Vito Lucco Pizza Co

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http://vitolucco.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Vito-Lucco-Pizza-co-845109742241236/
Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc?

Another year, another Pizza truck added to our mobile vendor lineup. And this one was definitely a surprise, randomly running across it to one of my now-rare trips to downtown Minneapolis. No months of ‘anticipation’ and warnings through media like was given Tru, this was a true random encounter… and on their first day too! Something I normally avoid and espouse review visits on, you don’t have a clue how consistent that performance, good or bad, will stay. But it’s a fun occurrence to be able to record, so I thought why not for once?

Vito Lucco Pizza Co has a bit of a look and name that makes one think it might be an off-shoot of a small Italian café I’ve never heard of, but it’s a full family-based operation by a few guys that wanna sling pizza on the street for a living. I got to interact a bit with Joe and Uncle Ed during my visit, not sure if we’ll see any more of the ‘team’ on board in the future but that’s for another day.

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The focus is on personal-size, yeasted-dough pizzas cooked in a classic wood-fired oven. And I don’t mean the big aluminum pizza oven where the fire is made below to heat it, I mean it’s made IN the damn oven to plast the whole pizza with heat all around, like it SHOULD be. Just look at this zoomed shot I took of it!

Though I’d say most of the focus is on ‘classic’ pizza toppings (ie red sauce, different meats, cheese, peppers, etc), there are a few more unique items and combos to choose from. Currently they offer 4 specific ‘options’ along with the ability to Build Your Own, which starts off with 3 of their toppings. Enzo’s PepperRari is a red-sauced Sausage, Pepperoni, Mushroom, and Bacon creation. The Casanova similarly has Andouille, Pepperoni, Bacon and Canadian Bacon. The Babe brings Alfredo sauce to Chicken, Bacon, Mushroom, Green Peppers and Broccoli. And finally there is the Shish Kaza, a more bare (probably garlic oiled) bread topped with ‘Tangy Chicken’ marinated in very Indian-ish flavors, sliced Onions and Peppers, Feta, and finished with Garlic-Yogurt.

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Before I continue, I would like to heavily note again that this WAS their first day out, and it is… readily apparent. One of the main reasons I don’t like reviewing on a truck’s first day, but it’s probably going to be a while before I’m back downtown and I have no clue if it’ll be easy or hard to find them again, so I dived in for once. Just note that this experience should not be assumed to be consistent through the next few months of growth; but there are certainly things to be aware of. Also, I would like to re-state, as I’ve mentioned in my ‘About the Blog’ section, that if anyone from the truck, or who’s a fan of it, thinks I should go back to give a second review, I am very well up to and interested in giving a business a second chance for a better score. But I’m not going to do it unless somebody ASKS me to, so please don’t be afraid to leave a comment.

Food: 8

                For fun’s sake, I decided to try the Shish Kaza. Though also since it didn’t LIST a sauce I figured it would automatically be the classic red… so I was wrong on that account (of course the yogurt still isn’t the main sauce, just drizzled on top). Still not sure what exactly was on the bottom, if anything; my guess is just some kind of oil, or there white sauce is the kind that sinks into the dough while cooking.

The chicken enveloped in that nice curry-like turmeric-cumin marinade was a happy surprise when mixed with the various other Mediterranean-esque toppings. Especially that poignantly tart and pungent Garlic-Yogurt, brought me back to a good Gyro or Curry platter with naan. Though classically charred on the bottom and outer rim, the dough even had this particularly stringy, doughy aspects near the middle which I absolutely LOVED with these flavors… on the first slice, when it was just a little bit. Then I had the others, and realized the truth of the matter: the dough, simply put, was undercooked, and still raw in a notable portion of the center. And though I’ll argue a little bit of this was fun in a middle-eastern way, like those sour pancakes you use to scoop up the food in Ethiopian restaurants, at this point it simply ends up as a flaw. Which is a shame, because I REALLY liked this pizza and its toppings; I’d like to go back and try some other combo again. Oh, and did I mention that this was actually the SECOND attempt, since the first pizza for me got notably burnt on one half so they had to start all over. Suffice it to say, they clearly need to learn how to use a wood-fire oven properly, and/or get their dough even THINNER before topping and cooking so that the middle has a better chance to cook through before the edges burn.

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I’m going a little easy on the score as I imagine this issue SHOULD get adjusted out rather quickly as they get more used to the oven, but note it’s still a dire effect into the savory pie as a whole, and one should be aware of the possibility in ordering while this truck is still young.

Holdability: 6

                 Of pizza styles it’s in the smaller and more portable style, though it’s nonetheless still a pizza! The kind that gets your fingers oddly tasty after eating; then one brings into play that undercooked center which makes the pull and lift not as clean as it could have been and having a few potential toppings stay on the plate.
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Price: 9

                  $7-$9 range on their pre-determined specialties, and you can build your own 3-toppinged for only $7 as well! ($1.50 to add further ingredients to it, not that you’d need) Overall the solid and good range for pizzas of this size.

