Aug 1, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Charlotte Oktoberfest vs. Charlotte Beerfest

I am pleased to announce that tickets to 16th annual Charlotte Oktoberfest went on sale today. This event will be held Sept. 27 at the N.C. Music Factory, the host for last year’s festival as well. As of this writing, over half of the VIP tickets have already been sold, costing $65 apiece (general admission $45). Over the last 16 years, this Carolina Brewmasters-run event has donated nearly $500,000 to local charitable organizations. This year’s charity benefactors include Classroom Central, Kids Rein, and Camp CARE.

I am also pleased to mention the first Charlotte Beerfest, taking place at BBT Ballpark on Sept. 20 — the week before Oktoberfest. VIP tickets to this event are $100 (general admission $50), with proceeds benefiting Grin Kids Children’s Charity and USO.

These beer festivals are two completely unrelated events, but there has been considerable confusion between the two (not to mention online animosity). Allow me to help to clear the air.

Oktoberfest has traditionally been a wonderful educational resource for beer drinkers. There is an overwhelming local presence at Oktoberfest, with regional and Charlotte-based breweries making it a point to attend each year. It would be easier to mention which Charlotte breweries aren’t attending Oktoberfest instead of list who are — as of this writing, only newcomer Sugar Creek. Historically, up-and-coming local breweries have also used the event as a launching pad for their wares.

Beerfest, on the other hand, advertises on its website the offer of unlimited tastings of “100 craft beers” — yet few of the beers mentioned on its social media pages are actually craft. Featured brews include Guinness, Red Stripe, Newcastle, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Stella Artois, Blue Moon and Pacifico. Also, it’s much easier to mention Charlotte breweries that are attending (OMB, Sugar Creek) versus those that are sitting out.

Of course, Oktoberfest is not 100-percent craft; neither does it pretend to be. In fact, many of the Beerfest breweries mentioned above will be pouring at both events. Organizers of both events realize the importance of bringing a wide spectrum of beers for attendees to sample, but only Beerfest tries to pass their offerings as things they are not.

Both festivals offer patrons the ability to enter the festival early, with Oktoberfest charging a $20 premium for the privilege versus Beerfest’s $50 increase. At Beerfest, VIP ticket holders get to partake in select beers; general admission ticket holders will miss several offerings. Contrarily, beer offerings at Oktoberfest do not discriminate between ticket holders. (Additionally, Beerfest VIP holders also get premium seating for the live entertainment, access to the home plate and upperdeck clubs, and a T-shirt, while Oktoberfest VIP get to enjoy a guided beer tour.)

Beerfest has also announced the Charlotte Beerfest 2014 Craft Beer Week, happening Sept. 17-20; details on “great restaurant and bar specials” have yet to be announced. This is not to be confused with the Charlotte Craft Beer Week, which celebrated its 5th anniversary this past March.

There’s more than enough room in this town for multiple beer festivals and events. It’s a shame the organizers of Beerfest couldn’t book a date with more distance from an already popular beer festival. Doing so might have saved potential attendees from getting the run-around. Then again, Blues Traveler is Beerfest’s headliner.

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Aug 1, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Beer Baron: Great Taste isn’t just beer festival; it’s a brewers festival

There’s a common misconception that needs to be cleared up about the Great Taste of the Midwest: that it’s a beer festival.

Yes, the 6,000 people who line up to drink the 1,000-plus beers pouring at the event in Madison’s Olin Park every year certainly think of it as a beer festival, and one of the premier ones in the entire country at that.

But its organizers — the all-volunteer, all-amateur Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild — say the key to its runaway success over the past 26 years has been to keep the focus on the brewers, which will number about 160 this year, up from 153 in 2013.

“It’s a brewers’ festival, and that’s a little bit different than a beer festival,” said Mark Garthwaite, who is a week from wrapping up his third Great Taste as chairman. “You’re actually talking to the people who make beer. Not all events are like that. This is what we hope is a showcase event for them. It’s not just the value of going to the festival and having a good time, it’s being with the people who actually made the beer and are proud to show you who they are and what they do.”

It’s worth noting here that beer festivals, as fun as they are for those in attendance, can be a bit of a slog for brewers. They have so proliferated that many breweries, even small ones, go to one just about every weekend in summer. That means hauling kegs, tap equipment and, of course, staff — if a brewer has one — around the state.

