A ways back I went to the Palm Springs Food Truck Festival with Christine, my friend from back in New Jersey. As per the norm I purchased a VIP ticket for early entry, shade, and free drinks. This time around, VIP was not worth the extra money. Three issues proved this fact and they need to fix these things for next year. First, it took a very long time to get into the festival which cost me some of the per-opening hour but then they let everyone else in fifteen minutes early cutting our hour to maybe thirty minutes. I paid for a full hour of VIP time and didn’t get it so I was very annoyed. Second, the VIP area was tiny, not enclosed, and not monitored. Only forty people could fit in it at one time and they were not checking to see if you paid to be under the tents. While this worked out for me because Christine did not buy a VIP pass, it was still frustrating. Lastly, the VIP ticket came with two vouchers for food. The problem was that the vouchers were for five dollars each but not one food item at the festival was within that limit. They should have just given us one with a greater value, it would have felt like less of a ripoff. They did have a lot of trucks though and most were open for the VIPs which was definitely better than the Riverside festival. Ok, so now for the food. Remember, ratings for food trucks are skewed up because it is hard to rate ambiance and service in a truck so if the food is delicious the rating will be higher than a restaurant with the same food but poor service.
My first stop was the Brats Berlin truck where I ordered the rabbit and rattlesnake brat with onions and sauerkraut. This brat also claimed to have jalapenos and onion added in to the mix. After a few minutes I had my brat, dug in, and was immediately disappointed. The brat tasted like a normal all beef variety, not like a fancy exotic combination of flavors. Now, I have had a rattlesnake hotdog before so I knew what it should taste like. This did not measure up. The brat was bland and heavy and if it wasn’t on the description, I would not have believed there were jalapenos inside. Honestly, I still don’t believe it, I think they may have used the wrong brat for my meal. In the end, the best part was the sauerkraut and that is a sad situation. Overall: 3/10
Next, in order to get back on track, I headed over to the White Rabbit truck, which I have reviewed once before. This time I ordered my actual list item, the Pork Tacino burrito. This burrito had pork, rice, and a fried egg all rolled up into a delicious tortilla shell. What can I say, the White Rabbit truck chefs know what they are doing and this burrito was huge! I could eat one of those every day until I had a heart attack, the burrito is just that good. The flavor of their pork tacino is just ridiculous and the combination of pork and the egg made it into an outrageous breakfast dish. Just like before I will rate this truck a 10/10.
It was about this time when Christine arrived and we headed over to the next truck, Tornado Potato. I had seen this truck at a few festivals and it looked like a cute novelty, and not something I would enjoy. I was not surprised when my prediction rang true. I ordered the sweet potato tornado and as you can see from the picture, it looked pretty cool. As I dug into this item I noticed a few things. The potato was very greasy and hard to handle. Each ring was cooked a little differently and some parts tasted a little raw. The biggest issue was that since it was large and hard to manuver, the tornado get cold faster than I could eat it. There is nothing worse than a cold french fry so I was only able to eat about but that is OK, I needed to save my appetite for the next dish. Overall 2/10.
After a few minutes of rest in the “VIP” tent we headed over to a truck I had been waiting to try for a long time. Bacon Mania! It only took me two seconds to decide what to order, the grilled cheese was just screaming at me from the menu. This was a grilled cheese on steroids, it a very good way. As you can see it’s a simple recipe cooked to perfection. Creamy melted cheese on the inside with a massive amount of bacon mixed in. While that could be enough they took it one step further. In a brilliant move cheese was grilled on the outside of the bread and cooked to crispy goodness. Now each bite had hearty bread, string cheese, crispy bacon, and fried crusty cheese. With all those flavors and textures there was no way this could fail. Delicious! Overall 8/10.
Since was well on my way to a heart attack, Christine and I decided to move into dessert. We first stopped at the Cool Haus truck to get an ice cream sandwich, but since this was a list place I will review it in a standalone post. Stay tuned for that one but, spoiler alert, it was a badass desert.
