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9Sep/102

Sad News: Munch LA Cancelled

From the Munch LA organizers:

"Due to unforeseen circumstances, MUNCH LA regretfully has to cancel its event on Saturday, September 18th, 2010. MUNCH LA deeply apologizes to our supporters for any inconveniences and we hope to reschedule our event soon."

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8Sep/102

Giveaway: Win Two Tickets to Munch LA

UPDATE SEP 9: Munch LA has been cancelled. We'll let you know when it's been rescheduled.

Munch LA

Munch LA has kindly given us two tickets to its Fairfax High food-truck and fashion event on September 18 from 11AM-5PM, and we're giving them away to one lucky reader.

Just leave a comment below telling us your favorite food truck that will be at Munch LA, and your favorite menu item from that truck. We'll randomly select a winner on Tuesday, September 14. We'll get in touch with you via email to tell you that you've won, so be sure to include your name and email address in your comment. If you're the winner, please reply to our email within 24 hours, so we know you know you won - otherwise we'll have to select someone else to receive the tickets.

Trucks that are going to be at Munch LA include Phamish (delicious banh mi!), Frysmith (fries with all manner of toppings!), Lake Street Creamery (unique ice-cream flavors!), and LudoTruck (ridiculously good fried chicken!), plus more than 25 other trucks. Tickets to the event go for $7 in advance or $10 at the door, so if you win, you'll be getting $14-$20 worth of tickets free.

Fairfax High School's address is: 7850 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046. That's the southeast corner of Melrose and Fairfax Avenues.

For more information on Munch LA, visit its website.

We're looking forward to stuffing ourselves at Munch - we'll be sure to take our commenters' advice and fill our bellies with the menu items you like the best. And, hopefully, you'll be right there with us!

Happy commenting and good luck!

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2Sep/101

LA County Fair, Now With Food Trucks

Frysmith truck

The LA County Fair starts this weekend, and this year, food trucks are going to join the festivities. For the next five weekends, the Fair will host up to two trucks a day. First up: Calbi and Coolhaus on Saturday, September 4; Calbi and Frysmith on Sunday, September 5; and Border Grill and Lake Street Creamery on Labor Day. For the four weekends after that, the trucks'll be there on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The LA County Fair opens on Saturday, September 4, and runs until Sunday, October 3. It's at the Fairplex in Pomona, about 50 miles east of LA on the 10 Freeway. Admission for ages 13 and over is $12 on weekdays, $17 on weekends. Kids under five get in free. The Fair has tons of attractions, including Our Body: The Universe Within; ice carving exhibitions; horse racing; a traveling circus; and the Extreme Canine Stunt Dog Show. You can shop for anything from a Whoopie Pie to hand-blown glass to emergency preparedness kits.

Here's the truck schedule for the four weekends following Sep 4-6:

Friday, September 10
- Calbi
Saturday, September 11
- Calbi
- Dim Sum Truck
Sunday, September 12
- Calbi
- Ragin' Cajun

Friday, September 17
- Calbi
Saturday, September 18
- Calbi
- Ragin' Cajun
Sunday, September 19
- Border Grill
- Lake St. Creamery

Friday, September 24
- Calbi
- Frysmith
Saturday, September 25
- Calbi
- Fishlips Sushi
Sunday, September 26
- Calbi

Friday, October 1
- Calbi
Saturday, October 2
- Calbi
- Tastymeat!
Sunday, October 3
- Calbi
- Buttermilk Truck

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31Aug/104

Manila Machine

The Manila Machine behind Decades

When The Manila Machine tweeted that they'd be serving lunch behind Decades and DecadesTwo - a mere minute's walk from my house - I knew I'd be a fool not to head over there. The truck had been summoned to the vintage designer clothing store for a Filipino fashion meetup. We arrived at the tail end of the party - only one guy remained, as well as a photo crew from the LA Times Style section, who promised The Manila Machine's Nastassia Johnson and Marvin Gapultos that their writeup would be in the paper next week.

