Thursday, April 25, 2013

Children's Home of Tampa Food Truck Fundraiser

Not only are food trucks popular in Tampa, whole gatherings of them seem to pop up all over the metro area. Cigar City Brewing has a food truck summit in its main parking lot every Friday night. The cell phone lot at Tampa International Airport has a different food truck every week serving hungry drivers awaiting their arriving passengers. Just in the past month, we've had two food truck fundraisers in the neighborhood, one benefiting nearby Westchase Elementary, the other for Children's Home of Tampa, Inc., an organization running various family support programs. It was this second fundraiser that the missus and I decided to attend on a Saturday afternoon while trying out our first local babysitter.

Never having been to a food truck summit before, I was a bit bewildered by the number of choices at hand. Do we start light or heavy? Drinks or no drinks? Everything sounded good, but clearly some lines had to be drawn. I invoked my fallback rule from Baconfest, that is, no burgers, pizza, or hot dogs, a rule that was immediately broken when I sampled a bite of Mrs. Hackknife's deep-fried bacon-wrapped dog from a truck called Hott Mess. Feeling inspired, I selected my first full dish from Alaska Mike's Yukon Fry Bread, featuring what is described as American Indian fusion food (?), but really just seemed to be stuff served on fry bread.

It turns out that Alaska Mike really IS from Alaska, having grown up in North Pole, near Fairbanks. His fry bread taco was pretty tasty, replacing your standard tortilla (or Fritos, if you're more partial to Frito Pie) with a piece of light and airy fry bread as the substrate for the ground beef and other toppings (see photo below).

Up next was a great sampling of shrimp and grits from Destination Grill, a St. Pete-based truck serving Southern goodies from an Airstream.

I was happy, yet disappointed to share this dish with Mrs. Hackknife since I easily could have polished off a tub of the cheezy, creamy grits. I should note that one of the truck's proprietors was giving out Costco-style small bites of pulled pork and mac & cheese that weren't too shabby, either. We subsequently wandered over to the Three Suns Bistro organic food truck nearby. Their offering of pulled pork with a maple bacon coffee marmalade looked too good to resist (see below).

Unfortunately, I discovered too late how large this sandwich really was - by the time I reached the bottom of the container, I was starting to slow down. At least this made it easier for me to skip the bland baked tortilla chips that came with it. What I really needed was a palate cleanser, which appeared in the form of a gourmet pineapple cilantro popsicle courtesy of Whatever Pops (see photo below).

It's a little difficult to see the menu board, but Whatever Pops features inventive popsicle flavor combinations (such as Earl Grey lavender lemonade, which Mrs. Hackknife enjoyed) in the same vein that Black Dog does for gelato in Chicago. The pineapple cilantro was mostly sweet, with a refreshing and not unpleasant herbal note from the cilantro (of course, if you're not a fan of cilantro, this would probably represent your worst nightmare).

Although we couldn't eat another bite by this time, we had pledged earlier to stop by the Disco Donuts truck to get some fried-to-order mini cake donuts to bring home to the progeny. The chef tells me that he can turn out several thousand of these with his mobile fryer on a busy day (see photo above). A few bucks will get you a sack of cinnamon-sugar dusted mini-donuts to keep your lap warm and happy on the ride home (if it's too warm, you can do what I did and take the edge off with a cool bottle of snappy D&G Jamaican Ginger Beer).

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