Brook’s High Beer Battered

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http://www.brookshigh.com/
https://twitter.com/Brooks_High
Main Location: Minneapolis, Select Breweries

The second of this summer’s most locally-anticipated food trucks, Brook’s High Beer Battered gained fame through their popular Kickstarter campaign, gaining press and interest through the sharing of their particular vision, one which quite a few people seemed to agree with. Definitely one of the sight’s biggest success stories, at least for Minnesota, the team here proves that, if handled right with an idea that truly appears to our local hipster masses, crowdsourcing creates a viable supplemental income source for your startup food truck operation.

And what is this vision which so many of us here have been so anxious to get on the streets you ask? Well, if you have yet to run across articles like This and This explaining it (once again, since they’ve basically been talked about for quite some time, I’m going to be lazy in my intro today), they focus purely on, as the name suggests, Beer-battered and Beer-focused menu items. But not just any beer; the fun comes in the fact that as they park at brewery to brewery, that day’s batter recipe will specifically feature some of the different beers from our local taprooms. So one day you could get a typical fried something made from a light ale, while another brings complex bitter hops, and yet another day try out a uniquely dark and savory batter made from a stout.

So far they’ve been working with Bauhaus, Lynlake Brewing, Fair State, and Tin Whiskers, while also parking at the explosively popular distiller and cocktail room of Tattersall. Of which they’ve already been parking at for over a month; my delay in being able to visit has, as one would imagine, been painful. But with their mention of the menu still being worked on a few weeks ago, my steely resolve had to set itself to wait… that and my schedule sucks. But I always prefer to get to a truck at its set point while being as close to opening as possible; hopefully I got to the right point this time.

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Southside Donuts w/ ‘Glaze’

For the food itself, topping the menu is their Fried Walleye (at least now, perhaps they may switch the fish out depending on occasion) Sandwich, followed by classic Beer-Battered Cheese Curds. When asked about upcoming items, since with still only 4 on the board during my visit, it seems plans for a Bacon-Beer-Mac-and-Cheese are underway for when the temperatures drop, along with some Beer Chili. There IS a Salad for the gluten-free and veggie-required people out there, but we shall not deem it worthy by even looking at that. And what’s a fried truck without dessert? Of late their Donuts, current flavors taken inspiration from their friends at Tattersall, have seen much feature.

Now is the time to see if they can live up to the hype, as those that invested and those that just really love the idea of this truck hope and pray for them to survive on our local roads. Let’s see what chance they have at this.

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Food: 9.5

                To my surprise the Fried Walleye Sandwich comes in two sandwiches, each with a single batter-fried walleye filet, their Citrus-Apricot-Coleslaw, Tartar Sauce (of course), and half a white country bun/baguette for each. I think I saw a picture once that had their sandwich in a pretzel bun, so not sure if I mistook it, it was for something else, or they just switch it out every here and there, like the batter. Let’s start with the fish. Heaven. There done? Oh I need more details don’t I? You get the kind of fish cooked to a point where the flesh is almost melting in how it flakes, and then surrounded by thick, crunchy-fried beer batter, hot from the friar to steam your mouth, forcing you to pause and take your time. A faint amount of friar grease makes itself present on the palate, and that being near the end of the night, which is rather impressive compared to some other fried foods I’ve had.

The slaw is delightfully refreshing and creamy, an one does get those notes of citrus every now and then, really distinguishing it as their own and proving why it’s so classically paired to ‘contrast’ the richly-cooked fish. Didn’t get a lick of the apricot though, not sure what that was about. I like the tartar sauce, tasted on its own one can see it’s of an unctuous ‘fatty’ style, probably from the amount of sour cream and mayo, with this sort of deep tang. And the bread was good, not toasted on the inside but the outside got it at some point so the texture was there while the softer inside cradled its package.

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I’ve had a lot of Cheese Curds, and a lot of them have used good cheese from local and/or organic/sustainable farms, but this feels to be the first time where it REALLY expresses this fact on the plate… er, basket… actually, in the mouth. The curds on their own were so creamy, gooey, and just plain craveable. If I had to pick my personal ‘ideal cheese curds,’ I know everyone has their favorite at the State Fair and whatnot, these would be it. Besides that cheese, the batter formed a completely even coating, thin but still crispy and textural. It made me very confused as to whether I liked it better with or without the wonderfully creamy and spicy ‘Baeoli’… aioli with beer.

It’s a shame I ended up on one of the few nights which they only had one beer to make the batter with (Bauhaus’ Wonderstuff by the way), though I’m not quite sure how much of a difference it would have made. Despite intense testing of the batter, on its own and with the food, I wasn’t quite sure I could notice any particular flavor from the distinctive beer itself. Structure, as I’ve said, certainly; I can’t recall the last time I’ve had fried beer batter that good, at least in Minnesota.

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We finish with the Southside Donuts, their little ‘donut holes’ served with a Juniper-Lime Syrup; they call it a glaze, but really it’s this thin syrup on the bottom of the basket, which I delight in rolling the donuts around to coat before popping in my mouth. I do wish the juniper flavor came out more in it too; the acidity is there, but actual flavors are subtle, and I really wish I could EXPERIENCE it, get it upfront. The menu said #BOOM… I wanted the boom –innocent little tear-. Donut on itself was… interesting. Not in a bad way, just in that I’m not sure how to exactly describe or judge the style; I think it’s similar to the brioche-dough-doughnuts. Given the style, I do believe the structure was done well, and once again is fried well, not dry or doughy. Sadly not what I had expected them to be; but now we know what they’re coming out with so you know what to get excited about.

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Look at that cheese stretch!

Holdability: 7

               Officially basket, and in the future bowl, food; besides the hand-picked donuts and curds, or fork-required salad, the slaw and sauce on these sandwiches seem quite eager to attack my fingers. Even when I tried actively pushing them down between fish and bun(an idea I used to unjustifiably inflate my own pride), still had some veggies and tartar notably fall out, so it was a good thing the basket was there; and yes you’ll want napkins as you thoroughly gulf down these bad boys in a creamy affair.

Price: 7.5

                $12 for the Sandwiche/s, $6 each for the other fried items, and $8 on that salad; so ultimately the main item, if getting for oneself, is a bit in the higher range for truck entrees, the curds seem about right, but do think we should be getting more of those simple donuts if having to pay $6 for them.
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Speed: 7

The wait felt noticeable; for the sandwich, that may have likely just been me, but I do swear the curds and donuts were longer than I expected for basket-snacks. And by that I mean a minute or two; also, NOT me saying this is taking longer than they should, they have definitely achieved that practically perfect deep fry, comes out hot and delicious… and one should be ordering this at a brewery anyway so, unlike me who has no life, you have a glass of beer and friends to keep company in those extra minute or two.

The TOE: 10

                What can I say about the truck’s concept and intrigue that hasn’t already drummed up excessive revenue for their kickstarter and media attention? Combine that with their strategic move of, as far as I can tell, ONLY parking at taprooms (or cocktail-rooms in Tattersall’s case) and events, which always have a strong local beer focus, and we have a big behemoth of a truck that melds fully into the environment while drawing us in with their appealing personality.

Want to mention the donuts again, mainly cuz, as mentioned, I was hoping they would be something different and reach a wholly unique (and again, more flavorful) Toe Ring status symbol for the truck. Perhaps if they covered it with a juniper-sugar, maybe a proper lime-frosting-glaze drizzled on top or on the side, or perhaps lime-scented white chocolate sauce…

Tally: 41/50

Final Thoughts

Now that Motley’s has gone to rest with their new restaurant, Brook’s High Batter comes in as one of the main trucks to stick to at our breweries. One could potentially get a basket for snacking at a festival, the only other place a deep-fried and beer-placed business such as this would excel in experience, but they do seem to be best when sat down alongside a nice big, rich glass of beer; ideally the one accompanying the batter-of-the-day.