After about thirty minutes of down time with a desire to put on some stretchy pants we headed over to the last stop on the agenda, Crepe’s Bonapart. I ordered the spicy apple bottom crepe which was cinnamon apple with a caramel drizzle and airy whipped creme. This dish was a great end to the day. The crepe was light and thin, just like it should have been. I always worry with apple dishes that the apples would be undercooked or have skin left on but you need not worry about that at Creme’s Bonapart. The apples were cooked down just like Virginia’s homemade apple pie and the caramel transported you back to the caramel apple you would get as a kid when you went to a carnival. The whipped creme was also homemade which made it fluffy, light, and as it melted into the crepe all the flavors melded into a wonderful dessert. Overall 7/10.
I had a fun time at the Palm Springs Food Truck festival and got to catch up with an old friend but while the food was mostly good, all of these trucks are at other festivals much closer to home. Since there were issues with the VIP experience and a major lack of entertainment I do not think that the hour drive is worth it. I will settle on the Riverside and Ontario festivals in the future. I would suggest that next year they get live entertainment so people can take breaks when they are full but stay to spend more money. Also, one of the benefits of the VIP ticket was to spend time with the truck owners after the festival finished. But, with early entry and no entertainment, boredom sets in fast after you are stuffed with food so there was no way I was staying seven hours. If you live in Palm Springs, this is a convenient festival, if not, there are better ones to seek out much closer to home.
Overall Review: 6/10
Check out a slide show of all the trucks and their food offerings:
Article first published as Restaurant Review (Costa Mesa, CA): The Harp Inn on Blogcritics.
I have frequented The Harp Inn for a few years but have never written a review of it until now. The Rutgers Club of Southern California hangs out at The Harp during college football season because they order the television package that gets all our games. On any given Saturday in fall you will find 15-25 Alumni of Rutgers yelling, eating, drinking, and reminiscing on how cold it was in New Jersey during football season and how happy they are to live in California.
The Harp is a traditional Irish pub with all sorts of corned beef dishes including some wonderful corned beef and cabbage. They also have a wide variety of beers and Irish whiskeys. The atmosphere is extremely friendly and they have a large number of faithful patrons who end up hanging out while we are watching football.
Every time I come here I think about ordering something different but it never fails that I order the exact same thing, the Irish nachos. I figure I only come here between 6-8 times a year so why order anything besides what I think is the best thing on the menu. How can you go wrong with potatoes topped with cheese, corned beef, and green onions? You really can’t.
On each forkful I try to get a combination of potato, cheese, corned beef, and the toppings to create the symphony of flavors that I crave from Sunday to Friday. Each item adds a unique quality to the dish and in unison work so well together. The potatoes are fork tender and add some texture while the cheese is stringy and rich. The corned beef adds the salty and fatty notes that cut through the richness of the cheese and the green onions add a little bite to the forkful.
|Delicious shredded corned beef makes all the difference|
Now you may think that the salsa and sour cream are unnecessary but you would think wrong! What are nachos, tortilla or potato, without salsa and sour cream? Incomplete. The salsa adds not only your serving of vegetables but the slight heat that is missing without it. The sour cream adds a much needed tang in addition to the creaminess that ties the whole forkful together. Those Irish nachos make me want to drive the forty-five minutes from Riverside every week but I might die of heart failure if I do so I am happy that football season is only a few months long and that I don’t like to pay for gas.
|Just take a first look at this!|
Last week I talked about the first burger I ate in Milwaukee, the “Food War” champ. Well later that night I ate my second burger in Milwaukee and one of the best burgers I’ve eaten in a long long time. Take a quick look to the left and you will see the ridiculous and amazing Hangover Stack.
We came here for a rehearsal dinner prior to my friend’s wedding so I cannot talk much about service and ambiance as we were in a back room and somewhat distracted. I also arrived after the appetizers were mostly consumed so you will get my unadulterated discussion about this one dish.
As you can see by the picture this is one tall burger. It starts with a 1/2 pound burger made up of Tallgrass beef cooked to order which is my first area of discussion. Remember last time when I went off on AJ Bombers about the up charge for good meat and the lack of temperature discussions? Also, when I reamed Slaw Dogs for their crappy hot dogs? Well, Stack’d was the exact opposite of both places and it was glorious! Start with a great foundation cooked well and the topping are just that, toppings. No matter how great the bacon, you can never hide crappy beef and Stack’d appears to understand.
