Another progressive meal- this time dinner, thanks to Eat Mobile does Forktown tours– a one weekend special tour offering after Eat Mobile 2011 (though they might do this again next year). It visits participating carts from Eat Mobile, but at their original home carts, and we visit multiple pods while riding in a comfortable Ecoshuttle. This one was dubbed “Southeast Sunset Snack-a-Thon”, as opposed to the other “Lunchtime Cart Hop” the day before. We started off at Cartopia, and made our way to D-Street Noshery, A La Carts, and Good Food Here, 4 food cart pods (grouped communities of carts) with 10 carts in all- and more samples then that!
At Cartopia (SE 12th and Hawthorne) we started out with one of my favorite carts there, with Pyro Pizza with their wood oven fired pizza. This is a great cart- you may think it’s just another pizza cart, but it’s so much more- as you would expect from an owner like John who has built what, like 9 pizza ovens by hand now?
I like their white truffle pizza, add basil and tomato as additional toppings. As part of Eat Mobile this year I had become introduced to their organic homemade sodas, which we also got to taste here again and this time I got to try them all. I won’t be able to resist getting sodas here every time I stop at Cartopia in the future. They offer Cucumber, Sarsparilla, Basil Lime, and Hazelnut (almost like a cream soda with a bit of nuttiness), all made with real ingredients and sweetened with organic cane juice, no artificial flavorings. They also make bread in their wood fire oven- which we got a little sample of with a tapenade smear and cheese as compliment to the taste of their roasted beet and leek salad with butter and balsamic dressing on a bit of spinach, also really good.
Next stop, still in Cartopia, was People’s Choice for the 2nd year in the row, Whiffies. We were able to try their standby and most popular savory and sweet fried pies, the bbq beef brisket with mozzarella, and the apple, fried pies. Gregg came out to tell us the story of Whiffies- how he runs the cart, and how it became so named. I really wanted to try their mac and Irish cheddar cheese with peas (and bacon) pie, and I thought I would since the tour would return here at the dropoff… but I was just too full. Next time I hope. The apple is my favorite sweet pie- I’ve always liked the apple pie from McD growing up, but I’ll never order it again- I’ll always come to Whiffies, it is just like how I remember it from my childhood, but much better. Look at that buttery crispy but doughy crust!
Next the 18 of us piled into the Ecoshuttle and off we went to D-Street Noshery at SE 32nd & Division (see, the D is for Division). This pod is one of the rare that have beer as part of the offering of the actual pod, so it’s almost like a progressive food court including libations- thanks to Captured by Porches Brewing. I had seen this entire pod come into fruition per my previous visits to Pok Pok, which is across the street, and it was great to see it now functioning and doing well. We started off with Koi Fusion. I’ll just leave you with a photo of their cart (they now have several) and taste. Yes they do know the famous Kogi in LA, I’ve reviewed them before in more detail in a previous blog entry. I prefer their sliders, and burrito only if I’m starving as they are big- and the short rib and pork are the best meats in my taste, bulgogi is ok.
Then we walked to the other side of the D-Street Noshery to hear about Oregon Ice Works bringing the water ice of Norristown (known as Italian Ice) to Portland, but made with more of an ice cream touch: less ice-y and more smooth texture, which I can’t argue isn’t an improvement. They experiment with new flavors all the time (everything is with local fruit not flavoring or syrup ingredients), and this time I had a nice big scoop of the Pear Ginger- Oregon grown Bosc pears with bits of candied Ginger. He also has introduced a Philly Roast Pork sandwich in which he has his mom be his “supplier” by shipping the peppers from Philly- my problem from when I tasted it at the Eat Mobile 2011 is that it still can’t quite compare to a real Philly cheesesteak for me, though I appreciate the peppers- the meat and cheese weren’t quite rich enough. But I’ll be back at this cart anyway for those fruity firework gelatos.
Back onto the shuttle, and to A La Carts at SE 50th and Division Street. This pod is famous for the fact that there is a cart that you can get your hair done in a cart… well it’s really a trailer, but still who does this except for models and movie stars?
