(Whole) Sum Kitchen

20150915_100512
http://www.wholesumkitchen.com/
https://twitter.com/@wholesumkitchen/
Main Location: Minneapolis, Fairs, Etc

This has been quite the summer of simple, one-handed vending operations; popsicles, ice cream, coffee, hot dogs, you name it. And now, the juicing culture has invaded and pushed itself into our Minneapolis food truck scene! (Whole) Sum Kitchen is yet another new interesting addition and innovation to our mobile lineup, having entered a few months ago and grazing through various local fairs and festivals between downtown parking. Of impressive note, the truck actually braved our own State Fair (though I think they were parked OUTSIDE, not positive, but smart and it worked) in their first season! Strong move right out of the gate am I right?

20150915_100925

Owner Evan Tepper got the idea and drive after a year of international travel, where the constant indulgence into local, fresh, seasonal cuisine inspired the idea to produce a business that followed the same principles. So now he and his associate, who (if I’m identifying her right from facebook) has a dog named Smoothie, produce Smoothies and Juices from locally sourced, fresh, seasonally gotten fruits and veggies. The focus is mainly on the latter drink, made by running these things through a gigantic, high-powered dyson-like monster of a machine to squeeze out a tall glass of healthy, nutrient and carb-packed drink for thirsty travelers (though don’t forget, as we’re being reminded of nowadays, pure juice is HIGHLY concentrated so one only wants to consume at most, say, one a day to really get in most or all of your veggie/fruit requirements without overdosing on sugars and such. Hey, I’m rather health conscious, even if I do like stuffing my face with burgers, ice cream, and guzzling good soda… I don’t do it ALL the time…).

20150915_100250

The menu is likely to change its particular drink options rather often, especially as the seasons go and they do some more experimentation. On my visit, and a good sense of what they offer, they carried two smoothies: a Strawberry-Banana-Spinach and an Orange-Pineapple-Banana (no cooky names, for shame!). Juices currently offered were the Tahoe (pineapple-orange-basil), KoTao (apple-orange-carrot-ginger-lime),and El Nido (apple-cucumber-carrot-kale-beet).

20150915_100934

A few of them certainly sound interesting, though I’ll admit I’ve never actually gotten into the whole juicing ‘culture’ or consistent habit like other people, so I don’t have much to compare it to. So expect some haziness from my coming reviews, still can’t wait to take in some really fresh juice.

Food: 8.5

                As I said, I’m not really into the whole juicing thing myself, though I’d certainly make myself some more if I had a bomb-ass machine like that in my kitchen, so I’m not sure how EXACTLY these compare to other options that might be out there, but I do know I like fresh juice and these, overall, tasted good.

I ended up grabbing a cup each of the Tahoe and El Nido, the former of which certainly hit that craving spot filled only by a glass of cool, refreshing fresh squeezed orange juice. Not to mention you gotta love pineapple, though I really wish there was more of that basil, it made little to no presence in the final palate; and considering it’s the main twist and exciting flavor component, it shouldn’t be just a subtle little ‘accent.’ The flavors on the other one came in though; carrot, cucumber, bright apple and darker beet, even that bit of clorophylly bitterness from the kale that you know only comes from leafy things; it may also be subtle but one can still recognize AND there’s enough else going on you don’t require it to be bigger. It’s been a while since I’ve had vegetable juice, and I’ll say one thing; all those infomercials about juicing vegetables with fruit that say you don’t taste a thing, they’re liars. But I’m okay with that, because I LOVE the taste they bring; it’s like they’ve ditched all the earthy, savory components, yet still have that unique vegetable flavor in a super refreshing way. And then it’s mixed with some even brighter components, which the apple and cucumber fill nicely. And I love how those colors look when it’s being juiced!

20150915_101127

At the end of the day, I ended up sucking my drinks down rather faster than anticipated, so that has to say something right? No word on smoothies yet, but when are those bad?

Holdability: 10

                 One handed cup with a bendy straw? Check.

