Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Big Cheese

When it came to The Big Cheese, the biggest decision to make was actually choosing The Big Cheese over all the other trucks requesting my presence at Truckeroo (we did several complete laps evaluating our options).  When it came down to it, I really just wanted a “normal” dinner.  Not some weird fusion meal that didn’t exist five years ago, just something that I’d normally eat, but couldn’t make as well on my own limited cooking abilities.  And The Big Cheese granted me just that.  Sure a Korean Taco is a novel dinner, but as I was on my way to an All-American Nats Game in the capital of the free world, I really wanted to embrace something that fit with the theme.  And after a hot dog or hamburger, a grilled cheese with apples seemed right on target.  Classic.  American.  Simple.

Props to The Big Cheese for making me want every sandwich on the menu.  Of course I had to seek guidance from The Big Cheese employees to help me make the second biggest decision of my day, and they steered me toward the Mt. Fuji: MT Tam brie (should I know what “MT Tam” is? Am I not cultured?), fuji apple, and honey on multigrain (as I’m sure no one was wondering, I added bacon as well).  I’m fairly sure none of the choices would have been bad (and I’m looking forward to trying the others) but the combination of melted cheese and sweet apples was pleasing nonetheless.  

Honestly, I probably could have made this sandwich myself in my top of the line George Foreman panini maker from Overstock.com (highly recommended), but that would suggest I 1. am willing to exert that much effort 2. purchase cheese that doesn’t come pre-sliced or shredded in a bag 3. know where to find and how to distinguish a fuji apple.  I am not willing to do any of those things, but since I am gladly willing to sit in a parking lot full of drunk Nats fans amidst a dozen food trucks, purchasing this sandwich was the better life choice.  In short, the sandwich is good, but you could probably make it on your own.  What you’re paying for is the convenience and selection of ingredients you probably don’t have on hand if you’re a yopro living the dream. By dream I mean paying half your monthly salary towards rent, and spending the rest on simple pleasures like going to Truckeroo and Nats games with your friends.  America.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dangerously Delicious Pies

Dangerously Delicious Pies wagers their Baltimore Bomb pie could be “the ultimate of decadence”. Personally I find this to be quite the statement.  I eat a lot, and I eat frequently, so I’ve had my share of decadence. Could Dangerously Delicious Pies back up this rather extravagant claim? The website sure makes this sound like a world-class dessert:  “This pie has quickly climbed to a top selling position. Created especially for Baltimore by one mean Dangerously Delicious Pie slinger, it’s loaded with Berger Cookies (a local specialty) that melt down and swirl into a sweet vanilla chess filling. This pie could be the ultimate of decadence. Featured on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Guilty Pleasures””.  The anticipation was almost too much to handle and I was left wondering whether my tastebuds would agree with this bold assertion.

I’m not from Baltimore, so quite frankly, the term ‘Berger Cookies’ has little meaning to me and does not further sell me on the item (however, an accomplice who also ate this pie and grew up near Baltimore felt great joy about the presence of these cookies).  I’m embarrassed to admit I consider myself a dessert fan, and initially thought a ‘chess’ filling was a typo for ‘cheese’.  Lest you are in the same boat I was in, I’d hate for you to think I made a typo as well, so I’ll clear this up: chess filling is real and a term used to describe the filling of butter, eggs, sugar, and other variations (consider yourself newly informed).  Regardless, I interpreted the above description as “dessert I most likely will enjoy” due to the fact that it is a pie containing cookies, resulting in two desserts in one.  No complaints about that.  Upon placing the first forkful of pie in my watering mouth, my senses were enveloped in a smooth, velvety texture releasing a sweet cream flavor with bursts of chocolate.

The truly unique aspect of this pie is the texture.  Usually I’m a taste-oriented eater, and while this was also a strong suit, the texture was the more overpowering feature. I researched how these pies were made (to understand the definition of chess), and learned that the Berger cookies are all heated together with the other ingredients to form the filling.  Something about these cookies shedding their own original agenda and being melted together as one, rich oozing custard being, really spoke to me. Individually each cookie is a duck, but together, they form a V flying in perfect formation. Gordon Bombay would be proud.

