SFC: It’s All Cheesy

If you’ve read through any of my other SFC recipe posts, it’s easy to see that I do, on occasion, love making things from scratch. That said, I’ve really only ever scratched the surface at this; it’s quite apparent that there’s a cavalcade of in-depth, complicated, time-heavy, and even still just plain simple recipes I have yet to get to. One of them, to my own disappointment, has been making my own fresh cheese. But, a recent recipe foray in my Other Blog called for the use of young, fresh ricotta-ish style cheese. Since I didn’t have much else I needed to do for the project, I figured what the hell, time to pop that cheesecloth.

It also called from Crème Fraiche, which I HAVE made before, but had never found much luck getting it satisfactory to how I wanted it, at least consistency wise. So I wanted to try one last time, make sure I got a recipe that seemed to yield a positive result, and there we go.

Simple Crème Fraiche
1 cup Heavy Cream, Pasteurized
1 Tb Buttermilk

Very simple to do and put together, just warm the Cream up to 105F; if you want to monitor, some form of instant read thermometer will be best for it. If you don’t have it, it’s basically just a bit above body temperature, take it off the heat when it feels “warm” to the touch, not hot. Stir in Buttermilk, transfer to some random container, cover loosely yet completely (plastic wrap, not tight, is what I’ve learned is the ideal version of this).
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Now just let it sit at least 24 hours on the shelf or other room temp (ideally, 70-76F) location. Can leave it longer if you like, some might take up to 36 hours depending on scenario, but I found it wouldn’t get any thicker than sitting one day. There’s no need to stir the cream, in fact it might be detrimental if one did (I’m wondering if it might have been a factor in my not-so-successful past attempts, either that or its covering). Once it gets to the point where it jiggles when shaken, can transfer to the fridge to cool down to ideal texture (obviously it won’t be as thick when warm). And oila, we have our own thick, beautifully tart and creamy dairy mixture, our own French version of sour cream made in house.
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At this time, I could probably be a good writer, research what the actual molecular reactions and reasons it is that makes our simple cream into a sour, almost gelatinized bundle, but I don’t really feel like ranting today. Onto cheese!

Homemade Fromage Blanc/Farm Cheese
3 cups Whole Milk
1 cup Cream
3 Tb Lemon Juice or Vinegar
1 Tb (or more) Kosher/Sea Salt
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Before I start, note how I didn’t name this “Ricotta” like many other recipes may. That’s because this is NOT Ricotta. Ignoring the whole Italian-only and Sheep-milk thing, any true ricotta is made purely from Whey, the leftover liquid in cheese making, and not from any pure dairy; though it uses the same method as follows (but with pure vinegar and a higher cooking temp). On a similar note, Marscarpone is also the same method, but using all cream instead of milk+cream (of which, this ratio isn’t required, one can use more or less cream for richer or drier consistencies in the finished product).
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Start the same way as with the dairy from previously, only this time we head to about 190F,stirring only briefly to allow full heat distribution. Remove from heat, stir in your Lemon Juice/Acid and let sit 5-15 minutes for the curds to separate from the whey.
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While this is setting, prep your straining station. Set a colander, doesn’t have to be fine, over a bowl (or if you don’t want to save the whey, right in the sink), and line it with cheesecloth or other similarly fine fabric; I use white tea towels often.

Now, quite a few people say to “carefully scoop the curds from the whey into the strainer,” which works well if your mix has ended up with good, big size pieces that all float to the top (maybe with very large batches). Since all the curds in mine were basically mixed in quite thoroughly, and I bet yours will be to, I just say dump it all in, a bit at a time just to be gentle. I don’t quite see any real need to be all elegant here, it’s getting strained anyways.
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Leave this for, say, a couple hours; it doesn’t need long. Let it drip naturally, don’t press it, and it’ll turn into a soft mass of creamy, tender fresh curd. Leave it longer and it’ll go further into a firmer white fromage; less and it’s a loose cottage cheese-ish thing. The final texture is up to you. All that’s required is to mix with that Salt for seasoning. Eat now or look into ways to store and age as desired.
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As for me, a certain French ‘pizza’ known as Flammekeuche was calling my name. Check the link for its history and recipe, which calls for a blending of both Fraiche and Fromage for its cheese/sauce base. And pizza’s street food, so I just had to connect it to here.
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By the way, don’t be afraid to hold onto that leftover whey. It’s great to use in various recipes as a substitute for water to make things tangier, or substitute milk with it for less dairy impact. Boil things in it even.
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Well, hopefully some of these projects coming up will lead me to explore even more ‘from scratch’ preparations to use. I will certainly make sure to keep this blog updated whenever I do! For those looking to reproduce these or any versions of these fresh dairy products, good luck and good eating.