Top it with some aged Wisconsin cheddar and thick cut bacon and you’ve got yourself a burger! But wait that is just the beginning. Next they add fried onions, lettuce, and tomato and an egg supposedly fried to your liking. Lastly they let you pick from your choice of bun and with server consultation I settled on the pretzel bun. She really twisted my arm. They top it all off with two fried pickles and then I took Virginia’s and added them to the middle of my burger, why not! Inconspicuously laid next to the burger were some of the most wonderfully fried onion rings. Hot and crispy and not greasy in the least.
|Juicy and delicious!|
I excitedly cut my burger in half so I could 1. get a picture and 2. figure out how to eat it and was both pleased and disappointed at the same time. The burger looked gorgeous, perfectly cooked to my mid-rare expectations, juicy and inviting. The toppings were well done, the lettuce crisp, and the tomatoes fresh. The one issue was the egg. This was the first time I ever ordered and egg on a burger and asked for it over medium. Over medium means creamy, not runny and not solid. Creamy, so it gets all over the rest of the burger but not the plate. Sadly my egg was overcooked and you can see it plainly in the picture where it is solidly stuck right in the middle of the burger. Sad times, maybe next time I will ask for over easy to make sure I get some savory egg flavor soaked into the meat and the bun.
On first bite you could tell that this was a serious burger at a serious burger restaurant. The meat was so juicy and perfectly cooked. It was without a doubt top shelf meat because regardless of the six different toppings the beef sang through. On the other hand, the toppings were awesome. The cheese was gooey and had a bite to it; the bacon was crispy and full of flavor. The fried onions strings and added fried pickles brought that greasy note to the party and the fresh vegetables cut through all the savory notes to make it all manageable. Without the lettuce and tomato there would be no way I could have finished the burger but I did! The egg was good and added some of the creamy element to the burger but I really wished it was cooked less. It just did not make the impact I thought it would. Now the pretzel bun…awesome! Nice and chewy and a little sweet it pulled the whole burger together.
All in all this was a great burger, one of the best I’ve had. I would have given it a solid 10 if not for the egg issue. I also could complain about the fact that I didn’t get my mini Tabasco bottle but I could have just asked if I really wanted it so I will take the blame for that one. This is a great place and next time I am in Milwaukee I will come back to see the main part of the restaurant. I will add also that they have over 100 varieties of local beers and both a gluten free and vegan menu. No wonder Renee and Gavin love it so much!
Overall Review: 8/10
Check out Stack’d online
|mmmm goat cheese|
|Duck Ragu and Parpadelle Pasta|
Ooze damn you ooze!
|Check out that cheese and pasta on the edges!|
|Sarah’s Surprise in all of its graham cracker glory|
On Saturday we went to the first Riverside Food Truck Festival to try a bunch of exciting food trucks. We paid for VIP tickets so we could have access to the covered tent and the free drinks. This was a very good thing since it was unreasonably hot so my first suggestion for next year would be to hold it at a different time. The height of Riverside summer is not the best idea for an outdoor lunchtime event. In the end it made eating hot food (Which was what almost every truck served) an undesirable activity. This was made evident by the 20 minute line for the shaved ice truck. My second issue was that they ran out of all t-shirt sizes below XL almost immediately which pissed me off since I paid extra for a shirt. Aside from those two issues, the event was well put together and a lot of fun. With 50 food trucks and live music you can’t really go wrong.
On to the trucks! Virginia and I managed to eat at five different trucks including one truck that happened to be on my list! Our first stop upon entry was the Waffles de Leige truck for a Leige waffle topped with ice cream. The special piece of a Leige waffle is that they import these sugar pearls from Belgium. The sugar pearls go inside the batter and melt as the waffle cooks. What you end up with is this chewy sweet caramilized flavor that is unlike any waffle you have ever eaten. I had been wanting to try one of these for a long time and it did not disappoint. Add on top some thick and creamy vanilla bean ice cream and it made for a delicious first dish. Thumbs up for the Liege waffle, ten times better than any other waffle I have ever had before. Rating 8/10.
Next Stop, the Nom Nom truck. I stopped off here to get a pork Bahn Mi, which is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich. For five dollars I was extremely disappointed. Why you ask? Take a look at the size of this sandwich and ask that again.
