Thursday, September 27, 2012

Food Truck Piracy

Food trucks have become the evolutionary ladder from the traditional sidewalk food cart. I mean, who doesn't love a good outdoor meal? I love these mobile hot spots that serve food from pizza and burgers as well as culinary creations of unique sandwiches, fresh seafood and delectable desserts. All of my favorite food trucks excel in providing a hearty, home cooked meal at a fair price and with wonderful service. The quality found at many of these eateries is as such that I often times find myself enjoying a meal from a food truck at least 2-3 times each week. However, in the last few years of covering the food truck scene in South Florida, I've noticed some uncomfortable trends. With the widespread growth of these trucks and carts around the area, a battle for territory and spots at local events has become a matter of, “who do you know?”

Despite all of this, food trucks have become very popular for those who enjoy killer recipes and for those seeking a new business. However, for some this food truck scene is short-lived. It isn't easy, and if you think it is you’re already setting yourself up for disappointment. As with any small business, be prepared to devote all of your time to your new endeavor. Be ready to start your day early in the morning prepping food, work throughout afternoon, and most likely late nights. And keep in mind, this is not your typical weekday job, it is essential you work on the weekends to succeed in this business. Licensing and permits are always required, not to mention dealing with South Florida's bipolar weather, promoters and the competition. It is important to understand that just because others have been successful in the food truck business doesn't mean everyone will be. As someone who is very familiar with this niche industry, it is disheartening to attend one of these food truck gatherings only to recognize roughly 2 out of the 12 trucks in the line-up. Those short-lived trucks with mediocre food are only hindering the growth of this otherwise great concept. As a veteran of these events it is slightly different for me as I always know what’s good and before going to any gathering I make sure to research the line-up so I know what to expect. But for a family of 4 that is new to the scene, spends their time to park and stand in some of the outrageous lines, and then pays $40-$50 at the event for food from a subpar truck, the experience can be one that does not necessarily encourage a return visit.

Promoters and other food truck owners don’t make it any easier when trying to break into the business. I have seen countless horrifying scenarios: food trucks being asked to leave an event because their truck wasn't “big” or “nice” enough, hidden agendas resulting in getting a bad location at a gathering, even food truck owners calling the police on other owners! I would like to believe that being in the same industry as others, people would have the decency to practice fair business and treat others with respect. In many cases this is far from the truth. If you’re a promoter you should work for the food trucks, not the other way around. I find it ridiculous that truck owners are forced to pay a truck fee which can range anywhere from $80-$150 before an event. What if the crowd is weak or the weather turns nasty before or during the scheduled start time? Why should this loss be passed directly to the restaurateurs rather than shared between them and the venue owner? Additionally, there are road blocks in place that keep owners from obtaining any knowledge as to the mixture of culinary diversity at these events. For example, if I own a taco truck, I would want to be sure I am not frequenting events with an abundance of other taco trucks or similar food influences in order to increase my probability of greater revenues. Food truck owners should have the right to know what other trucks will be booked at a specific event and be allowed to decline those events without repercussions. Often times, situations arising from circumstances such as these can have dire consequences for the owners of some of these trucks and that plays a huge role in their success. As one food truck owner told me, “I don’t think you’ll see me at any other big events - you see, I've been black listed” Another said, “It’s sad that the fun and joy of our dream and the money from our pockets have been sucked away”.

Owning a food truck takes a lot of hard work and dedication and it is a great way to expand an existing restaurant or break into the food industry. Variety is always good but on the flip side, too much of something can be a bad thing. As a customer I look for 3 simple things: the menu, customer service and the quality of the food. If any of these are off, trust me I will not be coming back. Also showing a little bit of professionalism couldn't hurt. Just because you’re in good with some promoter or have plenty of followers on any social media outlet doesn't necessarily mean your food is worth eating. Remember that.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Edge Steak and Bar

With Miami Spice in full effect, I decide to head over to the Four Seasons Hotel in Brickell for dinner. First things first, the hotel is absolutely gorgeous. My favorite part of the hotel is the pool area, where it's easy to find a quiet spot to read a book or enjoy a cocktail and the great view. Being that it was my first visit; the staff was very helpful and professional in pointing me in the right direction. After I got my bearings, I Made my way to the 7th floor and the reason for my visit, Edge, Steak & Bar.

As I made my way in, a few words came to mind- Sophisticated, sexy, modern and upbeat. We were greeted by the hostess who had our RSVP ready and sat us right away. Since we already went over the Miami Spice menu, both my partner and I were ready to order. From the moment our waiter approached the table, I was impressed. Very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, he was also very helpful in pairing our dishes with the right wine.

We each choose a starter. First the, peach & tomato Gazpacho, blue crab, California olive oil & ghost pepper. On a hot summer day, a cool meal is ideal. But this wasn’t for me. It was cool and refreshing but the flavoring was all off. When I think Gazpacho, I think of ingredients used at their peak of perfection. Too me, the tomato was off. Moving on to the Tartare, my friends this was a homerun! Corvina tartare, green apple, celery leaf, cilantro and a delectable yellow pepper sauce. I consider myself very picky when it comes to ordering any type of seafood dish. However, this was fresh with flavors that jump out at you and the green apple goes so perfect with this dish. When it came time for the main course, I decided to stick with the fish while my partner had the chicken. The Snapper was pan seared, charred zucchini salad, mussel vinaigrette & saffron. I wasn’t a big fan of the vinaigrette but the fish was perfect. The smell test is especially important when eating fillets. It should have no pungent aromas, because cooking won’t improve it. Unless you caught the fish yourself, you really have no way of knowing exactly how fresh it is. This fish was fresh and a joy to eat. The chicken was grilled with brioche, olive salsa, watercress & a fennel puree. Very tasty, beautifully presented and well portioned. Dessert is always fun, but cotton candy? Yes, yogurt pannacotta with a passion fruit sorbet, tropical fruits & vanilla meringue with banana flavored cotton candy complements of the chef.

I really enjoyed my dining experience at Edge, Its offers a little bit of everything. It's also a great place to come by for happy hour since they have awesome specials like $1 oysters. A stylish and sexy dining room, an outdoor terrace with a pretty view, nice bar and even a private dining area. From prime steaks, slow smoked ribs, fresh fish, local fresh veggies and the Edge burger, Chef Aaron Brooks brings you only the best.

Visit The Edge