Undead Frank’s Zombie Bites

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https://www.facebook.com/undeadfrankszombiebites

https://twitter.com/UndeadFranks

Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

            You know, it’s been bad enough as-is every time I’ve had to tell someone that I have yet to actually go to Psycho Suzi’s. The shame and embarrassment of not being able to experience another one of the practically staple Minneapolis businesses to visit. Yes yes I know, it’s right in Nordeast, what’s wrong with me, they’re funky and already have another bar under their name, etc. I guess lack of money keeps one from the best night activities.

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            And now I feel even worse. Cuz if I HAD started going to Suzie’s or their brother bar Donny Dirk’s, I probably wouldn’t have had to wait until April to find out about the Food Truck they started up. Donny Dirk’s is, after all, Undead Frank’s Zombie Bites’favorite nightly stop, usually hanging outside every Thursday-Saturday. Since the bar doesn’t seem to serve food, it’s quite the perfect arrangement (maybe Marvel should get their own food truck… now wait, they have snacks now. Darn); it’s definitely a fun experience to get one of their undead crafted cocktails with the forbidden edibles. Their themes do match after all.

            Along with a few interesting street food items (may I present 3 different kinds of “Meltie?” Chicken, Beef, and ‘Fundido,’ aka just cheese and veggies), Undead Frank’s mainly serves up various Bar Snack typebaskets. Mostly filled with their own truck-unique items; such as the Zombie Bites, “Undead” Fries and (handmade) Chips served with Cheese, Jalapeno Coleslaw, and a hot dog aptly named Frank’s Furter; they also bring back a much missed Psycho Suzi’s classic in their Minne-Mex Rolls. These babies disappeared from the restaurant menu some time ago to the chagrin of many regulars, so the Truck decided to bring them back. Round it off with a Cactus Pear Lemonadeand we have ourselves a fun addition to the quirky little Undead restaurant family.

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            Accompanying the food, Frank’s truck is completely bedecked in a sickly zombie green, the blood of its recent ingredi… I mean, survivors, splattered here and there. Doctor Chefs are studded out in long grey labcoats, hopefully a sign they’re working on a cure between taking orders… either that or fine tuning a new chainsaw.

            My first foray with Frank’s took my straight to Donny Dirk’s about only 3 days after I found out about the truck. I say “first” because, sadly, the menu at the time did not include that one, single item which I truly needed to have; ‘dem Zombie Bites. Not that it was a total loss, due to this I was able to try a few items, enjoy them with a friend and a cocktail (the Executioner: an apple-y, spicy whisky and egg emulsion, very delicious with the food), and come back again to get even more at the Art-a-Whirl (got some fun Tiki pics while there, as you can see).

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            Starting out solely around the various restaurants and certain events, once Frank gets their own portable generator (which I suspect to have happened by the time this is posted), they plan on widening their reach throughout Minneapolis. So don’t be surprised to see them at more breweries, games, events, or just random places on the street. You know how those zombies are, they get around and show up everywhere…

Food: 8.5

             Quite a few things I’ve sampled here, let’s see if I can make this quick (for once).

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             A great street food item is the Meltie; basically a burrito placed in a panini-like-press, a tight wrapping and crispy exterior enfold a tasty, “melty” filling. The filling was good, tasty, but there wasn’t anything too exciting about it; I was really looking forward to the “beer cooked chicken,” but none of that flavor actually came through. Still juicy and well cooked, it’s a well-made standard tortilla-based munchy.

            I can see why people were upset at Suzi’s demise of the Mex-Rolls; crispy-crunchy but sorta soft fried dough, a lightly spicy, gooey cheese and black bean filling. It certainly fit with the odd bar food theme. And they look like fingers.

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            Buying just a side of coleslaw just feels odd to me, especially from a food truck (though it does at least fit my annoyed thoughts of people automatically adding sides to a mobile food and making it require a basket), but I can certainly say the Jalapeno Slawis about worth it. Its presence solves a conundrum I’ve been having for a while; what exactly makes a good quality creamy/mayo-based slaw? You can salt and drain the cabbage to absorb more, but then they get soft… or do you leave it fresh, but sometimes they affect the cream. Of which, what’s the consistency like? However it is, Frank has nailed it; crunchy cabbage, though there’s a liquid that settles into the bottom it’s not disgusting, the flavors are delicious with a good jalapeno-ness, and there’s still a nice creamy substance sticking to the outside. Maybe not the best description, but it tastes damn good; probably the best non-asian-style Coleslaw I’ve had (sorry for not keeping this one short).

             Finally, my second visit allowed me to grab those Zombie Bites. I had wondered what exactly they were like… my thoughts filled with the description of a deep-fried bundle of mozzarella, tomato sauce and pepperoni… figured it’d be like a mozzarella stick but in ball form, and with other stuff. Then I got it…

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             Do you see!? Do you see it!? It’s a Pizza Roll!!They make their own pizza rolls! And it’s got the same thin, stretched-dough-crispy crust that’s absorbed the cheese and pepperoni fat, and the almost-homogenous red filling. But it’s bigger, not as messy, sorta like an empanada version of it. I just loved it, total Nostalgia kick that I still enjoy; it’s definitely official, Undead Frank’s Zombie Bites have reached Toe Ringmaterial.

