Wheeling and dining

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Once it was referred to as the greasy spoon and seen only at construction sites. Now even trendy Michelin star chefs are taking it to the streets.

The original “food trucks” may have sprung up in the second half of the 1860ies dishing out beans, cornmeal and coffee to cattle herders in Texas from an old US Army wagon. With the onset of the Second World War and a convergence with motorized transport hot food could be delivered to the theater of war constituting a major morale booster. Even so, it would take another decade before “roach coaches” appeared at construction sites in the US serving up sandwiches, burgers and later tacos to starved carpenters and concrete pourers.  The day of modern day era food trucks had arrived and spread throughout North America. The financial crisis in 2008, improved technology, the influx of cuisine from around the world fueled the growth of the industry in Europe. The past had seen “schnell imbiss” serving sausages in Germany and “Vlamse fritjes” in Belgium and The Netherlands but now the game was on with new flavors.

The trend went upscale but not stuffy when Michelin star chefs recently served serious Nordic meals from Food trucks in Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo and Copenhagen sponsored by Diners Club.  In Stockholm a long line along the Skeppsholmskajen leading towards a black truck by the Royal castle gave it away. It was not a rolling soup kitchen but Michelin 2 star chef Mattias Dahlgren serving up his Swedish grandmothers  recipe of brisket of veal with a horseradish sauce with a twist. No reservations just show up in time to get one of the 500 meals available. They all went in 90 minutes. To sit down on the quay across the bay from his restaurant “Matsalen” in the Grand Hotel and enjoy the cuisine at a fraction of the cost made it even tastier.

A few weeks later a caravan of flavor rolled into the center of The Hague in The Netherlands. Under the still green canopy of Linden trees between the concrete colossus of the US embassy and the venerable Des Indes hotel they stopped and aromas ensued.

Lola’s of named after a boxer (the dog – who does not work in the kitchen) but run by two Dutch blonds (Iris & Elise) presented Arabic pancakes with tsatsiki on wooden planks, juices and ice teas in glass jars. The pimped old VW bus and hippie inspired farmer’s daughters looks added to the ambiance.  A bright red truck lured a Chinese man out of his comfort zone for a German specialty. Eight million sold in Berlin alone makes it not only the capital of Germany but also “the curry wurst capital of the world” the owner enlightened his customers as he fed the hot wurst through the chopper. There were big green eggs, a red one and even a yellow one all used for BBQ in one way or the other. Crepes and Galettes represented the French kitchen, salmon and tuna Pinxtos from Spain, Mussels and Cockerels in Spanish sauce from the Lowlands were all on offer for a varied gastronomic fare. From a rebuilt Airstream trailer – and no food truck fair should be without one – wine and bubbly were dispatched to the communal tables encircled by the motorized kitchens. Ice creams and a variety of spice flavoured coconut shaving cookies accompanied by a coffee or tea might end the culinary journey.  The proof is literally in the pudding and the popularity is breaking records. The previous weekend at another food truck festival in town an estimated 2500 visitors became 20 000. The food trucks have surely arrived and are here to stay.

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