Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Chef Jemil Aziz Johnson - From NOLA with Love

Jemil's Big Easy in South Lake Union
The sight of Jemil's Big Easy food truck makes me do a double take every time.  I've been following the truck for years with good reason - the food is amazing!  Combine that with great staff and I'll follow the truck just about anywhere! 

On Monday, July 27, 2015, I stopped by Kraken Congee to attend Jemil's pop-up - From NOLA with Love.  My mouth was watering as I looked over the menu and smiled when I saw a picture I took on the Dyne page.  I'm in!!!

First Course - Corn Fritter with Crab, Spiced Yam, and Greens.  The fritter had a crispy texture.  The crunch was tapered by the delicate greens.  The sweetness of the spiced yam was a perfect pairing with the salty crab.  Great way to start the meal! 

Corn Fritter with Crab, Spiced Yam, and Greens
Second Course - Duck and Andouille Sausage Gumbo.  I've had Jemil's gumbo many times.  The bite of the spices keep me coming back for more!  The sausage is expertly prepared.  The tender, fatty duck is a perfect addition to the already well-composed dish.  This was comfort in a bowl.  

Duck and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
Third Course - Melon Soup.  I'd never had melon soup before and imagined it would be overly sweet.  I was wrong.  It was refreshing and the sweetness was balanced by a nice mix of peppers which also gave it a kick. 

Melon Soup
Fourth Course - Pasta Bordelaise with Toast Points and Basil Butter.  The pasta was cooked al dente.  The crunchy toast points covered with basil butter had me wanting to eat the butter by the spoonful!  My friends literally tried to grab my bread off the plate! 

Pasta Bordelaise with Toast Points and Basil Butter
Fifth Course - Cajun Trio Taster.  Yikes!  By the time this course rolls around, I'm seriously struggling.  Jemil loves to feed people and you'll never walk away hungry.  The blackened quail was cooked really well and was a great way to introduce folks to the dish if they've never had it before.  The jambalaya is one of my favorite dishes!  It had perfectly cooked rice and the seasoning was on the money.  I have to confess that I couldn't eat all the étouffée since I stuffed my mouth full of jambalaya! 

Cajun Trio Taster
Sixth Course - Flambéed Bananas Foster Bread Pudding.  Just when I thought I couldn't eat another bite, it was time for dessert!  Okay, maybe I can have just a bit.  Yes.  I ate it all.  All the sweetness of bananas foster with chunks of bread pudding.  Did I mention the dreamy ice cream?  How could I forget?  I scream for ice cream!!!  

Flambéed Bananas Foster Bread Pudding
Overall, it was a great night and honestly one of the best pop-ups I've been to.  Then again, I've come to expect nothing less from Jemil.  I left with a very happy tummy.  :-)

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Oh!  Guess who's getting some national attention?  That's right, catch Jemil on Cutthroat Kitchen later this month!  

Saturday, August 1, 2015

GaiBox | Mobile Mavens

GaiBox at The Bite of Seattle

GaiBox is one of a collection of campers that make up Mobile Mavens.  The concept behind GaiBox is chicken and rice.  Many cultures have a version of the dish.  This version is based on Nong’s Khao Man Gai in Portland, Oregon.

I recently stopped by the camper when they were at The Bite.  You choose a sauce top off your chicken and rice.  I chose the pattaya sauce made of thai chilis, nuoc cham, and sweet vinegar.  I was struck by the fragrant chicken when I scooped a bite to eat.  The herbs pervaded the soft, poached chicken and worked very well with the rice.  

Chicken and Rice with Pattaya Sauce

The rice!  My rice NEVER gets that fluffy when I make it.  They were tiny pillows of puffy goodness cooked in broth.  Delicate in flavor and texture, it was a perfect pairing with the chicken.  The chicken suffered from a common ailment of being poached – it needed more salt.  Also, if you’re into “spice”, their definition of spicy and mine are totally different.  Prefer my chicken and rice spicier but can definitely understand how it would be less so for mainstream purposes.

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Recap - 2015 Taco Libre Truck Showdown

Crowd shot - angle courtesy of short people problems :-)

I read a number of interesting comments posted by folks who attended this event. Some had a great time; others a terrible time. I understand some of the frustration since I’ve had many of the same concerns over the years. Many concerns could have been mitigated by visiting the Mobile Food Rodeo website. They provide tips and ALWAYS list their truck lineup. Yes, it’s busy. Because everyone has the same idea – eat yummy food!