We visited Fon-due It, presenting “fast food” fondue in that they will have their own signature mix and a monthly special cheese to get your melted cheese fix. The cheese I had with toasted bread was the same as from Eat Mobile- and although not bad, didn’t stand out compared to other fondues I have had from fondue restaurants. Even the one he talked about which helped inspire this cart- one with Black Butte Porter and cheddar- sounded better. Maybe the cheese of the month is what to watch for. I understand that they need to offer one that doesn’t have alcohol as an ingredient, but this cart is still a bit of a puzzle to me. I know at the Oregon Brewer’s Festival bread and cheese always seem to do well as a small snack with all the beer (that one is from Gustav and is just swiss cheese), but that’s because alcohol and cheese go well. I’m not sure how they would get that collaborative relationship at this pod, and with the hours they have now.
We did get to try their chocolate covered bacon too- I was thinking it would have more chocolate. Vosges chocolate bacon errs on too much chocolate (though Vosges *is* a chocolate shop so understandable), but shows this combination can work- I just want more bacon! Dip that sucker in!
Shut Up and Eat, also at this same pod, brings more Philadelphia to Portland (Norristown is a suburb of Philadelphia- so no surprise with the Philly team stickers back at the Oregon Ice Works cart) with their food cart- but with more Italian from Philly attitude. They gave us a a little – ha, little- meatball on marinara gravy and a stuffed popper. The meatball was so rich and wonderful, I think I would just get a order of the meatballs and gravy, leave out the bread- I don’t want anything else filling my stomach but that moist meat punched with flavor.
Next we journeyed to the food cart pod named Good Food Here, and which would be our last cart pod, located at SE 43rd and Belmont. This pod also has beer, right when you enter thanks to Buckman Village Brewing. More than that, this pod has a very European feel to it because instead of being a circle of carts with eating area in the middle like most pods, the carts are parked in rows so almost like alleys of food carts. They also host movie and other events, so it definitely feels like a little community- like a small town of food carts that represent all around the world.
A pork belly sandwich from Lardo at Good Food Here had everyone quiet and rolling their eyes in pleasure as we admired their very pretty cart- and they were apparently a runner up in the People’s Choice at Eat Mobile. This was my favorite savory bite of my dinner that night.
Next stop was Eurotrash and their bright pink cart and a sample of Fishy Chips, their anchovies breaded then deep fried to a crisp and finished with a little lemon and sea salt and aioli- it sounded intimidating to everyone at first but they came without heads (though they can be ordered with) and didn’t have the strong flavor most would expect- just crunchy lil fish, and was enjoyed by everyone.
Creme de la Creme is celebrating the 25th birthday of their 1961 home, a former school bus now home of French cuisine, and the bus is named Charlotte. This food bus, and its owner, were so cute, as they talked about how they made the bus the home of their little business.
They offered us a their rendition of Croque Monsieur with the traditional ham and Gruyere sandwich then topped with béchamel and more Gruyere and toasted- a great little sandwich. We also had what has brought them some fame (including a feature on Eat St)- Creme de la Creme’s famous Escargot, snails, garlic and butter sauce with sliced baguette. I liked the Croque Monsieur more- but I like my escargot extremely unhealthy with each in its own pond of butter, so there’s that.
Dessert course, and last course- passonfruit szechuan peppercorn sorbet at Fifty Licks, winner of the Style Award at Eat Mobile 2011. It’s always hard to choose from the wonderful flavors they offer each time- except for the Red Bull one I had at Eat Mobile 2010, I have not been disappointed by any flavor from them.
Well, that’s it… end of tour. Thanks to Heidi and Jessica, our lovely tour guides, for providing facts and fun about the food cart world of Portland, and for all the owners who took the time to step out of their cart to talk about their cartpreneurship challenges and victories, and Jess from Willamette Week- she and her mom (whose birthday was Saturday- mine was Friday) were with me and the tour guides in going on both tours! I think my stomach might need a rest from another day of multi-hour sampling, but I would recommend any of their food tours to any visitors of Portland or those who live in Portland and want to explore lots of little bites and learn about food culture- be it the food cart culture like these tours, or neighborhoods- Forktown Tours covers the Alphabet District (Northwest 23rd area I think) and North Portland (Alberta/Miss neighbohoodish) areas on walking tours on Thurs and Sat.
Heidi and Jessica were very gracious, knowledgable, and thoughtful- making sure everyone gets a sample, that we were hydrated and always gathered around to hear the food owner, making sure we had napkins and forks and wet naps and carrying Tums just in case. It is obvious they love food, love Portland, love spreading that love as if you were their own friend visiting them from out of town. Check them out!
And that completes my food cart report of two weekends of Eat Mobile 2011!