October 2nd, 2017

Food Truck Series: Dee Dee Thai Food

Posted in Food Trucks, Restaurants, Reviews, Trailer/Street Foods

Food Trucks:
Dee Dee
Northern Thai Food

Thai Food

 

It’s time for a new Food Truck review and I’ve got a taste for Thai food today, lucky for me, Austin is always there to satisfy my whims. With all of the great Thai in town (seriously, there is some GREAT Thai food here), I wanted to venture somewhere new to me, but popular among the people. That’s what led me to Dee Dee.

Owned and operated by husband and wife team Justin and Lakana, Dee Dee (which translates to Good Good) focuses on serving street-style Thai food from the country’s northern region. Apparently, they’re doing a good job, because only 20 minutes after opening the line was 15 people deep and running a 45-minute wait on food.

So, let’s look at the food.

Moo Ping

Thai Food Austin

These expertly grilled pork skewers were tender, fatty, and full of flavor. As great Thai food does, this dish balances sweet, salty, spicy, and fishy umami flavors wonderfully. Fresh citrus and cilantro cut through all these flavors for a clean finish.

Pad Ka Pow

Thai Food Trucks Austin

Aside from being fun to say, the Pad Ka Pow packs a fragrant punch with ground pork stir fried with Thai basil and homemade chili paste. The perfect flavor comes with a combination of the fishy pik nam pla sauce and the runny fried egg for a bit of rich fattiness in with the pork and rice. This is my kind of comfort food.

Somtom

Best Thai Restaurant Austin

I truly love complex flavors, especially when you’re not expecting them. The somtom fits that bill perfectly. What looks like a simple vegetable dish is actually packed with sweet, sour, citrusy goodness that’s balanced perfectly with crunchy blanched peanuts. Super fresh and irresistible.

Om Gai

Food Trucks Austin

Ok, to be honest, I was a little underwhelmed when I saw this dish. At first glance, this one is a little bland, but once again, Dee Dee proves to be all about the flavor. The dill and lemongrass bring fragrance and elegance to a hearty, fatty bone broth garnished with zucchini and thinly sliced chicken. The side of sticky rice for dipping in the broth is a great touch.

Mango Sticky Rice

Great Food in Austin

This is a very simple dish, but executed very well. Sweet but not too sweet sticky rice cooked perfectly topped with bright, ripe mango, and finished with a drizzle of sweetened coconut milk. This didn’t disappoint, but I also thought it could use something to make it more unique. A fun spice, a crispy garnish? Maybe both? Room to improve here.

Dee Dee Thai Food: Conclusion

Dee Dee performs even better than its name describes, more like Great Great. Fresh, vibrant ingredients, complex yet well-balanced flavors, and expertly prepared sticky rice make Dee Dee my new go to restaurant for comfort food (don’t worry Ramen Tatsuya, you’re still up there too).

Feel free to comment below on your favorite Thai foods or places in Austin you think I should visit. I’m always looking for my next favorite meal.

Cheers!

 

Dee Dee
Northern Street Thai Food
1906 E Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, TX 78702
http://www.deedeeatx.com/

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August 21st, 2017

Food Truck Series: Via 313

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

Via 313 Pizza

Pizza Trends

Pizza is a staple food of life, I think we can all agree on that. No matter your preference or dietary restrictions, someone out there has made a pretty darn good pizza just for you.

One of the true beauties of pizza is its different adaptations. Thin crust, thick crust, white pizza, flatbread, Mexican style, Korean BBQ, New York, Chicago, deconstructed; the list can go on and on.

After seeing a rise in the popularity of Detroit style pizza, we here at Culinary Culture decided to jump on the bandwagon and see what it’s all about. And what better place to find out then the rapidly expanding pizza truck turned brick and mortar restaurant here in Austin, Via 313.

Detroit Style Pizza

The first question to answer was, “what is Detroit style pizza?” Via 313 owner Brandon Hunt was kind enough to answer that question in an interview with Austin Eater. In his description, Detroit style pizza refers to a square pie, cooked in pans that are actually used in automotive plants for spare parts, caramelized cheese crusts, and a generous pour of sauce on top of the pizza when finished.

The second question is, “is it any good?” After tasting the Detroiter, a pie made with smoked pepperoni under the cheese and natural casing pepperoni atop, the Smokey, made with Black’s brisket and tangy BBQ sauce, and the Rocket (my favorite), stacked with hot Sopressatta, arugula, and shaved Parmesan, I can emphatically say yes. Very good.

The caramelized cheese around the crust stands out with both great texture and flavor. The crust is thick and crispy on the outside, but chewy in the middle. It’s very filling but a little oily for my preference. Via 313’s red sauce was a standout though. Vibrant red, fresh tasting, and filled with herbs. It complimented the pies well and something about having it on top cleans the palate between bites.

I’m officially on board with Detroit style pizza.

Detroit Pizza

If your splitting hairs, the location I visited technically isn’t a food truck. But since it began as a food truck, and this location is much closer to me then where the truck resides, I hope you’ll overlook this.

