Food Truck Gathering #1 @57 Degrees Wine Bar

>> Saturday, February 19, 2011

Date of Gathering: 2/18/2011
Price: Varies for each truck
Location: Fifty-Seven Degrees Wine Bar, 1735 Hancock Street, San Diego, CA 92101

The Quick Bit:
+Food Truck gatherings are always nice
+Parking seemed fairly abundant
+Unlike most gatherings, wait time for food was < 15 minutes after ordering
ΔThe food trucks could have brought more food
ΔThe food trucks could offer smaller tasting portions as well as the regular size
ΔThe "wine bar" prices were $$$$$ with not much selection

This review will be a "shorter" review than usual as far as each truck and dish is concerned. It will focus mainly on the event itself, rather than the actual wine bar. For the wine bar itself, this seems to be one of the rare occasions where the four-letter reviews explain the situation rather well such as here, here, here, and here. Also I plan for the next blog post to be a focus on Devilicious, so less will be said about them here.

In my previous post, I discussed that in order to reduce the initial investment cost to open a restaurant, many enterprising young chefs were looking to alternative means to establish their budding culinary empires. The first method was the pop-up restaurant; in this followup I discuss the other method, the gourmet food truck

The current culinary movement can be likened to an Age of Culinary Imperialism. If this is the case, then the pop-up restaurant seems like the missionaries who carefully choose their locations while the food truck is more like the conquistador that roams around to find those that need to be converted. Or perhaps if I'm to fit the theme of the blog, the food trucks are like Apple; for a long time they were the bastard child of the industry that others looked down on as full of grease and selling frozen food that was otherwise reheated.

All of that changed when Chef Roy Choi started Kogi BBQ by mixing Korean BBQ inside mexican tacos. In addition, Chef Choi identified himself with the "street culture" and flexed his social networking skills to create a viral buzz around the truck. Soon, all chefs were learning about social networking and "copycat" food trucks were spawns such as Don Chow. Using either Twitter or Facebook as a repository, food trucks seed their locations where their followers can show up as a swarm, causing a gourmet culinary excellence to be distributed.

While LA and OC have been quick on the uptake of the food trucks, San Diego has taken the more relaxed approach to the food trucks. Part of this is that in SD, throwing some form of ethnic grilled meat into a taco and selling it out of a truck isn't very interesting. In fact by doing that, one may find themselves quickly going out of business as the truck would have to face the stiff competition of the Mariscos German taco trucks that have been serving amazing seafood tacos to San Diego for years. In fact, when I think of a taco out of a food truck, my first thought goes to the Gubernador taco out of Mariscos German.

Recently, the food truck movement has picked up steam within San Diego as more trucks focus on offering gourmet food, but with an underlying farm to table theme. Additionally, most trucks don't try to serve any form of taco, but instead focus on sandwiches and more "american" food. Thus, it was only inevitable that someone would organize a gathering of food trucks in one location.

