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Foodie in training. Currently focusing on my senior year curriculum, so there have not been recent posts. Please peruse previous posts for recommendations!

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Can't rely on a Gypsy-- Izzo's Tacos & Holy Cacao, another story

I went to the Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival thinking “This is it. The perfect end to my required blog stream about food-trailers: a trailer food festival!”

Too bad it sucked. And when I say sucked, I mean it crushed my little foodie heart to walk into the grounds to see 2009 ACL-like-dust, disgruntled people and lines. Oh, the lines.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh. I think I built up my excitement for the festival and it turned out to be very disappointing. Apparently the Gypsy Trailer Festival organizers did not expect the kind of turn out that occurred. The festival was supposed to be a combination of merchandise shopping, listening to music and of course snacking on your favorite trailer foods. Instead, it was a festival of lines. Every trailer had a line at least 100 people long. There was a line to buy your food, then a line to wait for your food to be made, and finally, a line of the people eating their food.

On top of the lines, half of the trailers were completely sold out by the time I got there (2:30 p.m.), and the festival was supposed to go on until 8 p.m. After about 20 minutes I left with no food and lots of disappointment.

I decided to head down South First and see if I could find a trailer that wasn’t at the festival that I could snag something from. To my surprise, when I pulled in the Trailer Park & Eatery, Torchy’s was open and Holy Cacao had an ice chest full of cake balls.

I begrudgingly passed up Torchy’s and decided to try the recently awarding-winning Holy Cacao. I asked the server for their best flavor, she recommended the red velvet cake. I’m not a huge fan of red velvet, so she recommended her favorite, chocolate. Now you’re talkin’.

The website lists the chocolate cake ball as “Holly’s Favorite Cake Ball: All chocolate, all the time: Chocolate cake dipped in chocolate and dusted with cocoa powder.” It was delicious! The perfect balance of fudgy brownie and bitter sweet chocolate.

After enjoying my chocolate treat, I went further down the street to a lot with no official name, but holds around three trailers. I found Izzo’s Tacos parked here and decided to give them a try. Again I asked the server for the best item on the menu and he recommended The Padre…which they were all out of. They were out of beef, chicken, and carnitas because of the Gypsy Picnic. I asked him if the vendors didn’t think that a lot of people were going to come. He said that they thought there would be a lot of people and had quadrupled their normal daily preparatory meals, but ran out in three hours. Again, I don't think the Gypsy Picnic organizers realized how successful the festival was going to be.

After this process of elimination, I opted for the Escobar, made of carne guisada (cubed pork), pico de gallo, and cilantro, and the Portabella Shroom, made with a generous portion of portabella mushrooms, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle aioli. The aioli was delicious, but I really enjoyed their salsa which was just chunky enough and really spicy. Overall, Izzo’s Tacos was good, but left a little something to be desired and didn't live up to Torchy’s.

If you went to Gypsy Picnic- please leave comments below about your likes or dislikes at the festival.
To read a few reviews about Gypsy Picnic you can visit Yelp or Mike Sutter's Statesman blog.
Also if you have a favorite Holy Cacao cake ball or Izzo’s Tacos dish share it with me because I definitely will be going back to Holy Cacao at least.

Note: Please excuse the poor quality of the pictures. My camera died, so I had to revert to my phone.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

N.O., Louisiana...more like NO Food-trucks

Hey there foodies,

This weekend I was in New Orleans for Halloween, so I did not get to dine at a scrumptious Austin food-truck. As such, I’m dedicating this post to the (apparent) lack of food-trucks in New Orleans and how much it bothers me!
Photo source: Destination360.com
When staying in the French Quarter of downtown New Orleans, it’s easy to find a few things: bars, strip clubs and souvenir shops. What’s not so easy to track down is a quick breakfast on the go. I don’t know if it’s because most people staying in the Quarter are passed out or just going to sleep around breakfast time, but you either have to go to a sit-down restaurant breakfast or settle for lunch.

It’s really frustrating to go from Austin where there’s a coffee and breakfast taco food-trailer on every corner to none at all! You really don’t realize how much you appreciate the savory convenience of breakfast taco food-trucks until there are none at all.

I’ve always wondered why the French Quarter, an internationally known tourist destination, never capitalized on the booming food-truck trend. I mean, it’s the perfect setting: people are getting around on foot, they’re on a traveler’s budget, and their out at odd hours. To me this sounds like the perfect food-truck potential.

While I was there this weekend I talked to Pedro Lucero, a manager at a popular bar and music venue on Bourbon Street, who actually tried getting a food-trailer permit in New Orleans. Lucero, who lived in Austin for about 10 years, was inspired by the Austin food-trucks and thought it would be a hit in New Orleans. He said that after a little research he found out that within the French Quarter there are stringent restrictions on parking (even temporary parking), and that Lucky Dogs, a popular hot dog cart company, has something of a monopoly on permits in the area.

“The Quarter would be perfect for food-trucks…at least other food-carts,” said Lucero. “People want more than just hot dogs and I think New Orleans is well-known internationally and food-trailers could cater better to all tourists.”