Holdability: 9

              Most items revolve around basket-based snack fair, all of which are pretty non-messy and easy to eat with the hands. The Jalapeno Slaw is quite the oddity, being served in both a cup and basket; though I guess if one’s getting it for a side with other food anyways they already eliminate the ability to hold something in one hand anyways. I am a bit saddened that the Melties are automatically cut in half; otherwise they could have made ideal one-hand-only street item. Though they are still easy to pick up from the basket and go… could probably still do it with one hand, they’re pretty thin, sorta smush them side-by-side.

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Price: 9

               $7-$8for different Melties and Main Items (like the Hot Dog), with $4-$5 for Side and Snack-based things. Overall it’s a pretty good range, multiple items which hit the mark, though it feels like a stretch for others. $5-6(it changes apparently) for “Undead Fries” or Chips, which are basically a basket with their cheese sauce, seems a bit much for a Food Truck offering, and the Hot Dog didn’t look big enough to justify $7 despite the toppings. Everything else seems about right though.

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Speed: 7.5

               About average waits for items.

The TOE: 10

               It is a ZOMBIE FOOD TRUCK! The food may not make you think of it so much (unless you look at it a certain way, though one could apply that to a lot of things), but the experience of going there is nonetheless absolute. Especially when enjoying them at Donny Dirk’s. Just what one could expect by the relative business of both Donny’s and Psycho Suzie’s; if there’s one thing they’re good at, it’s creating an “Environment.” Even got the window chefs dressed up in lab coats… simple, dank gray lab coats, but lab coats nonetheless (I wanted white with blood spatters! Whyyyyy!???). Oh, and don’t forget the Toe Ring.

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              There are likely some small aspects, of the overall package, I could knock them for, but I feel everything else just launches them far enough over these indescrepencies that I don’t care. Hell, if I had higher tiers of scoring for this then Frank’s would be one of the guys up there.

                       Tally: 44/50

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Final Thoughts

            I really think the best experience here, much like Motley Crews and the breweries, is to head down to Donnie Dirk’s, grab a basket of your favorite thing to snack on at the bar, and enjoy with one of their fun cocktails. Zombie Bitesare obviously at the top of my list, many other are obsessed with the Mex-Rollsso I think they’re as much a viable suggestion here.

            That doesn’t mean they aren’t a great option on the street. Though I haven’t had it yet, the Cactus Pear Lemonadeis near the top of my list for Food Truck Drink Options (it’s actually unique… hopefully it won’t go the way of the overused Hibiscus trend). Plus the Meltiesare strong, stable street food carry items with a unique package (compared to other options we have so far). They’re all good, but I feel like the Beefwould be my favorite.

Stanley’s on Wheels (Quasi-Review)

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http://www.stanleysonwheels.com/

https://twitter.com/stanleyswheels

           Most people know of Stanley’sBar, if not having been there already; it’s a cornerstone of the NE University/Lowry area. Mid-2012, they made the decision to join the new street food craze, launching their catering truck onto the streets of Downtown Minneapolis. Of late, I haven’t seen them too much on the street, outside of certain events (then again I’m not able to get “on the street” as often as I’d like, and not everywhere I want); but I hear that they’ve been participating in a wave of Catering gigs, likely due to the bar’s name/popularity, and have been very successful in this venture.

            Which is good, because chances are if they had to depend solely on trying to survive on the streets and breweries next to our other Trucks, I doubt they would have lasted to this Summer. My original visit to this mobile eatery was a couple years ago, and I’ve been putting off writing the review for them for quite a while; though even after starting my Quasi-review habit, I at least wanted to go back once more to give them a fully updated chance to change my first opinion. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

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            Originally consisting of a bar menu (and pictures of the food) with options that one could expect to find at any sports stadium booth, Stanley’s initial focus revolved around multi-colored Nachos covered in Cheese sauce and, now, pulled pork, BBQ sandwiches made of said meat, Pretzel sticks paired with a shot of that cheese sauce to dunk in, and at one point a “Reuben.” My first visit had me ordering this, which they served by taking a big ice cream scoop of cooked corned beef and sauerkraut mixed together and plopping it on a simple bun, squirting their version of thousand island on top. Overall it was somewhat satisfying, not bad, but it felt quite lazy as far as proper Reuben’s go. Though I haven’t seen much evidence of them still selling it though, so I guess the fine details of that particular item don’t matter.

             Nowadays they’ve kept the Beef Brisket, uncorned, and use it and the Pulled Pork as fillings for Tacos, Sliders, and Sandwiches in conjunction with the other items I’ve mentioned. Unhappily I wasn’t able to get a picture of their updated Menu on my second visit, which was during their Bacon and Beer festival at the 2014 Art-a-Whirl. The event had them keeping a very simple menu of Nachos or ultra-simple Sliders of either filling, $2.50 each. I got one of each Brisket and Pork, and they both tasted about the same: overall pretty tasteless, with a generic and thin BBQ sauce flavor, not that exciting. At least they weren’t dry.

