Sunday, September 18, 2011

Edgewood Eats: A Habit Worth Having

Chances are you've heard of the gourmet food truck craze. If you live or work close to Palo Alto, take a chance at the Edgewood Eats food truck fiesta. You won't regret it.

It took me a while to make it there, but once I started I haven't stopped. It's easy to become obsessed knowing those food trucks are lined up, their sweet and savory scents wafting from kitchens on wheels to hungry hordes waiting with anticipation.

Not only is the food delicious and different, it's also just plain fun. Each person in your group can pick what to eat from a variety of trucks. There's a lot to choose from, so the dilemma is what to have that night, with hopes of trying other trucks in the future.

Now running every Monday from 5-8:30 PM, the schedule shifts to the first Tuesday of every month from October to February and then turns weekly again in March when the weather warms up. It's located at Edgewood Plaza, 1161 Embarcadero Rd. between St. Francis Dr., Channing Avenue, and West Bayshore Rd. If you're coming down Embarcadero Rd. toward 101, turn left on Bayshore Rd. right after the Shell gas station. Bring cash.

Some of our favorite Edgewood eats:

Butterscotch-on-the-Go: Where else would a retired police chief and his wife refurbish a Red Cross disaster relief truck and turn it into a gourmet food truck business? Their specialty is luscious butterscotch pudding topped with toffee almond brittle, the kind of dessert that makes you go WOW when you take the first bite. Full of rich, creamy, buttery flavor with a crunchy, chocolatey topping and whipped cream to gild the lily. It's a crazy-good mixture of textures and flavors. Their triple vanilla pound cake with sweet vanilla cream and strawberry chunk puree is another swoon-worthy summer dessert, a magical combination. Also amazingly good: rich butterscotch sugar cookies, big and crinkly with a wonderful flavor. All their desserts are really, really, really good.

BBQ Kalbi Korean fusion: Kimchi quesadilla? Bibimbhap burrito? Each dish we tried was delicious, different, and immediately loved, familiar ingredients put together in a new way. Isn't that the definition of innovation? See Korean ingredients with new eyes and newfound appreciation. We tried the kalbi beef burrito, teriyaki chicken burrito, and kalbi cheese steak sandwich with no regrets.

An the Go: Garlic noodles- soft, fragrant, simple and oh-so good, especially nice topped with a skewer. We tried and enjoy beef, lemongrass chicken, and shrimp skewers. The smell will linger in your car for a few days.

Chairman Bao:  Asian steamed and baked buns made fresh and delicious. I loved the pork belly with daikon radish on both steamed and baked buns. The white steamed bun is small, like a little taco, full of flavor and very satisfying. The baked bun is sweet and soft, similar to King's Hawaiian bread. This truck consistently boasts the longest lines, about thirty people at one count, and for good reason. It's worth it.

Treatbot, the Karaoke Ice Cream Truck: Yes, you read that right--a gourmet ice cream truck with a karaoke machine. I thoroughly enjoyed my raspberry sorbet on a sugar cone, and my daughter loved the old school vanilla.

Shack Mobile: Lobster Shack on wheels! I've sometimes lusted for their award-winning lobster roll with chips and coleslaw. I've already publicly declared my undying devotion to this perfect sandwich.

Mayo & Mustard Sandwich Truck: Great sandwiches made to order. Pick your meat, bread, cheese, condiments, toppings and size (4", 6" or 8"). Really good, really reliable, especially if you aren't feeling adventurous enough to try the more creative combinations on other food trucks.

Armadillo Willy's:  We've always enjoyed the BBQ fare at this restaurant, and their truck offerings live up to their spicy standards. What a great deal to get BBQ brisket or pulled pork sliders for only $3 each. Their yummy BBQ sauce in regular and jalapeno versions made a delicious finishing touch, and the Texas corn salad with red onion, jalapeno, ciltrano and pepper add a nice kick for a side dish.

Sancho's Taqueria: Basic bean & cheese burritos, and fabulous fish tacos. Their little restaurant is on Lytton Avenue in Palo Alto.

If you haven't been to Edgewood Eats, try it soon. You'll see why it's habit-forming.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chez Pim Artisan Jams: Taking Fruit to the Next Level

Pim Techamuanvivit started food blogging around ten years ago, which makes her one of the first. Besides writing about food, Pim holds cooking classes and sells artisan jams made from sustainable Northern Californian ingredients. After she recently tweeted @chezpim about her artisan jams and marmalade for sale on Etsy, I decided to try some for myself.

I ordered three flavors from her 2011 summer collection, with her descriptions and my reactions below:

"Berry Figgy Jam: This jam is indeed berry, berry figgy. It's a blend of olallieberries, raspberries, and my own Desert King figs. Olallieberries, pronounced oh-la-lie berries (or oh-la-la berries if you're saying it quickly), are very special Northern California treats. It's a hybrid of blackberries, raspberries, and loganberries. The flavor is quite similar to blackberries, but brighter and a lot more delicious!"

I found this jam an extremely yummy concoction, pleasing to the eye and palate. Purply-red goodness, with chunks of flavorful berries and little seeds. I couldn't taste the fig at first but then its flavor emerged as the aftertaste (and its little seeds to nibble on). What an interesting combination, with berry as the top note and the fig revealing itself later as the lingering base note. Hmm, fruit jams designed like perfume? Makes sense (pun intended).

"Clementine-Ginger Marmalade: Made from delicious Corsican clementine from Gene Lester's farm in Watsonville, this tangy sweet marmalade got a little lift from julienne of young ginger."

This one took me longer to figure out, like a puzzle to unravel. Its consistency was quite thick, almost viscous like honey but not as sticky. The flavor came through more subtly and less spicily than I'd imagined. The chewy clementine rind had a sharp, bitter citrusy taste, with hints of ginger. I would have preferred more of a ginger kick, perhaps with small bits of candied ginger. Instead of tangy-sweet, I would have liked it tangy-spicy. It does give me the idea of adding some candied clementine peel to a nice gingerbread or ginger cake recipe...that could be divine. Also it started to grow on me over time, especially when I slathered it on a bite of butterscotch sugar cookie from Butterscotch-on-the Go. Yum.

"Strawberry Rose: This is a whole berry conserve or compote. Big, juicy, whole strawberries preserved in their own syrup, infused with rose geraniums. That is all."

I actually didn't get what I ordered but in no way, shape or form can I complain, because the strawberry jam I got instead was the best I've ever had. I was surprised by how sweetly delicious it was. Spooned into Greek yogurt, this fruity puree tasted like sweet summer in a spoon, a velvety version of strawberries and cream, an improvement on the original fruit with its full flavor shining through with the additions of sugar, lemon juice, and TLC. If strawberries could only taste this way all the time I'd be a very happy camper but for now I will carefully guard my precious jar while it lasts.

Bottom line: Chez Pim artisan jams are pricey, exquisite, and worth it for a splurge. Total cost was $54 for three jars including shipping. My favorite way to eat them is swirled into Greek yogurt or slathered on buttered toast. The textures are entirely different than the usual jelled consistency of store-bought jams. These are fresher, more natural, tasting of intense, pure fruit essence and goodness. Eating these concoctions elevates an ordinary breakfast. The wonderful flavors demand the taste buds to wake up and pay attention. Delicious. That is all.