The Curious Goat

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https://www.facebook.com/TheCuriousGoatMN
https://twitter.com/CuriousGoatMN
Main Location: Breweries, Etc

The Farm to Table movement has been pretty huge in the past decade and so years, and though many area trucks apply the practice of getting most or some of their product from local farms, it’s much fewer that use the practice as their focal point and theme like many restaurants have. Enter in The Curious Goat, a big orange catering trailer that came onto the scene of Fall 2014.

Curious myself to try it, this feeling of interest only grew as I found their facebook and twitter page lacking in detail on their particular menu choices (at first, it is of course possible more info has been updated after writing this). All I could gleam at the time was a connection to a dairy farm, as well as a picture of the owner holding the most adorable kid (baby goat) ever, likely his own. Rarely out on the street, Goat has also stated that they mainly stick with a few certain breweries to cater at, leaving me to find the right weekend for a beer and lunch. Lo and behold, a wild Sunday opportunity appeared at Sociable Cider Werks, bringing me back to try and sampler and habanero-infused apple booze to pair with the new food discovery.

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My thoughts confirmed, Goat truly focuses on simple foods highlighting local Farm ingredients, working with multiple nearby growers and raisers. Menu is likely to change VERY often, using dishes that highlight a couple ingredients, like their vegetable dishes consisting of just a Cabbage Salad or Brussel Sprouts and Peppers. They usually carry at least a few Vegan-friendly fairs, as I found with the Caramel Apple, though of course protein will always be available. As with their namesake, they currently offer Goat in two forms: a Taco, and a grilled Crostini paired with fresh, local Chevre (probably the only item one can guarantee seeing year-round).

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Goat seems to practice the use of finding multiple forms of delivering these organic products to our mouth, from basket-based piles to different carb-wrapped hand grippers. Besides the taco, my visit also found bun-based Sloppy Joes and a Cauliflower Pita available. The limit of what kinds of food they may feature throughout the year is constrained only by which foods they can get their hands on and what they feel like making.

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Food: 9

                I was lucky enough to be able to try a few things on my first trip round, and here they are!

Considering the name, I just had to focus on goat-themed items, first up being the Chevre Crostini from Freewheeler farms; and let me start off saying I really have no complaints with this dish whatsoever. The baguettes were grilled beautifully, nice and crunchy and flavorful, and the cheese was able to shine its delicious and creamy freshness just as it was meant to. Garnished with fresh apple slices and lightly pickled onions, it made for a tasty, refreshing bite on a fine summer’s day.

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Following this with a warm Goat Taco isn’t a bad move, and as tacos go this one is very well put together. Good masa tortilla (not double layered, which at first I was upset about but there was literally no spillage besides 1-2 drops of juice, so it’s alright this time) and fresh herbs and veggies compliment a lightly-spiced, juicy shredded meat. I’d like to say how impressed I am at what first looked to be too much vegetation topping (a la Tiki Tim’s fish tacos in the early periods) actually contributed a much lighter element at good balance to the protein. The protein itself, which carried a good flavor through marinade and/or sauce, I found disappointment in lack of its OWN flavor. Or, put simply, there wasn’t much there in the palette that told it was GOAT as opposed to pork or some cuts of shredded beef. Wish that grassy quality was able to come through.

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After what was originally going to be my only two options, I couldn’t help but go back and try something that just seemed too fun not to get: the Caramel Apple, made completely Vegan (since caramel usually needs cream and/or butter to complete itself). Sadly not on a stick, the local fruit is cut into wedges and served alongside a container of cooked sugar thus mixed with coconut cream and other vegan substitutes, along with a few choice spices (not the regular cinnamon-nutmeg-allspice thing). When all is set and done, and the apple dipped, the dish thankfully avoids the feeling of an ‘inferior version to the originally,’ which many vegan recipes can do if not made well. The coconut added a tasty fusion to the flavor, the sauce’s texture was smooth, and the spices light and floral, overall tasting really nice with the apple; I’d love to have this sauce on top of some pie or ice cream!