Speed: 3

Well, let’s see. Not even considering the pizza that got over-cooked on one side that they needed to scrap and start over, an incident I normally wouldn’t count but since it seems to be a factor which could come up again and is a MAJOR part of pizza here it is, it can be quite a wait to get a pizza, as any restaurant-goer can attest. Every order has them taking the dough, stretching/flattening it out, loading with sauce and toppings, and waiting to go into the hearth. And not quickly mind you; time IS taken, I was actually able to leave during each pizza’s reign and go visit the guys at Outlaw for probably a 5 minute-minimum convo before heading back to re-get my pizza. Combine that with the fact that the small wood fired oven seems to only be able to do one, maybe two or three at the MOST, pizzas at a time, and one can imagine the kind of wait in the act of a palpable line of customers, let alone just one or two other orders in the window.

The TOE: 5

                  A very blank truck with simple big red letters for the name, on its own doesn’t really add much from walking up to it, for all one knows it could be a nameless BBQ or taco truck. Though I will say, something about the singularly large and red letters, the edge of the name, one DOES get that strong Italian feeling, so it actually does end up bringing something to the party. There are a few other factors in play, both helpful and not, all rather light and simple. I will say that I do love the effort to do a couple different, sort of ‘next-level’ pizzas as opposed to just sticking with plain sausage/pepperoni/veggies for everything; and it’s tasty too!

Tally: 31/50

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Final Thoughts

Definitely best for when one has plenty of time to sit down and enjoy their lunch or transport to other location, though if prepared with appropriate napkins Vitos offers probably the easiest truck-based pizzas to consume while on the go, assuming they fix the under-baked issue. If they ever start connecting with them, I could actually see this being a nice truck to have out at a brewery, when one can spend the waiting time casually and then easily plant down to enjoy a pizza and tasty beer.

As for options, we all know how personal pizza preferences are, but if it was ME I would definitely suggest starting out with the Shish Kaza for something fun or the meat lover’s Casanova to keep that classic red-sauced love.

Top 20 Food Trucks, 2014

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Thought I’d change up my “Top” post this year, since it’s become so difficult for new trucks to push into the ever-higher scores of the best 10, and with all the great trucks out there, I thought I’d offer a quick feature of the top 20 food trucks in the Twin Cities. This is again based purely off of the ratings developed through my reviews, and I admit that perception of the ‘best’ is very different for each person. Not to mention, sadly, there’ve been a few trucks that came later on in the season I never got a chance to get to, so who knows what it’ll look like when I get to them (hopefully we’ll find out next year!).

So, here they are!

20140501_175614Placing #20, tied at 44pts: Fro Yo Soul, Hot Indian Foods, Undead Frank’s Zombie Bites, and Hola Arepa

A veritable cornucopia of styles, two new kids and two veteran’s, one that pumps frozen dessert and another that sizzles masa dough sandwiches, Indian burritos to deep fried goodies a la Psycho Suzie’s. My favorite example of the metaphor that is the Food Truck community.

Sharing #18 with 44.5pts: B52 Slider Squad and Jake’s Street Grille

Two maestros of the mini burgers end up sharing the score, offering juicy, hand-sized meat patties for our cravings.

Three-way hit at #15th place, 45pts: Home Street Home, Rusty Tacos, and Cupcakes on the Go

A couple of my long favorites in dessert and variety along with a veritable army of taco offerings.

20140828_113746#12th place, another three-way (there’s gonna be a few, and yet this is still family friendly!?) at 45.5: O’Cheeze, SCRATCH!, and Bachelor Farmer’s Sausage Cart

Two newbies slide in as we FINALLY get the grilled cheese business that the Twin Cities has desperately needed, not to mention a craft hot dog stand sitting outside one of North Loop’s favorite institutions. But of course SCRATCH still stands strong as it always has and will be with their awesome sandwiches.

#11, one of the few solo spot participants nowadays with 46pts (yes, I should probably stop being so generous with points and give more demerits to spread truck ratings apart better… sue me): AZ Canteen

Though they got bumped out of the top 10 last year, Andrew Zimmern’s amazing mobile station still holds a strong spot, both on the street and in my hear (cue adorably cheesy music).

And for the Top 10! Once again the list belongs to:

csh4#7th Place, 4-way tie at 46.5pts: Chef Shack, MidNord Empanada, Tot Boss, and Café Racer

#4th Place, another 3-way split at 47.5pts (can’t believe I haven’t gotten a 47-pointer yet): Eli’s Donut Burgers, Moral Omnivore, Paulette Bakery

#3rd, 48pts: Vellee Deli

#2nd, 49pts: NateDogs

And as always, #1 at a whopping 50.5: Potter’s Pasties

With luck, this coming year will show some amazing new guys willing and able to shake up the rankings a bit more, and with even better luck I might be able to try them out! Otherwise I might have to simply ignore next year’s rankings.

Thanks for dealing with me as always, hope this year is culinarily amazing for you all! Good Luck and Good Eating!

