Jan 10, 2014
Kim Rivers

Convention center renews monthly food truck rally at Riverwalk

The Tampa Convention Center’s Sail Pavilion announced this week that it will renew its popular Brews Bites Food Truck Rally again for 2014. Located on Tampa’s RiverWalk, adjacent to the convention center, it will take place every second Friday throughout the year, the next one being Jan. 10.

The Jan. 10 gathering from 6 to 10 p.m. will feature specialty Captain Morgan drinks to celebrate the upcoming Gasparilla Pirate Fest, which will be Jan. 25.

“This event has become increasingly popular with locals and visitors alike,” said Eric Blanc, director of marketing at the convention center. “Each month the crowd has grown, so continuing Brews Bites into 2014 was an easy call.”

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The pet-friendly Sail Pavilion has a 360-degree waterfront bar and has hosted events such as National Dog Day celebration, a Howl-O-Ween pet costume contest, and most recently an Ugly Sweater Party.

The Sail Pavilion on the Riverwalk is at 333 S Franklin St. in Tampa.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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Jan 10, 2014
Kim Rivers

NYC Food Truck Lunch: Empanadas & Soup from the New Nuchas Stand

We haven’t been to Nuchas in quite a while, and their new stand in Greeley Square was a good reason for a return visit. It also helped they were serving potato leek soup on this freezing, windy day.

Nuchas had a couple of specials, with 3 empanadas for $9, or 2 empanadas and soup for $8. We ordered the latter.

If you recall, Nuchas won Rookie of the Year at the 2013 Vendy Awards. They started with a stand in Times Square, then opened a food truck, and they now have a stand at Greeley Square, which is on 32nd St. between Broadway and 6th Ave.

We were looking forward to digging into the potato leek soup, and it did not disappoint. The soup was thick with chunks of potato and plenty of shredded leeks in a pureed base. At home, we use more cream in our potato leek soup, but Nuchas’ soup was still a tasty, body-warming experience on this cold winter day.

The first empanada we tried was the Portobello. Inside the dough were chunks of portobello mushrooms, spinach, onion, and a bunch of different herbs and spices we would need a chemistry set to decipher. It had an earthy, umami taste

(credit: New York Street Food)

(credit: New York Street Food)

The menu said the portobello empanada included mozzarella cheese, but it wasn’t readily apparent.

The portobello empanada was wrapped in a spinach dough, which gave it a greenish tint. The spinach dough probably added a few more vitamins, but it didn’t change the overall taste too much.

The second empanada was the classic Argentine. At Nuchas, they used ground beef from Pat LaFrieda, one of the best and most popular meat purveyors in the NYC area.

(credit: New York Street Food)

(credit: New York Street Food)

There was plenty of ground beef and potatoes in the empanada, and it had a bell pepper taste too. We didn’t see or taste any olives, which is usually an integral part of Argentinian empanadas.

One of the things we like about Nuchas is their empanadas are baked, not fried. This makes for a healthier lunch, since there is no cooking oil needed. It makes the dough and the entire empanada lighter to eat (and digest).

You can find the Nuchas truck on Twitter here or on our Mobile Munchies Twitter feed. Don’t forget about their stands, either.

(credit: New York Street Food)

(credit: New York Street Food)

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Jan 10, 2014
Kim Rivers

Street Eats Food Truck Festival at Salt River Fields on January 25 and 26 …

1-montana-bar-b-q-co.jpgDiana LustigThe long ribs plate from Montana Bar-B-Q Co. at last year’s event.By now you food truck fans should be gearing up for what’s become the biggest food truck festival to hit the Valley each year. The Street Eats Food Truck Festival, presented by New Times, will bring more than 50 trucks from around Arizona and the country to Salt River Fields on Saturday, January 25 and Sunday, January 26. Attendees will also be able to catch live music, eating contests, and cooking demonstrations.

So you want to know what trucks will be strutting their stuff? Read on.

See also: Street Eats Food Truck Festival, Day One: Shorter Lines, Better Organized Than Last Year, and We Share Our Favorite (and Not So Favorite) Tastes

The festival will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. This year trucks have come from states including Nevada and California to serve up everything from milk products and lobster grilled cheese to fry bread and fried chicken.

