Spring Food Truck Rally 2014, full of New!

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So, I was going to start this post off remarking about the good weather; the Spring Food Truck Rallywas this Saturday, and it was my first time at one of Harriet’sgatherings that it was just Sunny and warm the whole time! The curse of the rally being held in days interspersed and mixed with rainy sunshine was over!

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Well apparently that was just me, as I was only there for the first couple hours. Seems rain came down later… and the pattern continues. I swear it’s the weirdest thing isn’t it!? Every single one, different seasons, same basic weather. Maybe if they had one in Winter they coulda broke the spell…

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My luck in dodging the chance to get wet, the Rally itself was quite the fun success, as usual! Though boy did they crama LOT of food trucks in that lot, I can’t tell if there was more this year… or maybe just more people. There was a nice crowd, people everywhere, a big bustling horseshoe alleyways of those wandering for food, ending as usual with the shaded beer tent leading towards the taproom.

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Standing testament to their success over a certain other yearly truck fair, even with the noted crowds, people jostling for beer and food, listening to music, it was still a very comfortable atmosphere. No one was shoved “elbow to elbow,” most of the lines were quite small except for a couple relatively popular ones on that day, and they weren’t quite as torturous to wait through (well, maybe one). Interestingly enough, this was the first year that I have EVER seen the taproom band area floor NOT completely jammed with people, let alone almost empty (besides the chairs and couch). Guess most people didn’t mind listening at the many outside tables or during their edible adventuring.

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It’s a bit too bad most seemed to regulate their beer-buying at the outside tent, which casked four of the more popular options for fast retrieval. Unlike them, the INSIDE taproom offered those same beers and another four special, intriguing options. And though I love their Saison, I just had to get something unique for the occasion: a Barrel-aged Raspberry D.O.No, I don’t know what DO meant, I shoulda asked, but either way I found the yielding glass to be quite nummilicious (…I have got to stop using some of these words, my credibility wanes too much as it is). A chaste fragrance and filling flavor that holds reminiscence of recent raspberry and sour ales, with full body and deliciously heavy, grainy dark malt flavor with that certain blend of bitter hops and raw toastiness (or something, I still have yet to figure out the specific aroma elements for this) that I’ve found in many oaked beers. Overall I liked it; it wasn’t so much raspberry that the color changes and it’s basically fruit drink with beer (which certainly isn’t bad either), but it was more than those raspberry beers that only offer the barest whiff of affection in the aroma (also not necessarily bad, but certainly not my cup of tea; if you’re gonna flavor with fruit, then really FLAVOR it, am I right?).

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Beer’s not the only thing I tried, of course. One of my big reasons for coming out there was compounded by the ability to take pictures and sample from not only one, but TWO new trucks in the Minnesota scene! O’Cheeze is here, finally, bringing the Twin Cities our very first Grilled Cheese business! And it’s about damn time! Following them, and filling in for a an absent Sandy’s, is Pepperjax Grill, rolling their Philly Cheesesteak truck out from their many base restaurants in Omaha, Nebraska to try out Minnesota’s street industry. I did ask, they’re in the area to stay (at least for the summer), so a review of them and O’Cheese will be coming soon.

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Don’t need to wait for the other food though. And there was one food item amongst all the menus that everybody learned about, and I’d say at least 33% actually enjoyed. If you were there, you know what I’m talkin’ about: the Chicken and Waffle“sandwiches” from Lulu’s. Oh, classic, classic Lulu, offering us something that we just can’t say no to. Thick, crunchy, juicy fried chicken (you’ve read my review, you know how awesome their fried chicken is), this time pushed between thick and caramelly Belgian Waffles, drizzled with syrup, topped with Bacon, some sort of ranch-ish sauce, and I think a parmesan crisp? This basically stands for everything that Lulu is; pure, unadulterated indulgenceand happiness… in a very messy container. Great for fairs with tables! I didn’t mind getting messy to enjoy this spicy, crunchy, somewhat sweet bunch of deliciousness; I actually had to finish with a fork. The best part, I’d have to say, was the waffle; like the chicken, I would very gladly eat this separate and on its own, one of the best waffles I’ve actually had in a long time (good crunch, great flavors, still soft inside, etc). Using it here just compounds the amazingness of the whole dish.

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Now that I think about it, that makes a day of three different sandwiches. Huh, fun.

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So how do I finish off my palette after three heavy sandwiches on a hot day? Why with a popsicleof course! And it just so happens that Moral Omnivore has started selling a “Daily Popsicle” as their new dessert-of-choice. Like the chix+waffle, it made for another popular item amongst the crowd; I was quite surprised in finding out it was from MO, but very happy nonetheless.

