State Fair Experience 2013

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         The Great Minnesota Get-Together is on once more to a bevy of local crowds! What can I really hope to try and say about this event known for its yearly display of Produce, Animals, Baked Goods, Music, Food, and of course, random carts filled with odd Inflatables…

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           After many years of distraction from a certain other (-cough-Medieval…) Fair, I only just returned to the food-fest that is the State Fair in 2012. It was so good to put my recently developed skills in food research, “restaurant” mapping and strategization into this event which I had been absent so long. Thank god I was able to do two days of it then, with how many things I had on the list, from now on I can focus purely on new foods and reserve the favorites for whenever.

           Speaking of New Fair Foods, I thought it would be fun to recount all my finds and experiences of this year, both new and old, famous favorites and hidden treasures. It won’t be a list of “every important food you should know” or whatever, but maybe I’ll hit something you haven’t seen yet, and you can share your own opinions on them or adverse experiences if you want!

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             Well, I went with my sis early on a sweltering summer morning, needing breakfast… so of course we had to have ice cream! Hamline Dining Hall sells Izzy’s Ice Cream flavors, and this year had their new Mini Donut Batter Crunch! Had to get it with a patented Izzy scoop of Salted Caramel, since Sis wanted to try it and they taste awesome together. The ice cream itself was as creamy and delicious as always, and I was very satisfied with the authentic mini donut flavor they were able to get through.

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              On that train of thought, the Ballpark Café shelled out 12oz glasses of Nordeast’s new Fair-special Mini Donut Beer. I was gonna have it right after the ice cream, actually, but they didn’t start selling until Noon, the bastards. But I got it later, in a glass rimmed with cinnamon sugar. My thoughts leading up to it were quite doubtful; not in the idea of a beer flavored with donut, that would be awesome. Apparently their “criteria” for naming it Mini Donut was simply this: it’s the same color, it’s really malty, and then we put cinnamon sugar on the rim.

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               I was very pleasantly surprised. Even if the beer, on its own, is probably only average or a touch above in quality, it was interestingly delicious with the cinnamon sugar. They actually combined to create this extra little note that truly did remind me of the donuts in a fun and different way. Definitely a good Fair drink.

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               The Sis then dragged me into the Food Building, away from my list to grab something from the hall of wonders. One of her Fair items of note, and not too bad a grab from the Food Building Standards (besides the Nitro Ice Cream, oh god), a Jerked Chicken Roti from Harry Singh’s Caribbean Restaurant. We also got a glass of their Ginger Beer, but that was just ok; could tell they just made a ginger-flavored syrup and turned it into a (non-carbonated) soda.

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                Next was a trip to Mancini’s, which debuted a plethora of new items this year. For me, the focus was the Porketta Pig Wings, basically small pork shanks cooked super tender, on the bone, with a flavorful spice mix seasoning. God these were good, so tender and flavorful; on seeing them I almost wished (and thought before) that there was a sauce, but they really don’t need it AT ALL. Great walk-around food, would be fun to see out of a Truck.

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              Oh, they also have a Gelato area with multiple areas. Another good place to get ice cream, along with one of my favorite discoveries last year: “Lingonberry Ice Cream.” A great stop for the locals who love it, but especially for any tourists/out-of-towners who haven’t had lingonberries yet.

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              With a disappointing attempt at their Sweet Corn Ice Cream last year, I once more returned to the Bluemoon Dine-in Theater (with food in front and a screen displaying old movies in the back) to try this year’s new “wonder item:” Comet Corn. Finally, we have another stand besides Nitro playing along with liquid nitrogen, taking a bowl of it and briefly dunking in Caramel Corn to freeze instantly for a fun, chilled Fair Treat. Or at least, that’s the idea… apparently, despite originally advertising it as Caramel corn, it’s also Cheese popcorn and Pretzel gold fish. All of the items of which being that cheap, mass-produced stuff one finds in giant tins; which, if it was just the caramel corn, I wouldn’t have minded. I sorta like it as a junk food, and it works well with the Nitro freezing; you even get to breathe a little bit of that fog, so fun.

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             I think I’ve sort of figured out something about Bluemoon, because I’ve had two years in a row where I’ve been quite excited to try them and both years I’ve been quite disappointed. It’s just how their items are; each year they come up with this new thing that sounds “so different, so unique, so childish and fun or retro” or whatever, it gets hyped up by them and other people. But at the end of the day what’s actually being made is just… not really that exciting, either in what it really is or how they do it. The Cereal Killer ice cream last year; it’s just mass-produced cereal flavored ice cream. The Sweet Corn was grainy and disgusting; I love corn flavor for desserts, but you have to do it right (I don’t understand how Zimmern liked it; did I just get a bad batch?). And now there’s this Comet Corn, charging us $5 for a small cup of super cheap popcorn.

