Chesapeake Soft Shell Crab Season

April 24th, 2011 by David Stein

Need I say more?  The first soft shell crab of the season is a beautiful thing.  From Texas BBQ Brisket to Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo and Oyster Po’ Boys in Louisiana, Apalachicola on the 1/2 shell, Grilled Mahi with Tropical Fruit Salsa in Lake Worth Florida, She Crab Soup in Savannah, and Soft Shells in Virginia Beach, it’s been a tasty trip.  You will see variations on many of these themes in the coming months, plus much, much more.  I’m working on a list of specials as we travel. Crisp pan seared Soft Shell Crab over Crunchy Scallion & Noodle Cakes with Sesame Cabbage and Wasabi Aioli,  Grouper Taco’s with Smoked Poblamo Salsa, Thai Mussel Bisque, Bibb Lettuce Wraps with Scallop Ceviche and Pickled Garden Peppers, Fried Essex Clams with Smoked Tomato Cocktail sauce and Lemon/Caper Tarter,  Mango & Crab Rice Paper Wraps with Coconut/Chili Dip, Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp . . .The only limits are the creativity of myself and my crew, and the availability of the freshest, tastiest product.  I just added a new farm found through the Chefs Collaborative, Sparrow Arc Farm in Maine, to the list of New England purveyors I’ll be working with.  I can’t wait to get this traveling Edible Minstrel Show on the road.  Home Tuesday, hopefully my friends at Kitchens on Wheels will arrive with Go Fish! the same day.  Time to cook!!

Boy Meets Truck, Boy Leaves Truck, Boy Misses Truck

April 23rd, 2011 by David Stein

“Better to haved loved and lost. . .”.   Well, not lost, but waiting.  We met Go Fish on Monday, spend the morning and headed West, with the promise that the truck would be hot on our heals.  Best layed plans.  It looks like the truck is going to end up delivered to home the same day we return.  I HOPE!!  I’ve been a patient man, but enough is enough.  The good news is that we have had a practically free vacation when all is said and done, seen some great places, eaten some great food, met some good folks and even played some live music with my cousin in the mix.  But I really wish I had the truck under my *^#, rather than the VW rental. Ah well, a few more days and we will be home to meet the truck.  Then it will be a flurry of activity with two health inspections, two fire inspections, the vinyl wrap, training, cooking, soft opening (a tentative date of May 14) and 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, LIFT OFF!!Appropriate as we just left Kennedy Space Center, a lifelong dream.  I wanted to be an astronaut since I was a kid, followed all the Apollo flights, fantasized about being the 1st chef in space. . . Space Truckin!  On to Savannah.

Apalachicola Oysters

April 20th, 2011 by David Stein

This is the view from my world as I type.  Life DEFINITELY DOESN’T SUCK here.  They say they have the best oysters in creation here in Apalachicola.  I feel a certain Chefly obligation to do some serious field research.  Go Fish! now has a generator, the kick butt (free) stereo is in,  final installations and testing tomorrow, then they hit the road in pursuit of the lovely wife and myself Friday.  I’m thinking the hand-off will be in Savannah GA. Saturday.  Meanwhile, our tour of the South continues.  Monday was the Casino at Isle of Capri on Lake Charles LA.  According to my personal ghost whisperer, very haunted.  Bizarre mix of casino overkill with a side order of desperation.  I will admit, I’ve never been a gambler, and I quit drinking, so the casino held little allure, but it was an interesting slice of Americana.  Off the 8th floor balcony we had a panoramic view of some huge oil refineries in the distance.  At night, lit up, with the huge perpetually flaming tower, it looked like we were staring at Mordor.  Oh, and the Buffet served a killer Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo.  Good Saucier in the kitchen.  Priorities.  I met the chef here at the Apalachicola River Inn, told him my tale, looks like we are in for a tasting.  Life’s is our oyster tonight!  While we are on the road, good things are happening in the Food Truck world in Boston.  Our new organization, the Greater Boston Food Truck Association, or BAFTA (Boston ‘afta?) is in serious discussion with the city of Boston about locations, routes, zoning etc.  This is a great dialogue, not typical of most major cities and their Food Trucks.  There is a certain advantage to being late to the table in this case, and so far the give and take has been good, and it looks like the results will benefit everyone!  Synchronicity here and there.