Thanks for reading along, now get out there and eat!

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August 7th, 2017

Flavor Blasts: Jamaican Food

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

foods of Jamaica

Bold, Bright, Beautiful: Jamaican Flavors

When you think of Jamaican flavors you reflexively think of jerk, stews,

Jamaican Cuisine

Courtesy of Island Spice Grill

and curries. What do these dishes have in common? Rich, complex flavors.

The source of these flavors is Jamaica’s abundant use of garlic, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, a variety of chili peppers and citrus fruits, coconut, and soy sauce. You’ll also come across plenty of legumes, sugar cane, plantains, onion, and tamarind offering a plethora of flavor diversity.

This variety is what defines Jamaican cuisine. Influenced by Spanish, African, Indian, and Chinese ancestries, and supported by rich volcanic soil and a damp climate, it’s easy to see how Jamaican cuisine has evolved into such a complex and desirable cuisine. In the U.S., Jamaican and other Caribbean cuisines have boomed spanning the market from fast food (Pollo Tropical) to fine dining (Glady’s).

 

Jamaican foodsWith such progress comes culinary innovation. One example of this comes with Chef Nigel Spence of Ripe Kitchen and Bar in New York, who uses pimento wood chips to slow smoke chicken before seasoning it with jerk. This reaches back to the traditional essence of jerk, where pimento wood was used in fires to grill meats over high heat. Another is the roaming Island Spice Grill food cart in New York. They have combined traditional Jamaican jerk flavors with a masterful social media platform to create a cult following of diners who anxiously await daily posts to find out where they will be positioning their cart.

Time will tell what will come with the future of Jamaican cuisine as it intertwines with American culture and a fusion of other cuisines. Personally, I’m excited to see. But until then, get out there and explore what Jamaican food your city has to offer.

Cheers!

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March 13th, 2017

Food Truck Series: Kebabalicious

Posted in Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods

Austin Food Truck Consultants

Kebabalicious

Modeled after the European style Doner Kebab carts, common street food through the U.K. and greater Europe, Kebabalicious successfully brings that savory flavor to Austin.

Listed on Eater as a one of the “20 Essential Food Trucks in Austin,” Kebabalicious maintains similar accolades on Do512 also. For this reason, and the fact that I ate kebab at least twice a week while I lived in London, I knew I had to give this truck a try. 

Food

Restaurant consultants

With a smart, concise menu, ordering was made easy for me. With the “Spoiled Brat” plate, the K-Fries, and a side order of the Ka-baam sauce I was able to taste almost all of the menu items.

Commercial food consultants

The Spoiled Brat plate consists of beef and lamb shawarma, seasoned chicken, crispy falafel, humus, feta, tzatziki, and red sauce on a bed of greens with tomatoes and onion.

The chicken was delicious. Moist and tender with and excellent seasoning. The beef and lamb was underwhelming. The flavor was fairly standard with nothing to denote fine quality or uniqueness. It was also cut so small it was closer to ground sausage than traditional flanks of shawarma. The falafel, however, made up for that fully. Perfect balance of crispy exterior with a soft, rustic center. Great color, aromatics, and seasoning.

Corporate chefs

The K-Fries were a fun addition, but also let me down. While the sauce was excellent and the salty feta worked very well with the fries, the fact that they were soft undercut the dish. I will say though, the zatar spice is the perfect complement to fries. With hot, crisp potatoes this would likely have been a real winner.

Sauces

Let’s focus on sauce for a minute, particularly the chile sauces. The Ka-baam sauce is a smoky blend of jalapeno and poblano peppers in cool cream cheese with lots of aromatics. Delightful against the strong seasonings and charred meats.

Their spicy red sauce, on the other hand, is closer to a harissa chile blended with red curry sauce. Balance this with some powerful aromatics like coriander and cumin, ramp up with coarsely crushed black pepper, and then tone back down with creamy mayonnaise and you may have something close to this delicious sauce.

Other

To finish out the humus was wonderful, rustic, and delicate. The tzatziki was overly sweet and missed the crucial cucumber flavor, but the pita was wonderfully thin and chewy, a refreshing change from the usually puffy, dense pitas served at many kebab shops.

Final Thoughts

Recipe commercialization

Overall I was pleased with my visit to Kebabalicious. The chicken is well prepared and hearkens directly to the doner kebab shops of Europe. I’d like to see a stronger cut of the beef and lamb, a more balanced tzatziki, and crispy fries, but these I’ll chalk up to a simple miss. I’ll have to eat there 3 or 4 more times before I’m sure of anything. Next time though, I know to start with the falafel.

Until next time, good eating Austin!

 

Cheers!

-Chris

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November 1st, 2016

Food Truck Series: Cazamance

Posted in About Allison, About Christopher, Food Trends, Food Trucks, Healthy, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

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Ubuntu: I am because we are. This is the sign that welcomes you to Cazamance, a West African inspired food truck in South Austin. The word “Ubuntu” literally translates into “human-ness,” which is the African philosophy of universal human connection. It’s this philosophy that inspires the unique and approachable food produced here.

