Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving (the real one, not that Canadian knock off)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

First off, let me begin by saying that I am not one for cliches. I am not one of those people that gets sentimental about things. I do not do the X number of days of Thanksgiving "thankful" social media posts, and that is not what I am trying to achieve here. But, I am very blessed and do have a lot to be thankful for. An incomplete list goes something like this: my faith, my wife, my family, our friends, my job (not this hobby, but my job that pays me actual money), good local food, my 3 readers, and my food truck family.

My food truck family works hard to bring excellent food to the people, at reasonable prices. Most of them are hard working weekend warriors, like myself, working day jobs and then running a food truck in their limited free time. Only instead of pushing keys on a keyboard like I do, they work for hours: prepping food, taking orders, being a line cook, struggling to break even, driving home, and then spending hours more cleaning their trucks (to meet health department requirements). This is a tight-knit community that looks out for each other. They have also been very kind and really supported me since I first started blogging. They have been here since Day 1! And when you are from where I am from, you look out for those that look out for you. All of that being said: I raise a Thanksgiving toast to you, Mr. Food Truck Owner/Operator Guy (in my Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" commercial voice).

Although, the days that are nice enough for my food truck fam to go out are few and far between at this time of year, they rallied together for a rare November meet-up earlier this month; here are a few of my takeaways.

One new truck to the local scene (whom someone at KCFTA needs to tell to get a Twitter account) is Chickhoovenswine. Chickhoovenswine brings their brand of championship barbecue (along with all of the hardware that comes with it) to the streets. As the name may (not so subtly) hint at, Chickhoovenswine can rock out with just about any kind of meat in the smoker: Chicken, Beef, or Pork. 

I gave the "Hoggy Style" sandwich a shot, because, well, I mean, how can you not with a name like that? The Hoggy Style consists of delicious pulled pork, smoked sausage, and creamy slaw piled high. Chickhoovenswine also has 3 distinctly unique sauces available for saucing, if you so choose. I can't wait to try more from this truck!

Another newcomer, Organized Chaos (who has a Twitter account, that will tell you where to find them), prides themselves in what they consider to be a eccentric take on fusion sandwiches. If you are anything like me, you LOVE a good sandwich! My love for sandwiches runs so deep that I may even give the "Sandwich King" Jeff Mauro a run for his money! You can even ask my wife, if I had to eat one thing, every day, for the rest of my life, it would be a sandwich. Organized Chaos can feed your insatiable itch for a good sandwich.

Of sandwiches that Organized Chaos has on their menu, I have had two: the Tequila Chicken and the Bahn Mi. The Tequila Chicken is as tender as you could hope for a chicken sandwich to be. It is topped with melted cheddar cheese, cabbage, cilantro, and chipotle mayo. The Bahn Mi, which could probably be considered the signature sandwich for the truck, is Marissa's (co-owner/chef of OC) take on a Vietnamese classic. Tender, delicious, pork meatballs, pickled veggies, cilantro, and Sriracha mayo all on a toasted hoagie bun. The only thing that can bring the Bahn Mi down is the pending shutdown of the Sriracha plant.

Other big sellers that OC offers, that I have yet to try, but will be back soon to try are: the Chorizo Mac & Cheese and the Buffalo Chicken Balls. Give them a follow on Twitter, they have a couple engagements left this year, check them out!
Organized Choas on Urbanspoon

Now that I have covered the new kids on the block, I want to give a shoutout to some of the usual suspects too. Indios Carbonsitos has yet another new creation that will change the way that you think about Mexican food AND BBQ. He calls it the "Triple C", but I call it the "Triple 'Si'", because I cannot say "yes" to this burger enough! The Triple C burger is a Chorizo, Chihuahua Cheese, and Chipotle sauce topped burger. This burger has kick, but will not melt your face, perfect for someone like me that cannot handle the hot sauce equivalent of sulfuric acid. This burger is up to snuff with all of the other amazing menu items on this truck, you are doing yourself a disservice if you have not had Adrian's creations yet!

