2013 Food Truck Fair in Uptown

http://mnfoodtruckfair.com/  

            So of course, despite it being tomorrow, I don’t actually find out about the 2013 Food Truck Fair until yesterday. Once again, I need to figure out how to find these things out sooner… well, at least I liked their Facebook page, so I shouldn’t be caught with my pants down as far as future Fairs are concerned.

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            Now, away from my bitching and onto the actual event!

            Coming off a complete and utter disaster in their first Fair (which was last year), it seems the organizers this year have put some drastic changes into play. In comparison to the previously high-costing, area-confined, limited-houred, enormously-crowded ordeal beforehand, this year’s event (from what I can tell) is attempting to follow a similar formula to the “Art-a-Whirl” style (though not as huge and widespread). Completely Free and taking place from 3-8 tomorrow, the website claims to have the fair located “In Uptown.” It states to be taking place on Hennepin and Lake, though with the immense list of Vendors (and free entrance) I can’t imagine them confining themselves to an enclosed area.

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            The actual Trucks and Vendors present are too many to list, and will be joined by a couple different Bands, our local Breweries and, same as last year, the Blue Door Pub, serving up their signature “Blucy.” Unlike last year, though, this year should yield a situation where people can actually try it without wasting half the time in line.

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            God, I wish I didn’t have plans that day! And starting at 3 too… it was actually during last year’s Fair that I started taking the idea for this blog very seriously. I had always thought it’d be fun and someone needed to do it, but talks with people in line, as well as the many shared reactions to the Fair’s obvious flaws and hopes for next year, started pushing me into actually planning it out. So disappointing that I am unable to celebrate this important moment for me with what looks to be a highly successful change in style and quality.

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            For those who can go, however, I wish you all the best luck and fun in this now-yearly celebration of our Mobile Culinary Culture! Though I may not be there in body, I shall of course join you in spirit!

            Don’t forget to report and tell me how it all goes either! Good Luck and Good Eating!

Kabomelette

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http://www.kabomeletteminneapolis.com/  

https://twitter.com/kabomelette  

Main Location: Minneapolis, Mornings + Lunch

             With a name reminiscent of what might happen if Wile E Coyote got his hands on the Road Runner’s eggs, Kabomelette premiered on the morning streets with much curiosity. As the second Truck this season to come out with highlighted breakfast focus, I was happily able to swing my first visit (again, another truck this season I’ve needed 2 visits to get down…) by on the same day of checking out Paulette’s.

            As the name ACTUALLY suggests, Kabom offers up two main “specialties” (on my first visit this depended on when you got there; one “menu” for breakfast and one for lunch. Though the recent menu has shown no requirement for time, thus assuming an all-day option… unlike McDonalds), so our inner Pyro’s have to sadly throw away the hopeful thoughts of dynamite and destruction. Omelette“s” and other breakfast items fit one side, while the other is taken up by variously flavored Kabobs, such as Jerk, Satay, Curry, even Caprese Salad. Between the two, they’ve also made the decision to offer quality coffee and some sandwich options.

            Ups and Downs aplenty to fill my experience, can’t think of what else I want to say without going to my ratings. So let’s dive in shall we?

 

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Food: 5

             Omelette is of the simple flat and fold-over style, made with 3 eggs. I think it’s funny that, despite the fact it’s the main part of their name, they really only offer one kind on the menu. They’ll argue that they have multiple, but it all revolves around bacon-peppers-onion-zuchini-cheese; you can either get chorizo instead of bacon, a “Vegan” that just doesn’t have the meat, or another one that just doesn’t have the veggies. As for how the fillings turn out, they are… average. Big chunks of vegetables were sautéed at one point, then put on top of egg and folded. Nothing bad to it, but nothing that makes it stand out; which is very sad for one of their namesakes.

             On my second visit, I got myself the “Chicken Satay;” I was going to get 2 kabobs actually, but… well, I’ll explain that later. To my disappointment, these skewers aren’t actually grilled to order; all of it is cooked and assembled ahead of time, then placed on a bed of rice with their sauce. Despite this, though, the chicken was surprisingly tender and soft, a really nice texture and flavor; speaking of which, I VERY much enjoyed the somewhat-spicy Peanut Sauce. If it’s any indication, I’m sure one can be confident in the flavor and quality of the sauces used on the skewers.

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             A couple things though. First, see this picture above? That’s what they serve for their Thai Chicken “Satay;” I put quotes around it because, for anyone who knows, THAT is not a Satay, it’s a Kabob. Satays are thin slices of meat woven onto a skewer with NOTHING else and grilled as-is (like Yakitori I believe); they are NOT layered in thick chunks with similarly thick-chunked veggies. Now, if the menu said “Chicken Satay Kabob,” then that’d be fine, but it didn’t; in fact, it said “Thai Chicken Satay,” actually indicating that it should have been THAI style; which again looks nothing like our version of Kabobs. And they only gave 3 pieces of chicken for all those vegetables.

              And as for the vegetables themselves, again there was nothing special of them. They were cooked as minimally as needed, had some weird hanging peppers, and just didn’t leave anything to impress me with. But the real oddity here is not the cooking and skewering, but the vegetables themselves; if one actually reads through the menu at every menu (outside the Caprese) you’ll see it immediately. Every single dish (breakfast or non) that uses veggies always uses Green Peppers, Onions, and Zucchini; nothing more, nothing less. Am I the only one who thinks this is sorta weird? I mean hey, the “why not” idea is there, but does it not just create a feeling of banality reminiscent of the boring Diner down the road?