Garthwaite said some festivals don’t pay brewers for the beer they bring, forcing them to rely on the more abstract marketing value of such events to make it a profitable proposition.

It’s why the Great Taste organizers pull out all the stops to make it “the easiest event that they do,” Garthwaite said.

They unload and cold-store the beer for the brewers at the festival grounds. They handle parking . They make sure they breweries’ crews — most usually bring at least six people to pour beer and run errands — know about the many social events for them going on around town during the weekend.

Every year there’s Great Taste swag gifted to the brewmaster of each brewery: last year a 12-pack cooler and in 2012 a pair of custom-sized rubber brewers’ boots, all emblazoned with the festival logo.

“We do everything we can to treat them like the rock stars they are,” he said. “We want them to feel like they have the greatest job in the world.”

Industry groups take notice of so many brewers making the trip to Madison every year and hold social or professional events. The Master Brewers Association of the Americas is holding a technical conference in Madison on Friday, and Garthwaite said international brewery supplier Country Malt Group rented out the Madison Children’s Museum last year for an invite-only event to schmooze brewers the day before Great Taste.

The tap takeovers, samplings and other beer events held that day — Great Taste Eve, as beer aficionados in Madison and around the Midwest know it — are the primary third-party adjuncts to the festival’s weekend.

They began springing up years ago, but only recently have guild members begun helping out-of-state brewers who otherwise don’t sell in Wisconsin with the licensing and relationship-building that such events require.

They’re also the best way to experience a slice of the Great Taste — fantastic beer shared with strangers who want to talk about it, and, often, a chance to talk about it with the actual brewers — without securing the notoriously hard-to-get and increasingly expensive ticket.

This year the guild increased the Great Taste ticket price from $50 to $60, largely the result of “things we’ve been asked to do” — primarily professional security and traffic management — by the city to ensure patron safety, Garthwaite said, adding that the requests were all sensible and the guild has a good relationship with officials. More breweries every year means more beer to purchase, too.

The cost of putting on the event increases every year, he said, but the guild aims to hold the line on the price as long as possible, then do a more significant price increase.

Another constraint is the venue and, therefore, the number of patrons, Garthwaite said. The festival has maxed out the lakeside at Olin Park, with no place to put more brewery tents — or festivalgoers, and the extra ticket proceeds they would bring.

“If we were able to sell more tickets, we’d definitely do it. That cannot currently happen,” he said, adding that the guild will not move the event out of Olin Park or add other Great Taste events.

“We think about the experience value. Do it right so you make it a good experience,” he said. “The consequence of that is a $10 increase. But we’re really certain that there won’t be an increase next year, or for the foreseeable future.”

A large majority of Great Taste revenue is used to pay the festival bills, with a portion donated to charity — the amount varies based on T-shirt sales and the like but is usually around $25,000 — and the remainder used by the guild “for facilitating homebrewing education, competitions and other homebrew club events,” Garthwaite said.

The guild didn’t hear a lot of complaints about the price increase, he said, although my story on the ticket changes this spring had a comment by user GaryRobbins suggesting that the cost could be held down by limiting the brewery count to about 100 and that the increase is “getting close” to pricing people out.

I pay for my press ticket like any other Great Taste-goer, and it’s tough to make a case that the event isn’t worth $60 — not to mention waiting in line for hours the day of the event and the morning the tickets are sold. For many beer geeks it’s the best day of the year, a chance to immerse themselves in the craft beer culture that’s a huge part of their life.

And that, Garthwaite said, starts with the guild’s focus on the brewers: “If they think this is a great event for them, it cannot possibly be anything but a great event for the patrons.”

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Aug 1, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Eat, Drink and Be Merry at the 3rd Annual Magic Valley Beer Fest – Twin Falls Times

TWIN FALLS • For Shayne Carpenter, a beer festival is about quality and not quantity.

Carpenter said that is what will make the Blue Lakes Rotary Club’s 3rd annual Magic Valley Beer Fest — which is from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday — stand out from other festivals he has attended. Advance tickets cost $25 and are available at Anchor Bistro, O’Dunken’s Draught House and Twin Stop on Pole Line Road. Admission costs $30 at the gate.

