Help determine the tastiest food truck fare at the Nashville Street Food Awards.
Guests can vote for the People’s Choice Award, while judges will choose the winners in several other categories.
More than 20 members of the Nashville Food Truck Association will serve small plates so attendees can taste from multiple trucks. Participants include Crepe A Diem, The Waffle Boss, Riffs Fine Street Food, The Grilled Cheeserie and more.
NEULORE, Matt Giraud, Jill Kate, AJ Cheek, The Young International and Chelsea Lankes will perform, and a portion of beer sales will benefit Musicians Corner.
Children can take part by decorating cookies provided by Julia’s Bakery. Donations will also be accepted at this station for Musicians Corner.
The free event is noon-5 p.m. Saturday at Centennial Park, 2500 West End Ave. Details: www.nashvillefoodtruckassociation.com
- Michael Gebert
- Dr. Bruce Kraig with Street Food Around the World
It’s the new phrase for authenticity on the hip food scene—restaurants from the Asian Mott St to the South American La Sirena Clandestina call their food “street food.” The irony is that we live in one of the cities where actual street food is least likely to exist, especially legally. So what is street food, really, and why does being sold on the street affect the character of food enough to make it its own category?
Trying to answer questions like that is a new book, Street Food Around the World, An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (ABC-CLIO, $100), which was primarily created in Chicago: editors Bruce Kraig (a professor at Roosevelt University) and Colleen Taylor Sen (author of books on Indian food) are both Chicagoans, as are many of the contributors (including the Reader‘s Mike Sula, who wrote the section on Korean food). At the moment the comprehensive book is a pricy hardcover, but when I spoke with Dr. Kraig at his Oak Park home, he and Sen had just been trying to convince the publisher that the subject was popular enough to deserve a street-priced edition. But even at the current price, it’s a vast and comprehensive work that will reward dipping into for a bite or two for years. Here’s our interview.
Michael Gebert: How do you define what street food is? Is it a ‘know it when you see it’ kind of thing?
Dr. Bruce Kraig: Well, we do have a definition in the book, which is, food served on the street! But it’s also food served in markets, so if you go to, say, Mexico, where there are many markets, inside are fondas, and we regard those as street food also, because it’s basically food on the go.
Also, we thought street food should be food trucks, everything from the fancy ones you see now to ‘roach coaches’ that you see at factories all over the place. And we also looked at vending machines, which we regard as a street food—there, it’s out on the street. We looked at state fairs and county fairs as also being street food, because it is food that you eat walking around, even if it’s in a special location. So what it is is, walking around food.
In most of America, it’s probably only the vending machines. But then you’ve got the food trucks, and beyond that—what do we have? Pushcarts in New York?
If you’re in Chicago it’s kind of skewed, because all of our pushcarts have gone indoors because of city ordinances, especially finishing up in the 1960s when they took all the pushcarts off the streets.
Once upon a time it was mainly hot dogs, but nowadays there’s everything else. If you look at the food scene all across the country, tacos are big, burritos, other Mexican preparations. And then, on the streets of New York, it’s not just hot dogs any more. This depends really on the vendor, and with a large immigrant population vendors change over time, the ethnicity of them. So many of the vendors are now Bangladeshi, where they used to be Italians, Greeks, Jews and other things. So the food [immigrants] are going to make is what they’re familiar with, and now Americans are familiar with it. So it would be falafel, lots of skewers, lots of shawarmas and shish kebabs.
Now let’s talk about the rest of the world, and the huge variety of foods in your book. One thing I noticed was how many foods in the book don’t seem particularly street friendly. I noticed this years ago, reading about bhel puri, which is an Indian snack that you toss like a salad on the street. And there’s pork loin in Scandinavia, and hot porridge in much of Asia and so on. So again, what makes it a street food and how are things like that feasible as food you walk around with?
There are a couple of ways to do street foods. Most street foods, in the less developed countries, are made by people at home. So they’re taking their recipes—which is one of the attractions for tourism, of course, that you’re eating local food—and it’s locally sourced ingredients, made almost exclusively by women and vended by either women or men.