Owned and operated by Chef Iba Thiam, who brings culinary experience from West Africa, France, New York, and, of Course, Austin, Cazamance operates by the ethos that delicious beverages and great-tasting food are the secret to making life better. I certainly can’t argue with that!

So let’s dive in to the 2nd installment of the Dish Bliss Austin food truck series and talk food…

Dakar Lamb Wrap

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The fatty earthiness of the lamb is balanced well with a sweet acidic tomato relish to give the wrap a surprisingly light flavor. The melted brie adds a pungent, creaminess that, while unexpected, works well within this scheme. The creamy Sriracha sauce served on the side really took this dish to the next level. The lamb itself could, however, have benefited from additional seasoning and a pinch of salt. Overall quite nice.

Vegan Curry

 3

I truly appreciate when a vegan dish offers bold flavors and heartiness, which are characteristically lacking in this category. That’s exactly what the vegan curry brought. Offered in either a wrap or on a bed of fresh spinach, as many of Chef Iba’s dishes are, the curry was well-rounded with good spiciness. It, like the lamb though, simply lacked that dash of salt to fully bring out all of those complex flavors.

Mafe Vegetables

 4

I went off menu to get this dish, and luckily for me, the Chef had some leftover from a catering event from the night before. A nice medley of vegetables and white beans stewed in a peanut butter sauce made the mafe hearty and satisfying. I would have preferred a little more heat along with, yet again, a pinch of salt, but overall flavorful and filling.

Yassa Chicken

 5

This was by far my favorite item. Tangy and tender pulled chicken with smoky poblano peppers came together ceremoniously under a generous sprinkling of salty feta cheese. I could’ve easily eaten three helpings of this gem. I chose to have this served on a bed of spinach, which was crisp and wonderfully fresh.

Piri Piri

 6

What a treat the Piri Piri was. Aromas of cinnamon and clove emit from the juicy smoked pulled pork. Flavorful and well-seasoned with a slight heat from the serrano sauce and a great textural contrast between the crispy pieces of pork and the soft starchiness of the plantain. This is the type of dish that keeps you coming back for more.

Fresh Young coconut

 7

Just consider this the cherry on top. A fresh, butcher cut coconut served with a straw. The fresh, sweet milk was the perfect palate cleanser for the complex seasonings. And, as an added touch of hospitality, April and Iba will happily split the coconut open for you after you finish the milk so you can eat the meat for dessert. Delightful!

8

Thoughts

Aside from the under-seasoning of a few of the dishes I found Cazamance innovative, well executed, and crave-worthy. I appreciate the essence of their food and love its healthful qualities. In a landscape of tacos and chicken wings, Cazamance offers a deliciously unique alternative.

Location

4204 Manchaca Rd.
Austin, TX 78704

Located behind Radio Coffee and Beer.

512-769-9560

www.cazamance.com

September 26th, 2016

Food Trucks Series: Picnik

Posted in Food Trends, Food Trucks, Gluten Free, Healthy, New Foods and Flavors, Paleo, Product Innovation, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

If there’s one thing we know Austin does great, it’s food trucks. These portable testaments to culinary dedication span the spectrum of culinary adventurism.

You can find everything from fancy Turkish breakfasts, savory fried bananas, and traditional African cuisine via a local food truck. Honestly, it’s a blessing and a curse. With all this amazing food at your fingertips the budget is always in jeopardy.

For this series we are going to explore some of Austin’s unique food truck options. Our first stop will be Picnik, which, admittedly, is more of a “trailer” than a food truck, but let’s not get hung up on the semantics.

1

About Picnik

Picnik focuses on healthful, gluten-free and paleo food options made with only the highest quality ingredients. They set themselves apart from the traditionally decadent food truck scene with a focus on nutrient dense, flavor packed options.

You’ll find no refined sugars or white flour on this menu, but what you will find are unique dishes that will satiate both your stomach and your spirit.

The Food

BUTTER COFFEE

2

Butter is back! Sporting a rich aroma with notes of hazelnut, this coffee offers hearty flavor with luxurious mouthfeel. Even with no sugar, the butter coffee hits sweet notes on the palate. The butter and MCT oil offer creamy texture without overwhelming the drinker.

BONE BROTH

3

I took the guidance of the barista on this one and ordered the classic beef bone broth with a hit of ginger and spicy pepper. Glad I did. Great flavor, rich notes of marrow, wonderful herbal notes and a kick at the end. In my opinion the ginger came on too strong but overall the broth was executed wonderfully with a beautiful fatless surface.

CHORIZO FRITTATA

4

I love eggs. Period. I really wanted to love this frittata. Unfortunately, the heavy cornmeal flavor and aroma snuffed out any taste of chorizo and left it flat. Very dense and a bit under seasoned I’d say the heart is in the right place on this one but it could use a revamp.

BROCCOLI CRUNCH

5

I was not expecting to enjoy this dish as much as I did. The broccoli was fresh and bright with great crunch and flavor. I loved the pairing of the creamy avocado oil mayonnaise with sweet currants, salty bacon, and tangy red onions. The only knock on this dish was that the chicken, while flavorful, was overcooked by a good 5 minutes. It was so chewy and fibrous that I pitched it in order to get more of that delicious broccoli.