Throughout the day you’ll be able to see others people stuff their faces with food during Twinkie eating, hot dog eating, pie eating, sandwich eating, and (perhaps the cruelest of them all) saltine eating contests. They’ll be held hourly from 12:45 to 4:45 on the EATERAZ Contest Stage. You can view the schedule of contests here.

This year, parking for the event will be free — or rather, $3 of your admission ticket will be designated for parking expenses. A nice change.

General admission tickets cost $12 a person and children under 12 are free. VIP tickets cost $50 each and include access to a VIP lounge, six drink vouchers, and four food tokens. To purchase tickets visit the Street Eats website.

You can check out the list of participating trucks on the next page.

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Jan 10, 2014
Kim Rivers

Menlo Park: Food truck fight comes to Planning Commission

By Barbara Wood, Special to the Almanac

You might say a food fight is expected in Menlo Park Monday night. Whether to allow Off the Grid to bring a changing roster of eight to 12 food trucks to the Menlo Park train station parking lot on Wednesday nights will be considered by Menlo Park’s Planning Commission on Monday, Jan. 13.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Menlo Park council chambers at 701 Laurel St. The Off the Grid matter is the fourth public hearing on the agenda.

A city staff report by senior planner Thomas Rogers recommends the city give Off the Grid a one-year use permit.

Off the Grid is a San Francisco-based company that began organizing gatherings of food trucks in June 2010. It now hosts such events in many Bay Area locations including at the Belmont and Burlingame CalTrain stations.

If the communications already received by the city are any indication, the meeting may become heated. Some neighbors and local business owners have complained the food trucks will take business from local restaurants and cause parking, noise, trash and other problems. Others have said they welcome the chance to listen to music and try different foods.

Off the Grid is proposing to use the southern corner of the train station parking lot, near the intersection of Merrill Street and Ravenswood Avenue, close to the West Bay Model Railroad building.

Food would be served from 5 to 9 p.m. most of the year and 5 to 8 p.m. in the winter. Live amplified music would be offered from 6 to 8 p.m., with folding chairs, and lighting provided. A portable toilet would be either brought in each week or left on site.

Off the Grid would be responsible for cleaning up the area and disposing of all garbage by 10 p.m. the night of the event.

A parking survey by Off the Grid shows the area is rarely used for parking and the train station parking lot has the capacity for the number of cars the event is expected to draw. Off the Grid proposes to erect signs banning parking from the portion of the lot that will be used from 3:30 to 10 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The city staff report concludes the food truck event “could provide an example of a new connected place of activity and social life that enhance community life and contribute to a vibrant downtown.” The event might also invite “strolling and public gathering” and encourage “community life, identity and sense of place,” the report says.

The report addresses the issue of competition with local restaurants by saying that the staff “believes the proposed food truck market is not directly analogous to a ‘brick-and-mortar’ restaurant, as it would be located completely outdoors, offer only informal seating (no tables), and operate for a maximum of four hours per week. Staff believes the relationship between the proposed food truck market and restaurants may be considered similar to the relationship between the Farmer’s Market and grocery stores, in that both enterprise types may sell some similar products, but offer significantly different experiences.”

An email from Bob Larson, owner of Round Table Pizza on El Camino Real, disagreed. “This may be the final straw,” he wrote. “You risk pitting merchants against residents.” He wrote of the “the struggle the restaurant community has been through the last few years” and said “we feel very unappreciated and unwanted.”

John Beltramo, an owner of Beltramo’s Wines and Spirits, also wrote to the city on behalf of local restaurants. “Residents of Menlo Park already have many choices for dining,” he wrote. “We should keep our dining dollars within our local economy.”

But some neighbors disagree. Mary Salmon emailed the city to say: “I’m very excited about being able to taste different gourmet foods all in one space. And as a busy mom it’d be a lifesaver to be able to count on this one day a week.”

Click here to see the city staff report (PDF document).

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Jan 10, 2014
Kim Rivers

Food truck haunts in the Bay Area

As the craze over food trucks continues, here are a few places to check out the movable meals.

  • Food Truck Mafia: At Bishop Ranch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in San Ramon. More information on Facebook.

