Category Archives: Misc.

We Like to Move It: Blogger Prom 2010

 

 

Steppin' out

 

While I – unsurprisingly – tend to focus on food trucks here at Food Truck Times, there are actually all kinds of things to eat in LA. In fact, after years of derision, this city is actually beginning to make a name for itself on the food front.

Los Angeles is a big place, and so many edible wonders hitting such a large city in such a brief amount of time can seem a bit overwhelming if one is left to discover the deliciousness on her own. Luckily, we never have to consider that scenario; this place is positively brimming with very capable food guides. They’re bloggers who giddily snack, slurp, suck and sip all over town and then report back on their findings.

Yes, I proudly consider myself one of many. And on Wednesday, September 22, I was honored to join them for their second annual celebration – Blogger Prom!

Yamashiro, the classic Hollywood cocktail spot, was re-purposed as a 1940’s nightclub. Men and women pulled out their vintage threads – and all the stops – to make it a night for the ages. And, as luck would have it, I found myself totally in my element! And not even because of the people – most of the event’s treats were at least partially mobile!

To start, Yamashiro began hosting a Thursday night farmer’s market in March. Fresh produce trucked in and out to satisfy LA’s appetite for local. And if marketers want something a little more meaty? For that, Yamashiro offers tacos! The same tacos Chef Brock Kleweno cooks up on farmer’s market nights are the tacos he served at Prom (with the addition of an event-only, Kleweno Farm’s Smoked Sausage with Maple-Black Pepper Aioli special).

 

 

 

Dessert was provided by none other than the Coolhaus truck and attendees took home coupons for cupcakes from the Sprinkles truck and the Manila Machine.

A 40’s ball without booze would be unthinkable! So The Beer Chicks had Eagle Rock Brewery‘s best on tap. There were wines from Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and additional libations courtesy of Cabana Cachaça, Zaya Rum and Casa Noble Tequila. But what made it home in every blogger’s gift bag were samples of The Dalmore and – from the event sponsor – small bottles of Pinky Vodka.

 

Think Pink!

 

No prom night is complete without some sort of afterparty (if you know what I’m sayin’…). Blogger Prom 2010 indulged their particular cravings at a place called Test Kitchen. Coincidentally, this brand-spankin’-new restaurant showcases a revolving door of chefs and mixologists for gastro-ific one night stands. After their featured night, it’s time to return to their home restaurant/bar or move onto the next great adventure.

 

Off we go, into the wild, blue yonder! There is always something new to try, to taste, to see, to do. There’s always another food truck to chase. What escapes me, my fellow LA bloggers are sure to catch. And I hope to meet up with them again next year, for Blogger Prom 2011.

 

 

 

photo courtesy http://www.uncouthgourmands.com (From L to R: Me, Minty Shawna from TheMinty, Manila Machines’s own LetMeEatCake, Josie from UncouthGourmands, SauceLA's Shawna Dawson, and Elliott from FforFood)

 

Food Fight: If You Can’t Stand The Heat, Don’t Talk About What’s Coming Out of The Kitchen

 

 

Chris "CJ" Jacobson, Exec Chef at The Yard in Santa Monica. Photo by Ryan Tanaka

 

Well, I’ll be. Turns out it isn’t just food trucks that are causing a stir on the food scene. The people who talk about, photograph, write about and eat food are – simultaneously – labeled as responsible for culinary art reaching heights never before seen in our lifetimes…and also ruining the experience for everybody.

With the stratospheric popularity of absolutely everything Food Network, Cooking Channel and celebrity chef cook-offs, there are fans. Lots of them. And some are well-behaved and grateful for the exposure to a type of artistry that goes in their belly. Some are a little less…reserved: taking their new-found knowledge/obsession and loudly pontificating about produce; stalking certain restaurateurs as if they were rockstars; and occasionally…well…just generally making an ass out of themselves.

In the best of cases, the obsession with ingestion has to do with serious food politics: Big Agra, US school lunches, fast food – these things are Bad. Working to make a difference in the system so that people across all socio-economic systems have affordable access to healthy food is Good. But blindly spouting off about Jamie Oliver to the guy who’s working the grill at your neighborhood block party is Annoying.

