Loud Mouth

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http://loudmouthmn.com/
https://twitter.com/loudmouthmn
Main Location: Minneapolis, St. Paul

I didn’t think it’d take this long for me to properly make it to this particular truck! My first sight of them was at the capital while hitting Filius Blue, but I had already gotten enough from THEM to make it quite difficult to focus on anything else. Though while stopping by I did ask about the place, somehow ended up with a little side salad (it was fresh and tasty, but hasn’t been featured since so I don’t feel like really focusing on it). My second time was during my visit to Sal’s, where my cousin DID get one of their items; but can’t base a review off of just one. So I set to wait until I could get the SECOND of the two sole items that appeared consistently from them, and found yet a third time in downtown Minneapolis, where I was waiting and ready to add into that day’s food truck tasting lineup… and saw they had MORE menu items. Distinct ones too. And I was spending enough money on other things that day anyways!

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But I finally made it down to visit them solely recently! Now it is the time to feature the Loud Mouth food truck! The idea may have started in 2013, but the truck finally realized itself early on this summer; if I remember correctly, actually, my first sighting of them was during their beginning week.

On first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a particular connecting theme amongst menu items, but further inspection and asking questions leads to finding out about where this all COMES from. The Beef comes from the owner’s own family farm, the Pig from a friend’s homegrown operation, and they even have a friend in Alaska working on a Salmon boat that flies in fresh, super-seasonal catches when available. Would imagine the accompanying vegetation is also kept local, fresh, and properly farm-grown as the proteins, though don’t quote me on this.

They bring these on the menu in the form of a Bacon Cheeseburger, Jerked Pulled Pork Sandwich (and I swore I thought I saw them make a ‘Cuban’ one day, but again don’t quote me), and Bowls often topped with some kind of Chicken, currently Thai with Rice and Pulled with Mashed Potatoes. When they have the Salmon on board, it usually comes in two forms; the ‘original,’ definitely noted on my first pass-by, where it’s simply plated with rice, Asparagus/Green Beans, and a Hollandaise I believe. The second form is a Taco with Pineapple, Pickled Onions, Cilantro and more of that sauce. Many of which come with your flavor choice of Dutch Kettle Chips… you know, just cuz.

Now let’s go ahead and see how if the food is as ‘loud’ as their name implies.

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Food: 7.5

                Got quite the collection of little things to try out for this one! Starting off is the Bacon Cheeseburger, topped with house-made Pickles and generic yellow mustard. The beef has that notable ‘charred pub/grillhouse’ style to it, and comes in tender, moist, and a very enjoyable mouth sensation alongside the cascade of cheese, meaty bacon, and subtly ‘pickly’ pickles. Overall I was very glad I chose to get a burger from here. Though talking about the bacon, which I’m guessing is made by them considering their sourcing and how thick it is, the moment the pickle toppings disappear (which can easily happen around halfway through consumption), it does end up making the burger a little too salty when combined with that notable grill char. I’d say this could easily be solved one of a few ways: add some Tomato-based element, like roasted or sauced; have the griddled/caramelized onions SLICED instead of that tiny dice, you barely really experience them like they are now and sliced would cover MORE of the burger easier; or make a sweet-tangy sauce. Any of those could help cut through/neutralize the little extra salty-fatty aspects. But that’s a rather minor concern here at the end of the day.
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A point that their OTHER sandwich, the Pulled Pork, also suffered from. Not on the salty side, but the fat… any regular can see that I do enjoy a gluttonous adventure of fatty goodness, but there ARE times and foods where too much can turn even me off, especially depending on the kind of fat. And sadly I just found this pile of pig to be rather on the unsavoringly heavy with the fat flavor and feel. Which is a shame, because there’s an easy way to fix it… Sauce. Which they top it with… but just not enough. I was rather excited going into this, as I LOVE a good Jamaican Jerk flavor, but I could barely taste it, except for one or two bites with a particularly concentrated amount. And theirs has a nice flavor, sort of more on the refreshing and soft aspect, barely any heat at all. But clearly it’s not strong enough with intensity to hold up. The sandwich either needs MORE sauce, a stronger flavor, or both. After which I would hope they start actually mixing and tossing it WITH the pork to help cut through the fat, both palate wise and physically too. Then again, I could have just gotten an unfortunately fatty scoop and a regular one is much better, but it’s something to consider.

Then we come to the Salmon! The fish itself: tender, cooked well, delicious, classic seared salmon, no complaints. Love that they use masa tortillas with the classic double-layering, always adds a nice note. I THINK I recall wishing there was either more pickled onions or some other accompanying element; yes, because at the end of the day everything in here comes together as all one soft texture. It sorely needs more crunch. Overall though it TASTES good, it’s all nice together… but there’s something about it that doesn’t quite ‘click’ for me. I know I love and vouche for fusion and twisting a lot, but that highly classic/’fancy’ flavors of salmon and hollandaise… it just doesn’t feel quite right being put into a taco as so. I think, for me, it’s simply that its accompaniments don’t fully bring it into a category reminiscent of ‘street tacos;’ they taste good but it doesn’t feel like it’s been properly dragged kicking and screaming into the world of street food flavors. And considering they DID use masa tortillas as opposed to flour, it feels as if they SHOULD have applied those different flavors; like getting chipotle in a pineapple salsa or something.

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But, at the end of the day, I recognize that these particular inhibitions are probably just me. The item itself IS rather unique, a cross between two worlds, and still tastes good. For whatever reason I’m sure I just don’t quite ‘get’ it as well as other customers may. So take that little rant with a grain of salt.

Holdability: 7

                 We’re really all across the board here. Though it comes in a basket, the burger on its own wasn’t really much of a mess, in fact I could have probably handled it somewhat easily, maybe some mustard and burger juice on the hands, with a wrapping and one hand if I didn’t have to deal with the pork! Then of course I imagine those bowls to be rather convenient for a two-handed-required walk-and-consume meal with a fork, and we all can imagine the convenience of tacos; though their particular style, with pineapple and such, did tend to be a little ‘juicier’ and not so ‘tight’ as the more classic Central American street food. Of course I just can’t imagine the salmon plate having ANYTHING to do with eating on-the-go, need to find a place to sit for that one. And finally, the pulled pork WAS a bit of a fatty-overflowing mess, so I was glad I had the basket for that.
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Price: 7

                  $9 each for the Burger and Sandwich, I DO believe the Salmon Tacos were the same but that could have been more like 8; what I do remember is the ‘Salmon Plate’ on its own cost  $12, not necessarily bad but then again I’m not sure how much fish one actually gets. And the newer-to-menu items, the all-in-one Bowls, come at  $10.

Speed: 8

Only took about 5 minutes for that burger; average wait time, though rather decent for how long burgers this CAN take on a truck. Not to mention you get to occupy some of that time munching on your kettle chips of choice.