But you don’t have to walk down the street with it; a lot of these stands have a seating area. If you go to the night markets in Asia, there’s plenty of seating. There’s lots of soups—just go to Shanghai or the most famous, Xi’an, with the twin market of Chinese and Muslims, and there are two different kinds of food side by side and you’ll find all sorts of wonderful soups and stews.
In the developed countries, much of these are industrialized foods, like a hot dog. They’re sourced from a factory, but then made on the spot. The pork loin is like that, and it’s served on a roll. Sandwiches are a street food. They may not be American sandwiches, but they’re sandwiches.
So why does street food matter? Is it because it’s the most inexpensive kind of food business to go into, so it’s an entry point into business for immigrants?
Street food is an entry point for immigrants in North America. It’s cheap to source—the markup on a hot dog is very great—so it is that way in the developed countries. It’s a step up, though many don’t make it, this is not just a Horatio Alger story. But it’s a way to get into the market in North America.
In places like Africa, this might be the only income for a family, the woman doing street food. It’s not an entryway into the market, it is the market. It is the food scene. And furthermore, in places like West Africa, half of peoples’ calories come from street food, it’s a major source of nourishment.
And that’s because in cities, there are so many young men who’ve gone there to work and send money back, who don’t have anybody to cook for them?
Yes, that’s the case, but there are also many just plain poor people. The food is so cheap that they can afford it. In fact, this is the story of street food from the beginning. It’s food for poor folks, and now it’s become all gentrified and chef-ized and everything else that we rich Americans, relatively speaking, do to everything.
Let’s go around the world and talk about what you find in different areas.
In Latin America you’ll find wraps and encased foods, from empanadas to tacos, which is basically a kind of wrap. They come in different names, with different fillings, and they’re different depending on where you are—they’re different on the coast of South America than they are in central Mexico. And even within a country, like Mexico, there are regional styles, so a taco you find in Guerrero is not going to be the same as you find elsewhere.
Pupusas, which are from El Salvador and are now found all over, are also very popular—you see them in the new Maxwell Street market, there’s a vendor selling pupusas and there’s always a line. Or arepas, from the northern part of Venezuela. There’s a restaurant selling arepas in Oak Park, and they’re quite good. But they’re all basically the same kind of thing. A corn or, depending on the country you’re in, flour casing with a filling, that’s either fried or could be baked.
If you’re in China, it’s an unbelievably stunning, varied scene—everything is for sale in China on the street and in markets. The food varies regionally—we put that in the book, some of the basic regional styles but they’re infinite, you can’t get your mind around how many there are. We did the north, south, east and talked about the kinds of food you’d find in Shanghai versus Beijing and places like that. But I can’t begin to go through them all. I will say, probably the ones Americans would be most familiar with would be dumplings. And in the north, the baozi, which are the steamed dumplings which you find in Chinatown here and which are great, fabulous, and they’ll have meats in them like lamb or beef, as opposed to the shumai, which you find on the street in Guangdong.
You know, one thing that you find in a lot of Asian cultures that people eat a lot of, is insects. Fried insects, toasted insects are just a feature of street food all over the place, and they’re really good. So people who want to travel, try them. In Korea, silkworms are popular, but don’t make the mistake of eating them raw. Toasted, they’re fabulous. They taste like veal. Koreans will tell you silkworms are for children, because they’re so nutritious.
I’m not sure being compared to veal is going to be better or worse for some people. What else?
In Africa, many stews. And based on manioc, a starchy vegetable imported from the New World back in the 16th century. Lot of starchy foods, beans and greens—in fact, it sort of sounds like soul food. But there are lots of relations, because it is a more substantial food meant to keep people going.
The thing about Europe is, they’ve been invaded by American corporations. And so has China. But there are lots of indigenous foods—in Hungary, for instance, langos, which is fried dough and is fabulous, absolutely great. Or in Russia, lots of sausages and dumplings, especially on holidays, like pelmeny. Same in Poland where you can expect to find pierogi, how could you not?
