December 10th, 2018

Unique 2018 Food Trucks

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Food Trucks

Three Unique 2018 Food Trucks Stand Apart

The 2018 food truck scene is wrapping up as the year end closes in. Food trucks have become an essential extension of the restaurant scene in many major cities, offering chefs a chance to experiment with flavors and fusions in a more risk-conducive environment.

2018 Food Truck Trends

These opportunities have led to the establishment of some fantastic brick and mortar restaurants, like Chi’Lantro, or Torchy’s Tacos (who now have locations in 3 states).

While we prepare for and predict what 2019 might have in store for our palate’s, let’s take a look at three unique culinary contributors of 2018.

India Jones Chow Truck

Los Angeles, CA
Website
310-310-3964

So if I’m being fair, wordplay is always a good way to catch my attention, but the food and flavors still have to meet the mark. Thankfully, India Jones does both.

Based out of Los Angeles, CA, this truck run by Chef/Owner Sumant Pardal is rocking out curries and samosas like hot cakes! But, what makes India Jones special isn’t its traditional dishes, but a menu item called “Frankie.”

2018 Food Trucks India Jones

Photo courtesy of IndiaJonesChowTruck.com

The Frankie uses a roti flatbread wrapped around your choice of protein along with onions, tamarind chutney, and vegetables, to form an Indian-inspired burrito of sorts. This delightful bit of fusion allows hesitant customers who are new to Indian food to try it in a familiar format at a relatively low price.

Along with the Frankie, India Jones serves blue corn tacos called Taco Chaat and Aloo Tiki Chaat, which is a potato pancake topped with chickpeas, raita, and vegetables. These creative variations of Indian street food have helped to put a spotlight on India Jones.

Tying all of these flavors together are India Jones’s unique sauces and chutneys. Try the tamarind chutney on your lamb Frankie for a nice sweet/salty balance, or the spicy chutney on the Chaat Masala Fries. Or pair your Chicken Taco Chaat with tangy Mango Chutney for a flavor explosion.

@La’s – A Hmong Food Cart

Aloha, OR
Website
971-330-5989

Yes, yes, YES! With the growth of Vietnamese and Thai cuisine I’m so excited to see Hmong food start to pave its own way.

The Hmong are a group of people forced to flee their native Yellow River Region of Southern China during the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century due to armed conflict and regressive economic reforms. During that time of emigration their cuisine was influenced by the different groups they came in contact with; Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar, for example.

This blending of cultures led to the aromatic, often spicy, but always delicious flavors of Hmong cuisine. @La’s La Vang-Herr showcases these flavors in her smart, concise, but customizable menu. The Phat wings are fried chicken wings that are first stuffed with two-types of ground meat then marinated in a soy and ginger rich Asian-fusion sauce before battering and frying golden brown.

food-trucks-2018-las

Photo Courtesy of PDXMonthly.com

The papaya and carrot salad is brought together with a sweet tamarind sauce and allows for a customized heat level. Personally, I’d go for the homemade Hmong Sausage which uses locally sourced farm-raised pork and comes with a side of the mouthwatering (and tear producing) Lemongrass Pepper Dip.

Patrizi’s

Austin, TX
Website
512-522-4834

If you ever thought you couldn’t get fine dining style Italian food on a paper plate, Patrizi’s is here to prove you wrong.

Owned by brothers Nic and Matt Patrizi, this establishment proves that really all you need for amazing food is great ingredients, a talented team, and a love for what you do. Out of their humble truck they produce delicate, beautiful dishes like Cacio e Pepe, Pasta Pomodoro, and Marfa Tomatoes.

2018 Food Trucks Patrizi's

Photo courtesy of Patrizis.com

With ingredients like Casu di Fita, a briny, crumbly cheese similar to feta, and seasonally harvested honey, it’s easy to see how this is not your traditional Italian fare. Try Karah’s Diavolo with a coddled egg yolk to add an unctuous layer to the spicy, acidic sauce with an order of the Ciabatta Bread and Beef Fat. Can’t go wrong there.