Citypage’s 100 Favorite Dishes, 2013-14 Food Truck Breakdown

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                It’s safe to say the press and attention our Food Trucks have been getting through local news, papers, and blogs has yielded a wide breadth of coverage, strong reviews, and some pretty fun and interesting online articles. For the past… well I guess it’s actually been half a year, I’ve been occasionally following one of these yearly “projects” posted in Citypages: they’re “100 Favorite Dishes” (of the previous year I’m assuming… and the beginning of 2014).

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/100_favorite_di/

                I took notice a few weeks into their beginning of this year’s list after seeing a certain Food Truck’s mobile options as one of their favorite. After reading the article, considering things, I thought it would be fun to stick around and see who all else they might raise to inspired cravings. And let me say, our meals on wheels brethrens have racked up quite a few spots in the limited selection; not huge, but certainly not a puny few.

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                The first pic, coming in rated at #94, is World Street Kitchen’s Kimchi(and blue cheese) Scones. Though, yes, this particular Brunch item is only available through the RESTAURANT, I do believe the originally street-savvy business deserves the credit. Especially since this would make an AWESOME item on the Truck; god, I would hunt their truck down in a SECOND if I knew they had this guy on its menu, total Toe Ring material. Baked in house, this soft and yummy pastry is twisted with an interestingly funky mix of fermented cabbage and the moldy cheese. They have other scones too, which all sound quite yummy as well, but I gotsa love me some Kimchi all the time.

 http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/12/asian_invasion_bulgogi_tacos.php

                Asian Invasion comes in at #90with their oh-so-signatory Bulgogi Tacos, as I made some mention in their review. Kimchi makes its second appearance in this list, joined by jalapenos and the sizzling beef. I still have yet to get my hands on this soft and delicious package, but soon… soon…

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/12/100_favorite_dishes_no_78_potters_coconut_curry_veggie_pasty.php

                #78was taken up by my own favorite, Potter’s Pasties, and the much agreed-upon choice in what’s likely the best of the classic opions (or at least in the running), the Thai Veggie. Don’t think I need to express any further opinions on this item, those who read know my love of the savory pastry cart. Though I will say, so far, these favorite selections are really quite Asian aren’t they?

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/01/100_favorite_di_54.php

                One of last year’s summer newcomers, Paulette’s quickly scores itself up to #61in Citypage’s highlights with their Chocolate Croissant.Though really they could have picked any the croissants they offered, what with their mutual use of that buttery, flaky handmade and folded pastry. Can’t blame them though, a good chocolate croissant almost being a work of art, and this really is a good chocolate croissant. I’ll have to write myself a note to have it again sometime soon.

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/02/100_favorite_dishes_moral_omnivore.php

                Not a surprise, Moral Omnivore comes into the ratings, and quite high at #48, easily edging itself into the upper half of this list with their BLTwhere the T stands for Terrifically-Fried-Tomato. There’s a reason both these guys and Paulette’s made it into my own Top 10 Truck list, and the items responsible are both featured here as well. Just simple, beatifull, and perfectly fun and street worthy. If one still has yet to visit them, you should, they were probably THE stand-out truck for me of 2013, if there ever was any (hold on, did Motley’s premier in 2013? If so than MO is #2).

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/03/100_favorite_dishes_foxy_falafel_cheese_curds.php

                Foxy Falafel made it in at #28, but it was for the restaurant’s Cheese Curds, which I just found out typing this… it makes my feelings confused. On the one hand yes, it’s quite the accolade to get so high up on the list, and those local, cornstarch and dill-breaded curds look perfectly crisp and delicious… but come on, you have Foxy FALAFEL on a top 100 list for CHEESE CURDS!? I guess I should be happy it’s still a classic street fair food, but… but… falafel… please…

                -cough- Anyways. Drumroll please! The final Food Truck, which reached in all the way up to spot #23is….

–dadadadadadadada–(… in case you can’t tell, that’s a drumroll)

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/03/100_favorite_dish_world_street_kitchen_yum_yum_bowl_sameh_wadi_delivery.php

                -Gasp- World Street Kitchenagain! And it all comes full circle, and with the menu item that many could say launched their popularity: the BBQ Beef Yum Yum Rice Bowl! I still remember the many times I walked past them in the summer of our first Food Truck year. Even now, it’s still never an item that initially stood out to me that much, but when I finally had it one lone night did I get to experience the balanced beauty of this asian mixed bowl delight. Though not the most mobile, its origins hark back to the days of weary travelers getting sustenance from small roadside “cafes.” And the heart and soul has translated well throughout all these years.

                And with that ends this year’s iteration of the 100 best, my response posted notably later then I wanted it to be (they snuck the last one under my nose without me noticing for over a week, darn them!). A big congratulations to EVERYONE who made the list, this is truly quite the gathering of delicious food offerings. Maybe I should start another One Craving Project around trying each one of them? Let’s hope next year yields a similar level of Food Truck involvement. But until then, enjoy all your culinary adventures, whether they’re mobile or stuck in the ground. Good Luck and Good Eating!

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                Honorable mention towards Indeed’s LSD Alereaching #70, much love to our business brothers in the local Breweries, and Chef Shack Ranch’s Chicken Wingsat #37 (god I still need to go there… and other restaurants).