Enter Fifty-Seven Degrees wine bar; the bar has an amazing 1 acre space close to the airport, and the interior is hip and trendy. It served as a good location to gather some food trucks and also serve alcohol (as the trucks cannot serve that). Unfortunately (or I think fortunate for me), the usually sunny San Diego weather did not cooperate and the event was conducted under periods of torrential downpour. Seven food trucks managed to show up for the event as detailed below:
Chop Soo-ey Truck
Chop Soo-ey Menu
The Chop Soo-ey Truck is the Cohn Restaurant Group's attempt to get into the food truck business. It is helmed by chef Deborah Hanson. I didn't get any food from this truck, but I was able to sample some of the Calamari from a friend. The calamari I had had a very light batter and was overcooked. The flavor was also covered up by some strange sweet and sour sauce. Chop Soo-ey ran out of food around 8pm
Kaminski's Super Q
Kaminski's Super Q Menu
The next truck was the Kaminski Super Q truck. This is a new truck that was making is San Diego Debut at the food truck event. Again, I did not purchase any food from this truck, but I was able to sample some food from friends. This truck also seemed to move rather quickly as the BBQ was already cooked and just needed to be reheated. The meat that I sampled was simply the taste of mediocre BBQ Sauce. The flavor of the meat was completely covered up by the sauce. This truck was the 2nd to last to run out of food and seemed to run out around 8:45
Chef Andy Johnson's Street Eats
Chef Andy Johnson's Street Eats Menu
While I had not heard of this truck, it seems to have been around for quite awhile. I ended up ordering all the food from this truck as it was the only truck to not run out of food.
Braised Brandt Beef, Carmelized Onions, Smoky BBQ Sauce Sesame Bun
The ratio of onions to meat in mine was about 1:1 which totally through off the balance. The flavor of the beef was pretty good and the dish was well-seasoned.
Miso-glazed Mahi Mahi with edamame-cucumber salad
This was probably the best dish that the truck did. The mahi mahi was surprisingly moist and the miso flavor came through. The edamame and cucumbers were pickled and it stood up well to essentially being over-dressed.
Slow Roasted Pork Sandwich with Napa Cabbage Slaw
The pork was roasted well, but the sauce covered the heartiness of the meat. The slaw was overdressed.
Brandt Beef Sirloin Burger with Avocado Puree
The slider was cooked well done and the avocado seemed to be watered down and tasteless.
Seared Ahi Salad
I had high hopes for this one, but they ran out of the soba noodle salad and substituted with mixed greens instead. The Ahi was seared well, but unseasoned - luckily the ahi wasn't rancid (but it wasn't particularly fresh either). The salad was way overdressed. I think you'll actually see how wilted the greens are if you look closely.
Sweet Treats was there for dessert
I didn't get any dessert, but it was nice of them to pitch a tent to keep the rain out.
Flippin Pizza
Flippin Pizza Menu
Since Flippin Pizza comes around to my work area every week, I didn't really see a need to get any pizza. Besides, who wants any other pizza besides Bruno?
India On Wheels
India On wheels Menu
With the migration of Copper Chimney to a full time location, it looks like the Indian standard was picked up by new truck India on Wheels (making its debut). As a "barbaric American" I personally don't really see how an Indian Food truck can succeed without having a Tandoori oven in the truck to make fresh naan, but I'll allow myself to be surprised. India On Wheels seems to be an all vegetarian truck, which again will probably make it hard to be accepted. I would have really liked for them to offer some sort of tasting portion at a cheaper price, but that didn't seem to be the case as I wasn't really prepared to drop $6 for the paneer.
Masala Paratha
Masala Paratha Opened
Instead I ordered the Masala Paratha to see how close I could get to the naan experience. I think they threw in some complimentary Raita, but I wasn't really interested in that. What surprised me about this dish was that how a dish containing so much onion and cilantro stuffed inside could be so bland. This dish was missing all the goodness of Indian Spices and the flour overpowered what should have otherwise been a nice dish.
Last but not least, Devilicious was at the event as well. When I arrived, it was the only truck that was remotely crowded as there was already a crowd. At 5:45, the ran out of the Lobster Grilled Cheese, and by 6:30 they had run out of everything.
Fried Yummies - Risotto Balls
Inside was a panchetta and asparagus risotto with parmesan
Luckily I was able to get some fried yummies of Risotto Balls. As is dangerous with parmesan, these particular yummies had a healthy hit of the salt monster. The problem is that parmesan itself has salt so adding additional salt can be heavy handed.

While there was bad weather and the food trucks seemingly were uprepared for the crowds, the owner of Fifty-Seven Degrees declared the event a success and that he would continue to hold the gathering every 3rd Friday of the month. Hopefully more trucks will show up to the next event and the trucks will also be more prepared for the large crowds.


Sugar June 13, 2011 at 9:23 PM  

The food truck business is a real great thing. I don't see what's bad in great diverse tastes, low cost food and great people. I sure prefer it over any fast food restaurant in the local mall.

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James June 16, 2011 at 10:22 PM  

I agree that the food trucks are a good thing in general.

I find that at food truck gatherings, trucks get slammed and the quality of the food goes down if the owners don't pay attention, which is what I think happened here. You'll notice I've done many food truck reviews and have more in the works as well.

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
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