In this part of the country, food trucks have become all the rage. They are mobile dining experiences and travel around to different locations throughout the week. I've tried them twice before. The first time was when I read about a Lobster Roll truck, and trying/hoping to recreate a Lobster Roll experience I had at Red's in Maine, I went down there. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't Red's. Well, this is Minnesota after all and while we do have a lot of lakes, there aren't any lobsters in them. Perhaps my expectations were a bit high.
The second time I tried one was at my favorite outdoor market, the Mill City Farmer's Market. This truck was run by Chef Shack. They create a lot of great food and one of their menu staples is the mini donut. It'll set you back $7, but they truly were some of the best and most memorable mini donuts I've ever had.
I've heard about purported mass gatherings of food trucks here and there, but always forget to go...until last weekend. I made it to an event that had 18 trucks in one spot.
The approach I took was to survey first, review their menus, then go back to whatever I had to try. Well, that was the plan anyway. Until I got to this truck, offering a Mango Fritter for $2. That was how it began. We had dessert first.
Next was my daughter's pick, the Empanada truck. They had food that sounded safe for her (aka not spicy) to try: the Mac-N-Cheese and the Cheeseburger Empanadas. They were good, but pretty bland for my taste.
The place I wanted to go back was to Andrew Zimmern's truck for the smashed potato running at $3. A lot of these trucks will set you back $9 or $10, but I wanted to sample a few different things. I was looking for some smaller portions so I wouldn't get filled up on one dish.
I could tell by their appearance these were gonna be good. In fact, I am pretty sure they were the most amazing potatoes I've ever had in my life. They were creamy inside, crunchy skins, salty, garlicky, OMG can-I-get-another-order-of-these good. I thought about going back, but I wanted to have room to try something else. What I decided on was the Moral Omnivore truck. Their menu had some very interesting things on it.
I decided to go with the Curried Mushroom Fries since they won an award for something and I love anything with curry in it.
They were good and unique. Very fried and very mushroomy. I don't know if I'd buy them again, but if someone else did, I would probably sneak one or two of theirs.
I also decided to get the Beet Mac-n-cheese to bring home for one of my other kids who happens to like beets. I sampled a few bites of it after they were done (they didn't eat it all). It was very interesting and good. The red onions were a bit overpowering. I liked the crunch they offered but I would have opted for a milder, maybe a green onion so it didn't become the dominant flavor.
What happened next can best be described as a post-Thanksgiving-dinner-like induced coma. I felt intoxicated from eating too much and there was only going to be one cure: sleep. I do not know how people sat in a beer tent and drank after, before or during that event, but they did. Maybe it's a timing thing that I haven't yet figured out. Something like: beer, food, break, beer, food, beer, food, sleep. Too bad I live so far away and had to drive. For those who live in the area and had the afternoon/evening off and could walk, it was a great plan for the day.
In the end, there was one thing I couldn't forget. Those potatoes. In fact, I might have to track down that food truck one more time before the snow starts flying.
In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and I hope you have the pleasure to try a food truck someday.
It's birthday time over here and that means it is also cake making time. I am one of those people who prefer to make cakes at home. One reason for that is I have a kid with peanut and nut allergies, and that is the only way I can be certain about ingredients and control any cross-contamination issues. Secondly, I've never cared for the "crisco" types of frostings that come out of a lot of bakeries. You know the kind where it sticks to the roof of your mouth and it has a greasy feeling like it will be around for awhile. The frostings I make at home have butter, and cream cheese, and vanilla and powdered sugar so they taste better and when you swallow them that's the end of the story, except for the calorie counting part of it.
I thought someone out there would enjoy watching this Gummy Bear Pool Party Cake being made. I actually made this same cake last year. My daughter and her birthday-mate/BFF asked for it after looking at pictures of last year's cake, but I was secretly hoping I could mix it up a little. I decided I would make a Gummy Bear Ocean Beachfront Party Cake and surprise them. It was going to have a sailboat with gummy bears in it, and gummy bears on beach chairs and gummy sharks and umbrellas. There were going to be waves and the sail was going to announce the birthday girls' names and birth date.
I made the cakes in advance and I will admit that while I detest most bakery and store-bought frostings, I have made plenty of made-from-scratch cakes and in my opinion, the box cake mixes from the stores are just as good if not better than home cake mixes. Not true for frosting, but very true for cake mixes. For this party, I decided to make two boxes of cake mix, to be sure I have enough cake. So I made two 9x12 pans of chocolate cake, then sliced them both in half (horizontally) and frosted each layer, so that when they were put back together, the order went like this: cake, frosting, cake, frosting, cake, frosting, cake.
I decided to color the frosting with food coloring to make it more fun. It's not flavored, just colored. Then put the whole thing back together, cover it with wrap, and pop it in the fridge the night before. That way, the only thing I have to do on the day of the party is decorate the outside of the cake. If it was an early party, it could be done the night before, but this party was in the late afternoon so I knew I would have time in the morning.
Before this goes any further, it is important to get the cake on the plate that it is going to be served on. It is best to avoid moving the cake once the final decorating begins. In this case, I am using a sturdy piece of cardboard that I got at the baking store. They also sell nice sheets of foil, but I'm just going to use regular aluminum foil for this cake.