Carpenter, who founded the festival with his wife, Michelle, said when he moved to Twin Falls five years ago, he noticed there wasn’t an established beer festival in the immediate area.

“Between Idaho Falls and Boise, we are the only guy on the block,” he said.

Carpenter said he has attended more than 100 beer festivals, suppers and tastings over the years.

“I thought it was a good way to get craft beer in the Magic Valley,” he said. “We are very proud of our beer festival because it is not unlimited drinking. We want people to sample a beer and not look for volume. It’s about education and not intoxication.”

He said the event last year brought in more than $20,000 and about 750 people attended. He said the goal this year is to hit 1,000 attendees. All the proceeds go toward charities selected by the Blue Lakes Rotary Club.

Carpenter said while some beer festivals will give attendees a two- or three- ounce cup for unlimited sampling, at the Magic Valley Beer Fest, attendees will receive 15 tickets that will be good for 15 4-ounce samples. If you want a full mug, it will cost two tickets.

“With ours, you can relax and actually talk to the brewers. Ours is much more intimate, it’s not about drinking,” Carpenter said. “I’ve been to beer festivals and they can get out of control. We want to make sure its done well.”

The event will feature 96 beers from 39 brewers. Idaho brewers will include Von Scheidt Brewing Co., Sun Valley Brewing Co., Sawtooth Brewery, Payette Brewing Co., Snake River Brewing and Selkirk Abbey.

Food will be available from Buffalo Wild Wings, Anchor Bistro and the Lamb Weston french fry truck. Brizee Heating, Air Conditioning and Fireplaces will serve barbecue.

Live music will be provided by Front Porch Flavor from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Lakoda from 2:45 to 4:15 p.m. and the Barking Owls from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

“It’s fun, if you like beer, this is the way to go because you get to try new beers without buying a six pack or whole growler,” said Denise Young, a member of Blue Lake Rotary Club and the Beer Fest planning committee.

Besides eating and drinking, people can also try their luck at winning several items in the silent auction and raffle. Young said there will be hunting trips, fishing poles, beer making kits, bicycles and a Pabst Blue Ribbon wakeboard up for grabs.

There will also be a lifesize Jenga game and a bean bag toss set up in the park.

And if you do happen to have too many drinks or think you should take a taxi home, Carpenter said taxi rides will be available to anywhere in Twin Falls for $5.

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Aug 1, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Eat, Drink and Be Merry at the Magic Valley Beer Fest – Twin Falls Times

TWIN FALLS • For Shayne Carpenter, a beer festival is about quality and not quantity.

Carpenter said that is what will make the Blue Lakes Rotary Club’s 3rd annual Magic Valley Beer Fest — which is from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday — stand out from other festivals he has attended. Advance tickets cost $25 and are available at Anchor Bistro, O’Dunken’s Draught House and Twin Stop on Pole Line Road. Admission costs $30 at the gate.

Carpenter, who founded the festival with his wife, Michelle, said when he moved to Twin Falls five years ago, he noticed there wasn’t an established beer festival in the immediate area.

“Between Idaho Falls and Boise, we are the only guy on the block,” he said.

Carpenter said he has attended more than 100 beer festivals, suppers and tastings over the years.

“I thought it was a good way to get craft beer in the Magic Valley,” he said. “We are very proud of our beer festival because it is not unlimited drinking. We want people to sample a beer and not look for volume. It’s about education and not intoxication.”

He said the event last year brought in more than $20,000 and about 750 people attended. He said the goal this year is to hit 1,000 attendees. All the proceeds go toward charities selected by the Blue Lakes Rotary Club.

Carpenter said while some beer festivals will give attendees a two- or three- ounce cup for unlimited sampling, at the Magic Valley Beer Fest, attendees will receive 15 tickets that will be good for 15 4-ounce samples. If you want a full mug, it will cost two tickets.

“With ours, you can relax and actually talk to the brewers. Ours is much more intimate, it’s not about drinking,” Carpenter said. “I’ve been to beer festivals and they can get out of control. We want to make sure its done well.”

The event will feature 96 beers from 39 brewers. Idaho brewers will include Von Scheidt Brewing Co., Sun Valley Brewing Co., Sawtooth Brewery, Payette Brewing Co., Snake River Brewing and Selkirk Abbey.