  • Movable Feast: Monday Dinner Southside, 5 to 8 p.m. at 525 Blossom Hill Road in San Jose. More information at mvblfeast.com

  • Off the Grid: Burger Pod, five days a week 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Montgomery Street at Sacramento, San Francisco. More information at offthegridsf.com

  • Off the Grid: Ten trucks at Concord on Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 1975 Diamond Blvd.

  • Off the Grid: Nine trucks on Wednesdays from 5 to 8 p.m., at 6227 Fairmount Ave. in El Cerrito.

  • The Bend: Expected to begin March 1 the market will offer eight food trucks, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. at 2211 N. Main St. For more information thebendwc.com

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    Jan 10, 2014
    Kim Rivers

    Walnut Creek about to become food truck mecca

    WALNUT CREEK — Food trucks bearing gourmet goodies are just around The Bend.

    A food truck market dubbed “The Bend” is on track to set up shop on Main Street, at the site of former French restaurant Le Virage, in March. The family behind Le Virage — French for “the turn” — are the owners and operators of The Bend, which will offer eight rotating food trucks six days a week for lunch and dinner.

    Le Virage, remembered for its Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec-themed murals that once adorned its funky building, operated for 34 years before closing in 2005. The building burned down seven years later.

    The name for the food market comes from its location, at the bend in the road where California Boulevard and Main Street split near the Walnut Creek BART Station, said Matt Marinelli co-owner of the market. He and his father Ed, former manager at Le Virage, are the duo behind the market. With a preliminary approval from city planners, The Bend should be open by March 1.

    “We are trying to create a diverse food environment and plan to never have two trucks with the same kind of food at the same time,” Matt Marinelli said.

    The Bend will be the first daily food truck market in Contra Costa County.

    Originally another duo wanted to start a food truck market at the Le Virage site, and one at the Martinez marina, but those plans fell apart, according to Marinelli.

    He believes the secret to The Bend’s success will be location.

    “We are in a really good area; there is nothing like us around,” he said. “There is literally a food void in the area. The closest restaurant is a quarter-of-a-mile away.”

    The market will back up to buildings which house 2,000 offices, and several car dealerships are nearby. And for many it’s a little too far to walk to downtown Walnut Creek, especially for lunch, said Walnut Creek Community Development Director Sandra Meyer. In economic development terms, she said, having a food truck market may attract more office rentals.

    “That office market is really underserved in terms of services,” Meyer said. “We think it’s going to really help get the vacancy rate down over there.”

    There will also be parking spaces for those who don’t live or work in the area, Marinelli said.

    The Bend still needs final approval from the city Planning Commission, which will probably come in the next few months.

    A food truck smackdown may be coming to Walnut Creek, with mobile food giant Off the Grid — which has markets across the Bay Area — trying to set up a weekly market downtown. The city has no mechanism to allow such a use, Meyer said. But Walnut Creek Downtown, formerly the business association, may work with the city on a code amendment that would allow Off the Grid to set up shop, Meyer said.

    This could lead to some opposition from downtown brick-and-mortar restaurants whose owners “aren’t wild about the idea,” she said.

    But one person who is excited about food trucks in Walnut Creek is Kiem Nguyen, owner of Blue Saigon, a Vietnamese food truck that has signed on with The Bend. Walnut Creek is the place to go to eat, he said, so it makes sense to have food trucks there, and a variety of them.

    “When there are a lot of trucks it attracts more people because people want a selection,” he said. “People bring the whole family and everyone can eat a little bit of everything.”

    Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.

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    Jan 10, 2014
    Jim Benson

    York hot dog vendor gets his food-cart license for 2014

    Relax, avid customers of Darren Borodin’s hot-dog stand.

    He’s not going anywhere.

    After waiting several weeks to find out if he’d have competition for York City’s lone food-cart license, Borodin received a welcome phone call from City Hall on Wednesday morning.

    “I was definitely a bit anxious,” Borodin said.

    The caller informed the father of three that no one else had applied for the license, negating the need for a lottery selection.

    That means Borodin will continue in 2014 to operate his food cart on the northeast quadrant of Continental Square, as he’s done for the past two years.

    And that ends the “emotional rollercoaster ride” Borodin was on for the past few weeks. The business, which supports Borodin and his three kids, was in jeopardy.

    In 2011, York City officials passed a law opening Continental Square to one licensed food-cart vendor. The license lasts one year. At the end of each year, the city solicits applications from anyone interested in the license.

