Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fine Food Found: LA Food Truck Madness

I don’t know what possesses me to do it. I don’t like crowds and I don’t like heat. Because I drink green tea non-stop all day, I can never be too far from the ladies room. Yet still, I’ve eagerly plunged into food truck madness twice this year in L.A.

The most recent foray was the “Street Feast” at the Americana at Brand in Glendale this week. Food trucks from Asian-inspired to French fries to American barbecue couldn’t keep up with the overwhelming demand for their sweets and savories.

It was madness, best described as Disneyland for foodies. Instead of waiting hours to get on the most popular rides, it’s a different kind of sensory thrill that comes from the tortuous victory of scoring a dish from a food truck.

Knowing I’d make it through no more than three lines, I tried to be methodical in my approach to the madness and check out all the trucks’ menus beforehand. Wedging through the crowds became too tiring and the lines were building, so I just jumped into the line for Indian food from Dosa Truck. It was the beginning of the festival and my wait was an extraordinarily short 30 minutes.

My food was only fair. Here’s what I ordered: the “Slumdog” dosa, which they describe as containing “Indian ‘pesto’ rubbed inside a dosa with paneer, spinach and masala potatoes.” It was decent but not remarkable.

Then I opted for the insanely long line at the Grilled Cheese Truck. I’m almost afraid to admit this publicly, lest someone dispatch medical personnel to cart me off to a padded room. It was 3½ hours from the time I started in line to the time I took my first bite. Just process that for a moment. Now if it’s any consolation, I wasn’t the only one to partake of such lunacy.

I ordered the Harvest Melt, which comes on six-grain bread with “roasted butternut squash, Gruyere, agave, fresh thyme and a balsamic reduction.”

It had a more sophisticated flavor profile than the Indian dish, but it was obvious the cooking had been rushed and tender loving care was lacking. Ultimately not worth an insane wait, but a fine experience nonetheless.

All told, I was prepared for the adventure because I had been baptized by fire in February at the infamous LA Street Food Fest in downtown L.A.

That one was more crowded and more chaotic, insofar as it was a grassroots event without precedent. The one this week was organized by the Americana at Brand, which had the stage management and crowd control down pat. Everything was orderly to a fault, with polite concierges and security officers telling you exactly where to stand and how to curve the queue.

For further reading (and yummy pictures), check out these stories on this week’s food truck madness:

Brand X
Glendale News-Press

With regards to the L.A. madness from February, I’m especially fond of Jonathan Gold’s piece in the LA Weekly. Like Gold, I waited f........o........r........e........v........e........r for the Ludo Bites fried chicken and deemed it maddeningly worthwhile.

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