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Holdability: 7.5

               Pretty variable among options, but nonetheless the intention behind these food creations is to have them enjoyed at the table of a local brewery, thus quite a few are designed to be much more comfortable eaten sitting down. That said, the tacos, pitas, and potentially sloppy joe eat a little more mobile, and the other items are still presented very clean, with little to no risk of mess. I will say I was hoping the ‘caramel apple’ would have come on a stick somehow, but the sauce was indeed very loose…
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Price: 6

                Very static; on my particular visit, the highest item was a spicy Fried Chicken at $12 while the cheapest was a $5 cabbage salad and the $4 caramel apple. The mobile protein entrees were $9 and $10, with other veggies hanging around $7-8. This is all of course BEFORE tax.
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There is something else I’d like to bring up. Apparently, on the particular day of my experience, there seemed to be some issue with the coin change; either they couldn’t get to it, or didn’t have any, or whatever it was, despite tacking on an additional 30-80 cents to orders due to tax. As a result, one was handed back purely all of the paper change and nothing else; in a sense, all menu items cost a dollar more than what was listed unless you paid with a credit card. Now, of course, I don’t expect or assume this is a constant problem, but I’m a bit upset at how they chose to handle it; in a situation like this, customer service would dictate it much more favorable and kinder to simply give out an extra dollar in change instead of unknowingly forcing people to pay more. It’s not much, but it’s one of the many little things in the business that helps to keep the experience for a customer, like a simple smile when taking orders.

Speed: 6

I felt like I had to wait a bit longer for the tacos and chevre than what it should have taken, especially with only one order in front (and that was out soon after I placed my own). I mean all the chevre required was toasted the baguette, everything else is pre-made; and one can clearly see the goat is shredded, thus pre-cooked, and would only need warming while the tortilla toasted. With a brewery experience, this probably works well though; you make your order, go and grab the beer selection, and then head to a table for them to bring out to you (they even give you those little number cards for delivery! Fun).

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The TOE: 9.5

                Focusing a menu and truck purely on Farm-to-Table and good, local products is always a great idea, but it’s not always expressive in the mobile game; which is why I absolutely love Goat’s ability to really make me ‘feel’ like I’m eating these ingredients through their menu of simple, produce-based dishes. Of course the name and display is quite interesting and unique and helps facilitate this along, next to its good-tasting food.

As the wave of excitement and ambiance leads me through, though, it makes me feel even the worse for not hitting that absolute peak which I wish they could get to. The menu and food has a noted feeling and soul to it, but it just doesn’t come together perfectly for a food truck; I’d say it’s missing something TRULY central and eye-catching, a focal point besides goat cheese crostinis… it needs a TOE Ring. My hope was that this would be the caramel apple dish, but cut up fruit with sauce on the side, no matter how good, won’t cut it; I wish they actually had taken a really small apple (and it was a small apple they used), or like a section of it (maybe gouge out little balls) and actually make caramel-coated local apples on a stick/skewer, and with those added spices they had it’d make a perfect fit, so long as they could get the coating set. Or something… it really FEELS like they could make something worthy of TOE Ring quality or something similar, and that’s why I’m missing it a bit more than usual (nonetheless, what they did accomplish here was still really good, so I think they deserve a very high score).

Tally: 38/50

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Final Thoughts

Truly one of the ideal mobile kitchens to order from at a brewery, on a beautiful blue sky day with outside seating and your favorite glass of local draught. Not to mention Goat also provides some of the better, tastier street options for Vegans (shame on you, SHAME!).

Though if you’re more protein-inclined, they include some great Minnesota-raised animals to chew. Sadly, though the Chevre Crostinis are a certain positive experience, the other goat-based item of tacos doesn’t feel too worth a visit. The Sloppy Joe and Fried Chicken, on the other hand, should offer fun options for those willing to pay more than usual.

I expect most any vegetable dish to be prepare well and proper, and put high suggestion on those like the Cauliflower Pita. As for the Caramel Apple and other desserts they may put out, not a bad experience if one has the urge for a little sweet in their day, but one shouldn’t be too upset if they decide not to get it.

