Archive for the ‘Food Trucks’ Category

SGV Food Truck Fest

February 7, 2011 2 comments

The inventive offerings of L.A.’s gourmet food trucks have proven to be too much for The Fun Foodie to resist.  The evolution from “roach coach” to regional specialty has now spawned a type of “foodie Disneyland”: TRUCK FESTIVALS!  My wife surprised me for my birthday and took me to the San Gabriel Valley Food Fest at Speed Zone in City of Industry.  There’s a five buck cover charge for this monthly event (held every first Friday).  Many complain about this, but I think it’s a decent deal since you get access to 15 or so trucks, professional security, seating, heat lamps, and a five dollar voucher for a game card!  So if you’re going to complain, go ahead and put five bucks worth of gas in your car and see how many trucks you can chase down around L.A.!

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that more than 2,000 people attend this event.  I’d say about half of them were in line at Grill ‘Em All Truck when we got there.  No surprise that the winners of Food Network’s “Great Food Truck Race” were the main event.  My wife, being the incredible human being that she is, stood in line as I meandered through the festival.  I felt like the “daddy eagle” gathering food to bring back to the nest.  In the hour and ten minutes it took to wait in line, order and receive our burger from Grill ‘Em All, I was able to hit up four other trucks!

The Grill 'Em All line.

WHITE RABBIT (see my original review here):  The line was about 10-12 deep, and they were all Filipinos (maybe a couple non-filipino Asians).  Too bad, I’m really hoping Filipino food will become more mainstream.  We’re the second largest asian population in California, but our food popularity lags waaaaay behind Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.  The White Rabbit Truck fuses traditional Filipino flavors with classic Mexican preparations.  The Tocino taco was as good as my first visit, vibrant flavor and nice texture.  Had to try the Beef Steak taco, which is pretty much exactly what you’d get at a Filipino potluck (sans the corn tortillas).  It was tender and juicy, with just the right amount of tanginess.  We both absolutely loved these tacos!

White Rabbit's Filipino tacos.

BUTTERMILK TRUCK:  This was probably the second most popular truck, the line 20-25 people deep.  Everyone — and I mean everyone — who visited Buttermilk left with Red Velvet Chocolate Chip pancakes.  There’s pancake syrup available for self-service but something told me to pass.  The pancakes come with a dollop of cream cheese frosting and dusting of powdered sugar and that’s all it needs.  They are divine, almost a flattened version of Red Velvet cupcakes.  The chocolate chips are a great addition, a texture and flavor surprise that doesn’t detract from the unique Red Velvet profile.  This was easily my wife’s favorite dish of the night.  We also got the Hawaiian Bread Breakfast Sliders, which has Portuguese sausage, sauteed onions, and shoyu scrambled eggs.  Not bad, but nothing worth ordering again.  Shoulda just had a second helping of the pancakes!

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip pancakes. Just don't ruin them with pancake syrup!

Hawaiian Bread Breakfast Sliders.

TAPA BOY:  The line was 8-10 deep and, once again, all Filipino (c’mon, folks, give us a try!).  Tapa Boy specializes in Filipino breakfast, a delicacy known as Silogs which pair savory meats with garlic fried rice and a fried egg.  Not wanting to fill up too quickly, I passed on breakfast and opted for a few tiny dessert bites called turon.  “Turon Old School” is the classic recipe, banana rolled in brown sugar, a sliver of jackfruit, deep-fried in an egg roll wrapper.  It’s great, just like “lola” used to make!  “Turon New School” replaces the brown sugar and jackfuit with Nutella.  It’s even better than it sounds.  Pure genius!  Then there’s “Flan B”, a bold move to deep fry creamy, decadent Flan in an egg roll wrapper.  A great concept, but they need to work on their Flan recipe.  A bit too eggy for my wife, non-descript for me.

Tapa Boy's Turon trio.

TA BOM:  This Brazilian truck was quite busy for most of the night, but there were only two customers ahead of me when I finally got to them.  I thought it was a strange stroke of luck until it was my time to order and I realized that they were sold out of most of their menu.  I was able to get one of their last Pastels, which is a deep-fried crispy pastry filled with seasoned ground beef.  It was great, kind of like a large won-ton with latin flare.  We also tried the Coxhinas, croquettes filled with chicken and cream cheese.  It was pleasantly spicy with a nice crisp exterior, but there was a vinegar tartness that didn’t seem to fit.  Ta Bom definitely fries their food with lard, which adds nice flavor, but may freak some people out.  But, chill out, folks!  Lard won’t kill you … right away, at least.

Ta Bom is da bomb!

GRILL ‘EM ALL:  We somehow still had room in our bellies.  But barely enough for the gargantuan “Behemoth” that we split.  We saw this thing on “The Great Food Truck Race” and it was the one item we were dead set on trying.  The patty itself is huge, I’m guessing a half pound.  It was cooked “well done” with not a hint of pink — I like my burgers medium well, but they didn’t give the option.  Amazingly, it was still very juicy!  It is sandwiched between two full grilled cheese sandwiches (buns can be soooooo boring), and topped with smoked cheddar and bacon.  We agreed, an excellent burger, but not quite worthy of another hour plus wait.  But I would definitely try to get to the festival earlier to beat the crowds and try some of their other burgers.

The Behemoth! Such a fitting name.

Speed Zone and festival organizers, thank you so much for bringing some of L.A.’s very best food trucks closer to our stomping grounds!  We’ll see you again soon!