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The TOE: 7.5

                  Initial impressions during the first times I spotted Loud Mouth sadly weren’t all that overwhelmingly characteristic; I see a big truck that says ‘Loud Mouth,’ a crew that talks about their fun and creative attitude… and a menu that just has a Burger and Salmon. Probably the most generic and clichéd items one imagines a new culinary student would come up with. BUT, I’m very glad I got to wait for a more full experience. The menu expanded, they added a taco version of the salmon, the distinctive Bowl-focused menu items, it’s started to take a more solid and personality-driven shape. Then I actually looked on their website where they talked about the local, seasonal, amazing sources for their beef, pork, and salmon, and was like ‘Awesome! Now this has something that gets a part of me behind it!’ So much so that I WISH they were able to translate that more on the truck; like really listing it on the menu, getting something on the side of the truck, a ‘slogan,’ something… it would have been nice if they chose a name that might have expressed this about themselves JUST a bit more, something that would make us wonder about the story more [a-la Curious Goat did so well]. If possible, I do particularly wish they developed some menu items that felt more like that ‘local, seasonal, organic, etc’ feel to it; maybe incorporated seasonal produce a BIT more, or at least do more with that salmon dish than just Fish+Asparagus/Green Bean+Starch. If done successfully, I think their impressions on the customer base could become even stronger and quite distinctive.

Tally: 37/50

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Final Thoughts

Definitively set in the tier of trucks most ideal for those looking to have something a bit more substantial in their main lunchtime meal item, though not on the really heavy end; though I rarely care for getting fries myself, I would much prefer the option of having THOSE with the sandwiches as opposed to just getting a small bag of empty-calorie chips. I’d actually say the main highlight, to my own surprise, are the Bowls, especially the Thai Chicken which I hear is the bomb. That and the Burger; though it’s not my favorite that I’ve had from a truck, it’s a solid ‘grill-house’ sorta-guilty-pleasure kinda option.

I’m sure the Salmon Tacos will appeal highly to some people; they don’t fully ‘hit’ me but I won’t knock them, just my own personal oddness. Still I don’t see ANY reason to get the OTHER Salmon ‘option’… not until it’s worked on further. Finally, of course I am aware that the ‘extra fattiness’ of the Pulled Pork was probably more of an inopportune mistake on my particular order, and not something which consistently happens, but still I don’t think I’d want to have any pig-related menu items unless they’ve been officially improved with more sauce and/or other toppings.

Sir Baldys

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http://www.baldysbbqmn.com/
https://twitter.com/dinkytownbaldys

Main Location: St Paul

Starting in Lakeville and then opening a Dinkytown location back in 2011, Baldys BBQ has expanded nicely as their business popularity grew. Obviously their quality of bbq has created a strong enough fan base to have developed a want and need to access it closer to the Twin Cities for ease of meat and sauce delivery. And now this need has vaulted them, four years later still, into the next phase of business life as they go Mobile.

Moving onto the Food Truck scene, the pink pig in the black shirt (that’s right, they got a mascot suit, all fear the piggy) premiered Sir Baldys earlier this year. Extending into the St Paul area (I got them on a visit to Regions Hospital, apparently one of the new ‘hot spots’ for trucks this year), it seems they’re looking to spread the word of their bbq even further into our state!

Which shouldn’t be so hard to do, considering how much this big Pink(ish? Very much in front at least) food box on wheels stands out. Though visual appeal comments notwithstanding, it’s the menu that will really spread their food to the customers. You won’t find any ribs, wings, chops, or piles of meat on a styrafoam container here. This BBQ Truck focuses purely on Sandwiches piled with their classic items. Pulled Pork, Chicken, and Brisket all come into play between two buns, one can also find their handmade Italian Sausage. Of course there are options for traditional sides via Baked Beans, Potato Salad, and Coleslaw.

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Of course sauces come in standard on a side table (set up on the other side of the sidewalk, I didn’t even notice immediately! I mean, saw the table and a box on it, of course my mind paid no attention… stupid mind…), with 4 of their home recipes available for topping your meat, if that is how you are so inclined. I tried a bit of each and enjoyed them all for various reasons.

Gotta love a warm, blue-skied sunny day for BBQ. Let’s get to it.

Food: 9

                As always, you can and should never try to get an idea of a BBQ joint with just one menu item, and luckily for me it was easy to grab two sandwiches in one go today. First up, the Italian Sausage, which I chose to top with the Pepper and Onions option (and totally forgot to take a picture of! Gahh, whyyyy!? So ashamed… please accept my apologies for this). What can I say about this besides… indeed, it’s a proper sausage. The flavor and spices were great, exactly what we should expect from an Italian weiner, the meat was moist, and oh yes it had that SNAP from the casing. Sliced in half, 3-4 (wasn’t paying attention, too into the food) of these long demi-links are piled haphazardly, in a fun way, on top of the soft white bun, creating a mass of something that makes you ache to just squeeze hard in your fingers and shove into the mouth. Pretty good. I did enjoy the addition of the veggies; though obviously cooked somewhat, they still provided that nice vegetal crunch and texture to add to the experience. Not much FLAVOR addition from them though, would be perfect if they were able to get a grilled char or something on them.

Moving onto the Brisket, also enclosed in that same bun; not toasted, instead capitalizing on those cravings for super soft white bread typically reserved for sloppy joes and, well, bbq. Now, having recently had ANOTHER Brisket Sandwich at a Previous Truck, this was quite interesting, providing a completely contrasted style to production. Sliced thin and mounded generously between the bread, let me just start off by saying that I LOVE the flavor. The beef, the smoke and those flavors of whatever cure they use can be tasted obviously, and is much superior to the ‘other’ brisket sandwich in that way. Properly toothsome, teeth cut through the flesh like it should with good bbq; it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, ‘fall apart’ in a super-moist bundle, keeping its form through biting, but it bites through easily without ruining the form. This is the standard for Ribs and other similar long-smoked items.

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That said, it’s not perfect in the slightest. One cannot ignore the thin hard edge of fat, or gristle, or whatever it was which hung on most of the meat. Tough, chewy, stubborn, this part would have us dragging in extra pieces of brisket with each tug of the choppers. It creates an annoying and unpleasant interruption from the amazing flavors and OTHER texture which I can tell is right, but can’t be fully experienced now.

It can be and is often said (in a way) that good BBQ should not NEED any sauce, like any meat, but only use it to make things even better and complete the taste balance of sweet-salty-bitter-sour (and sometimes umami… makes it feel like “y” for vowels). So far I feel that this is easily applied to the food today; I could have easily enjoyed the Brisket on its own with nothing else (sans the gristle of course).

Last note, the Beans, my Side of Choice. So far, probably one of my favorite baked beans that I’ve ever had, though I don’t have a lot. Beans were properly soft and tender, without turning to mush, and mixed with 2-3 pieces of bell pepper which brought a welcome extra flavor. I very much appreciated how it wasn’t just HEAVY sweet molasses/brown sugar, bbq-saucy stew. The sweetness here was more controlled and mellow, a bit of that noted spice flavor that still reminded you of the bbq sauce. I’m still… wishing and hoping for more depth, more complexity and exciting flavor, but not as much as other versions I’ve tried. So it may just be me.

