What I Ate at the OC Fair
Nov 14th, 2011 by donuts4dinner

My boyfriend’s family has lived in places like Iran and Idaho and Ohio but thankfully settled in California, giving me an excuse to visit once a year for sunning, beaching, and stuffing my face with his mom’s fine Persian cuisine. This year, we happened to pass some signs advertising the Orange County Fair on one of our many drives between his parents’ house and In-N-Out and decided to go one night.

We rode the skyride, just like my sister and I used to with our mom as kids at the Ohio State Fair, until the year she happened to accidentally kick off her flip-flop while we were still up in the air halfway across the park:

OC Fair

We watched the giant ferris wheel light up bright white in beautiful patterns:

OC Fair

and met up with one of Kamran’s old friends:

OC Fair

but most importantly, we ate.

The stands we tried were out of fried butter, so we just ate fried everything-else:

OC Fair
deep-fried Baby Ruth wrapped in a jalapeno on a bed of churros

This one seemed like a bit of a stretch, but Kamran’s friends promised we’d like it, and it ended up being my favourite treat of the night. Not only do I now understand why people like churros so much–these were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and coated with sugar–but I also gained new appreciation for sweet and spicy combinations. It wasn’t just sweet and spicy for sweet and spicy’s sake, though; the flavors of the jalapeno and the Baby Ruth actually complimented each other.

OC Fair
deep-fried Oreos

The thing about coating foods you already like in batter and frying them is that you always gain the flavor of batter but lose some of the flavor of the original food. So while I liked the warmth of the Oreo and the addition of the batter texture and flavor, I missed being able to pick out the delicate flavor of the cream.

OC Fair
deep-fried chicken on a Krispy Kreme jelly donut

We somehow missed that this was a jelly donut, so biting into it and having the raspberry filling ooze out the sides was a pleasant surprise. The donut’s sweetness was entirely balanced by the savory flavors of the chicken, though of course the donut didn’t have quite the structural integrity of a normal roll. This is the closest I’ve gotten to a Luther Burger and only further fuels my desire to have one.

OC Fair
jalapeno popper wrapped in bacon

I love a jalapeno popper, and this didn’t disappoint. With the addition of the bacon, I didn’t even miss the usual batter.

OC Fair
deep-fried Kool-Aid

I’m not sure how I expected it to be made, but I imagine the deep-fried Kool-Aid having a cold, slushy center. Instead, these were like donut holes sprinkled with a packet of cherry Kool-Aid mix. They were enjoyably packed with sour flavor, but I missed the refreshing aspect I was expecting from Kool-Aid.

And now I can’t wait to go back next year to try even more!

Go to Big D’s Grub Truck for the Bulgogi, but Stay for the Dumplings
Nov 1st, 2011 by donuts4dinner

From the Vault:

I went to Big D’s Grub Truck so long ago that it’s not really fair for me to rate it, but I also don’t want my meal to go unnoticed and forgotten. Here’s why Big D’s is great:

1) They actually come to the lower bowels of Manhattan, the Financial District, unlike so many of the trucks that hang out in Midtown or only come as far as Fulton Street.

2) Their truck is bright yellow, so I can spot it in the morning even while half-passed-out on the bus so I don’t go out in the cold later for no reason.

3) They serve tacos and dumplings and are always parked right across from the Cupcake Crew truck, so I can have a carbfest and then go back to my desk to half-pass-out again in bliss.

Big D's Grub Truck
bulgogi taco ($2.50)

This was my first time trying bulgogi, or marinated beef cooked over open flames; Big D marinates his in soy sauce, garlic, and sesame seed oil and then tops it with kimchi puree, scallions, and crema to give this taco sweet, spicy, cool, zinging flavors. I loved the tenderness of the beef with the crunch of the cucumber, and found the kimchi to be exactly the right amount as to not overpower the rest of the dish (unlike, say, a bowl from the Korilla truck, which I also love but have to be in the mood to get kimchi-punched-in-the-face for).

Big D's Grub Truck
spicy pork taco ($2.50)

Of course I thought the bulgogi spicy enough, so I was a little afraid of being knocked out by this, but I was pleasantly surprised by its balance. The lime wedge that comes with every taco helps quite a bit, as you can imagine. I don’t remember this being terribly different than the beef, but I appreciated the texture differences.