I have to admit that I have never tried a Lucky Dog because I’ve heard too many urban legends about what’s in their hotdogs and what they do to your body (aside from the fact that I don’t eat hotdogs anyway).

I’m shocked though that the Vieux Carré Commission, the regulatory agency for the historic districts of New Orleans, have not realized the growing popularity of food-trucks and the potential profits and benefits they bring to tourist towns. Then again, the old 18th century style street layout is probably not ideal for large parked trucks.

While living there this summer the closest I came to a taco food-cart was a man on a bike known only as “Al” who delivers his wife’s homemade tacos to the same bars every weekend. He has no phone number or ordering system, he just shows up around 2 a.m. and those desperate little bartenders dying for something other than hotdogs or crappy pizza from across the street (AKA yours truly) cannot wait to get their hands on one.

A little googling did tell me that there are a few roaming snowball carts, but it just isn’t the same. There are food-trucks in New Orleans, but again none are in one of the most frequented areas in the entire state of Louisiana! I don’t know if it will ever change, but I do know that if I spend another summer in New Orleans, I hope Al is still around to curb my Austin taco-trailer appetite!

You can read about the (ironic) filming of the 2010 “Great Food Truck Race” in New Orleans on the Culture Mob food blog. Also check out this blog post dedicated to food-trucks in New Orleans (outside of the Quarter of course) in this linked article on neworleans.com.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Damn Worth Getting Lost For - Torchy's Tacos

This week I visited Torchy’s Tacos in the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery off of South First. I was going to attempt to venture outside of the more frequented food-trailers, but I woke up Sunday morning and could not get my mind away from Torchy’s "damn good tacos." Bare with me people, I’ll be adventurous next week.

I am a taco fiend. I love the spices, the succulent flavor of the meat, the salsa, the cheese, the variety of toppings…everything! My favorite kind of taco however, is the breakfast taco. I don’t think it gets any better than eggs, beans, cheese and salsa all wrapped up in a homemade corn tortilla. Torchy’s Tacos pulls this off perfectly.

I’ve been to the UT District Torchy’s off Guadalupe several times, but had never been to the trailer park location. I had heard of the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery and always wanted to check it out, so I wrote down the address and hopped in the car.

The address listed on the website is 1311 S. First St and I live off 43rd, so I thought that I could just drive South on Lamar and I’d eventually hit First Street and take it from there. After passing Sixth Street, I was getting pretty excited for my long overdue breakfast taco but, after driving for another ten blocks I realized that I must have gotten turned around. It turns out that all the numbered streets in Austin run East to West, except First Street magically runs North to South. I guess I’m realizing this late, but for all you Austin newbies out there- you’ve been informed!

I whipped out my priceless TomTom, forced myself to continue driving past Gourdough’s, and eventually found the Trailer Park & Eatery.

The Torchy’s Tacos food-truck shares the trailer park with Holy Cacao and Man Bites Dog, but Torchy’s was the only one open at 10:30 a.m. The trailer park has generous parking (for Austin), umbrella tables, and a covered eating area that boasts Torchy’s Tacos as Austin Chronicle’s choice of Best Taco & Best Taqueria for 2010.

I normally would order my usual egg, bean, cheese and green chilies, but I went out of the norm just for you lovely reader! Also, it gave me an excuse to buy two tacos. I ordered my usual and the taco of the month: The Scarecrow. $3.50 for pumpkin crusted chicken, roasted poblanos, escabeche carrots, cojita cheese and cilantro, served on a corn tortilla with creamy chipotle.

Can I just say that ordering that taco was one of the best random-order-decisions ever? The escabeche (pickled) carrots were the bomb, they were crunchy and packed so much flavor. The pumpkin crusted chicken caused a déjà vu moment, but I realized it reminded me of the breading at The Mighty Cone. I thought the poblanos were a little soggy for my taste, but overall the taco was a great choice. I even enjoyed the chipotle sauce that I normally would substitute with the traditional salsa.

You should visit the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery if you’re trying to get some good, cheap food and stroll slightly off the beaten path.

P.S. Torchy’s Tacos just opened a new location in Dallas! If you’re there for a visit you should stop in and tell me if that location is as good as the real thing.
What’s your favorite Torchy’s Taco? Answer in a comment below and I’ll try and check it out!

**All photos by Rachael Sperling

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"We don't say 'fried,' we say deep sauté." - The Mighty Cone

Hello fellow food-lovers!

I hope you enjoyed the amazing weather we had here in Austin this weekend as much as I did!
In my last post I listed off a few of my favorite ACL food-truck favorites, including The Mighty Cone.
(Photo by Rachael Sperling)
This wonderful food trailer not only has a spot at the festival, but also has a main location in the trailer park eatery off South Congress. I tried to share the gift of fried-goodness-in-a-cone with my mom and little brother who visited this weekend, but The Mighty Cone was closed! Word to the wise- they’re open 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Tues-Sat. AKA not on Sunday afternoon with your family.