Order the Walleye Sandwich with a friend; not only is it a great sandwich one can actually share without worrying about trading spit (you know unless that’s what you’re into), you’re basically getting a single delicious and reasonably-sized sandwich for $6 apiece, turning it into a better deal again. Ideally, this should also be hit at a gig where they do indeed have at least two different beer-based batters; that way when you get your obligatory Cheese Curds (Get Them! Seriously!), or perhaps their upcoming Bacon-Mac and Cheese, you can enjoy the spirit of the different preparations. Plus then you could tell me if you can actually taste the beer notes in each…

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Sal’s Place on the Road

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https://www.facebook.com/salsplaceonlinemn
https://twitter.com/salsplaceonroad
Main Location: St Paul

For those like me with the consternation to try and visit every food truck in the main cities area, or at least hit as many as possible when given the chance, one usually ends up going through phases. Often we hit a mix of interesting and non, sometimes we’re lucky enough to get multiple amazing trucks in a row, others can just feel like dragging through some others on the side just to cross them off the list. But despite that grouping of bbq-themed guys earlier in the year, the year of 2015 has been turning up mostly fun and interesting trucks so far.

In particularly, I’ve been aware and receiving notifications for a certain truck for a while now, having only to wait on the right week to hit it. Of course delays happen, my budget not allowing me to drive down for truck lunches as often as I’d like, and having a few occasions where a truck not-so-often seen takes precedence over one which I knew I’d be able to get sooner or later.

Apparently I needed TWO visits, with quite the menu listing of different items. But, I’ve finally gotten a solid experience out of Sal’s Place on the Road, and can now do my long-awaited review on them! They taunted me with Facebook updates on their Italian menu items and desserts, and after seeing the complete menu on my first visit, the vehicle sky-rocketed to my absolutely most anticipated food truck of the year so far (we’ll see if they live up to it later). Wish I could have stopped to get a little interview and learn some more about the family behind the truck while I was there, like I’ve been trying to do lately, but things come up, you know how it goes (mainly the fact I was with the cousin, the street was busy that day, and their generator was loud as hell). From what I do know, and can tell, Sal’s does seem to be a family-run operation, and has been on the streets a few seasons already.

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The Menu itself definitely revolves around Traditional Italian-American Diner-style food, mostly geared towards street fare desirables. This includes a collection of Sliders (like Meatball, Pork, Chicken, and Caprese), a Sausage and Pepper Hoagie (cooked in tomato sauce of course), and Arancini, balls of risotto stuffed with cheese and other goodies before being deep-fried. Though no Italian menu is complete without Pasta, to which they change things up, making different ‘seasonal’ flavors and styles as the whim hits them, sometimes going Ziti while others doing Shells, perhaps even noodles of some sort. The one consistency is that it’s ALWAYS done with handmade egg-based pasta dough, likely rolled in Sal’s giant mitts every week.

They also have dessert! Which includes Zeppoli (small Italian doughnuts covered liberally in powdered sugar) and a Deep-Fried Ravioli, also made from their own pasta of course, stuffed with a hazelnut-chocolate filling. And yes, I got both, so you shall see my opinions below! And no I’m not wasting any more time on that.

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Food: 6

                My first visit actually had me starting with dessert! So, despite every parent’s worst meal-planning nightmare, I feel it only fair to discuss their sweets first, especially as they seem to be the main highlight overall (at least in my opinion). I myself was much surprised that the Chocolate Ravioli were deep-fried, it didn’t say, but it gave a nice crunchy outside. At first though, I wasn’t impressed… the filling didn’t stand out too much; but then, after my third, I realized my first couple pieces were actually rather thin. The REAL raviolis, with a good full tablespoon of hazelnut-chocolate inside… ahh, it’s like taking a bite of… well actually I can’t think of a comparison, but it feels a bit nostalgic. Like the best chocolate sauces and toppings, hot and runny, hitting every point of your chocolate cravings perfectly. It highlighted nicely with the firm crunch of the pasta, but as a whole I really did wish for one more element… after going past to start setting up this unique and interesting dessert, the dish needs SOMETHING else to make a complete and amazing plate, powdered sugar doesn’t do crap for it. Maybe just a drizzle of raspberry sauce or something (cuz it’d look like tomato sauce, right!?), or marshmallow (alfredo anyone?)…
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But I hold no complaints with the Zeppoli. They’re perfect. They may look a bit overdone on the outside, but it’s perfectly crisp, not greasy, with a tender interior that I can only describe as in the realms of the best, idealistic brioche and/or poundcake, probably leading more towards the latter. You bite in, enjoy the texture, the little eggy richness from the dough, the heaven of powdered sugar that takes one to the streets of Louisiana, and then realize there’s an extra little flavor there; a touch of citrus, lemon or orange. Simple and classic, something I normally would actually find boring, but for once thoroughly enjoyed the addition as it rounds out a well-crafted dough to make a uncomplicated doughnut sublime. Wouldn’t change a thing. Now onto savory stuff.

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Arancini comes in with an evenly crisp outer shell and soft, tender rice inside, the risotto mixed with cured meats and cheese, resulting in an end product that wasn’t particularly distinctive and outstanding in flavor, but still enjoyable. Especially when you got a bit of cheese goo that stretches when bit into! Rather num, particularly when dipped into the Tomato Sauce, a simple slightly heavier style but I found no apparent flaws (or at least things I disliked about it, to be more accurate to what we’re really all just writing about in review posts).

It also comes with a Breadstick on the side… which they ‘reheat’ by dropping into the deep fryer. Yeah. That happens. Then covered in clumps of… parmesan? Garlic Powder? A combination? I don’t know. What I DO know is that this breadstick is… unholy in the best of ways. It’s crispy on the outside, but fatty, a touch crunchy yet really soft inside, and gives a flavor that’s hard to describe outside of a feeling reminiscent of certain slightly-over-greasy doughnuts, but savory and actually crave-able. Which makes it even worse when I tried the Garlic Dunker basket (not my choice, my cousin got it because he doesn’t know how to really live food-wise) and none of them tasted as good. They were chewier and didn’t have that same outer layer of unhealthy excellence… and I know why. If you look at the picture, you can clearly see they’re using three SMALLER breadsticks for this, which causes a different effect after the frying (which I’m guessing doesn’t even last as long since they don’t ‘need’ the extra time like bigger ones do, another cause of the effect). I wish they’d just do two of the bigger ones instead (or, I mean, come on, just do all three, breadsticks are cheap as f*$# anyway), I might gladly order them myself.

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What I won’t gladly order again are any of the Sliders. Ultimately, we ended up getting three; the Abruzzo Pork, Chicken, and Meatballs. Now, whereas the fillings of each were all decent; juicy herb and wine-braised pulled pork (though I was rather sad that’s all it was, was hoping they’d either have a flavorful sauce or at least some extra toppings on it, otherwise it tasted like plain pulled pork, though really juicy), grilled chicken with a nice pesto and griddled red pepper (love cooked soft red peppers), and a meatball that was soft, well-seasoned, and with a tasty sauce; the simple decision in buns made the experience absolutely disappointing. First off, the ‘ciabatta’ style slider buns were way too thick for the fillings inside; ended up eating all of the meat before finishing the bread, leaving a big chunk of dry dough to force down the gullet. Secondly, there was NO TOASTING of them at ALL! And THIS was the kind of pre-cooked roll that needed a second run-through (like those take-home baguettes at the grocery store that you need to put in an oven to actually get crispy and soft), which is why they were all completely dry, doughy, and absorbed every drop of sauce. They dearly needed to be coated in oil or butter and put on the griddle for a bit at least, get some texture, form a layer, actually make it edible. And they had ample time to do this with the chicken too. They seriously need either get smaller buns or stuff them with more filling AND have them spend a bit of time on the griddle or in the oven before service.

Let me say if it wasn’t for the quality of the non-sandwiched food, and what I imagine how good the pasta probably is, this would be a much different score.