The Manila Machine's Nastassia and Marvin

Nastassia and Marvin are fellow food bloggers who decided they wanted to sling food as well as write about it. Nastassia writes at Let Me Eat Cake, while Marvin's blog is Burnt Lumpia. They launched The Manila Machine on June 10: it features Filipino street food. I'd been wanting to try lumpia - deep-fried Filipino egg rolls with vegetable, meat or fruit fillings - so I was especially excited that the Manila Machine had come to my neck of the woods.

Side of The Manila Machine

Sadly, they were all out of sisig and veggie lumpia by the time we showed up. We got two Original Manila Dip sliders (two for $5); two longganisa sliders (again, two for $5); one beef tapa slider ($3); an order of lumpia Shanghai ($2); and turon ($3), which wasn't on the menu, but which Nastassia advised us to order. It consisted of two dessert lumpia stuffed with jackfruit and saba banana (a type of banana native to the Philippines), and drizzled with caramel.

Turon at the Manila Machine

The lumpia Shanghai were tiny and crispy, and filled with seasoned shredded pork, carrots and spicy ginger. Shredded pork can dry out pretty easily, but these stayed nice and juicy, and had a subtle bite to them without being so spicy that they set this white girl's mouth on fire.

Lumpia Shanghai at The Manila Machine

Because of my husband's aversion to mayo, we got the beef tapa slider without its accompanying sriracha mayonnaise. We both agreed that it would have been better with the condiment. The beef was flavored with calamansi lime, a Filipino variety of the citrus fruit, and was tangy and chewy - it was delicious on its own, but a dash of something creamy and spicy would have complimented it beautifully. The pan de sal rolls -- on which all the sliders came -- were floury and drier than the average American burger bun, especially for those of us used to King's Hawaiian rolls. Because the beef, chicken, and sausage in the sliders was already sweet-tasting, pan de sal was a much better choice for these sandwiches than a sweet roll would have been.

Beef and Sausage Sliders at The Manila Machine

The longganisa slider contained sweet pork and garlic sausage (like Filipino chorizo), caramelized onions, arugula and mango jam. The sausage was tender (that's what she said), with nary a piece of gristle to be found.

Chicken Slider at The Manila Machine

The Original Manila Dip slider came with a side of adobo sauce. "Make sure you dip it," advised Nastassia as she handed us the sandwich through the truck window. It was perfect: melt-in-your-mouth stewed chicken, caramelized onions and floury bun, all dunked in a sweet-and-sour sauce. I dipped and dipped again.

I managed to hold off on eating the turon till I was done with my "real" food. The texture of the jackfruit-and-banana filling was firm and custardy. My only complaint was that the portion was a bit large - or maybe it was just that I'd miscalculated how full I'd be by the time I got to it.

At the end of our visit, food-truck aficionado extraordinaire Joni Yeung showed up to grab a slider and a cupcake, and dispensed some of her wisdom regarding mobile eateries, including how best to navigate a multitruck event (when eating tacos, forgo the tortillas, so you'll have more room in your stomach to hit up other trucks).

I plan to have the veggie lumpia next time The Manila Machine comes round my way. I'm also curious about the Filipino fruit drinks the truck has in its soda area - a calamansi lime drink sounds very refreshing. I'll have to try it in the future.

Manila Machine menu

Photos by Oliver Seldman

30Aug/100

Food Trucks at Fairfax High Sep 18

UPDATE SEP 9: Munch LA has been cancelled. We'll let you know when it's been rescheduled.

This is a food truck event I'm super excited about, because I can walk to it! On September 18 from 11AM to 5PM, Munch LA is holding what it's describing as a "food and fashion extravaganza" at Fairfax High School, at the intersection of Fairfax and Melrose Avenues in Hollywood. There will be more than 30 trucks there, as well as fashion vendors like Hudson Jeans and Paige Premium Denim. Here's the list of trucks so far:

Ahn Joo, Baby's Badass Burgers, Big Swirl, Calbi, Crepe'n Around, Del’s, Dim Sum Truck, Don Chow Tacos, Dosa Truck, Dumpling Station, Phamish, Fishlips, Flying Pig, Frysmith, Greenz on Wheelz, The Greasy Wiener, India Jones, Kabob N Roll, Komodo, Lake Street Creamery, Let’s Be Frank, Louks, LudoTruck, Nana Queens, Slice Truck, South Philly Experience, The Sweets Truck, Tropical Shave Ice, Vesuvio, Vizzi, and Worldfare.