BLONDIE

6

What a winner! Ultra-moist, soft, and bursting with flavor, this gluten-free gem makes you forget flour has purpose. The combination of coconut sugar and almond flour gives off a rich, almost fig-like flavor and texture. Just excellent.

Thoughts

I respect the heck out of Picnik. With an extremely difficult platform they manage to offer good, healthful food choices without skimping on flavor. They’ve got some hurdles to mount but I think they can get there. I would certainly return for a BBB lunch anytime (Bone Broth, Broccoli Crunch, and Blondie).

Where to Picnik

You can visit Picnik online at http://picnikaustin.com/ or at one of their following locations:

1700 S Lamar 400-B
Austin, TX 78704

4801 Burnet Rd.
Austin, TX 78756

 

CHEERS!

July 20th, 2015

Austin Food Trailer Of The Month: Thai-Kun

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

Thai Changthong has worked in some interesting places, among them Uchiko Austin under the tutelage of Paul Qui. After working there he opened a restaurant in North Austin with Ek Timrerk (You may remember him from our piece on Kin and Comfort, a modern Southern-Thai fusion concept in North Austin) called Spin Modern Thai. While the restaurant was short lived, due to issues with the ventilation system, the food there was amazingly well executed and flavorful.

Thai-Kun, Changthong’s next foray into the culinary world, with his partner Paul Qui, opened in April of 2014 and quickly made the top 10 in Bon Appetit Magazine’s Best New Restaurants in America. That’s quite an accomplishment for a humble food trailer that now sits on the back patio at Whisler’s, an ultra-hip, yet unpretentious bar on Austin’s East Side.

SpecialsTruckArt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thai-Kun is part of the Qui Empire for sure, but where Qui focuses on predominantly Filipino food, Chef Changthong focuses on what is affectionately referred to as the “O.G. Thai” (Original Gangster Authentic Thai). This is spicy, no sugar added Thai food that will make your mouth water and your lips burn.

Our first taste was waterfall pork, the spiciest dish on the menu. The dish was full of flavor and heat. The grilled pork shoulder was very tender. It was drizzled with Tiger Cry sauce and sprinkled with toasted rice powder. Cilantro and red onions are bright and clean counterpoints to the spice of the pork. It was served with pickled cabbage and sticky rice to cool and temper the heat. This was a truly addicting dish that I just could not stop eating.

WaterfallPork

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up were the black noodles, which were rice noodles cooked in soy sauce and garlic oil. They were then mixed with romaine lettuce, croutons, bean sprouts, celery, croutons and green onions. This was the perfect dish to serve with the waterfall pork due to its cooling nature.

BlackNoodles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Issan sausage with distinctly fermented notes was  perfectly ground and had a crispy snap. It was served with ginger, fresh herbs and cabbage. While it was tasty, it needed a little more punch besides the fresh herbs and ginger. I can’t help thinking that glazing in a spicy sauce would have done the trick.

IssanSausage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After that we sampled the caramelized pork belly served over jasmine rice with cilantro, red onions and cucumber. The pork belly was a little on the sweet side and could have been slightly more tangy with larger pieces of pork belly. Don’t get me wrong, I love pork belly, but going a little easier on the sweetness and cutting the pork belly into larger pieces would have done the trick.

MooWhan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last taste at Thai-Kun was the Thai-Kun fried chicken, which was made with soy sauce marinated chicken. From what I can guess, it was a rice flour coating, since the breading was super light and crispy. It was served with chicken fat rice and Boom sauce (a slightly sweet but intensely spicy chili sauce with a touch of fish sauce). This was a very different interpretation of fried chicken compared to what I am used to but I really loved the play among the flavors.

ThaiFriedChicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to admit, that the food at this trailer was overall some of the best food I have had at a trailer here in Austin in a long time. With the popularity of food trucks here in the ATX, that’s saying something. From the execution of the dishes to the quality of ingredients, it shows in the end product, and I can see why the trailer made Bon Appetit’s list.

And the best part? The trailer is so popular that the owners are currently in the hiring process for the new brick and mortar at the Domain in North Austin. Look for the opening early this fall in addition to a 2nd Thai-Kun trailer slated to open at Steampunk Saloon on West 6th Street next month.

It is only a matter of time before the waterfall pork calls to me again. Try it, you don’t know what you are missing!

August 30th, 2013

Austin Food Truck Trends

Posted in food tours, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

If you are looking to expand your menu and want to know what trends are relevant, you need look no further than what is cooking up in food trucks in your own backyard.

The menu adoption phase occurs in 4 phases: inception, adoption, ubiquity, proliferation, and ubiquity. In the inception phase, ingredients are introduced that are well ahead of a trend (think Chipotle in the 1990’s, or Pimento Cheese in the 2000’s), and are used in very traditional ways. In the adoption phase, those establishments in the “wait-and-see” mode take the trends from the inception phase and integrate them into a more familiar platform. In the ubiquity phase, a trend has grown to be accepted by most segments. Finally, in the proliferation phase, the trend is widespread and solidly integrated.