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                Well, I needed something to cheer me up, obviously. So I thank my lucky stars my next stop was Ole’s Cannoli for their new Candied Bacon Cannoli! A Fair standard for years, they provide a perfectly crispy shell filled fresh-to-order with a deliciously smooth, sweet cream cheese filling. I expected them to sprinkle candied bacon pieces on the ends (as the picture advertized…), but they did something even better! They basically just took a whole strip and laid it in the cannoli before filling; this way we’re guaranteed bacon with each delicious bight. I hope they bring it back next year.

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                My sis needed coffee apparently, and a stop to one of her two Must-have items every year, Grilled Chocolate (and Raspberry) Sandwiches, so we stopped at Moe and Joe’s. Luckily for me, they also carried the new Grilled Glaze Donut, next on my list. Which was… quite disappointing. No real flavor comes from the grill, and the donut itself is just a basic, unimpressive donut, not really one you crave. Though it is better dipped in the strawberry sauce they give, and it’s only $2 so a good item for those on  budget (but you get what you pay for). As for the Grilled Chocolate Sandwich, normally it might be something I suggest, but I think the quality decreased this year… I could actually taste the “Hershey’s Syrup” aspect of it (could swear they used a different chocolate before). Though I usually stop by each year to see if they have different sandwiches; the Marshmallow Fluff one was tasty.

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               The next stop was another favorite of my Sister’s, and I think one of the great little hidden gems of the Fair. If you’re ever thirsty for something besides water, try heading to the International Bazaar, go to West Indies Soul Food, and grab a big cup of their Caribbean Lemonade (also with pineapple and I think maybe mango). It’s super tasty. They also sell a really good Jerked Pork Chop, for those who like Pork Chop on-a-stick and wanna try something different.

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               It’s no trip to the Fair without a Corn Dog (FINE, or a Pronto Pup… evil), and this year a new stand has revealed itself to sell their own Flavored” Corn Dogs. These include one with extra Corn, a Jalapeno and Cheese, and (as they highly advertise) a “Double Bacon,” which I of course had to get myself. Supposedly they advertise a hot dog, wrapped in bacon, dipped in a batter which has itself been mixed with chopped bacon, then garnished of course. I myself… didn’t taste any of it. I could see the bacon in the crust, but none of the flavor came through; the hot dog and fried batter was too strong. Plus, I don’t think they actually wrapped the dog in bacon… definitely a stand I suggest one avoid. Stick to a regular Corn/Pronto Dog.

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              Also had some of Sweet Martha’s of course, but forgot to take a picture… oh well we know they’re delicious.

              The fact that I even got through all of this, even if I only partially consumed most of it, in 4+ hours was just numbingly tiring. Thankfully we had to leave early, because I needed to lay down after the hot day, but there was ONE MORE stop I needed to make before being completely satisfied.

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               That’s right, Famous Dave’s. I so loved their Pork Knuckle dish last year, was sad to see it was a one year thing but very happy to get their new Cajun Pork Rinds. Though damn they give you a lot of them! Squeeze a bit of that lemon over (the acid cuts through the fatty fried skin really nicely, not to mention the spice) and dip into that White BBQ Sauce, and damn these are good. I think they actually do fry the skins themselves, at one point, but even if it is just mass-produced bought and flavored I don’t mind, it was a very tasty and happy experience. Though I had to take half of it home to finish… Sadly, I don’t think they’ll have them next year, but it’ll be interesting to see what new seasonal item they have in their place.

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               Well, that was my 2013 year at the Fair. My list of staples has expanded, though many new items have been cut, but either way I can’t wait to see what comes up in 2014! What’s your favorite foods, new and old?

Doggy Art

            The Uptown Art Fair was this weekend, doing its part to display all our local talents while clogging up the streets as best it can! Being I never went there before, I decided to stop by with a friend to view the various events; though most of the time we just ended up drinking in a bar (better that than the over-priced, cheap stuff at the “Beer Garden.”)

            Normally I might do a little report on the proceedings, but I didn’t really take much pictures and it had nothing to do with Street Food, so I don’t really care.

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            Plus there’s that… thing. Ugh, it’s creepy. Worst part is I was eating some Paella when I saw it, did NOT help the situation.