             Maybe it’s just me.

             As for the sandwich items, I personally don’t care how good they are; so many other trucks serve them, and the draw to this particular one focuses completely around their Kabobs and Omelette“s.” And sadly, neither of these really live up that much to expectations.

Holdability: 6

              So disappointing. I was so excited at the idea of focusing their menu around one the iconic “On a Stick” food, the one thing I could be guaranteed to carry around in one hand wherever I want and chow down (well, that and a Corn Dog… which reminds me, we need a specialty Corn Dog Truck… someone get on it!!), and what do they do? Put it in a basket with rice.

             I’d pound my head against the wall if I wasn’t so lazy… and if it didn’t hurt so much. It may not be that difficult to eat, about the same as most places in baskets, but I’m taking off extra points here. They have a very clear and very easy route to a food item that’s absolutely perfect Holding while walking, and they just go ahead and do this…

             As for the omelette, in a basket as one expects, and not all that messy to eat.

Price: 6

             A very interesting phenomenon happened between my two visits. On my first exploration, I saw a very interesting and appealing Menu which looked like this:

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             A few options, very focused on the Kabobs and breakfast (if only having one omelette), and some VERY nice prices; if I had the time to stick around for lunch that day I would grabbed two skewers! My excitement, however, was soon to depart when I came back about a week later to this:

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             Interesting, isn’t it? It’s amazing how almost all the same items other than the Sandwich and Hash have increased in price; yet, at the same time, no additions had been made (I actually THOUGHT the rice with the Kabobs was new, but after looking back I was wrong! No Change!). What’s even more interesting is how, despite the attempted “diversification” of the omelettes, the actual Works (with everything) has no price difference than the other two (one with no meat, the other with only two bare items); not that the difference should be huge, but at least 50cents to better identify.

             Then we get to the Kabobs, which are basically just a pile of rice and cheap vegetables with only a bare few pieces of meat. I personally don’t see the actual justification for its given price now. What they need to do is get those prices back down, add one more piece of meat, and get rid of that rice so we have a nice, cheaper, handheld skewer of tastiness we can walk around with.

             Oh, guess I should list the final prices for those who can’t or are having problems seeing the picture. Breakfast items hang at $5, with $6 for their Hash and most Kabobs; lunch Sandwiches and “higher-end” Kabobs get set at $8. Overall, it’s still some pretty good prices (when simply compared to other menus), but I’m not sure it’s justified for the very simple, very low-costing products.

Speed: 9

             Quickness in service seems to be one of their main goals. As mentioned earlier, all Kabobs seem to be completely cooked and assembled beforehand, only needing an extra squirting of sauce and placing on a bed of rice or whatever. Omelette’s are cooked to order, though, and offer an expected couple minutes wait. Not sure if they cook meat for the sandwiches any further once ordered, though my guess is probably No if going off their mission statement.

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The TOE: 4

              I think it’s clear that there are quite a few things that stand out on the non-positive side here. The potentially-portable Kabobs are segregated to a rice-filled cell, prices have actually INCREASED, the actual quality of their specializations are only a bit over average; even their cart sorta looks like it came out of one of those random, average start-up diners. Though the name is interesting and they certainly help with the recent movements towards a Truck-focused Breakfast Scene, many of their decisions since opening have twisted what could have been some great impressions for the experience.

             Speaking of the name, I have one last issue I find highly jilted on. After reading their name, as well as a few little descriptions about the place, I’m sure my mind wasn’t the only one which got the idea that their truck was actually gonna focus on a new “Fusion” item of a Kabob wrapped in an Omelette (or something like it). One can imagine my immense disappointment, then, when I came only to see that they keep the two items separate; and they only have one actual omelette. Now, if this was a Restaurant, I wouldn’t bring it up; I mean hey, if there was a restaurant named this, where they had like 6 omelette’s and a whole list of skewers, it’d make sense.

            But the fact is, as I’ve said with other review, THIS IS NOT A RESTAURANT; it is a Food Truck. And one of the best aspects of this world is its wondrous realms of Creation and Fusion that just naturally seems to develop. So much so that, not only is the Fusion of items common, but it can be EXPECTED; and with the name Kabomelettes, it was highly expected. Especially with how easy it would be to actually make and how much sense it is; wrap an egg around a kabob like a lettuce wrap around a satay, and walk around with a paper-enshrouded skewer to enjoy your new food conquest. And to not deliver on this silent promise just creates a sever decrease in the potential experience us Foodies and Customers look for.

            Ultimately, if they can get rid of the Rice, nix the Sandwiches, add some more meat to the Skewers (and reword the name on the Satay), REALLY diversify their Omelettes, and maybe try at least one signature “Kabomelette,” and they really could be something great. Until then… –sighs- will just have to be here for the breakfast and quick-to-eat crowd.

                       Tally: 30/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            So far, I find Kabomelette’s to only fit 2 situations for going: for those wanting an egg-based breakfast from a Truck, and when looking for quick lunches.

            If one does end up going, my menu item suggestions are this. Jerk Chicken if looking for a Kabob, Fried Egg Sandwich if wanting Breakfast (the Roll is homemade, and I just don’t think the omelette’s are special enough to justify going to a truck for it; can find similar or better in many other places), and avoid the Sandwiches (I just don’t see the need to get one here as opposed to other trucks which BASE their menu around them).