Food will be available from Buffalo Wild Wings, Anchor Bistro and the Lamb Weston french fry truck. Brizee Heating, Air Conditioning and Fireplaces will serve barbecue.

Live music will be provided by Front Porch Flavor from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Lakoda from 2:45 to 4:15 p.m. and the Barking Owls from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

“It’s fun, if you like beer, this is the way to go because you get to try new beers without buying a six pack or whole growler,” said Denise Young, a member of Blue Lake Rotary Club and the Beer Fest planning committee.

Besides eating and drinking, people can also try their luck at winning several items in the silent auction and raffle. Young said there will be hunting trips, fishing poles, beer making kits, bicycles and a Pabst Blue Ribbon wakeboard up for grabs.

There will also be a lifesize Jenga game and a bean bag toss set up in the park.

And if you do happen to have too many drinks or think you should take a taxi home, Carpenter said taxi rides will be available to anywhere in Twin Falls for $5.

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Aug 1, 2014
Kim Rivers

New app makes finding a food truck easier

Screen Shot of the app 'Dash n' Dine'
Screen Shot of the app ‘Dash n’ Dine’

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Brand Innovation Group (Big) partnered with Fort Wayne Food Trucks, Inc. to introduce an app for Apple and Android phones that will make finding where a food truck is located at a lot easier.

Food trucks at One Summit Square for Foodstock 2014
Food trucks at One Summit Square for Foodstock 2014

The app, Dash n’ Dine,” is designed to pin point each trucks location, show each truck’s menu, specials and hours of operation. The app also tells users what trucks are open at the time the app is being used and how far away the trucks location is.

Big said they received a lot of positive feedback from people in the community when the app first launched at Foodstock, an event that features food trucks, music, and beer. Big said in its first weekend the app was downloaded nearly 700 times. “Over and over, people mentioned that they’d been waiting for something like this. We were really excited to help make this app a reality,” said Big Strategy Director Ben Gregory.

The ten food trucks associated with Fort Wayne Food Trucks, Inc. are included on the app:

People lined up for one of the many food trucks at One Summit Square.
People lined up for one of the many food trucks at One Summit Square.
  • Affine
  • Bravas
  • Jimmy Ray’s
  • Sol Kitchen Food truck
  • Getaway Grill
  • Pizza Bomba
  • Ragin’ Cajun
  • Rigatony’s
  • Spicer’s
  • Wise Guys
  • Whip Chill

 

Food truck vendors are responsible for updating location and menu information.

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Aug 1, 2014
Tina George

A taste of seasonal food in Ireland this autumn

A landscape that’s good enough to eat. In Northern Ireland that’s truer than you think. Cattle grazing upon the nutritious Sperrins foothills produce the tastiest marbled beef; the fertile valleys of Armagh boast heavily laden apple and plum trees; and Lough Neagh is home to trout, freshwater herring and eels. And we haven’t even started on the “wild larder” of the coastline, with its salmon, shellfish and seaweed.

Northern Ireland’s heritage is mapped in its landscape, too; The Old Bushmills Distillery has been making whiskey with the river Bush’s crystal-clear waters for 400 years.

To get a sense of the country’s natural abundance, go to market – and you might as well start at the top. Named the UK’s best large indoor market 2014, St George’s Market is a glorious Victorian building in the heart of Belfast. At Friday’s general market, the fish section alone has more than 20 stalls, while on Saturday, all comers can enjoy free samples – from tangy local farmhouse cheeses to ostrich meat.

If you want a bit of banter with the people behind the products, head to the farmers’ markets: Tyrone Farmers’ Market at Dungannon is especially good for fresh fish; or try Enniskillen for local honey and fruit.

Man handling fish
Fresh selection of seafood at stall in St Georges market Belfast. Photograph: Alamy

The stories behind the food can be as captivating as the flavours. Comber Earlies – new potatoes grown around the village of Comber, Co Down – have been awarded a special European status similar to that given to champagne, so no one else can claim to produce this delicious nutty potato. Ardglass potted herrings – rolled fillets, marinated and baked with spices and breadcrumbs (each family has its own secret recipe) – date back to the height of the herring industry in the 19th century. Dulse, a seaweed originally harvested by fishermen to supplement incomes, has become a fashionable addition to breads, cheeses and oatcakes.

