Friday, April 29, 2011

Food Trucks: An American Tradition

On an uncharacteristically balmy Wednesday night in April, I had the pleasure of listening to and participating in a conversation about one of the biggest US food movements right now: Food Trucks. Heather Shouse's new book Food Trucks explores the ever-expanding patchwork of mobile kitchens in America. Complete with recipes, drool-worthy photography, and maps to ignite wanderlust in even native Americans the book takes its reader on a journey through  the wheeled fabric of food carts and trucks. Shouse did extensive research in each featured city and chose the very best vendors by region.

To promote the book, released just last week, Shouse is back on the road travelling to the cities she wrote about. At each stop she has invited a few of the food trucks and vendors to come serve and speak with her on a panel about the book and the process of starting and running a food truck/cart business. Fortunately for me, one of her stops was New York! 

After work I headed down to The Strand Bookstore for the event. Scheduled to begin at 6:30, I got there on time to have my first sweet from The Treats Truck (yes, the one on the Blackberry commercials!). Kim Ima, owner of The Treats Truck was outside serving up samples of some customer's favorite treats- I got to try to the Mexican Hot Chocolate brownie and bought an oatmeal chocolate chip. The Bian Dang Truck (Taiwanese for "lunch box," formerly NYC Cravings) was also outside serving up savory goodies like dumplings and fried chicken. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Evening with Patricia Wells: Salad as a Meal

By far one of the best decisions I've made since moving to Manhattan was becoming a member of FIAF (French Institute : Alliance Française) this past Bastille Day. Tonight found me at another great event in Le Skyroom with my good friend Kyle (also a FIAF member). 

Kyle waiting for the talk to begin
FIAF welcomed Patricia Wells for the American launch of her brand new cookbook Salad as a Meal. Tonight's event was the first in a series of 3 talks and a city-wide tour titled Gardens for Gourmets. Each talk will have a notable guest to guide the conversation and tonight we were happy to welcome the well-known Ina Garten who is a long-time friend of Wells. 

Garten introduced Wells as the second most influential person in bringing French cuisine to America, of course, after Julia Child. Salad as a Meal is Wells' 12th book. One of her best-known works is The Food Lover's Guide to Paris (which I believe Wells said would be coming out in a newly revised and updated version soon). Garten remarked that Salad as a Meal is a combination of what Wells loves - fresh, simple market ingredients and easy, beautiful cooking. Garten recollects that when she and Wells go to fresh markets, Wells is always asking the growers what they do with their bounty; 'well what do you do with those raspberries?' Finding out what the people who are bringing the food to the table do with it in their own homes is a way to come up with new ways of using ingredients. 

Wells and her husband, Walter Wells, split their time between Paris and Provence. The couple moved to Paris in 1980 when Wells' husband was offered a job as an editor for the  International Herald Tribune (and he has a piece in the recently released, excellent collection of works about Paris, Paris Was Ours). They stayed on in Paris for Wells' job as a restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune. Before becoming the cookbook author and Paris/Provence home cooking school teacher she is today, Wells worked extensively as a journalist and restaurant critic. When speaking about what it is like living in France she mentioned how a foreigner is always an outsider looking in, never fully part of the "club." As a journalist she found this exteriority to be a helpful perspective, aiding in giving a view  on a subject at arm's length.

As the first of a series of "Gardens for Gourmets" talks, Wells spoke to her own growing philosophy. In Provence she has a beautiful garden (there are some stunning photographs in the book), Wells encouraged audience members to grow something (same advice Marion Nestle gave at a talk I attended in June 2010). Rosemary was her best suggestion for a good, hearty herb to grow on an urban windowsill (if only I had windows!). Boasting an impressive garden, last year she had 40 varieties of tomatoes and even has her own vineyard producing a Côtes du Rhône. (You can find her wine at Eli Zabar's W.I.N.E next to TASTE on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Back in Manhattan!

Yes, I am back from vacation and will be blogging soon about the many treasures I found in Paris! 

For now, let me direct you to my Facebook Page and Twitter for a few "tastes" I've provided over the last week. Also you will notice I am sporting a new Facebook profile picture.... me at Julia Child's apartment building in Paris! (81 Rue de l'Université)

81 Roo de Loo in Paris
My trip was fabulous and I have much to share and look forward to writing about it! Watch for posts through the rest of the month!