This year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival ended with a fun, homegrown party that honored Miami’s growing mobile food culture with a selection of over 20 of South Florida’s most popular food trucks in an event hosted by Andrew Zimmern in Midtown Miami. February 24th’s Trucks on Midtown’s Tracks event, presented by Diet Pepsi, offered the chance for locals to reacquaint themselves with some of Miami’s delicious street food and provided visitors the opportunity to savor some very tasty Miami traditions. The food trucks were pitted against each other as to which truck offered the best dish in a competition judged by everyone in attendance, and with a selection as varied and delicious as what was available this past Sunday, the choice wasn’t easy to make.
There were a few very Miami institutions that represented the 305 at this year’s event, including the veritable king of the Cuban hamburger, El Rey de las Fritas, which is better known for its permanent locations but quickly caught on to the food truck trend and started selling their famous fritas all over town. The crimson red, seasoned patties were deliciously moist and zesty sandwiched inside a pressed Cuban bun with chopped onions, pickles, and mountain of homemade crispy potato sticks.
Crazydilla also offered a twist on a Miami classic: a Cuban sandwich quesadilla, which made a great alternative for those watching carbs rather than fat intake. The quesadilla was fat with a generous filling of lechón asado (roasted pork), quality serrano ham, swiss cheese, and pickles and was topped with a drizzle of garlic mustard aïoli.
Cubancube offered perhaps the most creative interpretation of Miami’s Cuban culinary culture with a sweet take on a papa rellena consisting of a crispy boniato (white yam) exterior encasing shredded beef braised in rum and cola. The best part was the accompanying stick of sugar cane soaked in one of Miami’s favorite sodas, the yerba mate-flavored Materva.
Not all food trucks went for Cuban or Latin cuisine, however, with quite a few of them offering very international fare. Il Fiorentino dished out samples of homemade potato ravioli with parmesan fondue, braised radicchio and crispy walnuts that tasted like something that would appear on a fine dining menu rather than served out of a food truck. Curbside Gourmet had a last minute menu change from what appeared on the event’s program, and instead of the short rib popovers, they offered Thai BBQ sliders with an apple ginger slaw that had just the right hint of Thai spice and zing from lemongrass.
Waffleosophy is the perfect story of a local boy, Wendell Ordonez, who fell in love with a foreign street food and began marketing it in South Florida. Waffleosophy does not serve up what one would think of as traditional, Waffle House American waffles, nor does it serve the crispy, sugar crystal-laced Belgian Liège waffles. Waffleosophy’s Hong Kong-style waffles are fluffier, floppier, and covered in little domes that contrast the convex squares found in American and Belgian waffles. While traditionally spread with butter, peanut butter, and sugar, Chef Ordonez’s Hong Kong waffles are filled with a variety of savory ingredients, including a spectacular Thai beef curry that was on offer at the event on Sunday. This is definitely one food truck to check out if you ever spot it!
GastroPod, which always brings a touch of sophistication and innovation to the mobile food scene, presented their interpretation of the favorite Vietnamese noodle soup, pho. Their version contained no broth or noodles and was served cold, which was confusing at first. Nevertheless, their combination of a crispy fried beef tendon “chicharron” topped with thin slices of rare beef and finished with a nest of pickled bean sprouts and micro-herbs really did taste like a bowl of pho and offered a variety of changing textures and cooling respite from the afternoon sun. Although the fan favorite that afternoon was a pedestrian grilled cheese and short rib sandwich from Ms. Cheezious, GastroPod’s reinvented pho had to be the most inspired dish of the event.
In addition to the great, and at times overindulgent, street food, attendees were afforded the chance to sample wines from Brazil, a country more known for its caipirinhas than its cabernet but that has a wine tradition that dates back to 1875. A glass of Don Guerino Chardonnay had an herbaceous nose and a pleasant acidity that could make an enjoyable sip on its own or a perfect match for Brazil’s famous seafood stews. Miolo Brut Rosé had a nice, fruity bouquet and could also be enjoyed on its own or as an accompaniment to a meal.
Late February in Miami is definitely not the same as it is up north, so frozen treats were a more than welcomed addition to the this food truck event. Joji Frozen Yogurt caught attendees’ eyes with their provocatively uniformed “waitresses” sporting bright purple wigs. All gimmicks aside, their frozen yogurt was very good - creamy, slightly tangy, and offering unique flavors. The bright purple orchid vanilla almond was very refreshing, while the chili chocolate had a surprisingly luxurious mouthfeel.
Andrew Zimmern, himself, made a brief appearance, took the time to greet and take photos with fans, and even went around to try the fare at each food truck. More than just a food-tasting event, this end to the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival was a party with pool tables, ping pong, and carnival games scattered throughout the tented space. Overall, it was a fitting end to the festival and emphasized the fact that for a true foodie, good food is not just had at fine restaurants but wherever there is creativity, talent, skill, and passion for serving people great food.