According to Data Essential, the inception phase in the menu adoption cycle is most likely to occur in fine dining establishments and food trucks for several reasons. For food truck establishments, portability, affordable risk, and around the clock snacking drive sales. Food trucks have the reputation for being trailblazers. By offering innovative and out-of-the-box menu items, using high-quality ingredients and unique presentation with an approachable price point, food truck establishments target the demographic that likes adventure on a shoestring budget.

So let’s talk about some trends from the food trucks in our back yard here in Austin:

1) Comfort with a Twist

In the spirit of “Keep Austin Weird” a few food trucks are taking classic dishes and breathing in new life. Familiar comfort dishes meet unconventional ingredients.

Take for example, the food at Goldis Sausage Company. Sausage is the focus here, but who would think Mac N’ Cheese sausage (shown below) would be so popular? Creamy Mac N’ Cheese stuffed inside a sausage casing is smoked then grilled. As your teeth snap through the charred crust, you are rewarded with creamy cheesy macaroni.

Other interesting flavors include Blue sausage (pork, blueberry, maple, and mint), Honey-Orange-Mango, Thanksgiving Sausage (turkey, pork, stuffing, pumpkin, cranberries, pecans), and Apple Pie Sausage (pork, apples, spices, and pie crust).

How about the biscuits at Biscuits N’ Groovy? The Biscuits + Groovy features house made biscuits with Bootlegger Brown Ale Gravy, sausage and chives. The Johnny Hash has gravy, cheese potatoes, sausage, bacon, and chives. Both dishes are a new riff on a familiar recipe, comforting yet unique. And while you are at it, bring in your old mix tapes to trade for others for a fun music exploration!

At Fried and True, everything is deep-fried. That includes your favorite comfort food, grilled cheese. Light and airy homemade batter surrounds plain thin sliced white bread and a generous helping of real American cheese. Drizzled with Sriracha, and served with house-made Ranch dressing, it’s a delicious childhood memory brought to life with a dash of spice.

You can also try the deep-fried brownies and cinnamon roll bites, or the deep-fried fluffer nutter sandwich.

I think we can all agree, that when it comes to dessert, there is nothing more classic than chocolate chip cookies.

Torchy’s Tacos takes that classic and turns it on its head. Little Nookies are balls of chocolate chip cookie dough, battered in corn flake batter, then deep-fried. They are served with powdered sugar and maraschino cherries, and are one of those desserts that evoke ‘the moment’: you know, when something is so good, that you are quiet, focused, and in a flavor swoon?

For Austinites, the Texas heat can only be combatted with ice cream. The best place in Austin for great ice cream is Lick. They use local and seasonal ingredients to create unique flavors such as beet ice cream (roasted beets and fresh mint), and Candied Tomato, Basil, and Balsamic (fresh Texas tomatoes and balsamic vinegar swirled with fresh basil ice cream).

2) Shrinking World

We cannot ignore the pull of ethnic tradition. The foods of distant lands have never been more approachable and popular than they are now. Milennials in particular, crave foods from other countries. Emerging cuisines such as Korean, Japanese, and Peruvian delight the palates of well-travelled consumers who yearn for that food at home.

Austin’s own Fresh Off The Truck offers Asian-inspired Musubi hand rolls and gourmet-shaved ice. One of the most popular rolls on the menu is the S.S. Musubi roll (Spam, shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, Shoyu, and spicy Asian sauce). F.O.T Macaroni salad is made with cucumber, pineapple, and pickled carrots. While you are there, don’t forget to try the Mr. Miyagi: house-made shaved ice with mango syrup, mango, vanilla ice cream, chili sauce, and chili powder.

At the Texas Cuban, the focus is on pressed sandwiches with a Mexican flair as well as plantains done three ways: mariquitas (thin-sliced deep-fried plantains), tostones (smashed and double-fried thick-cut plantains), and maduros (deep-fried sweet plantains).

Frank’s has some of the best house made and local artisan sausage and smoked meats. The Notorious P.I.G. consists of tender smoked pork, bacon, jalapeno, sage sausage topped with mac n’ cheese, and Dr. Doppelganger BBQ Sauce. For a side, try the Reuben fries (waffle fries topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, corned beef, and Thousand Island dressing).

With savory pancakes “so good they broke up the Beatles”, the food at Yoko Ono Miyaki is Japanese with a strong Southern influence. Try the Texas Style Okonomiyaki, with brisket and BBQ sauce, or the Cajun style with Boudin and creamy Sriracha lime sauce. For dessert, the melon, sesame peanut butter, or lychees milk shake.

3) Focus on Health

For more and more consumers, health is the focus of the daily diet. As the obesity rates consistently increase, vendors at food trucks are offering more healthful, yet flavorful options.

