Cartlandia in Portland

Mobile food pods are of great interest to me as everyone knows from my post "Mobile Food Pods Revitalize Neighborhoods". In the last couple of weeks I visited two in Portland and the new SOMA Streat Food Park in San Francisco. Just a quick post about how different pods can be.

The SOMA Streat Food Park is the first permanent pod site in San Francisco. It's fresh, it's new, it's hip. It is located in a triangular shaped lot behind the SOMA Costco. A year ago this lot was home to the homeless and addicts who hang out under the freeway that runs overhead. Today, it's a thriving street food scene where you will find families with children, grandparents, and dogs.

The SOMA Streat Food Park rents out to up to 10 trucks at a time with a lunch shift and a dinner shift. A few weeks ago it extended their Friday and Saturday hours to 4 a.m. It also has event permits to allow beer to be sold. It 's fenced in, clean, and can seat about 200 people. It has nice bathrooms, flat screen TVs, an ATM, and Wi-Fi. Check out the video.

Feast your eyes on the dishes we had at this month's Foodspotting Eatup at Red Rabbit.
Chef was nice enough to send out three dishes to taste. They are possible dishes for their upcoming menu change. I didn't take notes, so I hope I remembered the ingredients correctly. My friends and I are always happy with our food at Red Rabbit and tonight was no exception.

Figs with Manchego Cheese and Prosciutto

 Fried Green Tomatoes with Gremolata

 Smoked Salmon BLT with Beeler Baon

 Lamb Bocadillas - Mini Lamb Patties, Harrisa Aioli, Manchego Cheese, Mint Chimichurri, Mache

Watermelon 3 Ways - Red Watermelon, Cucumber, Feta, Tzatziki, Yellow Watermelon, Fresh Mozz, Basil, Aged Balsamic, Black Watermelon, Manchego, Tomato Vinaigrette

Risotto Croquettes - Local Arborio Rice, Roasted Red Bell Pepper, Queso Fresco, Cilantro Lime Creme

Caprese Salad - Ray Yeungs Heirloom Tomatoes, Del Rio Cherry Tomatoes, Torpedo Onions, Fresh Mozzarella, Basil Emulsion and Champagne and Grape Gastrique

SacTown Moco - Brown Rice, Spinach, Lucky Dog Ranch Beef Patty, Vega Farms Egg, Mushroom and Onion Gravy
I'm the cynical skeptic in the audience. We are at a breakfast at the International Food Bloggers Conference that is sponsored by the National Pork Board. Yes, there is bacon. The first talk of the morning is about ethical farming by I find it interesting that the Pork Board chooses as their URL. Can we say "lobbyist terminology"?

First you should know that I love pork. It is my favorite meat. Yet I can't help be caught up in the news stories that are about the poor treatment of animals on some farms. (The panelists remind us that these are the minority of farms, not the majority.) I can't help feel for the sows that can't even turn around in their gestation or farrowing pens. As I listen to their presentation, I tweet out, "i'm skeptical too. feels like bit of whitewash at this moment. awaiting Q&A time".

The featured speakers are two women representing two family pork farms. I appreciate them coming and putting out their businesses for us to "see". They are from farming families and I have a great respect for them just for that. And I am sure they are part of a largely misunderstood part of farming as the issue of gestation crates has been a big news story as more and more companies say they will no longer buy from farms that use gestation crates.

First they explain that gestation crates are for the sows during pregnancy. They are used as a way to separate the sows to ensure they get fed properly with the nutrition they need during pregnancy. Sows can get bitchy and become bullies and so an alpha sow could monopolize the food if the sows were all held together. They may even fight.

I'm at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Portland and we are about to start a live food tasting event. So I'm actually typing and tasting as we go. It's a speed tasting event where Oregon purveyors are bringing each table something to live taste/tweet/blog about for 5 minutes. Then they move to the next table.

Unfortunately, first up is coffee and I don't drink coffee. Sigh. It's They are based in Gladstone. I'm told this sample is really rich.

Temptress Truffles has brought us apples in a salted caramel that has both black and white truffles (as in fungi) flavoring and some truffle oil on top.  Elan Hagens deals with wild, harvested edibles and so she of course follows our Hank Shaw. She has truffle butter, truffle salt, and more.

John is from Fishes Sushi from Cannon Beach.  He's brought an Oregon roll which has Oregon dungeness crab in it. They specialize in local fish and only import unagi and mahi.

Repost from 10/10/10

Monday is our annual United Way cake auction at work. Being a baker, I always contribute something. I stay away from trying to snag the best decorated cake because, as I've mentioned before, I prefer cake to frosting, quality vs looks. I might not get the recognition in the building by getting a prize, but I have the pride of knowing that my cake stands up against all the rest for being a delicious, high quality contribution.

This time around I wanted to do something different. But these days it is hard to find an unusual cake, something that people haven't had before. I wanted my typical, high quality, but without having to get ultra-gourmet with three days of baking/assembly and a zillion steps. I found what I wanted in a Hummingbird Cake.

The Hummingbird Cake became well known after it first appeared in Southern Living magazine in 1978. There are a couple of theories to its name. One says that the sweetness of the cake reminds one of the nectar the hummingbirds feed on. Another says that it comes from the humming "mmmmmms" coming from people after they take a bite.

