Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Drive In--Fill Up, New York's First Food Truck Drive-In

With the blazing heat over the weekend, I did not feel like staying inside cooking. Thank God a few months ago I had scored tickets to the NYC Food and Film Festival's World's First Food Truck Drive-In. The idea was that the festival attendees would stroll in and the food would do the driving. Armed with my camera, an empty stomach, and a few good friends we ventured under the Brooklyn Bridge to see what the mobile food of New York City had in store.

We were barely ten feet past the gate when my friend Anne spotted what she wanted to eat. It turned out that the whole "having a truck" thing was a bit of a loosely enforced rule. Just inside the gate were several vendors familiar to anyone who goes to Brooklyn Flea and Anne had just spotted Choncho's Tacos. One beer battered fish taco later she was happily munching away.

This has been a big week for me and the fish taco. I finally got out to Rockaway Taco in Rockaway Beach recently so I actually had something to compare it to. The Rockaway taco had some unusual ingredients including radish slices, and the option to add Guacamole (an option I would recommend).  Both were hot and juicy, wrapped up in a soft tortilla, but I would say Rockaway Taco might have been a tiny bit tastier. Anne was very, very happy with her selection though. Will, having not had caffeine for two whole hours, headed straight to Crop to Cup for an iced coffee."Why did they even bring hot coffee?" he mused as we baked in the humid weather. The company works directly with the coffee farmers in Uganda, so it was a guilt free iced coffee, as well as being refreshing. I hate it when my coffee is racked with guilt.

We headed into the main area of the Drive-In, where most of the trucks were. No sooner had we entered then an energetic girl informed us there were "Free People's Pops at the Cooking Channel Truck!" The cooking channel, recently launched by the Food Network (for those of you living, like me, without cable) is brand new and promoting the hell out of itself. This was one of their first stops on a nation wide tour their doing with a big ice cream truck. I've heard the Cooking Channel uses a lot of New York artisan chefs, which I'm all for. People's Pops, another vendor born of Brooklyn Flea, has just opened a stand in Chelsea Market, making just another reason I'm totally going to move into that market. Armed with our Raspberry Basil and Rhubarb Jasmine pops, we started to do the walk around to decide what we wanted.

There was Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, which I've tried before when the truck was parked in Williamsburg Brooklyn one night. All natural and organic, it's rich tasting and well crafted, but I was looking to try new things. The only truck with a real line was the Krave NJ, the Korean BBQ Truck, which was selling among other things "Kravers" at type of burger where you get a choice of two meats served with monterey jack cheese, shredded kimchi, onion-cilantro relish on a toasted bun. It looked really good, and the crowd was certainly with them, but the line wasn't moving. After about ten minutes of standing in one spot I threw in the towel. Surrounded by food, I refused to be kept waiting. I had sent Will to get a Pulled Pork Sandwich at the Louisiana Spice Truck, but when I went to find him, there was no one in or in line for that truck. Will said that when he got there, and official looking person was writing the truck owner a ticket. A few minutes later the resumed business, but only selling pre-made sweets. Apparently, the Fire Marshall had shut down their cooking ability. I suppose I'm willing to sacrifice pulled pork in exchange for not blowing up...I guess.

Anne, meanwhile, had decided she was ready for a waffle with Nutella, strawberries, and whipped cream from Waffles and Dinges As we stood at one of the tables eating, Anne pleased with her treat, a few feet away a huge splash of water came crashing in from overhead. Miraculously it hit no one, and as we looked at the new puddle we realized it was full of rapidly melting ice. Looking up, we realized we were right under the footpath of the Brooklyn Bridge. On hot summer days enterprising New Yorkers will stand along the rather long bridge path and sell bottled water out of coolers. We hypothesized a seller, unaware of the little picnic going on directly beneath him, had sold all of his water and dumped his cooler. An indignant officer of the NYPD was on his radio right away, but I'm not sure if the mystery was ever solved completely. As the sun pounded down, however, I think more then one person may have wished the ice water had hit them.

We headed back to entrance area where the film tent was, ready to watch some films about food. Anne and Danielle went to score some seats, and Will and I headed to Red Hook Lobster Pound and Milk Truck Grilled Cheese respectively. Having read a recent New York Magazine article recently discussing the lobster glut in Maine and comparing all the different lobster rolls in New York, I felt remiss that the only one I had sampled was Luke's Lobster. Well, that and my own. Red Hook had something different then what I'm used to, a Connecticut Lobster Roll. Instead of being served cold and with mayo, the meat was tossed in a skillet, warmed, and served with butter. Will, who hates mayo, was rather pleased with this new format.

As we devoured this treats, there came a pressing question. What the hell happened to the movies? This was now about 2pm and the films were supposed to start at 1. Well, this being the "World's First Food Truck Drive-In" they had not yet worked out all the kinks. Apparently, light leaks in the tent became a huge problem, and they had to take down the screen to put masking on the back of it. Also they knocked down the side curtains. Then they changed the entire orientation of the chairs and screen to face another way. By the time they got rolling it was about 3pm, and by closing the light leaks they had also cut out all the air. With one fan blowing in a huge, sweltering tent, it was not exactly comfortable. One of the organizers referred to it as Bikram Screenings. Still, we settled in the second row and prepared for the show to start.

Here was the problem. They decided to start from the very beginning of their list, a 45 minute film called the Bread Maverick. It was a nice little Austrian portrait piece about making bread in wood burning ovens, and they gave out samples of similar bread from a local pizza place/bread bakery called Roberta's But the film was very mellow with long stretches of just scenery and music. And it was 45 minutes long. And it was about 87 million degrees in that tent. And here's the kicker: We were seated DIRECTLY BEHIND the people the damn film was about. We couldn't leave! Not without being really mean and insulting to this very sweet looking Austrian woman who was, no lie, wearing an apron.

We saw one of the other films, the ones that were blessedly only about five minutes long, and that was much more fun. Sort of a pop in, see a short film, pop out and get more food kind of atmosphere. My advice for next year: if they can't get a cooler venue for the films, then save anything longer then ten minutes for the night time block when things have cooled down a bit. I left at about 4, so I don't really know anything about the evening programing. If you were there and have thoughts, please share in the comments!

The food was great, and I'm interested to see how this all works out next year once they've had a bit of practice. You know, see if they can pull it off without baking half of the Brooklyn foodies in a tent. Or calling in the fire department. Or dumping a chest full of ice on people. Hey, I'll be there as long as they bring the lobster rolls.

No comments:

Post a Comment