Tickets are $7 in advance, or $10 on the day. Get them at munchla.com, or at the door. And - even though I'm taking the heel-toe express - there's also free on-site parking.

I'm looking forward to sampling Dumpling Station's pan-fried pork and leek dumplings again - they were so amazingly juicy the last time, I've been thinking about them ever since. I also want to have another go at Ahn Joo's beef kimbap. Hopefully the Sweets Truck will have those cupcake-pudding shooters; whether they do or not, I'm still having myself some California Zephyr ice cream from Lake Street Creamery. Vanilla, Meyer lemon and fresh mint leaves - sounds delicious.

Find out more at Munch LA's Web site or follow them on Twitter.

13Aug/101

White Rabbit and Greenz on Wheelz

Greenz On Wheelz truck

A couple of Wednesdays ago on Miracle Mile, I was pleased to spot some new trucks at 5700 Wilshire: the Yalla Truck, Hot Wing Truck, White Rabbit Filipino Fusion, and Greenz on Wheelz. Since I was with some friends, we could sample more dishes than I'd be able to stuff in my gob if I were on my own.

Greenz On Wheelz menu

First, we visited Greenz on Wheelz, which featured sandwich melts and salads. It was their first week on the road. We opted for a Greek salad ($6.50), a tuna melt ($7) and a turkey melt (also $7). Both melts had a large Ortega whole chili tucked inside the deliciously buttery home-made parmesan sourdough bread. I wasn't sure how I felt about the chili, especially because it was canned. Now that I've been visiting food trucks for a while, I'm used to a completely made-from-scratch gourmet experience, and so I guess I'm a bit spoiled. The chili added a tiny bit of heat and crunch, but its size was unwieldy, and I ended up pulling it out of the sandwich. The tuna salad and melted cheese, however, were top-notch, and the barbecue sauce on the side was something special.

Greenz On Wheelz tuna sandwich

Greenz On Wheelz turkey sandwich

The Greek salad was a textbook version, with no new twists, but the quality of the produce made it excellent. The cucumbers were especially sweet and flavorful. The Kalamata olives packed the perfect amount of salty punch.

White Rabbit Truck

Next was White Rabbit. I was under the mistaken impression that there was only one Filipino truck in town - The Manila Machine - so I was happy to see another one. We got a three-taco sampler ($6.50), with chicken adobo, beef, and two kinds of pork: tocino and sisig. Adobo, in its Filipino incarnation refers to meat stewed in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, pepper and bay leaves. Pork tocino is sometimes described as the "kimchi of pork," because it's cured for three days with saltpeter, sugar, garlic and anise wine. It's then fried until it caramelizes, giving it a sweet and sour flavor.

White Rabbit menu

The White Rabbit's menu describes pork sisig as "slowly sauteed and fried pork, mixed in a medley of onions, garlic and jalapeno." It was amazing - the meat was crispy and tasted of salt and lime. The chicken and beef were tasty, too, but the sisig was the standout. We also got a mango drink, which was disappointing: it tasted like a watered-down mango lassi. I dipped White Rabbit's fries into Greenz on Wheelz' awesome barbecue sauce - it was an instant inter-truck food romance!

White Rabbit tacos

We didn't make it to Yalla and Hot Wing Truck, because we were so full: next time.