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From LA to Portland and back to Austin, we’ve seen three of the best food trucks of 2018 in three of the cities best known for their great food trucks. As culinarians, we’re lucky to live in a time where we have access to such wonderful food prepared by such talented people.

Cheers!

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November 26th, 2018

New in Sauce Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Sauce

Let’s Talk Sauce Trends

Because every dish gets better with sauce!

Why do we even care about sauce trends?

The easy answer is, well, because sauces are important. As one of the world’s first food reviewers and restaurant critics, Grimod de la Reynière, would say, “A well made sauce would make even an elephant or a grandfather palatable.”

italian

While I won’t strive to test his theory, I do agree with the sentiment. Sauces are the magic liquids that bring bland foods to life or make good dishes unforgettable. A proper sauce can be the difference between OK and incredible. Point of fact; macaroni is fine but add cheese sauce and you’ve got gold!

With that in mind, it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of the sauce world to find new trends, inspirations, and ingredients, much like these:

Italian Crossover

Italian food is well-known for it’s uses of sauces. From accuighe to alfredo, burro to bolognese, Italian cuisine has a range and depth to its sauce library many countries could only dream to reach.

harissa

But recently, other global flavors are making their way into mainstream Italian fair. One great example of this is harissa. Hailing from North Africa, harissa is an aggressive sauce (often a paste) made from roasted red peppers, various chili peppers, herbs like coriander, spices like cumin, and olive oil.

While this may not seem, at first glance, to be a sauce fitting for Italian fare, keep in mind the coast of Marsala, Italy, is only about 50 nautical miles from Tunisia. Doesn’t seem so odd now does it?

Piada Italian Street Food, based out of Columbus, OH, have found great success in using harissa in their power bowls. This helps to prove how quickly the market is opening to new flavor experiences. Just two years ago, many felt that harissa was too far out for the mainstream customer. Now in 2018, it seems to fit in just fine.

Global Entry

Global flavors continue to permeate the menus in national restaurants. Datassential has shown a 7% increase in chimichurri, a 3% increase in harissa, and a 1.5% rise in gochujang sauces on menus in 2018. Also moving their way in at 1% increases are Peri Peri sauce and S’Chug.

A person familiar with these sauces may see an additional thread that holds them together: Heat. All the 5 sauces listed commonly have a spicy profile, with chimichurri being the mildest and harissa being the hottest (traditionally, of course).

korean

If you follow our blog here regularly, this shouldn’t be very surprising. As we’ve discussed previously, hot sauce sales are at their highest ever, spicy BBQ sauces are quickly becoming the most popular in their category, and Asian cuisines with commonly spicy profiles (Korean, Thai, Filipino) are becoming mainstays.

Move Over Canton

Sauce Trends 2018It seems that Kung Pao sauce is having a revitalization moment, thanks to the vegetable-centric dining trend. Kung Pao, or Sichuan, sauce is known for its umami rich flavor profile balanced with the right amount of sweet and spicy.

This profile works extremely well in providing a hearty, meaty flavor to vegetable dishes. With the growing want for vegetable-focused foods in casual dining atmospheres, Kung Pao offers a natural, and familiar, fit.

Restaurants like The Plimoth in Denver with their Kung Pao Carrots and Fairytale Eggplant, and The Local in Naples, FL, with their Kung Pao Avocado, have been trend leaders in this category.

Even the national chain Kings Dining and Entertainment has gotten wise by serving Fried Kung Pao Cauliflower. I’d buy that for a dollar.

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So, there you have it! Keep an eye out for Italian restaurants adopting unique sauce flavors, for Kung Pao to start popping up in restaurants other than Chinese and on application other than meat, and the continued takeover of global flavors. And through all these trends, runs a spicy core. The people want heat, so let’s give it to them.

Cheers!

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December 18th, 2017

Food Truck Series: Regal Ravioli

Posted in Food Trucks, Italian, Organic, Pizza, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods

Regal Ravioli Food Truck Review

Regal Ravioli Austin

I grew up in a middle class family with two working parents. This meant lots of solo time to be adventurous and get into some (good natured) trouble, and it meant more than one microwaved dinner fresh from a can.