My mantra is the same for each huge food truck event. If you want to see as many trucks as possible, get there early before the lines. I was there at 5pm and the lines were minimal.  Otherwise, get there whenever you want and come with friends. If there's 6 of you and each of you stand in a line to buy food to share, that's only one time you have to wait in line. If each person gets 2-3 dishes (12-18 dishes total), all of you will have plenty to eat.  

For most of the trucks, I'm in line with everyone else. I typically don't see trucks that I have access to on a regular basis and focus on newer trucks and those with interesting menus. It's hard to spread the love around with the sheer volume of mobile trucks in Seattle.
Are dogs welcome? I'm not sure but there's always a good amount of well-behaved, leashed friends. This is my current crush Sawyer. Isn't he adorable? 

Sawyer the Shiba Inu

Now on to the trucks!

Brisket Sandwich - Meat on a Mission

Meat on a Mission is a truck I haven't visited before. I decided to stop by for a brisket sandwich. I love brisket! I prefer my brisket sliced (and they give you a choice). The slices were a decent size and the portion was good for the price. It was fragrant with smoke and the sauce was flavorful. The brisket was slightly underdone and not as tender as I would expect. The bun was sweet and easy to grab...for a little while. By the time I got to the last 1/4 of my sandwich, the bottom of the bun was a soggy, gooey mess. The presentation was messy, including the box that was covered with sauce on the outside. 

Al's Gourmet Sausage totally blew my mind! Now, there was a shave ice vendor on site. When I stopped there, they were actually selling snow cones. Shave ice and snow cones are not the same thing. I was bummed, wandering aimlessly. I came across Al's and they had a shave ice machine! They even had syrups imported from Hawaii! Al's is totally legit in my book. 

I recognize that picture! - Fish Basket
Cod Tacos - Fish Basket

Fish Basket was in the house with their cod tacos. The fish was crispy as ever! The flavors of the fish, sauce, and fresh veggies will make you want more! Okay, I was starting to get full but remember, I'm in it to win it!!!

Sweet Taco - Bread and Circuses

Bread and Circuses was a hit! They ran out of their savory tacos early that night. They did have a few sweet tacos left - chocolate tortilla, macerated strawberries and whipped cream. Thank goodness I found them. It had been a whole 15 minutes since the last time I ate! 

Beef Tamales - Jemil's Big Easy

Cajun Tacos - Jemil's Big Easy

Jemil's Big Easy was on the street with two specials - beef tamales and cajun tacos. The biggest thing about Jemil's food is the flavor and spice. The tamale sauce had just the right amount of heat. The cajun tacos featured a fried and not-so-fried option for those who think they're going to eat healthier, lol. 

Honestly, I wanted to hit up more trucks but a combination of lines, growing fullness in my belly, and exhaustion of hitting up two major food truck events on the same day set in. Overall, the event was pretty successful. 

The "All-You-Can-Eat" Taco Bar lounge was presented by The Matador. For $25, people were promised as many tacos as they could fit in their bellies. I didn't participate (mostly since I'm not a huge fan of food from The Matador) so I won't write from personal experience. Suffice to say, it seems that it could have been a more positive experience for folks.  

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Seoul Kitchen - Korean Fusion Food Truck

One day, two food truck chefs told me about Seoul KitchenThat’s not uncommon.  What is uncommon is the raving I heard about the food.  In the last week, I’ve visited Seoul Kitchen twice. 

My first visit was at 2nd & Pike.  Since I was eating at another truck, I decided to go light, buy a few things, and share with friends.  I got Kimchi Fries ($4), Mochi Beignets ($4), and Hibiscus Lychee Tea ($3).  The truck was just picking up for the lunch rush so my wait was minimal.  Counter staff was friendly and efficient.  I took my booty back to the office to share with others. 

Kimchi Fries

The Kimchi Fries were very good.  Thin, shoestring potatoes form the base of the dish.  It was topped with sweetened gochujang aioli and spicy pork.  The sweetener in the gochujang aioli is a closely guarded secret as I casually asked, and was expertly distracted.  The sweet and savory is a winning combination but the aioli is a little too sweet.  Also, my vegetarian friend made a sad face when I told her about the pork.  It’s a really good dish that could be hit with a bit of salt. 