            Though I did get a brief view of the Culinary Competition outside Kitchen Window when I got there. It’s too bad they didn’t have a good way to actually view what the chefs were doing, like a camera… everything was hidden by the booths. Still fun though.

            There was ONE Truck there of course, the good ‘ol nationally-known Zimmern truck AZ. My acquaintance decided to buy their AZ Dog for lunch, so lucky me I finally got a chance to take a picture and try it out!

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            And as hot dogs go it is a tasty one, good pickles and slaw on top, all that nice stuff, but once again definitely not worth a whole $8 (wasn’t it $7 just a bit ago?). Still best to look at other places for hot dog cravings.

            Well that’s it… small post for me, but that’s how it goes. Good Luck and Good Eating.

Rally Recap

With a busy weekend and class, it’s been a few days since I was able to get to my posts, so I apologize for the slow update.

 

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            Well, the 1st of what hope to be many MN Food Truck Association Rallies have come and gone, and to quite the success in my opinion!

            The overall day itself wasn’t the best; they claimed beforehand that they’d stick out rain or shine, and it seemed the former decided to put them to the test. I know I speak for all those out on the streets that day in expressing my flustered surprise at the blanket of grey clouds on what was supposed to be a fully dry, sunny day. Luckily it didn’t rain too hard, though the medium drizzles and lighter WERE quite persistently on-and-off wherever I seemed to go.

            But the Trucks got through this easily, much like the happy crowd who was able to come out. This led to the first appreciated surprise of the day; the crowds weren’t actually CROWDS. Despite the plethora of Trucks shoved into one parking lot, the actual lines coming out of them were… well, in many cases inexistent, or at least small; very much unlike the past 2 experiences at the yearly “Food Truck Fair.” That is not to say there was nobody there and eating, just that they weren’t all jammed in front of the iron behemoths.

            Though whether this was due to the actual plans and strategies of the Association or if the rain simply segued attendance enough so the crowd-issue didn’t appear, either way the result of the day was a much calmer, easier, actually ENJOYABLE event for us to take advantage of. Success is finally here for the large Truck Gatherings, and it wasn’t purely from chance.

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            Despite the relatively small space, as opposed to the blocks that Food Truck Fair uses, the overall lot still boasted a decent square footage, enough for them to actually plant tables and a tent in the middle. This allowed people to not only escape from the rain but actually sit DOWN with their Beer and Food; that is, when they weren’t heading back to the actual tap room area to sit and listen to music. The actual strategy here marks the first success in reducing those annoying lines; by giving multiple places for people to actually move to and spend time, we don’t have EVERYONE just hopping from one Truck Line to another, creating those crowds which garner the psychological need to get in there as soon as possible (even with food one just purchased somewhere else) to eat before closing.

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            Which is another thing; this was a nice, lengthy 10-hour event, double the time of the 5-hour Fairs of past. Though I didn’t stick around the whole time, or even arrive when opened, I’m quite sure there were many who came and went throughout the prescribed times. I’m sure the whole list of different bands helped with this as well, along with their sweet sweet siren music of course.

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            As for the Trucks themselves, having more is always better; even with my worry of the number in this enclosed space, one can’t help but argue that a number of trucks allows lines to divide and shorten for the customers which go; which once again have been much reduced in a minute-to-minute factor from the previous two discussed reasons.

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            Though we didn’t exactly have as many as wanted… which leads to my only annoyance of the event. It seems 4 of the Trucks decided to cancel either last-minute or the day beforehand, including that one at the top of my current Hunting List A La Plancha (the other 3 to cancel were Moral, Bloomy’s, and House of Hunger). The reason, supposedly, is that all or most of them decided that they weren’t capable of handling a 10-hour event like this, whether it was due to amount of product they had or simply the labor effort of staying out that long. Which leads me to 2 very important things I would like to say in response: first off, if you’re going to cancel on an event like this, THEN TELL US! Not a single one of these trucks actually updated Facebook or Twitter on the fact that they WEREN’T coming to the Rally they said they would. And that’s another thing; all of these Trucks officially said they would do this at least 1-2 weeks in advance (otherwise the Association, which they are PART of, wouldn’t have put them on the list of 12 trucks I’m sure); you should KNOW ahead of time exactly what kind of event it’s going to be, as well as what your general schedule is like (look at a Taproom’s truck schedule, it’s usually filled at least a month in advance). If your truck is unable to handle that sort of event, then you shouldn’t have agreed to it in the first place; and if you DO agree, then suck it up and go; if you run out you run out, if you have to end early then you do, at least you went and tried. Of course, special circumstances that force one unable to get on the streets is understandable, but that seemingly wasn’t the case here, so a rant is where I go.