Price: 7

                 $4.50 for a 10oz and $7 for a 16oz of anything, noting that the smoothies can only be gotten in the bigger size. At the end of the day I feel I can buy the same amount of coffee, good coffee even, for a little less at the pint size, and decent meals from food trucks for the same or a dollar more, so I’m not sure how exactly I end up feeling about it here. I don’t think I mind so much for the smoothies, with the more substantial feeling aspect to them. I would say this is one where the score then MAYBE shouldn’t be taken to heart, it could be a good deal for juice lovers, just be aware of the prices going into it.
20150915_100431

Speed: 9

The best case is simply waiting on the vegetables to get pushed through that gigantic juice monster! That said, the server behind the window during my visit really ended up taking notably longer to simply cut the vegetables than it should have; obviously needs more practice getting used to holding a knife, that task itself should have really only taken bare seconds to make a few simple strokes. I’d say they should start doing some consideration on pre-cutting most of the ingredients to working portions; though maybe they do that for busy fair days. But I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt score-wise, as I’m sure when the owner himself is working behind, and when they’re both there during a busy period, that stuff gets done much faster at the ideal speed. But one should take note at the possibility of slower depending on situation.

The TOE: 8

                  It’s unique, it’s sort of fun, fresh and local, there’s clearly drive and focus towards their goal, the product is just as bright and refreshing as the air of the truck that serves them. I personally wish there was more options, I mean one only needs to rearrange some fruit+veggie combos, grab a few different citrus fruits or aromatics to spike up other possible drinks, etc. But it’s nice that they also, clearly, keep things seasonal and sticking to their vision. Again, I find myself a bit off-kilter from a full, large food truck that only offers juice, but that’s my issue, and I see the value in it as a whole. I wish them the best of luck, and hope I get the chance to try them again with some other food truck snackings!

Tally: 42.5/50

20150915_100221-1
Final Thoughts

I’m not sure if this fully fits my usual drink-based Truck suggestion to add onto a full ‘food truck meal’ as the liquid refreshment portion, considering the price and I can’t say veggie juice, even delicious like this, is my go-to ‘street food accompaniment.’ Though that’s me. Where this REALLY excels is a super refresher during our big fairs, on hot days, or when you just want a hit of something healthy for the day! I definitely know I have those days, especially at events, where I crave a special smoothie or something.

I personally enjoyed my El Nido, and would also suggest going for the KoTao or any other juice with fun ginger, limey, veggie, or other distinct ingredient additions. The other ones taste good, but the whole ‘pineapple-orange’ flavor just seems too basic and everyday; if you’re spending the money, why not have yourself try something more specialty and ‘complex?’ On the Smoothie side, neither of them really stood out to me, but if I was going to do one of the options that day, it’d be the Strawberry w/ Spinach.

Habanero Tacos

20150910_115925
https://www.facebook.com/Habanero-Tacos-636831153117512/timeline/
https://twitter.com/habanerotacos
Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

Those who are somewhat familiar with my blog my notice a certain peculiarity to my archives, that being, except for a couple rare exceptions, I don’t really do reviews on Traditional Mexican Taco Trucks/Carts. Now the modern, bright, new-business, fusion/twisted, and other sort of taco-based trucks we see on our main downtown streets, sure. But as a general rule, I’ve made the decision to just ignore all the almost nameless, likely family-owned, no-frills and no-social-media-focus taco trucks that are so often seen in various parking lots, on the further outskirts of uptown and south Minneapolis, etc. You know the ones, the ‘taco trucks,’ those businesses that were likely the true precursor to our food truck industry in the US.

Note that this has nothing to do with any disdain or even disinterest towards these businesses; I absolutely adore taco trucks. They use proper masa tortillas, have a whole variety of usually delicious fillings, are NOT afraid to cook things like tongue or cheek or other offal (more people are coming to appreciate, but the rest of you are still pansies. Pansies I say!!), are often very cheap, and sometimes even offer a variety of options to eat with your desired filling; like going to Chipotle. There are reasons these kinds of businesses have succeeded for dozens of years.

But there are so many of them, parked who-knows-where half the time, usually with no online presence letting those unaware find them easily, and as much as I love the kind of truck… the fact is if you’ve been to one you’ve almost been to them all. The experience is rather identical; yes yes, there are little differences in flavor and quality between each, much like BBQ trucks, but it’s even less noticeable than that example, and I’m going to be happy either way. In my personal opinion, if I WERE to track down all the different taco trucks, I feel the only way to properly review them is between each other; or in other words, I’d have to start a whole separate blog, or blog page, devoted JUST to reviewing the aspects of the taco trucks themselves. And I don’t feel like doing that… yet. For now, it’s easier just to focus on the masses of every other kind, familiar and weird, that keep popping up in the Twin Cities.

