Lucky Dip – Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Can I share something? The food truck thing… I kind of really don’t care. I mean, sure, I grew up in Halifax where eating fries from Bud the Spud on the lawn of the Halifax library is an important part of a summer’s day. But this desperate “frenzy” Toronto has to be like US cities with a food truck scene? It’s a little embarrassing. [Globe and Mail]

The foodie backlash. Let’s hope this one sticks. [Food & Wine]

Pity the farmers – it’s agri-entertainment season in which self-entitled city folks, under the guise of strawberry picking, come to the farm, stuff themselves full of fruit they don’t pay for, trash the fields, and treat someone’s home and workplace like a farm-themed amusement park. [Toronto Sun]

Where your fish comes from – a world map indicating global ratio of aquaculture production. The scary bit… look at China and then think about how safe that food supply is. [The Atlantic]

Good times… Sure to be a conversation starter when you’re eating dessert around the holiday table: Schweddy Balls ice cream. [MSNBC: The Scoop]

Speaking of ice cream – why hasn’t anybody thought up an ice cream cone guard before this? [Village Voice: Fork in the Road]

Dear Beer Store people, it appears that we are all on to you and your lifestyle marketing schemes. How about instead of fancy stores, you give us what we all really want – a better selection of beer than the swill your own companies produce. [National Post: The Appetizer]

How to lose weight – get enough sleep so that you’re not tired. Exhausted people tend to choose junk food over healthy stuff. [Bon Appetit]

Okay, so Toronto’s priciest meals don’t hit the same figure they do in NYC, but the point is the same, if you’re attending a restaurant for a set price tasting menu, don’t assume that’s all you’re paying. Tax, tips and drink all need to be added to the final bill. [Bloomberg]

And finally, one for the ladies, since y’all are so flightly and ditzy and know nothing about wine or spirits or any of that complicated stuff, why don’t you gals just buy this stuff in the bottle that looks like perfume? That means it’s lady-friendly, see? [The Guardian]

4 thoughts to “Lucky Dip – Wednesday, June 15th, 2011”

  1. I think the food truck thing in Toronto goes beyond the idea of “food trucks” to the idea of a “street food” scene, something that doesn’t exist in this city. And the reason Toronto doesn’t have a street food scene is at the root of the growing “frenzy” to create one: if you’re denied chocolate by an over-protective parent for the first 16 years of your life, you’re either going to grow up never caring about chocolate, or you’re going to become a chocolate-eating maniac as soon as you have the freedom and money to be able to do so.

    In this case, the City of Toronto is the parent, and those of us pushing for the street food are the kids who’ve been denied way too long.

  2. A couple of things with this… First, it’s no different than the thing that Toronto does with every trend, be it food, music, or art… something will get big somewhere else and Toronto won’t pick up on it until a year or so after it’s declared dead everywhere else, and then we won’t let it go, EVER. Examples of this are the late 90s swing music scene (which finally died) and rollerderby. It’s less about being denied anything – food trucks have always been legal, and back in 2007 when the whole food cart thing started up, many of us asked why people who wanted to sell food on the street didn’t just invest in a truck – and more an issue of insecurity and envy.

    Second, the food trucks/carts that do well and gain a following do so because they are offering something not available anywhere else or that are of a better quality than exists in bricks and mortar establishments. If I want a sandwich from Caplansky’s, I’ll just go to Caplansky’s, where I can sit in a chair, have a beer and generally not have to stand.

    However, in NYC, there’s only one empanada lady, and nothing else compares. The allure of Bud the Spud in Halifax (besides having made the best French fries in existence) is that the location offers plenty of seating (stairs, benches… they removed the railings around the lawn there because of skateboarders, but there’s a nice hundred-year old stone wall to perch on, or on the lawn itself where we’d spread out like sunbathers at a beach on blankets and such). This is also the case in front of Nathan Phillip Square. Standing around in a parking lot holds little appeal for me, certainly not enough to provoke me to make the trek to X location to buy a less good version of something I can get in a regular restaurant.

    So what has to happen to truly make this work is that food truck/carts have to be offering truly outstanding versions of their respective dishes, and they have to be both easy to get to and have some amenities nearby that allows people to eat said food easily. Simply selling food from a truck might catch people into the trend for the sake of the trend, but it needs to be sustainable enough to overcome the bad reputation that many food trucks have.

    Personally, I’m putting more stock in loosening the regulations to allow existing food carts to expand their offerings, ideally, as in the case or Marianne Moroney, in conjunction with existing restaurants to ensure quality products and health/safety regulations.

  3. Some trends are born of a temporary insanity that seems to wash over all of humanity at the same time (i.e., swing music), but all trends are born of a demand for something. From there, they either become mainstream and stick around (i.e, sun-dried tomatoes), or they die a miserable, merciful death and we sit around 20 years later saying “What the hell were we thinking?” (i.e. thinking Yakov Smirnoff was actually funny). Time will tell which route an improved Toronto street food scene will take, but I’m betting on the former scenario.

    I don’t necessarily agree that success/a following only comes to food trucks/carts that offer things that aren’t available in restaurants or are done better than similar restaurant fare. The best trucks in NYC are doing things like falafel, dumplings and tacos. I can get amazing falafel, dumplings and tacos at NYC restaurants. The difference is that the food trucks offer these items done well, generally at a lower price point, and allow you to eat these things without having to trek from midtown to the Lower East Side in rush hour to do so. Generally, if I want a Caplansky’s sandwich, I’ll go to Caplansky’s to get one. But if I’m in my east end ‘hood and have a smoked meat craving but no car/time/patience to go to the resto, I’ll gladly get one from the truck if it happens to be parked along Danforth.

    Even if Toronto’s streets were awash in food trucks and carts serving more than just street meat and soft serve, I’d still personally opt to eat in restaurants 99% of the time. But great cities are built on choice. If I’m walking around the Harbourfront area, I should be able to choose between pubs serving frozen fries and pints of Coors or a food truck making fresh pupusas.

  4. Well, no, trends are not always organic – many trends are completely and totally manufactured by marketers. At best, they start out as a quirk of a sub-culture (Black Label beer, or Pabst, for instance, or the swing music thing) and then get picked up and become marketed and manufactured and manipulated.

    But you’ve hit the key words Neil – “if it happens to be”. If the truck isn’t within a reasonable distance of you, then there’s no point, is there? If the truck never comes anywhere near where you are, it’s useless to you.

    And while I agree with you to a point, go back and read your last paragraph… this issue brings up a weird sense of foodie entitlement that utterly confuses me. In one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, with more diverse dining options than just about anywhere else, and restaurants in every major neighbourhood, people are worked up because they want even more food options to be available to them, at their convenience. Sure, I could eat food from these five restaurants, but I want pupusas from a truck and I want ’em now!!

    We already HAVE choice.

    If these trucks were planning on serving areas with limited dining options, as is the case with construction site lunch trucks, for instance, then I’d be a little more supportive of the whole thing. (Or how about trucks serving cheap healthy food setting up in food deserts so people there can get a decent meal?) But it’s all aimed at self-entitled foodies who feel that they don’t have enough choice, and those other cities have food trucks *stomps foot*, we should have food trucks too! Boo-freakin-hoo.

    That’s not to say we shouldn’t support those folks who start food truck businesses – again, I have no issue with the concept, especially if the goal is for more opportunities for small business people. But the “we’re entitled to more choice” argument is a lame one that plays a bit like a petulant child wanting another kid’s toy.

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