So Europe has a vibrant street food scene all over the place. One interesting thing is, in Denmark, the major street food is called polser, and those are red hots. They’re sausages which are dyed red. They’re everywhere.
- Michael Gebert
- Big Guys Sausage Stand, 7021 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn
After interviewing Dr. Bruce Kraig about the mammoth Street Food Around the World (which he coedited with Colleen Taylor Sen) at his home in Oak Park, I asked him what was nearby that would be a good stop for lunch. As the author of a volume on hot dogs, he had an answer that seems obvious in retrospect: Big Guys, a sausage stand about a mile away, on the Berwyn side of Roosevelt Road.
And in a lot of ways, it’s a perfect illustration of some of Street Food‘s underlying themes—how street food serves as a free market laboratory for the guy who’s willing to make what everybody else makes, but just a little bit better, in the hopes that he’ll draw customers to his stand over the next guy’s.
The location, on Roosevelt Road a couple of blocks east of Harlem, had been a hot dog stand called Parky’s since World War II, which Brendan O’Connor went to as a kid growing up in the area. It closed in 2001 and had stood dilapidated for a few years, he says, when he became interested in getting out of sales and carrying on the tradition of a neighborhood hot dog joint, but with a modern twist—”more contemporary cuisine, but good and not pretentious stuff.”
O’Connor still lives a few blocks away, and this is actually his second venture as a hot dog vendor—as a teenager he would help a friend, whose family owned a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oak Park, run a makeshift hot dog stand once a year when the Frank Lloyd Wright houses held an open house. “We would put up a stand and a charcoal grill and sell coffee, hot dogs, and pop, and we’d call it Wright Lloyd Franks,” he says. (You knew that was coming.) “Once a year, we would strike gold out there. We cleaned up then, for being 15 and 16 years old.” By the time he was downsized from a sales job, he had been running a catering company from his house, and he took his severance and joined up with some friends to take over the old Parky’s location.
- Michael Gebert
- Brendan O’Connor
The building, he says, was “built to be a hot dog stand, and me having some nostalgia for it, it spoke to me.” But from the start he had higher ambitions for it. “I didn’t want to just sell hot dogs, I wanted to do something that I really had a hand in making, rather than just reheating Vienna Beef products. There’s a lot of hot dog stands within a mile of this location.”
Making their own sausages in-house, he says, “was like it was meant to happen—this place had a grinder, an old grinder that works great. I thought that was kind of like a sign.” They started out buying most of the sausages (the hot dogs remain Vienna Beef to this day), but from the very beginning they were making their own chicken sausages because “we couldn’t find a chicken sausage that wasn’t dried out, or . . . weird. We wanted a really good Italian chicken sausage, so we had to make it ourselves.” As time went on, they replaced more and more of the sausages with their own recipes, ranging from a Cajun crawfish sausage to a south-side-style hot link to the Thanksgiving-month special, starting today—a turducken sausage with sage stuffing, cranberry sauce, and scratch-made gravy on top.
O’Connor tries to strike a balance between artful sausage combinations (a la Hot Doug’s) and an unpretentious sausage stand. “We have a real straightforward menu, no fancy names—it’s a cheddar brat,” he says. The monthly specials are where he cuts loose a little more—”I get a little more clever and try to play with the seasons,” he says, citing last year’s holiday special, El Rudolpho, a reindeer sausage with spicy mole. “We kind of come up with an idea, and then try to make it work.”
- Michael Gebert
- Hot link sausage with cole slaw and BBQ sauce
Along the way to opening, the stand wound up being on a Food Network show called 3 Days to Open, with Bobby Flay. (It was actually about two months before they opened for real.) O’Connor and his partners went along with the premise of the show, but admits that little of Flay’s supposed insights into what would make the stand successful lasted very long once they opened. “We thought the show would have more of an impact than it did, we thought more people would want to see the items on the menu in the show. But after a couple of months, we phased most of them out and went back to the original concept.”
“You know, your original concept for those shows is never good enough,” he says. “Basically it just kind of confused me to the point that it made me second-guess everything that I was thinking. We opened with like half his concept and half my concept, and we just had to go back to the drawing board.”
