Saturday, July 19, 2014

PDX ROAD TRIP: Rose City Food Park

Before I moved in Seattle  in 1999, I spent 7 years in Portland before the food cart craze began.  I don't get back as often as I'd like and this year, I chose a very hot and humid July to visit.  Each time I visit I choose a couple of different pods to hit up to sample the cuisine.

One of the pods I choose was Rose City Food Park located at NE Sandy Blvd & NE 52nd Ave.  I have to say, this is a very family friendly place.  Children all over the place, knocking things over, running around, and enjoying the food.  I even tripped over a few which is really hard since I'm really, really short.  There's street parking and a good-sized lot to park in.  There are tons of picnic tables to sit at (both covered and uncovered).  You can also pick up produce from Kruger's Farm City Farm Market which is a perk.  They have bathrooms onsite that are large and fairly clean.

Rose City boasts that they are home to 13 of the best food carts in Portland.  Based on my sampling, I'm not sure that's true.

PDX671 garnered fame from Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  The kelaguen mannok with titiyas is supposed to be quite good.  No matter, they were out of it.  Our group ordered the fiesta plate (grilled chicken thigh, red rice, shrimp fritters, and ensaladan kiukumba) for $7.25 and an order of 3 lumpia for $5.25.  The grilled chicken thigh was marinated well with nice, crispy skin.  The red rice was seasoned with annatto seed.  The flavor was very mild and I didn't taste much salt.  The shrimp fritters were fried crisp and had really interesting flavors.  The shrimp blended well with the sweetness of the carrots, peas, and corn.  The lumpia was wrapped perfectly and had all the right ingredients.  I appreciate garlic sauce but think it could benefit from a bit of heat.  Finally, the ensaladan kiukumba (think cucumber salad with kimchee dressing) was refreshing.  The dressing had a little spicy kick.  Overall, it was okay and definitely a value for $12.50.

Fiesta Plate
Captain Dillie's Starlite Coach & Catering caught my eye with a blue paint job and an interesting menu.  I ordered a grilled mac 'n' cheese sandwich.  Mac 'n' cheese in a sandwich?  Yowza!  For $4, it was a pretty decent size.  The bread was nice, thick, and buttered well.  I got that "crunch" when I bit into it.  The mac 'n' cheese was cooked well but lacked seasoning, primarily salt.  It was a good sandwich but rather plain.  The star of the show was the spicy strawberry jalapeno lemonade.  Sweet, spicy and perfect on a warm summer day!  For $2, that was a steal!

Captain Dillie's Starlight Coach
Grilled Mac 'n' Cheese Sandwich
El Guero offered a nice cup of horchata.  It was perfect!  At $1.50, I could drink a gallon of it.  However, the burrito and quesadilla were both lackluster.  The prices were very reasonable with both those items coming in at under the $10 mark.

El Guero
Overall, I found the atmosphere at Rose City Food Park to be pleasant and welcoming.  However, the three carts I sampled were just okay.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Recap - 2nd Annual Truck-In

June 7, 2014, marked the opening day of the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market and the 2nd Annual Truck-In.  It’s hard to imagine a more gorgeous day - blue skies, sunshine, and that summertime feel. did a great job of warning folks about the traffic that day.  It was definitely busy coming from North Seattle, where I live. Once I got to the event, it was smooth sailing.  I had zero problems finding parking.  When I got there, live music was playing and I laid eyes on the most adorable couple dancing.  Great way to set the tone for the day! 
Cathy (Xplosive) serving it up with her signature smile!
The beautiful weather brought people out in droves.  It was still easy to move around but some of the trucks had long lines.  No matter, waiting is easy when everyone is happy.  It was great to see so many people turn out! 

12-inch lemongrass pork banh mi from Xplosive
I rarely get to see Xplosive anymore because I'm on the other side of town from their lunch route. I was excited to visit with Cathy, Mano, and the gang (not to mention grab some Vietnamese coffee, bahn mi, and tacos). I've had just about everything on their menu. Cheap, filling, and flavorful is all you need to know! Visit them on their regular route for a bite of their fantastic tofu (not served for most events). Yes, I said tofu. I'm a meat eater but I can't get enough of it! 

