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7Nov/101

First Friday 11/5: Slammin' Sliders, Che Truck and More

Yesterday at First Friday on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, I checked out several trucks I'd never tried before. My first course came from Slammin' Sliders, and my second from Cafe con Leche. Third in my belly was Chef Che's Argentine Cuisine. I then went back to one of my favorites, the KO Taco Truck, for a special pork sisig taco. Coming in last, but definitely not least, was New York Ice Connection.

Parking on Abbot Kinney gets crazy on First Friday. We were psyched to snag a spot right on the boulevard at Westminster Avenue. Across the street, we spotted Slammin' Sliders, and made a beeline for the truck. We got the Kobe beef sliders with cheddar ($6 for two). They were simple, no-frills burgers with nothing but cheese on King's Hawaiian sweet buns, and they were perfect. They're some of the best food-truck sliders I've tasted. We also ordered an orzo pasta opal basil salad - $1 got us a generous serving. This was a damn good pasta salad. The orzo was accompanied by tiny cubes of tomato and cucumber, as well as onion, and I tasted just the faintest hint of the opal basil (a darker-leaved variety of the herb) in the creamy pink mayonnaise dressing.

Kobe beef sliders and orzo salad at the Slammin' Sliders truck

Cafe Con Leche (sometimes also referred to by their Twitter account name, Cuban Cafe Mobile) was our next food-truck victim. We ordered from the Pastelitos (small pastries) section of the menu. Pastelitos can be sweet or savory, so we decided to choose one from column A and one from column B. On the savory side: a beef empanada (also $1.75). The pastry managed to be simultaneously thick and fluffy. The beef it enveloped was shredded, rather than ground. It came with a tiny cup of deliciously tart and spicy mayo for dipping. Nowhere was it specified that I had to restrict my dipping activities to pastry-only administration; therefore, I also dipped my fingers in the mayo several times.

On the sweet side: guayaba y queso ($1.75), a warm guava and cheese pastry that has a lot in common with a Danish. The guava and sweet cheese oozed out of the puff pastry, and I didn't feel even a little bit guilty for having dessert in the middle of my meal.

We also got one of the best cups of coffee I've had in a very, very long time. I must admit that I don't really like coffee: I know, blasphemy and heresy and all those things. This cafe con leche ($2.50), however, was mellow and sweet, with no trace of the metallic taste that so often characterizes coffee-drinking for me. Bonus: it was the perfect temperature to drink right away.

Onward we rallied, to the Che Truck, where we got El Mariachi, otherwise known as a chicken empanada ($3.50). I accidentally spilled chimichurri sauce all over it, making for a flavorful, if slightly soggy, pastry. The crust was a tad too thin for my taste: I tend to prefer it thicker and more robust. The chicken filling was also not quite to my taste: seasoning-wise, it had a lot of heat, but not much spice.

We also got an order of chimichurri fries ($2.50) - the large, flat steak fries soaked up the oil in the chimichurri, coating the fries with tiny, tasty pieces of parsley and garlic. The fries got very soggy after a while, which was OK because we were eating them immediately, but they wouldn't have lasted if we'd taken them to go.

And still onward we forged, though our bellies were getting ever fuller. My husband had heard that the KO truck was serving a pork sisig taco, named the Pacquiao in honor of Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino boxer who's due to fight Antonio Margarito on November 13. (KO was also offering a Margarito taco - deep fried beans and cheese.) We squeezed our way into the jam-packed Brig parking lot, where Chef Chris Goossen told us he'd read a lot about pork sisig before devising his own take on the classic Filipino dish. The pork was chopped rather than shredded, making it juicier. The KO Truck is one of my husband's and my favorite mobile eateries, and this new menu item was just as tasty as their regular fare. Which sold out first - the Pacquiao or the Margarito? On this particular night, according to a tweet from the KO truck, Pacquiao took the title, but it was an extremely close fight.