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Holdability: 8

                 One of the things I was most excited about when I first saw the menu was that my main worry of what was a very Italian-American style of business, typically filled with bowls of dishes filled of pasta and meat and sauce, very much expected to serve most of their usual fair in big to-go containers alongside plastic forks, actually took proper steps to twist and focus their food into a more portable means. As I’ve mentioned already, many main items are in sliders or a long sandwich, or are offered deep-fried as typical finger foods. Obviously the one pasta dish (and any sorta seasonal ones they say they do) still need forks, but everything else should be able to consume with hands easily, though the stuffing of the baskets with a buttload of chips feels like it curtails the portability feeling a bit (not to mention highly cheap and an unnecessary addition). Should I count all the powdered sugar on the Zeppoli and Fried Ravioli, not to mention its gooey chocolate insides, against them? Probably. Will I? Hell no; I mean that’s like complaining about mini-donut cinnamon sugar on your fingers (YOU MONSTER!!!).
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Price: 9.5

                  $4 for each dessert; $7 for any slider including a sampler of two (can get a sampler of 3 different ones for $9) and the Pasta; $6 for Arancini and Garlic Dunkers; and $8 for the sub. Really great range and deals overall, in addition to those massive additions of chips and that bigger fried breadstick on some, but the quality and actual size of those sliders (and unsatisfying bread) makes the lower price of THOSE understandable.
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Speed: 8

Overall, most of the ordered items didn’t take too long to get out; desserts and arancini just needed quick fry, meatball and pork sandwiches cut and scooped into some at-the-moment sliced ciabatta, and breadsticks deep fried. It was only that which needed cooking, like the chicken slider, that took a while… though it did seem quite a while. A bit disappointing considering how much time and opportunity they had to also put the buns on there (no, I am NOT going to stop bitching about those). Can imagine pastas, which are always cooked to order, will be a while. No idea on the sausage sandwich, though I expect it to be similar to the meatball situation. Overall it differs highly, so pick wisely.

The TOE: 7

                  When I first finally got to visit them, saw their menu, and tried the desserts, I was really excited. You know that feeling you have when you go to, or at least think of, one of those old, corner family-run Italian diners/restaurants? Walk in, look at the menu, and you can practically feel some old matriarch or patriarch in the back, just kneading masses of pasta dough by hand, stirring big pots of meat and sauce, following the same recipes and movements that generations of family members did before them. Reading the menu, getting served by the obviously wizened owner behind the window, I FELT that, even before eating the food.

And then I went back and had those sandwiches… and I lost that. Really I shouldn’t technically be having the food quality affect this score too much, but it just makes such a dent in the experience. Not to mention, I never thought I’d say this, but the generator was exceptionally loud on the second visit, seemed like a rather older model, which actually affected the experience a bit. That said, make sure to follow my Final Notes, pick the right menu items, and this hopefully shouldn’t affect you. Fingers crossed.

Oh, a last thought, something I’m really not able to say often anymore, but of the few items I DID really like I found what may indeed be the emergence of a Toe Ring. Those deep fried Chocolate Raviolis certainly hit that unique-yet-familiar note, sinfully delicious aspect, not how I expected but almost complete success. Big props for that.

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Tally: 38.5/50

Final Thoughts

Given my experience with the sliders, it’s plain to see that this is not a truck I would suggest for your everyday lunch needs, especially with other options available. However, parked in a food truck fair/rally setting, or on those days when those like me enjoy popping from truck to truck in gathering a ‘meal’ from separate little bites while keeping an easy hand on the wallet, Sal’s Place has a few items that excel.

The Arancini fit the same categorical need as Gogi’s Kimchi Rice Balls, only better, crispier and with that added element of gooey cheese. After getting that as a snack, finish off your day with the Fried Chocolate Ravioli or Zeppoli; it’s very hard for me to choose between the two, but if I really had to I’d probably pick the latter just for perfection’s sake. These guys definitely make a ‘food truck meal/day’ complete.

If still one wants to come by with the absolute intention for a sandwich or otherwise fuller meal from Sal’s, I cannot provide a 100% solid solution. That said, I do still hold some higher expectations for the Sausage and Pepper Sub; like the meatball it IS handmade, bigger, and there’s a chance the bun used might hold up better than those ciabatta sliders; plus, more portable. But if there’s any entrée they should do well with, it’s their Pasta, whatever seasonal thing they have on that day (Ziti, Mostaccioli, et). They make the egg pasta themselves, not to mention their tasty sauces, so it should offer a proper menu highlight. But those are the only two.

A Peace of Cake

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http://www.apeaceofcakemn.com/home.html
https://twitter.com/APeaceofCakeMN
Main Location: St Paul

As we wander the streets in search of food truck meals, sooner or later we’re hit with that familiar urge… the need for sweet. Sometimes just having a taco or sandwich won’t do it, but instead that need to finish a period of eating properly with some crave-ending dessert becomes all that’s important. But what options for this in the Twin Cities do we have? There are those Cupcake Trucks that are sometimes out, a few select purveyors of Frozen Treats, even a new Crepe vendor that’s hit our streets. Yet we’ve already seen these, the same old kinds of food we’re used to, with none of that true ‘edge’ which I myself always seek out from my ideal food trucks. If we’re lucky a savory truck might offer an intriguing little twist on some kind of dessert, but who knows which one and when they’ll decide to do it?

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Enter A Peace of Cake, already a dependably consistent St Paul native truck rolled out just over a month ago, offering something quite unique… well, actually, quite classic to the streets, but served in a way we’re definitely not used to (try to find another place that’s publicly known for doing this, I dare you). Despite the name’s assumption, Mini Donuts are the name of the game as a result of the owner absolutely abhorring the idea of throwing away food at the end of the day (I feel ya sister, much pain there), so instead they went for a medium that they could stop making whenever they wanted/needed and didn’t have to worry about produce, fruit, batter, or other things spoiling over a slower week.

Looking to recreate herself, owner Dana decided, like many food truck owners do at one point or another, that she wanted to work for herself. Thus the truck was started, along with their message (which can be clearly seen in the triple-logo) of Anarchy, Peace, and Mini Donuts, for “In Society, how can we be all upset if we find a little bit of peace and a little bit of happiness with some sugar on top.”

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Gotten in the classic little white paper to-go bag, these fried pastries can be dusted in Sugar, Cinnamon, Cardamom, or other Seasonal flavors. Or, in one of their “Boats/Barges” (really it’s just a basket, but let’s not rescind their right to amusing labels). Though it’s not that they’re served in these containers… but that, when in here, they are then completely doused in a variety of sweet (and sometimes savory) sauces and toppings of choice, like a big pile of deep-fried, O-shaped, buttery pancakes eaten in only the most sinful ways (screw berries, chocolate and caramel and nuts all the way!).

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The offerings themselves come in a variety of pre-made combos utilizing some form of Chocolate, Caramel, or ‘Vanilla’ sauce (though one can just get a basket drizzled with one of those), often along with other toppings like nuts, sprinkles, candy, etc. The Peanut Buster, containing chocolate+caramel+peanuts, is popular, as is the Oreo with the classic cookie and vanilla. Though there are also options like “Hot Cakes” w/ maple and powdered sugar, a Sriacha-Honey number, even a Strawberry-Coconut thing (among others, even Nerds), all depending on what’s on for the day one gets there.

And no need to fret the difficulty of hard decisions, as they offer the amazing option to split baskets in half with two options of one’s choice. Eaten with an environmentall-friendly, degradable ‘wooden’ fork, and this can certainly combine into a match made in sweet tooth heaven. Let’s see if it actually does.

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Food: 7

We have to start at the heart of things; the donuts. First off, let me just say how refreshing it is to finally be able to have a mini donut that doesn’t have every bit of it covered in sugar or something. I never knew how much I was missing out on this crispy, perfectly fried dough outside, encasing the buttery soft interior perfectly. It’s a good thing I didn’t have a bucket of these, otherwise I would be deadest on getting them all shoved into my or stranger’s stomachs before turning cold. They’re like the donut version of Sweet Martha’s Cookies.

