For more on the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, check out New Times' Taste guide, hitting newsstands Thursday, February 21.
By the time 2012 was upon us, more than 100 food trucks were rolling around Greater Miami. It seemed only natural some of them should feed the gastrophilic masses of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and so its first truck party, Trucks on the Beach, was launched to close out the fete.
Some changes are afoot this year. The truck gathering is the second-to-last fete of the festival after closing things out in 2012, and are rolling across Biscayne Bay to the ever-trendier midtown area. Take the opportunity to visit an art gallery or a hipster dive bar to warm up for the party. America's favorite bug-eater Andrew Zimmern is still the host and has selected a sampling of trucks from across Florida that dish out everything from Hong Kong-style waffles to wood-oven-baked pizza.
"We only invite the best of the best to the event," Zimmern said, but noted it's impossible to get every truck he would want there. He's also got a different perspective on the food truck business -- figuring how best to serve different markets and how to jump through red tape -- after starting his own cart, AZ Canteen.
Here's the rundown of the featured trucks:
Alisa Romano wanted to spend time with her girls while making the most of her passion for baking and creativity. The result was Color Me Mine. Half art studio, half bakery, kids and adults alike decorate blank clay figures however they choose. Pink and purple polka-dot skull? Sure, and all come with Alisa's cupcakes. The treats became so popular that Alisa put them on wheels, and now everything from bourbon vanilla to key lime pie to peanut butter marshmallow crunch comes to you.
Was it too many bugs, too much jet lag, or hosting the festival's first-ever food truck party that inspired Andrew Zimmern to start his own mobile eatery? AZ Canteen lives up to Zimmern's reputation with griddled veal tongue, oyster and crab gumbo, and cabrito (goat) butter burgers. Zimmern's truck has been touring the country, finding unique challenges and tastes wherever it goes. Still, the memory of Miami must have lingered, because that tongue dish on the menu is vaguely reminiscent of another one that Zimmern ate at a Nicaraguan restaurant while filming for Bizarre Foods Miami.
Brooklyn Italian Ice Company
Can't take the South Florida heat? Fuhgeddaboutit! This cart serves up ice-cold treats bursting with unique flavors like cotton candy, plus old standbys like lemon and blue raspberry. It's just like your childhood in New York City, knocking off fire hydrant covers for a cool stream of water on a hot summer afternoon. Italian ice isn't shaved, but instead is made with fruit concentrates and then frozen -- similar to a sorbet or regular ice cream.
Some people may call cupcakes a fad or passing trend, but anything scratch-made with fresh ingredients will earn followers for a good reason. Alejandra Contenti-Carvajal raised $800 on Kickstarter, the popular crowdfunding website, to refit a pocket-sized trailer into a cupcake wonderland. There's double chocolate, there's red velvet, and there are also key lime pie cupcakes with graham cracker and vanilla chai tea.
To pronounce the double l or not to -- that's not the question. The question is what culinary ethnicity do you want smothered in cheese and grilled up inside a tortilla? For vegans, there's the Capresedilla, with mozzarella cheese, tomato, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. Or get your deli fix with the Reubadilla, filled with corned beef, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut.
It was only a matter of time until Miami's favorite eateries caught onto the food truck craze and realized that going mobile was another way to feed the people. CubanCube is the child of Miami's famous Islas Canarias Cuban restaurant, run by Eileen and Jonathan Andrade. They cover all the bases of Cuban classics with award-winning croquetas and empanadas. They also twist things up with mini ropa vieja sandwiches with mango-lime sauce and the Three Amigos, a trio of fried plantains filled with shrimp ceviche.
The Palm Beach County-based truck fits right in with the Breakers and Worth Avenue, though the seersucker suit and trust fund aren't mandatory. Chefs Mary Brittain Cheatham and Rick Simek source much of their produce locally -- greens from Swank Farms and a Delray tomato grower. Whatever's good usually ends up on a chalkboard of daily specials that throw a curveball at regulars. Soups and breakfast frittatas change daily, but those in the know let the ocean decide with the fresh-catch-of-the-day tacos.
El Rey de las Fritas
You want a real taste of Miami? How about a Cuban guilty pleasure? Fritas are Cubans' far-superior answer to the generic fast food burger. El Rey de las Fritas has been dishing out beef and chorizo patties for years, recently adding a food truck to their frita empire. The juicy, fragrant patties are topped with diced onion and crunchy golden shoestring potatoes, all tucked inside a fluffy toasted Cuban bun. Some are frita purists and may allow a squirt of ketchup. We say go for the slice of American cheese.
