Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why I Was Bummed on Kogi Korean BBQ in Los Angeles

The Kogi Korean BBQ truck is synonymous with L.A. food truck culture (dare I say pioneer?), and over the last few years my rabid worship of truck dining had been tainted by the social-media savvy truck on the move through the City of Angels. I had never run into them or their world-famous tacos or burritos, and this saddened me deeply. Plus, Korean BBQ being the most insane cuisine known to man, I knew that I could not rest until I had sampled what may very well be the best (or at least best known) Korean BBQ truck on the West Coast.

When I saw them pull up outside Agenda yesterday, despite the insanely long, slow moving line, I knew I had no other option than to buck up and snatch the opportunity for life-changing kimchi! The line slowly shuffled forward, but despite rumblings in my tumbly I stood my ground. I knew, I just knew, that the wait would be worth it.

Happily, I'd made sure that the Visa/Mastercard sign was hanging in their ordering window, and even from wayyyyyyy in the back I could see cards being swiped. Oh happy day! The last of my cash had gone to parking, so I was in luck bearing plastic. Or was I? 

After approximately 4 million people had ordered and walked away smiling, I was close enough to the front to let the smells of spicy pork and short rib wash over me. I could see the ice-cold beverages glistening under a sheet of ice, and I already had my eye on a refreshing orange soda to wash down my forthcoming short rib burrito with kimchi. As I stepped to the front of the line after OVER AN HOUR in line (yes. I was patient!) I was greeted with a snarling man barking out "Cash only. Machine just went down."

What?

What do you mean, no credit cards?

There was no sign out front.

There was no announcement made.

I was literally so shell-shocked that I just stared at him and said "What?"

"Cash only."

"I... I just waited in line for over an hour."... at this point my knees were getting weak. All that I had anticipated, all that I had dreamed of, was about to be snatched away from me by an unsmiling order-taker looming high above me from a sticker-covered truck. I could immediately see why the line had moved forward so abysmally slowly. Inside were a bunch of loitering cooks that obviously couldn't see the snakelike line sneaking into the convention center, or they were so used to the demand that they just didn't give a crap anymore.

He shrugged. "I can try the machine, but it won't work."

I figured at least trying would be better than me jumping through the window and causing a scene, so I handed over my card and crossed my fingers. I could feel my blood pressure rising as we waited for a beep from the machine, and the entire scenario ran through my dazed head. It's the 21st century! What business in their right mind shows up to an event without a backup plan?! Where's the courtesy "cash only" sign? Where's the communication with loyal customers?! Where's the thoughtfulness for those like me (for surely I wasn't the only one without cash!) who waited uncomplainingly patiently in the longest line in history?! And although I can be pretty feisty on the (wonderfully anonymous) internet, I never. Ever. EVER. make a scene during foodservice. I've worked too long in the industry, and despite my obvious business logic, I did understand that it's not THIS guy's fault that the machine crashed. 

What pissed me off was his attitude. His absolute nonchalance and apathy blew my mind. I had built up this vision of legendary Korean BBQ that I had been looking forward to for YEARS, did my waiting time, MADE SURE that plastic was OK, and got completely slapped down by a guy who just couldn't be bothered with a little bit of A) customer service or B) A FREAKING BACKUP PLAN. Shit happens, I get that, but this was unacceptable.

I'm happy to say this story has a happy ending. I'd been chit chatting with the group of venture capitalists behind me for the better part of the hour, and since my interaction with the truck dude actually only lasted a few seconds, they stepped right up to save the day. I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard these sweet, sweet words...

"Oh, no way that's happening. You just waited for over an hour. You're on our tab."

Seriously, even a day later I am overwhelmed with absolute gratitude for my angel investor. Not only did he spare me complete humiliation (there are few things more embarrassing than not being able to pay for something you thought you could), he fulfilled a dream I'd had that had quickly turned into a nightmare. He even leaned into the screen at the back of the truck and encouraged them to put up a "CASH ONLY" sign (which apparently was not the obvious thing to do?) and was greeted with blank stares and turned backs. 

The burrito was absolutely worth the wait. Juicy, tender, full of flavor... it was everything I had hoped for. Unfortunately, it was tainted with a very, very bad customer experience, one that I  hope no one else has to suffer through. Believe me, they aren't the only truck in the world that has suffered through issues with credit cards, but the attitude is what turned my opinion VERY quickly. I can absolutely deal with problems outside their control. It happens. But what they CAN control is how they present it to their loyal customers. And that's why I was disappointed with my first (I can't say only...) Kogi Korean BBQ truck experience.