Lastly, my wife (at her ripe young age) had never had a Twinkie (if you can believe that). I knew that for her first Twinkie experience I would have to do it right. Luckily for us Funnel Cake Truck was at this event with his namesake desserts, along with deep fried Snickers, Oreos, Twix, Reece's and... wait for it... Twinkies! We were in luck; instead of suffering through the cheap, dry, plain worn out Twinkie, we got the funnel cake batter coated, deep fried, melty, gooey Twinkie. Top that sucker with a little bit of powdered sugar, chocolate, or cinnamon and you have a damn good way to end a meal (in which you had already eaten way too much anyways). My wife left the truck claiming that she had a new favorite dessert, that it is safe to say that although this was her first Twinkie, it will most definitely not be her last!

I hope that this short list of truck food has somehow, some way, provided you all with something to be thankful for on this day of Thanksgiving! Whether it is for the amazing food, the means by which you have to provide for your family, or for those that have always been there for you. I hope that you and yours have a happy Thanksgiving and safe Turkey Trotting!

In case you were wondering, I will be spending my Thanksgiving at the KC legend, the Golden Ox. I will either see you there, or let you know how it was afterwards. For having lived in KC my entire life, it is a shame that tomorrow/today (depending on how you look at it) will be the first time that I have been to the Golden Ox.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Beignet & Coffee

I recently had the pleasure of dining at Beignet, the brain-child of the good people that brought you Nica's 320 (now Nica's Lagniappe). Beignet takes its namesake (the beloved dessert from Nica's) and makes it the main dish!

These stuffed, powder covered, doughnut-like fritters are the perfect morning-time (or any other time of the day, for that matter) treat! My wife and I split the Pumpkin Pie and Bananas Foster Beignets.

The Pumpkin Pie, because it is fall, and well, since when is Pumpkin Pie not delicious? Never! Stuffing a Pumpkin Pie into a fritter doesn't make it any worse either. This beignet literally tasted like a slice of homemade pumpkin pie had been stuffed inside a beignet.

The Bananas Foster was an obvious second choice, being the chosen flavour of New Orleans (the American headquarters of Cajun food). It was everything that you would hope for from a banana foster dessert: not overwhelmingly banana flavoured, sweet (but not too rich), and creamy.

I could honestly deal with about half as much stuffing in each beignet, but that is because I appreciate the the base pastry quite a bit.

These stuffed treats, being as delicious as they may be, are still based on the ever delicious (and ever simple) plain beignet. At risk of over simplifying the beignet, for someone whom has never experienced one (because it is an experience), it is a rich man's version of the powdered donut (not so much in price, but in quality).

Having two locations (one in the River Market, one on 39th Street) makes a beignet that much more accessible. My preferred location is the one in the River Market. You can enjoy a Beignet break while shopping for produce & local honey (if you aren't against bee enslavement, which is what vegans actually believe). The interior is as eclectic as that of Nica's on the Boulevard. New Orleans inspired paintings, finger painted tables, and a doll head sighting round out the usual suspects.

Beignet can also offer you some pretty spectacular drip coffee to enjoy with your beignet.
Beignet on Urbanspoon

Just mentioning the word "coffee" beings to mind a situation that I read about in the news about the "quaint" Prairie Village Starbucks moving across the street to expand and add a drive though window. I could not believe this! 1) This is the epitome of what we call a Jo-Co problem. There are kids dying of cancer and this is what people are getting upset about. 2) This is the coffee bully Starbucks that we are talking about here, not some "Ma & Pop shop", the words "quaint" and "Starbucks" should NEVER be used in the same sentance! This being said, I write this hoping to help this gentleman (and others like him) realize that Starbucks is in fact the Walmart of coffee shops and in no way "quaint". This is like being mad at McDonald's for not using organic beef.

