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13Jun/104

Truck Launch: ESPN Match Truck

ESPN Match Truck

ESPN and chef Roy Choi have teamed up to create two World Cup-themed food trucks that'll be hitting the streets of LA and NYC all throughout the global football tournament. Choi, the mastermind behind Kogi BBQ, designed the truck's menu, which features dishes from some of the countries taking part in the World Cup. The truck also boasts a giant flat-screen TV, so football fans can watch the games while they eat.

We hit the LA World Cup truck on Friday during the France-Uruguay game. It was parked outside the Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, right in the heart of tourist town, and there was a sizable crowd gathered around the flat-screen. Roy Choi was, alas, not on the truck, but I talked to PR guy Mark, who told me the menu will be the same throughout the truck's run. I thought it'd be nice to have a revolving menu featuring different countries' dishes - perhaps the menu could even change depending on which countries advance in the World Cup - but that'd probably be far too complicated to manage.

ESPN Match Truck Crowd

ESPN's Match Truck won't be hitting standard LA food-truck destinations like Miracle Mile: it's focusing on places where crowds like to hang out and take in a game, rather than just eat and go back to work. Yesterday it was back on Hollywood Boulevard, and today it visited Macarthur Park. Pershing Square and Olvera Street are also on the schedule. The truck's Twitter feed will let you know where you can eat and watch, as will the Web site.

ESPN Match Truck menu

Interestingly, all four of the dishes we ordered were sprinkled with sesame seeds. The seared rice balls (Italy: $4) were perhaps my least favorite - they didn't taste of very much at all. The salad that went with them, though, was fantastic, full of crunchy green beans and radishes, with a vinegary dressing. The mozzarella tasted a lot like queso fresco.

Huevos rancheros from the ESPN Match Truck

As I've previously mentioned, I am a spice wuss; the huevos rancheros (Mexico: $5) were slightly too hot for me, though the flavors were very good. I think it was the chorizo that set my mouth on fire. The egg whites were perfectly textured - tender near the yolks, and crispy on the edges.

PR guy Mark showed us a stain on his shirt where the yaki mandoo dumplings (South Korea: 3 for $4, 6 for $7) had attacked him earlier in the day, and I dodged a similar salvo of juice as I bit into one. They were soggy, but otherwise awesome. I wished I'd ordered six instead of three.

Dumplings from the ESPN Match Truck

The lamb gyro (Greece: $6) came with what the menu called "gutter-style" tzatziki sauce. I'm not sure what that means, but I do know that the sauce was seasoned with a metric ton of dill. I liked it. The pickled onions were a great touch - they gave me a stomachache later, but it was well worth it.

Gyro from the ESPN Match Truck

Los Angeles Magazine's recent cover story noted that LA's food truck street culture helps us feel more connected to one another in this car-centric city. Add a football game to the equation, and that connection strengthens severalfold - at least for me. I truly enjoyed standing on Hollywood Boulevard in the sunshine, in the middle of a crowd, eating squirty dumplings, staring up at the Match Truck's screen and chuckling at the French teenagers screaming "Allez les Bleus!" behind me. I'll be back to repeat that experience at the Match Truck very soon.

Photos by Oliver Seldman

4Jun/100

Knockout Tacos

We bumped into Knockout Tacos by Pan Pacific Park, on the truck's first full day out. Chef-owner Chris Goossen used to work at Bottega Louie downtown. His family is in the boxing business, hence the truck's concept. His cousin in Temecula did his truck's distinctive blue wrap with its red boxing-gloves logo.

KO Taco Truck

We got three tacos: BBQ pork burnt ends with baked beans and Southern-style coleslaw ($3.50), carne asada ($2.50), and pollo asada ($2.50). The pork delivered a, uh, one-two punch of deliciousness, although it could perhaps benefit from being shredded instead of sliced - the size of the pieces made it a tad dry. Maybe that's the "burnt ends" part - perhaps it's supposed to be a bit chewy. The sweet, tender beans knocked me for six. (Oh, sorry, wrong sport; that's a cricket metaphor.) I now want to add baked beans to all the BBQ tacos I eat. The pollo asada was wonderfully tomatoey and vinegary. I loved the cotija cheese on both asada tacos.

Pollo and carne asada tacos from KO

I know I end a lot of my reviews with "Next time I'll eat..." Hey, I've only got so much room in my stomach. Whenever I visit a food truck, I pick three or four menu items, decide which two to have this time, and leave the other two dishes for my second trip. My next-time choices at KO Tacos are: the tacos de papa with Yukon Gold potatoes, and the habanero albacore taco - even though I'm a spice lightweight (Another boxing reference! Yay!) and may have to remove some of the salsa before chowing down.

