Since early June, I’d been looking forward to the Food Truck Eats event that Suresh Doss from spotlighttoronto.com had put together. As the weeks went by, there seemed to be a lot of pickup in the media and online, and I knew: this was going to be a busy event. So my feet were on Distillery grounds a full 20 minutes early. With my eating-pants on and my tupperware and chopsticks in-hand, I was ready to go.

Update (2011.08.18): Food Truck Eats 2 of 3 is on August 20th, 2011. Here are my tips for making the most of your time there!

Since I was early, I felt that pouncing on the vendors that were still setting up seemed a little uncouth. But the trucks didn’t seem to have this issue – they were all ready to go! So I hit up El Gastronomo Vagabundo, mostly because I was standing right there and there was a line already forming, all before the official 11am start-time. After a 10-minute wait (and a slightly odd look from the kitchen staff when I presented my Tupperware for them to “plate” in), I scored my first food truck eat of the day.

The Giuseppe Taco (oven-dried tomato, basil, pesto, arugula, parmesean on a 100% corn tortilla), was a decent morning starter. A little salty, with crunch from the taco shell, and lots of green. The Buddha Belly (five-spiced pork belly, steamed buns, chili jam, cucumber, and coriander) I felt was too much bread and I wanted a thicker cut of pork belly. The Kim Jong Illin’ (Korean BBQ chicken wings, sesame, coriander), which I love for its name alone, was decent. I didn’t like my first wing as much as my second wing, so I’m somewhat undecided about it. I also snagged their Home Brew of cucumber pineapple lemonade. Really refreshing and not too sweet.

This Cajun Fish Taco from Simple Fish And Chips was quite a tasty bite. I say bite, because I had to share. They also had Wasabi Lobster Rolls, which I hear were really good as well.

Apple and Rhubarb pies were found at the Baker Street truck… van.

Cava had several things on their menu. I quite liked their Kingfish Ceviche (“Acapulco style”) with the fresh pop of peas. And between the two tamales, I enjoyed the mushroom and corn one (on the right) over the shrimp one (centre). The mushrooms were buttery and the corn sweet, so I happily hogged this to myself.

Xococava also had fresh churro (with star anise cinnamon) on their frozen yogurt with Ontario strawberry sauce. The churro, fresh and crispy from the fryer, was pretty darn good with the sauce. Having had my fill of the frozen yogurt a couple weeks before, I wish I had thought to ask for just two churros instead!

From Chef Hopgood came the tastiest thing I ate during Food Truck Eats: the smoked chicken croquettes. These creamy croquettes had a lot of flavour and worked really well dressed up in hot sauce, radish, jalapeno, kewpie mayo, and green onions. Also not to be missed was their delicious rhubarb slushie: tangy, sweet, and icy. Can’t wait to see what Chef Hopgood will do when he opens his own place.

Joshana Maharaj’s cardamom-strawberry kulfi was located next to Chef Hopgood’s booth.

And right next to Joshana, was Tiffinday. I wasn’t able to sneak in a menu shot.

Gorilla Cheese, before their insaneo line-up.

Though I meant to get back to Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops, I never did. With yummy-sounding options like fresh Ontario strawberry, blackberry, watermelon, and honeydew (with cucumber, lime, basil), I will have to try harder next time. Also will have to try harder to get to that cotton candy man to the right. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

Buster Rhino’s was in attendance, but I decided to pass on them, since I already know their very tasty product and I think my sister has some of their brisket in the freezer, even. I missed the fact that they had sweet tea on offer though! I heard later they were giving the tea away for free after they ran out of meat.

The folks at Distillery Restaurant Corp were doling out Mekong Subs (for $5!?). On an early pass, I had seen ketchup and mustard on the table, which confused me given that Vietnamese subs don’t usually sport those condiments. The mystery was solved when I later noticed they were also grilling hot dogs. My food-snob DEFCON-3 alert was subsequently downgraded.

Marben had a table with lemonade and their fudgey chocolate ice cream sandwiches. I read on twitter that there was chocolate sauce involved with the sammy at some point, but it was definitely messy and tasty enough without it!

Chef Rossy Earle’s Supi Cucu had: Empanadas de Carne, Chorpian, Panamanian Tamales, and Salsa de Fuego Hot Sauce. Had pondered buying hot sauce for home later, but again – didn’t get back to them due to the mess of people.

I couldn’t resist the novelty of The Cupcake Diner. They had seven flavours to choose from: Classic Vanilla, Cookies ‘n’ Cream, Chocolate Banana, Caramel Apple Pie, Red Velvet, Strawberry Shortcake, and Peanut Butter Chocolate. I bought a half-dozen, skipping the vanilla. The frosting is American buttercream and bases are varied. I like that they didn’t get lazy and have only chocolate/vanilla bases. I thought the peanut butter, apple pie, and strawberry cupcakes were pretty good flavours, but I think this remains just a novelty for me.

So how busy was it? By the time 12:30pm rolled around El Gastronomo Vagabundo had a 2-hour wait and the wood-fired pizza truck from Bonfire Catering, Buster Rhino’s, and Simple Fish ‘n’ Chips also had hour-long lines. Even under the threat of thunderstorms, people came out in droves and patiently waited for their turn at the front of the truck (or tent). And eventually, many places sold out of food. Toronto seems to love this whole food truck thing.

I had a lot of fun at Food Truck Eats, but there were only a handful of trucks and some improvements should be made on the line-up situation – less about the wait-time and more on the placement. Some tents and trucks were obfuscated by people lining up for other places and walking around in general was difficult, even solo. Nevermind those with strollers! Everything was centered around the stage, but I wonder if it would be possible to take over more of the main thoroughfare toward the gates to help ease the congestion next time.

And next time is soon! Suresh has already posted that part 2 of Food Truck Eats will be Saturday, August 20th, 2011, once again at the Distillery, with more trucks (yay!), more food, and, he wrote, more surprises.

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