In the worst of cases, there’s an unapologetic snobbery that feels more like playground bullying than breaking bread. Not everyone can afford a jar of artisan elderflower honey cultivated by monks in Tibet, and – for most of us – a dollop of Sue Bee will do just fine. Sometimes you just have to get over it. Like Grandma always says, that’s the way the Scottish shortbread cookie, crafted exquisitely of  stone-ground wheat flour and creamy Irish butter, cradling a soupçon of ruby-hued English strawberry preserves crumbles.

But these days everyone seems to have a camera and an opinion, and – often – an attitude of entitlement that’s a little hard to swallow. And the general irritation within the food writing world seems to be at a boiling point. There has been a recent blaze of “friendly” fire (or, perhaps, flambe?) directed at the very culture which feeds the most voracious of the eater/complainers. Food bloggers are fed up with foodies.

This war of words is happening everywhere. From the always entertaining Shut Up Foodies folks in New York, to Katharine Shilcutt’s rage-inciting article on Houston Press Blogs, “Has the ‘Foodie’ Backlash Begun?” In LA, there’s Amy Scattergood and her two-part SquidInk post, the “Top10 Foodie Words We Hate: Starting With Foodie”; and Heather John, who wrote in the September issue of Bon Appetit: “Somewhere along the revolutionary road, honest artisans who used to be known as bartenders became loftily titled ‘mixologists,’ and alchemy gave way to the absurd.” A lot of people are pretty fired up over the way we talk about food.

Given the heated political and social atmosphere in the food world, it’s not always easy to tell which words are going to set someone off. So, in an effort to carefully navigate the minefield of spicy hot emotion and avoid getting myself into some sort of linguistic pickle, I’m writing today’s Food Truck Times post without using any word, phrase or description that might incite food people to anger.

Here goes:

The end.

Sharing is Caring: Cart for a Cause Truck

 

 

Joe Miller and Cart for a Cause

 

With all of the indulgent food happenings in and around LA, it’s easy to forget that there are many people for whom eating even one meal a day is a luxury.

Enter Cart For A Cause, the LA chapter of St Vincents national Meals on Wheels program, and some of LA’s top chefs. Traveling through the city every Tuesday through the fall, Cart For A Cause supplies one meal to seniors for every meal that’s sold from the truck. With this kind of ratio, everybody wins!

Each movable feast is $10, and includes a lunch/snack/drink/dessert combo, often “delivered” (at least through the pick-up window), by the chef who prepared it. Such luminaries have included (so far): Joe Miller (Joe’s, Bar Pintxo), Sal Marino (Il Grano), Jean Francois (La Cachette Bistro), Susan Feniger (Street), Josef Centeno (Lazy Ox Canteen), Eric Greenspan (The Foundry), Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook (Animal), David Myers and Dong Choi (Comme Ca) and Alex Becker (Nobu W. Hollywood). And there are many more to go until the truck [possibly] slows its roll in November.

I visited the cart on July 20th and was treated to Joe Miller’s chicken, spinach and ricotta raviolis, dressed with cherry tomato, arugula and Parmesan cheese. This was in addition to my choice of POM drink and cookie.

 

 

Joe's raviolis and heirloom tomato & burrata salad

 

My partner in repast, John, sampled the roasted pork banh mi sandwich. This Vietnamese/French hybrid was topped with sliced mortadella, cilantro, slightly pickled cucumber, jalapeno slices, daikon radish & carrot salad.

As if these weren’t treat enough, our meal also included a burrata, heirloom tomato and grilled melon salad.

Needless to say, everything was sensory perfection.

According to numbers posted on their Facebook page, Cart For A Cause has fed, to date, 2000 homebound seniors! That’s 2000 men and women who might not have had the luxury of a hot meal – or anything at all – to eat that day. It also equals 2000 sated and satisfied Angelenos (who, by-the-way, might not otherwise be able to afford the high cost of dining at one of the star chefs’ uber establishments). 4000 people, total, who – through hunger, charity and graciousness – have all shared in something universal: Food. If you subscribe to my philosophy that food and wine is love, that’s a whole lot of heart, Los Angeles. Be proud.