    If more than one person applies, the city chooses a winner through a lottery system.

    For several months last year, it seemed likely the city council would amend the ordinance to allow more hand-operated food carts in an expanded area of the city and nix the lottery system before Borodin’s 2013 license expired.

    But, after public interest in the plan increased, council members decided to spend more time developing the proposal.

    That meant the city would maintain a single license and select a 2014 vendor through the lottery system, if necessary.

    In the end, Borodin was the only person to submit an application before the deadline Tuesday.

    “I’m a big believer in fate, and I knew I was going to be OK either way,” Borodin said.

    In the colder months, Borodin usually takes a break from selling hot dogs. But expect to see him on the square before the end of January.

    He’ll return with a new-and-improved cart that will provide him shelter in cold and rainy weather. He’ll also be adding coffee to the food-cart’s menu.

    Borodin said he’s also eager to see the city council finish the project it started in September to overhaul the food-cart law.

    “I think the ordinance will definitely be changed,” he said. “I can’t see this happening again.”

    – Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.

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    Jan 10, 2014
    Tim Lester

    Pinoy street food at its best

    WHEN people think of street food, they can’t help but reminisce on their childhood. Eating fish ball, manggang hilaw with baggoong, barbecue and tamarind conjure happy memories with classmates.

    This year Marco Polo Plaza Cebu has opened their series, Culinary Journeys, with the Sugbusug 2014 at Cafe Marco. Its main theme are the street foods that every Filipino, especially balikbayans, would crave for. It makes people feel very nostalgic. It’s like we’ve been transported back to our younger years, definitely a blast from the past.

    Upon entering the buffet area, diners are greeted with mouthwatering food. The main highlight of the night was Marco Polo’s lechon belly, which is totally a must-eat food, especially with their homemade vinegar (sukang Bisaya). The lechon belly was juicy and tender, the skin crunchy and diners could really taste hints of lemongrass, garlic, spring onions and pepper. Also one of the hits of the night was the mango taho, with mangoes and sago; texture so light and not too sweet.

    A favorite was the chicharon bulaklak, which was crunchy and sinfully delicious. Some of the delicious fare included balut, boiled peanuts, bam-i, dinuguan, monggos, balbacua, kinilaw, boiled bananas with ginamos, saang, chicken barbecue, pork barbecue, manggang hilaw with bagoong, inihaw na isda, ngohiong, fish and squid balls, pinaypay na saging, torta sa Argao, masareal, banana and camote-cue, kinuskusan, coconut macarons and casava cake. It was definitely a feast for the eyes, taste buds and the tummy.

    The Sugbusug will be at the best buffet in the city—where else but at Cafe Marco until Jan. 20. Those who want to feel nostalgic or those who are young at heart, you know where to eat the finest of Filipino street food. (Katrina Charmaine R. Avila)

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    Jan 10, 2014
    Tim Lester

    Crushcraft Thai to delight night owls with authentic street food at Quadrangle

    Chef Paul Singhapong has had a long and glorious career, bouncing from the fine dining world (Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, French Room, Brasserie Savoy in San Francisco) to ethnic restaurants such as Malai Kitchen and his own Bay Leaf in Dallas. For the past few years, he’s been taking a break, emerging only to cook random special dinners.

    It would have to take something pretty special to drag him out of retirement.

    Something like Thai street food. Served in a central Dallas location — somewhere that can swing with late-night hours and an audience of adventurous diners.

     “I want to do food that’s cheap but good,” says Crush Craft chef Paul Singhapong. “Dallas doesn’t have enough of that.”

    Enter CrushCraft, opening in December in the Quadrangle in the old Baker Bros American Deli location. That’s where “Chef Paul” will serve scratch rice and noodle dishes, curries, grilled specialties like satay, and the signature papaya salad, priced on the cheap just as it is on the streets of Bangkok.

    Singhapong got pulled back into the game by his friend Jack Nuchkasem, who wanted to work on a restaurant together. Singhapong had already covered a wide culinary turf, but he still had a yen to do the street food concept, with impeccably made food priced from $7 to $8.

    “I want to do food that’s cheap but good,” Singhapong says. “Dallas doesn’t have enough of that. I also wanted to bring a concept that was unique but not intimidating. I’ve enjoyed pushing the envelope at some of these exhibition dinners, and those have been well-received.”

