the awesome Melch Me, and one can pay only 2 extra dollars to make these burgers a double (they aren’t thin burgers, so it’s quite the little deal). Overall, the only price points which I dislike are the $3 and $4 for the fries and onion rings.

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Speed: 7

 It can take a bit to get the burgers made, but that’s just going through the proper cooking of an awesome product (doing the pressings, bit of basteing, steam, etc). Definitely worth the extra minute.

The TOE: 8

             Having only started recently, Melch’s has already started paving its own path among our horde of Trucks, building a sense of self and reputation with their little bundles of meaty goodness. They’ve really communicated that specialization on the burger front, and I expect their future to be filled with hordes of loving fans. Ultimately, their pure identity isn’t quite there yet, but I think they’ll be pretty close once they get those game and alternative meat items going. I am very much looking forward to when they do, and will certainly be there to prove witness to their ongoing evolution.

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                        Tally: 39/50

                        (So here’s a fun little piece of info; I just realized that Melch’s currently has the exact same score as their burger rival Neato’s. Further proof that these two are neck in neck in the goal of best Burger Truck)

Final Thoughts

            A must try, definitely one to go for if you have the chance to sit down after ordering, or if you’re just in a Burger mood. Of the selection, they’re all good, but I would go for the Cowboy or Self-Centered as your first item; the Cowboy itself is topped with Onion Rings, so it’s a good way to try them without having to order a side. If you don’t mind spending the extra couple bucks, though, definitely shoot for the Melch Me; combo of Burger and Chicken is always a fun, tasty experience. Same said for getting side of fries and rings; price is not one I would do immediately, but if you have the extra it’s a definite.

            If you absolutely have get something to eat here but still need to walk, the Fried Pork and Chicken Parm are your end-game.

House of Hunger

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http://www.houseofhunger.com/

https://www.facebook.com/houseofhunger

Main Location: Minneapolis

             Originally “Twisted Sister” House of Hunger, a recent lawsuit by an 80’s rock band of the same name has forced them to drop the name.

            A whiteboard menu on the side of their ubiquitous steel-plated (least in color) truck, Hunger focuses their menu on common Street Food items. Options include Phillies, BBQ Chicken/Pork sandwiches, Hot Dogs, and a few Tacos, all with various topping combinations. Of note is their Polygamy Sauce, a spicy basting of Sirachi Mayonnaise flavored with garlic and other basic seasonings, found on many of their more popular items.

            I actually had the luck to visit them in their very first week of opening, when they were doing a free order of fries with sandwich purchases. Starting the blog, I made the hard choice to wait and visit again before writing a review, with such a drastic change of menu design since then. Did you know they used to have desserts? Don’t think they made it themselves, but they were fun options (like those cheesecake pops), and I’m still a bit sad I don’t have the chance to try them.

            Overall, my visit came on a lucky day. Of the three Trucks on Marquette Monday, two just happened to be ones I needed to taste. (I’ll be posting my review of Melch’s Meat Wagon within the next two days)

 

Food: 7.5

             With the varying options, it’s hard to tell if Hunger has a specialty, but if one was forced to lay claim it would have to be the Hot Dogs. You only get one, but these are BIG Dogs, Deep-Fried and served in the kind of bun one would normally attribute to a grinder. On my second visit, I ended up with the “Dirty D,” one of these sinful dogs topped with a giant pile of steak and pulled pork, two types of cheese, grilled onions, and slathered in their spicy Polygamy Sauce (figured it was a good item to get a better overall sense of them).

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            Pork and steak tasted good, the Polygamy’s very reminiscent of a quality Buffalo Wing hot sauce, though not too much more than that. Very good all-beef hot dog, stood up to the other flavors well enough, but if I were to say one thing about the dish as a whole: if you’re gonna deep fry a hot dog, then DEEP FRY that hot dog! The outside was crispy and nice, but I want you to RIP that f@$%er, get it almost black, really go at it. You’re already going to the point of differentiating it, go full-throttle, especially when the whole theme of your Truck is Sin.

            That said, they toast the bun just like they should, maintaining some nice crunchy texture where the sauce hasn’t soaked in. I haven’t gotten their fries, partly due to my first visit try of them was disappointing, but from what I saw on other plates it looks like they’ve improved nicely (can tell they’re still the larger, soft style). Speaking of original tries, I do remember that the pulled pork was smoked nicely and had good flavor to it.

Holdability: 4

            Not the neatest of food items, items are often pulled and messy, particularly the meat-topped hot dogs. All of the food is served in those big, styrofoam go-to containers, so even if there are easier holding items, they aren’t served to be street-eaten.

Price: 7

               A solid set of $7 and $8 offerings, with most hot dogs set at $6 (the Dirty D is the main exception at $9). Overall a very decent and solid price point for Food Trucks, though I still find the price for dogs to be very dubious. On the one hand, they ARE big enough to almost be a sandwich in themselves, but on the other you’re still only getting ONE hot dog for $6. At the end of the day, it’s probably up to you to determine the price worthiness. Fries add a noted extra couple dollars to cost.

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Speed: 7.5

             Fried/Griddled/Toasted to order, the wait is typical and as to be expected. Though I wouldn’t mind waiting a bit longer for that dog if it was a nice Ripper like the famous Rutt’s Hut in Jersey.

The TOE: 6.5

             House of Hunger has created quite the little following behind them, and there’s a reason for that. They’ve got a bit of their own attitude, some style, a recognizable truck design on the street, and a unique list of hot dogs. However, for me there has always seemed to be something lacking; not that they don’t have any. They’re more a soft, general tone of Food Truck aura hanging just underneath the bright shine of other notables. If I were to say why, and I don’t think there’s just one, it might be tied to the actual menu. Though the food is tasty, and some items are interesting, the selection is just very “General.” Tacos, philly, pulled pork… how many other trucks do we see these? For me, all I can feel from this is a sense of mediocrity; not to say that in an insulting way, it just doesn’t create that sucking draw as certain other Trucks.

            Tally: 34.5/50

 

Final Thoughts

            Not the best on-the-go when in Minneapolis, but if it’s located at an event or other situation you’re able to sit down (avoid taking back to an office unless you have something to protect your nice suit) then go right for it. BBQ Pork is a go-to, though I think Hot Dogs are my first-visit choice; go for the $6 options, far as I can see the best value for the price, particularly the Pit Bull Dog (topped with that Spicy Pulled Pork).

            Fries are up to you if you want to spend the money, but I think there are better options for that choice on the street.

Lobby Day 2013

lobby day
Two Thursdays from now, on April 18th, join many others on the Capital Lawn to show your support for the Freedom of Marriage and LGBT rights! Bring friends, family, etc, and have the chance to meet and talk with your representative and senator about this important issues.
Musical guest Mason Jennings will be there, and they’ll also have a line-up of some of our favorite trucks to keep the supporters of this rally well fed! This will include, but hopefully not be limited to: Tot Boss, Nate Dogs, Fork In The Road, Potter’s Pastie’s, GastroTruck, and Sassy Spoon.
Mason_Jennings_square
To learn more about the Event, follow the link to the website. Whether I’m able to go myself I am quite unsure, but if I can I’m hoping to see you there as well. While I can, I wish the entire Lobby Day all the support I can and hope it turns out well, as well as thanking the Food Trucks for all their support of this event.
As always, have a nice rest of your week, and good eating.
http://mnunited.org/events/lobby-day-2013/
https://twitter.com/MN4allfamilies