What Delicious Luck! – The Happy Cup Truck

Happy Cup truck/trailer

Soup, in just about any of its scrumptious incarnations, is one of my “deserted island foods” (in addition to potatoes, grapes and a hot ‘n’ tasty individual who knows how to turn these gifts of gastronomy into my favorite alcoholic libations. Mmmm…alcoholic libations…). While the theory has never been tested, someone could wake me up at 3 in the morning and ask if I want to try some chowder and I would probably say yes. I bet I’d even do it without caffeine or one of those trusty grape or potato potations mentioned above. Man, I really love vodka soup.

When my pal Shevin, of the old VirtualTourist days (and current Foodie Fridays blog), suggested we reminisce about the bygone era over bowls of Happy Cup truck ramen, I instantly remembered why he was my favorite intern.

We met by the shiny new trucks as they sat, posing prettily, in front of the swanky office buildings on Wilshire Blvd. Turning down a side street, we left behind state-of-the-art mobile restaurants covered in bright graphics and lines for nouveau cuisine. In front of us was the worn and weary Happy Cup camper-turned-kitchen, attached to a sturdy workhorse of a pick-up truck, pouring its energy into generating enough electricity for heating giant pots of broth and bubbly comfort (similar to the amount of energy I don’t need, to write really long run-on sentences).

Happy Cup Truck white board menu

Shevin ordered his favorite stand-by, the Shoyu ramen (traditional Tokyo soy sauce soup base, with a slice of pork). I got the Tonkotsu ramen, which was described as “rich pork broth, thick and white, Southern Japan style.” All instincts to edit their menu descriptions aside, I ordered this soup because I was told it’s their specialty and only available on certain days. Thick, white, warm pork broth from southern areas should be reserved for only the most special of occasions.

Happy Cup Tonkotsu Ramen

Turns out the broth wasn’t terribly thick or white. It was, however, loaded with bean sprouts, green onion, diced mushroom and loads of perfectly cooked ramen noodles. The whole thing was topped with a single slice of roasted pork. The soup base was rich, balanced with soft, unfolding flavors of salt and umami.

Shevin’s soup was very similar, although his had added garlic and a different base. He described it as “perfectly well seasoned – not too salty, bland or watery,” and said it “hits the spot on a July gloom day.”

The only issue we took with our respective repasts was that the slice of pork – a solitary bit of meat awash in a sea of noodles – was small and very fatty. The oven-roasted flavor was excellent, but we felt like the protein portion should’ve been bigger, especially since so much meat was lost to fat.

Shevin’s soup cost him $5.50, and mine was a dollar more. That’s a great price for a big bowl of soup, although I do think that – compared to some of the other authentic ramen places around – we should’ve gotten more soup for the money. But I’m not really complaining.

In fact, my noodly bowl of pork broth goodness made me very, very happy. Have I mentioned how much I love soup?

Happy Cup

La Galette Creperie. Unfortunately.

La Galette Creperie Truck

I don’t like to write negative reviews. It’s uncomfortable for me and – no doubt – distressing for the subject. I’d like to live in a world where we all can just get along.

But I have to admit to being very disappointed by the La Galette Creperie truck.

La Galette Creperie is actually a brick-and-mortar crepe shop in San Clemente, CA. According to this lovely SquidInk piece, the truck is an off-shoot of the cafe, serving the same kinds of “mostly organic and local ingredients” as the San Clemente spot. I love this! I love that it’s a family endeavor! And I love crepes!

The crepes we had, however, were not good. There just isn’t any way around it. We ordered a barbeque chicken crepe (maple barbeque chicken, caramelized onions, cilantro and cheddar cheese) (below) , a caprese crepe (fresh mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, fresh basil, Dijon balsamic dressing), and the “fresh strawberries and cream” crepe. That’s a lot of crepe for two people! And both of us walked away hungry and disappointed.