Would I call this Baltimore Bomb “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” or the “ultimate of decadence”? Not quite.  Would I say it danced on my tastebuds enough to get me to return for an alternate pie slice out of curiosity?  Yes.  Would I say I enjoyed each bite and was sad when it was over? Yes.  Was I ultimately satisfied? Yes.  Did I care enough to write a blog about it?  Guilty.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

D.C. Slices

The short version: D.C. slices is hands down the best food truck I’ve been to when it comes to customer service.  Their food is good too, but never have I ever left feeling quite as pleased, happy, and newly loyal as I did after paying D.C. Slices a visit.  Let’s review how they hooked me, shall we?

Originally I was on my way to my competitive Cornhole league, and while caught off guard, pleasantly surprised to see a food truck set up post-lunch hours (I work in Alexandria were @foodtruckfiesta informed me they are banned.  I am coping with this on my own terms).  Thank goodness I was early to Cornhole so I could stop and inspect this potential snack provider.  I decided mozzarella sticks were an appropriate pre-game snack that would give me the proper energy needed to win.  D.C. Slices was quick and efficient, and the mozzarella sticks were satisfactory and nutritional.  However I had this gnawing feeling at my insides that I hadn’t made the right life choice, similar to how Mrs. McCallister felt on her first-class flight to Paris as she began to process she’d left Kevin home alone.  After all it’s called D.C. Slices, and one would assume that pizza is their pride and joy.  

Tragedy followed.  My emotional distress mounted as I came to terms that I’d made the wrong choice.  My concentration was broken the whole Cornhole game.  The slices kept haunting me with each toss of the beanbag. Without a doubt this accounted for my subpar tosses, as usually I am the backbone of the team and can be heavily relied upon to score the most points.  You can imagine my euphoria when I emerged from a harrowing and extremely close Cornhole game to find the D.C. Slices truck still parked outside.  With no reservations on being gluttonous, my teammate and I ordered ourselves two cheese slices.  I immediately felt at peace and a tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders.  I knew I’d made the right choice.  Not to mention the pizza was quite satisfying with just the right amount of grease to cheese to sauce proportions.

Here’s where the plot twist occurs.  Upon presenting our two slices, the slices provider declared, “That slice is smaller than the other, so we’ll knock a dollar off that one.”  My jaw dropped almost as much as the judges did during McKayla Maroney’s fantastically perfect vault.  The slices looked pretty much the same size to my untrained eye, and I wouldn’t have even thought to complain about this minute detail.  The slices man had nothing to gain from this immensely selfless act besides satisfied customers (and an adoring blog post, but he couldn’t have known this at the time), so I applaud his beneficent deed.  A regular Mother Teresa.  What a guy.  

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any groovier, I was proved wrong.  My other teammate was waiting for a pepperoni slice and the pizza guys were making a whole fresh pie.  I admire and respect D.C. Slices for not giving us junk that’s been sitting around under heat lamps.  As we were milling about reveling in our $1 of savings, the pizza guys shoved some tots out the window and explained “You guys have been waiting awhile, here are some tots for you.”  Stunned.  Speechless.  Awestruck.  Ecstatic.  These words barely capture the tidal wave of emotions coursing through my cheese filled belly at the prospect of free tots.  And let it be known, the wait wasn’t even that long!  I’ve waited plenty longer at other food trucks (i.e. Calexico Cart), with not so much as a “thanks for the wait.”  Again, I wouldn’t have thought twice about this wait, and the kind sir had no ulterior motives except the goodness of his heart to provide us with such a prize.  Here’s to you D.C. slices, for putting me in a far better mood after visiting your truck than I was in before I met you.  You are the Miss Congeniality of food trucks.  


