August 5, 2013Posted by Bernard Baskin
First it was Fro-Yo. Then it was cupcakes. Dessert bars started popping up like mushrooms in a forest. Peruvian cuisine became muy caliente. Tapas sharing plates became de riguer, Foraging for your food in Scandinavia is now considered a gastronomic experience, rather than the byproduct of a camping trip. And now, it’s all about the food truck. The ubiquitous hot dog stand has been around for eons, but today you’ve got specialist cuisine like vegan trucks, gourmet tacos, organic pizza, ceviche and the like. Oh yes, no longer just a cheap and cheery grab and go option for those in a rush, these are becoming dining destinations in their own rights. Food-preneurs are eschewing high rents and manpower costs to build mobile empires that fit right into the new millennium’s modus operandi. Social media and the digital age have spawned new technology that allow eaters to track the location of roving trucks that aren’t tied down to one particular street corner through apps, Twitter and of course on their website – although the latter is rather quaint these days. Read on for a round up of international bites that give you a bang for your buck.
Los Angeles – Kogi BBQ
Holy Kimchi. In 2008, the Kogi truck opened its doors, hawking $2 Korean tacos. Angelinos went crazy for the Mex-Ko mashup, especially the short rib taco — two crisply griddled homemade corn tortillas, double-caramelized Korean barbecue, salsa roja, cilantro-onion-lime relish and Napa Romaine slaw tossed in a chili-soy vinaigrette. Yeah baby. In a few short months they were famous and buoyed by this success, The Kogi fam now have five trucks, four sit-down restaurants and an upcoming memoir, much to the delight of their hard-core fans.
Sydney – Agape Organic Restaurant & Bar
Food on the fly doesn’t have to be gut-busting. Chef Simon Lawson from Agapé Organic Restaurant & Bar brings his mouth watering organic fare to the streets of Sydney. Think spelt pizzas, kingfish ceviche with handmade crisp bread, potato, leek, royal quinoa & cheddar croquettes – that sort of thing. But it’s not just veg – the Gundooee Wagyu beef empanadas are to die for. Their produce comes direct from Australian farms for a more sustainable, guilt-free and tasty experience.
Boston – Roxy’s Grilled Cheese
Is there anything better than sinking your teeth into crispy, buttery grilled bread dripping with gooey melted cheese goodness? Oh dear god it’s heavenly. But not just any grilled cheese. I turn my nose up at white supermarket bread and Kraft squares, it gives me the shudders. It has to be artisanal cheese and freshly baked bread buttered on both sides. Roxy’s have it down to an art. You wait about 10 mins because it takes 8 to grill ‘em to perfection, but that’s ok. Everyone is obsessed with the Green Meunster Melt, with Muenster cheese, homemade guacamole and applewood bacon, but I’m more of a classicist so it’s all about the Rookie Melt with Vermont cheddar and vine-ripened tomatoes. Seasonal specials are always a sellout too.
Paris – Cantine California
Having spent a fair amount of time in France, I know the true Frenchman sniffs disdainfully at the thought of American ‘cuisine.’ “Pah, Les Cowboys, they only ‘eet zer bur-guhs and frites, zat is not cuisine.” Well, apparently Jordan Feilders didn’t get the memo because the culinary capital of the world is in love with his down-home American food truck offering up bloody good organic burgers, tacos and cupcakes. In fact, it’s gone so well that he’s now opened up a restaurant and published a cookbook. Pas mal.
London – The Street Kitchen
Founders Mark and Jun have some serious gastro-pedigree behind them, with years at Le Gavroche, The Square and The Restaurant Marco Pierre White to name but a few big hitters. So when they took the to the streets, expectations were understandably high. The Street Kitchen is rolling out sophisticated British bistro style dishes in 3 locations around London like Hot Smoked Salmon with pickled cauliflower, carrot, cucumber and tomato salad, crushed potatoes, roasted beetroots and baby leaf in a horseradish dressing. They also do stellar burgers and hotdogs if you’re after something just a tad simpler.
New York – Cinnamon Snail
NY: This ain’t your usual vegan fare; Big Apple civilians as well as health nuts are are going loco for it. The awards, accolades and hyperbole overload might seem disingenuous but these people are truly talented. Even the most die-hard vegan skeptic will enjoy their fresh, seasonal dishes. How about a French lentil burger with fried artichokes, rainbow micro greens, white truffle aioli, arugula, and sun dried tomato olive tapenade on grilled herb focaccia? Yes please. Follow that with a chocolate ganache stuffed s’mores donut. I’m told even NYC cops have taken to these donuts like ducks to water. Mmm. Vegan, yes. Deprived, no.
Portland – The Honey Pot Bakery
I always wanted a cuddly grandma in a pinafore that would deliver steaming hot, straight-from-the-oven apple pie and ice cream, pinch my cheeks and insist “Eat more darling, you’re too skinny!” Maybe in my next life. In the meantime, pie impresario Mary from The Honeypot Bakery can be my surrogate granny. She does sweet and savoury ones, each more mouthwatering than the next. Fresh mozzarella, capers, sundried tomato, preserved lemon, and basil wrapped in a free form tart topped with oregano and sea salt for lunch, oh yes. Then there’s the Egyptian Sun Pie, which is cardamom and honey mousse in an individual sized vanilla shortbread tart shell covered with fresh mangos, which makes me whoop with sugar-lusting joy.
San Francisco – The Chairman
If you’re hoping for buns of steel, look away now; the steamed and baked variety at The Chairman are probably gonna add more junk to your trunk. Gua bao, or a bun sandwich, is a tasty traditional Taiwanese snack with braised pork and pickled vegetables sandwiched between fluffyness. Kinda like an Asian burger I suppose… The Chairman’s versions get the thumbs up from the Taiwanese crew in SF, and even though it may significantly lower your lifespan (fatty pork isn’t exact known for it’s health-giving properties) you will die happy.