November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving at the Trailers

They may not be open for business on Thanksgiving day, but I bought my Cajun-fried turkey from Kate's Southern Comfort on Barton Springs Road this year and man oh man it smells divine.  Easiest $40 I've spent all month and it will feed my family for the next week.  While I was at it, I talked Katie into whipping me up a full pan of her Cajun bread pudding with Sailor Jerry Sauce.  Like a good daughter would, I went ahead and broke my diet to try a bite for quality control prior to bringing it home to my folks.  A quarter of the pan later, I told Kate she may have just got me an allowance with this savory spin on a southern tradition. 

Another Thanksgiving favorite this year has been the Turkey Mole tacos at Torchy's Tacos.  Torchy's recently won the meat category at the first-ever Gypsy Picnic with their green chile pork.  Other fan favorites include their fried avocado taco.  However, I am here to tell you that the Turkey Mole is hands down the absolute best taco I've had at Torchy's (and I sample them often).  Get your passport - this taco envelops Texas fried turkey in a Oaxacan mole sauce with Mexican rice, avocado, queso fresco, and fresh cilantro served on your choice of tortilla.  All that taco for a cool $4.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from everyone on the Trailer Food Diaries team!

November 12, 2010

First-ever Gypsy Picnic

photo credit:
The seed for the Gypsy Picnic was planted in February 2010 when I went on my first trailer food crawl with some girl friends.  We started the day with some local/bistro sandwiches with Victoria at La Boite.  We then set out on the trail to hunt down some vietnamese sandwiches at lulu b's, but she was closed.  Still determined we drove down lamar to the Odd Duck, who was only opened for dinner.  We struck gold with Gourdough's where we finally caved in to not really knowing who was open or where to go next and sat down for some big fat doughnuts, Tecate's and Lights/Menthols.  It was Sunday brunch in Austin afterall.  So after this experience of trail blazing a trailer crawl back when the trailers were first thriving, I decided once and for all someone in this city was going to have to take notes and report back.  Trailer Food Diaries was born and I began blogging about the stories behind each of these vendors. 

But there was more to it than that.  I had recently quit my job (the previous December) and was looking for a true career experience that would allow me freedom to work from home, travel, and the general ability to wake up happy and excited about my day.  As the stories behind the trailer vendors began to unfold I realized we had a lot in common:  we wanted to work for ourselves, wake up inspired, and be involved in the food community here in Austin.  Then it dawned on me that this trailer food business was actually part of my heritage, as my great-grandfather came to this country from Russia and began his pursuit of the American dream with a banana cart which evolved into 5 general stores (and some really cool progeny).  (Insert 'ding' light bulb sound)

While I was talking with the vendors about their stories, I began asking them if they had ever entered a cook-off.  Partly, the question was to reflect to them how proud they were of their food and to see if they honestly thought their cuisine would stand out in a competition.  I had 100% response rate that yes they would like to do a cook-off. 

By some twist of fate my idea fell into the right circles at the right time and I found myself in the office of Roy Spence at GSD&M one morning, followed by a meeting with Charlie Jones of C3 Presents.  Both companies took various aspects of the project under their wings and Trailer Food Diaries began to soar. 

We started planning the Gypsy Picnic in May of 2010 and executed the first-ever Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival in Austin last November 6, 2010.  As a fourth generation Austinite, I felt very proud to have been a part of something that is a fun and quirky contribution to the city that I hope will outlive me.  When I'm an old woman, I want to hear people say 'remember that first Gypsy Picnic?'  just like I hear people talking about Aquafest. 

We had 30 trailers pile in at auditorium shores and we told them to prepare at least 1,000 units of food in anticipation a crowd of 10,000.  We had more than 15,000 show up (it was  free, dog-friendly, kid-friendly event) on a gorgeous day in Austin and many of the vendors sold upwards fo 3,000 units.  The music was great and my friend Barbie volunteered her signing services so the deaf community could participate in the shows.  The sideshow had fun entertainment acts, stories from Book People and more.  Behind the scenes a cook-off was going on with 10 local judges who are highly esteemed in the foodie scene. 