HUGE thanks to Richard from Irvine. Seriously dude, if I ever need capital for something, I've got your card, and I promise there will be $10 in the mail to you soon. Decent people exist, hooray!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Top 10 San Diego Food Trucks

It's no secret that I'm a legitimately crazy person- just most notably when food trucks are involved. If I could eat at a food truck for every meal every day, I would without hesitation. I'm not quite sure what my fascination with the mobile revolution is, but maybe I'm just enthusiastic about any major trend in American dining and I happen to live in a place where it's nice outside constantly. Maybe.

Anyhoo, this list has been a long time coming for me personally. I'm sure that many, many people would disagree my list below or want to throw me off a cliff for not mentioning their absolute favorite San Diego food truck, but no matter. I've done the research (a.k.a. stuffing my face) as much as I can, and with my (limited) knowledge and (unlimited) enthusiasm, I've come up with what I think are the best San Diego food trucks around.

My somewhat loose criteria are things like a mix of menu options (creativity, number of dishes, rotation, etc.), locations (more mobility is a good thing), cost (over the top gourmet food trucks really might just be missing the point), taste (duh, but also very arbitrary), friendliness (you can tell the legit people who are stoked on what they're doing vs. those cashing in on a trend who carry the shit kitchen attitude to the streets), and marketing (some have got it and some don't. Not a dealbreaker, but everyone likes a fun truck gimmick). I didn't make an actual grading scale or anything. I just know what I like and have no qualms about telling you what you SHOULD like.

I'll also note that I personally tend to gravitate towards the more gratuitous trucks (sorry MIHO - I tend to dig cheeseburgers more than beet salads) and more savory than sweet, so even though there are some BOMB dessert trucks on there, I'm gonna lean towards the lunch/dinner ones and leave the dessert trucks to another post. Last disclaimer: I haven't eaten at EVERY SINGLE food truck in San Diego. If there's one that I absolutely MUST TRY and I really should kill myself for writing this without trying them, then let me know (minus the death threats, please). There's always time for Round 2!

Without further ado... the top 10 San Diego food trucks.  

10. Asian Persuasion
This truck is solid. Their pork sliders are seriously amazing, their sauces are great, and even their complimentary won ton chips with sweet and sour dipping sauce aren't your run of the mill stale chip shards so often served at shitty Chinese restaurants. There's certainly a time and place for cheap Chinese food (you know the kind- the farty, bloat-inducing, MSG-laden limp beef with soggy broccoli that you really shouldn't enjoy as much as you do), but Asian Persuasion hits it right every time. They really could work on changing up their menu a bit, and I've heard a few horror stories about working with them to arrange an event, but overall, top notch stuff. Definitely the best Asian food truck in San Diego.  

9. Mangia Mangia
Italian staple of San Diego. They're at every food truck gathering and their staff always has big smiles on their faces. There's no real surprises (ever) on the menu, but what you get it always stationary-restaurant quality fresh ingredients from friendly people. Two thumbs up.  

8. MIHO Gastrotruck
O.G. S.D. food truck. Everyone knows 'em, everyone loves 'em. As far as I'm concerned, MIHO speared the food truck revolution in San Diego. They are to San Diego what Kogi is to LA. They're all over the place, they give a crap about sustainability and local sourcing, and they are creative as hell on their ever-changing menu. A little pricier than run-of-the-mill trucks, and this isn't the place for gluttons (woe is me), but their marketing hits it spot on. Not to be missed.  

7. Operacaffe
Their meatball sandwich made me want to cry. Placing them over MIHO will be sacrilege for some (despite their excellent cuisine), but what can I say. I'm a sucker for them. I also tend to run into them more than other trucks, which makes me pretty brand loyal. Seriously. Get the meatball sandwich.  

6. New York on Rye
Most legit Jewish deli style sandwiches in San Diego since the German deli on 30th in North Park closed. They don't toast their bread (legit!), they have big ass pickles (legit!), and they pile their thinly sliced meat to the sky. LEGIT. Pastrami on rye and Ruebens are NOT to be passed up. Dammit. I'm salivating.  

5. Devilicious
Another San Diego fave! They're nationally known and adored, plus babes man the truck. My only qualm with them is they steer a little too far over into the crass gratuitousness with their signature butter poached lobster grilled cheese sandwich, but I mean, seriously? What's not to like? I'm SUPER bummed that their kimchi dog didn't stay long on the menu because OMIGOD, but you will never, ever, EVER be disappointed with ANYTHING you get off this truck. Plus, their logo of a baby devil eating a sandwich is rad.  

4. Mariscos on Texas
Yup. I gave a "roach coach" the #4 spot. Wanna know why? EVERYTHING HERE IS BETTER THAN ANYTHING YOU'VE EVER EATEN. What they lack in marketing or even menu rotation is 100% made up with their food, plain and simple. Do yourself a favor. Drop what you're doing and drive to the liquor store on Texas and Meade. Park. Get ceviche. Also everything else on the menu. Do not trust the white man with your ceviche. Only trust Mariscos with your ceviche. Eat it. Order more. You'll thank me.  