            Hopefully changes are made and future experiences can prove all this wrong.

SFC: To make a Caribbean Lunch

            Soon after I began my studies in the Culinary field, I started to develop this really weird obsession over Johnnycakes. These are the really old, historical traveling breads or pancakes (depending on when and where it was made) made from cornmeal and griddled. Though my foray into trying to figure out this food items didn’t last long, it was filled with compiled lists and attempted recreations of the mysterious cake. With many a recipe not yielding the results I so desired, I soon decided to give up and focus back on my studies.

            These memories all came rushing back to me recently, though, during my trip to the Caribbean, where we visited a local making the traditional “Dumb Bread,” a kind of johnnycake, at a Plantation tour. Not only was it finally what I was looking for, but we also got a recipe to make it back home! (adjusted for an oven, as opposed to frying)

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            And here it is! Look at that tiny little piece of paper I saved all the way from the Caribbean! Didn’t even have to wait too long to take it out again; my Dad’s requested present for Father’s Day being a Caribbean Chicken dinner. Personally deciding to extend the idea past the main meal, I thought it’d be fun to try the recipe out for breakfast (especially since I’d have some leftover for a sandwich).

Baked Dumb Bread/Caribbean Johnnycake

3 cups Flour

1 cup Fine Cornmeal

½ c Shortening

½ c Margarine or Butter (if latter, probably Chilled)

3 Tb Baking Powder

2 Tb Sugar

¼ tsp Salt

1 Egg, Beaten

½ c Milk

            A very simple (in mixing at least) recipe, we start with combining not just the Dry ingredients, but the Fats as well.

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            Yeah, that’s a pretty big pile of stuff. I of course can never understand the use of margarine, so I went for butter instead. Then again, as you’ll see later… I ended up with quite a few issues for my final product, and that could have been the cause of part of it. So if you choose to use butter as I did, don’t leave it out to soften, work that baby in chilled.

            Now, very important, really need to use that Fine Cornmeal. If one can’t find it, or already has the regular kind and is too lazy to shop for the special style (like me!!), we do have options. I myself took out my handy-dandy Coffee Grinder-turned-Spice Powderer (didn’t want to use “grinder” twice… and I like making up words).

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            We of course start out with regular cornmeal.

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            After a few long seconds of pulsing (in small batches of course), we get a nice yellowy powder. Probably not as small as flour, but for “fine cornmeal” it should do. If mixing soon after, this is probably when we’d turn the oven to 350F.

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            Anyways, back to that actual mix. Once things are getting sorta together, start adding in that milk and egg. The recipe says “knead until smooth and ‘not sticky,” however mine wasn’t actually sticky to begin with, which lead me to only briefly knead it. If this happens to you, ignore it, as I’m pretty sure it’s what mainly f#$%ed up my final product: it was quite literally the texture of compressed cornmeal. Though it’s possible I may have overkneaded, I’m guessing what I really needed was a lot more gluten development for my bad boy. So don’t be afraid, don’t be doubtful, move that mass to the counter and started pushing and rolling that fella until it feels like DOUGH (get some flour down if it’s sticky); really the best advice for any bread making.

            As with any decent dough, gotta let it rest after those glutens get developed, so a 15-minute break (covered with plastic or a towel) is due. Once done, shape into a ball, or whatever shape one desired (should probably stay away from pretzel though…), and “press into rounded loaf 2 inches thick on a baking pan/sheet.”

            Again, I get to a point which screwed me over. Though my underkneading was sure to be a big contributor, it took at least twice as long (after cutting it in fourth partway through) to bake just so it wasn’t “doughy.” Seriously, at least on your first batch, press this down to 1in, maybe a little higher if you really want.

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            Score the top or prick with a fork, and bake in that 350 for 30 minutes. Now, the recipe says “turn over” after 15 minutes, and I’m pretty sure that just means turn the pan 180, like with cookies. Maybe it means actually flip the dough over, like one was cooking it in a griddle, though it doesn’t feel right here…

            Alternatively, when mixed right, I’m sure one could easily break this fella into small little balls and press into a hot, well-seasoned griddle. Bet they’d cook up pretty similarly to Indian Frybread.

            Serve right out of the oven, spread with butter and whatever jams are handy! (Slathered in this case; though heck, with jam it didn’t taste that bad… just gotta try and do things differently next time)

            Of course, this wouldn’t be Street Food Corner if I didn’t make a sandwich or something out of this. Good thing I had some leftover Jerked Chicken!

            Actually making the Chicken was pretty simple, it’s just understanding the base ingredients to use in the mix. I myself don’t have a set recipe for this, but as long as one knows what to use they should be able to blend a nice marinade.