So how does O’Connor describe that concept, exactly? “Blue-collar gourmet,” he says. “What sets us apart is that we pretty much take the time to do everything homemade except the bread and the hot dogs. We make pretty gourmet sandwiches, but we use pretty familiar flavors and I think that’s what people like about it. It’s not all gourmet, we sell Maxwell Street Polish, we sell—our Italian sausage is an Italian sausage. But we do it a little different, we grill our garlic bread, we load it with peppers and onions and we take our time to make sure those peppers and onions are seasoned well and cooked well, but that’s about it.”
As a line forms and he goes back behind the counter, O’Connor sums it up. “Gourmet’s a little bit misleading. Half of the menu’s really common, but it’s just executed the way I think it should be.”
There’s a lot going on this weekend, but if you’re a fan of Nashville’s fine food truck scene, consider spending time Saturday at Centennial Park.
It’s a friendly competition pitting 20 members of the association, representing some of the most popular trucks in town. Judges will savor samples in a blind tasting, choosing winners in various categories.
Attendees will have the chance to buy food from all the trucks, including regular menu items as well as small “tastes” (so people will have room to dine from multiple trucks). They’ll also get to vote for the crowd favorite People’s Choice Award.
It’s an all-ages event with no admission fee, held in the same part of the park as Musicians Corner. Proceeds from beer sales will be donated to Musicians Corner in support of free music in Centennial Park.
In addition, Julia’s Bakery will have an activities table with cookie decorating for kids, where donations will also be accepted for Musicians Corner.
For more info, check out the Facebook page.
A nearly three year old food fight rages on along Harrisburg’s Restaurant Row.
This time, a makeshift hot dog stand is the point of contention.
Tater Harden’s Curbside Grill sets up tables and propane tanks Friday and Saturday nights at the corner of North Second and Pine streets selling sausage sandwiches, potato wedges and cheese steaks.
That has some business owners along the street like Eric Roman of 2nd Street Pizza steamed. Some are saying the vendors like Tater Harden’s are cutting into profits and destroying business, and they question how well the city is regulating street food sales.
“As business owners we should have the opportunity to be able to make it in the city. And at nighttime, with having so many hot dog carts and people selling on the streets, we aren’t going to make it. We are going to shut our doors quickly,” he said.
He said he doesn’t want to be perceived as a bully or selfish. He’s just trying to run a successful business.
On a typical Saturday night Roman said he used to pull in $1,100 to $1,400 and is now lucky if he makes between $700 and $800. He also said he is falling behind in paying his bills, and is considering selling the business.
At the time, about 14 restaurant owners along the street presented a signed petition to City Council, saying they wanted the vendors out of the city. Nothing ever became of the issue.
Roman said about five vendors now set up along the street at various points on weekend nights. About four weeks ago, Tater Harden’s emerged near the Sovereign Bank at 235 N. Second St.
Roman said he has an issue with Tater Harden’s which he claims is operating without the proper permits or a health inspection. In addition, Roman claims open flames and propane tanks are not permitted in the city.
In Harrisburg, vendors must obtain a health license and a mercantile license, and then they are free to roam, but only in spots where they can reach agreements with property owners.
Roman said he and other restaurant owners called the Harrisburg City Police over the weekend to report Tater Harden’s and the fact it was operating without permits but nothing was resolved. Officials with the city could not be reached for comment due to the Columbus Day holiday.
“These people are destroying the businesses that are open late at night,” Roman said.
But Tater Harden’s owner Rena Harden, a retired Harrisburg city police officer who is a caterer, said she has proper permits and a health inspection to operate in the parking space. In addition, her husband, Bill Harden, operates a food cart in front of Stallions Club along North Third Street, and she said he has permission from the club’s owners.
She said she’s going to speak with Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson on Oct. 15, and said she was harassed by Roman over the weekend. Specifically, she said Roman took photos of her stand including her young granddaughter without her permission.
“There’s a lot of people I’ve talked to already who want to come down and do business and don’t want to be harassed. I don’t want to be harassed. If I have to I will take him to the district justice and file harassment charges against him,” she said.
