Friday, February 10, 2012

Sesame Seeds & A Quesadilla?

I've been touting Far East Taco Grill nearly since Alex started just after Labor Day of 2011 and I will continue to because the food has remained both original and high quality.  In the 7-8 visits I've made, each and every time there has been something different on the menu from the last time.  Last time it was a kim-chicken quesadilla while today's visit featured a steak & corn one.  Marinaded rib-eye steak with the spicy corn "slaw" along with cheese and topped by crema, "#15 sauce," and sesame seeds.  I hadn't tried the #15 sauce previously because I'm in love with the spicy pineapple sauce, but it is sweet and tangy.  Tasting it by itself, I thought it might actually be too sweet for a quesadilla, however the crema diluted much of the sweetness so the blend worked nicely.  As usual, the beef and corn both satisfied.  For me, the only downside was the sesame seeds; they added a textural component that clashed with the corn pressed in the quesadilla itself.
Steak & Corn Quesadilla (w/ crema & #15 sauce) from Far East Taco Grill
Happy Weekend, folks.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bump for El Floridano

Finally ventured back to El Floridano today.  For a short while I've been getting the feeling it was possible Stefan's organization issues might have improved, and with not much going on at Farragut today that I was really in the mood for, the Ho Chi Banh Mi began whispering my name.  "Thai-style" turkey meatloaf with pickled veggies, tamarind BBQ sauce, cilantro and arugula.  Other than being a logistical nightmare to eat, it was a commendable banh mi.  Take a large, fluffy sub roll, fill it with thick slabs of meatloaf, then stuff it with a variety of other ingredients and try to eat it -- I'm guessing you'll have a little trouble too.  But if the biggest problem is maybe getting only veggies in one bite and only meatloaf in another bite is the worst problem of the day, then things must be going REALLY well.  Other than the use of the BBQ sauce, another interesting change is the use of green mango instead of daikon in the pickled vegetable mix; it added more of a crunch than you might expect from the more traditional radish.
Bumping El Floridano to 3 honks, and recommending either the HCBI or PCL for your next visit.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Struck by Amorino's Arrow

When there is a pretty large, static menu available, is it really fair to give a singular rating after only one visit?  I don't know... I may have to ponder that.  BUT, if I were to give the new truck coming from a brick-and-mortar Amorini Panini honks, I'd give my sandwich 4 honks and the chili 3.  With a slightly different menu and higher prices than the Penn Quarter storefront, they have motto of "The Panini ... Done Right".  That they do!  My Southwestern was very generous for $6.29 both in the size of the bread slices, but also in the fillings stuffing the two slices of (your choice) sourdough or wheat.  The menu describes Amorini Sauce as being sweet & tangy mustard yet fails to describe what Amorini fire sauce is.  Can't complain though; it is delicious.  Still a tangy mustard I think, although there is also a decent hot pepper base without being too spicy.  The cheese melted to a lovely 'goo' and the sandwich was otherwise perfectly grilled.  As a bonus, the styrofoam containers they use are manufactured with ventilation holes in the top so your hot panini doesn't go in and steam, making it less crispy before you have a chance to dig in.  Kudos on that!

I also ordered a side of turkey & bean chili, not realizing how big the sandwich would be.  (I would have gotten the 1/2 panini & soup had I known.)  It was fine.  Not BBQ Bus, PORC, or Tops American Trucks level, but pleasant anyway.  About what you'd expect as a "soup of the day" offering.

Bottom line, I will go back without hesitation, and might even try something else.  The food was high quality and a good value.  Scoring at 3.5 honks ... the average of 4 & 3.

One further note, they are the first truck I've encountered that actually charges tax directly.  No doubt it has something to do with the brick-and-mortar location, but I wasn't anticipating an unrounded total check.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tasty Kabob rebranded a truck to Tasty Fried

From the creators of the popular Tasty Kabob series of trucks now comes Tasty Fried, serving a variety of fried chicken or fish with picnic-type side dishes.

They've only been out a few days but currently seem to be focusing attention on their local college clientle at GWU who already get one of the 4 Tasty Kabob trucks each day.  The prevailing theory is the truck has been rebranded from one of the 5 TK trucks which were at one point circling the city.

I ordered fish & chips, along with a 3 piece tender meal wanting to try some potato salad.  Alas, no potato salad so no tenders for me then either as I understood the breading to all be the same; I'll just have to make do with sampling the breading on the fish only.  Reasonably light with nice flavor, the frying batter was actually quite enjoyable, but it was overshadowed by the fish.  Some bites were flaky and pleasing, yet others were chewy and kind of fishy tasting (not in a good way).  I believe it was due to the skin which remained on the small filets and when you got toward the ends of each piece, there wasn't enough flesh to compensate for the flavor the skin imparted.  On the other hand, the fries were crispy and gently seasoned.  Good job with those.  I did find prices to be reasonable - more so in comparison to what Tasty Kabob is charging against its competition.  3 honks.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Do you like good food? (and GARLIC?)

After months and months of planning, Borinquen Lunch Box finally started trolling the streets of Washington on Thursday, and the parking gods allowed them to bless Farragut with a visit to kick off a new week.  Serving Puerto Rican food, I understand the menu varies somewhat day-to-day.  Beef & chicken empanadas ($2/each), 3 types of sandwiches (all $8), and a special of chicken fricassee over rice ($7) totaled today's offerings.  After hemming and hawing between the Cuban and churrasco sandwiches, I landed on the churrasco because there was a special note that said it was made on freshly baked bread, which I had seen a photo of earlier in the day.  Let's just say I'm lucky I had no afternoon meetings, because hours later the garlic is still "with" me.  Having said that, the sandwich was incredible.