Big D's Grub Truck
spicy chicken ($2.50)

I loooooove cilantro and loooooove spicy mayo, so this was the taco for me. If the menu offered this in pork and beef, I’d get all three every time.

Big D's Grub Truck
pork & chive dumplings ($3)

My co-workers and I have been longtime fans of the Bian Dang (formerly Cravings) truck’s steamed dumplings, but the glutton in me likes these better because they’re both fried and have a much thicker skin (more carbs!). Eating these gives me the same sort of feeling as eating gnocchi, except with the added benefit of filling.

Big D’s Grub Truck
Check @bigdsgrub
on Twitter for locations

Prospect Park Food Truck Rally
Jul 22nd, 2011 by plumpdumpling

The problem with everything in NYC is that it’s hip and that hip people live here and that hip people do hip things. Our friends Christine and Eric invited Dr. Boyfriend and me to Bravo’s “Top Chef: The Tour” cooking showdown back in May, but we ultimately decided that it’d probably involve arriving super early, standing around for hours, and maybe not getting to see or eat anything at all.

So instead, we went to the Food Truck Rally in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park!

NYC Food Truck Rally

Which turned out to involve crowds and standing around and not getting to eat anything, too! But at least we were together.

We arrived at Grand Army Plaza about noon, and things didn’t look so bad around the first couple of trucks:

NYC Food Truck Rally

We figured it didn’t hurt to maximize our time, though, and decided to split up into two groups. Dr. Boyfriend and I would take the lobster roll truck in appreciation of my never having had one, Eric and Christine would take the souvlaki truck in appreciation of Christine’s heritage, and our friend Jack would flit back and forth between the two groups, entertaining us.

Forty-five minutes later, Dr. Boyfriend and I have five lobster rolls from the Red Hook Lobster Pound. Which, at $16 a pop, was $80 worth of lightly-mayonnaised meat:

NYC Food Truck Rally

Of course, we didn’t get to eat it for another hour, because Eric and Christine had to wait in the Souvlaki GR line for AN HOUR AND 42 MINUTES. I know this because Eric is a nerd and timed it on his watch:

NYC Food Truck Rally

Apparently the truck was grilling meat only as orders came in instead of just slapping pounds of the stuff on the grill in anticipation of the orders. Meaning that each person was guaranteed a five-minute wait and that the line backed up across the East River and halfway into Manhattan.

In the meantime, Dr. Boyfriend and I stopped by the much-less-crowded but still absolutely inefficient Kelvin Natural Slush Co. truck, which was somehow also taking several minutes per customer to push some pre-made slush out of a machine.

Luckily, the Kelvin slushes are absolutely beautiful, come in flavors like Spicy Ginger, Tangy Citrus, and Green & Black Tea, and can have fresh pureed fruits like blood orange, lychee, guava, and white peach added in:

NYC Food Truck Rally

I got the ginger and added in basil, and I swear I’ve never had a better slush. Clearly, neither has Dr. Boyfriend:

NYC Food Truck Rally

Eventually, finally, Christine got her souvlaki:

NYC Food Truck Rally

and we all gathered behind the circle of trucks to chow.

The lobster roll was full of huuuuuge chunks of meat–entire claw pieces!–was well-seasoned, and had a nice celery crunch. But $16 and a 45-minute wait? The souvlaki was delicious: succulent meat, fluffy pita, and all of the right garnishes, including red onion and French fries nestled in right next to the pork. But AN HOUR AND 42 MINUTES in line? It was just a little too intense for such a little amount of food.

The lines for Coolhaus, the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck, Taïm Mobile, and Eddie’s Pizza Truck were just as out of control, so we tried the conspicuously uncrowded Cupcake Stop line and found out that it was so tame because they had run out of cupcakes and had an employee stuck in traffic with the new supply. So we left.

But despite all of the disappointment, we had a great time! We were surrounded by good people who like to support street food and who repeatedly stopped to talk to me about my skull-made-out-of-bacon-and-eggs t-shirt. Narcissism!

NYC Food Truck Rally

NYC Food Truck Rally

And we’re, um, going to the Great Hot Dog Cookoff this weekend, so either we’re gluttons for punishment or just plain gluttons.