Required Ingredients:

Allspice, ground – the main spice component

Thyme – main herb

Lime juice + Zest – fresh, Caribbean flavor

Vinegar (Red, White, Malt, or Apple dependant) – nice acid component

Scotch Bonnets – main SPICY component

Need at LEAST 2, only use 1 for SMALL batches, I could barely get any in my final dish

Garlic + Green/Spring Onions – main Aromatics

Secondary Ingredients (ones often used in conjunction, but not always needed):

Brown Sugar + Honey – sweetness to counter the spice and vinegar – also glazes well

Nutmeg, Pepper, Clove, Cinnamon, Ginger (ground or fresh)

Onions, Chives

Worcestshire

Optional Ingredients:

Rum + Bitters

Orange juice/zest

Soy Sauce

Other Herbs and Spices

Other peppers (Jalapeno, Serrano, etc)

            Choose your weapons, place it in the blender and pulse away until smooth! Adjust for flavor as needed, and make sure there’s enough liquid to get all the chunky components (usually use a lot of onions) into a paste. I myself decided to give a hard sear and blackening to all my veggies beforehand for extra flavor. Once blended, it looked like this:

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            Broke down my (nice and organic) chicken, tossed it all in a bag with extra herbs and veggies, and mixed with my Jerk for overnight.

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            Hot charcoal grill to finish it off; starting in the hot spots to get that blackened grill, off to the warm spot to cook all the way through. We certainly enjoyed it all right afterwards for dinner, and I enjoyed it again on top of that johnnycake with a little mayo and jam (works really nice with spicy components).

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            Now, just have to learn to make it properly next time…

Eastern Menu Update

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              Was taking a stroll after my recent exploration of Kabomelette’s offerings, and look what I spot! A recent little Menu Design change by Sushi Fix; isn’t it pretty? Not to mention a highly reduced and simplified offerings, along with a couple new items I believe, including something that’s basically Salmon mixed with spicy dressing and served over rice.

               Chatting over the new menu changes, I actually found an interesting update concerning the “temaki issue.” It seems the chefs behind the glass ARE willing to make customers any item they want; which is certainly a relief for those initially disappointed at items no longer on the outside menu. One just has to ask for it and hope they have the ingredients. Oh, they also tried giving me some weird excuse for not actually having Temaki on the menu; apparently if not eaten immediately, the nori or something else has a tendency of losing its “crispiness” and getting “soggy.” I myself think that if someone were to hand a customer food in a cone (that’s NOT in a basket or to-go box), and that person did NOT eat it immediately, then A: that’s a really weird person (I mean come on, who the heck holds a cone in their hand and doesn’t chow down?) and 2: it’s the person’s own damn fault. All Sushi would have to do is just remark “make sure to eat it now,” or market it like a “Sushi Ice Cream Cone,” and they’re golden. Well, either way, if there’s something you’ve been craving from the Sushi Truck for a while, we now have license to get it!

              My overall score of them, of course, will not change. Having the possibility of ordering something not on the menu does not make up for not actually having and featuring it on the menu. As far as the general, day-to-day crowd is usually concerned, the shown menu is what rules and influences all, and thus determines what is mostly ordered.

Tot’s New Skewer?

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            Stopped by Darby’s with the folks for dinner, ordered up an app of “Jalapeno and Bacon Wrapped Tator Tots.” For a simple deep-fried potato covered in cheap cheese, it wasn’t too bad. Anyone else thinking maybe Tot Boss should start covering their own skewers in cheese and jalapenos now? Though I’m sure they could figure out a better side than Darby’s Sour Cream-Taco Spice mix (ugh…).

Gogi Bros

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https://www.facebook.com/GogiBros?filter=1  

https://twitter.com/GogiBros

Main Location: St. Paul

            As we slowly become aware of various new and traditional food cultures throughout the world, us Foodies sooner or later form a deep, hidden “desire.” It’s inevitable; in fact, one could theorize this is what predicates the switch between average food-lover and “Foodie” (though there are other theories and opinions and situations too). At one point or another, we will learn about one, or often MORE, culinary styles/traditions/events which we can’t help but just WANT to do. Then we search for it, try to find the most authentic form of it we can, and either enjoy our exploits or fall into silent despair at our continual inability to experience something we crave. In my opinion, I feel each Foodie may in fact be marked more by what they HAVEN’T experience yet than what they have, for this is what truly drives our continual seeking of Flavor and Tradition.

            For me, one of the few antithesis’ of my un-found cravings is Gogigui: Korean BBQ. That thing where families go to restaurants with the big, domed grill in the center of the table, and special cuts of meat grilled are front of them (either by themselves or waiters) with big loads of Kimchi, maybe rice and such. I LOVE Korean flavors, but have never yet had the chance to experience this truly quality, fresh way of experiencing them (can’t even think about the last time I had Kim Chi)

            So then, what do I find this past week but a little Truck called Gogi Bros, a new addition to St. Paul’s lineup who just happen to specialize in Korean BBQ. Though of course, one can’t go up and grill their own meats over a special metal dome, but we can experience the same foods and flavors as if we went (plus a few little extras).

            The menu itself consistently forms two parts: snacking sides of Mandu (Potstickers), Kimchi-Riceballs, etc, while the main focus revolves around baskets of BBQ-d Meat, rice, and kimchi. Various meats can make the cut, though Galbi (Shortribs) and Bulgogi (BBQ Beef) remain constant. With that, one usually only finds 3-4 options each visit, making easy picking based on one’s required needs.

            So watch out for the giant Truck-shaped Tiger with the randomly high window when roaming the streets.

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Food: 6.5

              Started my meal off with a box of those little Mandu. Edged with slight lines of crisp, a gently soft dumpling shell wraps around the pork and veggie filling, the flavor soft and gentle on the palette yet slightly rich. The veggie (probably scallions) offers a nice aromatic, along with an overall transforming flavor that is certainly not one-note. At the end of the day, however, I wouldn’t find the overall experience something spectacular to write home about; definitely good and tasty though.

