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Would You Eat Fresh Live Oysters from a Food Truck? See what happened when I did…

30 Jul

Would you eat oysters from a Food Truck? This is the same decision I faced when presented the opportunity to eat live shell fish at a food truck lot.  But let me back up for a minute, I was on my way home and had a serious hankering for Gourmet Food Truck Fare. To my luck, it was Wednesday night and the OC Din Din A GoGo at the Irvine Lanes was in full swing with 7 trucks present. I discovered that The Lime Truck was serving full on platted dinner dishes, I was intrigued! Then learned that the platted dish for the night was Live Fresh Shucked Oysters! Holly Crap I thought!…..Fresh Shucked Oysters served from Food Truck!!! I gotta get some. But then I thought to myself, will I get sick?

So the question I present to you my readers…. would you eat raw oysters  from a food truck? For me, it is a conditional YES!, IF the truck can pass my decision analysis. (see my decision analysis below)

Decision Analysis: Should I order raw seafood from a food truck?

    1.  Is this a sketchy lunch truck ?
      1.  If yes, RUN!!!   This is a roach coach, stick to their deep-fried burritos
      2.  If No proceed to #2
    2.   Is it a gourmet food truck?
      1. If no, beware it is probably a roach coach dressed up in a fancy wrap to look like a gourmet food truck…stick to their fusion tacos
      2. If yes, proceed to #3
    3. Does the  Gourmet Food Truck have a strong reputation for serving extremely fresh food?
      1. If no, stick to the fully cooked gourmet dishes and  buy some Pepto Bismol from eating too much
      2. If yes, order raw fish!!!

I ran through this decision analysis and came to the conclusion that the The Lime Truck was not only a safe place to eat oysters,  but they would bring creativity and flare to these tasty bi-valves. I also came to the conclusion that there are only a handful of trucks that I would eat raw seafood, The Lime Truck was in that elite circle.  

Before I give you a description of each of the special “flavors”  topped on the oysters, allow me to talk about the oysters themselves. The oysters presented were the “Pacific” variety, which are caught in the Pacific Northwest. The flesh of these oysters is a creamy white with a dark ring around the mantle.  The texture of this yummy bi-valve is plump, firm and slightly crunchy. The flavor is mild, sweet and has a subtle ocean brine taste in the nose.  These oysters were extremely fresh in smell, texture and taste. The quality of the oysters were akin to those found in a high-end seafood restaurant, except I picked these oysters from the side of a food truck!

The “Special Platted Dish of the Day” as a quintet of  “Pacific Oysters”, each with their own special topping. The oysters where served over a bed of ice  and plated on a china. The themed oysters where as follows:

  • Yuzu Miso with Scallion
  • Yellow Curry with Jalapeno
  • Honey Gastrique with Lime Supreme
  • Black Berry Gelee with Lemon Supreme
  • Hatch Chili Salsa with Cilantro

Yuzu Miso with Scallion Oyster

This Miso base sauce  has a Japanese fruit called Yuzu (flavors are a mix of grapefruit and mandarin orange)  mixed in during cooking. This combination gives the normal rich miso paste a little citrus kick which brightens up the flavor and adds citrus overtones to the aroma. When the sauce combines with the oyster flesh, the sweet and briny flavors of the oysters are accentuated by the citrus and balanced by the savory of the miso. The scallion on top added a little punginess to the entire mouthful, adding a little more balance to tie the flavors together.

Yellow Curry with Jalapeno

The light layer of yellow curry had both a pleasant musk and bright aromas. The flavor was rich, pungent, sweet and slightly spicy. The flavor of the curry was complex, no doubt to it’s 20+ ingredients including curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, chili and pepper. With this dish, the oyster flesh played a supporting role by providing a stable structure to taste the curry.  Dont get me wrong, I could taste the Oyster perfectly and in its own glory, but it served as the Paxil to the multiple personalities of the Curry.   

