January 30, 2012

Hey! You Gonna Eat or What??

Eric Regan and his wife Liz are the masterminds behind the Hey! You Gonna Eat or What? trailer located on South Congress and Gibson in Austin, Texas.  Their concept utilizers iconic sandwiches with a different twist.  This beauty to the left is one of my all time favorite sandwich-treats, and also Eric's best-seller: The Monte Cristo.  This version utilizes hickory pit smoked ham, mesquite smoked turkey, cheddar and provolone somehow built on three pieces of honey wheat bread (it's a double decker) and fried in Shiner Bock beer batter.  The dipping sauce is a cherry fig combo, and hell, I dipped the chips in it too.

More on the Monte Cristo.  I learned from Eric that this sandwich first appears in Parisian street cafe in the early 1900's under the name 'croque monsieur' and was essentially a ham and cheese sandwich on french toast.  As it migrated across the ocean to Southern California, Disnleyland helped boost this sandwich into mainstream in the 1950's when the Monte Cristo became their bests-seller.

Chef Eric likes to keep the chips simple.  In his words he explains, "The chips are homemade to order.  We have a straight forward approach, using russet potatoes that go from mandolin to fryer right when you order and are seasoned with freshly ground sea salt.  We have a lot of flavor profiles going on in the sandwiches, so the chips need to be simple."

Now lets talk about the Lone Star BLT.  Why didn't I think of this myself? Applewood smoked bacon? check.  Fried green tomatoes? check.  Green leaf lettuce? check.  Poblano pepper aioli? YEP!
This red hot trailer joined the trailer scene in mid October of 201 and offer deliveries to those who can't make it to the trailer park.  I love to visit the trailers but these are definitely recipes I'll be making at home to impress my Sunday night dinner crew.  Maybe we can get Eric & Liz to submit it to the Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook "Best of the US" edition.

January 26, 2012

Navajo Fry Bread? Check out the Fat Cactus

Recently engaged Courtney Jones and Chis Howell opened the Fat Cactus food trailer about a year ago on February 17, 2011.  Their menu concept is unique in that it is based around traditional Navajo 'fry bread'.  Courtney growing up in Colorado, and Chris from Arizona and New Mexico both have memories of fry bread growing up.  But it was Chris' family who helped research the recipe by talking with tribal members.  Chris explains a little further, "Every tribe had their own version of fry bread.  When the tribes were removed from their land and taken to forts, they were given rations of food from the government.  That is how they learned how to make dough using the simple ingredients they had available to them.  The Navajo have the most popular form of fry bread, but even tribes in the Dakotas have a version."

Their menu is incredibly creative, with inspiration from cajun, southwestern, and interior Mexican cuisine.  There are two, maybe three main ways they utilize the fry bread: as the base of a pizza, the base of a taco, or the foundation of a dessert.  When I was there, I sampled:

1. their best selling taco: the Pecker: chile rubbed roasted chicken, pinto beans, lettuce, tomato, and cheddar cheese with your choice of red or green sauce.

2. best selling pizza: the Foghorn: cilantro, pumpkinseed pesto with chile rubbed roasted chicken, goat cheese, red onion,  and toasted pepitas

I also loved the green chile hummus and washed everything down with the cilantro lemonade.

Of all the wonderful flavors, I have to give a personal two thumbs up to their salsas.  Given the choice, I'll normally take a hatch green chile sauce over a red any day but this trailer had me changing my tone.  First, they import dried New Mexican red chiles (from New Mexico) and then soak them. The next step involves blending them with super secret seasonings.  I'm telling you, I think that is the best New Mexican red chile sauce I've ever had.  Honest.  Check it out for yourself - they are located on South Congress and Gibson in a yellow trailer; can't miss 'em.

January 21, 2012

Get Lucky at Lucky's Puccia's

You've driven by it - the flame-kissed trailer by the Tiniest Bar across the street from Whole Foods downtown.  Lucky's Puccia's opened in August of 2010, founded by Chef Lucky himself.  Lucky came to the states in 2007 for love, he says, and brought with him the puccia (an Italian bread) from his childhood. "Aunt Maria was the only one who had a traditional wood burning oven in my hometown in Italy.  I loved the smell, and the consistency of softness so I learned how to make it by working for them in the summers," Lucky shares.

He's been baking bread for over twenty years and with his culinary expertise has attracted loyal customers that will eat his sandwiches three or four times a week.  The puccia bread is the foundation of his concept.  Innovated in the Southern part of the boot, this type of dough is made fresh daily and Lucky bakes it to order in his wood burning oven (he uses Oak here, but in Italy they use Olive wood).  He let me in the trailer and I literally watched it raise before my eyes.  He split it in two, and made the "Lucky", which is his best seller.  It contains Boars Head prosciutto di Parma (from Italy), arugula, mozzarella, tomato and a really incredible aioli.

