A new magazine and a new street food fest

Destination Seattle for Street Food Fest

Let me start with the street food fest. While we here in Ottawa revel at the (slow) introduction of a new fleet of food trucks and cart (slow both in the city offering up new street food vending permits and in getting the trucks/carts ready and out on the streets), many other cities have been flaunting vehicles serving up delicious fare for years. Last summer, I took a trip up the west coast of the US to Vancouver, trying to enjoy the food trucks and carts all the way. When I travel, I typically walk A LOT. Often I’m just too cheap to pay to take public transit and I’m a healthy able-bodied person…so I figure…why not walk. San Francisco had Off the Grid (food truck gatherings throughout the week) and Portland had pods (permanent food truck parks). These were fabulous, as I made Off the Grid and pod locations a destination; yes, I planned my day around where the food would be located for lunch or dinner on any given day. Unfortunately, Seattle didn’t make it easy for me to try many food trucks as only a very few came to the heart of downtown during meal time. Fortunately, for anyone in Seattle on August 17/18 this year, the city has its first Street Food Festival! It’s bringing a bunch of the city’s best mobile food vendors to one part of the city and throwing in some live music…how fantastic does that sound!?

Modern Farmer

If you enjoy reading about the wide variety of issues around food production, I just read about a new magazine called the Modern Farmer and it may interest you! They have some neat posts on their website and their inaugural magazine edition for Spring 2013 is now on sale. Read about how to save seeds or read a snapshot about the Senate Farm Bill in the US. A little bit of something for every food-lover.

Ottawa will be vending more food on the street

This is absolutely exciting. The City of Ottawa is accepting applications for 20 more street food vendors. There is an info session this Wednesday November 28 for applicants and applications are due January 4, 2013. They encourage ethnically diverse food options that utilize fresh, local ingredients.

After spending the summer eating tons of street food in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Ottawa, I have a few ideas for what the Ottawa street food scene could use…but I don’t think I’ll be putting an application in this year. Granted, this could be a life-changing opportunity for me!

I am SO looking forward to what 20 more licenses could mean for Ottawa!!

Where is the street food in Seattle and Vancouver?

San Francisco had Off the Grid, an organized schedule of food truck gatherings around the city, and a permanent food truck parking lot, open for lunch and dinner. Portland had food trucks organized into permanent pods, or groups of food trucks. Seattle and Vancouver…food trucks continue to be sprinkled here and there, and haven’t quite been domesticated to hang out together.

If you’re trying to locate the nearest food truck to you in Seattle, try the Seattle Food Truck website or Roaming Hunger. As a tourist without a car and wanting to stay as close to the free transit zone as possible (includes only the downtown core; free zone to be eliminated this fall 2012), the number of accessible food trucks was minimal. We did try two that were a few blocks from Pike Place.

Maximus/Minimus
Downtown, 2nd at Pike Street (@somepigsseattle)

Seeing that the whole food truck is shaped like a cool-looking pig, you might guess that their specialty is pork. Pulled pork to be exact. We happened to visit the truck on Taco Tuesday, so we had 3 tacos for $6: pulled pork, grilled chicken, and black bean & sweet potato. Each taco was topped with some cole slaw. It was all very delicious!

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Dog Japon
Downtown, 2nd at Pike Street

If you’ve ever tried JapaDog in Vancouver, serving beef wieners topped with Japanese-influenced ingredients, this must be the Seattle rival. We tried the Sukiyaki dog for about $5.50 (I write ‘about’ because I forgot to record the exact price paid for this food truck). It was tasty, particularly because the salty beef weiner just hit that magical spot for me that day, but I prefer JapaDog overall.

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If you’re trying to locate food trucks in Vancouver, definitely check the Street Food App website to see all of the food trucks open that day plus their open times and locations.

Feastro
@coastfeastro

Its tag line is ‘the rolling bistro’ and it specializes in soft tacos with mostly seafood influences. We tried the fish taco for $8 and my friend had their watermelon mint lemonade for $4. The lemonade was beautifully refreshing on a hot summer afternoon. The fish was cooked well and sat atop a bed of veggies. It’s near impossible to roll this baby up like you would with a standard taco, so to share, we cut it in half and messily ate our half portions hovering over the sidewalk.