In addition to having a really fun and successful event, I launched the Trailer Food Diaries Magazine which featured the 30 pioneer gypsies and some of their recipes.  We gave away 5,000 copies and ran out by 2:30pm.  Don't worry, I saved a handful for stocking stuffers.  I also started filming the pilot for Trailer Food Diaries TV series.  All this on November 6th, one day before my 30th birthday.  And all of this stemming from one thought on one day at a relatively unsuccessful trailer food crawl, half-depressed, half-buzzed with some friends.

The Gypsy Picnic and Trailer Food Diaries projects represent the spirit of unique entrepreneurialism here in Austin.  Over the last several months I have enjoyed getting to know the vendors, their stories and try their cuisine.  Although not all of the trailers I started out interviewing are still open, the trend overall is still growing.  In fact, I think it is soon becoming a point of interest for travelers visiting my hometown.  I'm humbled and excited about the success of the trailer food vendors as artists, creative spirits and entrepreneurial souls.  If you ever get stuck wondering what's for lunch - try a trailer!

November 3, 2010

Grab Some Lunch at The Gypsy Picnic

As we prepare for the first annual Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival, we are featuring the unique tastes you will have the pleasure of enjoying on Saturday, November 6th. Here is a look at the mid-day offerings from Gypsy Picnic trailers.
Continuing the exploration of one of the most popular questions I get asked, here is a question I personally ponder daily: What’s for lunch? Whether you have a friend in town that you want to share the trailer food scene with, or are just up for trying something new, I have you covered.

If you’re on South Congress, check out The Flying Carpet for some fresh and healthy Moroccan cuisine made with local love from the Souktouri family. While you’re in the area you might try the popular Mighty Cone, one of the landmark trailer businesses in Austin that offers a unique take of fried chicken with ancho sauce in a tortilla wrapped to go. Turf n Surf Po'Boys is another popular downtown trailer vendor who has a killer shrimp po’boy. You can enjoy eating it outside the trailer Ralph Gilmore green-built himself at their 2nd and Congress Av. location. Nick Patrizi, owner of The Jalopy, will slide you a gourmet rotisserie chicken sandwich from the top of his big rig that is as much a mural as it is an eatery over on 15th and San Antonio. For something south of the border, Kronic Krave Arepas is serving traditional Colombian arepas on 5th and Colorado.

Skipping over to South First, if you dine with 4th generation Austinite, John Galindo, at Izzoz, he’ll be sure to remember your name and order the next time you stop by for his tacos. Down the street from John stands the South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery: home to Torchy’s Tacos, Holy Cacao and Man Bites Dog. There you can sample tacos, cake balls, and hot dogs  - all in one spot! Further down South 1st stands Pick Up Stixx, home to chef, Cowden Ward, who is developing multiple sauces for his unique fare. Down on Barton Springs, you can catch some Louisiana fried pies at Kate’s Southern Comfort, where even folks from New Orleans come crawling back for more. Last but not least, if you are up in Pflugerville, be sure to check out the Multi-tasker sandwich from 86 This, which has slow roasted brisket with cheesy mashed potatoes.

Lunch on the fly? Austin is also home to many roving units that will post their locations and hours online or via social media. Try finding Chi’Lantro for a Korean/Mexican fusion experience or Mmmpanadas for, you guessed it, empanadas. Short Bus Subs offers hot, toasted sub sandwiches on freshly baked bread out of a short yellow school bus.

Can’t get out of the office? Most of these vendors will cater upon request, but ALL of them will be at the Gypsy Picnic, showcasing up to three of their favorite menu items. If you’re still wondering "what’s for lunch?" post-picnic, you can keep a Trailer Food Diaries magazine, featuring a guide to all the vendors in Austin, in your car. We are giving away 5,000 sample copies at the picnic and will distribute a full size version in time for SXSW. Happy eating!