So it was with much reluctance that I passed by Habanero Tacos at a farmer’s market some months ago, making the difficult decision to ignore it and save some money for other truck visits. The truck certainly fits into the same category as other taco trucks I’ve been to, so they were a no go. That said, of late I’ve taken strong notice of the fact that they’ve been parking in downtown Minneapolis quite a lot, they have a twitter and Facebook handle that gets updated, and are otherwise rather in the public eye just as strongly as some of our other food trucks. So I feel it only right that I give them my full respect and offer a complete review to add into the ranks on this blog for all the effort they’re clearly going through to get known. Plus, I like to think one can then use this as an overall idea on where taco trucks in general rank on the ‘food truck scale’ for each ranking category.

As for some details, the menu offers the chance to get Tacos, Burritos, Enchiladas, Alambres (meat sautéed with bacon, peppers, and onions; with melted cheese, I think it’s on rice or a big tortilla, basically an entrée), each with your choice of filling. One can pick from a list, slightly differing between item, including but not limited to: Al Pastor (Marinated Pork), Carnitas (Roast Pork), Carne Asada (Grilled Steak), Barbacoa (Shredded Beef), Pollo, Lengua (Beef Tongue), and Cabeza (Shredded Beef Head). One also has the chance to get a side of Elote (Mexican Street Corn, on the cob w/ lime, mayo, cheese, and spices) or Tortillas. Not to mention a full line-up of sodas, canned and Mexican bottles and guava juice (gotta love guava juice). That about sums it up, so let’s get down to it.

20150910_115915

Food: 9

                Can’t go to a taco truck without just getting the tacos; it’s a good way to try a couple fillings for cheap anyways. As expected, proper soft masa tortillas, double-stacked for each taco, garnished with onion, cilantro, and a section of lime for each taco. And yes there was a little thing of hot sauce, which I completely forgot to try on top of the tacos cuz they were SO GOOD; I love a proper taco from these kinds of trucks! But I did sneak a taste of the sauce on its own; has a kick, with some of those dried whole spicy chile flavors and some development start to finish.

Decided to go for the Al Pastor, ‘Marinated Pork,’ and the Cabeza, ‘Beef Head,’ for this trip. Both tasted great on their own terms, wrapped in their pillowy tortilla folds and with spikes of herby aromatics and bright crunchy onion. The pork’s marinade shone the most, with that distinctly unique tomato-chile-based (I think, maybe it’s a red mole or similar) sauce providing the most distinction; though on their own, the pork meat WAS a bit dry, luckily everything else balances it out enough to not really impact you. Oh but the head, fall apart tender and rich and juicy… well, not really juicy, in fact almost ‘slimy,’ but in a good way, like certain special Japanese noodle dishes. Bit of that fatty/collagen-y aspects from wherever they took that meat around the cow’s skull. And for those already trying to use excuses to be disgusted, shut up; it’s just like roast beef, amazing and super flavorful roast beef which is perfect like this. I only wish they had even MORE alternative cuts, like chicharrons, pig feet, brains, etc; but oh well.

They might deserve an even higher score, but I feel I’d need to try some other items for confirmation first; which also means it could just as well truly be deserving of lower, even if sticking with the fillings one knows are good. So as always, take these with a grain of salt; especially since I really just like this a general idea for all taco trucks anyways.

20150910_120122

Holdability: 9

                 Tacos are classic street food for a reason, they’re made to be able to pick up with one hand; and that classic double-tortilla design, as I’ve always said, is just so good. Can use it for extra support so none of the fillings fall out, or just use one tortilla first, let as much of that meat fall out as you can, and the leftovers turn into a second taco! Unless you only get one, which isn’t unlikely, one still needs two hands for basket holding. But there ARE options; yet another benefit to the classic taco truck; if one desires portability, the singular Burrito comes into play, not to mention the classic one-handed snack of Mexican Corn.
20150910_115703

Price: 10

                  $2.50 for each Taco, $8 for a Burrito, $7 for Enchiladas, $10.50 or $12 for the bigger entrée that is the Alambres, and $3 to get one of those classic Elote, this place has RANGE to fit exactly what you’re looking for. Whether one’s spending more on a big lunch, looking for a filling but more cost-effective option, or just wants to part with a few bucks for a soul-satisfying snack, or just to sample, these kinds of menus have it all. Yet another notable proof of evidence towards the taco truck’s success in engraining itself as THE classic American street food/food truck operation.

