(Whole) Sum Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

Food: 8.5

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

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

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

Holdability: 10

                 One handed cup with a bendy straw? Check.

Price: 7

                 $4.50 for a 10oz and $7 for a 16oz of anything, noting that the smoothies can only be gotten in the bigger size. At the end of the day I feel I can buy the same amount of coffee, good coffee even, for a little less at the pint size, and decent meals from food trucks for the same or a dollar more, so I’m not sure how exactly I end up feeling about it here. I don’t think I mind so much for the smoothies, with the more substantial feeling aspect to them. I would say this is one where the score then MAYBE shouldn’t be taken to heart, it could be a good deal for juice lovers, just be aware of the prices going into it.
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Speed: 9

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

The TOE: 8

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

Tally: 42.5/50

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Final Thoughts

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

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

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Beer Dabbler 2014

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

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http://www.thebeerdabbler.com/ 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Fair Experience 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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