Honey Gastrique with Lime Supreme

Gastrique is a sweet-and-sour sauce at its simplest. This sauce is made by caramelizing sugar (in this case  honey) and combining it with equal parts vinegar. The mixture is then slightly reduced over heat to  make a sweet and tart, thickened syrup. This sauce was poured over the oyster and topped with a Lime Supreme (lime segmented with all white pith and rind removed). This is a French cooking technique complimented the natural flavors of the oysters. When chewing the oysters,  I tasted salty, tart, sweet all in the same bite. It was very pleasant to eat and I wanted more. This flavor was a good transition after the heavy curry flavor.

Black Berry Gelée with Lemon Supreme

Black Berry Gelée is essentially fresh black berries mixed into a gelatin. This gelatinized toping provides a very sweet topping and gelatin texture to the oyster. The sweetness and brine flavors played well off each other, creating a good balance. The black berry flavor also complimented the sweet flesh flavor of the oyster. The acidity from the lemon balanced the sweetness of the berry gelee and accentuated the oysters sweet flesh.  The Berry created a subtle nose aroma, which sweetened the nose flavor of the oyster’s brine. This combination was elegant.

 Hatch Chili Salsa with Cilantro

The Hatch chilli is a variety of chile from the Hatch Valley in New Mexico and is a close relative of the elegant Anaheim chilli. The Hatch chilli is known for providing sweet and medium spicy flavors with a crunchy flesh.  The chilis appear to have  been first roasted and then ground into a course salsa. The flavors were smokey, spicy and slightly sweet. This spicy smokey flavor was intense, so it required that I chew the oyster throughly to really get a good flavor combination. In this dish, the oysters played an equal role in the flavor profile with the sweet brine coordinating an attack on my taste buds with the sweet and spicy chilli. This was the most intense of the flavors, so I am glad finished on this oyster.

My Final Thoughts

By the time I finished this “oysters of the world experience”,  my taste buds were feeling a little jet lagged but happy from visiting the flavors of Japan, India, France and North America. Although the oyster dish was much more expensive than a standard food truck meal, the dish passed the “WOW! test”, meaning I enjoyed the food so much I didn’t care how much I paid for it ($18).  This dish was a great experience and was a showcase to the culinary skills of the  talented dudes of the Lime Truck. I am giving this Oyster Dish and The Lime Truck a very rare 4.5 out of 5 on my scale. This score means I will compulsively seek out The Lime Truck and order  the Oysters every single time it is on the menu. This score also means I will be  rabidly tell my friends that they have to try it.

Note: Many times my readers will have questions about my rating scale and ask me how can I give a fine dining restaurant a low score and give a food truck such a high score. It simply comes done to this , does the food and service rise to the price tag of the final bill? A fine dining restaurant better WOW! me with their dishes if I am going to pay $30-40 for a dish. A fine dining restaurant better offer dishes that are outstanding in terms of flavors, technique and presentation in order to receive a 4 or 5 rating. In the same vein if I am reviewing a food truck, I am expecting very unique dishes, novel ingredients, use of  fresh ingredients,  use of professional cooking techniques,presentation and making the food accessible to eating standing up. Any food truck can make a “fusion taco” or “pulled pork sandwich”, but the question is can they make this dish stand out from their competition and make me say WOW! I got that for only $6?

Link to The Lime Trucks Website: http://www.thelimetruck.com/lime/Home.html

The Lime Truck on Urbanspoon
 

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Review of “K’Ya Bistro” at the Casa de Camino Hotel: Upscale European Hotstel Meets a Fusion Gastropub

28 Jul

I think I have mentioned this in a couple other food blog posts, but my wife has a serious obsession with buying Groupons. The one big advantage is that they are good for trying new restaurants, this is the case for the Groupon for the Rooftop Lounge/K’Ya at the Casa de Camino Hotel. This location is a boutique hotel that was originally built in the late 1920’s and was a getaway for Hollywood stars. The hotel retains the roaring 20’s glamour and has the ambiance of a upscale European Hostel. The Clientel at the hotel and restuarant is a 30 something hipster crowd.   The overall ambiance was provided by the guitar performer,  a group of L.A. style hipsters hanging out over cocktails in the lobby and old school  decor. Since the Rooftop Bar was closing, we tried K’Ya Bistro. K’Ya Bistro is connected to the hipster lobby of the hotel, so the good vibes were flowing.