Holdability: 7.5

                 Having every entrée automatically transformed into a sandwich immediately increases the street food value factor here, and though they are all served in a basket, and made with piles of multiple cuts which can fall out easily (especially with the already noted chew factor in the brisket option, not to mention the veggies in the sausage sandwich, though I expect the pulled pork is kept very tight), the two of these normally full-negative factors actually combine to assist in walkability. Just know that, of course, one will still need both hands and will likely be spending time picking off fallen things from the basket. And unless one REALLY slathers on their bbq sauce of choice, there’s little actual mess factor to attend with napkins. The main considerations come into play when one gets a side or combo along with the main protein, which I expect to be a regular action unless one has a goal for order minimization, which CAN still be walked without issue but really highlights best in a sitting down situation.
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Price: 8.5

                  Solo, the sandwiches come in at $6 or $8 (latter for the Brisket only), with a nice helping of Onions and Peppers to any of them for an extra $1 (which I am seriously only NOW realizing. Seriously, I did not notice this on my day there, and when he asked if I wanted them on my sausage I just thought it was a complimentary option, like slaw or no slaw… I’m a touch disappointed right now to be honest). For an extra $3 one can grab a combo of any drink, side, and drink (not sure if Lemonade-Iced Tea counts… I really should have picked that, damn last-minute rush choices…); basically, sammy+side with free drink. Overall really nice, relatively low price range, and I feel fully worth it, except for maybe the extra veggie cost… debating still.

Speed: 9.5

With everything kept in proper warming bins, the food offered picked to all work well with this storage style, all the wait one has is for the meat of choice to be scooped onto their buns and whatever side ladled into a cup. Absolutely awesome.

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The TOE: 9

                  A great culmination of different factors mentioned, smooth operation, a fun little personality and attractive wrap job; maybe a little more ‘pizzazz’ in menu display or something else would be nice (it does feel like there’s one small point missing), impression might not be TOO lasting, but to be fair I think that’s an issue that most BBQ Trucks should be likely to feature considering, well, they all focus on the same kinds of food. It’s difficult to get that true intrigued edge of “special/uniqueness” to them that other mobile styles are able to play around with, so I don’t hold it against them in the slightest. That said, this is easily my favorite BBQ Truck that I’ve encountered in Minnesota so far.

Tally: 43.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Of the few BBQ Trucks that I’ve paid visit to in the Twin Cities, Sir Baldys has easily proven to be the most successful within their transition towards the food truck business. I certainly suggest anyone craving a down-home, simple bbq/meat sandwich on a soft bun should definitely consider them as their option. Ideal for grabbing a quick, well-priced sandwich to just eat on the go, or spend a couple extra bucks for a sit down enjoyable bbq-style lunch.

Italian Sausage, with the Peppers+Onions, and the Pulled Pork are going to be the best way to go in my opinion (Brisket is totally pro+con action, you’ll have to decide on your own based off what you know about it now). I wish I could try EVERY side so I could get a full idea on them… what I can safely say now, I imagine all 3 (no I do not count the chips) are ideal versions of the sides, so whichever you usually like going for do it. For those absolutely unsure… Potato Salad is calling out to me. OR, to take things up a notch, grab the Coleslaw and pile it on top of that pork sammich. Make it a happy day.

Brunch at Hola Arepa

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Getting to Hola Arepa’s Restaurant in Uptown, across the street from the legendary Pat’s Tap, was a long road in coming… now granted, I never paid attention to when they opened, so I don’t know HOW long a road, but I can figure at least a notable few months right? Having only two days off a week doesn’t help either, especially figuring they aren’t open on one of them (who’d figure it was Monday and not Sunday? Good thing there’s Brunch). But I got out recently so yay.

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I’m going to start off by saying this, I mean I expected them to be good of course (there’s a reason the truck’s been so popular), figured a really sweet Mexican lunch ‘sandwich’ spot reminiscent to a truck experience, but I didn’t think they’d be THIS good. Hell this was a TRIP on level with a trip to Pizza Luce, and you know how good they are.

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Especially during Brunch, which happened to be the time me and my dear sister ended up making it there. It was here that I discovered, to my intense satisfaction, how popular the spot has become, garnering a half hour wait for a table for two (so one can safely say that, unlike the truck, not the best spot for those trying to get in and out fast, at least unless you get to brunch early). Not that we minded, it gave us the opportunity to grab some rather badass cocktails.

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Here comes my first happy surprise, seeing a menu full of fun, modern Craft Cocktails reminiscent to some of our favorite finds at local bars such as NE Social, Pat’s, and Marvel. For my sister, the Seasonal Horchata Cocktail, based off a house-made ‘spiced whey horchata’ with flana cor 4yr rum, bitters, and cinnamon. A fantastic, thought-provoking improvement on the classic spiced rice-milk drink in the form of a ‘milk punch’ (look it up, they’re delicious and I want to make one). For myself, because the sister already grabbed the cocktail I wanted, something with the name of Paradise (okay, I forgot to steal or take a picture of the menu, thought the website would have it okay!? I was wrong) filled with Tropical flavored Aged Rum, Bourbon, Vermouth, Bitters, Lillet (if I remember correctly), and other cocktail things.

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Smooth, delicious, refined, definitely a great thing to sip on the benches outside during a beautiful sunny day. I absolutely love the pineapple flavor it got; subtly present, not super bright or artificial, just that deep tropical undertone lifted up and fused with the aged rum and whiskey spirits, mixing with the botanical-infused spirit elements to bring body, sweet complexity, and that amazing mouthfeel.

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But it was gone, and we got a table, and another cocktail was deserved, thus I grabbed an “Hola Fashioned” based out of well-aged rum with a dash of smoky Lagavulin Scotch to subtly tie in to the original cocktail, giving it just a light, subtle bit of that whiskey barrel-aged whiskey essence in the back while the rest fills with that delicious mix of orange aroma and rich sugar spirit. The sister got a seasonal Sangria, Red, with blueberries and another fruit. Let me just say, sangria is almost never something I crave or ever really FEEL like drinking unless it’s just in a fridge at a party (or offered to me), but THIS is one I’d go back to.

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But that’s enough talking about booze, let’s get to the actual food. There’s been plenty of articles written about this already I’m well aware, in fact I do wish I could go back for the Chicharone and Arepitas dishes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy my own experiences right?

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It’s not a trip without an Arepa, and I got to grab one I had yet to experience so far, of the ‘Breakfast’ Variety. Stuffed with a Fried Egg, Beans, the white cheese Cojita and some Tomatoes + Aioli, we decided to take the next step and also add in Pork. Which I’m glad we did, because without it I would imagine it’d be a very flat, not-so-full sandwich. Along with the meat, it certainly met the basic requirements, though I feel I’ve found more enjoyment with their other arepas (more of that rich, juicy experience, plus the dough today felt a little denser than usual). The real highlight of the order, though, was the Yuca Fries. God these fit literally every feature that I look for in PERFECT fries (at least of the thick-cut variety). Crunchy and crispy outer crust, soft pillows inside (maybe a bit more starchy than the really fluffy white potatoes), and big, these were a delight, especially with a side of aioli.