So you could say it’s a good thing that they were covered in those sauces… because they did not make me want to eat more of it. As excited as I was, as delightfully sinful as it looks, and as much as I love dessert and sweet things… there was just too much sugar here. Seriously. I know I know, hey, I’ve watched plenty of food competition shows and yelled at the judges for bitching that “oh this dessert is sweet, and I don’t like sweet desserts,” because you know that if anything it’s just a tad more sweet focused than having that sweet+savory+whatever-the-hell-else balance that doesn’t even taste like a true dessert anyway. But I know there are also times when something really is just TOO sweet, I’ve experienced it many times, like those cheap cakes that are just filled with frosting that just feels like sugar turned into paste and rubbed across the teeth. There really is such a thing as too much, usually that point when the expression ‘tooth numbing’ comes into our head.

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And that’s what some of the main sauces tend to do here. Taking advantage of the duo basket to try the two most appealing things on the menu and in pictures, I went for the Oreo and Peanut Buster flavorings. To keep it short (maybe), the ‘vanilla’ sauce used in the oreo is nothing more than royal icing, the purest form of sugary frosting ever, closest to what’s normally used to frost donuts, but that’s in a thin layer. This is poured on in a thick glob of white, accompanied by the classic chocolate cookies, the flavor of which sadly doesn’t even stand out much. I was hoping to get that amazing ‘cookies and cream’ experience, but all I got was sugar and some cocoa-crunchy stuff.

The chocolate sauce they use for other things is quite obviously milk chocolate based, and tastes very much like a Hershey’s bar. It’s definitely a thick, sort of cloying chocolate, decent on the first bite with some caramel and peanut, but making you hate yourself a bit in the not-so-fun/ironic way we usually do with the idealized ‘sinful’ foods. I just… wish they did dark chocolate, not because ‘oooh it’s fancy and I’m grown up so dark chocolate is what I’m supposed to like,’ but because it actually has that proper balance of sweetness, not to mention the AMAZING deeper, chocolate flavor that we really want in these dishes.

If only a couple of these sauces were improved, some sort of marshmallowy-cream thing for the oreo and dark chocolate, probably a better caramel (wasn’t easy to taste, but I imagine it feels just as confected), or at the least feature more of  (or purely focus on) the other unique flavors/toppings their online menu suggests they have from time to time, then it’d be just perfect. Because I really hated the fact that I had to bitch like this here for this truck. Really I did. Luckily the donuts were good enough that, knowing there are other non-sauce options, I can keep the score for them at a decent point.

Holdability: 9

Either you’re getting a bag with the classic carry-around ability of regular mini-donut adventures or a basket covered in sauce, which may seem daunting at first in this line (if you use your fingers, yes it’s messy), but using a fork eliminates EVERY bit of this. I know I normally encourage eating with fingers, especially for something like donuts, but here it just feels proper to use their special forks to very easily lift each bite-size (put it all in your mouth at once, DO IT!!!) topping-covered dough ball at a time. They thus transform into the easiest and cleanest kind of basket food to eat on the street.

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Price: 9.5

Doughnuts really are quite the price-efficient food items, with a basket of 6 coming in at $4, doubling it for a total of $6, the value of which increases even further to the simple fact that you don’t have to buy separate baskets to try a couple different toppings. I’ll admit I didn’t pay attention to what the classic sacs of mini-donuts cost, but I think it’s the same for 10-12 are, but I think it was $4, or also $6 at the most.

Speed: 9.5

They’re not fried purely to order (but as one can tell from previous, that definitely doesn’t affect the quality of what you get), with batches ready and needing only a drizzle, sprinkle, or whatever one has on top for order.

The TOE: 10

Look, I love cupcakes, and crepes, and ice cream, and all that stuff, but we have needed a full-dessert truck like this for the longest time, one with that ‘food truck twist.’ The design is fun, the name is cool, their whole view on things is funky and a little different, which clearly comes through both with their image and the food served. They’ve taken something we’re all familiar with and love and just served it up notably different than what we’re used to, like making a dessert version of chili cheese fries or something; that’s sort of cool right? And the regular sugar/spice sprinkled options can still come in unique flavors if one so desires. This really is exactly what I’ve been looking for in terms of having our own special dessert-focused food truck. In essence, the whole menu is a giant collection of Toe Rings, some of the toppings just need tweaking… well, more than tweaking. But at the end of the day, the whole idea, uniqueness, and fun behind it launches top points for the experience category.

Tally: 45/50

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Final Thoughts

For anyone developing a sweet tooth while walking the streets, this is the truck to take advantage of. But if you’re not sharing a basket with a few friends, make sure to be quite wary which flavoring options one chooses.

Despite my own love of the concept, especially considering the chance to finally experience the raw crispy-butter edges of these donuts without being covered in a layer of sugar/icing, I would imagine the truly best option is going for the Cardamom-dusted donuts in the classic white travel bag for a fun twist on traditional mini-donuts that doesn’t numb our teeth in excess sugar. For the basket options, I would haphazard the Hot Cakes/Breakfast of Maple Syrup and Powdered Sugar would come together rather well; a bit more naturally sweet vs the artificial chocolate and icing. Though the Caramel on its own might work better than my experiences, so perhaps a simple drizzle of that.

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There ARE other menu items that weren’t featured that day-of which I imagine would work amazingly in the mouth. Sriacha-cha (using sriacha honey), Sweet Chili (chili sauce, peanuts, powdered sugar), and Strawberry Shortcake (strawberry sauce and coconut cream, yum) should all form some fantastic oral experiences at much better and more controlled, or at least contrasted, sweetness levels. If you HAVE to have something chocolate, and have a friend or two to share, attack the S’mores (we’re used to that Hershey Bar sweetness for those anyway) or Walnut Walkover (apparently that one has the walnuts mixed INTO the caramel, should highlight it more).

And please, PLEASE, until they change the topping, avoid the Oreo and other options using the ‘Vanilla’ sauce. I know it’s attractive and seems like a proper signature, but it’s just pure sugar royal icing that doesn’t contribute anything besides cavities. Look at the other options, I beg you.

Twin City Fritter & Philly

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https://www.facebook.com/TCfritterphilly
https://twitter.com/tcfpmn
Main Location: St. Paul, Breweries, Etc

Food Truck Hunting is an interesting game, especially after your work schedule and various other distractions have increased to severely limit your ability at physical exploration. New trucks fly by under your notice, your own visits are sporadic and few in between, and an even higher percentage of trucks than before tend to elude your grasp, taunting you in a way reminiscent of the ghostly out-of-town vehicle, only this capture is destroyed more from the intervention of others than the prey’s silent evasiveness.

So is it that some of the more interesting events can unfold when one DOES go out hunting again. As it was when finally I thought I had cornered a coffee-infused rabbit of a prey after most of a year’s waiting and weak attempts at grabbing. A Food Truck Rally in the Fall, Harriet Brewery’s now annual event, in which the truck was listed, thus MUST be in attendance…  I nary had time to enjoy the full event for the smorgasbord of prey-set-to-music and drink it was, but I still had the chance to run in and spear my target before heading to work. Finally did I then arrive, stalking around the habitat of the ‘parking lot’ for my goal, only to find… it wasn’t there. Of course. EVERY time I almost have it they choose not to show. It’s like the Waffle Van Jazz Fest fiasco of 2013 all over again.

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Only this time I didn’t leave unrewarded. For where my original prey had disappeared, two new animals had taken its place. The just-reviewed Fro Yo Soul, giving a very quick kill with barely any waste to my resources, and the intriguing label of a deer named Twin City Fritter and Philly (hey look, it rhymes!). They weren’t the prize I wanted, but two surprising gifts instead of one isn’t that bad.