East Side Kings is one the premiere trucks in Austin, brought to you by Top Chef Texas, Paul Qui. “So good, it make your eye roll back”, yes, indeed. The items on the menu are craveable, yet unique. For starters, the Beet fries are a sure hit: roasted beets are dusted in cornstarch then fried until crispy. They are served sprinkled with Togarashi spice and green onions with Kewpie mayo for dipping. The ESK grilled cheese is a whole new twist on grilled cheese, with Brie on Hawaiian roll; it’s layered with green apple kimchee, Nori, green onion, gochujang, and sesame oil. The perfect summer refreshment is the Watermelon Kale salad (grilled kale, pickled watermelon, miso Kewpie dressing, crispy chicken skin). Broccoli pops served with sweet chili miso are a simple snackable finger food.

For healthy sandwich options, nothing beats the Edamame Fritter at Austin Daily Press. Creamy edamame is prepared falafel-like and topped with ginger-peanut chutney, cilantro, mint, and onion. The house falafel sandwich with hummus, roasted red pepper, yogurt, and pickled cucumber salad with Feta. With some of the best house-made pickles in the city, including cauliflower mix, Asian spice pickles, and sweet & hot mix.

The food truck, Mister Fruitcup, run by Justin Avalos, centers its cuisine on healthy fruit cups in a multitude of flavors. The food truck even employs a nutritionist, one of the only ones in Austin to do so. Ranging from classic sweet offerings to more savory options, the menu has something for everyone. Try the Vermont for apples, cranberries, pecans, Vermont Cheddar, and maple-balsamic glaze. The Napa, with cherry tomatoes, watermelon, fresh Mozzarella, basil, balsamic glaze takes a whole savory slant on the fruitcup. My favorite, Mr. Natural, includes vegan chocolate donuts, strawberries, blackberries, oranges, chocolate sauce, yogurt, and granola, is so good you may want to get your own.

We all know Austin is a vegan friendly town, and Rockin’ Vegan Tacos offers a wide range of healthy vegan, and tasty tacos. The Grilled Avocado Reale features grilled avocado, grilled onions, refried black beans, vegan pepper Jack cheese, cilantro, and creamy Verde sauce. The Rockin’ Vegan Brisket BBQ Taco is all vegan, but very tasty. Veggie tacos with mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onion, and corn are approachable, even for a carnivore:

4) Local/Artisan/Regional

The slow food movement is still going strong, and farm-to-trailer cuisine has never been hotter.

Torchy’s Tacos is the king of the local food movement. The Crossroads Brisket Taco with smoked beef, jalapeno, cilantro, Jack cheese, avocado, and grilled onions is a classic Texas combination. The Democrat features barbacoa, avocado, Queso Fresco, cilantro, onion, wedge of lime, and tomatillo salsa. The Republican with grilled jalapeno sausage, Pico de Gallo, and poblano sauce is a spicy answer to your hot dog craving. For the vegan, the Independent is a sure bet, with fried portabella, refried black beans, roast corn, escabeche carrots, Queso Fresco, cilantro, avocado, and Ancho aioli.

The Noble Pig is nationally known for its handcrafted meats, such as duck pastrami. While it’s not a food truck, it deserves a nod on the list. With house-made pickles and 1000 Island dressing, the duck pastrami is the standout on the menu. The pressed cauliflower and cheese is also a unique grilled cheese experience. Pimento cheese with smoked green onions, romaine, and olive oil pickles is a wonderful homage to the classic pimento cheese sandwich.

For the best Pork Confit sandwich in Austin, look no further that Melvin’s Deli Comfort. On chewy bread with Brie, house mustard, and greens, it is fall apart tender. The Hot Beef with roasted beef, grilled onions, hatch chiles, Jack cheese and green chile aioli is a decidely Texas twist on the deli sandwich. The Corned Beef, piled high with mustard and melted Swiss on rye has some of the best corned beef on the planet, not overly spiced, tender and fall apart.

5) Indulgence

One trend that will not go away is indulgence. While there is an upswing in health-conscious eating, there will always be consumers that crave the indulgent bite, and they are willing to overlook the calorie count of a dish to fulfill that craving.

Austin Daily Press, which we touched on earlier, also has a talent for the indulgent. The Fat Albert, made with breaded deep-fried Mortadella, sweet red pepper relish, house-made whole grain mustard, and Monterey Jack is a decadent, delicious sandwich to eat with two hands. It’s hearty and filling and a perfect blend of flavors. The Pineapple Express with roast chicken, ham, pineapple, ginger chutney, and Monterey Jack is sweet and spicy. For dessert, the Blue Balls, made with deep-fried blueberry banana bread, and vanilla glaze are a memorable ending.

At Hey! You Gonna Eat or What?, the Shiner Monte Cristo is the star of the show. Layers of smoked ham, Mesquite turkey, Cheddar and Provolone are sandwiched, and then battered in Shiner Beer batter. The house-made cherry-fig jam is the perfect counterpoint to the crispy, breaded, gooey sandwich. For a South American flair, try the Chilean Chacarero, with hickory smoked brisket, Beefsteak tomatoes, fried green beans, and chipotle chimichurri. Simple goodness comes in the form of the Lonestar BLT, with thick cut apple wood bacon, fried green tomatoes, lettuce, and poblano aioli.