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BBB: “Burger Before Break”

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             With my leave for a 10-day vacation looming, I’m a bit determined to get at least one more Truck experience done before Thursday. Though as we can see, Minnesota’s trying to take us on a mass-delorian trip back to December, which isn’t really helping any of our Trucks get outside. The whole “Food Truck Day” I had planned with my cousin for yesterday became cancelled, leaving me to re-think my strategy.

            Luckily for me, I didn’t need to re-think too much, my daily plans leading me to downtown Minneapolis and straight towards AZCanteen. Finally returned after a long winter in Florida and other states, AZ has been making up the time lost, parking in all sorts of weather conditions despite any obviously-lacking crowds. It was a particular fun stop in the day for me, one for meeting up with an old classmate who happens to work in the Truck now, but secondly because I finally had the chance to get the Cabrito Burger.

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            Just a reminder, I definitely suggest one’s first try of the Burger be from the Truck as opposed to the Stadium. Not only does one get the “Truck Experience,” the line probably won’t be as long, and it costs $4 less than their $13 charge at a Twins game.

            Overall an interesting little experience; good chance I shall be adjusting some of the scores on my review. The wait was pretty long for the burger vs my other orders at the previous excursion; not that I had anywhere to go, and it was nice to see them take their time, shift the burger around, really cook it RIGHT. It’s quite a thing to see, watching the cook turn it ever-so slightly, nudge here and there for heat distribution, all while your little pile of onions and tomatoes just sit caramelizing on the griddle.

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            They finish the burger with an herb butter, let it melt on the grill, and finally move your perfect little bundle of ground goat and lamb(?) to the griddle-toasted brioche bun. No cheese required, the only toppings one gets being the stained-glass pile of grilled onions and roasted tomato. A little cup of their handmade pickles, to add with your own preference (aka, pile all of it on your burger cuz they’re delicious and awesome), and the plate is finished. Have you ever had those thoughts of making a gourmet burger and wondering what it would look like? Well, here you go:

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            Now that’s just plain picturesque. Just burger, bun, tomato, onion, and pickles, all kicked up to their most simple deliciousness. And for those who always like having a bit of spicy with their food, jalapeno and ancho chile hot sauces stand guard to the side (I tried a bit of the ancho on half of mine)… need a lot though if you wanna taste it, I didn’t get too much of mine.

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            As for the taste, what else is there to say? It’s all highly flavorful, the condiments are just plain IDEAL, and the bun is crispy. Well, crispy at first; it has a LOT of juices it needs to handle, and even this crispy bun can only hold out for so long. But hey, crispiness is ideal, but if it’s lost texture simply from all the flavor and juices it soaks up, I guess we don’t mind suffering.

            The one thing of note I have, though the burger is flavorful and nice, it really does NEED all the condiments and herb-butter. On its own, the meat is sort of dry, which is to be expected as ground goat is one which sometimes needs COMPLETE cooking through; and well-done or medium-well it was, which explains the wait. Again though, as an entire package it’s all pretty damn good. Think it’s a fun little comparison to Melch’s, whose excellence is purely based on the burger patty, as opposed to AZ’s elevation in condiments (their Buns are tied… I knew a girl who liked that once actually).

            For one little visit, it was a pretty fun experience, and now I NO LONGER need to go to AZ again! (…. that’s not to say I won’t… just ask Vellee) I think I can safely head out on my little vacation without regrets now.

            Let’s hope Minnesota finally gets over its little temper tantrum and accepts the fact we’re done with winter when I get back. I’ve still got Trucks to review, and I will be looking forward to getting those done for people as soon as I get back!

AZ Canteen

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azcanteen.com/

https://twitter.com/AZCanteen

Main Location: Minneapolis, St. Paul… Other States (Winter Travel)

             Words truly cannot detail just how excited I became upon finding out about this New Creation. My pace quickened, chest tightened, a little drool escaped my lips, and I think my eyes probably dilated like a pig walking into Famous Dave’s.

            There is truly only one way I can express why this had such an effect on me. If you were to have one, only ONE, well-known Chef across the entirety of the U.S. to own and direct a Food Truck, it is Andrew Zimmern. Very few Chefs have been able to engrain themselves into food cultures and Street Food across the entire World as much as Zimmern has. With such a wide experience of enjoying the most abstract and, okay I’ll say it, “Bizarre” foods. Working among the many dishes of the street, there is no one more qualified to understand and offer that pure Cultural feeling and experience that a True Food Truck can create.