Thanks to the trip, I was able to finally discover both of these businesses. Fritter has been on the streets since June, apparently, a Family-run truck serving up their namesake sandwich and fried ball of dough. Only instead of serving a full, two-handed cheesy bread-box as usual, they focus on what they call ‘Fun Size’ sandwiches, offering both traditional Philly (with the grilled onions, peppers, and melted provolone) and Italian (simply covering the beef with spicy giardanera) in what looks like a thick bratwurst bun made out of Sourdough. These automatically come with a side of their trademark Fritters, cornmeal creations of cilantro and spices usually, though they also play with different flavors now and then (mine was a sweet creation studded with Mango and drizzled with icing).

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The menu, as I’ve found through research, isn’t always as indicative of what was shown during my rally visit. In the past, they’ve also offered Fries (or had them automatically on the side with the Fritters only available through separate purchase), big and small side baskets of fritters, a Fritter Dog (their own corn dog). But of particular interest to me, past menus have shown a secondary side with Whistler Soda! Love trying good, small brands, num.

Whatever one’s options during your individual visits to them, it’s like to turn out like mine, a little adventure.

Food: 8

                Considering the name, and menu’s lacking of some of the other options that have been offered at least in the past (wish I coulda tried some of those sodas, mm-mmmm I love exploring new, good quality carbonated sugar drink), of course I had to try the Philly. It’s too bad they weren’t doing their usual fritters on the day-of, but at least this way I got to see how well they transform it to other flavors.
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I’ll start off by saying that if you’re looking for a true, down-home, soul-filling replica of a proper PHILLY, this doesn’t really hit that mark; it’s not that loaded with the gooey cheese (and no option for whiz), not to mention it doesn’t have that little kick of heat many Phillies do. Also, I forget if they do pop the buns on the griddle in Philadelphia, but I know that Fritter doesn’t. THAT said, it is still a GOOD Beef sandwich. The meat is juicy, some of the jus sorta soaking into the soft sourdough bun, the onions and peppers are soft and piled on top… it’s satisfying, and a shame they don’t offer really large versions of it. Not to mention a bit of that mess factor as half the vegetables fall off when you try forcing some of that good stuff into your mouth. As a sandwich, I do feel they need a bit of sauce on it to add one more aspect to the flavors; either that or make sure they load more cheese and/or just, maybe crack some black pepper over the top before serving.

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Concerning the fritters, I’ve come to find in my travels that there are those who make their savory and sweet fried balls from a certain kind of batter, as opposed to a dough, that creates this particularly firm and crusty outside while the inside retains not a smooth, even doughnut-reminiscent result but something mealy. In particular I once had this thing that was labeled a beignet but was instead an over-fried ball of greasy, thick crust and  mealy and dense interior… not sure how the hell they ended up serving that, let alone labeling it a beignet. Rant aside, this particular style is seen particularly in cornmeal fritters, dough to how they integrate, and they rarely if ever impress me as something I’d desire over other fritter styles.

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Fritter’n’Philly, however, has done it pretty damn well. The crust is the right thickness, crunchy, and not greasy, while the inside is almost fluffy and soft, though one can still tell it’s cornmeal based, with just a tad bit of mealiness for texture. The mango came through surprisingly nicely, and the icing drizzle was interestingly welcomed; when eaten with the sandwich, it almost reminded me of having that Donut Burger at Eli’s. At the end of the day, if I had a fritter of different style yet equal level of execution I would probably prefer it better, but the fact they reached this pinnacle with their cornmeal batter is something that I feel should be noted. Such a shame I wasn’t able to try their original, fully-savory cilantro-based version.

Holdability: 7.5

               A little messy, sticky frosting and juicy, overflowing sandwich, but still easy to eat with fingers even while walking; one may simply want a napkin.
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Price: 8(?)

                There’s an interesting divergence in menu style from the time I visited compared to a photo they took of it a month or so ago. Besides, of course, the lack of Fries and Fritter Dog during my recon (which could have simply been due to the day, having hit it during Harriet’s Fall Rally), which both clock in at $6, the Sandwich and Fritters plate was listed at $8, compared to its earlier price of $7, which is what I think I was ACTUALLY charged… they probably forgot they changed the price, haha. Interestingly enough, the $8 instance only came with 2 Fritters, while the earlier $7 had 3… but then again, the original cilantro fried dough balls could be smaller. Of a final note, though one could get a thing of fritters on their own for $2 (or $6, also seen on an early menu, though I’m guessing that was a bigger bowl instead of a side of 2-3), one does not have the option for buying a Philly or Italian on its own for less money. I’m quite disappointed that that isn’t offered, nor the option to have one BIG sandwich, at least if one were to ask, as it seems like a common sense service.
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Speed: 8.5

 

Food came up relatively quickly, about a minute after ordering.

The TOE: 7

                There’s a certain ‘steak sandwich shop’ atmospheric feel to this place that reminds me of a visit to the Steak and Shake or other meat-sandwich-Kiosks. The automatic pairing of the sandwich with this unlikely side creates a psychoactive intrigue at the little uniqueness that the place offers. Overall it’s somewhat tantalizing and curious during the visit, with a notable personality, though somewhat even-toned.

Tally: 39/50

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Final Thoughts

When you’re not in the mood for a physically large lunch but still need some weight in flavor (as opposed to a light salad), grabbing the combo of fritters with half-sandwich seems to fit the bill quite well. Everyone usually has their preference between Italian and Philly styles, but if you’re not sure then of course start off with the Philly’s. On a secondary note, ordering the side of Fritters is a fun option when in need of a snack, either between trucks or whatever the situation is. The question is whether they’re only offering the particularly-cheap side of 2 fritters, great for one person, or a $6 basket, which I suggest sharing with friends. They seem to do both sweet and savory styles well, so no need to wait for specific flavors. And if you’re on the look for something unique and nostalgic the Fritter Dog may be a fun replacement for your favorite corn dog. I’m curious to try it myself, may even reach Toe Ring status.

SFC: Substituting for a Donut?

               It’s been a couple weeks since I started my Fruitcake, 14+ days of alcoholic spritzing, and as promised I am here to turn some of it into a Street Worthy Creation. Of which I’d been wracking my brains about a bit, since I don’t see any reason to do more Bread Puddings, not to mention all the sandwiches I normally do, I’ve become quite cautious of even more without good or unique reason.

                At the end of the day, I decided to take inspiration from a recent trip to Kentucky; or, to be more specific, one of those amazing Grilled Cheese Sandwich Restaurants there that we STILL have yet to open up in Minnesota. Anyways, besides an entire wall filled with different variations of the classic (including a whole section that included different potato chip additions), they also had a section of “Dessert” Grilled sandwiches made with Donut Buns (a-la crispy crème glazed style). Some had actual cheese inside, some used a flavored marscarpone, many incorporated fruit, but they all looked soooooo good. The one I had to try had both peanut butter and marshmallow marscarpone, blueberry jam, and bananas; and yes, it was awesomes, and also a bit messy, and very much something that I think should be seen on Eli’s truck soon (whenever they get back out…).

                So, an awesome Sweet Grilled Peanut Butter-Jelly Dessert Sandwich, coming right up.

                We start by taking a nice, not-too-thick, clean slice from our ageing Fruitcake. To best keep a clean cut, use a finely serrated blade, cutting somewhat quickly but carefully.

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                Thoroughly butter the smoothest sides of the cake slices you have and get them ready for assembly. My favorite little “technique” to laying them out is setting the buttered side of one on top of the buttered side of the other, so one doesn’t need worry about the cutting board/counter/plate getting all smeared with milk fat, not to mention you don’t have to clumsily attempt to assemble in the hot cooking pan, or invert and struggle to butter the other side while the sandwich is already pressed together, or whatever.

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                At this point we can start stacking, though since all the fillings today are pretty soft (semi-fluid?) I suggest depressing the center of the bread with a firm push of your spoon.

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                As for the actual fillings, I didn’t have any mascarpone, but I did have some Double Cream (like Devonshire cream) which I mixed with some Peanut Butter and Powdered Sugar. I was also thinking of using yogurt as a possible substitute.

