The Valley Center Gourmet Food Truck Festival 2015 – HOT stuff!!!

It appears this event has been gathering some of the best food trucks together at Bates Nut Farm since 2012 when these so-called mobile kitchens were quickly scattering themselves across much of San Diego. In the years since, this event has kept bringing some of San Diego’s best food back to the same location.

I had attended some years back after meeting some of these Chefs and “truckies” that make up this event, when some of these same trucks appeared near my workplace on a regular basis for a little over a one-year period. Luckily today, most of my visit at Bates Nut Farm, was a visit with just one of those food trucks. It’s where I got the scoop on this years Valley Center Gourmet Food Truck Festival.

vc music fest 2

The crowds I’m used seeing. http://www.vcfoodtruckfest.com

Amongst the planned 15 food trucks (yeah, there was probably 13-15) I yell, “Steves” (yes, there is supposed to be an ‘s’ at the end), as I approached Underdogs Gastro Truck, basically serving gourmet sausage sandwichs. Steves are two guys named “Steve” that are what make up this particular specialty truck. I have just become used to calling them that . . . as many friends of their truck have become used to doing the same. I continue, “Where the hell is everyone?” Steves replies, “I think it must be the heat”. I mean this place was dead. ftf16 ftf25 ftf22 ftf19

ftf4 ftf3I figure only about 150 folk  . . .  at the entire event, were here at any one moment to grab a bite or shop the art and craft vendor booths. Steve again chimes in, “Yeah, we are usually sold out by this time . . . this has always been our best event”; referring to the normal one day attendance of better than 5000 eager truck diners.

Today, while approaching the festival location, the other original “Dick” (yeah, I got lucky today) kept commenting, “where’s all the cars . . . where’s all of the people?” As we delved further, nothing materialised . . . no one was around. There were no lines, there were no children and I bet . . . there were no animals; referring to the heat probably had them hunkered under a shady spot in their farm enclosures. I did not go check on them.

In years past, just about every food truck would have a line that was a 20 minute wait until you actually ordered your food. Then another 20 minutes to get it. Today, you could walk up to any truck and immediately order, and probably receive your food before you finish paying. The trucks were dead, but ready, anticipating a crowd rush at any time. It never happened while we were there. Our friends and I felt bad for the vendors participating today. Although, with very few potential patrons, the trucks did seem to be selling . . . that’s a good thing. We grabbed some desserts from Sweet Treats Desserts truck before heading back down the hill to our friend’s house that had a pool, a refrigerator, . . . and a grill.

I spoke of this event with another food truck operator just days before. He was preparing for the Del Mar Food Truck Festival taking place the same day. He said of the heat at Bates Nut Farm during this event, “it is often times inescapable when working inside of these trucks”. That’s why he now performs comparatively in Del Mar with 40 trucks each year. I think this year he might have a good idea being closer to the beach’s today 89 degree weather. As we drove away at about 5:30pm, my truck thermometer was indicating 100 degrees in Valley Center. All of this heat  precedes indicators of a rumored “El Nino” weather phenomena’s impending approach to the region. It was damn hot!

Now I looked up a bit on this Valley Center event happening at Bates Nut Farm. If we take the normal attendance and do the math, that’s about $4000 bucks gross for each truck. Unfortunately, I don’t think these guys made their take on what they had hoped. I even scored some sausage inventory from Steves as I walked away from the event. Steves uses a very good sausage from a local provider. Steves agreed to sell me some inventory because he realized, otherwise he was going to be eating a lot of that sausage if not. I took some of that inventory back down the hill and grilled them tonight, along with having those deserts, and having a “hanger” steak nearby, and some wine . . . made for a nice finish to this otherwise uneventful day in Valley Center.

ftf9Don’t misunderstand me; this is normally still a great event for the family. There’s was also a kid zone that can keep the youngsters happy while mom and dad chow on their parmesan French Fries. Today there were no kids . . . or very few; yet the kid activity vendors were still making a few bucks also. What I did notice today was the giant-kid-ball (I guess the kids climb inside of it) -on-water vendor, did not have any water this year . . . hmmm.

ftf31Well, we made our way to the beer garden after following some very informative signs only to find the only smart people (obviously not the sign people). They were the ones sitting under some shade sipping a cold one . . . or two, or only the three beers being offered at the beer garden today. In this craft beer inundated North San Diego County event, there were only three beers to chose from . . . and NO Imperial Pale Ale (IPA’s) . . . and no wine. ftf7The other Dicks says, “Isn’t it a requirement to have an IPA if you’re having a beer garden in San Diego?” We both kind of agreed that this was a pretty bleak beer garden for an anticipated 5000 attendees. The area of the beer garden was very small and sat as far away from the stage where the band was performing. The band only played a couple of songs as we got to the garden area until they took their first break. A quirky kind of cover music band made up of a three old guys that seemingly just didn’t play very well; I only heard two songs though. I guess it would have been ok if I had been in the beer garden for a while (drunk!).ftf24 ftf6