This city has plenty of great local coffee shops! I cannot even pretend to have been to half of them! On top of The Roasterie and Crossroads Coffee, that I have already written about, there are The Filling Station, City Market Coffee House, and Mildred's Coffeehosue (plus numerous others that I have yet to enjoy coffee in) that I also love. 

The Filling Station is a must-stop for any lover of good coffee or pastries. The Filling Station, like Beignet, also has 2 locations: one in Westport & one on Union Hill. The "Garage" location, on Union Hill, has a slightly larger menu that includes lunch items. This location is also done up with gears and license plates to resemble a garage (or a "Filling Station", if you will). The Westport location is in an old 1-hr Photo (or similar) hut and is decorated with nostalgic cameras and paraphernalia. Cameras that actually took pictures that looked like the filters that you use on Instagram today. The Westport location does have a drive-thru window, which despite what the a-hat Mr. Dehney (see above article link if you are skimming) would lead you to believe, does not ruin the quaintness of it at all!

The pastries are baked locally at SoHo Bakery and the beans are roasted by Broadway Roasting Company (who is said to have one of the best espressos around). This isn't pre-packaged stuff that is sent in from some factory in Seattle. Give Filling Station a try if you are looking for an awesome local coffee shop with uber talented baristas (every time you order a latte, it comes with a different design).
Filling Station on Urbanspoon

City Market Coffee House, located just steps from Beignet, in the River Market, is another great place to grab a cup of locally roasted coffee. The walls and customer side of the coffee bar are adorned with the burlap sacks that their coffee beans are shipped to them in. You will see bags from all four corners of the globe. I like to look around and see if I can find one from Puerto Rico.

They beans are roasted in house. If you are lucky, you might even walk in while the antique roaster is churning away in the corner, just to add to the appeal of the place. Every cup of single source or blended coffee that I have had in this place has been amazing!

Grab a cup, take a load off, and enjoy the atmosphere. Or grab a cup to-go, put some pep in your step, go pick out the freshest produce back beyond the doors to the Farmer's Market. You can even buy a bag of the artisan coffee beans  to take home with you. 
City Market Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Finally, Mildred's Coffee House, which admittedly I have been to far fewer times (and know much less about) than the previous two coffee houses. However, that does not make it any less of a kickass place to get your caffeine fix before a night of art exhibits on First Fridays. Mildred's Crossroads location has the perfect location for First Fridays! The place always smells amazing and, although I have never been for anything other than a coffee, everyone always talks about how great the food is (especially for a coffee house). Needless to say, Mildred's too is a much better place to walk to get coffee than is a Starbucks, Chuck Dehner (again, see above).
Mildred's Coffeehouse on Urbanspoon

My opinion on this whole Starbuck's "dilemma": get a local coffee shop to take the lease of the old Starbuck's location, or God forbid open one yourself, instead of using your energy to cry on the 6 o'clock news. Take all of Starbuck's clients and put them out of business. Then you will have something really quaint, instead of just the illusion of it. 

Be blessed, and until next time... Eat local!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Still Not Just Meat and Potatoes!

My love for Providence New American Kitchen has made me do something very rare, unprecedented in fact. Outside of my food truck family, I have never written twice about the same place. That is all about to change, and you have a revised menu (and new lead bartender) at PNAK to thank for it. If you want to know more about PNAK, click on the link above, this post is going to get straight into the food and drink.

The new food (at least what we tried of it):

For starters, the P&P Tots and Clam Chowder Dumplings are both great!

Porcini & Pecorino Tots
The P&P Tots are not your run of the mill tots that Napoleon Dynamite would stick in his pocket. They are porcini crusted and crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy (from the pecorino cheese) on the inside. The tots are garnished with pumpkin ketchup (which isn't as pumpkin-y or as ketchup-y as you might expect, but nicely compliments the delicate fried starch nuggets) and laid atop pumpernickel crumble (which I could honestly eat by itself, and did after the tots were gone).