Speed: 8.5

I imagine it technically depends on the item, but most of the proteins/fillings are pre-cooked, may get a TOUCH of griddle time at the most, so they only need the filling time and come out quick. Alambres and Enchiladas will get more attention to cook everything together, I expect average wait on those, faster turn-out on others; they get those tacos out to you quickly! Just like any good street food stand.

The TOE: 9

                  My initial reaction when first seeing the truck a while ago, considering its plain-ish look, wasn’t all that inspiring; as evidenced by the delay in actually ordering from them. But then again, I was judging whether it qualified as one of the ‘modern’ food trucks which I mainly focus on. Truly, this IS a Mexican Food Truck, and it feels like it when you’re there and ordering from it. It seems to measure up just about as much as the others; perhaps there’s been some attempts towards a more ‘attractive’ design pulls it a bit more away from that rather traditional, operating-in-the-parking-lot-down-the-street feel that sort of comes to mind with these, but it’s not so huge. Plus I admit it that feeling in myself may be skewed simply because they’ve been doing a lot of business in downtown with the other trucks.

Tally: 45.5/50

20150910_120309
Final Thoughts

Gotta love a good Carne Asada, and if you can find ANY part of yourself to try it, get the Lengua or Cabeza, they’re always so good in tacos. Besides those, I’d say you’re certainly safe with anything else Shredded or Grilled/Charbroiled, then it’s just figuring out what kind of edible packaging you want it in! That variability, versatility, is what makes these trucks perfect for any need: on a budget, grabbing a snack between other things, sampling multiple things, getting a full meal, looking to eat there or move to another location, etc. Chances are you’ll find SOMETHING that fits your needs here, so long as you don’t hate Mexican cuisine (you monster). And definitely give the Elote a chance if you still have yet to try one; it can be a quick, cheap, and satisfying grab-and-go treat that’s worth the minimal spending risk, or can add it onto another order as a ‘side’ of sorts.

At the end of the day, Habanero Tacos delivers their food, for the most part, in the same manner as what we expect to come from these glorious vehicles. I hope you’ve had the chance to experience it or one of the many other classic taco vendors in the cities, or that you do so soon.

Twin City Fritter & Philly

20141018_122233

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.

20141018_121330

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).

20141018_121517

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.
20141018_121523

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.

20141018_121707

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.

20141018_121606

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.
20141018_120221

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.
10703740_311450372374412_7526684991574615065_n

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

20141018_121323
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.

Upcoming Events after the Rain

               Re-going over some event sites and articles on new trucks for better preparation in the coming season (really need to start planning truck trips, try and get to any new guys I’ve missed), I’ve come under quite the personal revelation.

               We have quite a few Food Truck gatherings in the coming months.

SpringSpread_Logo

http://www.mnfoodtruckassociation.org/event-details/spring-food-truck-festival/

                Even with the Association’s Spring Rallyaside (which again, is on May 10th, at Harriet Brewing, Noon to 7), which I am excited to go to and stop by the new O’Cheeze Truck, another set of annual events have popped themselves up later in June.

1609904_598046380271214_1156565259_n

https://www.facebook.com/nefoodtruckjam

                Up first (well, second after the Rally) is the NE Food Truck Jam, an event which seems to have started last year without my notice. Started up by the East Minneapolis Exchange Club, the little gathering started as another way to raise money for local charities. As such, of the three here, this is the only event that has an entrance fee/tickets, though they’re only $7with advanced (aka before June 20th) buying online, link on their Facebook page. They only had 5 trucks last year, though hopefully their 2014 event will amp things up a bit more; hard to say, though, as they’ve only advertised Gastro and Anchor on their page… and it seems like the “Jam” is being held at 612 Brewing. Would be odd if they didn’t get a decent showing at least, as they’ll be bringing in a wealth of local bands and beer (supposedly a lot, should be able to wet the whistle quite well).

http://www.mnfoodtruckfair.com/#about

                The Jam is set for Noon to 5pm on Sunday June 22nd,one week before the 3rd Annual (aka the third desperate attempt of the:) Minnesota Food Truck Fair, or the “Uptown Food Truck Fair” as listed in the Association’s Event page (hopefully this is a sign they’ve had some involvement with the event). With another summer coming up, the organizers of this yearly debacle try once again to create a gathering that runs smooth and doesn’t piss too many people off.