              When done right, short ribs are one of the best joys in life, thus their popularity as Galbi in Gogigui. The particular incarnation here find a simplified and well-prepared grilled version with bare marinade, highlighting the simple richness of the meat as-is. Sliced thinner than seen in many US restaurants and cooking quickly, as opposed to the long braising, these short ribs do NOT experience a softening and tenderizingness in their texture. This sadly resulted in a noticeably chewy quality, which I’m a bit 50/50 on; on the one hand, I actually enjoyed the interesting little texture. But on the other, I feel it still needed more time, a little lower temperature, as parts of it were just that bit TOO far into unpleasant, especially around the cartilage and bone. Again, a good and enjoyable item, but nothing to write home about (maybe if they did that thing where they cut a LOOOOOOOONG line of meat off of a single piece of bone; much less chewy cartilage to deal with).

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                As mentioned, this dish is served with rice and kimchi, the rice itself being pretty good as-is. I never got the chance to judge the kimchi, however, as it seems they had run out; which is a shame as what the dish really needs is something on the side one can drag and mix into the rice with the meat to make into a little Korean Jambalaya, get those flavors blended. In any other post, where I might have found this in the Downtown streets, this comment would stop here; they’re still just started, and things tend to run out. This particular situation, on the other hand, finds me compelled to say a bit more. Because they weren’t on the street on a random weekday.

             The time I had visited was a Saturday. At a Brewery. Where there seemed to be some sort of event going on (band, little raffle, either way CROWDED in a sense people would know ahead of time). They were serving for 9 whole hours. And they ran out of Kimchi, the one ingredient that exemplifies Korean cuisine, after only TWO of those hours. This was something that simply should NOT have happened, new or not; the actual meat and rice should run out before the kimchi does.

               Let’s hope they’ve clearly learned their lesson during the incident in question, and something like this doesn’t happen again.

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Holdability: 7

              Styrofoam to-go container based. Mandu make a fun, easily portable snack, very much in the same vein as Vellee’s Eggrolls in multiple ways (might even be as good… guess I’ll have to visit Vellee again to “test” it, oh the horror). BBQ dishes can be somewhat tedious on the go, however; especially the Galbi. The chewy cartilage, having to pick up bones to naw around, then trying to get it in with the rice can be quite a non-mobile thing. Though at the very least, it’s not messy (sticky rice tends to stay where it is).

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Price: 7

             The two main items cost $9.50 (Galbi) and $7.50 (other) respectively, with about $3.50 for a set of 5 Mandu (oh, and those Kimchi Rice balls come in at $3). Overall, I think it’s all worth the prices set (at least when one can get kimchi with their BBQ dishes…), and the Mandu serve a great cheap option for the light snacker.              

Speed: 7

              About average wait.

              Also, I would normally bring this up in a Service section, but for some reason I just don’t feel right taking noticeable points off it for this time; too many uncertainties (maybe it was just cuz they were at a brewery). But it took a noticeable amount of time to take each person’s order (not counting credit card thingies), with the taker often jumping back into the car for a bit either for change or doing random things. Luckily the line didn’t get long, but it’s something potential customers should be aware of for now.

The TOE: 7

                The paint job isn’t exactly the best (seriously, get next to it and take a look; some of the “stripes” are actually peeling!), but there’s some appeal to that and the design is still fun and at the end of the day I’m there for the Food. Though I do wish they’d actually put their logo on the truck somewhere… it’s such a great design! Just look at one of their shirts:(Actually, ignore this thought, looks like they put it up recently! And I got a picture of it here!)

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                Though the novelty and intrigue at the new cuisine is there, making for a jolting exploration at a much-desired food style, its overall experience as a Food Truck is slightly lacking. Maybe it’s the simple, almost banal “school lunch” configuration of their BBQ plates; it could be the containers themselves. Possibly it’s the highly basic menu; the food is nice, but a good potsticker is no more than another potsticker. Or maybe even the lack of kimchi was a bigger tipoff to an overall understanding of the entire experience. Then again, it could be something else.

                I will say, however, that though I didn’t have it, the Kimchi Rice Balls could easily make up for some of these lacking qualities as a fun, interesting Toe Ring for walking around.

                           Tally: 34.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Get here early if you want one of the BBQ plates; no need to risk not getting any Kimchi. Overall, I would mainly suggest these plates for taking somewhere to sit down. If you WANT to and have no issue spending the extra couple dollar, the Galbi is their signature and not too bad of a meal in general. However, I myself believe the better experience (both in palette and wallet) will actually lie in the Bulgogi and other meat dishes.

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            The real Value here, though, is in their small items. This is a great Truck for the wallet-minded to get a lunch snack, or for quick Sampling during Food Truck Days. Both the Mandu and Kimchi Riceballs fill a great role in this respect; though no reason to get the latter if ALSO getting a BBQ plate.

Paulette Bakery

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http://www.paulettebakery.com/#

https://twitter.com/PauletteBakery

Main Location: Minneapolis (Mornings)

            There are so many fun little facets and parts to a successful Food Truck scene, and though our Cities’ growth in this has been tremendous we still have much a ways to go to catch up to the rest of the Nation. One of these aspects, as I’ve talked about with Racer at short-length, is a notable absence in the Breakfast scene. Sure we have a few trucks that have Breakfast OPTIONS, but none truly Specialize, and the number of them which actually show up early enough for the Morning Crowd is a notable minority.