Lean skirt steak was marinated, chopped, and grilled, then generously stuffed in a half loaf of pillow-soft bread topped with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, shoestring potatoes, and "Puerto Rican sauce" (thousand island-ish made of ketchup, mayo, and garlic.)  Upon reading the menu I wasn't sure about the potatoes as they just seemed to unnecessarily add more carbs, but they did a perfect job to collect and retain some of the wonderful meat juices, particularly given how delicate the 'Pan Sobao' became by the same juices.  But as I said before, you need to really be aware that between the marinade and the Puerto Rican sauce, this sandwich is aggressively garlic-y yet possessing very appealing flavors overall if the garlic doesn't bother you.  It doesn't bother me, and the visit is worthy of 4 honks.

Other notes --
  1. I didn't love the chicken empanada I ordered just to try, but for $2, it fairly priced and could make a light snack.
  2. While this was not the slowest service one is likely to encounter with such a new truck, they would really benefit from leveraging the passenger jump seat up from to take orders from; both folks on the truck were operating out of one little window and that can quickly add unnecessary chaos.  I suspect it may have something to do with the fact the order taker didn't appear to speak Spanish and the (seemingly high) volume of people wanting to order in Spanish were forced to speak directly to the chef.  (Of the 7 people in front of me, 4 ordered in Spanish.  They all also spoke perfect English, but insisted on Spanish.)  Anyway, had the order taker been up front, the same interaction with the chef would not have been possible.  (Good or bad... HUM???)  Plus, of course, the muddled activity at the window would have been lessened.
  3. After placing my order, I received a loyalty card good for a free sandwich after 5 punches, along with a Blow-Pop.  Love the loyalty card, not sure I get the Blow-Pop, but ok.  Cute I guess.
  4. Finally, I wanted to recognize my truck cohorts for the organization of the line.  I've been noticing the trend over the last several weeks of the respectful (to other pedestrians) line, and today was no exception.  

Granted, this forms most easily when trucks are literally stacked on top of one another, but since the crowded sidewalks is one of the complaints of the truck-naysayers, I thought good truck-izens should be called out as well.

Weekend of Meatballs, Part 2

Sunday's project was buffalo chicken meatballs, linked from the same page as Saturday's lemongrass seasoned 'balls.  The idea is to make a single bite of flavor of buffalo wings but without the mess.  And it mostly succeeded.  Chicken and hot sauce with some eggs and breadcrumbs to hold it together, then baked.  The recipe even called for celery, a traditional side to wings, but I didn't have any so instead I minced another semi-traditional side, carrots, and added some ground celery for flavor.

Next time I plan on adding more hot sauce, and think I'll try adding some blue cheese crumbles directly in to the meatballs.  I will make these again as they are a nifty alternative to the usual wings.

Think we'll be hitting 4000 hits today on the blog.  Thank you so much for your interest!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Weekend of Meatballs, Part 1

What better thing to do on Super Bowl weekend than experiment with some meatballs.  About a week ago, a friend posted on Facebook a link to a whole bunch of meatball recipes and a couple immediately jumped out at me.  First up, Lemongrass-Chicken Meatballs on Rice Vermicelli.  While there are a lot of components, there's nothing particularly difficult past a bunch of fine chopping.  The scallion oil and dipping sauce were both quite nice, but the grilled meatballs I found dry.

The next day I wanted to try and salvage the 9 leftover meatballs I had, so I took to slow braising them in a spicy Thai red curry sauce to impart some moisture.  We have a winner, folks!  With a slight char flavor from the grill still noticeable, the curry flavor paired perfectly with the mild lemongrass and garlic of the meatballs.  Then, saucing the whole plate with a bit of braising liquid and a dash of the dipping sauce made for a lovely juice I almost wanted to eat a whole bowl of on its own, like soup.

Today I'll be trying out Mini Buffalo Chicken Balls for the game.  Here's to hoping no re-invention is necessary...

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I've noted before I was advised to get the pork BBQ from PORC and today I succeeded in that task.  Yet, even as I approached the truck, I started (again) thinking about changing my mind for something they were calling a "smokey sloppy joe".  Luckily there was a two meat plate available offering both the BBQ and the 'Joe, along with slaw and an additional side.  Of the two, I preferred the beef.  The exceptionally tender Angus beef was clearly braised with tomatoes and onions after smoking, creating a mild but delicious sauce.  On the other hand, the pork was slightly chewier in the sense it didn't fall apart as easily.  That more than likely works out better when put in to a sandwich, but then again, a sloppy joe is called that for a reason so if you ordered than in a roll, it should be sloppy.  For me, the pork just on the plate could have used a little more BBQ sauce because it is not cooked in a sauce but rather is doused on top for serving.  Granted, that helps in that you can pick which sauce you want (mild, medium, or hot) but it also means it's probably mostly gone by the time you get to the bottom of your heap of pork on a plate.  My 'hot' selection was peppery and vibrant, and pretty good but wasn't what I had the smudge of last week. On its own, the pork probably could use a bit more seasoning, but the sauce surely made up for it.

To cap of my plate of meat (and vinegar-based slaw) was my other side: a mint chocolate truffle.  It is really worth going to the truck just for this.  Creamy.  Rich.  And a pleasant mint flavor.  The flavors are reminiscent of Ben & Jerry's Mint Oreo ice cream, to me -- it is one of my favorite flavors of ice cream ever.

Perfectly content with my 3.5 honk rating.  I'll be back again soon.

On a side note, yesterday I visited Dorothy Moon to discover they now have chimichurri as a topping option.  Get it on your burger and then ask for a bucket on the side to dip "anything you may have lying around the office to eat" in.  Your significant other may not want to kiss you after, but it will totally be worth it.

Happy weekend, all.  See you next week.