Update:  Obviously I returned to D.C. Slices after this first satisfying experience.  I am pleased to report the service remained excellent, with a side of friendliness and tastiness.  And I got these delicious pizza tots.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hula Girl

“I can write your Hula Girl post for you, MEH,” declared my friend who had accompanied me to Truckeroo (a food truck festival for those of you less cultured than me), as I pondered what to write about my unmemorable experience.  In a word, she was accurate, but of course I’ll elaborate a bit.  It was an amorphous meal really, comparable to when you go on a job interview or apartment hunting and leave with your brow furrowed saying, “I guess that works?”  Which really means it doesn’t at all and the said job/apartment didn’t sell you hard enough so you’re back to stalking Craigslist ads dreaming of your knight in shining armor a.k.a. job posting to rescue you from a PR firm that thinks it’s acceptable to ask demand employees to scrub the walls with Bon Ami and dress in elf costumes and then giggle about it on Facebook.  But I digress.

In my fantasy world I want every meal I consume to coincide with me rapidly rubbing finger grease all over my iPhone while I joyously tell everyone who will humor me about what I am eating.  I want to eat a meal so great I don’t even have the self restraint to use a napkin before I find myself shouting from the metaphoric social media rooftops (Instagramming).  If the meal is stupendous, I won’t need prompting on its quality, I’ll volunteer that all on my own.  But alas, this was not the case, and while the anticipation and romance of Truckeroo had me giddy, the meal did not.  I thought I had buckled up (or rather unbuckled my belt) for a scrumptious Hawaiian meal of chicken teriyaki, sticky rice, and...macaroni salad?  

This is Hawaiian.  Really.
Traditionally I have associated macaroni salad with American holidays, barbeques, and mayo fermenting in the sun.  It wouldn’t be a proper barbeque without a big plastic spoon you have to smack against your paper plate a few times for the sun-solidified macaroni to fall into place next to your hot dog.  In order to solve this authenticity mystery, I had to investigate and Google “Is macaroni salad Hawaiian cuisine.”  The results weren’t as plentiful as many things I’ve Googled such as “is Pedialyte a good hangover cure” and “Brian Boyle NY Rangers girlfriend” (devastatingly NY Post says yes as of May 26, but I’ll change that, soon enough I’ll have 12 in-laws).  However, Google did find this quote from Hawaii Magazine concluding that “Macaroni salad is a staple of the Hawaii-style plate lunch” way back in 2009, and a delicate lady by the name of “Iron Woman” posted a recipe on Food.com titled “Hawaiian Macaroni Salad” with the note “this salad is usually served on the plate lunches in Hawaii.”  Based off this thorough research, you can now cite my blog as a credible source any time you are asked if macaroni salad is Hawaiian, which I imagine occurs quite frequently to everyone reading this.  And that friends, is the takeaway point from this post: you can stop wondering, macaroni salad IS Hawaiian.  And probably don’t get too excited about Hula Girl, because in order to craft a post about it I just wrote a lot of nonsense barely related to the actual meal.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Curbside Cupcakes

Curbside Cupcakes was fighting a losing battle from the start.  Despite the fact that it was my inaugural D.C. food truck, it faced the disadvantage of an aggressive and judgemental reviewer.  It’s really rather unfair for Curbside Cupcakes to have such an experienced professional judging them, but that’s no excuse for mediocrity.  Would an Olympic judge cut Kerri Strug any slack just because she was obviously injured while competing for the glory of her country?  Absolutely not, they gave her the gold because she was an excellent gymnast (not to mention warrior, hero, and true American). Similarly, my standards are paramount, and as an esteemed judge I will not be cutting any slack if baked goods do not perform to the highest standards.

I inquired what Curbside Cupcakes’ best flavors were and was directed to try the Cookies & Cream.  The cake was subpar and I could have easily made something better from a box from the grocery store.  The rich and creamy frosting was the one redeeming quality.  For the cake to taste as bland as it did, I’d at least hope for some fancypants frosting job (including, but not limited to: sprinkles, flowers, rainbows, or a monogram of my initials), for aesthetic pleasure, but I was not indulged.  If the Cookies & Cream is what Curbside Cupcakes has to offer at its best, I’m not impressed.  Naturally I had two cupcakes to properly research, but the Strawberry was even worse.  It tasted like a strange muffin with frosting.  Regina George described this pseudo-pastry best as “kind of socially retarded and weird.”  This was a social outcast in the cupcake world.  In fact, I’m frightened to think of what the others tasted like (and I certainly won’t be finding out. See you soon Crumbs).  For the sake of this review, Curbside Cupcakes would have been better off if I’d ignored the advice of what was “best,” and ordered something else.  At least then there would have been a small shred of hope that I was to blame for not heeding their advice and that there were greener pastures ahead.  Unfortunately I can’t even give them this small piece of credit.  The only reason to go to Curbside Cupcakes is if you’re not passionate about your cupcakes and have low standards (hopefully this is no one I associate with).