The menu at K’Ya reminds me of a small plate gastropub, with seasonal  Asain-Fusion and Modern American Comfort food dishes. We ordered the Ahi Burger, Cheese Plate, Shrimp Cocktail, Calamari and a couple of their Signature Mojitos.

Mojitos

Flavored Mojitos

First thing to come out was the Mojito’s. I ordered the Berry Mojito and the standard. We both agreed that the mojitos had the right balance of sugar to rum and mint. These drinks were actually quite strong;  although since the bartender has some skills, we didn’t even notice until we stood up. The berry muddled into this drink added a subtle freshness to the flavor and made me want to order another.

Cheese Plate

 

Cheese Plate

The Cheese Plate was pretty standard as it included the usual suspects of  brie, camembert, blue and gouda. accompanying the cheese was  toasted bread, water cracker, dates, dried cranberries, green apples, nuts. Some of the noteworthy cheeses were the double cream brie and the highly marbled blue cheese. This cheese plate lacked a liquid topper like a fruit chutney, honey or vegetable jam, which is a real shame. The addition of this extra component could have tied all the individual parts together into a dignified cheese plate.

Ahi Burger

Ahi Burger on Brioche

The Ahi Burger was my favorite dish of te night. It consisted of a fluffy brioche bun, lightly seared tuna, tomato, arugula, and wasabi mayo dressing. The bread was fluffy, light and squishy to the touch. When I bit into the burger, the texture was soft and pleasant. The slightly firm texture of the tuna complimented the soft and lightly toasted bun. The flavors of the tuna was extremely fresh and vibrant and stood out in the dish. The wasabi-mayo dressing and arugula added a little kick to the gentle flavors and helped tie the dish together.  I would highly recommend this dish and it is one of the better ahi burgers I have tried.

 Shrimp Cocktail
 

Shrimp Cocktail

The Shrimp cocktail was also pretty standard. Not much to say about it, besides the shrimp tasted fresh. The dish came with two sauces, a red cocktail sauce and a mystery green sauce, which was pretty unexciting. No need to dwell on this dish…it was just shrimp on haphazardly assembled on a plate. This dish would benefit from a more artistic plating.  

Calamari

Calamari in a Kung Pao type sauce and dressed with veges

The Calamari was an interesting and tasty dish. It consisted of deep-fried calamari (rings and tentacles) that was wok’d in a slightly spicy Kung Pao sauce. This dish was also served with fresh shredded carrots, green onions and sprouts. When all the ingredients were mixed together, the vegetables created harmony to the flavors of this dish by balancing the salt of the sauce and the oil from the deep fry. Great textures and great flavors.  I recommend this dish.

 My Final thoughts
This restaurant was a nice discovery for dinner and as a hangout. This restaurant had a good vibe and some really good food. Two of the four dishes were amazing and two were just above standard.  I would come back here for a small plates dinner and some drinks with friends. I am giving K’ya Bistro in Laguna a 3.5 of out 5 stars. The restaurant almost got a 4, but the appetizers didn’t impress me enough. I will be back in a couple of months and will report back if I was WOWED by ALL the dishes. I think this restaurant is a gem and the staff appeared to be very engaged and friendly. I predict that my next experience will be even better.  
 

k'ya Bistro Bar on Urbanspoon

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16 Jul
 

Review of “Slapfish” Truck- Slapping the Food Truck Trout

14 Jul

I really love fresh seafood. Although if I want really fresh seafood, I have to go to an expensive restaurant where they call me Sir and scoop up my breadcrumbs between courses.  I like fancy smancy restaurant service, although I dont always want to sit through the two hour dinner experience to get a nice piece of fish. Another issue I experience with local seafood restaurants is their lack of knowledge and commitment around sustainable fishing practices.  

There I was innocently sitting at my desk contemplating lunch, thinking that I could totally go for a fresh  piece of fish. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want a greasy fast food filet, nor did I feel like a $20 tab at a local restaurant. I went into Twitter to investigate the location of local food trucks and noticed a tweet from my friends at “SeaBirds Truck”. Their tweet indicated they will be at a new location with 5 other trucks, including a seafood truck called “Slap Fish”. I automatically loved the name because it reminded me of a 6th joke about self-gratification…but I digress.   