Anthony Bourdain has featured Gourdough’s, the “Home of the Big Fat Donut” on his show. The truck is now so popular that the owner’s have now opened a brick and mortar with the name Gourdough’s Public House. With donuts the likes of the Squealing Pig (bacon, strawberry jalapeno jelly, cream cheese icing, and candied jalapenos); and donut burgers such as the Ron Burgundy (grilled angus burger, bacon, fried egg, American cheese, cilantro, guacamole, tomato, and mayo, all served on Gourdough’s famous donuts), Gourdough’s Public House is a one of a kind establishment. Finish off with The Big Cheez, fresh Mozzarella wrapped in donut dough and then deep-fried.

So one last question….you hungry???

February 7th, 2012

Food Trucks Keep Rolling Along

Posted in About Allison, Trailer/Street Foods

I am a huge fan of food trucks, and if you are a regular reader, you will have read many comments about the amazing food that is pouring from this segment of the food industry. 

Food trucks are becoming main stream in a few markets, especially Portland, Los Angeles, and Austin.  These markets are  becoming tougher to compete in, and the truck vendors are becoming more differentiated and unique.  Cheeseburger Sushi from Yatta food truck in LA anyone?  Their All American Roll starts with sliced beef, pickles and cheese wrapped in seaweed and rice, deep fried and served with ketchup and mustard, of course! Need something a little more adventurous?  This is a call out to my Mom, I know she won’t be able to resist sampling this French treat, a snail lollipop.  Seriously.  Escargot Puff Lollipops from Spencer on the Go mobile food truck in San Francisco offers this delicacy at the bargain price of $2.  The trucks with great food, service, marketing and location will be the ones that stick around for the long haul. 

I recently read an article about food truck trends that I thought was on target and I’d like to share their wisdom.  This information comes from mobile-cuisine.com, an interesting site where you can find a local food truck, or learn how to start your own food truck business.

The top mobile food industry trends in 2012 will include:

Breakfast for dinner: Look for more breakfast concept trucks to roll out in 2012.

Food in a cone: Look for designer cones to replace bread as a food delivery platform.

Pie on a stick: Both savory and sweet variations.

Vegetables: Ghost peppers and potatoes.

Grains: Whole grains and quinoa.

Meats: Tongue (both lamb and beef), bone marrow and gizzards will make their way to more food truck menus.

Fermenting or Pickling: More variety of fruits and vegetables will be used by food truck chefs to brighten up their menu items both visually and with taste.

 Cuisine Trends: In 2012, expect to see more Peruvian, Scandinavian and Native American food trucks hit the road.

 Less Salt, More Flavor: Demands for healthier foods will continue to grow and food truck owners will manipulate their menus to serve these requests. A large number of food trucks are already participating in the Slow Food and Meatless Monday programs for their customers. With the spread of these programs more and more customers are becoming interested in healthy yet delicious food.

 I hope food trucks will continue to thrive and grow in areas where they are less prevalent. The unique cuisine coming from these moving restaurants is invaluable to educate consumers on hot food trends and most are serving up great food at a great value, getting more people excited about food again!

 Happy (food truck) eating,

 Chef Allison

November 21st, 2011

Worlds of Innovation

Posted in Food Shows, Trailer/Street Foods

In early November, I attended the Worlds of Flavor conference at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, CA.  It is a premier event that always fills me full of inspiration and new ideas, and makes me want to travel the world!

This year’s theme was “American Menus”, yet there were top chefs from all over the world, both in attendance and as speakers. This shows how influential other cuisines are to our menus domestically and how the food world seems to get smaller and more interconnected every day.

 Of the many general themes I garnered from the event, here are a few of the main ideas that came across loud and clear that are sure to impact American menus in the near future.

  1. Home Cooked Meals
  2. Informal eating                                                                                
  3. Artisan, handmade, chef driven                                                            
  4. Ethnic infusion of flavors
  5. Luxury at a discount 
  6. Comfort food
  7. Simple, fresh, true flavors 
  8. Street food 

Home Cooked Meals This really doesn’t mean more people will be cooking at home, it does mean they want foods that remind them of home cooked meals from childhood.  Fine dining chefs are reverting back to the foods they grew up with, the dishes they learned to cook from their Mom or Grandma.  Chefs are examining their roots and culture more closely than ever before and recreating these dishes in new, exciting ways.  Chef Charles Phan of the famed Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco served an impeccable Fried Chicken with Sriracha Butter served in a paper cone that brought back great memories of home cooked chicken but with a surprising new flavor twist.

Informal Eating – This trend focuses on meals becoming more casual – communal tables in restaurants, picnics, food on the go; trailer/truck food and snacking all are great examples of this hot trend.  Ramen noodle bars exemplify this trend, a casual spot to have a delicious, filling, hot meal with friends that can be a quick eating adventure.