Alligator Gumbo from Jemil's Big Easy

The gang from Jemil's Big Easy was on hand and I couldn't pass on the alligator gumbo I missed a few weeks ago. Even on a warm, sunny day, that gumbo is comfort in a bowl! Their line was hopping most of the day! 
Handsome Harvey (NOSH)
I've seen a lot of food trucks in Seattle over the years. I'm often skeptical of new trucks that don't deliver service, food quality, or value. Let me say that NOSH is one of the best newer trucks I've had the pleasure of dining at 'cause they hit every mark. Whether it's fish and chips, fried rabbit (my fave!), or caprese sandwiches, I've loved every minute of it! On this particular day, Handsome Harvey hooked it up with a caprese sandwich. That hand pulled mozzarella is to die for! 
Caprese sandwich from NOSH
In my leisurely pace, I underestimated the power of the trucks.  They did really well and a number of them ran out of portions of their menus and some even sold out completely. That was my bad - I should have planned better. I spent most of the day talking to people - both new acquaintances and old friends. 

After the event was over, I spent a few hours at the Marina.  I saw a hungry seal begging for food and a bald eagle being chased by about 50 seagulls and crows.  It was the perfect way to relax. All of my uploaded photos for that day can be found in my Flickr album:
Overall, another successful event for!  Truckin' awesome!!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Recap - May 24th Uwajimaya Big Tent & Food Truck Event

From time to time, the Renton location of Uwajimaya hosts food trucks.  On May 24th, I attended the Big Tent and Food Truck Event.  This store location is a bit different than the one in the International District so I'm glad food trucks bring me out to shop and eat.  I always buy some poke, fresh produce, and a few snacks that I can't get at a regular grocery store.  My best find this weekend - HUGE mangoes for $1 a piece.  I bought them green and I can't wait to make a batch of Hawaiian style pickled mango.

A few trucks were onsite to feed hungry shoppers: Big Boys Filipino Food Truck, Fish Basket, Jemil's Big Easy, The Box, and Tokyo Dog.  I love coming here because it's a laid back atmosphere.  It's not overly crowded and although lines may get long (depending on the truck), in general, I find it easy to get around.  The spirit for is like a reunion where I have time to talk to owners, staff, and often run into a few friends.  In fact, I ran into some family friends that I didn't know were coming.

Prawns and Chips from Fish Basket
Fish Basket has fantastic food!  I've been going to the truck for a long time and appreciate the kindness of Van, Amanda, and everyone else that works the truck.  My favorite is the NW salmon tacos.  The balance of flavors is complex and is everything I dreamed a fish taco could be.  On Saturday, I got to sample the prawns.  Wow!  Through that crisp batter, you can taste the meaty prawn with perfect texture.  I must say, if you're concerned about the price of items on this truck, don't be.  It is worth every penny and more!  I've had better seafood here than in countless restaurants in Seattle.

Jemil's Big Easy was on hand with many fan favorites.  My tummy got the yummy of jambalaya, chicken basket, and sweet tea.  The jambalaya is always spiced well and my "go to" dish.  I'm always comforted by a bowl.  The chicken basket has lovely, crispy strips with just the right amount of spice.  My kiddo and I both love the chicken strips.  The only thing I love more is probably the fried chicken special (when available).  The sweet tea is a refreshing beverage on a sunny day.

Kalbi Skewers from The Box
The Box.  How I love you!  Why won't you come to Seattle anymore?  This is by far one of my favorite food trucks despite the fact that I hardly get to see it.  My favorite is chicken karaage and I had to get some this weekend.  It was just as I remember....fried chicken (notice a pattern here) with a bit of sweet and spicy sauce.  I love the karaage recipe here!  Toss in some kalbi skewers and pork belly bao and let me tell you, your life will change!