Mochi Beignets

The Mochi Beignets were a mystery to me.  I’m half Japanese so I’m no stranger to mochi.  I’m also a huge fan of beignets.  This is not what I would name the dish because it doesn’t remotely remind me of a beignet.  Regardless of the name, this is an amazing dessert!  A crisp outer shell wraps warm, chewy filling.  It’s all covered with lovely powdered sugar.  It’s best when eaten warm but on two occasions, hungry (yet lazy) foodies in my office have walked away with a few cold ones, come back, and pestered me about where to get them.  I’ll eat these any day of the week. 

I’m a big fan of signature beverages.  I love the hibiscus lychee iced tea!   Hibiscus is a distinctive flavor that I love in tea.  The combination is refreshing and not too sweet.  It was a great compliment to the food. 

Tofu Bibimap with Basil Curry Sauce

My second visit was at Occidental Park.  The truck was busier than last time and definitely took longer.  This time, I decided to order bibimap.  You start with a bowl for $6 that comes with seasoned white rice, spinach salad, sautéed carrots, soy sprouts, pickled daikon, and seaweed.  From there, you choose a protein (tofu, chicken, pork, or steak) for $2 or $3.  I chose the tofu.  Up next, you choose a sauce – Korean chili, ginger soy, or basil curry.  I asked for a recommendation for which sauce would pair well with the tofu and was given a definitive recommendation for basil curry.  I’m glad I asked because it was spot on and would have been my last choice.  Finally, you can choose optional items such as fried egg ($1), salad ($1), or brown rice ($1).  The tofu was seasoned perfectly and had great texture! The mix of the ingredients was good but the carrots were sautéed a bit too much.  It was good and I want to try more. 

As with all trucks, schedules can vary so track Seoul Kitchen by social media or their website.  

Find me here: Twitter / Instagram / Flickr for more food truckery! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Wood Shop BBQ - Coming to a street near you!

I’m in love with these ribs!  After trying the food from Wood Shop BBQ, I have to say this is one of my favorite new trucks. 

A month ago, I saw pit master Matt Davis and super nice food truck owner James Barrington of Hallava Falafel fame at a funding event.  Matt was hidden in the back and he had ribs.  Ribs!  I thought to myself, “Meh.  I’ll try some.”  I was glad I did!  I dream of those ribs.  They were meaty and tender.  There was a little fat but not too much.  The meat, dripping in sauce, fell off the bone.  There’s nothing like a bunch of folks at a funding event covered in barbeque sauce and being completely unapologetic about it.  That night, I heard that Wood Shop BBQ would be launching a food truck.

Smoked ribs - the stuff dreams are made of

Pit Master Matt Davis
Tonight, I went to see the truck (playfully named “Woody”) for the first time at Chuck’s Hop Shop Greenwood.  At 7:30pm, the truck sold out of ribs.  I had hoped it would be a secret for a little while but that was wishful thinking.  I got to try the brisket and it was fantastic!  That smoky, peppery goodness is something I’ll be thinking about for a long, long time.  The pulled pork sandwich was as good as the first time I had it.  Cooked well, flavorful, drenched in sauce and served on a bun – total mess (which is how I judge a good sandwich). 

Brisket Sandwich
Recently, I had the opportunity to find out more about the truck.  Matt attempts to recreate the BBQ of his youth through smoking with hickory firewood.  Hickory adds a robust flavor that Seattleites may not be familiar with.  According to Matt, nothing tastes better than using real wood to cook food.  Partnering that with slow smoking at low temperatures causes the meat to melt into itself.  Yep – I’ll testify – that’s totally true!  Plus, who wouldn’t love a smoker named “Brad Pit?”  Wood Shop BBQ believes the best way to cook meat is to instill big flavor and keep that tender bite. 

Pulled Pork Sandwich
Menu items include a variety of different BBQ fare, inspired by Kansas City, Texas, and other regions.  Drop by the truck to order up some brisket, pulled pork, chicken and ribs!  If sides are your jam, don’t forget the kale caesar, buttermilk coleslaw, and homemade pickles – inspired Southern, Midwestern, and Northwest flavors.  In addition to lovingly prepared meat, the original sauce has been inspired by Kansas City Sauce.  Wood Shop BBQ has bridged the gap by also creating a coffee-infused Seattle Sauce.  Rumor has it that other sauces may be created by partnering with local breweries with seasonal offerings.

Check out Wood Shop BBQ if you have the chance.  So far, I believe the truck is slated to be at Chuck’s and possibly Fremont Sunday Market.