Buttermilk Truck on Urbanspoon

Grill 'Em All (food truck) on Urbanspoon


Culinary Clash #2: Filipino Food Trucks

January 4, 2011 2 comments

The Los Angeles gourmet food truck craze has spawned over 2,000 mobile eateries.  They are truly unique eating experiences, sometimes over-hyped, but often times they’ll break new culinary ground.  Think about it.  With no seating and unpredictable ambience, these trucks have got to come up with creative offerings to bring in business.  From Korean BBQ tacos to burgers smothered with sausage gravy to red velvet pancakes, the menus are inspired and inspiring!  In this “culinary clash”, I’d like to highlight two of the street food scene’s newest competitors: The Manila Machine and The White Rabbit Truck.  As a Pacquiao fan Filipino, their island offerings are near and dear to my heart.  And stomach.

The Manila Machine, the brain child of two food bloggers, was the very first Filipino food truck on the scene (see my original review here).  They offer dishes that feature familiar ingredients that are presented in creative ways.  Their style is a fusion of old school and nouveau.  Excellent food from really friendly folks.

The White Rabbit Truck takes a more aggressive approach, creating a Mexican-Filipino fusion.  Traditional Filipino meats like Adobo and Tocino are paired with tortillas to create distinctive tacos and burritos.  I must admit, the thought was quite off-putting at first.  Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some Mexican food (as in King Taco not Taco Bell)!  It just seemed so very wrong to have the comfort foods of my youth served with anything other than white rice. 

This deep-seeded prejudice overwhelmed me as I approached The White Rabbit Truck while it was parked at Disney headquarters in Glendale.  I ended up ordering an old fashioned Sisig rice bowl.  No fusing cultures on my watch!  We were keeping everything separate … but equal, of course.  But as I waited for my racialy pure dish to be prepared, I had an Affirmative Action moment.  Why not give a Filipino taco a chance?  About 90 seconds after ordering my Sisig, I ordered one Tocino taco.

And it was good!

Tocino taco ... judged by the content of its character!

Really good!  Tocino is cured pork that many think of as “Filipino ham”.  It is not smoked and quite a bit sweeter.  White Rabbit serves it on two corn tortillas and tops it with a tangy and slightly spicy slaw.  The flavors work together like the colors of a rainbow.  I couldn’t believe my taste buds.  Tocino tacos … who woulda thunk it?

Sisig. Kickin' it old school.

The Sisig was also quite good.  A melody of crispy (yet succulent) bits of fried pork, sauteed with onions, garlic, and jalapenos.  It is brightened up with a splash of citrus.  I can definitely see this working fabulously as a taco, kind of a kicked up version of carnitas.  Two complaints about my first White Rabbit Truck experience: the steamed rice was a bit dry, and the tortillas were not warmed up on the griddle (they were brittle and one actually cracked).  C’mon, White Rabbit, measure out the water carefully and slap those tortillas on the griddle for a couple seconds!

Now for “The Clash”….  The Manila Machine makes their Sisig with pork cheeks, and you don’t get much more tender than those nuggets of goodness.  They add a textural counterpoint with crushed chicharrones on top.  The flavor profiles of the two trucks are very similar with this dish, but the unique mouth-feel of The Manila Machine’s rendition is truly a wonder to behold.  Score one for the bloggers!

The signature items … now, that’s a different story.  If I weren’t so full, I definitely would’ve returned to the truck to order a few more tacos.  The Manila Machine’s pandesal sliders were tremendous, especially the Beef Tapa with Achara slaw.  I’d have to call it a draw.  Obviously, more research must be done.

Both trucks are really good, and different enough to carve out their own distinct niches.  I suppose the Sisig and attention to detail (properly cooked rice and gently toasted pandesal) give The Manila Machine the slight edge.  But if they were parked on the same block, I’d definitely visit both!


The Manila Machine

August 28, 2010 1 comment

I gave The Manila Machine some love last month for simply being L.A.’s first Filipino food truck.  It also happens to be the brain-child of two food bloggers who share a love for island cuisine and a desire to bring it to the masses.  It could very well be the first food truck started by bloggers.  It’s a great story and another source of pride for us Filipinos, the main one being a certain boxer-turned-politician.

The Fun Family finally had the chance to catch up with this popular mobile kitchen.  Turns out that it really lives up to all the hype.  Excellent food and friendly service.  They offer a nice mix of traditional dishes and unique twists.  The Chicken Adobo was pretty much what you’d expect out of “lola’s” (grandma) kitchen.  Very tasty, though just a tad overcooked.  Sisig is for hard-core Filipino foodies.  Tradition dictates that this spicy and tangy concoction be made with chopped pig’s face (including the snout and ears, the meat to cartilage ratio being real close to 50/50).  The Manila Machine softens it up a bit by using pork cheeks, which are wonderfully tender and succulent.  It’s pretty amazing as is, but crumbled chicharrones on top kick it up a couple notches.  Tried “The Original Manila Dip”, which is shredded Chicken Adobo and caramelized onions on pandesal (a traditional Filipino dinner roll, one of the greatest breads on the planet), served with adobo sauce for dipping.  Quite good, but not enough of a standout to warrant ordering again.  The Beef Tapa Slider on the other hand will be visiting my digestive system many times over, should the good Lord tarry His coming.  It’s calamansi (think lime) marinated beef (with a touch of sweetness), with achara slaw (have no idea what that is; all I know is that it was crisp and tangy, the perfect counter-point to the tender meat) and sriracha mayo.  Absolutely amazing!

The Manila Machine is a bit spendy for smallish portions, but this is a gourmet food truck, not a turo-turo in a “Little Manila” district.  You won’t find their unique offerings at Jollibee or Red Ribbon … or anywhere, really.  Well, until the copy-cats jump onto the scene.  I dare them to be half as good.

Chicken Adobo and Sisig.

The islander spin on sliders: chicken adobo and caramelized onions on the left, beef tapa and achara slaw on the right.

The Manila Machine on Urbanspoon