Photos by Oliver Seldman

12Aug/102

Grill 'Em All: Food Truck Racers

The Grill 'Em All Truck

Want to see seven trucks from around the US - well, 6 trucks from Cali and one from Texas - battle it out to see who can cook the best noms under pressure? You're in luck. "The Great Food Truck Race," a new reality show which is like "The Amazing Race" but with food and trucks (go figure), premiers on August 15 on the Food Network. Tyler Florence hosts the show, which features seven truck-riding teams: Austin Daily Press, based in - you guessed it - Austin; Crepes Bonaparte, from Fullerton, Orange County, California; Ragin' Cajun, another OC truck, from Hermosa Beach; Spencer on the Go, out of San Francisco; and three LA-area trucks - Nana Queen's, Nom Nom Truck, and my personal favorite, Grill 'Em All. The trucks and their crews race across the US, stopping in cities and scrambling to prepare the most delicious food they can, as fast as they can. The show's tagline is "There will be breakdowns." Of the truck variety - and of the emotional variety.

We caught up with Matt and Ryan from Grill 'Em All as they recovered from their "Great Food Truck Race" experience. Joel Brown is the third man on their truck (each "Race" team has three contestants). We tried to get them to give away juicy show spoilers, but to no avail.

Find LA Food Trucks: You’ve said you often work 16-18-hour days. Can you describe an average day in the life of the Grill 'Em All truck and its resident dudes?

Ryan: Wake up, get to the truck, see what prep we have to do, roll out, do service, prep more, maybe another service, prep more, then prep more. We are a really prep heavy truck, everything on the beast is made from scratch, no frozen or pre-made stuff.

Matt: A day in the life? More like "Welcome to our Nightmare." Let's see...wake up, prep, drive, serve, drive, prep, drive, serve, go home...drink away the stress.

FLAFT: The Dee Snider is an insane creation, with peanut butter, jelly, bacon and sriracha. Who came up with it, and was it a gamble for you to put it on the menu?

Ryan: I come up with all the burgs on the truck. Its simple, I love peanut butter and jelly. I love it so much that it's tattooed on my right arm, with a jug of milk on my left! It wasn’t much of a gamble, the flavors work, and they make for a really intense, amazing burger! Don’t be scared, try one...

Matt: Our resident burger genius is Ryan W. Harkins. He came up with the Dee and, no, it was not a gamble, because gambling does not always pay off, but eating burgers always does.

Matt, Ryan and Jeff outside their truck, "The Beast"

FLAFT: "The Great Food Truck Race," the Food Network show you’re taking part in, sounds a lot like "The Amazing Race." Did you guys (the three of you on the truck) fight because of the pressure of the competition, or did it bring you closer?

Ryan: Not really. The three of us have all been in touring bands before, so we know the stress of the road and we know each other so well we know what buttons not to push. We had an amazing time and made some really incredible friends out of this show!

Matt: I've always been a loner, a nomad, a stranger in the night. That said, I have never felt closer to two weird-looking men before. Blame it on the road or Bon Jovi songs, but, in the end, I feel like we've all been bonded by buns.

FLAFT: Did you get to mingle with the other food-truck teams on the road, and if so, who did you get along best with?

Ryan: We got along with everyone really well, we love all those guys. but especially the Austin Daily Press gang, those dudes were long-lost brothers and sisters! We even got ADP tattoos and they got Grill ‘Em All tats! Pretty rad!

Matt: Ready for a cliche? Well, here she is: after the dust settled, everyone was just so great. The kids from Austin Daily Press and the lovely gentlemen from Spencer on the Go will remain some of our best food truck buddies for years to come. Drinking beers on treadmills in random hotels across America? Ohhh, the priceless memories.

FLAFT: Give us a little sneak peek at one Truck Stop Challenge that was particularly memorable for you.

Ryan: I wish I could. They were tough, but it would give away the show!

Matt: The truck stop challenges were nothing short of nerve-wracking and annoying, but they could, truly, make or break a team. That said, I don't remember any of them.

FLAFT: There are basketball groupies, hockey groupies, police groupies – have you ever, uh, “encountered” any food truck groupies?

Matt: Groupies? Um, we sell really big burgers, dude. The taste is the best groupie because it sticks around.