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                Spoon the smooth substance into the middle and top with your favorite, or most available, Jam. I used some Marmalade we had in the fridge.

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                Finish “garnishing” with some actual Nuts for texture and a little bit of actual White Cheese, Monterey Jack in my case. Yes I know, savory cheese in such a sugar rich dish, perish the thought, but I’ve seen them put slices of Swiss on the ones out in Kentucky, and you mix a slightly tangy-salty thing with rich-sweet centers it’s not too bad; just avoid anything really strong and pungent. Heck, I didn’t even taste the cheese at all after cooking it, next time I’ll be adding even more.

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                Add a little spritz of our soaking alcohol and we can fry. Get a sauté pan heated up, medium to med-high should work well, moving the bottom of your sandwich in the center to start griddling. With the particular delicacy/unfirmness of the stuffings, it’s extra important to be VERY careful in your overturning of the sandwich.

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                Ohhh, this cake fries up SO well. Look at that dark, evenly thick butter-crust on it. This would be so good as is, but I think we have to finish with just a bit of powdered sugar.

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                Wrap it up to go and chow down. And mmmmm is this bastard good… moist and sorta gooey, rich and sweet insides, crunchy texture, all that good stuff. I’ll admit I was happily surprised that it actually turned out as delicious as I thought (few things rarely do), and the fruitcake was just so perfect in it. All its complexities came out while still acting as a solid container for everything else; and it still had a noted brandy-ness to it.

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                Overall I feel quite happy with my choice and outcome, though if I had the chance next time I think I’d love to play around with using Goat Cheese for my mascarpone substitute. Of course, using Donuts instead of Fruitcake would be fun to try too at one point.

                But whether you end up using your Fruitcake for fun little side preps or just consume it all as-is during the holidays in question, we’re all sure to be treated to something delicious. Good Luck with the upcoming preps and your Cake ageing, and Good Eating.

Top 10 Trucks, 2013

               The sky is grey, the weather is chilled, leaves are covering the ground and now soaked from overnight rain, and it is literally the middle of October. Sad to say, it seems the 2013 open season for Food Trucks on the streets has ended; we of course still have our various rallies and brewery-connected days, but the midday lunches of Trucks crowding the Twin Cities’ downtown area is just about over. Though this sad news brings much in lamentations of the missed bevy of our beloved street foods, it also means it’s time for the release of the 2013 Top Ten List of Minnesota Food Trucks!!

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                We’ve seen quite a few new trucks this year, and I’m happy to say that a couple were able to push themselves into the top rankings of my scoring system. And though many of the same trucks from last year still remain, that’s not to say there hasn’t been some interesting jumbling and a fun surprise abound. So let’s get to the big reveals then shall we?

 

10th Place: AZ Canteen with 46 points

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Sliding down to 46 points off of last year’s 48, AZ moves to the 10th position after a full review of their burger sadly ended up taking off points in the Holdability factor, not to mention some increased prices in a new Hot Dog. But they’re quality in food and dedication to the unique and authentic street food experiences are still top-notch, reserving their place in the top 10 for another year to come.

 

7th Place: Three-way tie at 46.5:

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            Chef Shack, MidNord Empanada, and Tot Boss

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            Same as last year but sliding down a notch, the 3 kings of Street Food, Empanadas and Fried Potato still stand as testament to what completely different kinds of cuisine focus can accomplish in the Truck world, each of these giants garnering a huge fan base in their own right.

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4th Place: ANOTHER three way tie! At 47.5:

            Eli’s Donut Burger, Paulette’s Bakery, and The Moral Omnivore

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            With an explosive start of their run and a well-placed sneak into the morning timeslot, Moral and Paulette easily insert their way into the top 10 with their first year of service, joining the rarely-seen Eli in score and bumping off both Scratch and the original 3-way tie.

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                And it’s certainly deserved. With a menu based solely on quality coffee and, more importantly, simple  and delicious hand-made croissants with various fillings, Paulette has successfully rolled out to personally kickstart the movement in the Minneapolis Food Truck breakfast scene (it may not be too present right now, but if rumors are true it’ll get there). Next to them, Moral has premiered as one of my favorite new trucks of the year, handing out successful Street-based versions of sustainable and healthy food in delicious packages (very well done sliders). They’ve even managed to make portable salad “boxes” that even I’M tempted to get.

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3rd Place: Vellee Deli with 48

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            With AZ Canteen down to 10th, the Mexican-Korean fusion trucks stands alone to occupy the 3rd place moniker, claiming its giant medal of bronze over one of the hottest styles/trends in the list of National Trucks. Though it may seem not as remarkable among many of the new and old trucks of our city, their ability to extract rich flavors and glazes in a very approachable, friendly, and simple menu, while giving a variety of options that all still tie together (among many other almost intangible factors) has kept them at the top of our line-up for so long, and will continue to do so for the years to come.

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And finally, to wrap it up nicely, still holding the top two spots with 49 and 50.5 accumulated points respectively are:

2nd Place: NateDogs and

1st Place: Potter’s Pasties

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            Is there anything else I can say about these two that I haven’t already? When it comes to the scoring criteria I base the truck idealistic by, these guys simply dominate; it’s no wonder Potter’s has been able to not only get a second truck for their lineup AND set up their own shop (I’d say restaurant, but it’s so not even close, and so perfect to their style). And though I’ve found many an amazing and perfectly-garnished hot dog in various trucks (Racer and Emconada have given us something nice), Nate still stands as the Ruler in the rich, encased sausages and their classic toppings.

 

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                Well, that’s it for this season, back to trying to dredge through the cold months of reduced Truck traffic. Whether any other entrepreneurs decide to open in the coming months or wait it out until spring is still up to see, but for now I’d say it’s been quite the eventful and successful season. I can’t wait until next year, not to mention the various little events that are sure to happen until then. But as always, until that all rolls around, I’ll be here reviewing and reporting on the various Truck-related happening in our northerly state. For the rest of you, Good Luck and Good Eating!

 

*Note: all lists, both now and future, are purely based off the cumulative score garnered in my Ratings System. It is not based off of only one aspect at a time, though if there is interest in that I can always form a Top Ten based purely from “Best Food,” “Speed,” or others.

SFC: Evolution of a Green Veggie

                The one good thing about all these co-op veggies my fridge is being dominated by every other week, besides the healthier(ish) eating it encourages, is all the little things it forces me to try out so that I can actually eat all of it. And as such quite a few more recipe-related post ideas come across my way to better fill the time between Trucks (I really need to make another foray down somewhere… try and get a couple more reviews in).

                For instance! I was lucky enough to come across This Blog Post by the bake-loving 350 Degrees on a Paula Deen (yeah yeah, racist political conflict, whatever; the recipes are still tasty) Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread. And right as I still had a Zucchini and Yellow Squash that needed using too! I myself still hadn’t actually had zucchini bread yet, but I love banana bread and thought it’d be fun to try.

                I’d list down the recipe before or after I began, but it’s a pure Paula Deen thing, I deviated from it somewhat based on availability, and there’s already a link (which is actually inside of the link… Link-ception! Sorta sounds like a Zelda movie with Dicaprio actually) in the previous paragraph. 

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                Gotta start off by sifting all those dry ingredients of course.

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                Before we get to the wet, gotta shred our produce fine; press those summer squash to the fine edge on the grater and work! Thank god this was so much easier than trying to do it for carrot cake… though boy that yellow squash had quite a bit of moisture (as such, I actually ended up adding a little more flour than the recipe called in hopes of balancing it out).

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                Get those eggs in a bowl and beat it like a… ummm… Polaroid picture? No that doesn’t make sense… just beat them until pale; shouldn’t need an electric mixy, whisk’ll work fine.

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                NOW we add the sugar; the recipe really calls for attention to these particular tasks to better improve the structure, with the later oil and other wet products really destabilizing what one has easily. Beat this now until it’s well-integrated, pale canary, and thick; a proper “ribbon stage.”