I'm going to cover it with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil, so I can use it again by disposing of the foil and wrap after the party.
Tape the wrap/foil down in back so the cake and foil don't move when they get transported.
I'm going to use the bottom from a "perfect brownie" pan to move the cake. The bottom from a spring form pan would also work for this task. Using a transfer board will help to ensure that the cake doesn't crack or break when it gets moved.
The next thing to do is put strips of parchment or wax paper along each edge of the bottom of the cake. This will help with keeping the base around the cake clean. It will save a lot of clean-up time at the end. Remember, these have to be pulled out when everything is finished, so don't put them too far under the edge. Put them just far enough in so that they won't slide out when the cake is being worked on.
I had to slice off the top of the cake to make it level. A more professional baker would have produced a level cake, but I'm not there yet, so just take a serrated knife and slice off the top so the cake is flat.
The next thing I'm going to make is sand for the beach. I decided at the store that these vanilla sandwich cookies look about the color of sand. So I scraped out all the middles and ground them in the food processor.
I think that definitely looks like sand!
This is when my daughter walked in the kitchen. I thought I should at least mention that there was going to be a surprise element about the cake to see how it was going to go over. She had a total meltdown. Mission aborted. Back to the pool party cake. At least I know how to make sand for cake if I need it again. Good thing I asked. Kids these days!
Moving on to the frosting. I made a big batch of it so I'm sure to have enough. It's a stiff frosting so it will hold up well for decorating or piping.
The first thing to do is get on the crumb coat. It is important to "glue" down all those crumbs so they aren't getting in the finished decorations. A real pro's crumb coat wouldn't show any crumbs, but mine does. I'm not worried about it because they will be covered up with the next layer of frosting.
Here's an important tip: Separate out some frosting for the crumb coat in a different bowl and keep the knife out of the "master" bowl of frosting. Otherwise crumbs will get in the main bowl and then it will basically be a disaster. Don't double-dip the knife. If more frosting is needed for the crumb coat, use a spoon to get it out of the master bowl. Once the crumb coat is done, get rid of the bowl and spoon that was used to do it. Use a new knife for the next layer of frosting.
If different colors of frosting will be needed, take an amount of frosting that looks right and put it in a separate bowl. Color it with food coloring and stir it up. If more is needed, add appropriately and color again. I decided to make the sides green and the edge of the pool white, so I'm going to get that coat on first.
If an error is made like this one, simply use a toothpick to pick out the green frosting and then clean it up with white frosting.
While the frosting is still "wet", it is important to apply anything that needs to stick to it. I decided to use some different candy to decorate the sides, in this case, Spree, Gummy Bears, and Dots.
Next it was time to lay down the pool.
Oops, I must have gotten carried away and forgot to photograph it. Well, here it is and I also piped an edge around the pool to give it a more finished appearance. I could have done a better job but there was a lot going on in the background at that point.
The gummy bears are floating in peach gummy rings, and the pool mats/surfboards are made out of Airheads and some kind of sour gummy tape. I used a clean scissors to cut whatever shapes I needed. The diving board is a wafer cookie held up by tooth picks. Gummy bears were "glued" in place using a tiny dab of frosting.
A few more decorations and some gummy bears sunning around the sides of the pool brings this cake close to completion. The octopus was for the beach cake but I thought the kids would think it was fun if there was an octopus in the pool. Guess which piece of candy all the kids wanted from the cake? The octopus. The "slide" was made out of some very flexible sour gummy tape. I used a toothpick at first, but it was too short so I broke off a wooden skewer and used it to hold up the slide.
Now it's time to get those parchment/wax paper strips out. Go slow and easy. Repair frosting if needed. I've tried to save myself the step of the parchment paper and I always regret it. It will be more work to clean-up and repair if they aren't used in the first place. The prevention rule applies here.
There's just one more thing. I have some cocktail umbrellas that I'm going to put around the pool, but I want to wait until I get to the party. Very lightly drape the cake with saran wrap to protect it while it is transported to the party.
Amazingly, this cake held up well and not a single piece of candy fell off the cake during the 30 minute highway commute. I was so relieved. Still, it is best to come prepared and bring extra frosting, a knife, and toothpicks to take care of anything that might happen on the way. Here is the cake before the candles were blown out.
Oh yes, there is one more thing. The other birthday girl requested gummy bears to be getting married. The best way I could accommodate her was to have them on their own wedding cake. I made some tiny cakes using a little batter from the other cakes, but baking them in small ramekins. The bride and groom were bigger gummy bears I found at the market. The groom is colored with black Sharpie and the bride's gown was made out of Kleenex and her veil was super-glued to her head (her waist band (dental floss) got a little hiked up, although it looks like she is being held hostage, it was supposed to be around her waist...I tried to lower it but I couldn't get it down with my fingers once we were on location. I should have used a toothpick!). I stuck toothpicks in the bottom of them and then poked them in the cake when we got there. The bears themselves weren't edible in the end, but the cake was and these girls are at the age where they loved the idea of a wedding cake!
I hope you enjoyed this post and that you will visit again. Thank you for stopping by!
I am a photographer who lives in Minnesota. I blog about Minnesota, photography, music, food and miscellaneous topics.