This sandwich was about half the size of the ones I get monthly from the restaurant down the street for $3. This would be OK if the amount and quality of meat was through the roof but it definitely was not. The onions alone doubled the amount of pork on that sandwich and they were about all I could taste. While the bread was good I will stick to Pho Saigon and call it a day. Rating 4/10.
After that we stopped by the tent to hang out and caught a set by the UCR Tyco student organization. Take a listen to the talent at UC Riverside:
While that was going on I went out to get Virginia a burger but was sidetracked by the Bun Truck.
I ordered a Kalbi bun which was sirloin, onions, mixed greens, and an aioli. The bun was accompanied by some wonderful duck fat fries topped with garlic and rosemary. I am so happy that I stopped here. The bun was chewy and full of flavor and the few bites of the sirloin was sweet and tasted like braised short ribs. While the bun was good, the fries stole the show. This was the first time I ate fries cooked in duck fat and it will not be the last, that’s for sure. These fries were crunchy and hot even without ketchup (Though I really wanted ketchup). The garlic and and the rosemary were wonderful and had obviously been added right after the fries came out of the frier because they had adhered to the fries perfectly. Truly one of the best things I ate at this event. Overall 7/10.
After dropping that food off at the tent I went to Baby’s Badass Burgers to get Virginia her burger.
Though I didn’t get a picture of the girls on this truck I need to comment on their wardrobe. If you are in a food truck dressed like you are going out to a club it is pretty obvious that you are a novelty and not serious cooks. I don’t just mean this for women it goes the same for men. Wear chef’s clothes or at least some branded t-shirts that allow you to move and/or breathe. Seeing this I was nervous about the food but it was the only burger truck at the festival. Guess what, I was right….
The best thing on this dish was the buns but I could go to Ralphs right now and get a pack of them to make burgers ten times better at home. The meat, gross! Overcooked, low quality, and dry. I think they knew this but adding their “Special Sauce”. Newsflash, it was thousand island dressing at best. They added a bunch of onions and mushrooms to salvage the dish but too little too late. Badass burgers or maybe just Bad. Overall 3/10.
The last place we ate at was the White Rabbit Truck and it appears that I saved the best for last but you are going to have to wait until my next post because it just happens to be a list place!
At the end of the day we got to listen to a Journey tribute band led by an American Idol finalist. All in all a really great day albeit a tad hot and I can’t wait for next year!
Overall Rating: 9/10
Finally went to check out The Salted Pig on Friday for lunch. I was hearing great things about this place and was very excited to check it out. The restaurant is set up with two distinct seating areas; one by the bar and one by the kitchen. We sat in the seats at the kitchen counter and were rewarded with some free samples of their deviled eggs. I only ate one and it was good just not something I focused on throughout the meal. I wish the seats at the bar were a little higher up so I could actually see what was going on. It was strange to sit there trying to see what was going on but being unable to do so. Another annoyance was that my server had not tasted many of the items on the menu. It is always alarming to hear a server say “People have told me that this is good” or “I’ve never tried that”. If you really care about your restaurant you will taste and be able to talk about all of the regular menu items.
I ordered the pork belly sandwich with light mayo (As recommended), the brussel sprouts as a side, and the bacon sammy for dessert. I also upgraded to filthy fries which has cheese and roasted garlic on top. When the meal came out I was confused by the brussel sprouts. They were shredded like coleslaw with bacon pieces mixed in. This was a very unique way to eat brussel sprouts but surprisingly it was really good. Since they were shredded it was easy to get bacon in every forkful. Usually it is difficult to get the bacon on your fork with a large brussel sprout but when all items in the dish are similar in size it makes it much easier. My one issue was that it was very liquidy in the dish and became sort of a soup when you got towards the end. I am unsure as to why they did not remove some of the liquid but that was not pleasant.
The pork belly sandwich was good though it was lacking the savory taste that you normally get from bacon. I am not sure what was missing but I was expecting a richer taste that would fill me up since the sandwich was a little small. It was definitely a good idea to ask for light mayo because there was still a decent amount on the sandwich. If I had not asked for light mayo the whole sandwich would have been drowned in it and probably tasted terrible. Thanks yelp reviews! The sandwich also claimed to have mandarin pickles but they merely tasted like mandarin orange slices. I did not taste anything near to a brine that would allow you to call them pickled. Regardless, the sweetness of the orange was as great addition to the sandwich and broke up the monotony that was under flavored pork belly on bread. Overall, a decent sandwich but not one that I would order a second time. Next time I will get the really good or the pig burger.