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Roaming Dragon
@DragonTruck

This food truck seems to have a name for itself. Whenever I asked friends to recommend food trucks, this was one that kept being mentioned. The truck serves Asian-influenced cuisine. We tried the fried rice balls for $4 and the Bulgogi Gordita for $6. After looking up what a Gordita is, I’m not sure how what I ate is a Gordita…but oh well. Both of the items were interesting, something a little unexpected about both. I’m not sure I’d get either again but it was definitely worth the try.

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Tacofino
@TacoFinoCantina

Started in Tofino on the island a few years ago, this truck seems to have made its mark on the Vancouver food truck scene. Although I was too full to try their fish tacos, I had to try their chocolate diablo cookie after hearing about it on the Food Network’s Eat St. show and on a blog somewhere (whilst researching the best trucks to try in Vancouver). The cookie had ginger, chili, chocolate chunks, and salt. All in a chocolate batter. And yes, it was scrumptious. I wish I had access to these cookies whenever I want! A cookie was $2.50 and the portion was more than generous. Definitely recommend this cookie!

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Meat + Bread
1033 Pender Street between Burrard and Thurlow (or 370 Cambie Street at W Hastings)

Okay, small disclaimer here…I’m going to tag on a place that we went to because we couldn’t find any food trucks that we wanted to try (there were a few taco stands around and we weren’t in the mood for tacos) but that was pretty darn amazing.

Meat + Bread has two locations in downtown Vancouver and they’re both super popular. We picked up lunch at around 11:30am and while we ate our sandwiches in a little plaza beside the restaurant on Pender Street, we noticed that a steady line ran out the door between noon and about 1:30pm. The number of menu options can be counted on one hand, but from the feel of the place, I felt like they throw all of their love into making the few options they offer.

I had their signature sandwich, pork porchetta with salsa verde, served in their delicious baguette for $8. The pork was mouth-watering delicious…apparently it’s quite possible for one to drool whilst eating food because said food is just so darn good. The pork has crispy skin and some fatty bits…needless to say, a sandwich not meant for vegetarians (though I recall a vegetarian option being on the menu). We also tried their daily special sandwich, which was a jerk chicken with pineapple jalapeño salsa, also for $8. Although this sandwich was tasty and had more veggies than the pork porchetta, consensus between the two of us was that the pork porchetta wins hands down.

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Portland Pods

Upon arriving in Portland, I quickly got onto the task of locating the food carts for the impending dinner hour. As soon as I searched “food carts in Portland”, I learned that this city makes it easier for me to find food carts around the city by organizing them into “pods”, which are like mini cities of food carts located in various parts of the city. Of course, there are random food carts strewn about and they make for a great find if you’re lucky enough to chance upon them on your walk through town. We visited the pods that are located in the downtown Portland area and tried a handful of them.

El Cubo de Cuba
Pod at SW 10th Avenue at SW Alder Street

Had the Cuban sandwich with a side of maduros (fried plantains) for $7.50. The sandwich is pressed (think grilled panini) and has mayo, mustard, pickles, cheese, pork, and ham. I personally wasn’t a huge fan of it because I prefer a stronger flavour but it’s filling.

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Korean Twist on 5th
Pod at Stark & SW 5th Avenue

Kept reading on the internet that Korean tacos are a must-try in Portland and who am I to argue, as I adore Korean food. Found this truck from which I excitedly ordered a 3 taco platter. These are soft shell tacos, filled with bulgogi, spicy pork, and spicy chicken (there was also a tofu option). The combo was $5 ($2.50 for one taco) and well worth it! These things are absolutely delicious if you enjoy meat with Korean flavoring.

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Brunch Box
Pod at Stark & SW 5th Avenue

I was very recently introduced to a TV show called Eat St. (I don’t have a TV) and they do stories on food carts in various cities; lo and behold, when I was on the flight to San Francisco, the TV on the plane had this show and the episode about Portland…and needless to say, I watched it. It featured Brunch Box and their ridiculous burgers, like the redonkadonk, a burger with egg, bacon, beef patty, garnishing vegetables, and two grilled cheese sandwiches for buns. Had to visit this food truck but was not adventurous or hungry enough to try such a crazy burger…so went with the Hawaii 5-oh, which is a burger with grilled pineapple and spam. For $6, it was different from any other burger I had tried and it was delicious! The combination of spam and pineapple is amazing! And don’t say you don’t like spam before trying this.