Zembie’s Sports Tavern owner Angelo Karagiannis said he has no problem with street vendors but said Tater Harden’s stand in a parking spot out in the open is not appropriate.
“It’s embarrassing for the city. The city, they have standards and nobody follows them,” he said.
In addition, business owners say the vendors don’t have to pay the same fees as those who own brick and mortar stores. Anthony Palumbo of Palumbo’s Italian Eatery along the street said, he can’t say for sure if the vendors are impacting his profits.
Mainly, because crowds along the street have changed in the past year as night clubs have been replaced with comedy clubs and more restaurants. But he can say the vendors create an unlevel playing field.
“They set up camp … they make a few bucks and leave, and we are the ones dealing with trash pickup. People are constantly using our restrooms.
“Basically, we are supporting them to be outside to make money …and then they take away from our business,” Palmubo said.
Harden, who is a longtime city resident, said it is a free enterprise, and there is plenty of business to go around. She said they decided that setting up on weekend nights would be a way to expand upon their food business.
She’s also not against chipping in to help with fees.
“I don’t have a problem chipping in. How about that? If that’s what it is for that little area for trash, I’ll pay for something. I’ll pay for planters,” she said.
He was surrounded by latchkey knuckleheads, smart kids with bad attitudes, Armenian gem dealers, drug connects, college students, dishwashers, too many card players. It was a chef’s education — hardly obvious at the time — because even as he gambled, fought and schemed, he ate, voraciously, from every larder in town. Nothing fancy. Quite the opposite: his parents’ hot pots; dinners of ketchup-fried rice and Del Taco takeout; pho and cheeseburgers; kimchi and milkshakes at dawn. It was a life of late nights.
Only a moment of clarity on a friend’s couch watching Emeril Lagasse on television when he was 26 saved him, Choi writes in his compelling new memoir and cookbook, “L.A. Son.” He was half drunk and high before noon again, filled with the usual self-hatred and self-pity, staring listlessly at this New Orleans chef with a New England accent cooking French food. Then bam! His future appeared as Emeril talked, it seemed, directly to him. Cooking would be his life.
“I saw myself in the kitchen,” Choi writes, with some amazement. “I saw myself at home.” He got up off the couch. A stint at the Culinary Institute of America followed, then a long run in hotel kitchens, followed by Kogi, the food truck that would bring him fame as the progenitor of the Korean-Mexican taco and a street king of Los Angeles cooking.
Choi, 43, describes his personal history in colorful language that owes some to Jack Kerouac, a little to Anthony Bourdain, who published “L.A. Son” under his imprint for Ecco, and plenty to the rhythm and swagger of early ’90s West Coast hip-hop. (It is expletive-heavy, and largely unquotable here.)
The recipes that accompany the stories are fascinating. They are not the dishes for which Choi is known — the tacos that first brought him triumph, or the beer-can chicken he serves at A-Frame, his restaurant on the city’s west side. Instead, they look back to what he cooked and what he ate in the years that led up to his success, to the varied and oftentimes unheralded food of Los Angeles itself.
And so here is instant ramen flavored with slices of American cheese, immediately recognizable to Koreans across their diaspora (and pretty great). Here is chili spaghetti, and kung pao chicken, carne asada, pork and beans, soybean-paste stew, even the potatoes Anna he cooked as a hotel chef — all the flavors of his family and the late-night and corporate experiences concentrated into something approaching a cuisine.
“People want to know where my cooking comes from,” he said. “I wanted to tell them, and this seemed the best, most honest way.”
Choi’s mother’s cooking hovers over all of “L.A. Son” and provides our menu here: the Korean braised-short-rib stew known as galbijjim, a staple of potlucks and church suppers, or in Choi’s words, “that meal from home that every Korean kid says his or her mom does best.”
His (hers) is rich and deeply flavored, thickly sauced and pungent with sugar and spice amid a thrum of soy and garlic. It is the sort of meal you could put together after lunch on a Sunday and allow to simmer away for much of the afternoon, then serve for dinner to accolades, or make on a Saturday, store overnight in the refrigerator and achieve the same result. A Friday-night braise leads to an incredible Monday night dinner. It is the best sort of family food.