            I should probably apologize a bit, I’m sure part of why I’m a touch more annoyed than usual is due to a last-minute cancelling of Tollefson Family’s Cart at Fulton, which I had drove to earlier to finally try and get them. And now my hunt for them continues…

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            As for the Trucks that did make it, we of course had AZ Canteen, R.A. Mac Sammies, Midnord Empanada, Potter’s Pasties, Lulu’s Street Food, Gogi Bros., Brava on Wheels, and Hot Indian Foods, all lined up around the edge like a delicious cage. I myself got the chance to try Gogi’s Tiger Balls!

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            Damn those are big balls… sticky too (I need to stop…). I thought they were quite yummy and tasty, with a nice, rich spice to them from the sauce, and of course a crispy crust and soft, tender inside. I only wish there was more Kimchi though… I’m sure they probably got a lot of the “flavor” of it in, but if you say “kimchi rice balls” then I sort of expect a lot of those actual fermented veggies just stuffing the mixture. Not that I’m gonna complain about the gooey pepperjack center and pork studding it, but the kimchi (from a visual perspective) seems not just an afterthought, but nonexistent. Still delicious though.

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            Oh, and they got the decal on their van! Wooh!

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            Where to go next was actually a tough decision for me, but I settled on Hot Indian; not only haven’t I actually HAD a full burrito yet, I still hadn’t tried the Spinach Paneer… so I took care of both of those! And wow, I thought the Roti was just for the tacos; they make big ones for the burritos too, awesome! Yeah, these guys are still total Food Truck personified. And of course it’s delicious; I think I actually enjoyed it more than their meat-based stews, which isn’t surprising, Veggie-based Indian dishes are always so good.

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            No beer for me that day, sadly; maybe if I was able to stick around longer, but the person I was meeting that day had to cancel and I had to get somewhere afterwards. Speaking of which, I didn’t actually see any specific items listed to pair well with the beers… maybe you had to ask about it, but oh well, I myself didn’t mind that too much. Though I saw the band play for a bit and took a look at the fun menu they had. Speaking of which, snapped a couple picks of some truck menus that did a little changy and update since last I saw them.

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            Whether they dodged a bullet due to bad weather or enjoyed success from actual planning, the MN Food Truck Association kicked off their first Rally in a noticeably positive way, and I myself can’t wait for the next one. Whether the weather is the same or better (or worse), I’m sure they shall be there, as shall I to report their attempts at these odds-defying gatherings.

            Until then, Good Luck and Good Eating to all, I hope those who went enjoyed the Rally as much as I did!

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            Also, for a separate and also well-done report on the event, see Here.

1st Annual Great MN Food Truck Rally!

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http://mnfoodtruckassociation.org/events/

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/07/1st_annual_mn_food_truck_rally.php

http://www.harrietbrewing.com/event/the-1st-annual-great-minnesota-food-truck-rally/  

            We’ve all felt it at least once in the past two years; that aching sense of disappointment garnered by the poorly planned, clusterf@#% of the giant Food Truck events. Though it seems some of us have finally had just about enough of sitting around being sad and moved to actually stand up and show what these events could be!

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            That’s right, I’m talking about the very first event of the Great MN Food Truck Rally, set up and organized by our own MN Food Truck Association as a new annual phenomena. Though of course it’s not just annually; described as a “series” of Food Truck Rallies throughout the Twin Cities Metro, it sounds like we can expect more than just the one special gathering in the coming month… you know, so long as they aren’t just putting us on (like that one girl in my chemistry class… -cough-).

            The First and only-listed actual event will be held exactly 7 days from now (… July 27th… a Saturday) from Noon to 10pm (with some/all Trucks supposedly starting service at 2? At least that’s what it says on Harriet’s site) over with their friends and partners at Harriet Brewing! Really turning this into a dual event, this beginning rally will really stand as a showcase to that amazing symbiotic relationship our Trucks and Breweries have created and expanded upon. With food serving, beer pouring and music blasting (oh yes, there SHALL be bands… I mean it’s Harriet after all), each Truck has then set out to highlight/create one special dish to specifically pair well with one of Harriet’s Brews! So if you’re having trouble deciding what to eat, or drink, just see which option/s match your Food or Beer (whichever you grabbed first).