    At one recent such dinner, he served oysters on the half shell, prawn and mint ceviche, and fish head soup.

    As for Nuchkasem, this former food and beverage director for Omni has extensive hospitality experience. But he’d reached that point where he wanted his own place.

    Now he’s all in, with a no-expense-spared redo of the old Baker Bros to be executed by restaurant designer of the hour, Jones Baker. They’re knocking down the walls for an open kitchen. The row of windows currently facing the Quadrangle courtyard will be replaced by slider doors that are open more often than closed, adding a refreshing indoor-outdoor ambience.

    The restaurant will be open until 3 or 4 in the morning, and there will always be an avant-garde special to try — but executed with the high standards that Chef Paul has always maintained.

    As for the name, Nuchkasem says it refers to the mortar and pestle that Chef Paul uses for his papaya salad, as well as the across-the-board hand-crafted approach they’ll take to the food.

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    Jan 10, 2014
    Tim Lester

    African street food deep in the heart of Texas

    It’s not exactly clear where street food originated, but we do know that it’s prevalent on every continent. Thus, Africa is no exception. In fact, two of my favorite trailer food stories in Austin come from African vendors The Flying Carpet and Cazamance.

    Why are they some of my favorites? Not only do they serve incredible food, but their hearts are as big as anyone I’ve ever met, and it shines through in the cuisine. Each of the owners have had me over to cook and teach me their recipes first hand. Their concern over your food-joy is a critical part of the overall experience, and they will both make sure you leave happy.

    Hailing from the ghetto of Morocco, Abderrahim Souktouri won a citizenship lottery to live in the United States several years ago. He and his wife, Maria, have been making intensely flavorful Moroccan food that sometimes hints to her Mexican heritage, as well. Far from a fusion trailer, they offer classical dishes from the North shores of Africa.

    Fittingly, “The Moroccan” is their best-seller and certainly an item not to be missed. However, my personal favorite is something they taught me how to make in their home: Moroccan Lemon and Butter Chicken with Olives. It’s not on their regular menu, but you can find it in the Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook (coming to stores this October).

    The Flying Carpet’s motto is ‘food translates,’ because we believe that sitting down to a meal with friends and family is one of the most important things we do in life,” Abderrahim says. ”Food is a language we all speak. We are neither chefs nor restaurateurs, we are just people who live to serve, eat and make food for the ones we love.”

    In the same vein, Chef Iba Thiam has never met an enemy. You might consider playing six-degrees-of-Iba next time you’re in his neighborhood to determine how you, too, may know him. Much like the Flying Carpet, Iba at Cazamance uses only fine, healthy ingredients with as much focus on local and seasonal as possible.  “The eyes eat first,” he says, so everything he prepares appeals to all senses. 

    Growing up in Senegal on the West African coast, Iba brings unique flavors, stories and a genuine heart for community to the trailer food scene.  For example, Bunny Chow is a classic African dish—and one of the most popular plates ordered from his trailer. He says that Bunny Chow originated during Apartheid times; in essence, an African who was hired to cook in a kitchen might hide savory meats and herbs inside a loaf of bread to deliver some nourishment to his or her family. The dish now finds itself on modern day menus, and the lamb sausage is one of Iba’s best Bunny Chow sellers.

    Whether you’re interested in international fare, the trailer food scene or just really wonderful people, these are two trailers you’ll want to put on your to-do list next time you’re heading out to eat.  For more information, you’re invited to follow my blog at www.trailerfooddiaries.com.

    The Flying Carpet is open Thursday-Friday 7p-9:30p, Saturday 12:30p-3:30p and 7p-1p, and Sunday from 12p-6p. You can find them in the green trailer on Gibson and South Congress (78704).

    Cazamance’s first trailer is still located at 96 Rainey Street, just across from Clive Bar in the Rainey District. This trailer is closed Tuesdays, but you can catch him Monday, Wednesday and Thursday for lunch from 11a-3p, and dinner from 6p-11p.  Friday he is open from 11a-3p and 6p-midnight, Saturday 6p-midnight, and Sunday 6p-11p.  Iba has recently opened a second location at 1102 E Cesar Chavez.  At this location he is open daily from 10a-5p.

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