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                We can add all the other ingredients now other than the dry. With mine, I ended up not having an orange, so I used some lime zest instead (it actually came out really nice with the zucchini).

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                Besides that, I didn’t really feel like using the original-recipe nut addition, but purely chocolate chips like 350. Was probably gonna do Hershey’s, but found this interesting bag called “Guittard” in the store, though I’d try it out. They taste good btw.

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                Mix in the wet, add all the dry, bada-bing bada-boom, we have batter. Lube up whatever pan one wants to use (calls for a single Loaf, the previous blogger used a Bundt, and I just used a few smaller loaves), or if you’re smart and able just line it with parchment paper, and pop into a 350 oven (only raise temperature to 375 if using REALLY small pans, like muffin or whatever).

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                Mmmm, nice brown crust; should take about 50 minutes to cook, a little bit under if divided (way under if small and cooked at 375). Toothpick test of course; SHOULD note, when getting close one should make sure to really look at the toothpick even if wet. I had little pearls of the squash still sticking to some of it, despite it being fully cooked.

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                Now we just let cool and flip. Whiiiiich didn’t actually come too easy for me… you see the previous pic where I’m pouring the batter into pans? Notice how the chocolate chips sorta collected to the bottom of the bowl. Weeeellll… seems they did the same thing in the pan.

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                Yeah. Not a single one came out completely clean. I mean hey, they’re still fully cooked and VERY delicious; not to mention the outside crust was nice and crispy! Just the bottom wasn’t all that clean… and it sort of looked like a plain zucchini cake with a special lower layer vs the beautiful “studding” effect.

                If you’re looking to avoid this pitfall, I have a few main suggestions. 1: ensure your batter is thick enough to hold the chips in suspension. 2: use much smaller chocolate pieces. Or 3: try saving the chips on the side and sprinkling on top of the batter-filled loaf pan RIGHT before going in the oven. Hopefully you have better luck than I do, haha.

                So I’ve got a whole bunch of broken up, bottom-separated zucchini bread now, of which I can only eat so much as-is. What should I do with this moist bundle of goodness to turn it into something street food-reminiscent? Why, turn it into Fritters of course!

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                It’s already broke up, so why not just chop it up a bit more and squeeze it into balls of moist cake and chocolate chips. And I mean SQUEEZE; these things did NOT want to hang together too easily (which is sorta surprising, considering how moist they were, figured they’d just wanna fuse).

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                Got my itty bitty eanie-mini pot of oil up to temp, dusted the little balls in some flour, a little bit of cinnamon-sugar on the side to toss over afterward, and we good. Guess I forgot to take a pic of the actual frying process, but the results sorta speak for themselves…

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                Yeah, didn’t wanna stick together too much before, REALLY didn’t wanna stick together in the fryer. Only last a couple seconds too to get that brown crust, so it wasn’t really all that crunchy either. Though it still tasted like a donut of sorts, so potential is there. Maybe next time I’ll use a batter-covering to fry, less direct… maybe use a simple bread with no chips either, keep it to moist pieces of the cooked dough (I wonder if just using the batter itself, if thick enough, could make a nice fritter…).

                Well, a couple more veggies used, another post up, and more food in my stomach; overall it was a pretty good experiment. Thanks to 350 for the post that inspired me! To all you rest, Good Luck and Good Eating.

Southern Re-look on a Sunny Day

           After a delayed but still cold, short, and rainy Spring (which is still spilling into Summer), we finally get our first warm, dry, sunny day of the season. So it’s no shock to have seen the Downtown Minneapolis streets packed with people vying in lane for lunch on the Street, provided by the many Trucks also out celebrating this beautiful occasion.

            Of the many, to my surprise, was that big green alligator Cajun 2 Geaux. I’ve seen their posts of locations AROUND Minneapolis, in various breweries and buildings outside the main drag. However, this was my first time knowing them (outside of maybe their opening weeks) on the Marquette and 2nd St circuit. It’ll be fun to see if they continue this or if it’s just rare circumstance.

             With their recent reply to my review, I’ve found myself obligated to find a time to try them again, not just to finally taste those sweet, sweet southern donuts, but to report on the Red Beans and Rice recipe that they’ve been testing and improving.

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            The Beignets, as expected from the rumors and pictures, are of course amazing, a must-get one anyone’s first visit. To fully inform those who haven’t experienced it yet, the actual texture is a bit of the denser, chewier variety than the traditional (and other restaurant versions), not quite as “light and fluffy,” with a little eggy richness. Covered in powdered sugar, these sweety morsels find one doing the happy dance as they travel the sidewalk. Careful though, they’re hot at first; but don’t wait too long, these should be eaten immediately. Definitely Toe Ring material.

            I wish I had them earlier though, because I SO wanted to get this new item on the menu!

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            Oh yeah, Pecan Praline Bread Pudding. It it’s even half as boozy and brown-sugar rich as a GOOD praline should be, this is a must-get for anyone who’s already had the beignets. Hope it’s on the menu next time I stop by…

            Now, the main event. That oh-so Louisiana dish of Red Beans and Rice. I can somewhat gladly say that it IS better than how it used to be; there IS more of the red bean stew/sauce, the andouille is a slightly better variety, and I do think there’s a little more flavor overall.

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            That said, my opinion and score do not change. There is STILL too much rice in there to call it RBnR (I shortened the name!); as anyone who’s had a good one knows, a TRUE RBnR is like a stew, or a soup. Almost like those crappy “Jambalaya Soups” one sees in random restaurants, that only gives just enough rice to have some in each spoonful… only RBnR is actually good(and thicker). Well, not this one so much…

            And the actual “stew”… in the end, all it really seems to taste like is “red bean sauce” with nothing else. There’s no richness, no complex spice, no kind of molasses or meatyness or anything besides plain red beans. One can bring in the quality andouille as an argument, and though I agree they always add a great aspect to all the best Louisiana dishes, they can’t be used as one’s sole base. More is needed. I commend Cajun for trying, I am very sure and hopeful that they DID try and get more flavor in through the new recipe, but it just does NOT come through.

            As before, all customers should stick with one of the tasty and delicious Po’Boys and ignore their stew/rice dishes. Oh, on that note, it seems they’ve changed their presentation on those. Wasn’t able to snap a pic, but it looks like the sammies are wrapped a little tighter and more snug than before, so they should be a bit easier to eat.

            I could go on and talk about my second Truck stop of the day, but that’s a whole ‘nother post…

Another Day of Stuff

            I don’t normally write about “food truck days” in general twice in a row like this, but my second venture this week was somewhat interesting, sooooo… here it is!

            My first thought of the day centered around this idea that I can’t help but remark upon, these interesting little additions over the past year of… well, what should I call them… “Event Trucks” seems to fit best. Instead of trying to describe, let me purely show:

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            This is “Sandy’s Grill and Italian Ice,” its menu filled purely with hot dogs, burgers, and other concession fair. These are NOT handmade, not adorned with seasonal fair, really not “special” in any sense to separate them from the crowd. This is a truck designed, much like various places found at the State Fair, to serve the general populace with basic needs as opposed to the Foodies and other culinarily-psychotic.

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            On a personal note, I do not carry these kinds of mobile operations within the same category as other Food Trucks, and as such I just can’t bring myself to do a review on these particular places. As such, readers can expect me not to do a review on the Little Red Wagon on Nicolette, various Mini-Donut trucks, and even this newcomer which prompted my talk on the subject.

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            I actually debated doing a full review on Kona Ice, cuz it is sort of fun and has that whole “specialization” aspect that many good trucks do. And as a sno-cone place it’s pretty cool! A really good variety of flavors, with specials like Coffee and Mint Mojo (I’m pretty sure it’s designed like the sauce and not just named that for fun…); the best part being the spouts are all outside so you can make your own!