Firewall Food Truck
It's a wood-fired oven on wheels. Co-owners Katy Westman and Chris Noe converted a former handicap transit bus into a fire-red pie-making machine. Pizzas are made with Italian "00" flour and San Marzano tomatoes, but no one's handcuffed to classics. There's a Greek salad folded into a pizza crust and a lobster pie made with Florida spiny lobster meat, marinara, and fontina cheese with scallions and lemon.
Some food truck owners start out with passion, addictive food, and loans from friends and family. Friar Tuck's got its start as a food stand at the Florida Renaissance Fair. After rave reviews for its Mac-n-Cheeseburger and a deconstructed shepherd's pie they call the Cottage, Robb and Abby Muse refitted a 31-foot Airstream trailer into a mobile medieval eatery. A car accident cut things short, but Robb and Abby came back stronger with a refitted trailer that looks as though it could house the king's cobbler and turn out a solid burger.
The "Old G" of the Miami food truck scene, Jeremiah Bullfrog's refitted Airstream trailer is loaded with the latest culinary gadgetry and turns out souped-up versions of food you know and love. Bullfrog grinds his own short rib for the Ol' Dirt Dawg. You like tacos? They fill 'em with pork shoulder slow-cooked in an immersion circulator topped with cilantro and spicy Japanese mayo. How 'bout them tacos?
HipPOP's Handcrafted Gelato Bars
HipPOP's "handcrafted awesomeness" is no joke, and Anthony Fellows' truck and catering operation has an arsenal of more than 100 classic and dressed-up flavors of gelato, sorbet, and yogurt. The truck carries approximately 15 varieties at any one time. You might get Mexican chocolate chipotle, green apple wasabi, or a classic mixed-berry sorbet.
Chef Lorenzo (you know he's the real deal because he has only one name) came to Miami via Firenze with one goal: Share authentic Italian cooking. Expect simple ingredients and cooking that allows their flavors to shine through. Fried calamari is a classic choice, or there's potato-filled ravioli with mushrooms, truffle, and salty rich Parmesan cheese.
Serve-yourself yogurt shops are all the rage. Joji Yogurt had the good sense to put the sweets on a truck, and tap into Miami's love for nightclubs with some glowing purple lights. Co-owner Ivan Breger had Joji's logo tattooed on his arm. Add to that flavors like orchid vanilla almond and 28 toppings ranging from crushed wasabi peas to chocolate-covered sunflower seeds.
Ms. Cheezious is arguably the sexiest thing on four wheels in Miami. Despite the pouty, bikini-clad hottie painted on the truck, it's got more than good looks. It offers a seemingly endless combination of ooey-gooey grilled cheese creations that make you feel like a kid, even though you just ordered a gourmet sandwich with Gruyere cheese, prosciutto, and spice apple. Owners Brian and Fatima Mullins took home the top prize at the 2012 party with a melted blue cheese and bacon grilled sandwich. No doubt they'll again be gunning for the top spot.
Potato chips are usually a vessel for some kind of synthetic seasoning made to taste like barbecue sauce or some combination of cheese and bacon. Forget about that. Kelly Lee's Potoffee truck will get you your sweet-salty fix with ruffled chips topped with signature handmade butter toffee or the shameless combination of dark and milk chocolate sauce, salted caramel, whipped cream, and brown butter pretzel crumble.
Slow Food Truck
Truffle fries? Lobster rolls? Nuff said. Locally trained chefs Oren Bass and Zachary Schwartz worked in some of Miami's best kitchens before linking up and building a menu that's spawned two food trucks and a respectable catering business. These guys are just as comfortable knocking out sandwiches filled with braised beef, crisp shallots, and live watercress as they are offering the Frito pie -- basically chili with onions and Frito chips, topped with more Frito chips and served in a Frito bag. Shameless, and delicious.
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SHOW ME HOW
Before getting his savory-topped waffle truck rolling, chef Wendell Ordonez worked at the Mandarin Oriental Miami, which has seen some of Miami's top chefs pass through its kitchens. Ordonez serves Hong Kong-style waffles, which means they have a bit more egg yolk than you'd expect from a Belgian waffle. Sure, you can get one with Nutella and powdered sugar, but with toppings like hoisin pork and jerk chicken your best choice should be obvious.
Trucks on Midtown's Tracks: 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, February 24, 3101 NE First Ave., Miami ($85).