 

Asian Invasian

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http://asianinvasiontruck.com/

https://twitter.com/AsianInvasionTr

Main Location:St. Paul, Etc

            I’ve somewhat discussed the idea of trucks coming into business during the fall season, right after the busy summer has ended and gliding into the hard, hard winter months. How some of them make the decision is a mystery to me; how they actually survive to the warm weather is spectacular (we do make ‘em hardy in Minnesota don’t we?). So it’s interesting to see if and when anything happens during this season, to both the old and new guys, and any evolution that may happen as the snow falls and melts as it does.

            Coming into the fall of 2013, Asian Invasianhas easily survived the harsh winter with high popularity. Before year’s end, their bulgogi taco had already earned a spot in Citypage’s Top 100 Foods of 2013. Whether this is a result of, or one of the main factors in, their late-season survival I am not sure, but it certainly is something to say isn’t it?

            As the name suggests, Invasian deals in all items Asian-themed, mainly the more “well known” (or cliché) dishes from the big mainland countries. Dining options vary from rice bowls of Chinese Sesameor Lemongrass Chicken, Indian Pork Curry, and Chicken Fried Rice to Korean Bulgogi(short ribs) wrapped in Tacos. Vietnamese Pulled Pork Bahn Mialso makes its appearance, alongside with those iconic fried Egg Rolls and Wantons. My particular travel also saw a couple Hot Dog based “specials;” whether they often offer asian-flavored wieners is as yet unsure, but it’s a consideration.

            In reality I have yet to finish my travels to this particular mobile operation, as the main object of my desire had been unknowingly snatched away from me after ordering. That said I figure I have enough of an idea of them so far, and I will surely update if needed once I wrap my fingers around that beefy goodness.

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Food: 8.5

                My pursuit to get the Bulgogi Tacos was put to a quick halt as I later found out (a while after the order got accepted) that they had run out, so I grabbed the Bahn Miinstead. Similarly, they had run out of Pork Katsu Curry, but had a Chickenversion to try instead.

                Both items had noted ups and downs in my view. The curry itself was nicely flavored, and the meat and veggies cooked well, not quite amazing but better than one made with generic curry powder. Though then again I’ve always found that this particular style of yellow-spiced-curry is hard to identify high quality versions… sort of like root beer. Either way, I liked it. What I didn’t like was the giant mound of rice beneath it… or perhaps just the notable lack of curry that went on top of it. I understand potential cultural relevancies behind it, the habit of having a lot of rice to just chew on plain next to the meal, but we’re not in India or Japan. I want to be able to actually mix the sauce into all the rice without its flavors practically disappearing under the starch mass. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only local who wants to taste the already subdued flavors.

                There’s not much I can say about the Bahn Mi. They used a different bread than they should have, but they got a flat crunch on the outside which was nice (no inside crunch, but I don’t mind it sopping up stuff so long as there’s texture somewhere). The pork itself, though cooked well at least, was somewhat boring… it just reminded me of another pulled pork sandwich but without any sauce. I really wish they had a sauce. Or a different kind of pork, like something grilled and glazed or a pate, like is pretty proper. I guess the pickles were nicely acidic and tart, but that’s about it… still wondering if the jalapenos were cut a bit too big in mine. It’s part of the experience but I feel like I’ve had them thinner in other bahn mi’s.

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                I will say though… they’re really good at frying things. Don’t think this is me being passive-aggressive and snotty, I’m serious. The Sweet Potato Frieswhich automatically came with the sandwich had that perfectly thin layer of crispness on the outside with a tenderly soft inside; not the easiest thing to do (I doubt it’d last long, but no sweet potato fry ever does). And the chicken in the curry (also used in their Sesame), which was also deep fried, had that really nice tempura-ish crust, which stood up very well through the sauce, without overcooking the bird. Could tell it was an actual scratch-made batter too, not the generic thick sweet-and-sour batter used in almost every Chinese buffet or to-go restaurant. Either way, I was excited to eat it; and something about the texture reminded me of pork cracklings.

                That said, one can expect that the wontonsand egg rollsare to be cooked well; I’m also giving them the benefit of the doubt with the Bulgogi and the Pork Katsu (sounds like they’re deep-fried meatballs) that I was not able to sample at this time. So I’m giving them a little higher score than I normally would have. Hopefully I’ll be able to try the Tacos soon to properly update the blog with.

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Holdability:7.5

               So far, every item seen has been giving in some form of “bowl” (to-go aluminum version) or basket of plastic or regular composure. Everything requires two handedness, many require a fork, fried “apps” have a dipping sauce one needs to take into consideration (non-covered), and even potentially high-mobile sandwich is grounded by a side of fries. The Tacos and Hot Dog Specials are probably the only truly mobile options, with the latter possibly only needing one-handedness depending on how much topping it’s given (though I’m sure it’s served in a basket, one can just readjust on their own).