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The flavor of the day just happened to be one of my favorite combos, Raspberry and Rosemary (too bad I had finished my beer by then); I just love berries and herbs, sweet or savory. As figured, the flavors were tasty, they weren’t afraid to showcase the rosemary. One thing I’ll say though, it was very icy… not too surprising considering it’s, as they said, basically just a fruit smoothie put in cup and frozen in a freezer. I didn’t mind too much though, they weren’t large or chunky; in fact, it works with the raspberry, very reminiscent of eating through the seeds (that’s what I thought it was at first). And I love that chunky fresh, tart raspberry feeling. Though hopefully it’s an issue that doesn’t come up in other, smoother fruit-based flavors.2014-05-10 13.07.26

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Though that was the end of my edible options that day, it wasn’t the last thing to see. Going off the popsicle, MO wasn’t the only one to have a menu change; there’ve been quite a few trucks upgrading from a simple white board to a nice, permanent design. Hibachi’s got a new, colorful yellow tag system to paste on the side of their truck. Brava, not so extreme, has brightened up the big plastic-enveloped menu items. Gogi Bros even got one of those Plasma TV Menu displays! (tried to take a pic, but it didn’t turn out well with the light)

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Not only their menu, Emconada’s gotten themselves a brand new truck! Though I forgot to go up and ask if the cart is still around, they’ll now be rolling up in a big, impressive orange van to stand out and rival the others! With the new truck comes some menu update, adding Burritosand Sandwichesto the repertoire (made with the same meat though, so I don’t see much need for a review). The cones have stayed the same, though they look a bit prettier with the sauce application on top.2014-05-10 14.06.56

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And that about sums up what I have to say. Overall I’d say it was another very fun, very successful rally by the MN Food Truck Association. Already I can’t wait for the next one, though at least I have a few events until then to keep me busy; Art-a-Whirl 2014is this weekend, get ready! Hope you all have fun, and an exuberant wish of Good Lucks and Good Eatings for the coming months!

 

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The Waffle Van (L’Etoile du Nord)

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https://twitter.com/TheWaffleVan   

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

Main Location: ???

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Food: 9

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

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

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Holdability: 8

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

Price: 9.5

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

Speed: 9.5

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

The TOE: 7.5

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

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

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

                        Tally: 43.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Art-a-Whirl 2013!!

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           The 18th annual Art-a-Whirl is this weekend, heralding in an onslaught of open galleries, set-up tents, artwork demonstrations, bands, and, yes you guessed it (I am reporting it after all), Food Trucks.

            Completely taking over the entire Nordeast area of Minneapolis from Friday to Sunday (times listed on websites), this event highlights a wide patchwork of our many local artists and businesses, displaying their lives and work in nearby parks and studios, while at the same time celebrating their many efforts and graces around the bar scene. To make any attempt in even a semi-complete description of what this weekend means, as well as their many scheduled events and studio openings, would only end up as a complete failure and a pure form of insult towards the obvious hard work and long hours put into this huge, complexly varied weekend.

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            As such, for those who are still unaware and/or would like to learn more about this weekend, here are a couple useful sites. Besides event listings, the main website for Art-a-Whirl also contains a detailed area map with highlights on studios, restaurants, information booths, etc. I very much enjoy the Facebook listings, they highlight some really fun events (I am so going to hit those glass-blowing demonstrations they listed!).

http://nemaa.org/art-a-whirl

https://www.facebook.com/ArtAWhirl?directed_target_id=0

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            With such a large, locally advertised event such as this, one can likely expect our gang of Trucks to be out in full force, lining the various streets around these soon-to-be trafficked areas. And, if for some reason this thought holds untrue, the scene downtown should at least be clogged the hours before to catch the Lunch traffic as many get ready to traverse this maze of local exhibits.

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            There is one thing I do know, originally brought me to look into the coming weekend, that being the official parking of two of our more update-quiet mobile operations: The Waffle Van and Taco Taxi. I myself have been searching intently to try both of these trucks for a long time; it almost feels like there’s a little War between me and Waffle. But with both of them parking at Casket Art’s Indoor Gallery(https://www.facebook.com/events/168761189953040/), basing from Franconia Sculpture Park’s City event, us Minnepolis-based Foodies finally get the chance to pounce on both of them at once. For me, the only question now is WHEN they’ll be there… from the facebook post, one would assume all 3 days, full-time. However with my past history of Waffle Van, one can never be too sure if they’ll actually stick to these schedules. Friday is most likely a surety, though I may have to take the risk and attempt the rest of the weekend.

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            Well, I’d go on, but that would just be a bunch (well, a bunch MORE) of random rambling I’m sure none of you want to listen to. So I’ll wrap with this: for the many artists and bands on display, Thank You for all your work, I speak for many when I say we look forward to seeing you this weekend. To the many people able to go down this Weekend, have fun and enjoy yourselves fully. And to everyone, Good Luck, and Good Eating!   

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