Sun, Food, and Artwork

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           This weekend in NE saw quite the flood of bands, people, and food as the Minnesota Art-a-Whirl kicked off. With specific goals in sight, I headed down early Saturday, taking full advantage of the unexpected hours of sunlight (all day warnings for rain, and we don’t get a lick of it after the morning). With me to spend time roaming around and chowing on food was of course my awesome cousin Kyle.

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            That’s him making another goofy face when I asked him to pose.

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            First stop was of course Casket Arts, hosting Franconia Sculpture Park and Guerilla Furniture Designs, but more importantly it was the site of the two trucks at the very top of my “Most Wanted” hunting list: Taco Taxi and Waffle Van/L’etoile du Nord.

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            To my oh-so-happy surprise, these weren’t the ONLY Trucks on my hunting list I got to visit. Parked in the lot just in front of Casket was Ruhland’s Strudel Haus, that State Fair-looking white behemoth that’s oh-so difficult to figure out when they’re not appearing as the “Farmer’s Market Stand” (where they just sell frozen, whole streudals from a big ice box).

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            Suffice it to say reviews of all three shall be coming in down the week.

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            Of course it’s not a big, area-wide event without various bands in marked-off, wrist-band-required areas. Indeed, 612, and Anchor Fish and Chips all had hosting duties, along with at least one food truck for their hungry guests (612 had both Melch AND MO, quite the combo). Anchor obviously hosted itself, with Indeed bringing in a Beer Truck alongside Gastro.

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            Then of course there was the art. I would love to attempt to recall and put into words the various things places I stopped at, but there are many people who are much more qualified and skilled at doing that for events such as this. I’ll just stick to my Food Trucks, and for now here’s a few other pictures I took of cool things (Like a old jazz band traveling the sidewalk!).

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            Sadly, I did not have the chance to visit my beloved glass blowers, they were just too far away from the main NE area to walk, which I would have had to do as I took advantage of the Free Bus Ride system vs driving. Oh well, maybe next year.

Emconada

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https://www.facebook.com/emconada.cateringroom?fref=ts   

Main Location: Minneapolis

             One of the best things about Street Food cultures; whether it be Bazaars, Food Trucks, or the various State Fair set-ups; is innovation. Only in these situations does one see people create weird, unique, tasty little things that would probably never even be considered to grace the menu of a restaurant, purely as it has no use outside of the streets. Whether it be on a stick, in a cone, or sandwiched between two donuts, it’s hard to argue that some of the greatest, and sometimes just plain bizarre, food creations have happened on the road.

            Sad to say, though, these particular offerings don’t come out too often within the regular Food Truck lineup (though they do seem to hold 50% of the State Fair culinary backbone). But after much a wait, Emconada Catering has hit the street, filling one of the Marquette line-ups with their “Empanadas in a Cone” (as their mantra goes).

            As one can imagine, I was quite curious as to what form this might take during my original spotting of them. And I think I can safely say I find no disappointment in how they’ve chosen to transform this Latin staple. Instead of the original stuff-n-fry (ugh, sounds like a really lame sex move), the traditional dough is shaped and fried into a familiar cone. Once done, the packages are held for service, ready to be filled with either Chicken or Seafood mixes and served with a Salad and/or Spanish rice.

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             Serving out of their big orange trailer box, various pictures of menu items festooned across the menu, Em certainly makes themselves known on Marquette. Not least of all with half of their backdoor completely wide open, making for a really great and fun view of the entire kitchen as they work, and also offering a smart way to cool down on a hot day (if you haven’t guessed already, those trucks can get HOT on a good day).

            Overall, not too bad a visit for a place I was literally running down the street after a little over a week ago.

 

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Food: 7.5

              A fun surprise was found in the chicken filling for my emconada; my expectations were somewhat low on what seemed a pile of cooked and shredded meat. Happily, I was found wrong, with the chicken being of a good texture and having notable seasoning from lime and probably some other flavors. However, I still find just a pile of shredded chicken, even flavorful, feels lacking, and wish they had mixed in some extra elements, like a rich stewed vegetable mix or relish or whatever. As for the Seafood mix, which I didn’t have the chance to have, it’s a mix of Clam, Shrimp (I think), and something else I couldn’t make out; but it’s Mom’s recipe apparently, and it looks and sounds really good.