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              Too bad they didn’t at least have the regular sliders, which they apparently top with an “asian slaw,” and use a chili-soy-sesame sauce for. Those might not be bad options. But, with that meat, the Tacos look even less promising than what I’ve had so far; they’re apparently filled with some of the most boring and cliché ingredients, mainly lettuce, pico de gallo (salsa), cheese, sour cream, and/or cilantro depending on which taco it is. For the vegetarians, they have a Wrapof Red Peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, and Hummus. And as dessert, they celebrate in their “Rock Slide Brownie;” which they make sound so perky and hopeful on the sight but is basically just a brownie with caramel, topped with more brownie and caramel (and nuts, don’t forget nuts). Doesn’t it all just sound so exciting? No? Yeah I didn’t think so either.

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                Food:4 – The food options aren’t impressive, the food barely looks impressive (though I’ll admit the nachos and brownie don’t look half bad for what they are), and the food doesn’t taste that impressive. Not “bad” but… in the overall light of other street food options, meh.

                Holdability:6 – Basket of messy nachos, saucy pulled meat sandwiches, they’re not bad but they’re not great for it either.

                Price:7 – $7seems to be the set price for most main items, with $2for the brownie (not sure about their Pretzel “Sticks” with cheese sauce, I hope it’s barely anything more). Though the prices themselves are decent, as obviously expressed there’s not much

                Speed:9 – At the very least, most items are so simple in “plating” that it barely takes any time to pile them all together

                Toe: 3 – I just barely get anything from them, obviously (though that could be just me)

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                The sad part is, looking over their website and menu pictures and descriptions, it all doesn’t look quite that bad, at least based on the pictures alone. God, I hope the translated flavors aren’t the same quality as what’s served in the actual bar.

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O’Cheeze

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http://www.ocheeze.com/home.html

https://www.facebook.com/o.cheeze.a.truck

Main Location: Minneapolis, St. Paul, etc

It is here! Finally, after a couple years with an uncomprehendible absence of a popular business idea that just makes sense, someone in Minnesota finally stepped forward to plant their feet and bring us that which we have sorely needed: a Grilled Cheese Sandwich Truck (I would have settled for a restaurant too, but mobile’s even better).

Those familiar with practically any post I’ve made are aware of my strong feelings and plight at the noted lack of this “theme” in our city’s culinary lineup, mobile or mortar. Well the wait and torture is over, for O’Cheeze has arrived to fill our stomach with happy, melty tidings. After marrying in 2013, the wedded owners quickly decided to take their very much shared love for the pressed dairy sandwich to business, moving to the streets to gift us all with the love of hot cheese between bread in the following year. And I thank them for it, god bless the both of you!

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The specific theme is Gourmet Grilled Cheese, and though the term “gourmet” can probably be debated on meaning, the fact that these are more than your average sandwich is definite! Options rotate very seasonally, with slices of crispy bread being stuffed with everything from avocados and bacon (an oft-seen item in the changing recipes) to mashed potatoes to macaroni and everything in between. From what I can tell, there do seem to be a few “constants,” in particular their main version of the classic, appropriately named the Not-so-Classic, filled with a sinful three-way of Irish Dubliner, Havarti, and Cheddar Cheese. A grilled Capresehas also found popularity, focusing on the melted Mozzarella with tomato, basil, and balsamic. But of course nothing stands out quite like the Macaroni and Cheese sandwich, served of course with an extra slice and cheese on top of the classic pasta. That one I want.

Of course they also have a few tomato-ey soup options, such as the Toma-Catoand Tortilla; I’m guessing at least one of them changes seasonally too.

Now we just need someone to open up a full-service restaurant and everything’d be money…

Food: 9

                Choices choices abound, it’s hard to pick just which sandwich to get to best encapsulate every single other, but at the end of the day I went with the presently seasonal Hooligan: the bastard offspring of a drunk Irishman and a Grilled Cheese (oh god why did I put that image into my own head…), they stuff this sandwich with a mound of Garlic Mashed Potatoes, an Irish Whiskey sauce, and a thick slice of Dubliner.

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And when I say a thick slice, I mean a THICK slice; look at that bad boy in the picture! Now that’s love right there, big and melted. The bread was cravingly crisply, just like it should be. Oh, and the potatoes… skin on, rough masher style potatoes, though still smooth, and full of delicious (but not sharp or pungent) garlic flavor, exactly how I like them. The sauce gave a noted tang and extra dimension within the mouth without being particular forward and demanding us to notice it. Put simply, this was a damn good sandwich, and if it’s any indication then I’d say the rest follow suit, though likely in their own ways (I doubt the Capreseis quite as “sinful”).