3. Super Q
BBQ fans from the South, rejoice! Your time has come to SoCal on 4 wheels with Southern hospitality to boot. Best BBQ truck in San Diego. Everything is slow cooked and an extra bonus is they don't take forever to make it for you. It's not fussy and it's not rocket science. It's just damn fine eatin'.  

2. Hoangies
Banh mi sandwiches are maaaaaaaaaaaaybe my favorite food ever, so I'm perhaps a little biased on Hoangies. Nah, it's just that good. The menu is straightforward, and even though I have to admit that it's not the most unbelievably authentic banh mi in the entire universe, it does the trick and then some. It's family owned, they roll all over town, and it legitimately makes me weep when I see them. I'm ALL about Hoangies. I want everyone and their mom to patronize it. The people rock and are always super appreciative, plus they remember you! I may or may not have freaked out with ecstasy in front of them more than once (which tends to make an impression), but I think I bankroll them pretty hard so whatever. Fun fact: I almost wrecked my car when I drove by them one time, started screaming, pulled an illegal U-Turn, and then hopped my way across the street in glee. I. Fucking. Love. Hoangies. They ALMOST made it to my #1 absolute favorite food truck in San Diego spot, but there's only one other place that is higher in my heart.  

1. Tabe BBQ
Korean BBQ. Are there any sweeter words in the English culinary language? I'm honestly having a hard time not jumping in front of a car because I don't have a plate of sweet pork in front of me. Tabe's marketing sucks, they're hard to find, and their menu never changes. WHO CARES. It's absolutely, unequivocally, the best truck in San Diego, I'd wager it would give any truck in the country a run for its money. It gets overlooked because their branding is garbage and it honestly could pass for a roach coach, but it's so, so, so much more than that. I honestly pity you if you've never experienced the glory of Tabe. I VIVIDLY remember eating it for the first time and after my first bite I had a revelation. I've eaten some damn fine food in my life, but there are very few things that come close to Tabe. Tabe, I love you.

PLEASE feel free to recommend your favorite food trucks and dishes to me! I can always use a good excuse to check out a new place.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Urkontinent : Google + Dogfish Head

Worth the watch!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Flavors of Yeast

White-Labs from Dennis Stein on Vimeo.



San Diego Beer Week is coming up fast, and November 4-13 can't get here soon enough! Events are still being added to the calendar, and the one that we're most excited about is the "Flavors of Yeast" presentation by the Head of Laboratory Operations at White Labs, Neva Parker. It's certainly not going to be the run-of-the-mill drinkfest (NOT that there's anything wrong with that!) that will be taking place all over the county, rather a more science-y panel for serious beer lovers, home brewers, and just general nerds alike.

On Wednesday, November 9th from 6-9pm at Sea Rocket Bistro, $20 gets you into the talk (plus hors d’oeuvres) that will cover topics like cultivating yeast and the different properties that strains provide to beer styles. As a bonus (and learning experience of course), attendees will slosh down side-by-side a 'base beer' that was created identically in every way except yeast strains, so the individual flavor profiles can be explored and discussed as a group. Yeasts include:

WLP530 Abbey Ale Yeast
Used to produce Trappist style beers, distinct for their clovey, estery profile. Fruity and alcohol tolerant (up to 15% ABV). Excellent yeast for high gravity beers, Belgian ales, dubbels and trippels.

WLP810 San Francisco Lager Yeast
This yeast is used to produce the “California Common” style beer. A unique lager strain which has the ability to ferment up to 65 degrees while retaining lager characteristics. Can also be fermented down to 50 degrees for production of marzens, pilsners and other style lagers.

WLP655 Belgian Sour Mix 1
A unique blend perfect for Belgian style beers. Includes Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, and the bacterial strains Lactobacillus and Pediococcus.
(info from the Sea Rocket event page)

So if you're a beer lover, science geek, or just someone who wants to know more about the weird little creatures that help the more popular hops + barley become beer, head on down! I'll be there with pocket protector and pint!

Fleet of Eats: 57 Degrees 3rd Friday Food Truck Gathering

Food truck fever has hit San Diego HARD, and this is in no way depressing. Besides the individual truck schedules, there's plenty of "gatherings" where an assortment of trucks get together and create a mobile food court to the delight of locals. One of the ones that I kept missing was the 3rd Friday Gathering at 57 Degrees in Little Italy, but NOT THIS TIME! Parking was a challenge, especially since the closest trolley stop is out of commission for awhile, but we managed to hoof it, fork over the $2 entrance fee, and beeline it through the wine bar to their back parking lot filled from end to end with mobile yumminess!