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            Oh, and of course it’s Free to Attend (just need to verify age for a Drinking-wristband); though the Food and Beer are a different story. So don’t be afraid to spend extra money on amazingly delicious drink and dishes, especially since part of the proceeds will be Donated to the Second Harvest Heartland charity.

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            The attending 12 trucks will be: AZ Canteen, R.A. Mac Sammies (god, I haven’t seen them in a while), Midnord Empanada, Potter’s Pasties, Bloomy’s Roast Beef, Lulu’s Street Food, House of Hunger, Gogi Bros., Brava on Wheels, Moral Omnivore, Hot Indian Foods, and A La Plancha (who I am VERY much looking forward to visiting for a review!). A very large and very impressive lineup, one can’t help but feel a bit excited just in seeing who’s there!

            However, this does lead me to my one worry about the event. Anyone who’s familiar with both past-truck-fair experiences and/or the brewery seen has probably caught onto it already, but… Harriet’s not that big of a place. Sure it’s not a small brewery by any means, they even got their own little patio thing set up, but as far as Events go they still come a little under Indeed and 612 as far as space goes. With most of the Trucks, I’m assuming, lining the Street NEXT to Harriet, they may be able to better spread things out, leaving any of the “cluster” for the actual brewery… but there’s still much potential for bad shit going down.

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            And don’t get me started on traffic and parking! I think I heard something about a second lot available for use, but even then I’m still scared to think about how I’ll have to get down there and park…

            But either way, I’ll be there! I’ve got a Truck to review, and I missed the last Fair, so I’m obligated to at least report on this one! And of course I shall do my best to try and keep updated on any of the other upcoming Rallies for us all.

            Until then, Good Luck, Good Eating, and I’ll see you at the Rally!

Wednesday Rally after a break

         First, let me apologize for my absence this past week; with the Independence holiday ALONG with an intense Midterm on Monday I had to spend a week studying for, I haven’t exactly had much mental time to put reviews or things together.

         That said, it’s about time I update and recap on a few things I’ve noticed in my away time! Though I of course can’t give a full count on all the Truck-related events going on during the 4th (way too many, and again was busy).

           I still have yet to see any full review on how the 2nd Food Truck Fair went, though some facebook comments are quite enlightening. It seems despite the hopeful attempts and free admission (or possibly due to it), once again we see long, crowded lines and waiting. Consensus is high that they once again piled all the trucks in too tight an area, and need to either reduce these numbers or, better yet, spread the area out (like a “throughout Uptown” thing). I am thankful I did not have to witness it myself, and hope they’re able to try and improve the event even more the coming year. Oh well, though, at least no one had to waste money on the debacle (well, besides those wanting drink wristbands).

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Gogi’s just added Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps to their Menu! Great idea for them, though they still serve the things in a damn giant styrafoam box…

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          Moral Omnivore has got a fun, snazzy new menu design!

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           And I just popped down to the Wednesday Lunch by the River! For those who haven’t attended it yet, their weekly line-up includes 128 Café, Fork in the Road, Gastro, Vellee, and Simply Steve’s (though they didn’t show on the day I went). All parked on Kellogg and Wabasha, the ORIGINAL Lunch-by-River location! Oh how nostalgic it was by that odd little cement triangle… so conveniently next to Rice Park too (not that there were many trucks there today).

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         That’s about it, how was YOUR Food Truck experiences during the Holiday Week?

          Oh, and reviews for Lulu’s and 128 will be coming soon.

2013 Food Truck Fair in Uptown

http://mnfoodtruckfair.com/  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Waffle Van (L’Etoile du Nord)

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https://twitter.com/TheWaffleVan   

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Waffle-Van/154816037921188?fref=ts  

Main Location: ???

               Long has this elusive van been in business on the streets, and long have I been trying to track it down in my spare time. For the longest time I could not tell if they truly only ever came out once every couple months for specific special events (such as Rock the Cause, Art-a-Whirl, etc), which I always missed or couldn’t go to. OR if they’re out semi-frequently in some out-of-the-way area and just don’t inform anyone about it. If only I was there in their first year of 2011 when they actually seemed to care about it.

            I have a lot I’d like to say about this particular fact, especially concerning the day they wrote to me that they were going to be at a certain all-day jazz fest. Well, not only did they not show up (I was there for 4+ hours too), but they didn’t even post anything saying why… ever… even after I posted asking why. –sigh- Well, again I’d go on, but if I did it’d take up more of the post than is rightfully fair.