Before I left to the food truck lot, I visited their website and learned that they specialize in purchasing fresh seafood “directly from well-managed, family run suppliers of sustainable seafood” . I also learned that they take their sustainability pledge seriously by submitting their menu to the Aquarian of the Pacific’s sustainable seafood program for review. They had me at “fresh seafood”, but the rest was a big bonus…I’m having fish for lunch!

I asked the girl taking order what was their best item and she responded back with the standard response “everything is good” followed by “it depends how hungry you are”. I said “…blah blah ..just tell me two items that I really need to try”. She recommended the “PBLT” sandwich  (Pork Belly Lobster Tomato) and the “Fish Taco”. The whole menu looked good, the next time I will have to try the “Losticle” ( small lobster tail on a stick!)

The Pork Belly Lobster Tomato Sandwich (PBLT)

 

This sandwich starts with a toasted brioche bun and stacked with crisp lettuce, generous portion of lobster in a sweet mayo sauce, tomato and topped with crispy pork belly.This dish was “Food Porn!” This sandwich was so stuffe, I had a hard time getting my hands around this big boy. When I took a bite, the bread was fluffy, crunchy and guey all at the same time.

PBLT Sandwich (Pork Belly Lobster Lettuce Tomato)....you will make the O face too when you try it

When I bit further into the sandwich, the lobster and mayo gushed forward into my mouth and it was sweet. When I bit down and chewed on it, I tasted the savory and saltines of the pork belly and the freshness of the produce. It was a little bit of ecstasy in my mouth…I think I even pulled a little bit of an “O Face”. I would highly recommend this dish to anyone. I even liked how they garnished the paper bowl with a lettuce wedge and roasted red pepper, classy touch.

“Fish Taco”

Fish Taco with crispy fish, cabbage and two types of salsa...Amazing

When I received the fish taco I was like “Woahhhh that’s big!”  I noticed that he used a standard size flour tortilla to hold in all the ingredients and a toothpick to hold it all together. The fish  (Hake) was lightly battered and flash fried, giving its crust a light and crunchy exterior. The fish itself was  firm with a mild white flesh and a sweet and savory flavor. The taco was also stuffed with cabbage,cilantro, salsa verde, chunks of mild green chilis, and their slightly spicy tomato sauce”. My tongue was doing the happy dance in my mouth as the  sweet, spicy and savory all mixed together in a symphony of flavors. This was one of the best fish taco I have ever tasted,  It will be hard going back to a Rubios or Wahoos after this!

My final thoughts

I am very happy to discover the Slap Fish Truck.  I was eating high-end restaurant quality seafood at fast food prices, I paid only $10 for both dishes. This was an amazing price for extremely fresh seafood, made to order and using advanced cooking techniques. On my scale of 1-5, The Slap Fish Truck receive a 4.5 out of 5, a rare score on my scale. The food was amazing and even platted nicely. It is obvious that Chef Andrew Gruel and Jethro Naude take their craft seriously and bring the same professionalism to their food truck .  I will definitely recommend this Food truck to my friends and family. Good job guys…I will be back for more!

Visit their Website: http://slapfishsocal.com

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Review of Kogi Truck – “Confessions of a Kogi Truck Virgin”

9 Jul

Like any Friday at 11:00  in the afternoon, I am already thinking about what food I am going to eat for lunch.  So what does any good foodie do when he has a hankering for a Friday afternoon guilty food pleasure? The answer, scour social media for food truck met ups. My friend Alex was bragging, on Facebook, how good his Kogi calamari taco was and how much he enjoyed eating it. I’ll admit, I got a little jealous and I even wrote that response on his wall. You see, I am a food truck stud and have nailed most of the food trucks in Orange County and even some in L.A., San Diego and Santa Barbara. Although the one truck I have not been able to tap is the Kogi truck. Why you may ask, has your blogger yet to nab the Kogi truck?. Because Kogi plays so hard to get and then when you find it there is always a big group of guys waiting to throw a couple singles in her window. This elusiveness has made it the stuff an urban legend. 