Curbside Cupcakes was kind of like going on a first date with someone you met at the bar over the weekend.  At first, the idea of going on a date with the person you made fun of for two hours while sloshing back Bud Lights seems exhilarating and adventurous.  However, as the date progresses and you realize you’d rather be playing back your Draw Something competitors, the excitement wanes and you realize you could care less if you ever see the said date again, or eat another Curbside Cupcake again.  It was fun while it lasted (debatable) but you certainly won’t be back for a second date, or cupcake.  


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Calexico Cart

Calexico Cart originally weaseled its way onto my radar because I found it rather enigmatic that a food cart (and not a truck which would have more cooking space), could yield 4 stars on Yelp with nearly 200 reviews. Obviously I had to see for myself. Upon arrival there was a sizable crowd of people waiting for food, which I tend to take as a good sign. Logically, the food must be semi-decent if so many people are dedicated enough to put up with the wait. The man taking orders warned me it would be about 20-25 minutes. This did seem a bit long, but I decided to live life on the edge and take the alleged 20 minute plunge.

Turns out the joke was on me. Apparently 20-25 minutes means an hour on the Calexico clock. As the minutes dragged on, there was no way to tell if my order would be called soon because there was no system in place. The receipts weren’t numbered and the cooks would just yell out a name, thus giving you no concept of when you’d be called. I began to wonder just how long I’d be waiting there, and grew increasingly anxious that my supervisors would question where I’d been on my lunch break. However, I’d already paid for my meal, and figured by the time I walked anywhere and ordered something else, my ticket would be called.

Just when I thought my situation couldn’t get any more dire than Snooki’s unborn child’s future, as I neared the hour mark I heard the burrito-wrapper utter the tragic instructions “hold off on pork orders,” shortly followed by “we only have enough for one left.” Of course I’d ordered a burrito bowl with pork, and my heart sank to my growling stomach. The injustice of it all! Waiting for an hour to be denied the meal I’d ordered and paid for! Life just doesn’t get any worse than revoking the meat you ordered from a food cart after a one-hour wait. Somehow, by some karmic food-god measure, I realized the burrito-wrapper was making my bowl. I inhaled sharply with every ingredient he scooped, hoping against hope. I realized that bowl had to be mine as he skipped the beans (which I’d requested), and shoveled the last bits of pork onto the plate. Eventually, just over an hour after I initially placed my order, my name was called.

While feeling immensely relieved that I’d snagged the last pork, my miserly self naturally questioned whether my pork portion was short-changed due to the lack of available meat resources. My skepticism turned into self-disgust for being so concerned about the pork quantity when I recalled there were starving people who would have been grateful for any meal, regardless of the pork. My relief, doubt, and disgust eventually turned into anger that I was even subjected to all of these feelings in the first place, for a situation that should never have existed at all. The lack of apology, combined with the anxiety and irritation of being kept waiting over double the time I was baited with, has resulted in a scar that cannot be healed. Realistically, I should probably be seeing a therapist for the range of emotions I was exposed to that day (I’ll accept cash or check to foot the therapist bill, Calexico Cart).