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Koi Fusion
Find where they are @Koifusionpdx

They have Korean-influenced tacos, burritos, quesadillas, sliders, and a rice bowl. You have a choice of toppings/ingredients of bulgogi beef, pork, chicken, tofu, short ribs and maybe kimchi. We had pork tacos, where an order costs you $2 and you get one soft-shelled taco with marinated pork and topped with bean sprouts, cucumber, and cilantro. It was good but I preferred the tacos from Korean Twist on 5th.

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I like Thai food
Pod at SW 10th Avenue at SW Alder

We needed a quick meal before a film screening so decided to grab one of the specials on the little board in front of this food truck: pumpkin curry with brown rice for $5. This was probably the best value that we got at a food truck. They gave us a good containers’ worth of curry and a little Chinese takeout container (the ones you see in movies of New York) full of brown rice. The curry was spicy and absolutely delicious! Definitely recommend giving this truck a try if you enjoy Thai (the sentence even rhymes!).

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Sorry the image is sideways!
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Taste of India
Pod at SW 10th Avenue at SW Alder

We shared the meat curry lunch special for $6, which included a chickpea curry, saag curry, chicken curry, basmati rice, and two pieces of naan. Because it was so hot outside, we also had a glass of lemonade for $1. The chicken curry was delicious but I had had much better saag and chickpea curries. The lemonade is not fresh-squeezed (they never advertised it as such) and tasted like it had been made either with chlorinated water (light pool water) or in a container that had recently been sanitized with bleach…not the thirst-quenching drink I had been hoping for. The meal is a bit small to share between two people, even though neither of us was super hungry.

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Treats of San Francisco

There is no shortage of good food in the beautiful city by the Bay and I wanted to share some of the treats that we just encountered, mostly by chance. The places that just make you smile because the service and the food is just so amazing.

JapaCurry (@JapaCurry)

This is a food truck that we happily came upon completely by luck. It was parked in the Financial District for lunchtime service and we had just enough space in our bellies for an order of tonkatsu curry at $8. They serve the curry in a plastic container, separate from the tonkatsu and rice, which helps keep the tonkatsu super crispy (yum!) and gave us a spare container for storing food on the go. It was a rarity to see food being served in plastic during our venture in San Francisco as all other places serve out of paper containers. Anyways, we had the curry spiced up and it had a decent kick. The sauce wasn’t all that I had thought it would be…but the tonkatsu was great.

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XOX Truffles
745 Columbus Avenue (Little Italy area)

I love good artisan chocolate. We have a few in the Ottawa area but whenever I’m in another city, I like to seek out some local chocolatiers. In San Francisco, we lucked out at XOX Truffles. At a very affordable $0.75 per piece, there are easily a dozen different flavours to choose from, anything from green tea to French roast to honey vodka (sorry, my one photo of the display is quite blurry). The texture of these chocolates in your mouth is so smooth and the taste is mmmmmm. Definitely recommend saving space for a truffle or two from this place; you won’t regret it.

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Pacific Puffs
2201 Union St (Union Street shops area)

Ever since I was young, I’ve had a very very soft spot for cream puffs. The choux has to be not too soft, definitely not soggy, and light and airy. There must be custard inside, not whipped cream…though I will settle for whipped cream if the choux is done well. Exploring the Union Street shops, an area new-to-me but clearly marked on my tourist map, we were just about to stray off Union Street when my eyes saw the word “Puffs” on an awning across the street. Could it be!?

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Yes it is a shop that sells cream puffs! For $3.25, I got a regular cream puff and oh my goodness it was heaven in my mouth!

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Smitten Ice Cream
432 Octavia at Linden Street

What do you get when you mix nitrogen, a refurbished steel cargo container, and deliciously sweet ingredients? Why, you get Smitten Ice Cream!

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Opened a few years ago using an ice cream making contraption appropriately named Kelvin placed on a nostalgia-inducing red wagon from your childhood, the shop has expanded to occupy a steel container and two more Kelvins. Smitten uses cold cold nitrogen to create ice cream that it claims (rightfully so) to be creamier than regular frozen ice cream. Available in a choice of flavours each day and with fabulous toppings such as pistachio brittle and sugary cacao bits, any combo is bound to please. They also offer vegan Popsicles. We got two small sized cups of ice cream, which includes two scoops each, with one topping each for a total of $10.50.