Price:7.5

                Basically the same pricing structure as the recently-visited Butcher Salt, with all main items at $8 and smaller onesat $5, but I feel the quality for cost is very divergent among them. As for the cheaper things, the Hot Dog Specials (at $5) may be a good deal, though that also depends on the dog used and how much they’re garnished. On Fried, I’m a touch uneasy; the Pork Wonton/Fried Dumpling yield a good option, but one only gets two okay-sized Egg Rolls (they look tasty, but not much there; at least with Vellee they gave 5 finger sized ones, it seems more bountiful), and Cream Cheese Wontons are always just that.

                As I mentioned previously, with the bulk of the rice dishes being quite obviously the, well, rice, it’s difficult to contemplate the price justification. Though the Sesame seemed quite loaded in comparison, and the Pork Katsu meatballs do seem like they could lift the dish nicely; if only they hadn’t run out. The Bahn Mi is, as one can see, quite small compared to other Bahn Mi’s, and should probably be served for a couple dollars less, though they use the automatic inclusion of Sweet Potato fries to justify. Bulgogi is quite likely to be the one item that stands at the peak of price quality though.

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                Of course this little session of me whining over whether prices are worth it should be taken in a sense of minute quantities, one dish vs the next, and not in too major a fashion (maybe next to other trucks though). Obviously these prices are still much better than lots of restaurants.

Speed:8.5

             It’s pretty hard to judge this properly, as though my Curry came out rather quickly (a couple minutes, and there were other tickets in the window), I actually had to wait at least 5 or more minutes before the guy leaned out the window to inform me that they were out of my Bulgogi Taco order. After that, though, I don’t believe I had to wait too long for the Bahn Mi. Others around me weren’t waiting more than a couple minutes between orders, ish. Certain items come out faster than others. Overall not too bad seemingly.

The TOE:8.5

                There’s a great “theme” to this place. It’s a great idea, has a fun decoration and logo and feel to it, and there’s been something about it during the chase that really made me quite excited at the prospect of finally getting to it. However, I will say that in hindsight, the fact that many of their items are based on the most cliché Asian items sort of takes a decent chunk of the experience away for me. Now they’re good versions of each, I will definitely give them that (it’s one of my big highlights), so props in not sticking to the crappy take-out recipes or whatever they all get for that. But it’d be nice to have seen either some more in depth, non-everyday regional Asian dishes, or Twist their applications some more (like putting the bulgogi in tacos and the curry-topped hot dogs). Overall, Strong showing in “ambiance,” pretty good in Technique (with some noted exceptions), lacking in creativity/interest.

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Service:-2

                Alright, so… they ran out of things a lot. Which sounds douchey to use for a deduction, and normally I wouldn’t; shit happens, sometimes things run out, even bacon (-gasp-). But these guys ran out of quite a few things on their menu, pretty vital and simple things too: Chicken Fried Rice, Pork for Curry, possibly a wonton, and worst of all the Bulgogi Taco, their mainstay item. Thing is, by the time I got there they hadn’t been on the street that long, good chance of only an hour’s worth of service. I doubt they had that much traffic, there was one moment of a little crowd when I got there but that’s it, since it was pretty gray and chilly out. There’s not much reason I can find for the lack of, besides highly insignificant prep.

                Though, in itself that’s not too bad at all, I’m not really upset or feel too lacking for that in itself; though it does make a point that they probably shouldn’t have that many items on the menu, if they prep so little of some that they run out easy. What gets it for me is the fact that I wasn’t informed of the bulgogi loss until 5-10 minutes after ordering and waiting for my food. Not to mention the fact that not once did they offer to comp the meal, add an order of free wontons, or anything of that matter, which most establishments do (or should do) after such annoying circumstances come up. Either way it’s something to think about.

                       Tally:38.5/50

                       

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Final Thoughts

            I find there are a couple needs this could place could satisfy, one just needs to choose carefully for each. For the basic Street Food delighter on-the-go, Bulgogi Tacosare the way to go, than and possibly a Curry Hot Dog(or other fun hot dog specials). These can also be used to satisfy “snack stops” for Truck samplings or when one just needs the small stuff; I would also lead towards the Fried Pork Wontons/Dumplings(the Cream Cheese ones are good I’m sure, but they can only get so exciting in my opinion).

            As for those in the mood for a sit-down, something to take back to the office, or just needing a replacement for skyway Chinese food, the Sesame Chickenand Pork Katsu Curry are your destination. Maybe see if you can get more sauce though…

 

SFC: Pie on the Table, because the Sky is Too Far Away

                I spoke a little bit about holiday leftovers (and when I say little bit I mean LITTLE BIT) in the last post, only to realize soon afterwards of a very important thanksgiving component I had forgotten: Pie. Or, to be more accurate as far as leftovers are concerned, Pie Crust Dough.

                Perhaps my lack of initial attention given in the post was due to a glossing over of obvious thoughts; if you have leftover pie dough, you just make more pies right? I mean I LOVE pies, I want some more right now… more pecan! –throws a nut on the ground a-la Thor movie-

                -cough- Sorry. Anyways. As many can I’m sure tell of the many uses for pie dough in family dinners, various other desserts, even breakfast (quiche anyone?). At the same time, I recognize an opportunity to finally make something in representation of my favorite Pastie Truck… because I am NOT gonna try and reproduce their awesome pastry crust. But leftover pie dough… not too bad of a way to make your own tasty little at-home version.