Before cooking, Choi’s mother soaks her short ribs in water overnight to release their impurities. “It was almost as if she was soaking along with the meat,” Choi told me about watching her cook the dish. “She traveled along with the process, right along with the meat.” (I tried this method. I felt I got a similar result, minus the spiritual uplift, just rinsing the ribs a number of times before I got down to braise.)
The dish is simple to prepare. You make the braising liquid by puréeing scallions, ginger, onions and garlic with a combination of soy sauce, mirin and orange and apple juices. You simmer the ribs in the mixture for a few hours, then add shiitakes, chestnuts, taro, carrots and butternut squash, and allow the whole thing to come together into a crazy-delicious whole. Serve with rice.
“I’m not trying to prove anything with these recipes,” Choi said. “I just want people to cook.”
Well, this is horrifying. Street vendors in China have taken to using something called “gutter oil”—quite literally the oil gathered from gutter runoff, dumpster sludge, garbage juice, and untreated fucking sewage fuck fuck fuck—to cook food for human consumption. And then unwitting humans are consuming that food. As you might guess, not everyone’s happy about that.
This paragraph is gonna be really gross. So, evidently, the way it works is, gutter-oil-makers root around in dumpsters, trashcans, sewers oh God sewers, and (of course) gutters, looking for used oil or discarded food or solid waste or dead fucking animals, and then they process that putrid crud (this probably entails heating it to render any fats into oil, then straining out the solids) and sell the resulting distillation of pure horror as a cooking agent. Then street vendors use it to cook what is presumably already F-grade meat. Then people purchase and eat the “food” cooked in this effluvium of evil. Then you read about it on the internet and become a raw-food evangelist.
Chinese authorities busted a black-market gutter-oil operation back in April, seizing 3,200 tons of gutter oil which had been rendered from rotten animal carcasses. By the time of the sting, the operation had already sold an estimated $1.6 million in carcass-juice. To food vendors. For cooking food in it.
Hilariously, the author of the linked Washington Post article advises that you shouldn’t “cancel any vacation plans to China over this.” Well, sure. I suppose if you weren’t troubled by China’s human rights record, or the suffocating pollution in its hellish cities, or the abominable conditions in which China’s workers toil for the sake of pumping cheap consumer goods into the West, the possibility that your friggin’ dumplings have been fried in rendered feces and roadkill probably shouldn’t be that big a deal. Bon voyage!
It wasn’t a total surprise to learn that Piada Italian Street Food chain was created and founded by Chris Doody, a successful restaurant entrepreneur. Doody was a co-founder of the highly popular Bravo Brio chain. He sold his stake to investors in 2006.
Doody developed the Piada concept after sampling street food while traveling in Northern Italy. He named the chain after the Italian wrap-like sandwich known as Piada, a street food stuffed with pastas, meats, cheeses, sauce and veggies.
The Piada location in South Euclid’s Cedar Center North opened in December 2012 Another will open in November in Rocky River. There is also a location near Belden Village Mall in Canton, plus outlets in Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Indianapolis.
It’s paper and plastic service, with carry out. The seating area is attractive, with polished oak tables and chairs and a few high-top tables. Self serve for beverages and water.
The fast casual cuisine is just that. Food is prepared in an assembly line with well-trained cooks at your service. The concept is slightly confusing when it comes to ordering, but the experienced cooks behind the counter are helpful.
Three chef’s menu suggestions are posted overhead, and orders are made at the stone where cooking and assembling begins. The three menu choices make ordering easy if you don’t want to go through the line and choose fillings.
One of the featured items is crispy calamari piada ($7.25). The thin Italian crust dough is baked on a 650-degree stone, then filled with crispy calamari, a slightly spicy Italian diavolo sauce, creamy parmesan sauce, mixed peppers, special peppadew peppers and mozzarella cheese. A terrific combination of flavors in a “burrito-like” sandwich large enough to share.