Misgivings for me are two-fold, the first being the odd inclusion of puffed rice “tortilla chips” on the side, which are a different and fun little side over fries and chips, and I think they’re supposed to be cheese flavored (though doesn’t taste like it), but it just feels a bit useless to me. The second oddity for me is a slight disconnect from the “ideal,” original style (or technique?) of a good grilled cheese. Hard to say what I mean, but there’s not really much Press to these, the bread and ingredient aren’t that pushed down into a tight, almost Panini-like bundle. And the cheese, so delicious and good, still has yet to reach that almost overflowing, gooey melted presence. Though I’m guessing the Not-so-Classicreaches this sort of state that I’m thinking of, with its inclusion of Cheddar and lack of bulky ingredients, it would be great if they got their other sandwiches to reach this pinnacle. Not that they aren’t already amazing, I’m just nitpicking them in terms of perfection.

You know what, why I didn’t get a bowl of soup while I was there I don’t know. It’s only classic to eat grilled cheese with Tomato soup, and getting a combo would not have cost that much extra. Being at a Rally, I guess the excitement of the event and back-thoughts telling me to conserve money for other things ruled out, and I missed an opportunity to give a full report. For that, I apologize, and I promise to grab a bowl of soup and completely update on its quality the next chance I see them. Though logic holds that the Toma-Cato(or whatever seasonal soup they have) is gonna be pretty darn good. They’d probably give some actual use to that side of rice-tortillas.

Holdability:8.5

                Probably one of the easiest things one can eat out of a basket as it is, grilled cheese being purely designed to have everything stick and stay in its place despite all the gooey meltiness. Though this can only go so far when being served in a basket, forced out of the throne of one-handed perfection it so deserved due to the oddly useless choice of those “chips” on the side.

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Price:9.5

                  $7for the Mac and simple all-cheese sandwiches, with $8for all containing different ingredients. Though the soups come in at $4 for a cup and $5a bowl (great deal for those wanting a big helping of liquid warmth), they offer a $2off deal for a combo. A great excuse to bring one back to their childhood of eating Grilled Cheese and Campbell’s.

Speed:8.5

               About an average wait, not too long; probably even better considering the number of people ahead of me. Soups are likely to be instantaneous, and though most sandwiches (I saw them place the mac n cheese in a sauté pan to warm, not sure if it’s done to order or if they warm batches in preparation for the the sandwich) are put together ahead of time, it still takes a couple minutes to properly griddle and crunchify the buttered bread.

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The TOE:10

                You know what, for once I don’t even feel like I need to explain myself here with how much I’ve cried for this truck to be born. Though why they have their own awesome scooter I don’t know… but I want one. OH, and I like their menu design (alright last thing).

Tally:45.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Ummm, go here? Now? About sums it up. It doesn’t fit the “snack stop” theme, but the sandwiches are great for any of those seeking the now-classic street food fare, whether it’s to experience the “new” and “sorta-hipster” versions of an old favorite or to simply be brought back to nostalgia. It’s an ideal walk-and-it, and the combo makes a great sit-down meal.

My main sandwich suggestions revolve around the Mac and Cheese(god that’s so good) and any Seasonal which contains a healthy dose of Bacon and/or Mashed Potatoes, the Hooliganand B.A.C.H.N. being prime examples of the recent weeks. Though the Not-so-Classicis always a solid choice when one’s simply aching for the basic, cheese-centric and crispy deliciousness.

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If getting soup, which is one of the better cost meal deals in the mobile line-up, I would advise choosing whichever option sticks closest to the simple, Tomato-centeredoption (I like a good Tortilla soup but it doesn’t necessary draw much appeal here).

PepperJax Philly Express (Quasi-Review)

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http://www.pepperjaxphillyexpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/PepperJaxPhillyExpress

                So apparently there’s been a certain mobile Food Truck out serving in St. Paul and certain other locations near the Twin Cities for almost a year now, and I only just learned about it from a random appearance at a recent Truck Rally. Boy do I detest my lack of information-gathering-skills at times.

                Though oft derision-based as it normally is, sometimes the application of my Quasi-review is purely necessary for the very simple reason that there’s not a lot that needs saying! Prime example, my very latent discovery of PepperJax Philly Express, who make, what else? Philly Cheesesteaks! What other menu options do they offer you ask? Nada! You get a beef philly, a chicken filly, or one without meatfrieson the side (if you want). That about sums it up.

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               Brief history for fun. Apparently the company story revolves around the owner meticulously trying to make the perfect Philly meat (despite the fact he lives and operates in Nebraska), patenting a certain cut of steak, and opening up this “new concept” quick-service casual restaurant sometime after retiring. PepperJax Grill was born, and over a hundred restaurants have popped up in the Midwest, including one very pretty far-roaming Food Truck.

              Thus I grabbed myself a sandwich, doused it with some sauce (you can either do Spicy Ranchor pick from a line of BBQ sauces… the latter which I don’t really understand), chowed down and got to it! See what this now-Minnesotan extension is like.

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              Oh, and they have this cute little chutein front of the wide window that your toasted Philly Roll/Bread slides down! It’s like your own personal delivery waiting for its scrumptious meaty contents before being shipped to your mouth.