To get a flavour – in all senses – of Northern Ireland’s food and cooking skills, come to one of its many food festivals this autumn. At Belfast Restaurant Week (4-11 October), a succulent mix of demonstrations, music, meals and theatre, be prepared to stumble on a wine tasting, themed banquet, celebrity chef masterclass or pop-up restaurant. If shellfish is your thing, head to the Hillsborough Oyster Festival (2-7 September) and try your luck at the World Oyster Eating Championship. Those with a sweet tooth should make a date with the Hans Sloane Chocolate and Fine Food Festival (19-21 September) at Killyleagh Castle.

By now, you’ll be ready to exercise. Take the Belfast Bred walking tour and you’ll discover the city’s gastronomic history, meet chefs in their kitchens and sample produce, from dark chocolate to oysters. Prefer cycling? The Mourne Foods Cycle Trail, organised by the Enniskeen Country House hotel, is a leisurely ride around farms and food producers (including mussel beds and ice-cream makers) in the shadow of the lovely Mourne mountains.

Inspired? Put on your apron and come into the kitchen! At Belle Isle Cookery School, on the shores of Lough Erne, you can choose from a day’s course on quick family meals and a month of general skills. If you’re interested in cooking fish, head to the Mourne Seafood Cookery School in Kilkeel. And if you want to learn from working chefs, try the cookery school at Belfast’s James Street South, where fun evenings include “sushi and cocktails” and “effortless entertaining”.

Whether you visit to sample the freshest seafood, learn to cook a local delicacy or simply enjoy its famous hospitality, a holiday in Northern Ireland is special at any time.

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Aug 1, 2014
Kim Rivers

Soda found in hardware store; Kapow truck rolls along

Enthusiasm for Dr. Brown’s sodas has been bubbling over.

The July 18 column featured a letter from Michele C. Jackson, of Wilmington, who asked where she could find Dr. Brown’s Diet Cream soda in Delaware. Jackson drank the soda, frequently found in Jewish delicatessens, during a trip to Chicago.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the soda, which dates back to 1869, was once sold almost exclusively in New York, but in the early 1980s, it could be found nationwide in select delis, gourmet shops and restaurants.

Paula Janssen, whose family owns Janssen’s Market at 3081 Kennett Pike in Greenville, wanted to share they sell Dr. Brown’s.

“We carry the Root Beer, Black Cherry, Cream Soda and Diet Cream Soda flavors, all in six-packs of 12-ounce cans,” she said.

Another reader called and said she found Dr. Brown’s sodas at Giant on U.S. 202 for $4.99 a six-pack.

Reaching out to readers sometimes brings back unexpected suggestions, like this one:

Hardware store carries sodas, and hot sauces

The True Value Hardware store located in Prices Corner carries Dr. Brown’s sodas.

I don’t know what flavors they carry, but Ms. Jackson may want to contact them for more specific details.

They provide excellent customer service and if they don’t carry it, they may even be able to order it for her.

The store has a wide selection (and unusual) variety of sodas, hot sauces, hand and foot creams, items that I would not expect to find at a hardware store.

The staff has been there for years and are very helpful, which is why customers like me keep coming back, even though sometimes their prices are slightly higher than the big chain stores.

Their store information is: True Value Hardware, 1302 Centerville Road, Wilmington, DE 19808; (302) 999-0523.

I hope this information is helpful.

Carmen Casanova

Carmen, thanks for this great information. I’ve long shopped at True Value – and, yes, they do have terrific customer service – but never noticed the sodas, hot sauce or hand and foot creams.

So, earlier this week, I called and also stopped in. Yep, they do have a shelf of hard-to-find bottled sodas – you can buy a single bottle or put together a mix-and-match six-pack – and they also have a variety of hot sauces. Pretty cool.

A store employee said they started carrying the sodas, including Dr. Brown’s, about two years ago. Sometimes, you can purchase a 24-pack case, but not always. They only restock the sodas every few months.

The hot sauce collection, on a separate shelf, began back in November 2012. It’s nowhere close to the collection found at the Peppers store in Lewes –visit peppers.com – but the True Value selection isn’t bad. My favorite name: Professor Phardtpounders Colon Cleaner Hot Sauce.

Regarding the foot and hand creams, an employee said, “we have stuff you wouldn’t expect to find in a hardware store.”

So, there you have it.