Ryan: We get a lot of people who love our truck, and how could you not? I mean, it rules! We have loyal fans we dubbed "ghouls" (in honor of the late/great Ghoulardi [a Cleveland legend]) and we love our ghouls!

FLAFT: Do you have a Number One Fan? If so, describe him or her.

Ryan: Every customer is our #1 fan. We love everyone who comes to our truck and hopefully that love is reciprocated!

Matt: My mom, Barb, is my biggest fan. She came all the way to Los Angeles from Cleveland to eat our food AND she did our taxes.

Catch "The Great Food Truck Race" beginning Sunday, August 15 at 10pm/9c on the Food Network.

For those about to cook... we salute you

21Jul/100

India Jones Chow Truck's Sumant Pardal

India Jones Chow Truck's Sumant Pardal

Most days, Sumant Pardal can be found sitting at a small, folding wooden table outside the India Jones Chow Truck, hanging out with his customers and watching them enjoy his amazing Indian street food. We ordered up some butter chicken ($7), a gobhi (cauliflower) paratha ($3.50) and some samosa spring rolls ($3), and sat down with the chef and owner of the mobile Indian street-food joint for an enlightening conversation.

Pardal has been in the restaurant business for 33 years: he founded the East India Grill chain of restaurants, which he's since sold. Now, at India Jones, he specializes in Punjabi food, particularly frankies: a roti is wrapped around fillings like lamb, paneer and mushrooms to form what the Zagat Guide's blog calls "the Indian equivalent of a burrito." His butter chicken, a mild curry with rice, is also a staple of the India Jones menu.

Pardal likes to talk with his customers. Topics we touched on included the Miracle Mile food-truck parking situation; the bigger, better new India Jones truck; and the possible expansion of the India Jones brand.

If you've visited a food truck on the Miracle Mile, you've probably heard at least a little bit about the precarious parking situation on Wilshire Boulevard. If not, here are the basics: Brick-and-mortar restaurants feel the trucks are taking their business. They unsuccessfully lobby the city to stop the trucks from parking on the Miracle Mile. Even though parking on the strip is now limited to one hour instead of two, the trucks continue to draw the lunchtime crowd. So, Pardal tells us (and LAist has also reported), Museum Square management and employees have allegedly begun employing a new tactic: they're parking (either their own cars, or, according to another LAist report, junkers) at all the Miracle Mile meters, and letting their business eat the cost of the tickets they're getting. Pardal doesn't think this approach will be viable for long.

Pardal is an active member of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, and regularly advocates for food trucks' presence in the city. He and fellow members of the SoCal MFVA recently sat down with Councilmember Tom LaBonge to talk about an alternative parking arrangement for the trucks. It's been proposed that the trucks could use the side streets, and that the city would charge them a flat parking fee. That way, the restaurants would feel less threatened, and the trucks could keep on doing business. As we talk about this, we shake our heads ruefully at the plight of the Shrimp Guys truck, which takes up two parking spaces, and so must be getting twice the tickets that the other trucks are getting.

Pardal recently switched to a bigger truck: his new ride is two feet wider and a foot longer, but - thankfully - still only occupies one parking spot. It has more kitchen space, two extra burners on the stove, and a double-door fridge that can hold around $6000 worth of food. It isn't your standard-issue Road Stoves truck: it's a private lease. Road Stoves, in fact, wouldn't lease to Pardal, he tells us - they told him they already had the Dosa Truck, and they didn't want to have two Indian food trucks out on the road. Pardal turned fellow trucks Kabob n' Roll and Louks on to his private company, and they now also lease their trucks through them.

Pardal will soon launch another truck, which he's planning to call China Jones: it'll feature Chinese street food. What's on the menu? Pardal says it's all in his head; he's made the dishes many times. "Give me a bowl of water, a chicken, and some cornstarch, and I'll make you something great," he says. He's planning to expand his Jones brand even further - Jakarta Jones (Indonesian street food) is just one of the potential variations he mentions.