Cupcake Crew Has What Might Be the Best Cupcake in NYC
Mar 24th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

While out trying to find a decent banh mi the other day, I happened to spot a food truck I’d never seen downtown: Cupcake Crew. Black with a giant pink cupcake on one side, I knew it was going to be my kind of truck.

The menu was small–six cupcake flavors–but that’s great for someone like me who can’t make decisions. I’m usually a vanilla cake/vanilla icing kind of girl, but the cream cheese icing on the red velvet was calling to me with its perfect dollopness and its tiny sugar sprinkles.

Cupcake Crew Red Velvet Cake

It was a really good cupcake. The cake was the right amount of moist, and although my first impression had been that there wasn’t a good icing to cake ratio just because a little of the cake was visible on top, it turned out that the extra-sweet cream cheese was rich enough to satisfy even a sugar freak like me.

I did admittedly miss the filling you see in other popular cupcakes about town, but I got the feeling this was supposed to be the kind of cupcake your mama used to make and bring to your first grade classroom on your birthday.

Cupcake Crew Graceland Cupcake

But the Graceland was the real treat. I wasn’t even supposed to have it, actually; when I mentioned it was my first time at the truck, the friendly Brooklynite manning the counter offered me one of their mini cupcakes (normally $1.25) in another flavor to sample. If I’d had time to think about it, I probably wouldn’t have even chosen the Graceland then, because banana isn’t one of my favourite flavors.

It turns out, though, that this is one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. The peanut butter frosting was INSANE in the way only peanut butter mixed with more sugar can be. The chewy chunk of bacon on top added so much depth of flavor with its smoky finish. And even the banana cake was something I’d be happy to eat on its own! (It helped that there were little chunks of bacon mixed in.) I’d be really hard-pressed to think of a cupcake I’d rather eat than this one.

I’m really excited now to try some of their other featured flavors.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarZero Stars
(five stars for the Graceland, and three for the red velvet)

Cupcake Crew
Check @cupcakecrewnyc
on Twitter for locations

“Restaurant” Review: Schnitzel & Things Street Food Truck
Feb 11th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

You’ve no doubt seen the Schnitzel & Things food truck on a T-Mobile commercial without even realizing it. And little did you know that your subconscious spotting of it made us thisclose, because the schnitzel truck is one of my favourite lunch spots and one of my favourite things about New York City right now.

The menu is concise: a few kinds of breaded and fried meats, a burger, a sausage, a handful of sides. The line from the truck’s window can be a half-hour long, and it’s not cheap by street food standards–$8 for a sandwich and $10 for a platter with two sides–but the food is huge, comforting, and delicious.

The first time my co-workers and I stopped by the truck for lunch, I got the last pork schnitzel they had, and boy, was I the object of hatred around the office after that. The chicken schnitzel everyone else got was fine and all, but the pork is ten times as flavorful. I chose the chickpea salad and the beets and feta salad for my sides only because they were out of french fries and potato salad (yeah, so I wanted to get two potato-based sides; suck it), but I wasn’t disappointed in the end. The flavor of the feta was overpowered by the beets, but beets really can’t help themselves. Plus, I was just excited to get something even mildly nutritious from a street cart.

There are several condiments for your sandwich or platter that range from the standard ketchup and mustard to the pesto mayo, which I highly recommend.

If you want to get an idea of how big a schnitzel is, here’s my co-worker Anthony holding one up. And he does not have a small head, letmetellyou.

If you’re into burgers, the Schnitz Burger is for you. It’s breaded, fried beef, folks. And while mine was a tad on the dry side, I’m willing to overlook that for the breading and the delicious crunchy-on-the-outside-pillowy-on-the-inside roll it comes on.

Don’t ask me whose fingers those are in my panna cotta. There are usually a couple of dessert choices, but the Tahitian vanilla is the standby. It’s not a blow-your-mind kind of dessert, but it’s light and refreshing, and it’s the sort of palate cleanser a sweets freak like me needs after every meal.

The service from the Schnitzel & Things truck is friendly and familiar, as if they see you every day despite their being parked in different locations around the city throughout the week (which they tweet daily). They even have a call-ahead number (347-772-7341) so you don’t have to brave too much of the cold for your schnitzel fix. But if you choose to stand in line, you’ll feel mighty special, because every single person who passes wonders why they didn’t know about the truck and stops to look at the menu.

Thanks to Midtown Lunch for finding the T-Mobile commercial.

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