So I think the weather got to everyone. The other “Dick” and I had discussed potential reasons as to why the lack of attendance. My suggested answer was the fact that food trucks are a dime a dozen nowadays. In other words, tomorrow there is another food truck on another corner in San Diego. The food truck festivals are also a dime a dozen now in San Diego. Essentially saying there really is no reason for customers to even come out in the heat, when in the near future (just not tomorrow, literally) it will cooler and there will be another food truck festival happening nearby, where the families can relax a bit and enjoy the event . . . without trying to get out of the heat.

Dick

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VCHS Football Family Night

Been waiting for this and it has finally arrived. The football booster’s (anyway . . . the Varsity team, I think) invitation to the Valley Center High School (VCHS) Football Family Night. This time it’s a BBQ and viewing of the teams at the end of their practice day. The players have made it through 2-a-days and are now ready to start playing; and tonight they look good.  Perhaps this is a first . . .  the BBQ thing. But I tell you honestly, this is perhaps what we needed.vc1
For Valley Center, CA (VC), football is like a mid-western high school’s football program. Since this school sits just about smack-dab in the center of this 2.5-minimum-acre parcel rural community; there’s not a whole bunch to do on a Friday night out in these parts. In other words, football a big deal.
vc4So VC’s football program gets a lot of community support. And with their CIF streaks in the very recent years, there appears to be no less of a reason to watch some of VC’s best students compete in one of VC’s best loved local sports. Coach Gilster said, “This is an exciting Senior Class”, as he yells across Jaguar Stadium with the PA system to the ASB President (and one of the Receivers of his 2015 Varsity team). Coach liked his PA system tonight. He and the Director of Athletics spoke well before this crowd . . . honestly, and almost too long. But I understood their message, “students and service”, as Coach singled out Mr. Bowling (the ASB President) for his service. Calvin Bowling responded to Coach and the crowd by jumping atop a large, upside down bucket, flexing his arms. Coach really had an honest coach to parent talk this evening. Coach Gilster is a good coach. I even witnessed him adjusting the PA speakers (I like this guy) at dinner time to project the mellow tunes toward the area of food service, . . . and the only “shade”, in the grandstand area this eve.vc3
Yes folks it football time again and if you’re a parent of one of these kids you have, at some point, become forced to going to these games as well; and the events. I’m glad I came to this event. Although the “BBQ” was burgers (not bad) or the burnt-on-one-side dogs (that’s ok, I like ’em like that, plain, no bun), the sides of salads, fruits, chips, charcuterie and cookies/baked stuff provided by the Senior Class parents/kids, made this a nice event. There was really a lot of great food. It was our first event of this manner and had questioned if there had ever been a Family Night like this BBQ. We ate way too much, and we liked it. It was fun!vc5
Our player (son) is now driving for the last years of his playing. Although we don’t have to trek up the hill, we have become used to buying a couple of booster discount cards, reluctantly, even when we know we won’t use them. And we are used to splitting the duties of attending “mandatory” meetings for parents of a high school student, as we always try to pass it off on the other parent. Possibly our behavior is not typical. But this is our last child here in the program, please give us a break. Been there, done that. But this night was just a bit different.
Regretting the drive up the hill, for some “politically and socialitically” correct public school “advisory” type meeting, was not on the top of our priority list this eve. Yeah seems like everything is a drive for folks here in VC. I guess most don’t mind the drive for a replacement of our solitude. Now you might understand what football is to us in VC. Sometimes it’s hard, but we love it. Football IS Valley Center. I tell it like this; some of the parents were wearing their son’s number, some of a Charger player’s jersey, some just in shorts and flip-flops. This is San Diego already. Even Coach Gilster realized he (the team) had scheduled this event  during the Charger’s first pre-season match this year. He apologized. But I think, for everyone attending, this evening had turned out kinda special.vc2
So I guess what I’m saying, is that this Family night BBQ was a good idea. It got us in front of the coaching staff long enough for Coach to explain the program to the parents of the Freshmen, JV and Varsity teams.
If we listen to Coach Gilster and continue to support what VCHS does for our kids, and give a little back, this might just be another banner year.
Help the team and school continue their success into the future years. Continue to raise great kids. Continue to be proud of this community and its family.
Football in Valley Center. Going into summer . . . it’s a great thing.
Dicks

The NEW Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen, Vista, CA . . . a night to celebrate.