The Piada meatball pasta ($8.95) is available in half orders ($7.95). Angel hair pasta is topped with a terrific pomodora/Parmesan Reggiano sauce plus a plump Piada meatball.
The third chef’s menu choice is pasta carbonara ($6.98). Angel hair pasta is topped and tossed with parmesan alfredo sauce, crispy pancetta, spinach, bruschetta tomatoes and Parmesan Reggiano cheese.
Local harvest salad ($9.45) is a combination of mixed greens topped with steamed butternut squash, spiced pecans, sweet apple chips, peppadew pepppers, feta and roasted chicken. Comes with a “skinny” vin dressing. Note: Available for a limited time.
You may enjoy tomato basil soup ($4.25) or lobster bisque ($4.75) and a Piada stick ($1.95). The thin crusted dough is baked on the hot grill then filled with choice pepperoni with Parmesan/Reggiano or artichoke.
If you choose to build your own piada, pasta bowl or chopped salad, prices vary according to choice of protein grill item. Vegetarian, Italian sausage and chicken (each $6.98), calarmari ($7.25), crispy chicken ($7.25), steak ($7.45) and salmon ($8.95).
Next comes choice of hot or cold sauces. There are eight choices; hot pomodoro, diavolo and Parmesan alfredo, or the cold fresh basil pesto, red pepper pesto or creamy Parmesan. And there is choice of five salad dressings.
Finally, pick your unlimited toppings. There are more than a dozen to choose from, including artichokes, crispy pancetta, white beans, cheeses and bruschetta tomatoes.
For variety, there’s select two. Choose one small piada, small pasta bowl or small chopped salad with choice of a grill item. Add a side salad or soup bowl ($8.95).
Street sides and desserts are worth considering. Calamari fritto misto ($4.95) is a combination of crispy fried calamari with hot peppers.
Cannoli chips ($2.95) are mini pastry chips served with chocolate chip cream dipping sauce.
Besides the usual fountain drinks, coffee and tea, there’s a tasty peach bellini drink ($1.25 glass).
Kids (12 years and under) pasta bowl ($4.95) is a small pasta bowl with any grille item plus a soda.
Piada Italian Street Food is at 13947 Cedar Rd., in Cedar Center North, South Euclid. 216-862-8872 Daily hours are 10:45 a.m. to 10 p.m.
China’s food safety problems have no better symbol than the illegal and utterly disgusting problem of gutter oil. Cooking oil is used heavily in Chinese food, so some street vendors and hole-in-the-wall restaurants buy cheap, black market oil that’s been recycled from garbage. You read that correctly. Enterprising men and women will go through dumpsters, trash bins, gutters and even sewers, scooping out liquid or solid refuse that contains used oil or animal parts. Then they process that into cooking oil, which they sell at below-market rates to food vendors who use it to cook food that can make you extremely sick.
This video, produced by Radio Free Asia, shows in excruciating detail how a couple of gutter oil vendors go about their work. It starts with the couple scooping sewage out of the ground, and it ends with unwitting Chinese consumers chowing down on the end product:
To reiterate, this is illegal, something that Chinese authorities are trying to stop and not used by all street vendors. But it’s also thought to be widespread. Being reprocessed garbage and sewage, gutter oil contains all sorts of untold carcinogens. Many of the operations, like the one shown in the video, are small-time. But there’s enough money to be made that some producers go much bigger.
In April, Chinese authorities uncovered a gutter oil production ring that spanned 13 cities and over 100 people, who somehow acquired rotten animal parts and boiled down the fat into oil. The sting, which came after a five-month investigation, yielded 3,200 tons of the stuff; authorities estimated the black-market producers had already sold a stunning $1.6 million worth of their product.
Don’t cancel any vacation plans to China over this. Food in China is delicious, and gutter oil typically is used just in some street food stalls or cheap, hole-in-the-wall dives. But it is a reminder why authorities there are deeply concerned about food safety issues.
