Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Gathering

The professional food truck vendors in Baltimore are organizing. Last month they all came together in the first collective event that they dubbed The Gathering. I missed that first event but made it to the second Gathering yesterday evening.

And it is fairly well organized. A large parking lot at the end of Wolfe Street provided enough space for about a dozen or so food trucks, some seating, the requisite line of Johnny-on-the-Spots, plus a wine and beer table and a small live band. Located on the water, this seemed a superior location that the first Gathering, which was held on Central Avenue in a vacant lot with little shade and no cross breeze.

It was a beautiful evening, coming after a couple of weeks of fairly incessant heat and temperatures in the city regularly reaching triple-digits. There was a good-sized crown of happy food truck enthusiasts, and we all managed to form respectful lines at each truck without the need for corrals. Really, we all just cooperated and no one cut the line or pushed through the crowd. IT was a shining moment for civility. The whole thing had the air of a neighborhood block party and Baltimore felt like a community instead of the uneasy mix of white-collar well-to-do's bumping up against the downtrodden and potentially dangerous.

Represented at The Gathering were:

The Silver Platter
Miss Shriley's
Iced Gems
The Haute Dog
The Gypsy Queen Cafe
Flippin Pizza
Souper Freaks
Fojol Brothers Ethiopian
Curbside Cafe
Chasin Cafe
Dangerously Delicious Pies

And several others whose names I could not determine. I had the company of a couple of fellow foodies from work. We just couldn't try everything, so we did a couple of circuits and determined what we wanted to eat.

Our first stop was Flippin Pizza for two slices and a free mini stromboli. The portions were generous, but the slices were thin. I did not indulge in this, and my colleague offered little feedback, leaving me with the impression that this was fairly average.

Our next stop was The Gypsy Queen Cafe, famous for bacon - chocolate covered bacon, caramel bacon donuts, and the cone of grilled cheese with bacon. We had to try it. Served in a waffle cone and covered with barbecue sauce, this concept item was good only until the sauce was gone. The bacon was sparse and could have been more crisp. And without the sauce, the mac and cheese was bland and flat. The waffle cone was avoided altogether.

Our third stop was a cart that I've wanted to try for some time but have been thwarted by geography as they never come down to Harbor East - the Haute Dog. They did not disappoint. They serve large all-beef franks stuffed into a  small baguette of really good bread that has been skewered rather than sliced so the dog fits snugly into the hole. I'm not entirely sure what it was dressed with as one of my colleagues purchased it. We tasted sweet relish and tomatoes, but she said it also had dijon and "something-something-something" that sounded good to her so she said OK. Overall this was was winner. The dog was well seasoned and not too salty. The bread had a nice crust and good texture that was chewy without being a jaw-breaker. And the toppings - whatever they were - complemented the meat without overpowering it.

Our last stop was the Dangerously Delicious Pies where we got a little something to take home. More on that later.

Overall, it seems like Baltimore's food truck vendors are proving themselves to be a serious force in the restaurant community. This Gathering was deemed better than the first by my colleagues. There was a shortage of seating - which we did not mind - and a shortage of garbage cans - which we did. Also, while we avoided the adult beverages, we heard someone in the crowd say that in addition to paying for your drinks, you also have to pay for your over-21 bracelet. I'll be there for the third Gathering, though, as Baltimore's burgeoning food cart community is worthy of our support.

Iced Gems Baking - over 30 varieties of cupcakes

Chasin Cafe - sandwiches

The Silver Platter, where they can now recognize me in a crowd

GrrChe Gourmet Grilled Cheese

Dangerously Delicious Pies - sweet and savory

A Flippin Pizza employee

Flippin Pizza - two slices and a mini stromboli

Souper Freak, featuring soups inspired by Maryland, including a watermelon gazpacho that I almost tried

Chocolate covered bacon. With Teddy Grahams. Nirvana.

The Caramel Bacon donut

Fun for the whole family

The Haute Dog
The Gypsy Queen Cafe Mac and Cheese cone

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