I knew that I wanted to see what every truck had to offer before committing to anything, so we started with the Eat at Recess Truck, Operacaffe, CurioCity, Tabe BBQ, MangiaMangia, Food Farm, the Gathering Spot, etc. etc. etc. (one immediate complaint is that the list on the 57 Degrees website wasn't really accurate). However, that didn't REALLY matter since there was plenty to choose from and to kick things off we got the Fried Pizza Dough stuffed with cheese from Operacaffe Mobile.

It was pretty much exactly what you'd expect- doughy balls of fried goodness with bubbling cheese spewing from the tops like tiny volcanoes with a side of marinara for dipping. Hot, cheesy balls. What's not to like? We munched on these as we studied the rest of the boards for our entrees. One noteworthy trend is that almost every single truck had some version of sliders and/or parmesan fries (some with, some without truffles). I guess it makes sense since sliders are a little more manageable on the go, but come on people! A little variety would be nice!

Next up was the Spicy Brat from The Gathering Spot Bistrotruck. It seemed to be the recommended dog, and it sounded pretty unusual/great with cream cheese spread and a jalapeno/onion mix. When we got it, I was pretty disappointed with the grayness of the brat, generic cream cheese, and limp, leech-like jalapenos that looked more like sad kelp than spicy pepper. It wasn't spicy in ANY respect, and was just pretty bland. Disappointing. (HOWEVER - we did run into this truck the next day at Green Flash Brewery and decided to give it another go. Their Slidertini with angus beef, dill aioli, sauteed mushrooms & onions with a block of cheddar toothpicked on top was GREAT. Shockingly tender and the perfect amount of dill - which I find can be easily overdone. Not to be missed!)

By now Ashton-the-sweet-tooth was itching for some dessert, so he headed over to The Chubby Truck for their fried cheesecake with either strawberry compote or chocolate dip. He brought back what appeared to be two egg rolls with a cup of fudge, and I felt like I was back at the gluttonous state fair in Del Mar all over again! Things like this are fine in their own way, I suppose... I mean, yes, it was fried cheesecake. Great. Nothing surprising, and honestly just a little gratuitous. The rest of their menu looked pretty amazing, so I'm anxious to give this new truck another go and get one of their tasty-looking burgers next time!

Last on the list was Tabe Korean BBQ, which I'd had once before and LOVED. To wrap things up we got their Tabe Asada Fries with the sweet pork, and let me just tell you that I give it the rating of "Die, die, must try!" Perfectly tender, sweet and just a little spicy, their pork is drippingly fantastic in everything they offer. It's going to be difficult for me to get any other their other meats because their pork is stellar! The little side cups of hot sauce, chili garlic spread, and spicy aioli were all delightful in their own right, so just do yourself a favor and get some Tabe. Korean BBQ, my new favorite food group?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ramblin' on with SD Food Trucks

There's just something about the fast-paced food slingin' and militant compactness of food trucks that completely appeals to me. With a smaller menu, I feel like creativity, seasonality, and just plain fun come into play more than stationary eateries. I've already raved about San Diego's Devilicious truck (and I think I'm just one voice in a crowd on that one), but at this year's La Mesa Oktoberfest I noticed that the Asian Persuasion truck was parked next to Devilicious. Being the indecisive fatty that I am, I decided to get something from both trucks just to piss my muffin top off just a LITTLE more.

After a few of my friends embarrassed themselves by being totally unoriginal and getting the Butter Poached Lobster Grilled Cheese from Devilicious (I'm just being a bitch- it's #&(*@&ing amazing), I got an order of the Parmesan Truffle Fries to share with the group and the Shrimp PoBoy for me. It was the pickles that really sealed the deal for me on that one, and I was NOT disappointed. HUGE breaded shrimp were falling out of the baguette, which was smeared with a delicious aioli and red onion with a dark green salad on the side. Seriously. Really, really good. The fries had more of a truffle flavor than I was expecting, but believe me that's not a complaint. Utter bliss.

The $6 Bankok pork sliders from Asian Persuasion came dolloped with spicy mayo and daikon, and with their hint of ginger and side of wonton chips + sweet & sour dipping sauce I was SOLD. Hands down the best dish of the night. I was BLOWN AWAY with how tender the pork was, how wonderful the Hawaiian buns were, how perfectly seasoned everything was, and even how fresh the wonton chips were! Seriously! Home run! I can't WAIT to try that truck again, and maybe get the FOB tacos or the burrito. I don't know, I just can't decide. I just love how San Diego food trucks keep delivering.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Julian tomatoes

I would just like to say summer is still kickin' in Julian and these tomatoes were the best this old bird has had in a while!