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Main Course happened to be Cachapas (yellow corn pancakes) and Fried Chicken; the latter a drier style with thick crust, truly ideal in those ‘chicken and waffle’ experiences when you just wanna cut it up and get a big piece of peppery fried batter in every bite of food. The pancakes came super soft, naturally savory-sweet highlighted from the corn sprinkled on top, and acting as an amazing base to carry the flavors of the accompanying egg, bacon, jalapeno… and of course that syrup. Easily the best part on that plate, for it truly completed that smorgasbord flavor of the ‘full pancake breakfast’ we expect, and without needing to cover the whole plate in calories. Just a few drops over my giant forkfuls of food, and that distinctly unique and deep chipotle-maple flavor could be picked up amongst everything else. It was classic, yet modern, yet traditional in a different way, and all executed well to convene in a mass that hit everything I wished for at Brunch (unless I’m craving hash brown skillet sorta thing, but that’s another day).

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Let’s move on, two more small items to get through (btw, yes there was leftovers… not much, but some nonetheless). Nowadays I love granola, yogurt, fruit and honey in the morning, and their version is easily now one of, if not MY, absolute favorites. A simple Yogurt Flan (baked custard, panna cotta, etc) with fresh Blackberries and a Cornflake-Pepita ‘Granola,’ which if anything was more of a candied mix of the two, with some sort of syrup on bottom (my money’s on a flavored Agave, but who knows? Maybe it was just honey based). Whatever the details were, it was good, and a perfect way to have a little dessert at breakfast time; I want more of the ‘granola,’ that was just sweet and crispy and addictive, they need to make an actual cereal out of it.

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Despite that, I had to try a certain actual dessert, the Mini “Churro.” Both I and they use the quotation marks for good reason, because I’m pretty sure they don’t use the same crème-puff-style dough which churros are usually made from. It came out more… actually, now that I think about it, it was basically like a coffee cake. A really good one, covered in a thick layer of cinnamon-sugar, and then served with a chocolate-coffee sauce on the side. Which, may I say, was DIVINE. Silky, smooth, with that teasingly bitter flavor that makes you think of classic Mexican Cacao, all to dip and pour over your little ‘churro,’ which ate nicely (if not messily, and yes you MUST use your hands for this or you aren’t a proper Hombre). It’s not a churro on any real fashion besides the fry job and cinnamon, but it is still good for what it is.

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And that thus concludes my little round-up of my first, and hopefully not last, visit towards Hola Arepa. I know I don’t have to wish them any luck, so instead I shall simply set my feet, look forward, and continue on towards the next meal, wherever it shall take me. Certainly I hope you can do the same. Good Luck and Good Eating.

BF Sausage Cart

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https://twitter.com/BachelorFarmer

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/08/the_bachelor_farmer_opens_sausage_cart_a_house-made_twist_on_the_hot_dog_stand.php

Main Location: 200 N First St, outside of Bachelor Farmer

Despite the fact that Marvel Bar is indeed my absolute favorite place to grab a cocktail in the cities, I have in fact been there on multiple occasions (which I can rarely say for other alcohol establishments besides a bare few), my visits to their restaurant connection and origin Bachelor Farmer has been an absolute zero. Which is a shame, considering their dedication to organic, local produce turned into fully hand-made items, not to mention their very Germanic/Austrian inspirations (which I always love).

Well, now we can all enjoy a taste of BF’s handiwork, since they announced the early August opening of their new Sausage Cart. Parked right around the corner from their main restaurant is the traditional style hot-dog cart, shelling out a very non-traditional encased meat product.

Sausage, and I do mean that in a very singular sense; there’s only one thing you get when you go, and that’s their hand ground, spiced from scratch pork link stuffed in a Wullot Bakery Bun (the only thing they don’t make themselves; I think it’s Hawaiian style). From what I’ve seen, though, it seems that the specific sausage style doesn’t remain the same day-to-day; the meat source and maybe the spices do, but I’ve seen pictures of a typical weiner-shaped dog, longer and skinny footlongs, and thicker wurst styles.

You can top whichever meat tube of the day you get with a bevy of purely scratch made toppings: Mustard, Ketchup, Sauerkraut mix, or Spiced Peppers (and I’m sure they’ll have other things in the future). This automatically comes with a bag of their own slice-and-fried Potato Chips, with the option for a giant Dill Pickle. All of which can be washed down, if desired, with some Virgil’s Rootbeer. That’s basically it, but who cares about a lack of menu options when one has a single idea done right?

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So far they plan to remain quite stationary with this little side vendor, participating only in events that happen right outside or with the restaurant itself. Whether or not far future tendencies may have them becoming more mobile in location is still up in the air (as of the time I am writing this).

Food: 9.5

No reason to say what I did or didn’t get, considering the singular option.

That said, everything was pretty darn good. Potato Chips were deliciously crispy with those addictive potato flavors and textures, as a good fried item should have. The Pickle’s flavor was still kept in the same style as the typical large, kosher pickle one usually gets on their stereotypical sandwich plate, but kept refined, fresh and tasty, with a little hint of another flavor that I can’t quite name. Great for the traditional pickle lovers out there.

Sausage is… well, it’s what a sausage should be; the one I had today ended up as a thicker wurst shape as opposed to the classic dog. Juicy, meaty, nicely spicy and complexly flavored (for a sausage), and with that great snapping texture that all dog-lusters crave. As for the garnishes, both sauces are sweet and spicy, crunchy vegetables, a great fermented kraut and pickled peppers, getting any or all together coming to a favorable flavor addition that stands out but no way impedes the flavor of the sausage. They both stand strong and taste good together. Oh, and the bun is super soft (but keeps its structure), with a tasty little sweet and egginess, one of the few non-toasted buns I find perfect in its application.

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Holdability: 8.5

An order automatically comes in a basket with a side of fries, automatically making it two-handed, but still easy to consume while walking. I love that they serve the potato chips in their own cute, dinky little bag, brings an old fun to it plus it allows for its own separate stow-away carrying if needed. Getting a pickle increases the basket’s size and can create for more handling considerations, especially considering how much pickle juice leaks out while eating. That’s not even considering whether or not one chooses to get a root beer.

Price: 8

As-is, $6 gets you a good-sized sausage (loaded if desired) and a handful of delicious hand-made potato chips, with an extra $2 each for a pickle or soda, which can result in a decent combo meal.

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Speed: 9.5

As fast as putting a hot dog in a bun and loading with toppings… oh wait…

The TOE: 10

There’s something about getting a high quality, completely hand-made version of a simple nostalgic food item, like hot dogs, let alone apply that to all the fixings. It’s one of the reasons Natedogs is so successful and loved, and basing it out of one of Minneapolis’ new cornerstone restaurant movers of recent years brings another aspect of ‘connection’ to the experience. Knowing one is able to grab an affordable option made with the same love and attention is a great way to get the community off. Plus, I must say that being the first Minneapolis street vendor that’s located exclusively in a location that’s NOT on Marquette/Nicolette or the adjoining streets is pretty neat, and hopefully a start for our Trucks to begin spreading their area of influence out like they so sorely need again.

Oh, and dedicating your menu to only one real option, when doing it WELL; bonus points galore (it can be a curse otherwise).

Tally: 45.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Ummmm, get it? It’s a great lunch stop if one finds yourself close enough to walk to the North Loop area of downtown (or, you know, drive down from another city just to eat and do a blog post on it) for a stand that’ll always be in the same spot. Obviously this is a place that will not qualify as a small stop on food truck event days.