                Now, to get started on instructions for making something probably featured in almost every culinary TV Show and most Blogs.

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Pie Dough (a-la Alton Brown)Amount: 1 ½ pie tins, ish

3 oz/6 Tb Butter

1 oz/2 Tb Lard (or in my case, Shortening)

6 oz/1 cup Flour + extra

½ tsp Salt

Up to ¼ cup Ice Water

1 Tb Apple Cider Vinegar

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                After weighing out the various components, cut and break up your fat sources into very small pieces, ½” dice equivalent works really well here. Stick in the fridge for a few hours, transferring to the freezer 15 minutes before using them.

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                The most important thing in making pie dough is keeping everything COLD. If you’re using any equipment, and fork for mixing, your bowls, and any ingredient in significant amount other than flour (it really doesn’t hold temp) should ideally be cold. This is all for the flour and butter (or more accurately, the water within), ensuring that the fat is fully incorporated, which takes some work, without the water leaking out, mixing with the starch, and getting warm enough to form gluten.

                With everything chilled, we can start mixing. This can all be done quite easily in a food processor if you have one, otherwise a bowl it is (something plastic, with rougher sides for better adherence) to work with your hands…  or that mazzaluna-ish butter cutter-mixer thing. But hey, I actually prefer working with my fingers when it comes to pie dough; I don’t know, I think it’s just that feeling of pushing in that butter, plus it allows for more actual control (like whipping cream with a whisk vs a stand mixer).

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              Combine the 6oz of flour, salt, and partially frozen butter. Blend, or work in with your fingertips, very thoroughly until “cornmealy.” This is the first step in the two-pronged attack on a quality dough, incorporating the butter around many individual molecules of starch. When cooked, these fats will soften while keeping the starches from connecting and forming some of those long gluteny chains, thus Tenderizing the dough.

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              But Tenderness isn’t everything in pie dough, so we’ll need to do something to make sure it’s Flaky. This is where the shortening comes in; though it can be any kind of fat, lard is traditional but one can also just use more cold butter. Work it into the dough like before, this time stopping when the lumps of fat are worked down to “pea” size. By keeping the shortening  larger, and not completely working it into the flour, we end up creating little fat pockets, almost like layers, in the soon-to-be dough. When cooked, these will expand and steam, expanding and creating layers similarly to what happens with a good biscuit (just, not as noticeable, smaller scale).

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               Last we add the actual fluids, the vinegar (not in the actual Alton recipe, but I always like it to ensure stability, or whatever it does) and a small amount of ice water, even more important to have the cold here due to the direct water-starch contact. If you can, adding this is done best with a spray bottle, spritzing over the flour and letting it integrate and mix faster than the sloppy-ish method of straight pouring.

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               Now, how much you’ll actually need is dependent on multiple measuring and climactic factors. Either way, only start with about half of what’s called and keep adding while mixing until it’s where it should be. When mixing by hand, this will be when the dough actually starts to naturally form into a ball (I don’t really follow the “when you squeeze and it comes together” concept, because I’ve had times where it follows that rule but the dough will still crack and not hold together when rolling), and the actual do is nice and SMOOTH, best seen when one cuts through it.

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                Wrap this in plastic, pressing down into a flatter round for easier rolling. This is the familiar point where many a recipe says to divide the dough in two; do NOT do that with this proportion of dough, as I found it’s only enough to roll out as-is for one pie. That was after dividing it and having to try and recombine them later, then the shape being all weird and filling in holes, but the flour on the dough made it impossible to fully stick and… well yeah. Just do one mound, or double the recipe for two.

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                Store in the fridge for at least an hour to firm the fats back up. Take out and let rest and soften a bit (a little too firm to roll straight from the fridge). Flour the countertop heavily, especially if it’s a random smooth counter like mine, roll out and use however. But if you’re only using a smaller amount of dough (leftovers), I found you could do a bit of rolling directly on the plastic. Which is great for these pastie-like items, since you don’t have the flour to get in the way when you have to seal any edges (though there is a downside, mentioned later).

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                Once rolled into whatever shape you want for your desired filled item, full circle for empanada-like half-fold or a longer strip to make a little package, we can get to stuffing. Take the desired inside mix, for me a Butternut and Cauliflower Saute with Curried Yogurt sauce, place near an end in a large mound.

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                Grabbing the plastic, lift some of the closer ends up around the filling to have something for the dough to overlap. Take the larger end and fold over, leaving a nice, smooth, perfect looking cover on our little savory pie package.

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                Cut off any and all excess and carefully pinch all edges, holes, and anything that could constitute a leak. Very important to be extra delicate and careful here with this unprotected, tender dough… I made sure to treat it gently, softly moved it underneath a spatula after making it nice and smooth, even and perfect, lifted and moved very carefully over to the pan for baking….

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                And of course it all screwed up after I actually pulled the spatula AWAY. Had to turn it upside down and put all this extra dough on top in a not-so-pretty configuration. Which is a lesson for you all (but really a message to me) to at least get some flour on the bottom before moving… or even better just stuff and fold the dough in the pan itself.