Clam Chowder Dumplings
The CC Dumplings are exactly what they sound like: creamy chowder in a crunchy fried shell, topped with crispy bacon and served on a vinegar slaw (with chunks of clam in it). It is not often that I talk about garnishes, but both of these starters have garnishes that I would eat by themselves. How do they get liquid soup in that crunchy shell, you ask? I imagine that they freeze the chowder, bread it, then fry it (which melts the chowder and crisps the shell, all at once).

Kobe Burger
You can find the Kobe Burger on the lunch and dinner menus, probably because it is hard to think of a time of day when Kobe beef, Beemster cheese, pickled mustard seed, pickled onions, and shallot jam is not out of this world good!

Beer Braised Short Rib
A Boulevard beer braised short rib that is so tender that you can shred it with a spoon, served on top of house-made cavatelli pasta, smoked mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes, a jam made with more Boulevard beer, and topped with sprouts. You can really tell the difference that the house-made cavatelli pasta makes in this incredibly savory dish!

Spiced Doughnuts
These spiced doughnuts have replaced the ricotta doughnuts that I wrote about in my last post about PNAK and are just as amazing as they sound. These doughnuts taste like fall incarnated (or whatever the word would be for fall to take object form, but not necessarily human form). These doughnuts kick the highly coveted apple cider doughnuts (from Louisburg Cider Mill) in the crotch, hard. Add on to that the pumpkin glaze and pepita caramel brittle that come with the donuts and you have everything that you could hope for, from fall, on a plate.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
I can honestly not say enough about this dessert! This is probably the best dessert (and best ice cream) that I have ever had in my life (even better than the S'More's Flavors dessert from PNAK that I got put into the Ink Summer Dining Guide)! The hot date cake, covered in campfire whiskey glaze, and paired with Boulevard 6th Glass ice cream is unlike anything that you have ever tasted in your life; sweet, but not overly rich. This dessert is beyond words, do not plan to eat anything else for a few hours after this for risk of it tasting like hot feet comparatively. 

The Cocktails: 

Not only is PNAK shaking things up on the food menu, but also the cocktail menu. Some of the new cocktails that have been added are The Quiet Man, Bootlegger's Punch, and TIPple de Jalisco. We gave The Quiet Man and Bootlegger's Punch a try. 

Bootlegger's Punch (left) & The Quiet Man (right)
The Quiet Man is a whiskey cocktail, featuring Jameson, that is named after the 1952 John Wayne film about an American Boxer who retires to Ireland (so awesome, on so many levels). This cocktail runnith over with fall flavours: spiced apple cider, cinnamon & cardamom syrup, topped with ginger ale, and garnished with a piece of house-made candied ginger. Bootlegger's Punch is an equally awesome citrus-y rum cocktail: Goslings' Rum, Cherry Heering Liquer, Falernum, Fresh Lemon, and Orange Bitters.

Finally, the TIPple de Jalisco, that I did not get a chance to try, but supports a cause that is close to my heart. We all know that I love Mexico! The "TIP" in "TIPple" stands for Tequila Interchange Project, a non-profit that supports the preservation of regional tequila (aka the anti-Cuervo). This cocktail contains: Tequila Ocho "Plata", Mexican Coca Cola syrup (real sugar, not HFCS), and Regan's Orange Bitters.

Some of the new cocktails were formulated by the famous Brock Schulte (Drum Room Bar Manager). Some were created by the new lead bartender, who was brought over when Hickok's closed (sad face, I loved that place), Travis. After you have a couple cocktails with dinner, at PNAK, walk up the stairs to the Drum Room for a nightcap. If the Drum Room is not that busy, do the following: ask Travis about the time he got kicked out of the Robert Mondavi Vineyard in Napa (it is such an amazing story!), show him the below photo, tell him that you heard that it was the best New York themed cocktail out there, and ask him very nicely to make it for you.

Happy 1st Anniversary to PNAK, the new Drum Room, Rick Brook, Chef Eric Carter, Brock Schulte, Travis (who I am a jerk and forgot his last name), and crew! Cheers!