1396643973880

                Which… just might happen this year, despite bringing in over 35Trucks (or maybe because of it, a lot more options for people to spread out to). Located at Lake/Hennepin and 31st/Holmes, the event this year is completely spread out around a whole, large block. All the trucks will be spread out in various parking lots and lined up on just one side of the street (apparently a big change from last year) to expand walking area and improve traffic conditions (again, also apparently a big change from last year). Various booths for beer, a music stage, and other things that I have no clue what it is (no info key on the website yet! Haha) set up throughout as well.

                The Fair is set to go from 11am-9pm, again on Sunday, June 29th. Seems this year has a theme too! “$5 Pair Share,” which basically means each truck is offering a unique, affordable $5 menu item that’s made to share with a friend. I’m thinking I might have to query a few of them and try at least one from one of the more familiar trucks, see how they’ll take the idea. Either way, I can’t wait actually head out there this year (shocking, right?), at the least get to some of the newer trucks I’m sure to have yet ventured out to.

                I hope to see as many of you out to these events as I can! Can’t say whether or not I’ll head to the Jam; at the very least I’ll try to stop by and take pictures from above the 612 lot to see what it’s like. Have fun until then, good luck and good eating!

 

Taco Cat and Other News

tacocat

                   Recent texts with friends and the spying of a certain CityPages article today has made me aware of what seems to be quite the exploding topic at the moment. Articles, press comments, and many a hipster are doing what seems to be their very best attempt to bog down the company from being able to actually perform their “soft opening” which they so wished for tomorrow. Though considering this particular business to be… two years in the making (? they trademarked the particular kitty logo in 2012), one can’t blame a bit of excitement among those aware of this upcoming venture for quite a while. Taco Cat is Here.

http://www.tacocatmn.com/

                   Their slogan, much like their website and view on life (life meaning tacos), is simple: Call Number, Get Tacos. By bike, in the uptown area, no going to a café or shop to get them (they don’t want company). You are to wait for their delivery persons to bike over to where you are and deliver the crunchy, awesome packages of handheld tortilla goodness. I would have said “Mexican goodness,” though they only seem to have two Mexican tacos… the others use things like Bulgogi Steak, Mock Duck for a Bahn mi enspired creation, and a Pork with Caribbean Mojo sauce.

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/04/taco_cat_call_n.php

                   Again, as I’m probably one of the later news-bringers for this particular business, everything’s already been said via other greedy, non-lazy publications and bloggers (blegh). So my attempts at making really bad, cheesy, snappy comments have already been null and void by those who have already gotten there before me. Oh, and they probably have more information on the company or whatnot…. so feel free to leave me forever and get all your hot, sweaty news needs fulfilled by other better-endowed keyboard typers. Besides, this may not be my last word on them… I’m debating getting myself to the uptown area and hitting up their number for an interesting Quasi-Review experience. Not a food truck, but they are quite mobile aren’t they?

tacocatmap-thumb-470x470

                  I definitely suggest going to the website, just to read their hilarious QnA section.

                  In Other News, our awesome MNFoodTruckAssociation has updated and changed the format of their website! It looks very pretty, much easier to navigate, and actually makes you believe they’re a proper organization (not like I didn’t before…. though it’s nice to see they’re still doing stuff). Best of all, though, is an actual event schedule page! Which not only reveals the date of the next, very long awaited Spring Truck Festival (I tought they were doing something in the winter… maybe I was wrong… coulda been someone else), but the dates of every Festival and any other event they do the whole year. Thus making it official, each Harriet Festival is a seasonal thing (little different than what they first advertised for it, but at least it’ll keep happening), every one filled with the awesome music, beer, and crowd of trucks that we’re already used to. I know I already can’t wait and hope to be able to go to the next one on Saturday, May 10th. Will see you there after my Tortilla Kitty!