Truly he proves this here, creating a menu of unique yet familiar, nostalgic items perfect just for the street. Hamburgers and Grinders are made from specially-found Cabrito Sausage (for those unaware, Cabrito is Goat), Sliders are made from Veal Tongue, and Gumbo is filled with Kramarczuk’s Andouille, Oysters and Crab. For dessert they grabbed Izzy’s own Ice Cream Sandwiches; but the real star of the entire Truck is a special “Dulce de Leche Shaved Ice,” with pound cake.

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            Drinks and Potato Chips are all bought from handmade, artisanal, local and other such sources. Much like every other product they buy for the Truck.

            Currently taking residence in Florida for the winter, AZ really sets themselves onto the Serious Path and Habits that reminisces the Food Truck World. I only hope that they do come back to take up Minnesota Residence once again whence Summer arrives(I’ve come back from the future to write this… and they do, yay!).

            I hear there are plans to make multiple Trucks in the AZCanteen name, so I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

Food: 9.5

           Fun, delicious, a very pivotal experience for the Minnesota Foodie. Cabrito is cooked perfectly, bread for the sandwiches are grilled and crispy; and the local ingredients really shine. The Dulce de Leche Ice is a very unique experience, and perfect for the hot summer day. For my review on the Burger, follow This Link.

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           The only counterpoint I can make is I wish the Gumbo had more sense of the Oysters that it’s highlighting, but a good Gumbo it still is.

Holdability: 7.5

           Individually each item is made for easy Street Eating. However, I find any real experience here is almost impossible to make without getting a cup of Gumbo or Shaved ice alongside one of the sandwiches, leading to fuller hands. On a recent visit, I found the burger to also be a sit-down preferred item.

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Price: 8.5

          Keeping many good, affordable prices, along with a range for the smaller, lower costing items (small soup and shaved ice being an example). The locally sourced, higher quality items and service techniques do show, raising them another dollar or two above other trucks. But nowhere near ridiculous levels.

Speed: 7.5

         Average and expected, while many popular items like the soup and ice come in quicker due to efficiency. The Cabrito Burger DOES take a while to cook on its own, but one can wait it our with Gumbo or Shaved Ice.

The TOE: 10

         AZCanteen may not score the highest within the Trucks that I rate, but believe me when I say that I can’t think of many trucks that Truly embody what it means to be a Food Truck any more than AZ. Andrew Zimmern has taken his wide travels through the world and Translated his love for the Street Food Culture into what we see today.

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         I look forward to going back in the future. Though I do not think they need to change their menu at all, there is a subconscious hope to see them play around with more new, unique things.

Service: +3

         The Chefs behind the register have REALLY good energy and drive behind them, and are extremely willing and able to chat up new customers. Even on my first visit they made everything feel familiar, warm and exciting all at once.

                         Tally: 46/50

Final Thoughts

            Go here, go here now (or at least, soon as Summer comes back). There are two things you absolutely MUST get on the first visit.

            First, either the Cabrito Burger or Grinder; it’s their main, specialty item, and very well done. Second, to go with this, either a small cup of the Gumbo or the Shaved Ice for dessert. Or hey, get both, do a 3-course Street Lunch thingy (only Truck I know where it’s a real possibility and I would also suggest it). If able to, I might suggest getting the cup of Gumbo while waiting for the Cabrito to cook. It makes the wait tasty and fun, and is one less thing to worry about for carrying.

            The one item I would avoid is the Venison Tongue Sliders. Don’t get me wrong, they taste really good, but they’re a little higher in cost and you do NOT get much; only two thin slices per slider. If you have the extra money to spend, definitely give them a try one day.

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            One very rare thing for me to suggest, the side items: I was disappointed to find they don’t make their own. However, the chips they buy come in a plethora of flavors, including Bacon. So if you’re looking for those little pre-made things, AZCanteen has a very good selection, same with their Sodas(but they make their own Hibiscus, so get that).

            Enjoy yourselves fully!