Overall, a pretty solid day of food truckery hitting 3 of 5 trucks.  As of the writing of this post, Uwajimaya has confirmed a second Big Tent & Food Truck Event for June 7th.  As always, if you're interested in checking out the food before you eat at a truck, find my pictures of my food truckery on Flickr or on's phone applications.  In case you weren't aware, is a great resource for finding out more about food trucks, getting easy links to their websites, and tracking down trucks around the Seattle metro area.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 2nd Annual Truck-In is having their 2nd Annual Truck-In at the opening day of Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market.  The event is scheduled for Saturday, June 7th from 10am to 2pm.

Sweet wheels
I rarely venture down South and I was concerned that I would get lost.  The Market was easy to find and parking was plentiful!  I loved the layout - on one side, the regular Market vendors sold their goods and on the other, it's a food trucker paradise!  Tables were available for eating, they had nice spacing between the trucks, and shorter lines than I'm used to.

Last year, had t-shirts for sale, courtesy of Media Fly Mobile Screen Shop.  For just $15, you could get a really cool shirt.  I'm not sure if they're doing it again but I loved it!

Of course, my main attraction is always the trucks.  However, I have to say, I ended up buying a ton of produce, some artisan coffee, and even a book.  There's a peaceful park off to the side, it's right on the water, and I felt pretty relaxed during my time there.  It was good to catch up with folks.

My cool shirt
What trucks can you look forward to seeing?  Find photos of Seattle food truck cuisine on my Flickr page. Here's a list of the trucks in attendance in alphabetical order:

  • Ben and Jerry's 
  • Bikelava
  • Bing of Fire
  • Charlie's Buns 'n Stuff
  • Grilled Cheese Experience
  • Jemil's Big Easy
  • Lumpia World
  • NOSH
  • Outside the Box
  • Snout & Co. 
  • Stella Fiore Pizza
  • Xplosive
  • Thursday, May 8, 2014

    My Addiction to Street Donuts

    Street Donuts has been the center of my food truck world for three years.  The first time I visited the trailer was on 2nd & Pike (before the current food truck pod was established).  I never knew how lucky I was to have them within walking distance of my office.  My luck ran out when Street Donuts packed up and began serving only at events.  From that point on, I was always on the hunt for any fair, festival, or special event the trailer would be at. 

    Here’s the kicker - I don’t even like donuts.  If you catch me around town, you’ll never find me buying a donut.  What makes Street Donuts so special?  To me, mini-donuts are not special in and of themselves.  You buy a donut machine, perfect your batter, design some toppings and you’re good.  For me, the toppings make the difference.  Anyone can make a powdered donut but vanilla pudding and Nerds?  It’s hard to beat that.  Street Donuts captured my taste buds and no other mini-donut will do.  

    My first chance to meet the new owners was at the Mobile Food Rodeo in the International District on May 3, 2014.  As always, it was my first stop.  I had a nice conversation with Will and Yanna.  They told me they would be opening a bricks location in Greenwood.  I tried to keep my cool but I was doing a happy dance inside.  That location is a few minutes from my house!  Then I realized their opening will likely correspond with an additional 10 pounds on my ass in the first month alone.  Sigh.  We all have to make sacrifices.  As I understand it, I’ll be able to get donuts and beer there.  I was pleased to see that the donuts were as I remembered them.  I hope the owners like me because they won’t be able to get rid of me.  

    Monday, May 5, 2014

    Recap Day 2 - 2014 Mobile Food Rodeo (Fremont)

    The second day of the annual Mobile Food Rodeo has come to an end.  The Rodeo in the International District was quite the adventure.  It was the wettest, rainiest Rodeo I have been to.  No matter, I had a good time and got to see a few trucks before having to leave unexpectedly.  This post is a recap of May 4th in Fremont.  For a recap of May 3rd in the ID, click here.   Find more photos on my Flickr page

    2014 Mobile Food Rodeo (Day 2) - Fremont
    The Rodeo returned to its home in Fremont, not only the Center of the Universe but from my perspective, the undisputed home of Seattle food trucks.  Out of all the sets in Fremont, I think this was the best.  Each time, the set has been tweaked a bit and the improvements have led to a better overall experience.  The Fremont Sunday Market was in full swing, as it is all year round.  The trucks were scattered at the Market beginning at the halfway point on the South side of the street.  I think this was brilliant and allowed integration of existing Market traffic (a loyal following) with more trucks than on the average Sunday.  On N. 35th, west of Phinney Ave. N., it was all food trucks and sponsors on both sides of the street.  This is by far the best arrangement that I've seen over the years.