The California Love Truck has been out for about 3 months.
A few months ago my workplace agreed to have a food truck a day come to our location. Because of my close relationship with the Sacramento food trucks, I was asked to schedule them. My association also means that I'm able to get the newest trucks as soon as they hit the streets. But like any new restaurant, food trucks need a month or so to learn the ropes and make adjustments.

Any decent restaurant critic will not go out and give a thorough review of a new restaurant until it has been open a few months. Restaurants need to time to tweak the menus, train their servers, and figure out bugs in their system. 

The same is true with food trucks. I would argue that they sometimes have a more difficult first couple of months than restaurants do. After all, not only do they have to deal with the food/menu issues, but they have to learn the ropes of where they can park legally, securing bookings, estimating inventory correctly so they don't run out of an item while on the road, getting quick on order-to-service times, and loading and unloading their trucks each night.

On Friday when I wrote about the success of the food truck talks I said that I had always had a dream that Sacramento could be an example for other cities. But I guess my statement might have been misleading. My happiness of the day was for the fact that we came to a compromise that makes things better than the silly 30 minute rule we have now. The new ordinances are far from being glorious examples for everywhere. I understand the need for a government to have ordinances, but still...

First off, there's still the distance rule from restaurants. I am a firm believer that - if your restaurant can't compete against a food truck, you shouldn't be in business. Seriously, if a restaurant's food and service isn't enough to keep the customers coming in, they need to reassess themselves and stop blaming a nearby food truck. 

I still argue that there are the customers who are in the mood for sitting down being served, drinking alcohol, and lounging with friends. They are different than the customer who hasn't got a lot of time or money to spend and wants to grab something from a truck. Sure a person can be both, but on any given day they are one or the other.

I think a private property owner should be able to have a truck park on their property and see no reason for there to be a "no return rule for 72 hours" except that it was a compromise with the restaurant/business owners.

What I am super excited about is the pilot of up to five food pods. There's already a property picked with so many possibilities. The plans call for something that, done properly, could create a pod that can be an example for other cities. More on that at a later date.

Cities throughout California and the country struggle with food truck ordinances. Every day there are news articles on this city or that talking about them. Restaurant owners complain in every city or town.  In California, there have been lawsuits because State law actually trumps local law so that, in reality, cities have no right to make ordinances for anything except for health and safety. Cities have already lost battles in court because there are no health and safety reasons for distance from a restaurant.

But Cities don't like lawsuits and trucks (and the public) want change sooner rather than later. That means compromise.  Compromise means that not everyone is happy and got what they wanted, but they can live with a deal. Friday's ordinance deal will be reviewed at certain marks in the future. Things can always change. 

So to be clear, the new Sacramento ordinances aren't perfect and aren't shining examples for the State or country, but they are better than what we have now.

When I started writing about the food truck industry/trend two years ago I had a silly dream. That, starting with a blank slate and using bits and pieces of ordinances from other cities, Sacramento could piece together the best set of ordinances in the State. As the Capitol, that we could be an example for other cities to look at in this nationwide struggle of food trucks, restaurants, and Cities across the nation.

Six months ago I would have told you it was never going to happen. That all sides were at a stalemate and nothing was getting accomplished. Every meeting that we had, the same arguments were being hashed out again and again. I think a big turning point was when discussions started to take place with Councilmen Shenirer and Fong getting involved. And, although some may not agree, I personally think part of it did have to do with the break off of the NorCal (now CalMFA) trucks from SactoMoFo.

God willing and fingers crossed, we will have some great, new ordinances in place this fall. Today we left a City meeting in record time - just over an hour. All sides were happy. I even hugged Randy Paragary and told him that I was happy that I could stop my personal boycott of his restaurants. I say fingers crossed because it's not legit yet. We still have to formally go to the City's Law & Legislation Committee and then on to the full City Council. The timelime looks to be Law & Leg on September 18th and then Council a few weeks after that.

I will provide a quick summation of what was agreed upon. This does not include lots of detail items that will be built into the language.

Currently the situation is that trucks can only be at a street location for 30 minutes at a time. They have not been allowed on private property at all - even if the owner gave the O.K.

The City has been split into zones. There is a long swath through the Grid of J, K, and L streets.  In that zone they can stay 1.5 hours and must be 400 feet from another restaurant. The rest of the Grid and City is 2.5 hours on the street, with distance differences per zone.

Regarding private property, they can now go (with owners permission) for 5 hours total and no truck can return to that location for 72 hours. If there is a special event, there can be waivers.

Here's the one I have been championing since the beginning - food pods! There will be a pilot of up to 5 food pods throughout the City. For those unfamiliar, it's like a food court for trucks. A private property is built up with amenities such as seating, ATM, bathrooms, wifi, etc. Trucks can safely park there for a shift or all day. They become happening, hip places to hang out. Such pods are popular in Portland and Austin where they have been shown to decrease crime and increase property values. (To see pictures of the SF SOMA Streatfood Pod, click the link.)
My piece, "Mobile Food Pods Revitalize Neighborhoods" here.

The Sacramento food pods must be run by an Association. That's an important reason why the CalMFA was formed. Association(s) will be in charge of scheduling and maintaining the pods.

All of these items and ordinances will be reviewed at a six month and one year mark.

Perhaps my dream is coming true! Especially when you see the first food pod being developed. Maybe my dream of being a model for the State can be extended to be a model for the nation. Wouldn't that be nice?

Please read part 2: More Thoughts on Food Truck Ordinances