San Antonio Dreamin’

April 17th, 2011 by David Stein

Left Austin behind this morning.  Brisket at Stubb’s, Chili Releno  at Trudy’s, the superb Country/Rockabilly/Surf/Blues pickin’ of Austin legend Junior Brown, a guitarist and lap steel player with Serious Chops.  Saw some evidence of the 1300 trucks that inhabit the city down on around 6th St., the music and bar hub, but apparently, like Edgar Winter’s band, most “Only Come Out at Night”.  I’m sitting at the pool with my official Brother Trucker portable modem and Mac, (me, stubborn relic of an analog age) writing a blog, 100 feet from San Antonio’s famous Riverwalk.  The Riverwalk is a diverted tributary of the river that flows through town, with cafe’s, artists, live oaks, ducks and no cars.  Venice in Texas.  Tomorrow I meet Go Fish!  I feel like it’s the night before a hot date, and I’m an eager teenager.  Time to go seek some Gulf Coast seafood.  Life is good!

Food Truck Art at it’s Finest

April 16th, 2011 by David Stein

The final draft has been approved.  The truck will get the wrap as soon as I return.  The vinyl extrusion begins prior to then.  Thanks and major Kudos to the estimable Janet Reinitz, muralist extraordinaire for the artwork, and my new friends at Sign Art in Malden for set up, graphics, fine tuning and overall support!!

Fish_Truck_Final

The Great Austin-Boston Road Trip Begins!

April 16th, 2011 by David Stein

We (me and the lovely Susie) are in the Lone Star State, and the madness commences!  Bat country.  Over a million live under the Congress Avenue Bridge here in Austin alone.  Along with kick ass music of every ilk, serious BBQ (it’s all about the beef in Texas), and home to over 1,300 Food Trucks in a city around the same size as Boston.  Some serious field research is on the agenda for today.  I will meet my new companion, the Go Fish! truck Monday, though it looks like they are waiting on a couple key late components (my generator, my exhaust hood), so they may be chasing us across the gulf coast later next week when the work is done (on their dime).  Can you say “The mission improbable Food Truck Hand-off in Apalachicola”.  Your mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it. . .Let’s see, drive the brand new VW Passat across the Gulf at 27 mpg, or the truck at, maybe, 10 mpg.  No complaints here.  Lots of fun on the horizon!!  Sunday we are on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, the “Venice of Texas”, and also home to a burgeoning population of Trucks.  More field research.  It’s a dirty job. . . Stay tuned campers, the best is yet to come.  “We were 180 miles out of Barstow when the. . .”

Mobile Dining: Plans and Politics

April 1st, 2011 by David Stein

I’m getting a crash course in big and small city politics.  Boston is seriously behind the curve in the food truck phenomenon.  Last year was really the first when food trucks had any real media visibility.  In this case, this works to our advantage. There have been a few trucks operating around the fringes for a few years, but not enough to warrant examining the laws and policies surrounding licensing, zoning, inspections. . . That has all changed.  Two Boston city councilors, Michael Ross and Sal LaMattina did a tour of several food truck heavy cities, a lot of research, and released a well conceived and thoughtful study prior to proposing legislation which is going to vote next week, addressing the issues I just mentioned.  Every city which is host to a number of trucks has it’s own business model.  Some have been far more successful at working with the growing culinary phenomenon, some less.  In a number of cases a laissez  faire, hands off model has caused serious problems as the number of trucks multiplied uncontrolled.  LA, Houston, and Miami are now dealing with the repercussions of this unchecked expansion.  Other cities which have been more involved in the process, and worked with, rather than against the truckers have burgeoning communities and a reputation for interesting, vibrant and diverse food trucks.  Amongst this group sit Portland Oregon and Austin Texas.  Austin, which is roughly the same population as Boston, hosts over 1,200 registered food trucks.  Boston will host perhaps 35 this year.  Not that even these truck friendly cities haven’t don’t have their own growing pains.  In Austin they tightened up regulations recently, and caused some backlash and in-fighting amongst the food truck community, and applause from the threatened brick and mortar restaurant industry.  Here in Boston we have the advantage of learning from the growing pains, the successes and failures of the various models.  I attended several open council meetings leading up to the scheduled vote.  There was one provision I strongly objected to, one allowing a single entity (or corporation) to own up to 1/2 of the new licenses the city plans to issue.  This spelled monopoly to me, running contrary to the small business, free spirited and creative nature of the food truck movement as I see it.  Brother Trucker in 2012The last draft I saw of the legislation I saw this has been amended to a fair 10% or up to 5 trucks, which ever is smaller.  Will this be in the final draft??  With the nature of money, power and politics, I hope for the best, but fear the worst.  I actually e-mailed both councilors and the Mayor to emphasize my concerns.At this juncture the city seems genuinely interested in developing the food truck ‘industry” here, and in working closely with those of us who are taking point in the formative community.  We had the first meeting of our fledgling truckers group last week, and reached near consensus on a few key issues such as locations/zoning for the trucks, sponsoring events for the trucks including music, the arts, non-profits etc.  How this barely honeymoon relationships will develop is anybody’s guess, but we seem to be off to a good start.   In my home since 1987, Malden, just North of Boston, I’m trying to work with the city council to amend an ordinance stating that any mobile vendor must move every 5 minutes when not actively   vending.  The wheels of city government turn slowly, in spite of networking, a bit of glad-handing, and good intentions.  I’m looking for private property, near the T (city rail transport) to address this issue until the ordinance is reversed (if it is, indeed, reversed).  Its a learning process.  Sometimes I want to run for cover, sometimes I think I may have to run for councilor.  Brother Trucker for District 6!!

