Sunday, December 5, 2010

Food Truck Frenzy... in Napa!

The food trucks have arrived in Napa with a vengeance. Finally! Over this past year, in this crappy economy, chefs have taken to the streets here in my corner of the world, and I couldn't be more excited.

Now food trucks - and not just of the roach coach variety - have been staples in Napa Valley for eons, but mainly in the form of mobile taquerias. I venture to say that the taco trucks here in town offer some of the very best Mexican street food you'll find anywhere north of the border, and they've always been an excellent place to get a great meal on the cheap. But now, the offerings here in town have exploded - from Thai food and dim sum, to wood-fired chicken and grass-fed beef sliders - street food has become an elevated and delicious alternative to the high-end restaurants that are the norm around here.

My dilemma for the past few months has been figuring out how to pay a visit to each of these new food trucks that I've been hearing so much about, when most of them are only open during the day when I'm at work more than 35 miles away. Let alone track them down - they've each got different spots staked out around the city and sometimes the locations change. Hm.

Lucky for me, the Oxbow Market solved my problem. On the first Friday of every month, a selection of food trucks circle their wagons and have an all-out late-night party called "Food Truck Friday." From 5 p.m. until midnight, the trucks are all in one location and serve up their popular fare. Last Friday was only the second time the event has been held, and the first time I've attended. The trucks that participated were Dim Sum Charlie’s, Karma Karma Thai Food, Street-Eatz, Chicago Style Hot Dogs, Phat Salads and Wraps, Crossroad Rotisserie Chicken and Mark's the Spot. In addition, there are many tasting rooms in the neighborhood that also stayed open late, and people bought bottles and were enjoying glasses of wine with their food truck nibbles. It is Napa, after all!

But wow. It was pretty obvious from the crowd that had assembled and the lengthy lines of hungry folk at each truck, that this is the type of activity that us Napkins sorely crave: affordable, good food; a place to gather; and late hours. What a freaking concept. I even spied one of Napa's premier caterers there, checking out the goods. She's got a kitchen full of the finest Napa has to offer, and yet, she too was in on the scene (besides - who wants to cook if you do it all day for a living?). And with offerings like artichoke pokoras; wood-oven pork belly sandwiches with cranberry and fig relish; confit duck wings with spicy plum sauce; udon noodles in a savory broth tossed with foie gras, braised duck leg and fresh herbs... are you sensing my predicament? It was difficult to narrow down our choices.

But narrow them down we did. We started with a good old street food staple - a Chicago dog - which we shared to whet our appetites as we waited for the remainder of our orders. Then Ran and I split up - he went to Mark's the Spot to order their slider sampler; I went to Dim Sum Charlie's to get their "Ten Dolla Make You Holla" sampler. Excellent choices both. I was very stoic and did not order the rosemary fries from Street Eatz... that was tough - especially since everyone was raving and they smelled SO good. But we did enough damage, without adding deep fried goodness to the mix. The dim sum sampler came with a honey pork bun, a steamed pork bun, and five different dumplings - all delish.
And the sliders from Marks - awesome. The sampler trio is composed of three different sliders, each served on an artisan brioche bun - the Oooh Girl Chicken (organic buttermilk fried boneless chicken thigh with pepper aioli and slaw), the Baby Bubba Burger (Niman Ranch beef patty with onions two ways, spicy aioli and slaw), and the BBB Good (bacon, basil and brie with carmelized apple). OMG. They were all spectacular, but I'd go back for the beef slider again and again.
I would venture a guess that I will return to Food Truck Friday... often. I'm already bummed I'll miss the January event. There certainly are wrinkles to be ironed out - the lines were very long, and some of the trucks were not well equipped to handle the crowds (cooking to order? Really?) - but for only the second time out the gate, I predict that things will only get better. You certainly couldn't argue with the food - it was worth the wait.

We're certainly no Portland (the Oregon city boasts more than 700 food trucks - heaven!) - but in this little corner of the world, assembling more than a half a dozen food trucks in one locale seems like quite a victory. So come on up and see me sometime - I've got a great truck or two to show off.

1 comment:

  1. Love it! Great post I can't wait to share!! Giselle