    Sponsors make many things happen from being able to give out swag to setting up tents and tables for hungry foodies.  University VW Audi has been a loyal sponsor for years and their staff members are super friendly.  They also give out the best grocery shopping bags that are slightly bigger than your average bag.  If you fancy, they always have a car or two on hand for you to check out.

    If the beer garden is your jam, it's located where Fremont Outdoor Movies are shown.  They typically have 2-3 food trucks inside the beer garden for your convenience.

    The Very Important Foodie (VIF) check-in was at Fremont Mischief, which I think is an ideal location.  They were giving out free cups of coffee and Top Pot Doughnuts this morning.  Following my own tips, I had zero problems finding parking and getting to the Rodeo on time.

    Stop 1: Jemil's Big Easy.  Jemil's entered the Taco Libre Showdown with cajun tacos.  Just the smell of the spices made my mouth water.  The complex flavors were worth savoring bite by bite.  They won 3rd place with this entry.  Congrats!

    Jemil's Big Easy - Cajun Taco
    Stop 2My Sweet lil Cakes.  I've had the chicken and waffles here before and yes, you should get them.  The quality of the chicken is very clear.  Also, they have a beautiful peppery taste that gives it a bit of a kick.  This time, I tried the blueberry lemon ricotta with large blueberries that were a bit caramelized from the grill and oh-so-sweet!  

    My Sweet lil Cakes - Blueberry Lemon Ricotta
    Stop 3BeanFish.  I think I started seeing BeanFish around their 2nd week at Fremont Sunday Market.  We're so lucky to have taiyaki available on a regular basis.  Innovative, creative, and tasty, I see BeanFish every time I'm at the Market (which is fairly often).  Today was no exception...their special was Kobe beef with Japanese coleslaw with 7 spice.  The beef was so tender and that spice was a real kick in the pants!  The crunch of the coleslaw added a perfect balance of texture.  Yum! 

    BeanFish - Kobe Beef Special (foreground)
    Stop 4: The Ultimate Melt.  This was my first time at the truck.  I've tweeted a bit back and forth with them and was happy to see Seattle's 3rd grilled cheese truck (it's technically the 4th but Monte Cristo left town awhile back).  I had the carne asada fiesta.  Staff members were just as friendly in person as they were online.  The sandwich was made of high quality bread, seemed to have the cheese slices melted to each side of the bread and was filled with queso fresco, carne asada beef, guacamole, and grilled onions.  The meat was soft.  Overall it was a good sandwich.  

    The Ultimate Melt - Carne Asada Fiesta
    Stop 5: Waffle Wagon.  I've eaten both sweet and savory waffles here before.  Today, I got their $5 special - chicken and waffle in syrup.  I thought it was a nice size and the waffle was prepared well.  The chicken is worth talking about.  The quality was very clear - meaty, well seasoned, and obviously a very good cut.  Stack that on top of syrup and you've got yourself a treat! 

    Waffle Wagon - $5 Chicken and Waffle Special
    Stop 6: Lumpia World.  Derrick and Eleanor are the cutest couple and make great food together! I've been eating their lumpia since they were catering in Renton years ago, made deliveries, and popped up at special events like The Bite.  Today, I got my all time favorites - ground pork and RPL.  the ground pork is seasoned with sauteed garlic, onions and veggies.  The RPL is a Thai coconut jasmine rice pudding lumpia.  Aside from that wonderful rice pudding in the middle, it's topped with sauce, toasted coconut, and powdered sugar.  It's decadent and so good without being over the top. 