            Hoping to lead the way in this mysterious territory, Paulette Bakery jumps onto the scene. Parking its small little self at various spots in our Downtown Minneapolis area, Paulette’s makes a note of ONLY serving in the early Morning times between 7 and 10am (not counting special situations and possible events). Whether the owner (whose name ISN’T actually Paulette –gasp!!– how dare she!) has considered extending these into lunch, considering how fast and often her goods sell out before 10, I’d say she’s probably fit to stay in that same-old timeslot.

            There are currently Two things one can get when they stop here: good quality, Fair-Trade Coffee (okay, they also have Tea), and Hand-made Croissants. The latter comes in 4 simple options: Plain, Chocolate, Almond, or a seasonal Savory Croissant (when I visited, it was Goat Cheese-Asparagus, yum!). Waiting in a simply stacked rack, these little joys make a quick bite for the Breakfast-seeker walking along the street.  

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Food: 9.5

             (Let me start by saying I am SOOOOOOO sorry… I forgot to actually take pictures of the Croissants themselves! I was so focused on eating them and getting back home it completely skipped my mind… guess that’s what they get for being so good. So here’s some better-looking ones I found online)

             3 words: Scratch, Made, Croissants. Unless she’s defining it differently, that means the owner is making the dough herself, from the base, and then rolling it into these amazing little pastries. Many people might not actually be aware of this, but this is HUGE. There are NOT a lot of places that actually make their own Croissant dough (or even Croissants for that matter); it is highly finicky, labor intensive, and ultimately a real bitch for any business unless one can actually do it right. That’s why most places rely on Factories for their dough; it’s all done exactly the same way, and one doesn’t have to worry about (your) Labor Cost. It’s basically the same as Puff Pastry, only not AS completely insane in difficulty.

             As for the results… BUTTERY. Rich, flaky, tender-soft Croissant deliciousness, which is then filled with even more deliciousness depending on what you get. Going for a complete review, I of course had to get 2 of these, so I settled for the Chocolate and (as mentioned) the Goat-Cheese Asparagus seasonal. Chocolate was of course that nice, traditional rich line of darkness, while the Asparagus… oohhhhhhh the asparagus. Now THAT’S how you use this ingredient; nice and soft in here (we don’t want the texture this time, too delicate of a wrapping), with that notable green, slightly pungent flavor, mixing with that tart, rich, creamy chevre. And the Croissant is an almost PERFECT pastry for it; much like the typical hollandaise used to garnish, its buttery nature complements the veggie nicely. I’m still doing a bit of a happy dance.

             These Croissants clearly blow all the well-known, average pastries out of the water, and even remind my Mom of a few of the ones she’s had in France. Now, going for any critical notes here, apparently they aren’t quite AS crispy as the “perfect” France ones (where they apparently learn how to make it when they’re kids, ugh). I also find myself somewhat wishing there was more to differentiate the simple chocolates from its competitors (besides the quality of the pastry); same simple design, but then again there’s a reason for that… it’s GOOD.

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Holdability: 10

            In the same line as Potter’s, grabbing a pastry in one of those small bags is about as simple as can be, there’s not much more to say about it. I was debating lowering it since the antiquital experience here is with BOTH Pastry and Coffee, but as one only needs one hand each with no issue.  

Price: 9

              Definitely a cheaper breakfast than getting an omelette or egg sandwich somewhere, with the croissants ranging between $2.25 and $3.50, with coffee for a bit under $2. As a Bakery, though, it is a touch disappointing they don’t offer one or two REALLY cheap options, like tiny Danishes or those little Frangipane-Puff Pastry “cookie swirls;” I’ve always found looking at and grabbing an extra little something to be a fun, naughty part of any bakery experience.

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Speed: 10

              Instantaneous like any bakery.

The TOE: 9

              Maybe not the first Truck to serve Breakfast, but definitely the first in our lineup to specialize in it, Paulette looks to lead the charge towards a whole new movement in our Morning Rush. With talks of Café Racer and others in tow, a new dawn of Breakfast Trucks may certainly be closer than originally thought. It seems only fitting that such a small, simple Truck like this be the one to create such large ripples in the lake. For if we’ve learned anything in our explorations of Truck Culture, the biggest impacts often come from the most unexpected places.

                      Tally: 47.5/50

                       

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Final Thoughts

            A great start to our Breakfast-based Lineup, fantastic for those who need a quick munchy and/or coffee on-the-go. Quick, Cheap, Easy to Hold, and Delicious, it fills all of the street-eater’s basic requirements.

            With the limited options, I’d just say get whatever particular style of Croissant suits your desire. However, if you haven’t had one before, DEFINITELY get the Almond one; filled with that sweet, rich Marzi/Frangipane, it’s always just so good. Not to mention the nut-based flavors go awesome with Coffee. For something a bit different, don’t be afraid to go for whichever Savory Croissant they have that day either.

            Oh, and don’t forget to stop by Starbucks on your walk and laugh at them as you point to your Cheaper yet Better Quality Coffee.