As for suggestions on order, I would probably say just skip the Pickle, unless you REALLY want a pickle (it’s a good one), and leave your focus purely on the Sausage and Chips. If thirsty, it sounds as if the Root Beer is of a unique and tasty enough selection to warrant an order.

Red River Kitchen

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https://twitter.com/RedRiverKitchen

Main Location: Breweries, Markets, Etc

            Have you ever been in that situation where you visit a restaurant, maybe one that had recently opened, been totally not impressed by the food for very obvious reasons, and then half a year or so later you see these articles or posts from people saying how great and fantastic it is? Did they improve their food? Have we ordered the wrong menu items at the time? Are they talking about a different location that’s better than the one you went too? Is everybody else taste-deaf? Or am I just too cynical an @$$hole in this particular occasion to give proper credit?

            That was my experience with Republic, a new bar which popped into the Cedar and Riverside intersection (also known as 7 Corners) during my last year of College Student Housing, replacing one of the main corner bars that sadly couldn’t last. The beer selection is great, but my food experience was quite… bleh. It’s left me quite confused after the more recent accolades.

            So when I found the excuse spend money on and try them again through the introduction of their new “Menu Testing” based Food Truck, Red River Kitchen, I jumped at it eagerly, heading out as soon as they parked at one of the breweries near me. They aren’t ever really out on “the streets,” mostly sticking to specific farmer’s Markets and Breweries; Excelsior seems to be a favorite, along with many other ones not-that-close to the Twin Cities.

            Using the mobile eatery as a way to round out and experiment with possible new restaurant foods, options change quite frequently, so it can be tricky to narrow down what one should expect going in. I think I CAN safely say, though, that one will very likely find at least one burger and/or Sandwich on the menu; a simple Bacon Cheeseburger seems to be a standby for customers not interested in experimenting. Another standby, likely to satisfy those brewery go-ers craving a fatty, salty food snack, is the restaurant’s classic Cheese Curds.

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            Other items on my visit were Barbacoa Tacos, Handmade Jerk Chicken Sausage, and a Quinoa-Mushroom Burger(pictured). Their own versions of typical Modern Day Bar Food, at least those better suited to the Food Truck Menu concept, is ultimately what one will find. Now if only they had their famous beer tap attached on the side.

Food: 8.5

             It was hard to choose between the Tacos and Chicken Sausage Sandwich (the burgers, though probably good, didn’t look THAT special to me), but after a bit I settled on seeing how well they got the Barbacoa, supplemented with some Cheese Curds, which seemed to be quite the popular item that day. Can’t imagine why, they were practically awful.

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            Well, I guess that’s a little harsh. To have their own little “personality,” I guess, River swayed from the classic batter for a drier dredge before frying, possibly cornmeal based. They were actually pretty good for a couple minutes after receiving it, still hot from the frier; a little gooey, an ‘interesting’ crust, and that “Yum Yum” sauce (from what I can tell, a simple aioli of lemon, cayenne, and possibly other simple spices) was quite good with it. After those two minutes though, as soon as it cools down… just rubbery, chewy, bland starch-coated cheese that makes you put effort into eating the rest of it, even with the delicious mayo.

           Which is a shame, because that Taco was damn good. The meat was tender, juicy, and tasted like the grill from which they were cooked on (in a good way), carrying that slightly smoky characteristic that good Barbacoa demands. The white corn (I do believe it’s masa, but it’s hard to tell with only the one wrap and all the food on top) tortilla is lightly grilled to amplify this experience, and filled to the brim with meat and typical accompaniments, which are quite poignant on their own, lending a strong flavor to the whole taco. I loved it, for the sole reason that everything tasted exactly like how you expect a proper Barbacoa Taco should, with every flavor present.

            I would like to say, if I was basing this solely on the execution of the Taco, I would gladly have scored Red River a whopping 9.5-10 points easy. But taking other dishes into account, not to mention the variable factors with changing dishes, lowering it somewhat seems the more prudent choice.

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Holdability: 6.5

             Outside getting a sole basket of Curds or Fries, every food item (on their own, not counting container) is a pure two-handed affair, with wide burgers and tacos which, though conveniently wrapped, made quite the little mess while eating (they are quite stuffed with toppings, very delicious but not condescend to portability, especially since they didn’t provide any napkins). A shame they didn’t sell them with the proper double-tortilla wrapping to sop up the fallen garnishes and juice.

Price: 6.5

              Restaurant-influenced pricing is pretty obvious, with $8 and $9 for all mains despite their simplicity. Not as crazy and psycho pricing as certain other places I’ve been, but there’s not as much range and variation either outside the $4-5 Fried Sides.

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Speed: 7

              Well, I had just enough of a wait time to head back in the brewery, stand behind two people taking their sweet ass time just to order a glass of beer, and head out just as they were calling my name. It can feel slow if there are multiple orders in front of you, but it’s not a bad speed if you consider the individual orders.

The TOE: 6

             They feel solid, with a bar-like sense of “place” that I’m sure those familiar with Republic could probably work out even better, with a nice design and set theme. Not to mention a bit of fun in the understanding that there should be often menu changing, all of it being part of the Testing period to see what may make the old restaurant menu. I never did feel much of an “impact” when I was there though, overall the place doesn’t seem to want to stand out in my mind, not much that makes me want to drag myself back.

                      Tally: 34.5/50

                       

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Final Thoughts

            Though my overall opinion of Republic’s kitchen offerings has certainly improved compared to my first visit, I can’t see their mobile operation as being a particular favorite of mine on the streets. At a Brewery and Event, however, with choice seating and a predication to not mind spending an extra couple bucks on my meal, I’d have little problem popping in for a choice edible. Due to the supposed ever-changing offerings, suggestions towards what this should be end up difficult.

            What I can probably say is, first off, if one desires Curds of Fried Cheese, their best bet would be to get it “as a group” so that it’s all eaten quickly while still hot and delicious. Otherwise, don’t bother. Similarly, if one is looking for a quality burger, I would strongly bet there are much better options on other trucks; I’m sure they’re still good here, but the quality of other Trucks like Melch’s and Neato’s should easily trump what I’ve seen so far (though I will go on record saying that I could easily be wrong, I do have yet to actually try one, but appearances CAN convey a lot if you know what to look for).

            Thus, one’s best finds are likely to be any newer items, look for things that are “Homemade” or, at the end of the day, just sound really good on the menu. It sounds lazy to say it like that, but those Tacos sounded like the most appetizing thing on there that day, and they definitely did NOT disappoint. Maybe it’d be good to say that anything “Grilled” will go best for your nearest beer source?

SFC: The Ripe Pastry

And yet more leftover overripe bananas festoon our freezer. I got a bit tired of just turning it to bread, so I queried at350Degrees (again, thank you for the help) on some ratio advice and set about to making a major fusion Cookie project: “Brown Butter Banana Chocolate Chip.”

Been wanting to make a Banana cookie for a while, and a recent post on a brown butter chocolate chip was just too endearing to not want to combine the two. Though I’ll admit the final result wasn’t what my mind desired, I know EXACTLY what adjustments need to be made to capitalize on these delicious flavors.