    Lumpia World - RPL Lumpia
    Stop 7: Brown Bag Baguette.  I've been aware of this truck for awhile but haven't stopped by.  I live in a neighborhood where there is a lot of bahn mi.  I also spend a lot of time in the International District and I tend to eat a lot of it there as well.  It was $9 for a bahn mi.  I've never seen one that costs more than $6.  From what I understand, they use good ingredients.  I've had many fantastic bahn mi so I was curious about the difference it would make.  Not wanting to drop $9 on one, I opted for $5 for half of one, which was a special.  It was okay but I'm still not sure why it was so expensive.  

    Brown Bag Baguette - $5 Bahn Mi Special
    Anchorhead Coffee Stand
    Stop 8: Anchorhead Coffee.  The special for the Rodeo was a horchata latte for $3.  Sounds like a deal to me!  My concern was that they didn't make their own horchata.  I loved that they addressed my concerns and openly said they would make me something else if I didn't like it.  That took the risk out of my decision and I have to say, it was good.  Coffee and horchata is not something that I think about as a pairing but it was a nice way to kickstart my afternoon before grabbing more food.  

    Stop 9: Thai-U-Up.  This truck is typically in West Seattle so I haven't been to it until now.  I ordered two $5 specials: crispy garlic chicken and volcanic chicken.  Both were fried crispy and stayed crispy, which I loved.  I also loved that each had a character of its own.  Sauces really make the difference!  

    Thai-U-Up - $5 Crispy Garlic Chicken Special
    Stop 10: Marination Mobile.  Big Blue will always have a soft spot in my heart.  It was one of the first trucks I used to chase around before the days of, which makes it much easier. I remember taking the bus around town during my lunch hour trying to get my hands on kim chi fried rice.  This was also before they opened Marination Station and Marination Ma Kai, both bricks locations.  Today, a Spam slider and kalbi taco were at the top of the list.  Excellent, as always and cheap!  

    Marination Mobile - Spam Slider and Kalbi Taco
    Stop 11NOSH.  Fried rabbit confit gets me.  Sometimes, I'll be craving it and nothing else will do.  The salty, crispy coating sticks so well to the rabbit.  Rabbit is lean and muscular but they get it nice and soft.  It's got to be the buttermilk. So good!  Today, the truck was also competing in the Taco Libre Showdown.  They prepared Taco De Lengua - braised beef tongue taco, red cabbage with Granny Smiths, salsa verde, and cilantro creme.  I have to say, beef tongue is not high on my list.  I will also tell you that Harvey has never steered me wrong and from my perspective, this is one of the best newer trucks I've eaten at over the last few years.  Everything I've tried has been excellent!  The tacos were no exception.  I appreciate that they push me to open my taste buds to something new.  

    NOSH - Taco De Lengua
    This year's 2 day Rodeo was a success!  The weather could have been better but hey, you can't control that.  I got great food over the course of 2 days.  I did a cleanse to prepare for this weekend and think I'll probably have to do another one soon.  Stay tuned over the next week - I'll be posting all my photos from this exciting weekend!!! See my Recap Day 1 - 2014 Mobile Food Rodeo (International District) here

    Sunday, May 4, 2014

    Recap Day 1 - 2014 Mobile Food Rodeo (International District)

    Having been to every Mobile Food Rodeo in Seattle, I've enjoyed watching the evolution of the event over the years.  I go to a lot of food trucks on the regular but the Rodeo offers an opportunity to see a large variety of trucks at once.  This year not only marked the first two day event, but one that was held in two neighborhoods - International District (May 3rd) and Fremont (May 4th).  This post is a recap of May 3rd in the ID. Find more photos on my Flickr page

    Unlike previous Rodeos, this one was not blessed with sunny, gorgeous weather.  Die hards like me will go, regardless of weather.  It's important to support small business, which almost all truck owners are.  Also, this is Seattle.  It rains.

    Following my own tips, I got to the ID, parked, and was at the Rodeo before the 5pm start time.  Things were going so well that I didn't pick up my VIF (Very Important Foodie) Pass right away.