Beer Dabbler 2014

(Crap! I meant to post this like a week ago, but I guess it was stuck in my editing box. Sorry about that guys! Feel so lazy now…)

20131104_beer-dabbler_91

http://www.thebeerdabbler.com/ 

                The New Years is passed, the first cold snap hit, and as always at this time of year the Beer Dabbler is just around the corner.

                Taking place in the ginormous area that is the State Fair Grounds (or at least the Midway), the Dabbler (for those still unaware… as I was until recently -cries-) is the biggest outdoor Beer Festival in the State (and I’m sure it rivals a few others outside it, though don’t quote me on that). Showcasing and sampling beers from over 150 different local and national breweries, this even is sure to shoo away all the winter cold Mother Nature keeps trying to throw at us.

Dabbler-Crowd_gallery_header

                Of course there’s more than just Beer to be offered; entertainment is key and expected in these events, with a full lineup of Live Bands and Music (which is yet to be up), Wynchfest’s typical Snowboard course to watch professionals shred, a “Silent Disco” (no clue, I’m hoping it’s not what it sounds like), and an attempt to break a Guinness World Record. That’s right, this year those at the event will help participate in the World’s Largest Snowball Fight!

                Various vendors and of COURSE Food Trucks will be there as well to better accompany the many alcoholic exchanges. And though they have yet to get a list up of who all will be there, I’ll be sure to update when (or, more realistically, if) they get around to it on the site.

FD_BeerDab_Mayor_gallery_header

                The Dabbler will be taking place on Saturday 25th, from 3:30-7:30pm as stated, with regular entrance tickets being $35 online beforehand ($50 if buying at entrance), which allow one to try aaalllll the beers on sample for free (they also had V.I.D. tickets for $99, but they’re already sold out). As far as travel goes, for those unable or not feeling like driving a car good news, as the local metro buses are giving free rides along routs to the Fairgrounds (provided you show them the downloadable “voucher” for it on the site).

                And that’s about all I can say about it, as any attempt I could make in going into FURTHER detail of the event would pale in comparison and skill versus what one can find on the site itself or from more able-fingered local magazines and experienced bloggers. And sadly, despite a huge love of beer and desire to attend I doubt I’ll actually be able to go this year and further report on the street food (and ok, some beer) findings in person. Varying work schedule and monetary budges can just be a bitch can’t they?

                For those who do go, have fun, good eating, but especially good drinking! Look forward to various other blogger’s more detailed and beer-centered reviews/reactions to the day’s events afterwards!

Black Friday Podcast

new-logo-transparent

http://foodtruckempire.com/podcast/twin-cities/  

                It’s finally here, the podcast interview between me and Brett is out! And on Black Friday of all days… I feel like there might be a symbolism there but I don’t want to figure it out.

                Brett is of course the guy I hung out with at the Fall Rally and the owner/creator of the Food Truck Empire Podcast/Blog. Here we chat a bit about the food truck scene, the concept of trend and some of my favorites. Apologies to all of my favorite trucks, I wish I could have talked about so many of my favorites, so many awesome trucks that deserve conversation about, but I only ended up mentioning some of the older guys (at least Brett was able to give a shout out to Motley’s in his re-done intro).

                Sadly, I should warn, due to my almost-international distance from the States on the day of the interview, a very large chunk of our conversation had to be cut out because of a not so good connection (you can still hear some of the issues with what’s left… that and my frequent umms and stuttering. I’m not good with interviews!!!). Which is why at one point it actually cuts off while I’m answering one question and starts partway through another without hearing the next question; I swear, that is NOT me going off on a giant tangent, even with my personality! I do that enough with other things.

SAMSUNG

                So all in all a 45+ minutes phone call turned into a little over 12 minutes of me nervously discussing my favorite topics. But either way it was still a fun experience to be had, and I thank Brett very much for the chance to appear on his awesome site! Hopefully we’ll have the chance to do it again and hash out some other fun topics of Truck-related convo, or at least grab another bite at the next Rally event.