Artisan, Handmade, Chef Driven Processed foods are out, and even if it is manufactured, the food must look handmade to be considered authentic.  Artisan, hand tossed Napoli style pizza crusts are the perfect example of this trend that can easily be transferred into multi-unit restaurants.  Celebrity chefs are being asked to develop products for manufacturers, retail and for chain restaurants more and more, adding a culinary flair and notoriety to menus.

Ethnic Infusion – Great flavors are coming from other countries’ cuisine and can fit perfectly into well known American favorites to create new, innovative menu items.  Chermoula, Harissa, hummus, Achiote, ceviches, and many types of peppers (Aleppo, cascabel, piquillo, and guajillo to name a few) are all trendy ingredients that will get more attention on upcoming menus.  The opposite of ethnic infusion is ethnic CONFUSION, which while making an interesting show on menus, seems to be more of a fad than a lasting trend.  The flavors provide a WOW impact but don’t necessarily taste great.  Wasabi coated fried chicken sounds interesting, but would you crave it every week?  Ethnic fusion is nothing new. Wolfgang Puck is a master of this type of cuisine, but it must be done well AND taste great to endure.

 

Luxury at a Discount – The economy is still impacting food choices and this will not change anytime soon.  While there are signs of improvement, consumers are hesitant to spend extravagantly on meals as they once did.  Consumers still want a luxury dish, but they also want it at a great price.  Instead of an expensive dinner out, consumers are trading down to the same flavors served in smaller portions or in unique ways, such as food trucks, to get their fine dining fix in a completely different atmosphere.  Star Ginger, a mobile food truck on the campus of UC Davis in California, offers quality Southeast Asian food and fresh flavors in the form of rice bowls and sandwiches to patrons.  And all of this is at an affordable price while giving the customer a chance to try something new with a low investment.

Comfort Food – Sandwiches are in!  Baker Mark Furstenberg did a demonstration using a sourdough bread boule, cut and hollowed, slathered inside with white bean spread, stuffed with slow cooked lamb, caramelized onions and black olives.  The bread was then weighted down and baked.  After baking, the boule was sliced and served as a fork and knife sandwich eat, and it was amazing.  Great flavors, a hearty meal, and simple ingredients made this an ultimate comfort meal.  Joyce Goldstein also showcased a tuna salad sandwich at the same sandwich workshop, made with Moroccan Charmoula Mayonnaise that was simple, ethnic but familiar, and above all, delicious.

Simple, Fresh, True Flavors – Recipes do not need a long list of ingredients to be “inspired”. The old adage of “keep it simple stupid” applies here!  Select the best ingredients available, make sure they are vibrant and fresh, and cook them in a way to let the true flavors of the food shine through.   Chef Jose Garces made a basic empanada but added a twist by using cooked plantain dough instead of the traditional flour dough, filled with a scallion, garlic, and queso fresco cheese filling.  The combination created a tasty dish that was simple and amazing and also a great gluten-free choice.

Street Food – Perhaps inspired by Hawker food stalls in Singapore, which are Singapore’s “food trucks”, mobile food trucks are still on the rise in the USA.  In Singapore, big bowls of noodle soups, hot pepper crab, satays, grilled meats, quick to prepare/easy to eat meals are the norm, but domestically, the variety has taken off and the choices are staggering.  Anything from empanadas, dumplings, sushi, Indian biryani, pizza, BBQ, fried chicken and waffles to desserts like cupcakes, cake shakes, make your own s’mores and fried doughnuts can be found being dished out of food trucks in many cities.  There is plenty of inspiration that can be translated to everyday foods we already love. How about Bulgogi wings?

 At The Marketplace we could sample the delicacies and demonstrations that we saw during the day, and sponsors had a chance to show their take on the conference theme.  While sampling everything would have required an extra stomach or two, there were a few notable dishes worth mentioning.

Frito Lay served up walking Frito Pie variations that were innovative and definitely not something you’d find at the ballpark.  I tried the Sweet Cream, Salted Caramel and Amarena Cherry Tacos with Original Fritos Corn Chips.  Served in the bag  for a portable dish, I wasn’t sure the flavors were going to be harmonious, but they were well thought out and a great example of how sweet and savory can come together to create something unexpected. 

Shrimp & Cuttlefish with Black Rice Paella was another winner in my book; a very regional dish that was truly authentic, showing authenticity was NOT dead!  Topped with a foamy whipped egg white and green garlic topping, this paella was bursting with flavor and satisfied the comfort food need perfectly without being heavy. 

Chef Newman Miller of Quantum Foods made a puff pastry stuffed with braised beef ribs and Stilton blue cheese, showcasing simple and delicious can go hand in hand. 

Just to show that foie gras is always in style, another chef created a corn masa tamale wrapped banana leaf, steamed and then topped with a slab of seared foie gras.  Watching the preparation, my mouth watered and even though it wasn’t traditional, it looked delicious! 

 Much inspiration was gathered at this event, and now I am ready to translate this inspiration into innovative new dishes in the kitchen. I hope it has also sparked your imagination or at least made your mouth water and your taste buds long to sample a few of these flavors!

 Happy Eating,

 Chef Allison

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