             Empanada dough is decent, not bad at all, though overall it doesn’t stand out. This is mainly due to the cooking process, where the dough is for once fried from both inside and out, so the interplay of crisp out to softer in is much lessened. This also leads to a consistency that is more likely to crumble, which is actually sort of fun at the end, cuz you get to mix the leftover meat, dough, salsa, and rice all together.

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            Speaking of which, the rice is a clearly better side than salad, even in their pictures it looks limp; but that doesn’t mean it’s all much to think about. Sort of sticky, not too much flavor to it, sort of the Spanish version of generic fried rice.

            A word on the Salsa/Hot Sauce – don’t be afraid to get Hot, the Medium is pretty mild even for me (believe me, that’s saying something).

Holdability: 7

              The potential that they hold in this category is extraordinary; history upon history of ice cream service has proven the wonderful abilities of the cone (not to mention Japanese Tamake… which Sushi Fix STILL hasn’t added to their menu!!! AHH!!!). However, this potential gets tossed over the shoulder as not a single one of their menu choices allows for buying the product as-is. Every single option requires at least one side of rice or salad, thus subjugating this possibly perfect and fun item into a basket.

             I don’t have too much against the basket itself, it’s not a difficult one to eat from, especially since one can eat the cone with hand. Plus, with the particular way they make the cone, one does benefit with the basket; I found a noticeable amount of my chicken ended up falling from the rim, with the shell crumbling near the end. Plus, if they sold the pair of emconadas as-is, then one would need to battle with holding two separate cones at the same time.

            So how do we solve this issue? Quite simple, both of them are a result of the size made for these cones; it’s not big enough that the filling required to make it tasty all stays in, nor for them to create a viable option of only selling one. As such, I think there’s a fantastic opportunity to create, on the side (not saying they should get rid of these smaller cones, I’m assuming they’re the easiest size for them to create), some larger sized cones which they can sell one at a time. Thus would create an easy, clean, fun (and as we’ll see below, affordable) little handheld addition to our Street Food lineup. Just need to have the hot sauce in squirt bottles next to the window for ease of addition.

           Final note, other menu options of just filling mixtures and salads are, obviously, purely basket-fork affairs, but at least not as messy as other basket-focused items which I’ve seen in other trucks.

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Price: 6.5

           Various combo dishes which range from $7.50-$9.50, ultimately staying in the sorta high area of Food Truck prices without offering any lower deal items. Much like my issue with holdability, I don’t quite understand why they don’t offer the choice to only buy the emconada. In this example, it would offer a better deal for those only looking to sample, form a more complete menu, and ultimately create a better feeling to the customers upon reading over the selection.

Speed: 9.5

            An ice-cream cone filled with meat, Em has created a fantastic product for quick-service needs in those long lines (you know, assuming there aren’t any of those inconsiderate groups of inconsiderate talking businessworkers in front who just stand there when it’s obviously their turn in line). Just requiring the action of filling the cone with pre-made mix, adding the side, it makes for a short wait.

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The TOE: 8

             There’s a REALLY great feeling that you get when going here, just centered around the fun and wonder of trying this new, mysterious little orange box. It was so refreshing being able to go somewhere that I can DISCOVER something again; not to knock Trucks that make familiar(ish) and traditional(ish) foods, they have their own amazing qualities, just on a different end of the spectrum.

              Now, all they need to do is get rid of the all-combo-basket idea and introduce options for just the cone, maybe get a couple more fillings (which I’m sure they will in time), and they can finally get RIGHT to that perfect point so many others have successfully reached.

                       Tally: 38.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Definitely a truck for Foodies and those starting to explore the Food Truck scene; also a viable option for those needing their lunch quick.

            Currently not too many options to pick and choose from, making choices easier. The salads don’t even count in my opinion; I still pity those people who go all the way out to a Food Truck JUST to get a salad (I mean really, people? That’s not a Food Truck experience; if you need something healthy or vegetarian there are quite a few options that still stick to it).

            Seafood seems to be the more interesting of the two fillings so far, and is definitely what one should try first! If they still don’t adjust the menu so one can just buy the cone, which is the only option I would ever suggest for customers, then grab the Spanish Rice, the mixed greens don’t look good at all, even in their pictures.