                A sincere and firm Good Luck to him in his many many new Truck Casts and Adventures in the coming year, and Good Eating to those readers and listeners to both of our blog. Thank you for your attentions, we both hope our efforts have been able to cause at least a bit more inspiration to try our local street foods.

Fall Rally Roundup and some New Stuff

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

                Good Luck and Good Eating to all!

SAMSUNG

Fall Feast Food Truck Rally

FallFeast-FoodTruckRally

              Tonight (probably already started) is the much anticipated Zombie Pub Crawl, 9 years in the running and now featuring a “Food Truck Court” somewhere within the main Quarantine area (which I found out only yesterday since no other site has advertised or provided details on the Trucks taking part).

                But as far as I’m concerned, the real party comes in a week as the MN Food Truck Association launch the Second of their Food Truck Rallies, the “Fall Feast.”

                After a couple months of waiting, a swarm of trucks are returning once more to Harriet Brewery to stand guard and provide their beloved fares to the crowd. Set from Noon to 7pm, these will of course be joined by various bands in the Harriet Taproom, and a ready supply of their fan-favorite beers. The full schedule of Music can be found on their sites of course.

As opposed to last time, the number of Trucks has increased to 15 (though we’ll see how many of them show up this time), and will include: Lulu’s Street Food, Cafe Racer, Tiki Tims, AZ Canteen, Motley Crews, Stanley’s, Brava, Eat At Sandy’s, Hibachi Daruma, A Cupcake Social, Hot Indian Foods, The MidNord Empanada Truck, Moral Omnivore, Gastrotruck, and The Red Pig & Truffle. Though the trucks cost money, entrance is still free, unless one plans to go to the “afterparty” ($5) at Bigtree Bonsai at 8pm.

                I definitely plan on going again to see how this event fares compared to the last; I’ll admit I’m a bit surprised that they decided to do the Rally at the same location, especially with how long of a wait we’ve had since their first (maybe it’s more of a seasonal Rally than a quick yearly grouping…). I hope to see you there, and Good Luck and Good Eating until then!

http://mnfoodtruckassociation.org/events/

http://www.harrietbrewing.com/event/fall-feast-food-truck-rally/  

St. Paul Art Crawl – Fall 2013

                With summer fading away, the wet, chilly autumn starts baring its fangs. Though the weather rakes in a time studded with a monotony of well-celebrated holidays, it also stands as the official ending point for the vibrant, flooded Food Truck season we all adore (well, that and the warm, sunny weather). Of course they aren’t gone; the years of forming various relationships with local businesses and fellow breweries providing them with a firm base of business during the cold months.

AC-Fall-Poster-8-14-tm-sm

                Hoping to share an effect in this is the St Paul Art Crawl, following the Nordeast’s summer foray with its own fall-season event. Taking place from October 4th to the 6th in various hours (6pm-10, 12-8, and 12-5 respectively), the artist’s gathering studs the entirety of the Downtown area, along with a few places south of 94, with studios, galleries, performances, probably some bands (at least the local restaurants may hire), even a few different runs and marathons.

                And of course, Food Trucks. The organizers of this Fall’s shindig have begun a focus and foray into the Truck territory, sending out emails and notifications and whatnot to bring as many of the mobile ops out to the Crawl as they can. From last I heard of a representative, they only had 7 signed up, but they expect to bring in a BUNDLE more (they said “think State Fair”) to provide fun and nourishment along the visual city tour. I don’t really know who they are, though, as no listing has been provided (guess it’s a surprise!)

58360c7a2dc8aea2f83caa60d6258ac4

                I would so love and look forward to the chance to go down, if anything just to compare it to the last Crawl, but also to see what Trucks decided to come down. Especially since, despite a full listing of galleries and map, there’s not too much info for me to report on before-the-fact. Sadly, though, my out-of-town schedule finds it impossible… if anyone would like to go and report in my place it would be highly welcome! Haha.

                For those who can make it, hopefully this offers a proper mobile respite before the ever-so-long distraction of the cold Minnesotan seasons to come. The weather should be sunny, days nice, and food a great accompaniment to enjoy our Local Art Scene. With that, I leave each to their own devices yet again; Good Luck and Good Eating to all.

http://www.stpaulartcrawl.org/

https://www.facebook.com/Stpaulartcrawl