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Brown Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookie (after adjustments)
1 Cup (2 Sticks) Butter
½ Cup Sugar
¾ Cup Brown Butter
1-2 Eggs
1 Tb Vanilla
¼-3/8 Cup Mashed Super-Duper-Over-Ripened Banana (1 SMALL fruit)
¾ tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
2-2¼ Cup Flour
1 ½ Cup Smaller/Mini Chocolate Chips

Brown Butter is an amazing thing. If you have yet to experience this rich, toasty, nutty version of its original form, then I suggest you make some, right now. No I don’t care if you’re planning on cooking anything else or not, you just need to make the butter. Cook it, eat a spoonful of it and reserve the rest for other things later on.

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And really simple too, start by turning your relevant saucepan (for the sake of the Cookies, it should be large enough to take in all ingredients later on) to Med/Med-Low and start melting that milk-fatty goodness. Now just let it go…

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The plan for now is waiting, watching, and prepping your other ingredients as it goes along, making sure one stirs and swirls the pot every now and then (we want to thoroughly brown the butter, not let the bottom burn). At first it’ll start foaming and “simmering,” the water content in the butter slowly cooking out of the hot fat. As it goes along, the proteins and other “milk solids” start to unravel and tighten under the attacking heat, separating from the emulsion of the butter stick, and soon you’ll be able to stare clear through the fat to the bottom of the pan as if it was colored water, watching as the white solid flakes settle and move around the bottom.

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The butter will stop simmering around this point, which would be the signal point of completion if one had set about to make Clarified Butter. Just strain out through a fine cloth/strainer and use for all your butter needs. Or, of course, we can keep going on until it gets all tinted and nutty… which will start quickly but take a while to get to the desired point.

Just keep at it, I adjust the temperature a little lower to ensure it doesn’t go over on me (if making Clarified butter, I might suggest a lower temp to start with, mine was already a bit brown at the finishing state). It’ll start smelling like peanut skins, but as it goes that faint hint will deepen and bloom, giving toast and bread and spices, with a raw chestnutty color. For everyday uses, we take this off and carefully, slowly strain through cheesecloth or other fine apparatus.

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For the cookies, we keep it there and just dump in the Sugars. No straining or nothing, just keep all those milk solids in to better flavor our impending cookies. Though it’s not as simple as it sounds, we’ll be going through a little “process” with this sugar addition.

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Whisking the sugar mixture in vigorously, turning the butter into a smooth consistency. Take it off the heat to cool for about 9 minutes, going back every 3 minutes to stir vigorously once more. Besides helping to actually cool down faster, I believe this action is mainly to ensure the sugar and butter don’t separate too much, as it is very prone to do when hot (believe me). This’ll better ensure they emulsify easier when cool and we start adding in other ingredients, as opposed to the sludge-like state while still hot. I myself actually let it sit an extra couple minutes and whisked one more time just to ensure the success.

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Add your Egg and Vanilla to the now somewhat warm mixture and prepare to incorporate the Banana.

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So, here’s what should have been happening to your banana by now. Not only is this not a “fresh” fruit, this also isn’t one that’s been sitting “a few days and has a little line of brown spots.” This banana, now, THIS banana has been on your counter for a week, MINIMUM, perhaps 2. It’s skin has looked the same mud-brown mottled for some days, with no motion to continue its threat to cover the whole fruit. It’s sugars have ripened just about as much as they can on their own…

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And then you throw it in the freezer for a couple days, for both “storage” purposes and to push the fruit one final step, concentrating the sugars and flavors even further. As it thaws on the counter, which only takes about an hour, the fruit is left as a softened jelly of pure sweet banana flavor, just barely holding together. Do not be afraid of its blackened demeanor, there is no such thing as going too far with this fruit when cooking is concerned.

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With that gotten out of my system, we can start adding the banana, mashed, alongside the Dry Mix; I start with a bit of the latter to firm it up before mixing in the wet fruit. After, add in the rest of the flour, and more if needed, to reach what looks to be a proper cookie dough consistency (remembering it’ll firm up more once FULLY cooled).

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Leave to cool on the counter even further, folding in your Chips or other Mix-ins when ready (I split it in half and did a Regular and White Chocolate batch!). I’ve found I prefer the Minis when going for this new fusion, as the larger chunks just created these concentrated pockets of gooey chocolate which, though awesome, can override the other flavors I’m trying to shine very easily.

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Move to the fridge to chill down at least 2 hours or overnight; apparently the originator of the Brown Butter Cookie follows a technique of storing it a minimum 48 hours before cooking. I’m not sure what exactly is happening to it at that time, but there’s probably some logical reason for it.

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For ease of storage and portioning later, wrap dough completely in plastic, patting or rolling out to an even thickness that you’d like for your cookies (I go about an inch at least). Squeeze and adjust the sides ‘till it’s rectangular and store.

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When close to ready, transfer to your freezer for at least 30-45 minutes beforehand; this step really helps the cookie keep its height and softness when baking so it doesn’t turn into a thin puddle, though if that’s what you’re looking for (it does make a nice crispy cookie), then go ahead and bake for room temperature. Turn oven to 375F, slice the desired amount and size from your dough block with a handy-dandy pizza cutter (this can be done ahead of time before freezing), and space cookies out on a Parchment or Sprayed baking pan, and cook 10-13 minutes, turning the sheet around halfway in.

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Remove, transfer to a plate while it’s still soft and hot, and enjoy with a large glass of ice cold milk. Or on its own, it’s a pretty damn good cookie. A soft, more subtle note of the banana paired with soft, gooey rich chocolates, both bolstered by the gentle nutty, almost spicy aspect the brown butter imparts. All of this held in a baked dough that feels halfway between a cookie and actual banana bread. It’s a fun little taste factory.

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Hopefully your first attempt at this turns out more ideally focused than mine, though I’m sure the final result won’t be too complaint worthy either way. Good Luck in all your own upcoming culinary inventions and Good Eating them!

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Announcing: One Craving at a Time

The preparations are done, setup organized, and the first of many works complete, allowing me to finally unveil my new project! Let me hear and now officially Announce my Second Blogging Venture: One Craving at a Time.

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                With the winter season slow and various other things keeping me from going out to explore like I used to, I’ve had some more “free” time on my hands. As such, I thought it’d be fun to fill the time between posts with some other projects that, sadly, I’m unable to relate towards Street Food on a regular basis.

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                Starting off with a drive to recreate a long list of classic French recipes, One Craving at a Time will play host to all the various little “lists” and “projects” that I naturally create for myself, scratching off each item with detailed recounting for others to read (or ignore). From Distillery Visits to tackling Classic Desserts, trying out recipes from a certain Michelin Star Chef to Drink Pairing Ideas, this will be the start of my journey of discovery and experimentation.

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                I of course shall NOT be ending my work with Reviews on Wheels; it’s my baby, and I still have many more Trucks that need visiting and reviewing. Plus, if anything, it’s likely I may be able to create some new post ideas off of unique jumping points in Craving, or at least link to the articles. But at the end of the day, RoW will ALWAYS take first priority, like any spoiled first child should, haha.