As a result of my poor timing, this week’s review is about a week and a half old, but good fried food is good fried food everyday of the week. Don’t question this philosophy.

Across the street from the delicious South Congress Café and just down the block from the ever-popular Electric Ladyland, The Mighty Cone has one of the best food-trailer locations on SoCo.

The stand opened just over a year ago and quickly gained popularity among South Congress food goers. The idea of creating the trailer stemmed from the high demand for the “Hot ‘n’ Crunchy” cones after their introduction to Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2002.

Their menu is not for the healthy-minded as the phrase informs below the service window: “We don’t say fried, we say deep sauté.” The menu, inspired by popular recipes and items from The Mighty Cone’s sister-restaurant, Hudson’s on the Bend, includes a variety of “Hot ‘n Crunchy” cones, shakes, organic all-veggie sliders and Hudson’s gourmet fries. I have yet to try the “Death by Chocolate Brownie,” but I don’t see how anything with such an angelic name could not be delightful.

(Photo by Rachael Sperling)
I’ve tried to make myself try one of the sliders with Hudson’s secret ancho sauce or the “Hudson’s Cone Dog” made with grass-fed venison (this is one lean cone dog!), but I cannot pull myself away from the deliciousness of the “Chicken-Avocado Cone.”

If you can tell me a better batter for crusting your chicken than with sesame seeds, almonds, arbol chili flakes, sea salt, sugar and corn flakes, then I may lessen my allegiance to the fried chicken of The Mighty Cone. But, let’s face facts: this will probably never happen!

The prices are reasonable with the most expensive item topping out at $7, so it’s an ideal place for a cheap dinner on the go.

If you haven’t tried The Mighty Cone yet get out there and eat some cone deliciousness!

Leave a comment of your favorite The Mighty Cone dish (especially if you’ve had the “Death by Chocolate Brownie”)! Let me know if there’s any food-trailer you recommend.

You can visit The Mighty Cone website for more information and a full menu.

If you don’t trust me, the two blog posts below have their reviews of The Might Cone.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Austin = Foodie Paradise

Fall is here and in Austin this means perfect weather (or a perfect excuse) to dine out. For many people, Austin is known for its extensive musical talent, diverse population, and multitude of cuisines and local eateries. Since I moved here for school in August 2009, the ridiculous amount of restaurants all over Austin have continued to fill my belly and satisfy the little foodie in me.

The token Austin food-trucks and trailers have been most kind to my wallet and palate. The range of locations from North, Central and South Austin helped pull me out of my tiny 'campus bubble' that many students get sucked into. As such, I feel I owe a "thank you" to the food-trucks and trailers of Austin which comes in the form of this blog.

My posts will range from reviews and experiences of trailers I've visited, interesting news or updates of the Austin food-truck world, and any other food-trucky things I think you should know. Now is the time to get excited!

The thing that's on my mind right now is the afterglow of Austin City Limits Music Festival. If you've never been to ACL, you may be asking what it has to do with food-trucks, so I will clue you in.

The annual three-day festival is a staple of Austin's musical reputation where thousands of locals and out-of-towners attend for up to 12 hours a day. Twelve-hour days can make anyone hungry and this is where the food-trucks come into play.

Some of the most popular restaurants in town set-up seasonal food-trailers alongside the year-round trucks in the Austin Eats Food Court. A few of my personal favorites include Amy's Ice Creams, Children of the Kettle Corn, Guero's, Mighty Cone, and Torchy's Tacos.

This year I sampled the Galaxy Cafe's grilled chicken chipotle wrap and the cashier coolly let me add steamed veggies for no additional cost! It was the perfect lunch if you're trying to eat on the lighter side and was one of the cheapest stands there ($5 for a wrap and $1 for a bag of Sunchips).

I bought a surprisingly huge bag of kettle corn from Children of the Kettle Corn for $5. It was the perfect sweet snack to munch on while I planted myself in the same spot for four hours. I actually ended up giving almost half the bag away because it was so addicting that I was going to eat back all the calories I burned from my morning run. My neighbors were grateful, so I think it's safe to say the kettle corn was a hit!

Although the prices are a few dollars higher at ACL, I wouldn't trade the local eats of the food-trailers for the cheaper 'standard' festival fare of corndogs and burgers. The food-trailers' presence at events like ACL allow Austin natives to grab their favorite local bites, and out-of-towners to sample some of the best eateries!

Check back for more next Wednesday on the funky fresh food-trucks of Austin!
  • For a complete list of the 2010 Austin City Limits Music Festival food vendors click here.
  • Austin American-Statesman writer and fellow foodie, Addie Broyles, recorded her "roadmap" of food adventures in her blog Relish Austin. (She tried the Galaxy Cafe wrap too!)
  • Different festival, more food-truck love on Brand X Daily. "Good Eats at SXSW:Food Trucks Rule Austin"
Have something to say? I'm open to comments and/or questions.

Leave a comment about your favorite food-trailer at ACL and/or what you ate at the festival this year or in previous years, so I can get some recommendations!
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