Fall Rally Roundup and some New Stuff

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                This Saturday was the second of MN Food Truck Association’s new Harriet Brewery Truck Rally events, this time with 15 Trucks showing (one of which didn’t show, but was quickly replaced with Twisted Fork). Though despite the two months wait between this and the first of the (hopefully) many events, the weather was oddly the same (truly… rainy, then sprinkling when I arrived, getting sunny, and then rainy again… so weird).

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                Despite what was, ultimately, a very cold, grey, and rainy start to the morning and afternoon, attendance to this street-side affair was a perfectly surprising boom! Talking with the guys carding at the front, about 3-4X the first rally despite notably colder and wetter conditions. And I have to say it seemed to be the PERFECT amount of people too; enough to be quite crowded and busy (particularly in the actual taproom and the one tiny tent over tables, which this year was moved over to the corner with the extra trucks occupying the middle, where it was quite cramped), but with just the amount that one could navigate around the Trucks with ease, and into the taproom with only mild difficulty.

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                That said, I’m sure all in attendance would agree this to be a very successful day, and can’t wait for the next ones; so far, two events in, both of which completely dominating the Food Truck Fairs in execution.

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                So then, I actually had more than one reason to come here; besides the need to report as an addition to the blog, along with my obvious joys in the continued visiting and exploring evolutions of our fantastic Truck and Brewery scene, I was also meeting up with a new acquaintance in the Truck scene.

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                This is Brett from Food Truck Empire, eating something on a skewer (I’ll detail that in a bit), a fellow Minnesotan Food Truck lover who started up his own blog/site. We just finished doing a fun podcast interview a couple weeks ago (which should be out in a couple more weeks, will report when it’s launched!), and after hearing he had a sadly miniscule amount of experience with ACTUAL local trucks, having only been to a few in St. Paul (so sad the city’s lunch scene doesn’t support a large amount of our mobile brethren), I just HAD to invite him down to the Rally to enjoy some beer and show him to a couple of the trucks. That said, I should probably get to what was actually experienced during the day!

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                With getting there a little earlier than him, having to wait in the cold for a while, I just couldn’t help but need something to warm me up. Luckily for me, MidNord decided to bring some Hot Apple Cider and Horchata (Mexican Rice Milk with Cinnamon), and I of course had to have a cup of the latter. So warm, spiced, and a nice simple way to warm up during the weather (certainly a great thing to grab if you still see them on the streets in the coming months).

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                After getting snuck up on by a black-hat-ed hobo in a hoodie (Ha! Just kiddin’ Brett), we slid over to say hi to my buds at Motley, which had done their own podcast with Brett just a month or so ago. I was happy cuz I was finally able to get my bag of Nuts, and Brett ordered one of their delicious Funky Phillies, which I swear was even better and gooey-er than the last one I had.

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                As for my thoughts, the nuts are definitely good; crunchy, with a thick little shell of spiced sugar on the outside, with a nice flavor of cinnamon and other notes coming out. I think I still prefer the awesome, unique pretzels they have though; the nuts aren’t really so stand-out “oh wow amazing what is this,” but to be fair it’s hard to do that with candied nuts these days (probably because we know what to expect). But they’re still made WELL and proper, and I doubt I could reproduce something close to its style that easily.

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                While eating, we headed over to the little beer stand, moved to the side wall and a bit away from the tent-covered tables instead of under it, where we, after proving our idea at the gate to get a wristband, we then moved to ONE line to then buy a beer ticket and back to the OTHER to get the beer (so many separate steps… felt odd, haha). With a few beers starting with W, I ordered the Woluptuweiss (very dark malted beer, my favorites) while he ordered their West End IPA. Such nice beers to enjoy over conversation, Nuts and Pretzels, and Food Truck traveling.

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                Next stop, to my own surprise until a saw a post of their menu before leaving, was Hibachi Daruma. From the looks of it, it seems they’ve actually took notes of some of the things mentioned in my, and possibly others, review and comments… either that or just did it on their own, but that destroys my self-esteem so I’m gonna say the former!! Besides a lo mein and rice dish, the Menu, accompanied by a set of pictures describing the items, now consists of Gyoza, Chicken Yakitori Skewers, and a Beef “Negimaki” (basically strips of cooked beef rolled up like sushi and filled). So much better potential for street-eating, and bringing in lower-priced options as well! I’ll definitely be updating my review of them shortly after this.