My personal favorites at the age of 8 were Hormel Chili with Beans and Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli, each of which I usually finished with a bit of Cheddar cheese (don’t judge me, I was 8). The culinarians reading along are probably shuddering internally, but the truth is at the time, I loved those foods, and they were something my parents could have on hand to ensure I ate dinner.

Now, here I am 25 years later, sitting at Austin’s very own Regal Ravioli, having weird Chef Boyardee flashbacks. Now, don’t misunderstand me here, these are no canned, preformed pasta squares. This is gourmet, handmade shells stuffed with things like beef brisket and winter squash. This is ravioli elevated! But it feels comfortable and reassuring.

Run by Chef/Owner Zach Adams, who hails from Washington D.C., Regal Ravioli proves to be a truly special food truck on the Austin landscape. What makes it special? You mean aside from the fresh pasta made by hand daily, the locally sourced organic ingredients, the unique ravioli twists like roasted beet, or the prevalence of hearty vegetarian options on the menu like mushroom ravioli or sweet potato gnocchi? How about the fact that Regal has been running strong since 2011 and still holds a monopoly on ravioli trucks in Austin.

Their business is so consistent, as it turns out, they’re in the process of working on a pizza truck to fill the vacant space near them in their park. You can rest assured I’ll be stopping by to try that out. But let’s talk about what really matters, the food.

Sausage Ravioli w/ Tomato Marinara and Veloute Sauce

Sausage Ravioli

An instant classic. Pasta on the ravioli is a perfect al dente, nice fennel-y sausage on the inside with touch of pepper, and a bright, fresh tomato sauce made with fresh, aromatic basil.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi w/ Bolognese Sauce

Gnocchi Austin

Good flavor on the gnocchi, however they went past cooked and into mushy, which is a shame. However, the Bolognese sauce is a real treat. Fresh and bright yet still meaty and savory, simply delicious.

Mushroom Ravioli w/ Pecan Pesto

Mushroom Ravioli

This was a real showstopper. So much flavor in such a little pillow. Fantastic mushroom and herb filling with a hint of truffle to really get the nose going. The pecan pesto is creamy and nutty while maintaining a cheesy quality that’s divine. I need more thumbs to put up for this dish.

Roasted Beet Ravioli w/ Caramelized Red Onion and Orange Zest

Italian Restaurants Austin

Let me lead with the fact that I don’t like beets, however, I love culinary risk takers. This dish was definitely a risk taker. While I thought the dish could have benefited from additional sweet/tangy flavors (i.e. Balsamic vinegar), the execution was perfect. Everything was cooked well, fit the profile, and was absolutely unique.

Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli w/ Caramelized Onion, Poblano Pepper, and Gouda Veloute

Italian Food Trucks Austin

There’s something decidedly wonderful about the combination of winter squash and smoky peppers. And, apparently, if you take those two items and stuff them in pasta and smother it with Gouda cheese sauce it goes from wonderful to amazing. Great combination, unique twist, all around outstanding.

Handmade Meatball

Italian Food Austin

I’ve long felt a good ruler for quality when it comes to classic Sicilian Italian fare is the meatball. If I use that rule then Regal is doing great. Flavorful meatball, not too dense, not too salty, nice herbs and garlic, and definitely more meat than binder. Cuts with a fork but doesn’t crumble. Nailed it!

Broccolini

Quick Italian Austin

Hey, after all that pasta I needed some fiber, and Regal’s broccolini is a complete win. Charred just enough to compliment the bitter notes, cooked nicely with a bit of crunch left, and served with roasted garlic and a wedge of lemon. I could’ve eaten 3 orders of this easy.

So there you have it friends. Another Austin food truck, another delicious meal. Thanks Regal Ravioli for being the standard bearer of what delicious, home-style Italian cooking should be. I’m looking forward to seeing what you can do with a pizza (don’t sleep on the broccolini).

Until next time,

Cheers!

Regal Ravioli
1502 S 1st St.
Austin, TX 78704
https://www.regalravioli.com/

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