In order to provide a safer and hygienic alternative to people consuming food on the street, the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), in a first-of-its- kind initiative, has launched a catering service, which will be run and managed by street vendors. Interestingly, some international companies are also interested in investing in the initiative. Arbind Singh, president, NASVI, explained, “The catering service which we have launched will be run and managed by street vendors. The street vendors will have to stand united if they want to be taken seriously. This new initiative will give street vendors an opportunity to expand their base. And through this the NASVI can also keep a check on the quality of food served and hygiene standards maintained by street vendors.” He added, “In 2011, when we first started the festival, many street food vendors participated and there were thousands of visitors. While in 2012, it was mega hit with double the number of street vendors’ and visitors’ participation. Meanwhile we also organised the street food festival in Patna and Hyderabad.” He pointed out, “We, in association with civic bodies, FSSAI and other government officials, are planning to promote street food in 14 states of the country. If the street food vendors start following hygiene they will not only attract more customers but can also increase their earnings. NASVI will be going to start a campaign across the country from November 4 to get police out of extortion in order to protect the street food vendors from harassment.” Singh further stated, “It is a compulsion for the street vendors and not a trend to be organised. We have been providing mass training to street vendors in Delhi as well as other states of the country so that they can be organised. We have peer leaders and our members across the country for follow-ups and to provide repeat training to the street vendors. Our groups are also working on minimising the issue of garbage disposal. Big companies from America and Korea are showing interest in investing in India and making street vendors as stakeholders. If the street vendors continuously follow safety and hygiene, we can start a food court in the city for street vendors and people should start having confidence in them. If everything goes well we can also beat the big chains and outlets.” On a concluding note, another NASVI member, stated, “We have also started an initiative to check food safety in markets and for this peer leaders have been appointed in all important markets. This people will be ensuring that all the food vendors in the market adhere to norms. Our members have also put banners in the market providing all related information on food safety.”
Singh informed, “We want to improve the livelihood of street vendors. So in order to make them more organised, we are not only creating awareness among the street vendors but also giving them information about hygiene and cleanliness. Now, the street vendors are coming ahead themselves to ensure acceptable standards of food quality and hygiene. Instead of organising seminar, conferences and interactive session for street vendors, we are organising street food festival from last two years and getting huge attention.”
In order to provide a safer and hygienic alternative to people consuming food on the street, the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), in a first-of-its- kind initiative, has launched a catering service, which will be run and managed by street vendors. Interestingly, some international companies are also interested in investing in the initiative.
Arbind Singh, president, NASVI, explained, “The catering service which we have launched will be run and managed by street vendors. The street vendors will have to stand united if they want to be taken seriously. This new initiative will give street vendors an opportunity to expand their base. And through this the NASVI can also keep a check on the quality of food served and hygiene standards maintained by street vendors.”
He added, “In 2011, when we first started the festival, many street food vendors participated and there were thousands of visitors. While in 2012, it was mega hit with double the number of street vendors’ and visitors’ participation. Meanwhile we also organised the street food festival in Patna and Hyderabad.”
He pointed out, “We, in association with civic bodies, FSSAI and other government officials, are planning to promote street food in 14 states of the country. If the street food vendors start following hygiene they will not only attract more customers but can also increase their earnings. NASVI will be going to start a campaign across the country from November 4 to get police out of extortion in order to protect the street food vendors from harassment.”
Singh further stated, “It is a compulsion for the street vendors and not a trend to be organised. We have been providing mass training to street vendors in Delhi as well as other states of the country so that they can be organised. We have peer leaders and our members across the country for follow-ups and to provide repeat training to the street vendors. Our groups are also working on minimising the issue of garbage disposal. Big companies from America and Korea are showing interest in investing in India and making street vendors as stakeholders. If the street vendors continuously follow safety and hygiene, we can start a food court in the city for street vendors and people should start having confidence in them. If everything goes well we can also beat the big chains and outlets.”
On a concluding note, another NASVI member, stated, “We have also started an initiative to check food safety in markets and for this peer leaders have been appointed in all important markets. This people will be ensuring that all the food vendors in the market adhere to norms. Our members have also put banners in the market providing all related information on food safety.”
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