What the ‘Dr.’ ordered

Many emails and calls came from readers who wanted to direct Jackson to the kosher section of ShopRite on Concord Pike. Thanks to Maryann Rothberg, Carol Fiederlein and Barbara Jacobson.

Here are some more thoughts:

Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda (both regular and diet) are generally available at the ShopRite on Route 202 (Concord Pike). Sometimes they’ll carry another flavor, too.

And yes, it’s terrific stuff.

Jerry Hyman

Soda brings back childhood memories

I knew that the Concord Pike ShopRite began carrying Dr. Brown’s soda recently and when I rechecked this morning, they have almost the full line of flavors, in both regular and diet, including the diet cream.

The store carries single bottles and six-packs; however, they are somewhat expensive. They are located directly across from the Courtesy Counter in the front of the store. Bialies are also available in the bakery section.

I remember Dr. Brown’s from my childhood, when we would visit family and friends in lower Manhattan and go to Katz’s Deli, which is also still around, thank goodness!!

Joan B. Greenhalgh

Wilmington

Food truck on the move

I have visited a food truck, Kapow, that used to park on Union Street on Tuesdays. For the last couple of weeks, he has not been there. I asked a local merchant and they said someone complained about it. The food was very good and is missed.

How can we find out where the food truck is now parking?

Thanks.

Chris B.

Wilmington

Wit Milburn, aka “The Thai Guy,” and his wife, Jody, operate the Kapow food truck featuring a variety of foods with Thai, Korean and Hawaiian influences.

Last week, Milburn suffered heat stroke while in the truck during a hot, humid day – “it’s one of the hazards of having a food truck,” he says – but after a few days off, he’s fully recovered and back in business.

However, you’re right, the Kapow truck is no longer parked on Tuesdays in the lot off Union Street.

Chef Milburn says he has found a new Wilmington location that is welcoming and he’ll be parked in the lot of the Union Park BMW at 1900 Pennsylvania Ave. on Tuesdays starting Aug. 19.

The Milburns and Kapow Truck are currently on vacation. But they’ll be back and you can find their schedule on their website, www.kapowtruck.com, the Kapow Food Truck Facebook Page and on Twitter @kapowtruck.

Milburn says he plans to have new dishes soon, inspired by his travels. Stay tuned.

Contact Patricia Talorico at (302) 324-2861

or ptalorico@delawareonline.com. Read her culinary blog Second Helpings at www.delawareonline.com/blog/secondhelpings and follow her on Twitter @pattytalorico.

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Aug 1, 2014
Tina George

The Year in Houston Food and Drink 2014 (So Far)

To say that Houston loves food would be quite the understatement. The nation at large may sleep on the local food scene, but those living and eating in Houston know just how good we have it. From behind the scenes looks at local restaurants to food festivals to block parties and pub crawls, here’s what’s been going on in the Houston food scene in 2014… so far at least.

Published on August 1, 2014

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Aug 1, 2014
Kim Rivers

Your guide to Pierce County’s somewhat invisible food truck offerings

A diner complaint I hear too often: “We don’t have a food truck community.”

Or do we, and you just don’t know where to find it?

That’s where I come in, your handy newspaper restaurant critic.

I traversed every pocket of Pierce County, cross-referenced with the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department, hunted down social media, and relied on readers to assemble a comprehensive list of food trucks based in Pierce County. The list is current as of today, but an unfortunate consequence of businesses that operate on wheels is that they might be serving today, but could easily roll out of town tomorrow.

In all, I found nearly 30 trucks serving — and licensed — in Pierce County that I’ve categorized into three groups. The first is the region’s oldest category of mobile dining: taco trucks serving traditional taqueria eats. The second is a list of trucks with semipermanent locations or regular serving spots. The third is a list of what I call “floater trucks.” Those are trucks you’ll encounter at public gatherings or festivals.

Have a Pierce County truck you want to tell me about? Call me at 253-597-8270 or email sue.kidd@thenewstribune.com

Read more about the food trucks on the TNT Diner blog.