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            It was a tasty little treat on a hot day. Alas, I can’t help but see this as a place that bases its businesses off of big birthday/block parties, kid events, and other such fairs. So no full-blown review for Kona… though if I DID review it, I think the scores might go as such…

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            Food: 7 – Hold: 9.5 – Price: 10 – Speed: 9.5 – TOE: 5 – Total of: 41/50

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            Cupcake to Go has new decals and offers Macaroons now! In that same topic, Moustachio’s menu is chalk full of non-dog items… which is sorta sad, I like their wieners… the brats ain’t too bad either (ba-dum ching!)

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             Another new truck is discovered, Jake’s Street Grille; but I stopped by Hot Indian Foods and Brava again and officially scratched them off my list. Reviews should be done soon hopefully.

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              On that note, I do have to remark the interesting number of trucks popping up that I find I need more than one visit to review. Both Starlight’s and Brava’s menus don’t fully connect to their mission like other trucks, Lulu’s menu is horrifyingly large and varied, and a few BBQ/Grill trucks seem to have arrived. And as anyone who knows about BBQ can tell, one does not judge based off of single items with these places.

           Oh well, guess I’ll be “working” pretty hard throughout the summer to get these fellas rounded up for you.

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            One last thing! I know it has nothing to do with Food Trucks, but my travels led me to Uptown and I finally stopped at Glam Doll Donuts! Had to get the signature, and I was so happeh.

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            Wonder if they’d consider opening a Food Truck…

SFC: Something Sticky and Fried

            So, every year now, one of the main facets for celebrating my Sister’s birthday includes a dinner at our house with the menu of her choosing. Meat usually involves Crab, or a “Parent’s Special” like Lasagna or Fleishgnadle (see my next post); I’m usually tasked for the simple vegetable side. And every single time since I decided to make it 4 years ago, she has expected me to make Gelato. Most of the time, this is the simple Peanut Butter which I made originally (and, to my chagrin, decided to freeze with hard-to-get dry ice), with each year having to add yet another new component to it. This year, however, she decided to cut the Peanut Butter entirely for something inspired by our recent England Trip, of which she had found many new Obsessions. In particular, she wanted me to make “Sticky Toffee Pudding Gelato.”

                Luckily, she let me decide how exactly I worked gelato into something resembling this stark contrast, and of course had no problems if I wanted to cook other things to go with it… she’s such a good sister like that. So, I set the thought in the back of my mind, thinking of it every now and then as the months led up to March.

                Quite often, my many conceptions brought me to think about Potter’s Pasties desserts, as well as the roll of Food Truck Desserts in general. Most of the time in Minnesota, these items fit into a very specific strata of styles: Rice Krispies, Cookies, Cupcakes, Cookie-Ice Cream Sandwich, Mini-Donuts, etc. These are the handheld items, the make-ahead and wrap in 5 inches of plastic, the generic items… but at the same time these are the items that, when done right, tug at our nostalgic heartstrings, bring us joy in their simplicity. Like when one goes to a really special, “higher end” bakery (Angel Food in Minneapolis comes to mind) and get a double-chocolate sea salt cookie that’s made just right.

                We rarely see any of the more “composed” dessert styles out of these trucks, outside of maybe a Crepe stand. And why would we? So many of these trucks spend so much time and focus showcasing foods that are unique, different, representative of who they are; and when it comes to those people, “composed plate desserts” are rarely who they are. Not to mention all the stove and oven space being used for cooking the savory items, adding a dessert that’s not pre-made, or needs only half a minute to do, can be suicide. Especially if you don’t NEED to do it.

                Right now, the only trucks I’ve seen here really try and attempt this are Potter’s and Chef Shack; and even they don’t count. Chef Shack simply turns nostalgic pies, cookies, etc into a crush bowl of goodness, and I still haven’t heard of too much success on Potter’s Banoffee and Sticky Pudding (which are still pre-made, just topped to order).

                I’d love the chance to see a truck that finds a way to make a dessert that’s just… different, going a little more on the composing side yet it really feel like it came out of a true Food Truck. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Fran have a whole plethora of them; I think it’s about time we in the Twin Cities kick up our own movement of special Dessert Trucks to really match.

                Well, back to my original thought, Sticky Toffee Pudding Gelato…

                I originally thought I’d convert a Burnt Caramel Gelato recipe I had and just do it with Toffee, but I found another idea I liked better. For those who don’t know, one of the main things that makes Sticky Toffee Pudding unique is the use of Dates in the dough. I myself LOVE dates (fighting urge to make really bad pun joke…. fiigghtttiiiiinngggg…..), so I figured I’d use them as my base. Then I found a really good recipe for a Date-Rum Ice Cream, see here:

http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2011/06/17/date-rum-pecan-ice-cream-recipe/

                Now, before you say anything about the “this is Ice Cream, not Gelato” thing, I’ll just stop you right there. From my experience, the official qualifications of what makes “Gelato” are constantly changing depending on who’s saying it. Some say it’s ingredients, some say serving temp, not using eggs, or any other reasons, separate or together. I myself used egg yolks and milk in my hand-done recipes quite often. So I’ve just decided it’s a matter of opinion and left it at that.

                Next, the Sticky Toffee. If I’m going to do this dessert right, I have to make the actual pudding to serve with the ice cream. The problem I’ve found, though, with this and so many other Internationally-Famous recipes, is how difficult it can be to find one that’s actually made, and tastes, authentic. Luckily I found this one that talks about, and uses, that oh-so-ubiquitous English Sweet, “Golden Syrup.” This be the recipe I used (well, mainly… love making my own little tweaks):

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/12/warm-sticky-toffee-pudding/

                The toffee alone in this recipe is sooo good; great caramel substitute. And the writer understands that sometimes substitutions need to be made (though, I was luckily able to find my Golden Syrup at a local Byerlies).

                After making, and leaving in the fridge overnight to cool and COMPRESS, I chopped some of it up and mixed it into the Gelato at the end of its Churning Period. Now comes the part where I make this “special.”

                The one thing I immediately wanted to do is bread a couple sides of the Pudding slices and fry nice n crispy in a pan. While I was shopping, I happened to see this box of the old cake donuts (you know, the ones with all those ridges). So I bought it, broke a few pieces up and let it sit overnight to stale (Don’t make fine breadcrumbs out of fresh ingredients, they’re too moist and soft to get that texture you want. There are always special situations, of course, but that’s another post), and ground the next day.

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                Chopped my pudding into 6 large blocks, then dredged completely in my special Donut Crumb mixture. The great thing is, this can be done ahead of time and left in the fridge for most of the day, so no worrying about time constraints.

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                All that was left was heating a pan, adding butter and frying the Puddings. If doing at home, two things one needs to take into consideration: Low-Medium heat or Thinner Slices; it was hard to heat these fellas through. Secondly, flip often after the first side, the rest will sear a decent amount faster. But it gets this nice, hard, crispy crust (aided by the toffee which leaked out and caramelized with the crumbs).

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                As for serving, I ended up making a caramelized apple-date-banana compote with rum for the bottom, soaked some fresh diced apples in a limoncello-syrup I still had in the fridge, and of course got more of that Toffee on the plate. You’ll notice I didn’t take any pics with the actual Gelato… let’s just say I made some modifications to it that didn’t work all that well in the Ice Cream Machine. We were still able to eat it, and it was very good, just not “camera-ready.”

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                Now, in looping back to my earlier comments, am I saying I think this is a dish that would work in a Food Truck? Heck no, I made this for home and that’s where it stays. But the Pudding by itself, fried in a pan… something about it just gives me that feeling of potential, that feeling that if worked right, it could fit somewhere on its own. It’s that special little twist on a nostalgic base, that if worked right could fit in among the greats. Maybe cut into smaller cubes and served in a bag, or put on a stick, covered in batter, and deep-fried… that’d be a fun thing to try.

              Either way, we all ended up happy and full that night, just like the many years before.

 

What’s your most memorable dessert? What kinds pull at your heartstrings?