 But I digress, at about 11:15 Alex sends me a response on Facebook,  indicating that the Kogi truck will be in Irvine during lunch. My ears perked up at this news and I canceled my 11:30 meeting. When I arrived, the line was already 30 people deep. From the looks of the crowd,  they were also food truck studs and have already experienced the pleasure of the Kogi Truck. I came to the conclusion that I was a Kogi truck virgin and was getting a little nervous about my first time.  As per my normal routine, I chat with the people in line and ask them what is good. A couple of them gave me a little smirk that communicates, “we have a Kogi truck virgin on our hands”. Another guy whispered to me, “You can’t go wrong with any off it’s dishes….just bring some protection if you are going to eat it in your car”.

I ordered the Kimchi quesedilla, the short rib taco and the calamari taco, based on recommendations in line . The total for all three dishes came out to $11, not bad for a lot of food.

The Kimchi Quesadilla

The Kimchi Quesadilla was made from a giant flour tortilla that is filled with Kimchi and cheese.  The tortilla appeared to have been dipped in sweet chilli sauce and grilled to make the exterior enameled with the sauce. The seasoned tortilla are then stuffed with the Kimchi (fomented Korean cabbage) and cheddar cheese and then grilled again to melt it all together.  The tortillas were crispy, as if they had been deep friend, but they were just grilled on high heat with lots of oil.

The Kimchi Quesadilla

 The dish was extremely messy with the oil, chilli sauce and Kimchi juice and it saturated the cardboard container.  The dish was sweet on the first bite; although within a few seconds, the spiciness caught up and moved to the front of the tongue.  

Lifting the skirt of this quesedalla to show it's tangy and spicy Kimchi and cheddar cheese

This dish was unique and had some really good flavors. My only complaint is that it was too salty and left me craving for a tall glass or water (a beer would be better).

 

Calamari Taco

The calamari tacos are served in the traditional street style, small corn tortilla stuffed full of ingredients and served overflowing. Inside the tortilla was grilled calamari, onions, Korean radish and Kogi’s secret Korean bbq sauce.

Beware of the squid, she bites back

Although the recipe of the sauce is a secret, I think it contains Korean hot pepper paste, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, hot oil, sesame oil and a dab of fish paste. The flavor was sweet, tangy and had a delayed spicy sizzle on your tongue. The spiciness was not overpowering,  but enough to let you know it’s in charge. The calamari protein had a sweet flavor; when paired with the sauce, it provided a nice balance of flavors.

The Short Rib Taco

The short rib taco was the last dish I ate because it is the sweeter of the dishes. I needed something to cool my mouth after eating two rich and spicy dishes in a row. The short rib taco is also constructed from corn tortillas and filled with a nice helping a slow stewed short rib in a sweet tangy Korean BBQ sauce.

The sweetness of the short rib taco cools down the taste buds

 The sauce was not the same as the squid taco, it was a little more sweet and subtle. The taco was topped with a sweet and tangy salad. The vinegar in the salad helped to cut through the protein and opens up the taste buds.  This dish was a perfect happy ending that helped calm the tongue from the heat and relax the palate from the salt.

My Final Thoughts

Although Kogi has obviously been over-hyped in social media,  there is no doubt that the dishes do live up to the lore. I am glad that I have managed to finally try the Kogi truck  and experience is Korean-Mexican fusion dishes. The Kogi trucks are masters of social media, using twitter to update their loyal followers. They have also managed to thrive lone-wolf  style by jilting the trend to congregate in herds of other food trucks. This unpredictability and difficulty finding a Kogi has given it the mystic of the hot high school hot girl that everyone want to meet. I give the Kogi truck a 4 out of 5, meaning I will come back often and recommend it to my friends. The dishes were creative and amazing, but by no means any better than some of the other food trucks out there. I would highly recommend that you try their food at least once and make your own decisions. Even if you don’t like spicy, there are plently of dishes you may like.

Kogi BBQ Truck http://www.kogibbq.com/

Find truck locations on Twitter @kogibbq
Kogi Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon
 

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