               Food:9.5Spicy, beefy, melty cheese, soul food comforting goodness, it’s no wonder Pepperjax has grown so much. I love their bread! It is absolutely perfectly soft, absorbent but firm, with a great texture to it without being chewy. Probably one of the closest things to a true Philly we can get in the Midwest. However, close is still not the actual thing; eating through it, I do somewhat wish there was MORE cheese, and I have yet to feel it’s reached that Pinnacle of grilled meat perfection that calls out to the masses. Close, so very good and satisfying, but not quite there yet.

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                Holdability:7 – I guess one COULD walk and eat with it; I was standing and eating mine without quite as much problem as I thought I’d have. But it’s still a Philly, you look at that picture and tell me you’re not better off setting this giant bad-ass down on a table to dig in. It can get quite messy. And that’s without even considering the “Gunner”option… which I think I should do sometime…

                Price:9$8for the classic, $7.75 for the Chicken,$7for all veggie, with an additional $2 and $2.50 forFries and Double-Meat(Gunner) respectively. Considering how damn big these are, and good it is, I’d say these are pretty well priced. Would like it better if they had some discount snack item option, a $5 or under thing.

                Speed:9 – Each sandwich done one by one, once you actually get the order in, it’s made pretty damn quickly. I’d say it actually went from meat and veggies on the grill top to stuffed inside the bread in only… 1-2 minutes at the most? The only wait came in the person at the register.

I would like to make quick comment that, when finally stepping up to the long counter in front of the window in line, there seems to be a bit of a consistently awkward wait to see when you can actually order. Gotta wait for one of the cooks behind to guesture towards you, and apparently it’s usually later than I expected (it was actually the guy already halfway down the counter’s turn when I thought it was mine. Made a weird situation.). Fair warning.  

                Toe: 8.5 – Very singular, very good and delicious, going through the line itself is a little adventure in watching the grill top and the bread slide. They’ve created a bit of that feeling of the classic Philly shops, in that you know when you go there that it’s the only thing you’re going to get. There’s a little part of it that pulls back from the completion of the compelling atmosphere though, I find. Perhaps it’s just the seemingly obvious association and attachment of a restaurant chain, maybe the small logo amongst the big black truck pulls its impact back and makes it feel more like a catering van (I mean hey, when I first saw it I expected it was only in Minnesota on a very brief one or two-time event basis). Just saying.

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                Hell, it’s trucks like these that I don’t need my “suggestion” section after the review, you know what to get! Go grab a Philly, be happy. Nom in the deliciousness of all those meat and veggies; no wussing out with the “scratch the onions/mushrooms” order, and if you do it better be because you’re allergic. Philly Cheesesteaks should be eaten in every bit of their glory… with maybe some of that spicy ranch sauce on top, probably not too traditional in the home city but it tastes pretty damn good here. As does the sandwich.

                Note: in respect for the business model and food truck deliciousness, though this is indeed a “Quasi-Review,” if the score ever shifts to put PepperJax into my top 10 listing, they will receive an official “seat” and not just an honorary mention.  

Spring Food Truck Rally 2014, full of New!

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So, I was going to start this post off remarking about the good weather; the Spring Food Truck Rallywas this Saturday, and it was my first time at one of Harriet’sgatherings that it was just Sunny and warm the whole time! The curse of the rally being held in days interspersed and mixed with rainy sunshine was over!

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Well apparently that was just me, as I was only there for the first couple hours. Seems rain came down later… and the pattern continues. I swear it’s the weirdest thing isn’t it!? Every single one, different seasons, same basic weather. Maybe if they had one in Winter they coulda broke the spell…

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My luck in dodging the chance to get wet, the Rally itself was quite the fun success, as usual! Though boy did they crama LOT of food trucks in that lot, I can’t tell if there was more this year… or maybe just more people. There was a nice crowd, people everywhere, a big bustling horseshoe alleyways of those wandering for food, ending as usual with the shaded beer tent leading towards the taproom.

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Standing testament to their success over a certain other yearly truck fair, even with the noted crowds, people jostling for beer and food, listening to music, it was still a very comfortable atmosphere. No one was shoved “elbow to elbow,” most of the lines were quite small except for a couple relatively popular ones on that day, and they weren’t quite as torturous to wait through (well, maybe one). Interestingly enough, this was the first year that I have EVER seen the taproom band area floor NOT completely jammed with people, let alone almost empty (besides the chairs and couch). Guess most people didn’t mind listening at the many outside tables or during their edible adventuring.