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Aug 1, 2014
Tina George

10Best: Food festivals to dive into


To Anthony Anderson, a food festival combines the best of both worlds: a chance to explore a new place and to eat some incredible food. The guest judge on Iron Chef has just launched Eating America With Anthony Anderson, a Food Network series running Mondays through Sept. 15 (9 p.m. ET/PT) that has the actor exploring and tasting his way around food festivals. “It’s a natural for me,” he says. “I grew up watching Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet.” He shares some favorites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

New Orleans Wine and Food Experience
Anderson had no trouble getting into the spirit of this festival in what may be the country’s top eating city. He sampled dishes from dozens of restaurants strutting their stuff in the convention center. Then he joined in with the city’s top cooks in an Iron Chef-style seafood contest. “They were using crawfish, shrimp and things out of their local waters. Hands-down, it was my favorite,” he says. It’s held every spring.nowfe.com

World Championship Steak Cook-off
Magnolia Blossom Festival, Magnolia, Ark.
It’s not easy to cook a good steak, Anderson says, so he enjoyed sampling (and learning from) the dozens of vendors at this event, held every May. “They let me in on their searing process, including a reverse sear: smoking the meat first, then searing. It was delicious.” 870-234-4352; blossomfestival.org

Huckleberry Festival
Trout Creek, Mont.
The humble huckleberry stars in this annual celebration in the Northern Rockies, where the fruit has long fueled bears and summer visitors. The small-town event, Aug. 8-10 this year, includes jam, jelly and dessert competitions, along with a guaranteed-to-be-messy pie-eating contest. Days start with huckleberry pancake breakfasts in the Fire Hall, along with a parade and a Huckleberry Hound dog agility competition. huckleberryfestival.com

Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival
Fernandina Beach, Fla.
Not only was Anderson won over by the shrimp at the May event — “Any way you can think of it, you could have it: fried, grilled, broiled” — but he also enjoyed celebrating the area’s marauding heritage with a pirate battle. Still, the crustacean took center stage in kabobs with strawberries, shrimp gumbo, shrimp pie, low-country boil with shrimp, and many other dishes. “Shrimp had to be the star of the show, and it was.” shrimpfestival.com

Texas Crab Festival
Crystal Beach, Texas
This Mother’s Day weekend festival is timed for soft-shell crab season, and Anderson couldn’t have been happier. “They prepared it all kinds of ways. There was a crab-guacamole dish, and garlic, butter and crab rice with crab meatballs wrapped in bacon, and a crab pie.” And that’s not even mentioning the gumbo cook-off. texascrabfestival.org

Ribfest
Chicago
Like the city itself, there’s a no-nonsense vibe to this June festival, at which 50,000 pounds of pork are consumed in one weekend, Anderson says. “It was nothing but ribs, nothing but meat. No pirate games, no Ferris wheels, no bounce houses. It was just smokers lined down the street.” ribfest-chicago.com

Blue Ridge BBQ Festival
Tryon, N.C.
Anderson says he was skeptical when he rolled into tiny Tryon for its June festival. “We were in the backwoods, population just a couple thousand,” he recalls. Then he noticed the smoking pits. His biggest surprise: two gentlemen in camouflage gear, beards and bandannas, cooking duck confit with bacon. “I had to apologize to them. I learned you cannot judge a book by its cover.” blueridgebbqfestival.com

L.A. Taco Festival
Boyle Heights, Calif.
While there’s never a problem finding a taco in L.A., this annual fest, Aug. 16 this year, not only gathers some of the top purveyors in East Los Angeles, but it also supports a charity that finds housing for homeless young people. There’s musical entertainment, and though tacos start at just a few dollars, a $45 premium all-you-can-eat ticket includes VIP seating and tequila tasting. latacofestival.com

Long Grove Strawberry Festival
Long Grove, Ill.
Anderson wasn’t sure what to expect at this early-summer fruit fest. “Some people had made simple dishes, others had strawberry ravioli with delicious cream sauce, and I couldn’t believe what I was tasting,” he says. He particularly liked one dish with a surprise ingredient. “I had never had a steak sandwich as tender, and the best thing was the strawberry salsa.” visitlonggrove.com

Rockwood Ice Cream Festival
Wilmington, Del.
Ice cream lovers will find scores of flavors, vendors, dairies and restaurants at this down-home early-summer celebration. “You think ice cream is a simple thing, but you get there, and there’s nothing simple about it,” Anderson says. “There were some pretty decadent things, (such as) homemade caramel corn with bacon on top of a sundae.” rockwoodicecream.com

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