"I miss the flavors of Italy," Lucky said when I asked him how often he visited home.  "I need to go connect with the flavors.  I miss the beach too.  I used to go snorkeling every morning at 7am and I could recognize the schools of fishes.  It's been five years since I've been back."

While I was there, he let me sample the lemon artichoke pesto (incredible), the basil aioli (delish), the nutella (whats not to love), and the olive tapenade (finely ground with simple ingredients).  He knows many of his customers by name and yells "Ciao bella!" at the ladies walking up to get their 'Vegetarianas', or "Comestai?" at the guys returning for another puccia.  One of his pride and joys is the pastrami, which he melts with three Italian cheeses in the oven before topping with grilled mushrooms, peppers, onions and chipotle aioli.  You're going to love whatever you get, so I suggest planning on going with friends to split some items to share - or - just making several visits.

I also met Jimi, delivery-guy extroidinaire.  He's been pedi-cabbing for over 6 years and can swing you a Southern Italian fresh baked puccia sandwich if you're in the downtown area.  Call your order in at: 512-739-8785.

January 16, 2012

Trailer Food Tour on Rocket Electrics bikes

As you might know, the initial funding for my cookbook came from creating a kickstarter account.  One of my kickstarter investor angels had the idea to combine two of his favorite companies (Rocket Electrics + Trailer Food Diaries) to create a trailer food tour on electric bikes.  I must say, I used the 'electric' on the hills which means I didn't burn off quite as many calories as I might have hoped.  On the tour, we had a musician in from Chicago who later played at Ego's, an Opera Singer who sang a scale for us in a parking garage, a photographer, and a few entrepreneurs. 

First, we had the good fortune to have planned it on a gorgeous weather day here in Austin.  It was about 70 degrees, with a cool sunny breezes.  We took a practice run up to a point that had a view of the city and town lake for some photo ops, then hit our first trailer: That's Amore.  There, we chowed down on their newest addition to the menu, which is the meatball panini.  Although that was my personal favorite, everyone else voted the roast beef as the crowd favorite.  We polished off Angela's house salad (one of my favorite salads in Austin), and a few cannoli and peligrino to wash it all down.  Next time you are there, try the cherry-pistachio.  Holy OMG.  Angela comes from a large Italian family and she makes you feel right at home from the get go.  She'll take your order, take pride in making it for you, and get it to you real timely with a big hug for the regulars.  Although she doesn't cache her menu as 'comfort food' (it's authentic Iatalian), it's one of the first places I think of when I want someone to cook for me.  You know the feeling.  She gave up the basil lemonade and olive tapenade recipes in the Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook.

We then hopped on our bikes and toured the hike and bike trail, stopping to soak in views at various points along our way to Luke's Inside Out.  If you haven't been to Luke's yet, you're bound to be curious.  He's one of the ones I talk about a lot when people ask me who my favorite trailers are.  Why? He's creative and is the master of his kitchen, serving things like Korean BBQ rabbit, and frog legs.  My 'Luke's' favorite? The Shrimp.  He somehow made a shrimp patty to use as the base of his sandwich, and tops it with spinach, red onion, apple, blue cheese, honey and other goods to make one of the most satisfying sandwiches in trailerdom.  He contributed the watermelon wedge salad in my cookbook and it has some surprise ingredients (like orange flavored pop rocks!) You'll want to try the Love sauce too.  Luke will tell you they make Love twice a day in the kitchen :).

And about the bikes we were riding.  Rocket Electrics is situated at 1608 E. Riverside Dr. (78741).  The daily rate for an electric bike rental is $25 or $40 for overnight (24 hour rental). Straight from their site, here's a little more about what they do and some FAQ's about the bikes: 

"Rocket Electrics carries only carefully selected electric bikes with the best components, batteries, and warranties, in many colors and frame styles. How fast and how far can an electric bike go? Depending on your size, the hills on your ride, and how much you pedal, the brands that we carry can travel about 20 miles at speeds up to 20mph. Plus, unlike a moped, you can ride it and park it just about anywhere. As an added bonus, Austin Energy customers can enjoy a $100-150 rebate on an electric bike purchase."

There is still time to buy a raffle ticket ($10/ea) to win a $1900 electric bike.  Proceeds go to "please be kind to cyclists" and the drawing will be made on February 15th.  PS - Stay tuned for the foodie tours they are putting together.