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San Francisco food carts: Off the Grid Tuesday

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Off the Grid Tuesday was at the UN Plaza near the Civic Center (City Hall) for lunch (11:30am to 2pm). There were five food trucks sitting on a concrete and brick plaza, forming a semicircle around folding chairs that had been set out for Off the Grid patrons. The setting was a juxtaposition of good food and those without home. We tried an item from four of the five food trucks but missed hiyaaa.

Chairman Truck (@chairmantruck)
Serving Chinese-influenced foods, mostly buns with various drool-evoking fillings. We had two steamed buns (how could we stop at just one!): pork belly with tumeric pickled daikon and green shiso and coca cola braised pork with savoy cabbage and preserved yellow mustard seeds. $3.75 each.

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Old World Food Truck (twitter handle?)
Tried their pierogies. They had the traditional potato and cheese option, but they also offered a beef, dried fruit, and spices option that I’d never before encountered…so of course I had to try that! They were delicious but I also don’t think I’ve ever had pierogies that I didn’t think we’re delicious (ie. I am not a pierogi connoisseur in any way). $7.

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Tandoori Chicken USA (@TCUSAmobile)
Various tandoor-inspired foods. Tried their shrimp pakoras for $6. I was imagining macerated shrimp, incorporated into a batter…something filling, pakora-esque and juicy. It ended up being shrimp coated in batter…juicy but not very filling and not quite the “pakora” I had been expecting.

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Wesushi (@we_sushi)
I’ve had sushi pizza on numerous occasions now but sushi taco? Of course I had to try sushi tacos! For $4, you get two tacos, essentially sashimi and avocado in hard-shell tacos.

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San Francisco food carts: Off the Grid Monday

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Off the Grid Monday was at St.Mary’s Square (near Chinatown and the Financial District) for lunch (11:30am to 2pm). We headed there for opening time and found four food trucks (3sumeats, five ten burgers, fish tank truck, hapaSF) sitting in a cute urban park with greenspace, some trees for shade, and benches in the sun…plenty of spots to sit and enjoy lunch. We tried two of the four trucks.

Fish Tank Truck (@FishTankTruck)

Creates seafood-based meals dependent on the catch of the day. Tried the blackened wild pacific red snapper sandwich with mango-papaya-jalapeño salsa on an artisan bun for $10.

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HapaSF (@HapaSF)

Serves sustainable organic Filipino cuisine. Tried the lumpia (Filipino deep fried egg rolls) for $5 because I read a few articles on San Francisco food cart must-haves and HapaSF’s lumpia showed up a few times. They’re absolutely delicious and dangerously addictive, as long as you eat meat.

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Asian night market applied to San Francisco food carts

I absolutely adore the concept of a food cart: portable, inexpensive, appropriate portion sizes, and typically innovative good food.

The food cart scene has really exploded in San Francisco and I wanted to dedicate as many of my meals as possible during a 3 day stay to street food. Ottawa has delicious food but its food cart scene is a bit lacking, unless all you want off a cart is poutine, burgers, or hot dogs. Don’t get me wrong, those foods have a place on the street food scene but I know that there could be a lot more variety and creativity infused into Ottawa’s food cart scene.

Once I landed in San Francisco, I realized that the one challenge with eating from food carts is finding them in the first place. They’re supposed to be transient in nature and without knowing the lay of the land too well, this proved to be my nemesis (not to mention my lack of access to smartphone/twitter access on the go). That is, until I found out about Off the Grid. Off the Grid started in 2010 with the concept of bringing together food carts to create an Asian night market feel. They started off small and in two years have grown to include over one hundred vendors! Every day, there is a market either for lunch, dinner, or both, somewhere in San Francisco. The locations, dates, and times can all be found on the Off the Grid website. Just show up (early, if you want to avoid lines), sample food from a handful of food carts, then chow down while people watching.

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In addition to Off the Grid, the day before I left San Francisco, I learned that the city’s first permanent food truck lot had opened in June 2012! It’s called Soma Streat Food Park and is located at 428 11th Street in SoMa (south of the market area). I happened to see it on a bus ride into SoMa and it looks pretty nice. There are usually a good handful of trucks, there’s ample seating and washrooms in the park, apparently there may be music or movie nights, and there’s wifi! Because it’s a permanent location, the mystery and adventure of seeking food carts in your area is taken away but this place has everything one could want for a fun night out! (they also open for lunch)