KO Truck Menu

We have a unanimous decision! The winner, and still the heavyweight champion of the taco world, is... Wow, I can't believe I just stooped to that metaphorical level. KO Tacos are great: no figures of speech necessary.

Photos by Oliver Seldman

3Jun/101

Silverlake Jubilee: Crepe'n Around

Silverlake Jubilee

The Silverlake Jubilee took place on the weekend of May 22 and 23. Myra Street was closed down from Sunset Boulevard to Hoover Street, and vendors and people filled the road from 10AM to 10PM on Saturday and Sunday. There was juice you could drink straight from the coconut; serving bowls made out of old vinyl records; more hipsters than you could shake a stick at (I shook one at as many of them as I could manage); and a whole crapload of food trucks. I counted: Derbs (whose truck is tiny!), the Fatburger Fatmobile, Mrs. Beasley's, Nana Queen's, Barbie's Q, Fishlips Sushi, Uncle Lau's BBQ, Del's, Flying Pig, Louks, Dosa Truck, India Jones, Lomo Arigato, Vesuvio, TastyMeat, Slice Truck, Komodo, Buttermilk Truck, Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffee and Smoothies, Dim Sum Truck, Frysmith, and Crepe'n Around. Phamish was there, despite having endured a nasty-sounding situation the previous week in which their truck had been taken hostage: they were using a temporary truck with a banner but no wrap.

Phamish's new temp truck

I'd been excited about visiting LA's two crepe trucks, so I was psyched to see Crepe'n Around at the Jubilee. After I set up camp (husband + toddler + stroller + bag + friends who also had all of the above) on the sidewalk next to the truck, I went to place my order. I chose a teriyaki hanger steak crepe ($6). It came in a red-and-white checked paper scoop tray, with the crepe folded over in a cone shape, like a sushi hand roll. Inside: seared hanger steak, pepper jack cheese, mixed greens, pickled onions, wonton crisps, and teriyaki sauce.

Crepe'n Around menu

The meat was juicy, but a little fatty and tough in places. It was coated very evenly with just the right amount of sauce - I was expecting the occasional teriyaki-heavy bite of meat, but none came. The greens and the wontons added a nice crunch. I have to say I didn't even notice the cheese's presence. Perhaps its flavor complemented the other ingredients so perfectly that it simply vanished into the crepe, or maybe the chef forgot to put it on. The crepe itself was the tiniest bit overdone, but I liked it; the very slight crispiness of the browned parts added a bit of nutty flavor. My beef (get it? get it?) with the overall package: a crepe seemed like too delicate a vehicle for such a hearty sandwich. The pieces of steak weren't what I'd call thinly cut, which made the whole package kind of chunky and unwieldy. Also, the teriyaki sauce soon soaked through the crepe. I got three quarters of the way through my meal, and then, as Chinua Achebe might say, things fell apart. Maybe if I'd been eating this dish on a plate with a knife and fork, my experience would have been different, but as hand-held street food, this didn't hold up very well. I think next time I'll try a more traditional savory crepe, like ham and brie.

Crepe 'N Around Truck

I couldn't resist getting a dessert crepe. While Nutella looked tempting, I asked the Crepe'n Around crew if they had any lemon juice on board: I just wanted plain old sugar and lemon ($4). They graciously obliged me. This crepe was perfectly done. It could have used a couple fewer squeezes of lemon juice, but it still absolutely hit the spot.

I appreciated the Jubilee's zero-waste effort. There was no water being sold in bottles - instead, there were a couple of water filling stations where you could bring your own bottle to replenish your H2O supply. At several points along the block-party route, there were bins in banks of three: one for trash, one for recycling, and one for composting. As ever, though, the occasional dumbass threw the wrong stuff into the wrong bin. I didn't see any event staff sorting the trash into its correct receptacles; I hope they did at some point.

Trash setup at the Silverlake Jubilee

I enjoyed the Jubilee. It was like a mini-Sunset Junction. Its acoustics astounded me: unless I stood right by the stage where the bands were playing (which, sadly, I'll have to wait to do until my kid is older and has hardier ears), I could barely hear the music at all. That meant I didn't need to shout myself hoarse or lip-read my friends to have a conversation. Excellent. The only time I was silent was when I was shoving crepes in my face, or inhaling nutella louks from - where else - Louks.

Photos by Oliver Seldman