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It’s a bit too bad most seemed to regulate their beer-buying at the outside tent, which casked four of the more popular options for fast retrieval. Unlike them, the INSIDE taproom offered those same beers and another four special, intriguing options. And though I love their Saison, I just had to get something unique for the occasion: a Barrel-aged Raspberry D.O.No, I don’t know what DO meant, I shoulda asked, but either way I found the yielding glass to be quite nummilicious (…I have got to stop using some of these words, my credibility wanes too much as it is). A chaste fragrance and filling flavor that holds reminiscence of recent raspberry and sour ales, with full body and deliciously heavy, grainy dark malt flavor with that certain blend of bitter hops and raw toastiness (or something, I still have yet to figure out the specific aroma elements for this) that I’ve found in many oaked beers. Overall I liked it; it wasn’t so much raspberry that the color changes and it’s basically fruit drink with beer (which certainly isn’t bad either), but it was more than those raspberry beers that only offer the barest whiff of affection in the aroma (also not necessarily bad, but certainly not my cup of tea; if you’re gonna flavor with fruit, then really FLAVOR it, am I right?).

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Beer’s not the only thing I tried, of course. One of my big reasons for coming out there was compounded by the ability to take pictures and sample from not only one, but TWO new trucks in the Minnesota scene! O’Cheeze is here, finally, bringing the Twin Cities our very first Grilled Cheese business! And it’s about damn time! Following them, and filling in for a an absent Sandy’s, is Pepperjax Grill, rolling their Philly Cheesesteak truck out from their many base restaurants in Omaha, Nebraska to try out Minnesota’s street industry. I did ask, they’re in the area to stay (at least for the summer), so a review of them and O’Cheese will be coming soon.

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Don’t need to wait for the other food though. And there was one food item amongst all the menus that everybody learned about, and I’d say at least 33% actually enjoyed. If you were there, you know what I’m talkin’ about: the Chicken and Waffle“sandwiches” from Lulu’s. Oh, classic, classic Lulu, offering us something that we just can’t say no to. Thick, crunchy, juicy fried chicken (you’ve read my review, you know how awesome their fried chicken is), this time pushed between thick and caramelly Belgian Waffles, drizzled with syrup, topped with Bacon, some sort of ranch-ish sauce, and I think a parmesan crisp? This basically stands for everything that Lulu is; pure, unadulterated indulgenceand happiness… in a very messy container. Great for fairs with tables! I didn’t mind getting messy to enjoy this spicy, crunchy, somewhat sweet bunch of deliciousness; I actually had to finish with a fork. The best part, I’d have to say, was the waffle; like the chicken, I would very gladly eat this separate and on its own, one of the best waffles I’ve actually had in a long time (good crunch, great flavors, still soft inside, etc). Using it here just compounds the amazingness of the whole dish.

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Now that I think about it, that makes a day of three different sandwiches. Huh, fun.

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So how do I finish off my palette after three heavy sandwiches on a hot day? Why with a popsicleof course! And it just so happens that Moral Omnivore has started selling a “Daily Popsicle” as their new dessert-of-choice. Like the chix+waffle, it made for another popular item amongst the crowd; I was quite surprised in finding out it was from MO, but very happy nonetheless.

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The flavor of the day just happened to be one of my favorite combos, Raspberry and Rosemary (too bad I had finished my beer by then); I just love berries and herbs, sweet or savory. As figured, the flavors were tasty, they weren’t afraid to showcase the rosemary. One thing I’ll say though, it was very icy… not too surprising considering it’s, as they said, basically just a fruit smoothie put in cup and frozen in a freezer. I didn’t mind too much though, they weren’t large or chunky; in fact, it works with the raspberry, very reminiscent of eating through the seeds (that’s what I thought it was at first). And I love that chunky fresh, tart raspberry feeling. Though hopefully it’s an issue that doesn’t come up in other, smoother fruit-based flavors.2014-05-10 13.07.26

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Though that was the end of my edible options that day, it wasn’t the last thing to see. Going off the popsicle, MO wasn’t the only one to have a menu change; there’ve been quite a few trucks upgrading from a simple white board to a nice, permanent design. Hibachi’s got a new, colorful yellow tag system to paste on the side of their truck. Brava, not so extreme, has brightened up the big plastic-enveloped menu items. Gogi Bros even got one of those Plasma TV Menu displays! (tried to take a pic, but it didn’t turn out well with the light)

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Not only their menu, Emconada’s gotten themselves a brand new truck! Though I forgot to go up and ask if the cart is still around, they’ll now be rolling up in a big, impressive orange van to stand out and rival the others! With the new truck comes some menu update, adding Burritosand Sandwichesto the repertoire (made with the same meat though, so I don’t see much need for a review). The cones have stayed the same, though they look a bit prettier with the sauce application on top.2014-05-10 14.06.56

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And that about sums up what I have to say. Overall I’d say it was another very fun, very successful rally by the MN Food Truck Association. Already I can’t wait for the next one, though at least I have a few events until then to keep me busy; Art-a-Whirl 2014is this weekend, get ready! Hope you all have fun, and an exuberant wish of Good Lucks and Good Eatings for the coming months!

 

Citypage’s 100 Favorite Dishes, 2013-14 Food Truck Breakdown

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                It’s safe to say the press and attention our Food Trucks have been getting through local news, papers, and blogs has yielded a wide breadth of coverage, strong reviews, and some pretty fun and interesting online articles. For the past… well I guess it’s actually been half a year, I’ve been occasionally following one of these yearly “projects” posted in Citypages: they’re “100 Favorite Dishes” (of the previous year I’m assuming… and the beginning of 2014).