Brother Trucker Trucks for the Go Fish! T-Shirts

March 26th, 2011 by David Stein

With a nod and a wink to R. Crumb, one of my favorite cartoonists from the day, my artist in family DJ Fleming created the Brother Trucker Trucks image to go on the T-shirts for the staff on the Go Fish! truck.  It will read “Brother Trucker Presents:  GO FISH!”, with info etc.  And no, my nose isn’t nearly that big.  Any resemblance to persons. . .

Food Truck, the Look & the Countdown

March 26th, 2011 by David Stein

Here is a sneak look at the first draft of Go Fish! in his glory. The artwork was done by close family friend & muralist extraordinaire Janet Reinitz, with graphics by Sign Art here in Malden Massachusetts, cultural nexus of Bostons North Shore. There is tweaking and adjusting to be done, but I love the look. Comments welcome and invited!!  If this doesn’t catch the eye of the hungry pedestrian, nothing will.  There will be my Brother Trucker Logo on the doors, and a few additional images as well as more info (website, twitter, Facebook, phone. . .)  but this is the idea. 

Our trip to Texas has been delayed until April 16, pushing the launch date back to early May, but the good folks at Kitchens on Wheels (thank you Felix) are compensating me very fairly for the delay, and it gives me more time to work on upcoming menus, contact local farms, do interviews for staff, do some good community work here in Malden, help get the new Greater Boston Mobile Food Association of the ground and work with the Boston City Council as they get ready to pass (hopefully) new Food Truck legislation opening up previously closed parts of the city to vending and simplifying the labyrinthine licensing process.  Nuff said. It’s all good in the hood!!

The Food Truck Hits a Pothole

March 6th, 2011 by David Stein

It was inevitable.  Things have been going almost too smoothly.  I put in an application for 1 of the precious 5 spots on the new Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston.  The Greenway is the strip of urban parkland created by Boston’s (in)famous Big Dig, where Interstate 93 went subterranean under and through the city.  I was hoping for a prime location, adjacent to the New England Aquarium, a perfect place for a truck featuring seafood. But I got the word yesterday that I was not one of the chosen few.  I knew the mathematical odds were against me, even though I have huge experience and gave, I feel, a compelling argument.  Unfortunately the interview process the Greenway Conservancy claimed that we would all go through never happened. I didn’t have the opportunity to be persuasive in person.  They made a decision based on whatever criteria they decided was relevant.  Damned if I can figure out what those were, but I’m not bitter.  Really.  No, I swear.  Honest.  So now I have to really work all the other angles.

 

The city of Boston is several years behind the national trend with the Food Truck phenomenon, and is, at present, VERY restrictive about legal public access for vendors.  The city council is working, hard I believe, to change this, hopefully before the spring is upon us and Go Fish! needs a home!  I also need to get out and do some serious driving around looking for private property in good locations around the city where I might negotiate a deal with the owners to park.  This is legal.  I suppose I need to investigate some of the busier communities in the Greater Boston Area. I’m also working hard to get a city law changed here in my home town of Malden, stating that any vendor must move every 5 minutes!  I’m working with the Malden Chamber of Commerce and connections in city government and the local constabulary on this end, and I feel pretty confident I’ll have a home around the Malden MBTA (subway/commuter rail) station for the dinner hour.  Meanwhile, its Onward Through the Fog!!