    How did the VIF Pass work?  Very well.  The check-in was at Hing Hay Park which I think was really smart since it wasn't a high traffic area.  You get a pass on a lanyard and a corresponding wristband to ensure that you don't give your VIF Pass to anyone else.  Both are required for the VIF lines.  I was at the Rodeo for around 3 hours.  Things picked up and while I saw 15-20 people standing in regular lines, there was never more than 3 people in front of me in the VIF line.  Also, lines were much clearer than before - they had stanchions in front of each truck and a food truck wrangler to ensure people were in the right lines.  Brilliant!  Money well spent, as always.

    Stop 1: Street Donuts.  I always stop here first.  Never miss.  Why?  If you haven't tasted their mini-donuts, then you simply don't understand.  My all time favorite is cinnamon caramel.  That light cinnamon sprinkled donuts topped with caramel sauce makes me weak in the knees.  Tonight, I tried habanero chocolate.  It was a nice amount of spice and I liked the consistency of the chocolate.

    Stop 2: Bumbu Truck.  I've been meaning to catch the truck around town and finally got a chance today.  The curry beef lumpia is one of my favorites!  An order of 3 costs $5 and it's a great deal.  The curry beef is lightly spiced and flavorful.  The wrap is fried until golden brown and is a nice package to hold the lovely meat.  Top with the dipping sauce and a bit of sriracha, and life is good.  Today, they had nasi padang - steamed rice, chicken dry curry, collard green curry, and a hard boiled egg in red chili sauce.  I asked for "spicy" and it didn't disappoint. The chicken was tender and seasoned well.  I'm not used to having greens prepared this way but it was good. Overall, there were a lot of flavors that I hadn't tasted before but I liked them all.

    Stop 3: Jemil's Big Easy.  If you know me, then you know I go to Jemil's a lot.  If I'm not mistaken, I'm the Duke of Jemil's on Yelp.  I have a problem - I like cajun food!  Tonight, I had jambalaya and tipsy bread pudding.  I love the spice of the jambalaya.  Often, folks are afraid to put a little spice in food because some customers don't like it.  I love it!  The bread pudding is my second favorite dessert from Jemil's (my absolute fave are beignets).  It's hearty, sweet, and has just a little bit of tipsy in it to send you on your way.  Overall, I love Jemil's and go as often as I can!  The staff (Jemil, Julie, Candace, etc.) is so friendly and fun, it's hard to stay away!

    Stop 4: Six Strawberries.  I've been a fan since they first hit the streets.  The first time I tried their ice pops, I was hooked.  It was a hot summer day and Vanessa was riding the bike around Ballard.  I used the phone app (not sure they still use it) and Twitter to chat with Will to track her down.  My first ice pop was blueberry lemonade and has been my favorite ever since.  Last year, I went to their summer launch and had a fantastic time!  Today, I topped off my savory foods with a sweet ice pop for dessert (blueberry lemonade, of course).  It's as good as the first time I tried it.

    Stop 5:  Crisp Creperie.  I've been a fan of Crisp since the first time I tried their food around their 2nd week on the road.  Tonight, they were selling desserts, and Jon was wearing his California Raisins shirt.  If I'm not mistaken, he's worn it for the last 2 Rodeos, perhaps the last 3.  It's a cool shirt and he's a cool guy.  Evan was his ever smiling self and they were busy as ever.  I got the dark cherry + chocolate + ricotta.  I love the hearty cherries and chunks of chocolate.  The batter is one of my favorites.  The way that the crepe is prepared with a bit of crisp is one of the reasons I continue to come back.  Also, the rosemary lemonade is to die for!  I typically just drink water but I swear, I can drink gallons of this.

    Lucha Libre Vocanica - I've got to give them credit; I honestly thought they were going to cancel due to rain but the show went on.  It was fun entertainment to watch and kids (and kids at heart) had a great time, even in the rain.

    I didn't get to see everyone I planned on seeing so I'm grateful for another chance tomorrow morning in Fremont.  See my Recap Day 2 - 2014 Mobile Food Rodeo (Fremont) here