            Based out of L’etoile du Nord Café, owner Olivier spent his time roasting coffee for the local Cyclist scene. With his Belgian roots calling, it wasn’t long before he opened up The Waffle Van, pedaling out this Belgian delight to those… ummm, pedaling up the road? (Sounds cheesy enough, I’ll go with it)

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            Well, it seems he does two things and does them well. Which is good, because they’re the only two things on the entire menu (except for French Fries, but as far as I know that might just be for big Fairs/events). One can get Coffee, and one can get a Waffle, and that’s basically it. There are of course toppings, what kind of Belgian Waffle place would it be without it? Sticking PURELY seasonal, one only has one option depending on the time of year. My visit found a mound of Nutella with Bananas and whipped cream, though he admitted that the coming few weeks is likely to find him gathering bunches of Rhubarb for a tasty preserve.

            There is ONE last thing they offer, but it has nothing to do with the Food. Being Belgian, it seems Olivier can’t stand the idea of a lacking drink list. So, instead of the stereotypical cans of generic soda, the window of this truck is lined with various Belgian beers and quality Wine. The selection of course changes upon whim and availability, which, along with the special permits and other hoops he has to jump through just to sell them shows the level of effort and attention they go through just in their drinks.

            Since this blog is about food, however, I think it’s about time I wrap things up and actually GET to that.

 

Food: 9

              With only one product, there’s not too much that needs saying. The waffle is rich and flavorful; not “crispy” on the outside, but not soft, that kind of solid texture one expects from a good waffle. But the inside, ooooooooh, the inside; thick, soft but moist, not really “chewy,” but sort of dense in all the right ways. This isn’t an “airy” little thing, it’s a rich little lattice of Belgian goodness, topped with whatever the season yields. Though I haven’t tried any of his fruit toppings, the fact they’re seasonal and he makes them himself are sure to be tasty.

             Fries look basic, similar to what one may find at almost any Fair stand; not that I want them to be anything else, I’m there only for the Waffle.

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Holdability: 8

             With toppings, as one would imagine, handheld once again takes a back step. However, its tenderness makes for very easy eating, the plastic forks cutting right through with little to no actual tugging required. Two hands required, but the capability to walk is still there. Though if you want to eat a plain one, it’ll probably hold better than a Pasty.

Price: 9.5

            With toppings, the waffles come to a solid $5, getting a large palm-sized pastry for your reward, piled with the topping of the day. If wanting it plain, however, the charge comes to $4. For a delicious and specialized item such as this, which one still can’t get in any other truck, this comes to a very fair price and a good deal.

Speed: 9.5

              Cooking them almost continually, fresh waffles are usually ready when one orders, leaving the time spent only to pay and top the Belgian delight (that is if one gets it topped).

The TOE: 7.5

             Fast, highly specialized (as in only offering ONE item), unique concept compared to other trucks, spiffy design, and they have an interesting clientele demographic! (you know, the cyclists…) They hold many of the little feelings and aspects that make the great food trucks.

              Normally, I’d probably give a truck like this a great big 10. However, the past couple years they’ve refused to update their location except for very specific large events, which even THIS year they didn’t even do themselves, with most Truckie hopefuls relying only on the very few posts by those who had the luck to eat there (which of course came either PURE last-minute or the next day when they’re gone). Combine this with the blatant lie and lack of apology/acknowledgement I received concerning the jazz band last year, and I can’t help but feel this entire attitude towards potential customers is nothing but disrespectful and insulting. Thus only letting those “lucky” enough to live near them or just happen by them to get the chance to sample. Whether it’s agreed on by others or not, I find this is an issue that not only needs to be brought up but counted towards them as a Food Truck as a whole.

              As such, points shall be taken off, and I myself now hold no interest in going back until they fix this particular point of themselves (I’ve already eaten there once for blog purposes, that’s all I need), and I would ask those who can to do the same.

                        Tally: 43.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

              Hmmmm, what to get what to get, so many things I could suggest… though I guess if I HAD to settle on JUST ONE thing… it’d probably have to be a Waffle! Load it up while you’re at it, get the full experience. If one requires something more portable, getting it plain is cheaper and still very enjoyable. Actually, it’s probably quite the fun idea to get a plain waffle with a cup of their coffee; a great pastry substitute, it’ll make for good dipping and tasty flavor matches.

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              Ignore the Fries; when people go here it’s for one thing and one thing only. Well, two things; this place stands as one of the pinnacles of the “Beverage Stop” for “Food Truck Days” or outings at a Fair. Not many places have such nice beers on display in a mobile setting, and for only $5, that’s not too damn bad.

