Thursday, April 14, 2011

SJ Eats / SJ Made

The past few years have seen an influx in the number of "gourmet" food trucks around the country. From the famous Kogi truck in LA to the Food Network featured Dessert Truck in NYC to all those mouth watering trucks from Food Truck Race, I was always jealous that the Silicon Valley wasn't home to more food trucks. I will admit that I totally jumped on the bandwagon when I heard of San Jose's own Korean BBQ taco truck-- Mogo's (still love the kimchi quesadillas!), but I still wanted more. I wanted more variety! I wanted to experience those crazy food truck gatherings they feature on Food Network!

Needless to say, I was super excited when I heard about SJ Made, SJ Eats. A gathering of local goods right down the street from a gathering of local food trucks? I'm there!

As far as I know, this was the first gathering of it's kind in San Jose, and the crowds definitely reflected that. It was INSANE. Our initial thought was to divide and conquer, but after seeing the crowds and how long the lines were for every truck, we ended up just going for the two trucks we wanted to try most-- the Chairman Bao bun truck and the Louisiana Territory Cajun street food.

This was the line for Chairman Bao. It was right next to the line for MoBowl. Can you tell which line is which? Yea...a lot of people were confused.

Because the line hooked around a bit, we were pretty much in this spot for an hour. The Chairman Bao truck is a really pretty truck. I didn't have a good angle for the artwork at this point (you'll see it later), but the truck was brought to you by Mobi Munch. You know, in case you were curious.

An hour and fifteen in, we were getting pretty hungry. Lucky for us (but unlucky for them), the MoBowl truck across the way ran out of food! The line quickly dispersed as the workers called out that they only had drinks and dessert left. Cousin S quickly headed over for the one thing from MoBowl that piqued our curiosity--cheesecake egg rolls!

If you've had a cream cheese wonton (or a crab wonton that was mostly cream cheese), this was pretty much the same flavor, except in egg roll/lumpia wrapper. It was fine. It tasted good, but it might have been more impressive if I didn't grow up eating cream cheese wontons.

Getting closer! Sam's Chowdermobile was nearby, and their line snaked from the front of their truck to around the block. I want to try them out next time.

This is me lifting the camera above my head to get a shot of the crowd. Apparently, my hand reaches just to the point of everyone else's head. You can sort of see the chaos, though.

After an hour and forty-five minutes of waiting, we finally had our goods.

Chairman Bao pork belly steamed bun with pickled daikon (I think) on the right. On the left is the Chairman Bao tofu steamed bun with miso greens.

I wish they had duck buns, but I really liked the tofu bun! I would definitely visit them again for one of those. They used soft tofu, but the crusted outside was crisp, giving it a very substantial feel. I was worried the thick bun would overwhelm the flavor of the tofu, but the addition of the sauce and miso greens made for a very flavorful combination.

Foreground: Chairman Bao chicken steamed bun with picked carrot and cucumber. Background: shrimp remoulade salad from Louisiana Territory.

The chicken bun was good, but I liked the tofu better. For me, the tofu had a better flavor and texture combination, but if you're more a chicken fan, this was good, too.

The shrimp salad was light and refreshing, but I can honestly say that I don't remember the flavor. I went back for subsequent bites (it wasn't my order), so it must have been good enough for me to want to steal my cousin's food.

Our mess of a table. Besides the Chairman Bao buns and the shrimp salad mentioned above, we also had cajun chicken pasta, cajun bean and rice chimichanga, bread pudding, and a mass a paper that I think held a cajun burrito and another chimichanga (all from Louisiana Territory).

Everything I tried from Louisiana Territory was definitely good, but I felt less impressed by their food than I was by Chairman Bao. However, waiting in line for 1.75 hours for Chinese steamed buns had me seriously craving steamed buns, and that may have colored my perception. I guess I wont know until I try them again.

After lunch, we headed over to SJ Made where I picked up a cute feathered headband and the most genius camera strap I have ever seen. If you follow me on Facebook, you may have heard that I love my new strap. Love, love, love it. That's because I am now the proud owner of the Gliding Split Strap with C-Loop from Custom SLR. The gliding strap and C-Loop are awesome because I normally wear my camera at my side (because it's heavy around the neck), and this combo makes it a hundred times easier to pull my camera up and shoot. The split strap is genius, because it actually does somehow make the camera feel lighter by distributing the weight better. After hours of shooting with it, my neck and shoulders don't hurt. That's unheard of, for me. Check out this post on the split strap's amazing weight distribution HERE and CSLR's blog HERE.

PS. I'm not affiliated with Custom SLR in any way. I just really love my new strap.

After walking around both SJ Made spots for a couple hours, it was time to head back to SJ Eats for dinner. Yes, we willingly endured the madness a second time.

Make way for Chairman Bao! Isn't the truck pretty? They came in a little late, so their line wound all the way down the street by the time they drove in. Crazy.

While still crowded, the dinner session was much better organized, with staff directing lines and people, tape on the ground to contain lines, etc.

For this round, cousins and I waited at House of Siam on Wheels, while my brother went to The Wow truck.

From House of Siam:

Roti Bouquet.
Chicken satay with pickled vegetables and Thai peanut sauce, wrapped in a grilled roti. I hadn't initially planned on ordering this, but they ran out of tofu right before I got to the window. This was good! It tasted distinctly Thai, rather than Thai-turned-street-food-for-taco-lovers like...

...this. This was a veggie taco that I ordered because they didn't have tofu, and I wanted to try their tacos. It was surprisingly flavorful for being just sauce, pickled veggies and lettuce, but it was definitely just Thai flavors wrapped in a corn tortilla. Looking back, I regret not ordering the Pad Thai, since Thai coworkers have told me that Pad Thai is street food in Thailand.

The little baked item on the right is a mini bibinka from The Wow truck. The hubs ended up eating it, so I can't comment on how good it was.

That's all for my SJ Made, SJ Eats experience. Despite the crowds, I'm really happy I got to try out different local food trucks that I hadn't heard of, and I'm really excited for them to do it again (hopefully they'll be better organized and have more trucks to accommodate the crowd, though). Next time, I'll think twice about wearing heels, even if they are wedges.

Disclaimer: I'm not one of those people who hate lines and waiting. If you're anti-long lines/waits, then SJ Eats may not be your cup of tea.

I leave you with a greeting from an Audi and images of some downtown SJ Yarn Bombing.

Why, hello, there!

Yarn Bombs!

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