I can't truly feel like my meal is finished until I have dessert (even if eating that guava pastry means I technically already had it), so our last stop was New York Ice Connection, where we got two Italian ices - one lemon and one chocolate. They have two sizes: "Skinny" ($3) and "Fatsy" ($4), or two Skinnies for $5, which is what we got. The ices sent our son into paroxysms of giggling insanity every time he took bites. If I wasn't an adult, and therefore required to maintain some semblance of propriety in public, I would have been cackling hysterically right along with him - these ices are that good. I was surprised that a chocolate Italian ice could taste as rich as regular ice cream. Plus their slogan is "The Best Friggin' Ices in New York," which is just plain awesome.

After the ices, we staggered back along Abbot Kinney, passing the Slammin' Sliders truck again. We lamented that our stomachs were too full to accommodate any more sliders - this was our favorite new truck of the night, and there were plenty more menu items we wanted to try. We found our car and shoe-horned ourselves into it. First Friday can get a little packed, both in terms of cars and of people, but it's one of the best events for sampling multiple trucks' cuisine. And if "sample" means "stuff oneself to the gills," then sample we did.

Slammin' Sliders truck

23Mar/105

First Friday 3/5: Willoughby, Fresser's & Dim Sum

The first Friday of March fell on the 5th. My husband and I headed down to the monthly street festival on Venice's Abbot Kinney Blvd to get our food-truck fix. The Brig bar always hosts several trucks in its parking lot on First Fridays (and plenty of other days too): the Dim Sum truck had announced its intention to be there, and I was really excited to try it.

As we began the search for a parking spot, we saw the Flying Pig truck doing the same. Once we got over to the Brig, it was easy to see why the Pig was having trouble - food trucks ringed the Brig parking lot, with no room for any more to squeeze in. At 6:30 PM, half an hour after the official start of First Friday, the crowd was already beginning to pack the parking lot. If you weren't queuing, you were standing and eating, which created a problem I've seen before at multitruck gatherings: it was hard to tell where lines began, and if you stood too near a food truck for a couple of minutes, a queue would sometimes start to form behind you. The multitasking became overwhelming at times: I was eating, chatting, making sure I wasn't accidentally in line for a truck, moving out of the way for people coming to and from trucks, and attempting to corral a toddler who wouldn't eat anything except food other people had dropped on the ground.

Before its official launch on February 27, the Dim Sum Truck served goodies to the VIP area at last month's LA Street Food Fest. I hadn't tried it yet, so the truck was my first stop when I got to the Brig. I ordered bao, or baked BBQ pork buns (2 for $3). The bread was sweet, egg-glazed on top, with tangy shredded pork inside. The pork-to-bread ratio was, in mathematical terms, probably 1:2. In nomological terms? Perfect. Next I opted for the Peking duck taco. It needed a touch more hoisin sauce and a touch less fat. I like the method they use to take orders: there are paper menus with checkboxes out front of the truck, and they take your sheet of paper when you've checked what goodies you want.

Next up was Willoughby Road. Chefs Adrian Ochoa and Jeshua Garza went to high school together, then studied at the Cordon Bleu in Pasadena before paying their sous-chef dues under Ludo Lefebvre and Ming Tsai respectively. The Eagle Rock Farmers Market was where Ochoa and Garza first sold their BBQ with Asian- and African-influenced flavors; their truck has been on the road since January 11.

We got the brisket tacos ($7), which my food-hating toddler devoured. They came with cotija cheese and smoked tomato salsa. The brisket's marinated in harissa, which is Moroccan chili sauce. (My son was soon also marinated in harissa.) Our sides were creamy mac and cheese ($3), and black-eyed peas with dirty rice ($3). I am a devotee of Asian Soul Kitchen's BEP/rice combo, and I'm sorry to say that Willoughby Road's version did not quite measure up. It was already mixed, depriving me of the right to choose my own ratio of peas to rice (ratios again! I haven't done this much math since grade school). Willoughby's peas were cooked till they fell apart, whereas ASK's peas had a bit more bite to them. I prefer my peas firm. (Get your mind out of the gutter.)

My husband had been chasing Fresser's for weeks; recent truck troubles meant they'd had to cancel a few scheduled stops. He got the hot pastrami sandwich ($9.25). I don't like pastrami; I tried a bite, however, and was pleasantly surprised by how juicy and lean it was. I was too stuffed to order anything of my own from Fresser's, but next time I'm going to have the pot roast sandwich ($9.25). This Yelp review makes me want to try the white chocolate coconut fudge, too.