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/100_favorite_di/

                I took notice a few weeks into their beginning of this year’s list after seeing a certain Food Truck’s mobile options as one of their favorite. After reading the article, considering things, I thought it would be fun to stick around and see who all else they might raise to inspired cravings. And let me say, our meals on wheels brethrens have racked up quite a few spots in the limited selection; not huge, but certainly not a puny few.

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                The first pic, coming in rated at #94, is World Street Kitchen’s Kimchi(and blue cheese) Scones. Though, yes, this particular Brunch item is only available through the RESTAURANT, I do believe the originally street-savvy business deserves the credit. Especially since this would make an AWESOME item on the Truck; god, I would hunt their truck down in a SECOND if I knew they had this guy on its menu, total Toe Ring material. Baked in house, this soft and yummy pastry is twisted with an interestingly funky mix of fermented cabbage and the moldy cheese. They have other scones too, which all sound quite yummy as well, but I gotsa love me some Kimchi all the time.

 http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/12/asian_invasion_bulgogi_tacos.php

                Asian Invasion comes in at #90with their oh-so-signatory Bulgogi Tacos, as I made some mention in their review. Kimchi makes its second appearance in this list, joined by jalapenos and the sizzling beef. I still have yet to get my hands on this soft and delicious package, but soon… soon…

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/12/100_favorite_dishes_no_78_potters_coconut_curry_veggie_pasty.php

                #78was taken up by my own favorite, Potter’s Pasties, and the much agreed-upon choice in what’s likely the best of the classic opions (or at least in the running), the Thai Veggie. Don’t think I need to express any further opinions on this item, those who read know my love of the savory pastry cart. Though I will say, so far, these favorite selections are really quite Asian aren’t they?

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/01/100_favorite_di_54.php

                One of last year’s summer newcomers, Paulette’s quickly scores itself up to #61in Citypage’s highlights with their Chocolate Croissant.Though really they could have picked any the croissants they offered, what with their mutual use of that buttery, flaky handmade and folded pastry. Can’t blame them though, a good chocolate croissant almost being a work of art, and this really is a good chocolate croissant. I’ll have to write myself a note to have it again sometime soon.

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/02/100_favorite_dishes_moral_omnivore.php

                Not a surprise, Moral Omnivore comes into the ratings, and quite high at #48, easily edging itself into the upper half of this list with their BLTwhere the T stands for Terrifically-Fried-Tomato. There’s a reason both these guys and Paulette’s made it into my own Top 10 Truck list, and the items responsible are both featured here as well. Just simple, beatifull, and perfectly fun and street worthy. If one still has yet to visit them, you should, they were probably THE stand-out truck for me of 2013, if there ever was any (hold on, did Motley’s premier in 2013? If so than MO is #2).

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/03/100_favorite_dishes_foxy_falafel_cheese_curds.php

                Foxy Falafel made it in at #28, but it was for the restaurant’s Cheese Curds, which I just found out typing this… it makes my feelings confused. On the one hand yes, it’s quite the accolade to get so high up on the list, and those local, cornstarch and dill-breaded curds look perfectly crisp and delicious… but come on, you have Foxy FALAFEL on a top 100 list for CHEESE CURDS!? I guess I should be happy it’s still a classic street fair food, but… but… falafel… please…

                -cough- Anyways. Drumroll please! The final Food Truck, which reached in all the way up to spot #23is….

–dadadadadadadada–(… in case you can’t tell, that’s a drumroll)

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/03/100_favorite_dish_world_street_kitchen_yum_yum_bowl_sameh_wadi_delivery.php

                -Gasp- World Street Kitchenagain! And it all comes full circle, and with the menu item that many could say launched their popularity: the BBQ Beef Yum Yum Rice Bowl! I still remember the many times I walked past them in the summer of our first Food Truck year. Even now, it’s still never an item that initially stood out to me that much, but when I finally had it one lone night did I get to experience the balanced beauty of this asian mixed bowl delight. Though not the most mobile, its origins hark back to the days of weary travelers getting sustenance from small roadside “cafes.” And the heart and soul has translated well throughout all these years.

                And with that ends this year’s iteration of the 100 best, my response posted notably later then I wanted it to be (they snuck the last one under my nose without me noticing for over a week, darn them!). A big congratulations to EVERYONE who made the list, this is truly quite the gathering of delicious food offerings. Maybe I should start another One Craving Project around trying each one of them? Let’s hope next year yields a similar level of Food Truck involvement. But until then, enjoy all your culinary adventures, whether they’re mobile or stuck in the ground. Good Luck and Good Eating!

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                Honorable mention towards Indeed’s LSD Alereaching #70, much love to our business brothers in the local Breweries, and Chef Shack Ranch’s Chicken Wingsat #37 (god I still need to go there… and other restaurants).