            Of course, these words are only to be taken into consideration after they’ve started updating their locations once more. I still hold my main opinion that we hold some form of boycott against this truck until then. If they don’t hold any concern in trying to reach out to new customers, I don’t see why we should show any concern in even going there.

Ruhland’s Strudel Haus

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http://www.thestrudelhaus.com/

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ruhlands-Strudel-Haus/140150702705441

Main Location: Markets, Fairs, etc

           Inspired to try and make it big at the State Fair, Tom Ruhland, who had been working with pastry at the time, first started to make apple strudel. Though his original plans at the yearly artery-clogger festival fell through, that didn’t stop him in getting behind the wheel to spread the caramelly delight. Now, after picking up a concession trailer in 2002, they can be found trucking around to various events and fairs throughout MN.

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          As one can tell, Ruhland’s Strudel Haus specializes in, well, Strudal. Evolving from the original Caramel Apple, they now offer both Sweet and Savory versions, the latter including items such as Spinach-Artichoke, Chicken Marinara, and Brat n Saurkraut. Much like any other Fair-like Trailer, there’s also the generic selection of lemonade, floats, and other drinks.

          Ever growing, Ruhland’s has added various Farmer’s Markets to their venues; instead of the Truck, however, they bring a freezer filled with pre-formed, frozen logs of their various selections to bring home and cook yourself. This makes a fun opportunity for the customer, however it can be difficult differentiate it from the Truck when figuring out their schedule. When looking at their schedule via website, best to stick with the “Concession” for better luck.

         I also hear they have plans to get their Strudels into stores (think they already have a few).

 

Food: 6

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           Let’s start with what I got; to me and my cousin’s extreme disappointment, the Caramel Apple was sold out at the time (you could see Tom working on a whole group of them in the background). So instead we got one of the seasonal specials, a “Triple Berry Cream-Cheese” for our sweet and a Bratwurst-Sauerkraut for the savory test. Let me just start off saying that the fillings were pretty darn tasty and satisfying, just like a good homemade pie.

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           The pastry used was good; a bit disappointingly, they use the same kind for both sweet and savory, would have been nice to see an extra element of specialized dough. They also don’t actually make it themselves, but have it specially prepared by “Best Brands” to their specification; which is smart, considering the volume they need (these strudels are pretty big before cutting, and they do have farmers markets to sell to as well) and the difficulty any decent pastry dough can be.

           Despite its craft and tastiness, though, it isn’t real strudel dough; strudel dough is a special, delicate thing stretched over an entire table and carefully rolled into a single, almost braid-like bundle. The pastry here is cut into large rectangles, stuffed, and rolled over simply. I understand this is a difficult, delicate art, which is why I understand and don’t mind if restaurants get away with it; but when one has any business based purely around Strudel, think they may have to rethink their strategy.

           Now… there’s something in particular I REALLY want to say about the food, or at least about a certain item we got. Before I continue, as you can see from this picture, the edge of the order shelf is filled with fun, framed pictures of their menu items. I myself sorta like this, it allows one to see what they’re in store for without wondering if the display is tacky or not. Well, getting on with it, here’s the picture they use for the Brat n Krat:

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           It comes time when they are about to garnish it, and ask me if I want the mustard on top or side. Of course, I love any good German flavors (why I ordered in first place), especially with a little Dijon or other stoneground mustard, which this picture quite clearly displays. So, of course I want it right on top, my lips already wet from my tongue in anticipation, and what do I get?

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           A big, wet drizzle of cheap, generic, mass-produced yellow crap. Okay, that’s a bit harsh, I don’t mind yellow mustard really, it’s nice in the right situations. But when you have a picture that clearly shows the use of a certain kind of product, then one either uses that, something better, or apologize and serve with nothing at all. Not the most generic thing one can find; which, sadly, doesn’t seem to just ring true for the Brat dish, following this with a big dollop of pasty hummus on top of their Artichoke-Spinach. Not even home-made, I think it was Saba… or some other generic. Ice cream, as one would expect of a truck that feels like it belongs at the Fair, is of similar quality, though at least it’s always good with warm chunks of pastry and pie filling.

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Holdability: 6

           Cut into a notable square and placed in a basket with whatever toppings match, this is already not a handheld food option. Add that up to a wrap of pastry that, though flaking nice on top, has a bottom layer that is quite plastic fork-resistant, making for a bit of an annoying struggle. Other than that, it’s not too difficult to walk around with it and stay clean.