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                After a bit of thinking, I just had to try the yakitori (it was my main option complaint in the review afterall) which, though certainly tender and very portable, and looked pretty with the carrots (though it felt odd to have for street food), wasn’t really all THAT impressive in flavor. It was… a skewer, that’s about it. Chicken and Bell Peppers with soy sauce, meh. Stick with gyoza, those are always tasty.

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                Had to of course stop over at Café Racer while we had the chance, firstly to get my obligatory conversation in with the owner and secondly to introduce him to Brett for a potentially awesome podcast opportunity. I even got a little scoop myself that Mr. Patino might be putting together his own Late Night local Food Truck show (web-based I think) in the coming months, which I will definitely keep track of and update when I have the chance.

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                Taking a look at the slightly redesigned (visually, not in product… though I think they increased the price on the hot dogs) menu with added pictures, we grabbed one of their Arepa sandwiches. And I’m glad we did!! Much redesign and evolution has happened to this item that once was a pile of pork with cornmeal flatbreads on the side, making it into a complete, already-put-together sandwich with slightly thicker arepas and an addition of that delicious pink sauce, light greens, some thin pepper slices, and fried carrot strips. It all came together soooooo well and delicious, very complete and juicy, the pork being just as perfect in its cooking as usual to make a very, very enjoyable sandwich/arepa experience.

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                It is, however, still a bit messy, but one could easily eat it with their hand while walking and use a fork to clean up everything else, just need a napkin for afterwards. Oh, and the plantains were good, a little honey-sweet, though it didn’t wow me too much. Either way I have another Truck to update.

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                With the end of our eating experience in sight, dessert became a must-have. So we headed over to Social, only to find that 4 of the 5 offerings they had were already sold out! Thankfully, the one that was left was a “Mocha” with dark chocolate cake and an espresso buttercream; probably what I would have ordered anyway. And of course, always refined, rich, and delicious.

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                Oooooh, and I got to snap a pic of that Cupcake-Sundae thing I learned about at Lunch by the River! It sadly wasn’t what I was expecting (was hoping much more cupcake and in a long split/sundae bowl), but it still looks good…

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                And so went my afternoon that day, stuck in a brewery parking lot crammed with a bevy of trucks and bumping elbows with the crowd, everybody enjoying a beer, food, or both (much like this lady with her amazingly-plated BLT Sliders). Hopefully my wait until the next similar event won’t be as long, but even if this is the last of the year I’d have to say 2013’s had a pretty damn good run. So however the rest of this year plays out, I wish the Trucks the best of luck in the coming season of cold. With this we’ve said goodbye to the weather of warm, and usher in colored leaves and grounds of snow (of which, I think I saw the first falling of the season… at least in my area).

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                Good Luck and Good Eating to all!

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Charlie Awards

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                It’s that time of the year again (apparently)! What time, you ask? Much like the yearly spectacles and traditions that follow many an organization such as Citypages, Vitamn, the Oscars, and whoever-else-cares, it’s Voting Time!! And around these months in Minnesota, that means the Charlie Awards.

                Those who may have already learned about this in the past two years, or those seeing the various requests for voting on facebook, are already familiar. Beginning in 2011, the Charlie Awards is a newly created local event meant to emulate that Nationally-known James Beard style system, but all purely to Minnesota. I could go into a whole listing and tirade of its history, who Charlie is, etc, but the website does a lot better… and anyways, all I care about is the food (mainly those of the mobile variety). I can say that I remember the first year of the awards; I was actually there, as the catering for those attending the event is taken care of by the various area Culinary Schools (yeah, Ai rocked the house that year, whoot!). Haha, but I remember it going very well and successfully; could never attend the actual awards, but from what I read of the winners afterwards it seems pretty fair.

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                The categories seem to grow every year (with the Favorite Foods section opened to the public), and starting in 2012 they’ve added Food Trucks to that list. This year is no exception, with a voting list resplendent from AZ (get it?) to Saucy. Other categories to vote for (at least right now) mainly focus on the various “regions” of Downtown, asking us to choose which restaurant in each is the best.

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                Which brings me to my point; voting for Food Truck stuff ends in 3 days! Whoever you most adore in our mobile scene, make sure to get on and send them your vote; since you can vote once a day, can get at least 2 more votes in. And one thing to note/remember; this year the voting category for them is going to specific Menu Items, so make sure you pay attention to the pictures and pick the food you like best! (I think it makes it a lot easier; it’s so hard for me to choose among all of them!)

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                So let’s all try and get our favorite noted! The actual event is November 17th, quite a bit away; maybe they’ll have more than one category in the Mobile Itinerary this year. But, we’ll see; until then I wish Good Luck to all Trucks entered!

http://www.charliesexceptionale.com/