 

Let’s Eat (1 Meal)

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(No Links that I know of. If anyone can find something, please inform me)

Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

            I’ve found that, among the troves of mobile catering options on our Minnesota Streets, after a while one is actually able to separate different kinds of Trucks into “groups,” of sorts. There are the “Event Trucks” I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the “Food Trucks” which I base my reviews around (the downtown, big event, new-culture-driven operations that bring those forms of “wonder” to us customers when we visit), and then there are what I call the “Soul Cater Trucks.” You’ve seen these around I’m sure; whenever one goes to a big/special block party, or a city-wide event, and there are those white tents wafting in the smoke of giant black grills, serving up things in big styrofoam boxes. Next to these one will invariably find at least one simply-adorned Truck, serving either Wraps or Caribbean food or Ribs or something. None of it “special,” none of it “gastro,” but all of it purely based on that simple, soul-filled Food that just fills us with warmth (well, that’s the idea anyway).

            Aaaaallllll these people and operations, the mobile and non, are generally ignored by myself for Blog purposes. As a whole different category and world unto itself, of which one only sees on the occasional basis (vs the almost every-day Food Trucks). However, with its recent decent on the Downtown Streets, Let’s Eat “1 Meal” (don’t know if it’s part of name or something else… weird light bulb sticker logo) has officially pushed itself into this growing realm, and I feel no less than obligated to visit and review them completely.

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            With a menu controlled by the smaller mobile quarters, options run a bit of the gambit of the “Soul Truck” offerings, sticking away from a few of the larger dishes like Ribs. That said, one can find options like Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Philly Sliders, Blackened Tilapia Tacos, Buffalo Shrimp Wraps, Jerk Wings, and… well, I guess there IS a Rib dish, only it’s made from a Turkey’s (anyone else a bit confuzzled? Don’t worry, I explain later).

            All of this comes with a side of Sweet Potato Fries, just what one would expect from any soul-based caterer. Now all I need is a nice, big glass of Caribbean Lemonade (made with a bit of Pineapple; get a cup at the next State Fair in the Global Area, it’s awesome!) and I’m good.

 

Food: 6

             Overall, not too exciting of a visit. The Pulled Pork is… basic. It’s not bad, the pork is tender and the Sauce is the expected BBQ Tangy, but there really isn’t anything to differentiate it between the sandwiches one can find at any given, decent restaurant. Bun is plain, untoasted, which is expected for a “BBQ Catering” Truck’s style such as this, so it’s alright. Oh, and the actual sammies are pretty small; not like a slider, but for getting a single thing of cheap Pork, one expects more. (Sorry for no picture, I could have sworn I took one but… poof)

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            Now, the “Turkey Ribs.” They are… exactly what it says they are; they’ve actually taken the ribs from the Turkey, along with a big chunk of meat attached to it (I’m wondering if it’s bulk is from the Breast Meat). Smoked, slightly grilled, and sprinkled with their BBQ sauce, and one has a White(er) Meat version of a classic. As for the outcome, one is able to get a little bit of that smoke, not to mention a visual of that distinctively pink tinge from the Smoking. Sadly, though the thin areas right around the bone are nice, tender and flavorful, the giant chunk of white flesh attached betrays the obvious over-cooking of this piece of meat. It’s not the teeth-munching horror of past Thanksgivings, but one can clearly see the ½-1 hour in which it went over.

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            Most disappointingly, the one item we expect the utmost skill in the Southern-based culinary culture probably came through the worst. The Sweet Potato Fries were soft, limp, and at times seemingly close to being slightly raw. The possibility of a bad batch is of course there, but if I got them than logically someone else would have.

Holdability: 6.5

          They’ve made some pretty smart menu choices, at least in the entrée, with each item being something that one can quite easily pick up by hand (the “ribs” didn’t have too much sauce on, so it wasn’t even that sticky). However, as they almost automatically serve each item with those Fries,  everything comes in those big, clunky Styrofoam boxes, forcing us to either take it someplace or hope we have complete reign of both hands as we walk. Getting it without Fries one might hope to save the situation a bit, but then they immediately replace it with this big pile of salad that then requires a fork.

Price: 6.5

              With the fries, it’s all about $8-$9 across the board, with bigger prices for occasional “Specials” (like a really BIG Pulled Pork). THANKFULLY, one is able to get the food without Fries for $2 less, though you DO have to ask for it special, otherwise I was fixing to be really annoyed with a possible forced-menu-requirement.

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            I do want to say though, even with the option of no-fries, I’m a little upset with the price charged for their Pulled Pork. Not only was it lackluster in anything, it was barely twice the size of a slider, and ultimately just not worth the price they charge (among Food Truck items at least).

Speed: 7.5

             Average.

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The TOE: 4

              Being of that particular cut, this Soul Truck turned to the Downtown has yet to truly develop any of those qualities that epitomize our area Food Trucks. Viewing the action even from up close, it’s hard not to think one is simply at one of those BBQ Catering tables that’s just serving different options.

                        Tally: 30.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Not quite sure where this truck officially stands in the line-up, one may simply have to decide when it’s right for themselves to go there.

            For now, ignore the Fries; it’s more affordable without them, and I just don’t see them worth the extra $2 anyways (if Fries is your desire, so many other Trucks that do them better). With the quality derived from the 2 items I got, it’s hard to consider which items might stand above. If I were to go back again, though, the Tilapia Tacos and Jerk Chicken Wings would be the top on my list. The Former easily more portable and the later highly representing of their style (and difficult to screw up Wings!).

            The Turkey Ribs are fun for the adventurous, just have to hope it doesn’t end up dry. Either that or slather it in more of their sauce.