To start, the crepes themselves, those delicate egg/flour/milk pancakes cooked on a circular hot plate and traditionally filled with either sweet or savoring stuffings, were completely cold. Usually golden in color with curling, crisp edges, these crepes were a uniform beige – and spongy. The fillings inside – barbeque chicken, and tomato and cheese, respectively – really just…were. The chicken was average and the tomatoes were the standard, mealy, hothouse special found in grocery stores all across America (not the red, luscious Romas promised on the menu). The cheese was cheese.

La Galette Creperie truck barbeque chicken crepe

The dessert crepe would’ve been a dream come true…if I were celebrating my ninth birthday… The strawberry-filled pancake was gasping for air from underneath enormous layers of whipped cream and a smattering of…rainbow sprinkles.

Rainbow sprinkles.

La Galette Creperie strawberries and cream crepe

Like the savory crepes, the sweet version was also completely cold,  so there was none of the sensory satisfaction of experiencing warm and cool and sweet and a little savory all in one bite. For the amount of whipped cream pillowed ontop of the pancake, there really was nothing left upon mouth entry, because the cream was so pumped full of nothingness that it immediately dissolved into barely-there-cream-flavored air. We took a few bites and ended up pushing the rest around the styrofoam container as the cream thinned to sticky sauce and the uncomfortable-seeming and now-nearly-naked pancake quietly begged to be put out of its misery of mediocrity.

Les Galette Creperies (both the cafe and the food truck) are much-beloved on Yelp! The glowing reviews speak of warmth and comfort served daily, with steaming cups of coffee and giant heaps of love. It could be that we tried the truck on a bad day. A very, very, very bad day…

If you’ve had a different experience, please share your thoughts! I’m willing to try the truck again! – Probably.

Kassava Truck Answers The Question “How Yuh Nyam So Much”*

Kassava Truck

So…How do you eat so much?

Simple, really. Because you’re eating from the Kassava Truck (warning – or recommendation – site is blastin’ the Marley tunes. Adjust your speakers accordingly).

The Kassava Trucks (there are two), are fresh from the proverbial oven of Kassava restaurant on 3rd Street in Los Angeles. Many of the food trucks are a method for dishing juicy morsels of food gossip about a hot new chef. They ease start-up costs while whetting the local appetite for a brick-and-mortar space; but Kassava was already serving up scrumptious (if somewhat pricey) portions in their own location long before the food truck trend got started.

Kassava Truck

It very much feels like Kassava’s impetus behind going mobile was a desire to bring their food to the masses. And maybe they also wanted to ride the trend a little (and who can blame them? It’s a very good trend, quoth the food truck blogger…)

The website describes Kassava’s food as “a blend of French Antilles/Caribbean & Jamaican cuisine.” Co-owners Marie France Levostre and Pras Michel (of The Fugees‘ fame) are from Martinque and Haiti, respectively. The trucks, however, are [nearly] 100% pure Jamaican. This isn’t fancy, fiddly or fine dining – it’s street food. It’s also less expensive than the sit-down place, which helps add an air of authenticity. Cheap, hearty and delicious Jamaican food? Yes mon!

To experience the Kassava Truck, my friend John and I ordered one each of the jerk chicken and the brown stew chicken. To wash it down, we shared an Old Jamaican ginger beer.

Kassava jerk chicken

The jerk chicken was served atop a bed of peas (beans) and rice, next to a small hill of plantains, and a pastel scoop of steamed cabbage. The overall experience was yum.

The chicken was bone-in (messy, harder to eat than boneless chunks, but light years more flavorful than untethered pieces of white meat) – and, surprisingly, not very spicy. Which is not to say it was flavorless; the chicken was saturated with flavor – this wasn’t just a skin-rubbed spicing; the meat tasted like it had been basted in juices and seasonings for hours. Combined with the fact that it was fall-off-the-bone tender, I was a happy, happy girl.

Rice and beans (called peas in Jamaican creole), are ubiquitous to Caribbean food. What is less common is the perfect balance of butter/spice/nuttiness dished up by the Kassava folks. And when I say “butter/spice/nuttiness,” big up uno dem**, I’m not kidding. The rice was spicier than the jerk chicken and gleaming with butter. Sweet, sweet butter. And salt. I loved the rice so much I almost licked the container it came in – but a regular diet of the stuff will kill you. Although you’d die happy…

The plantains were cooked velvety-soft, but firm enough to maintain their burnt-orange structure. Sweet – but not too sweet. A small serving, but just right.

