Last Saturday was the first ever OC Foodie Fest. It was a gathering of 50 gourmet food trucks at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA benefiting Pretend City Children’s Museum, Child Share and Cart for a Cause. It was a sold out event with 8,500 people attending. I am so fascinated by the gourmet food truck movement. I find it very interesting how people and businesses adapt to the changing economy (can you tell I majored in Economics?). It is a difficult time to open a restaurant with the high overhead cost during this financial climate. No wonder restaurant entrepreneurs are taking their food and putting it on wheels! It is definitely a smart move and a concept that many people nationwide are embracing.
I was excited to volunteer at the OC Foodie Fest and got to attend as “Media” to help document the event through pictures. It was my first time interviewing and taking pictures for an event. It was so much fun talking to the owners, hearing their personal stories, and seeing the passion and love for their food and work come through. Owning and operating a food truck is no joke. The restaurant business is a tough and competitive business – with or without wheels!
Our first stop was the famous Nom Nom Truck. When we popped by they were still prepping. Wish I had asked to try a banh mi because when the event started the Nom Nom truck was by far the most popular truck there! The line for this truck was intense as people lined up to try the banh mi that has been dominating the Food Network Great Food Truck Race. These girls attended UCLA Anderson School of Business and it shows. If you have been watching the Food Network Great Food Truck Race then you already know that it takes much more than great food to succeed. You must depend on your business savvy to keep your food truck in the spot light, draw a crowd and keep a following. To my fellow Bruins – you girls ROCK!!
Our second stop: Crepes Bonaparte. Crepes Bonaparte is based in Orange County and is also participating in the Food Network Great Food Truck Race. Don’t let their friendly smiles and professional outfits fool you – these professional crepe makers are fierce competition on the show. Christian and Danielle gracious took a picture with my sister and me. Same issue as before – I was there an hour and half before the event and the trucks were conserving their propane so hot food was not ready to try. Once event opened their line was packed. My little sister really wanted to try a crepe. Good thing they are local because we are going to track down their truck the next time they are in the area.
3rd stop: Nana Queens. Nana Queens is based in Los Angeles serving 6 different flavors of wings and 10 different flavors of banana pudding. Janel is the owner and the master mind behind the creative banana pudding. I am from Georgia and banana pudding is a staple but I never heard of Oreo Banana Pudding, Caramel Banana Pudding or Sweet Potato Banana Pudding. Janel used to climb telephone poles as maintenance splicer for AT&T and now she a successful business woman. She is a classic example that with hard work and determination you can do anything. Nana Queens was also a contender in the Food Network Food Truck Race, unfortunately they were eliminated in the first round. All I have to say is – it’s too bad that the rest of America did not get a chance to try their amazing banana pudding. I noticed that many trucks were vying for a spot on the the next Food Network Food Truck Race. They were asking their fans to vote for them as their favorite truck to earn a spot on the show. The Food Truck Race has given this season’s participants much exposure and I definitely over heard attendees wanting to try all 3 trucks that were in the race.
Janel’s sister, Shanel, gave me a sample of the caramel pudding and it is everything that they claim it to be…it’s so good “you’ll scape the bowl!”
4th stop: Buttermilk Truck. This truck is based in LA and serves up diner breakfast food gourmet style. The best selling item is the Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Pancakes. Sad – too early and they weren’t ready to fire up their pancakes yet. So I didn’t get to try them – but I’m sure it was delicious since there was a massive line waiting outside their truck during the event and I saw many event goers walking around devouring their red velvet pancakes. Owner, Gigi Pascual, was a business major in college and then attended culinary school in NYC. She interned at Nobu and was a pastry chef at Bin 8945. Gigi knows her food and her business background definitely gives her an edge with her business. I hope to try the much raved about red velvet pancakes one day. YUM YUM!
5th stop: Uncle Lau’s Island BBQ. Uncle Lau’s brings Hawaiian food to Southern California. You can find his truck cruising the streets of Santa Monica, CA. I got to sample the 3 sliders: Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork and the Korean Kalbi Beef. The sliders were well seasoned and tender. The Pulled Pork had a nice smoky flavor and reminded me of traditional Hawaiian Kahlua Pork.
6th stop: Longboards Vintage Ice Cream. Longboards makes their own ice cream and dips it into Ghirardelli milk or dark chocolate then rolls it into a variety of scrumptious toppings. Co-owner, Fianau explained to me that his friend and now business partner enjoyed making ice cream and pitched the idea of the truck to him. Finau left his job at FedEx and now sells gourmet dipped ice cream to many loyal customers in Orange County. You can also find their ice creams in local Gelsons Super Markets. Fianua made me a “The Big O” ice cream: Cookies and Cream ice cream dipped in milk chocolate and then rolled in Oreos. It was delicious and very satisfying. This truck made my little brother’s day. He loved it so much he had to buy his own: Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream dipped in milk chocolate and rolled in Oreos. He said that The OC Foodie Fest was his favorite thing he did all summer because of his experience with the Longboards Vintage Ice Cream was so memorable. He said it was the best ice cream that he has ever had and was going to “like” them on Facebook when he got home! That’s pretty major for a fifteen year old. I’ve had other fresh dipped ice cream before but what makes Longboards stand out is the quality of the ice cream. It’s creamy and has a fresh and clean flavor. I also tried their strawberry fruit bar which was very refreshing.