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                Wash and brush the top with a nice layer of milk to encourage good browning and slide into a 350F oven for, say, half an hour, maybe a bit more.

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                Finished, you’ll have a nice, good sized hot pocket of pie dough and delicious filling which, to my surprise, holds up very well to being picked up. The dough itself is obviously much flakier than the Pastie, so it can make a bit of a mess of pastry “snow” on the plate, but if wrapped up in a parchment sleeve it’d make for a very suitable to-go meal.

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                So yeah, that’s it. A longer post for pie dough than I thought I’d make, not I’m feeling tired and ashamed at my ramblings. Either way this should leave me with no more leftovers to forget about, at least until Christmas. Too bad I don’t have any more dough, for some reason I’m craving pie…

Halloween Hookup (and a small seasonal verse)

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               It was Halloween Night, and where do you be, crafting a brew or stuck in a tree? Have you been gallanting around for a sugar snack, or stuck in a bar as a friend’s best slack? Maybe it’s hazy from the fluids you chug, after all we are human despite being smug. Though this is the night we pretend to thus change, hours and hours mixed only with strange. And what do we have after all these precedings, but a locked away memory that’s ever receding. So we’re left at our house, or a bar, or a tree, looking forward to next year to what strange can be.

                And I shall still sit here, whether from trial or luck, still reporting on happenings around our Food Truck!

                (alright, I got the Halloween Rhyme out of my head, on to the actual post)

                Well, I’m not sure where all of YOU were last night, but I decided to pop down to 612, who was doing a little Halloween get-together with Motley Crew’s. Since I had plans that night, I thought it would be a fun, brief little stop to do on this spookiest of holidays.

                Though of course, out of every single customer in the bar (and there was a burgeoning little crowd as I left) I was the ONLY one who had actually dressed for the occasion… at first I felt like a bit of a douche, haha, but now I’m just disappointed in all of you. How dare you! Put on a hat at least! No more sharing of my street food and beer for you! (… okay, I wasn’t sharing in the first place, but it’s the thought that counts)

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                As for my palette-based experience, I stopped out at one of my favorite trucks to be informed that they added some new additions to the menu. Though truthfully, all the “new” sandwiches are the exact same as the Hot Chick and Philly, they just use different sauces. It is nice for repeat customers, certainly, since it offers the favorite sandwiches but with variant base flavors so we don’t get bored (or just for those first timers that prefer BBQ over Thousand-Island-ish Motley sauce). I also found out late that they had started getting chili out, and I wish I didn’t! Woulda ordered a whole bowl of that good stuff!

                What I did order, though, was their Hawaiian Crews, piled high with grilled shaved Ham and Pineapple, and melted Provolone of course. These kind of sandwiches always make me nervous, so it was only fitting I try it to see how well they could salvage the usually-disastrous (not by nature, but by poor application) combo.

                And I enjoyed it, very much; it was a great, hot, messy ham sandwich. The pineapple didn’t overpower it, or get everything soggy, or anything. On the other hand it didn’t stand out or have any great “distinctive” notes to it (you could tell that pre-cut, canned pineapple was used… or at the very least that’s what it looked like), like a really good fresh pineapple with deep grill chars, but I can deal with that after the simple accomplishment of having a savory pineapple dish that everyone will enjoy. And the Motley Sauce provided a nice undercurrent, doesn’t stand out in opposition of the pineapple at all.

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                To drink with, I decided to order a newer brew from 612, the Shere Khan. A distinctively dry hopped, Strong Amber Ale that’s been infused with “Indian Spices,” though really it’s just Cardamom and Saffron (can they use that description when they only use two, one of which is probably in minor quantities?). It was certainly tasty, though the hops were notably pungent and strong (not exactly the “sneak out from under the spices” they describe on the site). I’m not sure how much of the actual cardamom I got, though I think that’s cuz its natural aromas fused with the highly similar hops. And I have no idea why they used the saffron at all, except for maybe color; such a delicate, delicate spice should be going into even a medium/+ strength beer. Overall, I still haven’t found too much excitement in this adolescent brewery, though the offerings are certainly interesting.

                Oh, and an interesting little tidbit, the owner of Crew’s stopped in the bar for quite a while to chat with everyone (mostly on various Horror Movie details, awesome) and I picked some things up. First off, they’ve just recently bought the pretzel business that supplies them with the crunchy baked good for their sugary-hot snack. Secondly, and going off that, they’re working on getting a certain Food License, and once they do… let’s just say you’ll be able to enjoy more than beer at some of your favorite breweries, Truck or no Truck (I’ll make sure to keep you posted as things are finalized).

                Well, that was the start of my Halloween. Anyone else have a fun story, preferably beer or street food related?