Food Truck Wars Fridley (Wk 3)

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            3rd week of the Twin Cities’ Live Food Truck War is here, and they just happened to stop right in my hometown of Fridley! So of COURSE I had to go now (apologies for missing last week’s update; been busy as of late), with Dad accompanying so we could bring food back for Mom.

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            Sadly, it seems this particular session of “Wars” didn’t quite reach the zenith as the others: of the 5 Trucks scheduled, only 3 were able to make it (Tiki Tim’s, Hot Indian, and Simply Steve’s), with Potter’s and Melch’s having to cancel at the last minute. On the same note of “skewing my expectations,” I myself am a touch anxious at this trend of using many of the same trucks each week. With the idea of some sort of competition (where there’s a winner each week), did anyone else think that it might have been more fun to have completely different trucks each session (except maybe winners, see if they can get “de-throned”)? Though at least they still switch out a few; I heard something about some “Fish n Chips” showdown with Anchor next week.

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            Having arrived soon after 4, we thankfully hand enough time to grab Free Samples from 2 of the Trucks. First stop was the Indurrito truck, where they delivered ½ “Tacos” of their Chicken Tika alongside some of those fantastically crunchy fries. With shells made from Roti (which Amol thankfully corrected me are Indian Flatbreads and not Mango-Yogurt! Looks like I got them confused with Raita… sorry guys, and thanks!! Swear I saw it on the drink area one time though…), their Taco-versions have twisted up a fun notch in line with their original cuisine. Looks like they adjusted their Aioli as well; less garlic-focused and more “Indian spice and peppers,” another tasty pairing with their Fries.

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            With this well-made plate, it’s not surprising to see they earned the Golden Plate this week (I voted for them too! Wooh!).

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            Unlike Tiki, it seems Steve didn’t put up too much of a fight. Their menu still somewhat scattered (though not as much as my last view of it, mainly burgers and tacos this time; they might be pulling things in a bit more again, I’ll have to pay attention to their selection in the coming weeks, see if they get back to where they were before), Sample offering consisted of a somewhat squished, basic-looking quarter of a Burger (not sure, but I think it might have been the Quinoa… since they sort of “highlighted” that item in the “Live” recording earlier). And oh my god, did you SEE what their Grilled Asparagus looked like in the Live video on the event? I’m sorry, but that just… does not look great… I’m sure it tastes fine and all, but it does not conjure any images of what quality Asparagus can be.

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            Finishing the day with Tiki, who decided to split their Fish Tacos in half for a sample, which tasted great as usual (we were in the 2nd to last group of samples, whew!). Since I knew my mom enjoyed various seafood cakes (and hated Indian food), this was our official stop for Dinner. Though we were still a bit back-n-forth, so we ended up bringing back a Combo Plate and the Kahlua Pork (hey, what she didn’t eat we would).

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            First I have to say how happy I am to see where these guys have come. Compared to my first Combo Plate, which in itself was delicious, this batch of Fish and Tiki Cake was even better, clearly showing their gradual tweaking and improving towards perfection. Look at how perfectly pattied that Cake is; I’m still so disappointed that they haven’t turned it into a Slider, cuz it’s just SO good. And the ratio of (perfectly) Fried Fish to the Cabbage is exactly what it should be, as opposed to the Veggie-dominated Taco I experienced early this year (I shall DEFINITELY make an update in the review). Oh, also, I never noticed it earlier, but my mom pointed it out and it makes interesting sense. Unlike others, the tortillas here see little to no actual cooking; whether it be steamed or grilled. Despite that, not only do they hold up well, the actual texture is interestingly complimenting to the fish and rich Cream-dressing.

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            The Kahlua Pork sandwich was quite the interesting experience; I had completely forgotten about it on their menu. Upon getting it, thoughts of my highly-recent proclamation around Starlight’s Pulled Pork came to mind, and I wondered if a quick upheaval in the Pork power balance was to take place.

            Sadly, it wasn’t.

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            I give credit to the separate quality of the Pineapple-Red Cabbage Slaw and the actual Pork, which are both nice in their own ways. However, as with most pulled pork, the giant mass of meat, even with some natural juices, ends up dry (at least in sensation), and REALLY needs a nice, wet sauce of some sort. Maybe a grilled pineapple bbq or something… I know traditionally Hawaiian Kahlua pork is served dry, but truly a sandwich like this requires the moisture.

            Second requirement for improvement revolves around the actual bread. They DO seem to actually griddle it, I could feel the nice crust around the rim, but the rim is where any crispiness stays. But the real disappointment came in the bread itself, the texture really throwing the thing off a bit; it was sort of that soft, slightly chewy, almost doughy feeling one gets from those cheap baguettes at the store (before baking again in the oven). Luckily, this issue is easily fixed; hopefully, if they choose to do so, they can either grab a slightly-higher quality sandwich bread, or just bake all their Ciabattas a second time for a bit, crisp up the outside a touch while letting the inside follow through to its proper texture. It’d be nice to think just griddling it more would work, but with this bread I’m sure it wouldn’t (unless they were able to Panini it… oooooh, Kahlua Panini!!).

            Well, I guess that’s that. Despite the mysterious loss of 2 trucks, the small event turned out pretty well, and was fun for those who were able to grab a couple samples (such an interesting coincidence how empty the place got right after the 4:30 cut-off…). We’ve got one more week to go, people, let’s make it count!

            Ooooh, one last thing! I love Tiki’s new LONG Blackboard; it’s so fun!

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