7th stop: The Place LA. The Place LA is known for their pastrami. Hands down – this is the best pastrami I’ve ever had. It is succulent, tender, juicy and so flavorful. They nailed it! They also created their own signature mustard based sauce that perfectly compliments the bold flavors of pastrami. I had the pastrami egg burrito and I loved it. Pastrami sandwiches were one of my favorite fares in college. There was this hole in the wall in my college town, Westwood, that was dubbed Buck 50 because all of their sandwiches were $1.50. This is where I would go for my pastrami…and it was good…but it’s nothing compared to The Place LA. If you’re a big pastrami fan then you definitely need to give this truck a try. Enjoy!
8th stop: Ludo Bites. Chef Ludo has been on Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef. What he is most known for in LA is his guerrilla style pop up restaurants. For non Southern Californians – what that means is Chef Ludo does not have a permanent physical restaurant. He essentially borrows a kitchen and dining space for his dinners. His pop up restaurant dining experience is all the rage right now.
I knew the Ludo Truck was a must stop for me. We had the “$5 Chicken Coop” which was Provencal Pepitte”chicken ball”, fries, homemade sauce and biscuit or slaw. It was pretty much fried chicken on steroids. I was told by the marketing director that the fried chicken ball is a 3 day process consisting of a soaking in a brine for 24 hour and shaping. I don’t know how he got the chicken to look like a ball and it’s kinda strange at first to see homestyle food such as fried chicken, fries and a biscuit so manicured. Then you take a bite and you can’t stop. The chicken is so well season, crunchy on the outside and incredibly juicy on the inside. I liked that it didn’t have a greasy or oily taste or feel. My siblings claimed that it was the best fried chicken they had ever had. They noticed the flavors of the herbs and spices infused into the chicken. It was divine.
9th stop: Morsels Baking Company. Morsels is owned by Donna Collier and Tina Trujillo. I spoke to Donna and learned that she used to work at FedEx, went to culinary school and found a new love and career path. She and her business partner Tina worked the Farmer’s Market circuit for a period and then joined the food truck craze. They actually bake some of their desserts on the truck such as cookies which I imagine would be a great hit. Can’t beat a warm cookie! Donna was so generous and sweet. I got to try the delicious cream puff. I was expecting a small cream puff injected with cream, but I was so off. It was huge – sliced in half filled with a luscious custard, topped with fresh bananas, drizzled with nutella and whipped cream. We also sampled the carrot cake and red velvet cake frosted with their signature cream cheese frosting. The frosting was light and very delicate.
10th stop: Kona Ice Beach Cities. Kona Ice Beach Cities is based in Orange County and what makes them different from other shaved ice vendors is that they let the customer flavor their own shaved ice. The flavor spouts are on the exterior of the truck and kids definitely enjoy the freedom of pouring on their own syrups. My siblings and cousin loved the experience and layered as many as 5 flavors onto their shaved ice. It was a refreshing treat and I can definitely see why this truck is popular in beach communities.
11th stop: Calbi BBQ. The Calbi BBQ truck is what Southern California cuisine is all about….fusion. What you’ll find here is Korean BBQ with a Mexican Flair. The menu is Korean beef short ribs, spicy pork or chicken in the form of a taco, burrito or quesadilla. They also have shrimp and tofu options as well. My husband, Derrick, had to meet up with us around 12:30pm because he had 2 Fantasy Football drafts that morning. He missed out on all of the delicious food that I had earlier — so he was pretty hungry when he joined us. This was the first truck that we stopped at and we waited for about 20 minutes to order and nearly an hour for our food. By 12:30pm the place was packed and the lines were extremely long. We ordered the beef and spicy pork taco, despite the long wait it was pretty delicious.
12th stop: Frysmith. Frysmith serves the LA area with orders of fries that are satisfying enough to be meals. They top the fries with toppings such as kimchi and pork belly, marinated steak, roasted chilies, caramelized onions and cheese, chicken and sweet potatoes, and of course the original fry topper: chili cheese. They also have vegan chili fries as well. As you can see the fusion concept is very popular across the board with the Southern Californian food trucks. We tried the kimchi and pork belly fries and they were delicious!
It took over two hours for us to get food from Calbi BBQ and Frysmith. I was truly lucky to be able to sample a total of 9 food trucks. The day turned out to be much hotter than anticipated and I know that some people were disappointed that they only got to try 2 or 3 trucks before getting too frustrated with the heat and long lines to wait it out. Here are some tips if you decide to attend a food event like this: show up early and have a plan of attack. Narrow down the trucks you want to try and then divide and conquer. Split up from your party, get in line, order and then meet at a central area to share. We really wanted to try the Dumpling Station but the line was too long as they were for all of the other trucks. When I left at 3:00pm some of the trucks were out of menu items, I even saw one completely sold out and the event was to go on until 7:00pm. I don’t know if there’s a way to help make the wait time in the lines to order and pick up food shorter, but I know it was a major deterrent for some. Overall I had a great time and thought the OC Foodie Fest was fun and a good way to try a lot of different food trucks. I hope you get to try a gourmet food truck soon – I am confident that you will not be disappointed.