The steamed cabbage was my least favorite of the meal. It’s not that it was bad, it just wasn’t all that great. Slightly pickled steamed cabbage, carrots and onion, together in a sort of Caribbean coleslaw. It was really just okay.

Kassava brown stew chicken

John’s brown stew chicken was a dish I’d never tried before but instantly knew I’d be ordering again. It’s actually less of a stew than meat simmered for hours in a surprisingly sweet sauce containing brown sugar, caramelized onion and spices. I loved it – and I’m usually more of a savory girl.

Kassava is also known for their roti and their meat patties. Between us, our jerk and chicken stew dishes were the perfect size for lunch, and I couldn’t bring myself to pile on, but this LA Times review of the Kassava restaurant gives some hearty descriptions of the other items:

…Jamaican patties, empanada-like pies, are flaky of crust and bulging with jerk chicken, saucy stewed beef or vegetables, and they make a substantial foundation for a satisfying supper with salad or soup.

Kassava’s roti is sumptuous. The soft, thin, slightly flaky griddle bread, wrapped around chunks of Gil’s curry chicken or curry goat and dipped into its spice-infused sauce, possesses a combination of flavor and texture that vies with the perfect Parisian pastry or the very best taco. Roti is also the ideal absorbent for the rich, satiny sauce of coconut shrimp, though the pairing may not be traditional.

To summarize: freakin’ yum.

Everything cook and curry at Kassava, so sidungfeel no way – just eat.***

*How do you eat so much
**Praise to all of them
***Everything is just fine [at Kassava], so come down – don’t worry – [just eat]
Jamaican glossary from SpeakJamaican
UPDATE: OCTOBER 2010 – KASSAVA TRUCK IS NO MORE (MOMENT OF SILENCE). YOU CAN VISIT THEM AT THEIR RESTAURANT ON SUNSET BLVD

Louks To Go Truck: Mmmmm…Delicious

Today I woke up hungry. It felt like I hadn’t eaten in an eternity; I was longing for something that would really, deeply satisfy me.

How delicious to be surprised by the enormous Louks To Go truck, waiting there – quietly, enticingly – on Wilshire Blvd.

Louks knows what you like

When I came up close to the truck, I could see that the Louks guys were happy to see me. And…wow…everything looked so fresh and tasty.

My hunger returned – in force – just looking at what was on display.

Alec gives great gyro

I asked Alec what he likes, and he was very quick to show me (there was a menu of specials in the window, next to him). He said the “Louks” were good, but I wasn’t interested in his small, doughy balls. Besides, I wanted something savory and delicious that I could really sink my teeth into. So I asked if his shwarma leaves people satisfied. He assured me it’s very, very good and then offered me a taste. I wanted it. So I asked him for his entire beef gyro. He smiled and promised that I’d be pleased.

When he handed it to me it was hot, although – truth be told – I was a little disappointed in the size (I like a really meaty gyro). But the good thing about the size was how easily it fit into my mouth. This way I could take a lot of it in at once and savor everything that was going on.

Hot

Inside the somewhat thin pita was beef shwarma (a little greasy, unfortunately), [too many] red onions, tomatoes and french fries! I loved the idea of the fries, but they were overpowered by the flavorful pita and also took away from the fresh taste of the vegetables; in the end, they felt like a waste of calories. Next time, I decided I might have a little something on the side, instead.

The tzatziki sauce was yummy and finger-licking good. There was so much of it that it got all over everything!

Despite the diminutive stature, there was more to that gyro than I expected and it was almost too much for me. When I went back to the truck to clean myself off, Aki was attentive and sensitive to everything I needed. He gave me what I asked for. Actually, he gave me even more than I asked for; I ended up with a huge stack of napkins and some handi-wipes. Dreamy.

Aki knows how to please a woman

I can’t wait to go back to Louks To Go. Please. I want to go back again and again. And again.

I really like gyros.