In Good Taste
The new standard for food truck fare
By JR Grant 12/29/2011
Oxnard Gourmet Food Trucks
Heritage Square Park
715 South A Street, Oxnard
beginning February 2012 the first Thursday of the month 6 – 10 p.m.
For approximately the last two years a new food phenomenon has been sweeping America; and no, I’m not referring to locavores or the organic farmers market produce stands and other such trends frequently mentioned in the foodie news arena. Rather, the most interesting development in dining options has now come to Ventura County: the food truck.
We’ve all seen them. Many of us have referred to them as “roach coaches,” nearly all of us think of them as a quick, relatively inexpensive and a not particularly interesting fast meal alternative that announces its arrival outside the workplace with a few toots of its horn at lunchtime. For the last three months in Oxnard’s Heritage Square Park, on the first Thursday of each month, the downtown Oxnard Management District has hosted the Downtown Gourmet Food Trucks event.
The first event had only six colorful and interesting trucks from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and offered unusual fare, including Filipino (Pinoy Jeepney); deep-fried gourmet American (Frysmith) — which had an astounding chicken and sweet pPotato (free-range chicken in tomatillo-tamarind sauce over sweet potato fries topped with cashews); Vietnamese (Mandoline Grill); Korean street barbecue (Ahn-Joo); Indian (Dosatruck) — with an out-of-this-world ginger limeade; and Mexican (Don Chow’s). To give an example of how unique the food offerings are at Don Chow’s taco truck, one can order tofu tacos and a Chinese tamale, both of which were featured on the hit television show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” last year.
It would be hard to pick a favorite from the astounding selections offered. The first event in September attracted more than 1,800 people; and the lines, waiting times and surprising success of the event made the organizers prepare for the next one in October. By November and December, the operation had become very streamlined, and the addition of other fascinating gourmet food trucks provided more opportunities for a unique culinary experience.
The December event did feature several trucks deserving special mention: Frysmith runs on its frying oil. Non-vegetarian items feature humanely raised animals such as free-range chickens and cage-free eggs. Everything is cooked from scratch and served in eco-friendly containers. One time I opted for the special: braised Colorado lamb shoulder with honey cashews, caramelized onions, feta cheese and fresh thyme served over specially cooked fresh-cut fries. I defy any top Ventura County restaurant to match the quality, taste and interesting flavor combinations of this dish. Wow, this is certainly not your typical catering truck. Several spaces away was a truck called Slap Yo Mama (basically soul food, po’boys and gumbo) with an artery-clogging mess of a dish that was so flavorful and unusual it deserves singular praise: the Snoop Dogg Crizto, two fluffy waffles containing macaroni and cheese and fried chicken breast, combined as a sandwich and deep fried and covered in maple syrup and powdered sugar. I’m surprised I made it out alive, but what a taste sensation! The collard greens were also exceptional but the soul-food take on a Monte Cristo was truly extraordinary.
Some of the other food trucks were the very popular, authentic Cuban No Jodas, the amazing Santa Barbara-based Mediterranean-French-Mexican O Street Truck, the Border Grill truck, and the two-time winner of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” Sweet Arleen’s. I’m not a big cupcake fan, but the peanut butter indulgence is way worth eating again and again.
The lines are sometimes too long at this event, many of the food inventions are kind of crazy, but prices are generally reasonable (the lamb dish was one of the most expensive offererings at $9.95) and the sense of fun, community and cross-cultural food appreciation is unique in Ventura County. As a foodie I continue to attend these events because of culinary interest, but as a community building experience the Oxnard Management District has scored a big hit with its monthly food truck event. For more information, www.visitoxnard.com.
Oxnard Gourmet Food Trucks, at Heritage Square Park, 715 South A Street, beginning February 2012 the first Thursday of the month 6p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Oxnard, CA 93030 (805) 486-6074