Even if the trucks don't succeed in winning over LaBonge and the City of LA, India Jones has already converted one of the enemy - the meter maid who's tasked with ticketing the trucks up and down Miracle Mile. After completing her windshield-papering jaunt along Wilshire, she often stops at the India Jones truck to get some grub.

15Jul/101

LA Street Food Fest 2: July 24

LA Street Food Fest crowd at February's event

It's coming up soon - the second installment of the LA Street Food Fest. For round number 2, the Fest has moved from LA Center Studios to the Rose Bowl. This time, the good eats won't be marred by long lines and sold-out noms - there are only a few thousand presale tickets available, you can only purchase them online, and one price gets you all you can eat, rather than your having to wait - and then pay - at the trucks and carts once you get in. The event's also in the evening (from 5:30 to 9 PM), so there's less chance of frying in the hot sun, as queuers and eaters did at the last LA Street Food Fest in February. While you eat, you can watch a concert, vote in the Vendys-style cook-off, and hang out in the beer garden. Ooh, and the entry price includes free parking, a boon at any festival-type event.

Food truck-wise, all your favorites will be there: here's the complete list. Top three trucks I'm most excited about hitting: The Manila Machine, to try their lumpia (Filipino egg rolls); the Fox Pizza Bus, to get some wood-fired pie from a double-decker; and The Mighty Boba Truck, because I'm always up for some milk tea. Top three trucks I already love and will be hitting at the Fest: the Gastrobus, for their awesome daily specials like the plum juice they had recently; Louks, whose pitas I just cannot praise highly enough; and Coolhaus, because even though their free-ice-cream-sandwich days appear to be over for now, I will gladly pay full price for their balsamic fig and mascarpone ice cream.

Visit the LA Street Food Fest website for more information.

2Jul/103

Enter the Ninja: Yatta-! Truck

Yatta-! Truck

The Yatta-! Truck, which serves sushi with an American twist, has been on the road since June 5. I stopped by this past Friday on Miracle Mile. The menu offers several unique rolls, including the All-American, a deep-fried cheeseburger roll. It also gives you the option of building your own sushi, which you do by using the brightly colored popsicle sticks sitting in cups on the side of the truck. You pick the sticks corresponding to the ingredients you'd like in and on your roll, and then you hand them to the folks at the truck's order window. "You be the Chef!" is the Yatta-! Truck's tag line.

Yatta-! Truck Creation Station

I'm not quite confident in my ability to design my own roll without accidentally picking flavor combos that will turn out to be unexpectedly gross, so instead I chose one of the five pre-designed rolls on the menu: the Cream Cheese Explosion, a deep-fried cream cheese and spicy tuna roll. It was $3.50 for four pieces. The cream cheese and spicy tuna was a great combination - the cream cheese tempered the tuna's spice. My only complaint: deep-frying the roll cooked the tuna a little too much for my liking. I'd have preferred a greater contrast between the crunchy, hot batter on the outside and the cold, tender tuna inside the roll. I don't know if that's asking too much, culinarily speaking, but hey, if Acapulco can make deep-fried ice cream... (Yes, I'm talking about Acapulco, the Michelin 3-star restaurant that has introduced Southern California to such gustatory delights as the Mucho Macho-tizer Platter. Stop looking at me like that.)

Yatta-! Truck Menu

This truck comes complete with a ninja. Yes, a masked, sword-wielding ninja who will obligingly strike badass poses if you ask to take a picture of him. Despite his garb, he's not fierce at all; in fact, he's very sweet and friendly. We shot the shit while I waited for my order to come up, and he told me the Yatta-! Truck has two regular spots: where we were currently standing, at 5900 Wilshire Blvd; and 2nd and Santa Monica Blvd, in the city of Santa Monica. It also hits downtown and Venice fairly often. Look for its latest stops here. In addition to tasty sushi, the Yatta-! Truck gave me the opportunity to say a sentence I may never again utter in my lifetime: "Hang on; I gotta say goodbye to the ninja."

Yatta-! Ninja

Photos by Oliver Seldman