Because I’d already wasted so much time being deceived in the meal-preparation phase, I was completely rushed during the consumption phase. Objectively speaking, the food from Calexico Cart was fantastic, but I barely had time to enjoy it. I’d gotten the Chipotle Pork burrito bowl, which had rice, cheddar and Monterrey jack cheese, pulled pork, pickled red onions, and “crema.” I’d added on the Chipotle crack sauce because nearly every Yelp review told me I’d be doing myself a disservice to overlook this condiment. The pork was juicy and flavorful and the crack sauce lived up to the hype. This burrito bowl had a significant edge over the burrito bowls I’m accustomed to (Chipotle and Qdoba). Maybe it was the crack sauce, maybe that insane pork, or maybe the combination of it all. Even the pickled red onions were good. However, my memory of that meal is growing increasingly fuzzy, but due to my initial experience I refuse to go back for further research.

Some of us have jobs that we feign concern about, and taking an hour away from the office, along with another half hour to eat the meal blows our cover. While I of course understand there is no science to predicting how long it will take to scoop bits of rice and pork into a foil bowl, Calexico Cart should have come clean about the wait time, or communicated to patrons in line where they stood in the stack of orders. At least apologize and thank the customer for waiting. Call me dramatic, but I cannot return to Calexico Cart both on principal, and based on the fact that I have a life and therefore don’t care to waste an hour standing around Soho. For those of you who have an hour of your life to burn standing on the corner of Wooster & Prince with the waif-like creatures floating down Spring Street, I say have at it and go wait for pork out of a glorified wagon on the street. I, on the other hand, will choose to patronize one of the many other food trucks or local establishments who have provided me with average, or dare I say it, outstanding experiences. Calexico Cart dug its own grave through poor customer service, lies regarding wait time, and unclear communication. I’d been betrayed, and I absolutely will not patronize this establishment again and use my hard-earned money to support such duplicity. I even tweeted my unsavory experience at them and Calexico never responded. Not surprising, given how they handled everything else regarding customer satisfaction. But even a response apologizing would have gone a long way and perhaps I would not be where I am now, aggressively sabotaging them on my blog. As they say, fool me once, shame on on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I won’t be fooled twice, Calexico Cart.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Bongo Brothers

While I’ve never really dabbled with Cuban cuisine and I don’t have much to compare Bongo Brothers to regarding authenticity, I can compare it to past food truck experiences, and Bongo Brothers delivered exactly the experience I seek when trying a new food truck. Bongo Brothers presented a break from the ordinary, and therefore boring options (really, who wants an overpriced prepackaged sandwich from Pret?). With pleasant Cuban musical jams emanating from the truck, this without a doubt beats patronizing Subway and hurriedly shouting out your sandwich toppings while stealthily following your sandwich down the line like you’re playing Shell Shuffle at Comcast during halftime. Due to the rapid service at Bongo Brothers, my moment with the Cuban tunes was truncated and I was back in my office within 20 minutes of leaving. While mildly disappointed in myself for not being more strategic and buying more time away from my desk, this naturally speaks well of Bongo Brothers service, as well as resulted in a more thorough sandwich appreciation experience.
My inspection of the Mojo Chicken A La Plancha yielded pleasing results. Consisting of fresh citrus and garlic marinated grilled chicken breast, lettuce, plum tomatoes, onions, and mojo aioli sauce, my first bite was all I needed to decisively realize what a keeper this sandwich was. The effect of the citrus and garlic marination combined with the zesty mojo aioli sauce transformed this from a potentially mediocre chicken sandwich to a flavorful mouth tango. The selling point of this sandwich was that Bongo Brothers took a generally familiar grilled chicken sandwich, but added its own unique twist so that it tasted completely memorable and adventurous. The traditional lunch options of BLT’s and chicken caesar wraps can get boring and stale, much like Adam Sandler’s career post-Happy Gilmore era. The Mojo Chicken A La Plancha has solved this conundrum. This is a lunch complete with Jennifer Aniston’s 15 pieces of flair, while an ordinary sub is a suspender sans flair pieces.

My experience at Bongo Brothers was just enough for me to self-righteously pat myself on the back for being a lunchtime pioneer and trying something new. I was more than happy to give myself credit for trying such exotic cuisine and pushing my comfort levels and boundaries to the next level. Thanks Bongo Brothers, for providing me with a piece of flair during a monotonous lunch routine.