I do hope that those readers who are into recipe-related blogs and such do surely choose to hop over and take a look. As for the others, hopefully you’ll be able to find some other aspect of it, either now or in future projects, which you can enjoy. For myself, I’ll just stick to where I am, plugging along with various long, rambling posts, the focus of which has now widened to whatever the heck I want it to be.

Good Luck and Good Eating to all, I myself will need all I can get from here on.

SFC: Crackly Heaven

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               I’ve been having a few leftovers to play around with lately, first a Sole filet and now a chunk of Salt Pork (also from a “project” of sorts), which is basically just a thick slab of lard and pork skin. Options call to me, with a strong argument in the back of my head to render it out and make some more melted fat for cooking. At the end of the day, I can’t help but choose a venture I’ve been craving to try for a long, long time.

                Gonna go and make my own Pork Rinds! I’ve been wanting to do it for so long, but never really had some chunks of just pork skin or fat to work with (man I need to get some pig belly in for dinner sometime).

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                After going online to better reconfigure myself with the technique, the steps of which I’ve been aware of for a while but was still missing specifics, I got down to it. The first of many simple steps comes in slicing the skin from the lard, leaving as little amount of the fat on as one can, giving what should be about 1/8” thick slabs. At the same time I sliced the actual fat up in similarly thick pieces, and then moved to cut all of it into nicely sized squares. Not sure if these will actually fry up well like the skin will, but nothing wrong with testing it out.

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                Though I wish I could just fry them up here, there are a couple more things that need doing. Starting with boiling; just boiling, in a pot, for at least an hour. I think. Many recipes never stated how long, but one said 1 ½-2 hours; the main goal is to get the skin “tender and pliable,” or something like that. It shouldn’t have any resistance when you squeeze and bend it.

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                My assumption on the reason for this step is to break down various proteins and bonds, softening them up so that once fried the cell walls will expand with little resistance. It could also help to render out some fat and/or other things.

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                After scooping from the milky white water (which I saved and used for boiling potatoes, num) and letting cool, we move onto the next major phase: drying/dehydrating. One can do this in an oven set at 160-170F, on racks. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, in a food Dehydrator set at the Meat setting (which is around the same temp). This will need to be left for quite a number of hours, best done overnight or set in the morning and left for the day (it may even take longer depending). When done, the pork will have shrunken somewhat and firmed up again, but in a noticeably different fashion.

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                This step helps not only in evaporating any water that injected itself in during the boiling, but also in the creation and full solidification of air pockets within the skin layers. Also, though the bindings have softened and broken down somewhat, the actual skin is now firm again in a sense and will allow it hold structure once expanded. Or something like that, I’m sure; was too lazy to research THAT specific.

                Pat dry (there may be some fat leakage, haha) and get the friar ready, heating it up to 380-390F. Oh yeah, that’s pretty darn hot, but it’s supposedly the best range for optimal Rind frying; if anything, it almost felt like mine started at 10 or so degrees hotter still. The rest, as with everything before it, is simple: pop those pork pieces in and let them fry!

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                It’s so fun watching them expand and “pop” up into their new crispy forms while you sit there with your utensil of choice (for some reason I sorta liked using chopsticks) to keep turning them submerged and turning around. Which is needed, so that every part KEEPS frying, since they’ll want to float belly-up, or side-up, or whatever, not to mention curling in a tight ball and hiding certain sections.

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                The rinds should be ready after about 2-3 minutes of frying; you want to ensure the outside fully cooks crisp so it doesn’t soften after cooling. Transfer and dry on some paper, season with whatever spices you desire (since I used cured pork there was no need for salt, wooh), and see how many minutes you can last before eating them all. I counted… 2? Maybe.

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                Oh, and the chunks of fat… yeah, those don’t fry well. Was hoping they’d at least make some crunchy cracklings, which they sorta did… I actually really enjoyed their delicately thing, light crisp outside texture. But the rest is just fat, pure soft fat. Maybe if you sliced them REALLY thin it could make something enjoyable.

                As for the rinds, well what else can I say after them only lasting a couple minutes. Crispy, crunchy, with those perfect little air bubbles; they tasted just like ones I’ve had in store and at restaurants. Only mine still had some fat under the skin, which made this interesting little soft air pocket on its underbelly; ideally not what one wants, as you SHOULD scrape any leftover fat off after boiling. But I’d say it depends on preference, so don’t feel any pressure.

                Either way, I can’t wait to go to some of the markets I’ve been frequenting lately and see if I can just buy slabs of skin in the future. Gonna be making a lot more at some point!

SFC: Fish Party

                A leftover Filet of Sole from a special project lay in the fridge one empty morning, crying to be turned into a sandwich. Who am I to deny it such pleasure?

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                Giving it a bath in flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs, I gently transport it back to bed… a hot pan with an even layer of butter and oil. Though, the sole wanted a slumber party, so I invited a few friends: some split king trumpet mushrooms I had leftover, letting them sear and sizzle in the pan next to the gloriously browning breadcrumbs.

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                An accompanying sauce is always desired in things to come such as this, so a rich mixture of mayo, chopped parsley, paprika, cayenne, and a heaping helping of chopped garlic seemed suitable.

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                For a properly firm yet tender blanket, I decided to employ the technique of toasting both slices of bread in the same slot, creating a crispy outside while retaining soft grains within.

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                As the fish finishes its little nap, we prepare the final playgrounds for enjoyment, layering the mayo-based-spread with seared mushrooms and fresh, crispy romaine hearts. Take the crispy filets out from the pan, slice in half, pile on and dive in. A nice, simple little way to make a tasty lunch without having to drive to McDonalds. Warm, crispy-crunchy, with a creamy garlic punch, perfect sammich material.

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SFC: The Deep Pickle, Part 4 (The Revenge! Wait, revenge is sweet…)

                When I was in culinary school, we learned a quick, one-day method for making “preserved lemons” during our African Cuisine class. The memory is hazy, but it involved cutting them in half, putting them in a hot skillet with saltwater (I think) and in the oven for a bit before shoving into a jar. Or something like that. Suffice it to say, it was an interesting thing to do, though the results were less than impressive (not bad, just… not noteworthy).

                My particular intrigue in this particular Moroccan culinary item was peaked again after seeing the full preparation method utilized on TV (no, this one wasn’t Alton, it was someone else… who I’m too ashamed to say). This being soon after I practiced full mason-jar-pickling, and the actual method of it being quite simple, I thought it’d be fun to attempt (and give myself another great pantry ingredient).

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Preserved Lemons

8 (ish) Lemons (ideally small)

Coarse Kosher or Sea Salt

Juice of 4 Lemons

½ cup EV Olive Oil

Bay Leaves, Cloves, Other Whole Spices (Optional)

                Starting with our equipment, we sterilize our Mason Jar as with the usual boiling method. You’ll want to grab the biggest Jar/s you can find (maybe decorated from a recent holiday), though the size of the jar is nowhere near as important to ensuring it has a very wide Mouth (you’ll see why later).

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                Cut the lemons in Deep Crosswise slices, almost cutting them in quarters but stopping right at the bud. Basically you want to keep them as whole as possible, while opening the insides up for “stuffing” (which makes me wonder if there are other cutting designs that can be tried out, like scooping V-slices).