My Pig Sammy came out last and was, by far, the best thing I ate at this restaurant. Who could argue with candied bacon inside ice cream between to maple cookies? I mean honestly I do not think that it would be possible at any restaurant to mess up that combination and The Salted Pig did not disappoint. Not only did the ice cream taste like bacon but there were pieces of candied bacon inside the ice cream. Almost every creamy bite of the ice cream came with the delicious somehow chewy and crunchy texture of the candied bacon. All of this was balanced by the maple cookies. What a great way to end the meal!
Overall, I enjoyed my meal at the Salted Pig. Some issues with the dishes and the set up of the kitchen counter but it was a fun meal with obvious thought behind the dishes. I would order the brussel sprouts again but I would ask them to drain out some of the liquid. I am not sure if I would order the pork belly again there are other options that I would rather try. I would recommend this place as a nice lunch hangout and hear that their happy hour deals are great. Next time I will go after work to try some of their many beers on tap. I mean this place calls itself a Gastropub so I need to test out its beer selection. By the way, the filthy fries were awesome. I mean roasted garlic and beer cheese on fries? How could that not be awesome!
After a 10 mile run we felt that a great brunch place was necessary so we headed to Portage Bay. First of all they had the coolest food shirt ever. Quote on the back “Eat like you give a damn”. To bad they are not selling them anymore. At noon on a Saturday it was a 45 minute wait for 7 people but we only waited about 25. The restaurant was very open, basically one big room. The bathrooms were funny with pictures of toilets from history but I digress. As you will see from the first picture, they had a huge toppings bar that came with any pancake or french toast order.
Now for the food. The menu looked exciting with fun items like cheesecake french toast and the rancher’s breakfast. In addition they had items for gluten free and vegan diets. I ordered the rancher’s breakfast which was 3 eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and two pieces of challah french toast (and the toppings bar). I also ordered some fresh squeezed grapefruit juice which was refreshing. The rancher’s breakfast was really good. The eggs were cooked well and the bacon was crispy but I could have gotten those items anywhere. The real star of the show was the french toast and the toppings bar. I covered my sweet and fluffy french toast with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and a few pears. The also had what looked to be homemade whipped cream which melted slowly on the toast and added a richness to the whole ensemble.
I admit that I was hungry but it was quite easy to finish that whole meal in less than 10 minutes. I was also introduced to organic ketchup and now ask the question, why does anyone eat the bright red and pathetic non-organic version? All in all Portage Bay was a fun, family friendly restaurant with some delicious and hearty food. I would go back again and try one of their hash options or a benedict. If you are looking for a brunch place in Seattle go to Portage Bay.
Evan and I stopped in here for drinks and some small plate dishes. At first blush this high end restaurant was very cool. It was set up with the most open kitchen that I had seen before. You could sit up at the counter and watch the chefs cook your meal almost completely in front of you. The bar, where we sat, was a little behind the kitchen area so you could look down across the whole line and see everything that was going on. All in all this restaurant had a nice ambiance with a modern look and a very friendly staff. We sat down and ordered some drinks and I got a very well made martini.
Let’s talk about the food. Since it was late, we only ordered a two items. First we got the salt and pepper chicken wings. The wings were tasty and well fried, nice and crispy and just enough grease. The unfortunate piece was that the wings did not have much meat on them so the flavor was really in the bones. At a restaurant like this it was a little odd to suck the bones of chicken wings. The other dish we ordered were the pork rinds. Evan said that these were recommended so I had high hopes. The reality was that the pickled onions were the best part of the dish. I admit that this was the first time I ever tried pork rinds but they tasted like nothing. I really didn’t understand what I was eating, I had never eaten something that was a complete blank slate. I am unsure if I will ever eat pork rinds again but I was disappointed with this experience.
Overall, La Bete was a really nice place with some decent food. While eating and talking we saw many different dishes that I would be interested to try and Evan said he had eaten meals before that were wonderful. I plan to go back to this restaurant and try a full meal next time we are in town. Then I will be able to give it a full review.