Fall Feast Food Truck Rally

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

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

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

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

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

http://mnfoodtruckassociation.org/events/

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

She Royal Deli (Quasi-Review)

https://twitter.com/sheroyalcoco

http://www.sheroyalcoffee.com/

                Being in Downtown for a Food Truck that wasn’t there, I couldn’t help but notice She Royal’s new paintjob, and couldn’t think of a better moment to finally re-visit for their (partial) review. No doubt due in part to their sister truck’s, Brava, recent street movements; well that and the heavy need for them to get some actual customers. It’s certainly a visual improvement over the simple, stark white “catering/deli truck” feel. Maybe what one could expect from a Food Truck idea based off of a coffee company… though they don’t sell their coffee from it (weird right?).

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                Another effect of the recent change, which I’m not sure if it’s permanent, testing, or just temporary, is the Menu reduction of 6-8 items, none of which really had much to do with eachother (well maybe a couple), down to 3. I’m personally hoping they stick to this, only going up to one or two other items; it makes more business sense (especially if customer base is low) and focuses the style a bit more (not much, but a bit).

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                As of now, items are a Chicken Curry, which I highly expect to be very similar to if not the same as Brava’s; the Gyro; and their Veggie Sampler, which I am VERY happy they kept (it was the one item that actually intrigued me out of their original list of 8. Well, that and the Samosa for a quick snack option). Previous items, if they ever do bring them back, have been samosas, a burger, satay, I think a taco or quesadilla, falafel maybe… they aren’t dishes I’ve wanted to think about too much.

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                Of these 3, the only one I would suggest is the one I tried and have been waiting a couple years to get back to: the Veggie Sampler. Brava’s and their curried chicken doesn’t impress me too much, and if one wants a quality Gyro (that they know is better than others) it comes from a place that specializes.

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                That  said, I really enjoyed the Sampler; two different kinds of curried/Middle-eastern stewed lentils and some cooked carrots n beans with (saffron?) rice and pita (which I think was griddled slightly at one point, had a nice crunch). I love lunches like this, after piling as much of the delicious veggies on the pita, the best thing in the world is just mixing all these different spiced stews together with the rice to make a rich, filling meal. And it is filling, so in that sense it’s quite worth the $8 cost.

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                On that note, though, I sadly wouldn’t even suggest eating this. If you want a Lunch dish like this in Downtown Minneapolis, go to the Gavidae Common Food Court a couple blocks down to Kabob. You can get a “lunch platter” piled with almost any of their own Indian veggie stews, a couple different rices (mixed with all the good stuff), maybe hot sauces, and if you’re lucky a little cold dessert, all for $5 plus change. This is where I first had this style of lunch and why I love eating like it. It may not be the best quality restaurant Indian food, but for a Food Court it’s damn good, and amazing for the price, the best deal in the Skyway I swear.

                Well, all that said, here’s my “Quick Score” system for Royal.

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                Food: 6.5ish – Veggie was tasty, but dragged down from what I expect an average or lower quality in other dishes.

                Holdability: 6.5 – depends on the item usually, but as it is now 2 of the 3 items really need sitting down to enjoy.

                Price: 6 – all $8 right now (the bigger menu was a bit more various), and I really wonder if all of them is worth it

                Speed: 8.5 – Pretty fast, I think all of the 3 are ready to go (maybe not the Curry), the bigger menu varies, but even so they didn’t shovel it out too quickly

                Toe: 4 – well there was a reason it took me so long to actually visit… the color scheme increases visual aspect and the smaller menu helps focus it, but still… I don’t see why they kept a gyro of all things.

                That’s about it I guess. I’ll try and keep my eye on them, see how the menu decisions come along. Until then though, Good Luck and Good Eating to you all.

WSK Restaurant Visit

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                Finally got the chance to visit and eat at WSK’s fun little uptown restaurant just the other day! Wish I could have gone when the outside sign was lit up, but the inside one had that covered.

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                With all the various blogs and pages that have recounted their own tale in here, I don’t really see much use in attempting a full review on my own (I’ll keep to the actual Trucks for that). Though a few pics and some recounting of my own wouldn’t be bad, and maybe if you still haven’t seen much on the place yet it could help convince a visit.

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                Nice, big menu full of the Truck Staples and similar items in all different flavors. If you can read all the way to the right, you can see an option for Soft Serve in delicious flavors like Salted Caramel and Mango; much better than the cheap vanilla and chocolate at an Asian buffet.

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                That’s Betty Lou…

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                Sadly, I was capable of reading that…

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                So a Beer it is! One of Indeed’s seasonal during happy hour (every day, 3-6, awesome).

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                As for food, I got the Tikki Chat, a little patty of Lentils and Chickpeas and other things, ladled with two sauces, one avocado and one bean-based, sour cream, and those little rice sticks. Though it’s not a good Chaat without some hot sauce on the side.

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                Luckily they have a nice little area for it. Not to mention a full cooler of Mexican Coke and Joia soda for those not thirsty for alcohol.

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                Overall I had a nice, fun little time on my study day. Though I don’t eat out too often, I certainly look forward to future chances to go back, and would love to show it to people getting into the Truck-foodie game; maybe a fun stop on a “Truck-Restaurant-Crawl.” I’ve already got two under my belt now, maybe I should stop by some others and figure out a fun day-plan concept…

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Rally Recap

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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