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                Take your Salt and press a liberal sprinkle right into the flesh; like a Tablespoon or two at least. The proposed method for using this, and definitely great if you can do it, is to do this over a large pile (medium bowl, filled) of the salt and just do it by hand. Super easy, don’t have to wash hands or worry about salt going everywhere, but it becomes a big waste for all the salt you DON’T get in (as it’s now polluted with dripping citrus juice), so it has to be thrown or used immediately in some salt-heavy dish. So for those who are a bit conscious in how much they use, I sprinkled directly from the box, over a bowl so I can collect and immediately use the leftover salt.

                From here we can start stacking in the sterilized jars…

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                … is what I’d like to say, if I had a wide-mouth jar. If I did, we could just push the lemons in whole. However, some of us don’t have jars large enough, or lemons that are just too damn big, so we have to improvise, which as far as I can tell shouldn’t have affected the quality of my lemons at all (or if it did, VERY very small). I just cut mine in half, crosswise or lengthwise, and then a similar cross-cut as before to better stuff. Personally I think I prefer the length-wise cut better for getting and stuffing into the jar, though I’m not sure if there’s any curing advantage.

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                Either way, stuff the lemons deep into the glass, sprinkling some more salt every now and then between (at least if you’re not sure you stuffed enough salt inside) citruses. Go right to underneath the rim, and do NOT be afraid to squish and shove things down tight; we want that sort of environement. Probably while you’re doing this, or once done, you can choose to insert some bay leaves along the side of the glass, or a few other chosen spices between layers (or even in the lemon cuts beforehand) to flavor the preservation. I decided to keep mine simple and plain just to see what it’s like.

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                Fill with a 50-50 mix of water and some of the lemon juice, to the top, cover and leave on the counter for about two days. By this point the lemons would have softened a bit (you can sorta see it in the jar, just looky!) and you can shove one or maybe two extra ones back in. Re-fill with lemon juice as needed, and then top with Olive Oil to better form a lipid barrier (which I COMPLETELY forgot to do and am only just realizing! God I hope my results aren’t drastically different than what they should have been).

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                Re-cover and leave in a room temperature location, doesn’t need to be fridged or put in the snow, for at LEAST 3 weeks, a little over a month ideal (at least for me).

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                By the end you’ll have a soft, malleably pungent chunk of citrus that can be placed in any soup, stew, sauce, marinade, salad, or whichever kind of food one desires. Following a few simple rules, and supposing the flavor fits, of course. Firstly, despite its deliciousness, one should not be eating this “raw,” as-is; just a bit TOO much for that. If you want it in a very minimalistic, “pure” or fresh connotation as opposed to manipulated flavors, should still Blanch for at least 5 minutes (great to blend in salad dressings, or julienne fine afterwards for a garnish).

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                Secondly, when using, one can most likely get rid of or reduce the amount of salt used in the dish. And Lastly, you’re only using this for the Skin. When applying for cooking, you want to peel the flesh out (which is accomplished really easily and cleanly, as can see by the pic) and toss it, as it is supposedly unusable… at least that’s what I’ve heard, I also ran across a stew recipe that used some of it. Sooooo… best left to your own judgment in the situation I think?

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                As for what we can make with it here, could easily stick with a classic Moroccon Lamb (or other meat) Tagine, like I made one night… and will probably wrap in a tortilla for work tomorrow. Or we could use it to substitute and enhance the lemon aspect of another recipe, sayyyy… something Shrimp based….

Preserved Lemon Shrimp Scampi (after adjustments)

1/3 Cup Olive Oil

½ Head of Garlic (5-6 large Cloves)

1 Small Onion

½ Preserved Lemon Peel

1-3 Tb (depending) Fresh Herbs, chopped

Ground Black Pepper

1 Package, 24-32 Large Shrimp

                I saw a fun recipe for Shrimp Scampi that I thought would be great to put in a Taco, though I had to adjust it a bit (can you believe they only used 4 small cloves of garlic and TWO whole onions? I mean seriously), then re-adjust from some… -cough- overestimations.

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                Start by heating up the olive oil to about a medium-low to medium level. While this is going, mince the onions and garlic to very small portions, almost a paste: using a grater works really well for this purpose.

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                Dice the Lemon peel small, almost to a mince, and transfer to the hot oil along with the onion and garlic. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, add your Herb of choice (Tarragon works really well, or Cilantro since we’re doing a Taco, but I only had Sage) and a pinch of Pepper, and keep cooking 1-2 minutes more. By the end, the veggies should have softened, released their rich aromatics, and not have any form of caramelization to them.

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                Let this cool a bit in the pan, and prepare your shrimp as needed.

                Peel, devein, disassemble, or do whatever your particular shrimp needs doing so as to leave it as desired for the preparation. Traditionally, this would be with only the tail on, but for this use all shells should come off; also, I like cutting them in half so as not to deal with the weird, large circular whole pieces. (Though a note on selection, I would have LOVED to use those really tiny, flavor-packed Rock Shrimp, and suggest them highly if you have the chance)

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                This does leave me with a lot of leftover shells though, which I hate to throw away, and you shouldn’t either. If you have them, I suggest sautéing in a pan, covering with water and boil/simmering for a few hours to make a Shrimp Stock, great for Sauces, Soups, or other uses (I used it for my liquid base when making a Rice Pilaf).

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                Mix shrimp and garlic mixture in bowl (yes, my garlic turned green… no I’m not sure why, but I assume it was due to an olive oil absorption) and let “marinate” for as long as desired. The original recipe only did it for 30 minutes… but again, seriously? I popped it in the fridge for the afternoon, whoooo Go Garlic!

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                There are probably a few ways one could cook this, with the most oft used and generally useful being to Broil at High, which only takes 5 minutes. I tried it, and it looked beautiful and turned out tasty, but I wasn’t fully satisfied for the final results. I’m sure it worked great for the original recipe, or maybe it was that my broiler wasn’t AS hot as “ideal,” but ultimately the garlic marinade never cooked around it ideally (harsh as it is to say, but I might have had too much garlic in there initially… thus the adjusted recipe). Next time, I’ll probably end up skewering them in bunches and grilling; always been my FAVORITE way of shrimp preparation anyways, no matter the use and flavors.

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                Once cooked as desired, it’s simply a matter of assembling your taco however you want. I did use the Flour Tortilla in this, I will defend that point; it’s basically a European based recipe, so I find it acceptable (plus there’s many a Caribbean seafood taco that uses flour over masa/corn). A little bit of the Shrimp Rice (also cooked with a bit of preserved lemon), some Salsa, Onion-Celery Slaw, and a fresh grating of Parm on top, and we have ourselves a tender, garlicky bundle of perfumed lemony goodness (and salsa, much salsa…).

I hope this post has helped to get you thinking about even more ways to “cure” and “pickle” the various produce we interact with on a day to day basis. Still I look forward to making even more things to fill this ever expanding “series” which I seem to be doing, and can’t wait to get onto the next delicious venture. But for now thanks for reading, enjoy your sour little condiment, and good luck preserving in the rest of the cold winter months.