Price: 7

            Like this score, all strudels are $7 even; various drinks and such reminiscent also reminiscent to the Fair in price too!

Speed: 3

            This point is, simply and purely, very frustrating. Before I continue, let me say that the wait isn’t actually any longer than the usual wait one finds at a regular truck, such as Vellee or MO. However, considering the fact that ALL they have to do is cut off a piece of the strudel, all the available ones of which are ready to go and kept warm, and then simply top it with whatever (a drizzle of mustard, dollops of hummus or marinara, scoop of ice cream, etc), the few minutes spent just leisurely and casually going about this is unacceptable. Especially when there was a line forming behind me, and no one took another order the entire time, that is until there was trouble with my credit card and the front person passed it onto Tom in the back (finally freeing her hands). And no, this experience wasn’t just limited to me; I had to spend a few minutes behind two women myself, and I think that was midway through the whole thing.

           It’s just unacceptable.

The TOE: 5

           It feels like what it is: a stand that tried out for the State Fair but ended up working the streets. At the very least they retain that fun feeling of specialty, that one goes here for one thing and one thing only (and possibly something to drink), and it’s not something one naturally finds everywhere, increasing the specialty. However, with the design, menu, intent, etc, one wonders if they can’t just go to the fair this year and find some easy substitute.

          Maybe if they fixed the false advertising issue of their pictures and actually work on not taking their sweet time on the order, the other stuff might not matter so much.

                      Tally: 27/50

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Final Thoughts

            If you want a strudel, find them at a market where you can just buy a big frozen one to bring home. Don’t have to wait in line annoyingly, can get a lot more for what’s probably a better price, and can top it with whatever you want (like really GOOD ice cream).

            As far as strudels to choose, definitely go for the Caramel Apple; we weren’t able to try it, but it’s the oldest and has the most practice and reputation in it, so I’m positive it’s good. Plus, a fun little substitute for apple pie at home. Though, all of the sweet strudels are of similar deliciousness, them using quality local ingredients in their fillings. As for the savory, the only one that seems worthy is the Brat n Kraut; the other two are probably decent too, but in a generic fashion. At least the Brat really brings in all that rich, sour German flavors that go so well with the pastry dough (like a good meat pie… which reminds me, all meat pies need sauerkraut from now on).

            If one feels they have to visit the stand, all right; I suggest doing it when there’s not too much of a line (unless they fix their speed issue). Though, if you’re lucky, there’s probably better and more suitable dessert trucks around.

Sun, Food, and Artwork

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           This weekend in NE saw quite the flood of bands, people, and food as the Minnesota Art-a-Whirl kicked off. With specific goals in sight, I headed down early Saturday, taking full advantage of the unexpected hours of sunlight (all day warnings for rain, and we don’t get a lick of it after the morning). With me to spend time roaming around and chowing on food was of course my awesome cousin Kyle.

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            That’s him making another goofy face when I asked him to pose.

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            First stop was of course Casket Arts, hosting Franconia Sculpture Park and Guerilla Furniture Designs, but more importantly it was the site of the two trucks at the very top of my “Most Wanted” hunting list: Taco Taxi and Waffle Van/L’etoile du Nord.

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            To my oh-so-happy surprise, these weren’t the ONLY Trucks on my hunting list I got to visit. Parked in the lot just in front of Casket was Ruhland’s Strudel Haus, that State Fair-looking white behemoth that’s oh-so difficult to figure out when they’re not appearing as the “Farmer’s Market Stand” (where they just sell frozen, whole streudals from a big ice box).

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            Suffice it to say reviews of all three shall be coming in down the week.

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            Of course it’s not a big, area-wide event without various bands in marked-off, wrist-band-required areas. Indeed, 612, and Anchor Fish and Chips all had hosting duties, along with at least one food truck for their hungry guests (612 had both Melch AND MO, quite the combo). Anchor obviously hosted itself, with Indeed bringing in a Beer Truck alongside Gastro.

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            Then of course there was the art. I would love to attempt to recall and put into words the various things places I stopped at, but there are many people who are much more qualified and skilled at doing that for events such as this. I’ll just stick to my Food Trucks, and for now here’s a few other pictures I took of cool things (Like a old jazz band traveling the sidewalk!).

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            Sadly, I did not have the chance to visit my beloved glass blowers, they were just too far away from the main NE area to walk, which I would have had to do as I took advantage of the Free Bus Ride system vs driving. Oh well, maybe next year.