For the most recent review (09/08/15) of Flying Pig Pub and Kitchen in Vista, CA click here: http://critdicks.com/2015/09/08/flying-pig-pub-kitchen-vista-ca/

As I had expected, there were absolutely no disappointments this evening being invited for the second day of this soft opening. I had just been astonishingly notified of being published that day and bought 20 copies of the release; when earlier that week, I was emailed an invitation to The Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen’s debut soft opening dinner. Coincidently they both happened on the same day. The food at this event was complimentary as they would break pretty close to even with the drinks as my wife and I each had two. But the remarkable food, ambiance and service made this day even more special for the wife and I as Roddy, the owner, high fives me upon breaking the news to him.  He had recognized me and possibly knew of my arrival, but showed up, now cleaned up a bit after working so hard on this opening, well into the final bites of our entrées. He looked very tired as I am used to seeing him having always been; working and perfecting so diligently at the Oceanside, CA location for the last three years. pig0 I had finally met Roddy’s wife Aaron. I witnessed her polishing wine glasses with staff . . . scratch that . . . team members as she had obviously shown them the right way of doing things at this very eclectic, energetic and engaging dining establishment. For you folks that have visited their Oceanside location, as most of us had been that were here these last two eve’s. The furniture matches, the cloth napkins matched in a couple of themed colors; but the service ware, fixtures and art are very much reminiscent of the Flying Pig brand. Roddy and Aaron had put together a wonderfully open . . . and I mean very open, busy street side upscale dining facility that features the vault door of the previous bank that occupied the building for years before. Even the ceilings have been handled by vaulting and painting. That vault itself had been converted to a duel refrigerator and wine cellar and the door relocated (affixed) to the front entrance of The Flying Pig. pig3There appears to be plenty of parking however I saw this sign at the far end, so be careful until Roddy takes care of that confusion. pig4The exterior of the building is a bit rough yet, but coming along on track for their Grand Opening Monday 10 August 2015. Their hours appear to fixed at the same 4:30 until . . . There are retractable roll-up bay windows surrounding the bar area that has 1/2 seating inside if they were closed, and the other exposed to the elements. With the windows open, you modestly hear the traffic inside the restaurant but can also enjoy the large amount of surrounding patio outside with a service area of the bar that could be used for private events. Being there for the arrival of Roddy, as he moved a patio umbrella to shade the diners inside. Possibly that was an overlooked shade issue coming from that direction in the late evening. Looks like Roddy is on it. The sun/shade issue made a very difficult time taking pictures of the beautifully-plated and abundant food as was presented. pig6My wife began to question the story of Chef Mario. We were told by the well-trained staff about the brief history of Roddy, Aaron and Chef Mario’s coming together. We became interested in just where he learned to cook and where he has worked, because these are masterful pieces of culinary work that has long fascinated my education. What I’m saying is I would witness these creations by only a small handful of students while I attended Culinary school; some of which I could never keep up with culinarily. I would like to have an opportunity to talk with Chef Mario someday and see his new kitchen and those secretive vault doors, aka the walk-ins. What a smart and practical application and use of a dead space otherwise. Chef Mario and team served us very moderately priced Crab Stuffed Squash Blossoms, the evening’s distinct standout plate. pig11The crab was very obvious and noticeable through the politely deep fried shell of batter. The plate was very light partly due to the garnishing of very thin slices of Jalapeno, Watermelon Radish and wedges of tender Mango.  A wonderfully executed plate. The appetizer I chose were the Heirloom Tomatoes. The complexity of flavors of the HUGE, GIANT two slices of Heirloom Tomatoes with fresh hand made-in-the-kitchen Burrata that I ordered for my starter. By the way. they are entrée salads and appetizers. pig2Their menu calls them light fare, but at the lighter prices, I would have thought them to be light on size . . . clearly not! I even told Aaron I felt as if the prices could possibly be elevated just slightly. I had since realized that we had spent $100 (if we would have been charged for the plates) for a dinner that included two-entrée salads and two entrées, with two drinks each. Then Roddy had topped it off with a piece of Pecan Pie that was a nice treat at the end. Including tip at 20 percent, I valued the evening as perfect for two target-market patrons. I would have spent $120 including tip that night. I think that’s well priced now that I think about the demographics. But all of the plates are quite large portions like the very thick cut Pork Chop that was cooked perfectly medium; signature of the Pork Chop from the Oceanside location. This location’s Chop was treated to garlic and mild mystery green olives with an unknown or otherwise unrecognizable origin. Like the Pork Chop at the Oceanside location, this particular plate here had a creamy Polenta that melded the flavors of the plate as if they were one. We really had a hard time finishing all of the food as the last bites if the very tender and moist Pork Chop finally were cleared.pig10 Finally our last plate was a very tender, cooked perfectly to medium-rare, Roasted Tri-Tip atop very creamery mashed potatoe with medium-sized sautéed Portobello Mushrooms. With just the right amount of sauce for the plate from the steak and the sautéing of the mushrooms. A wonderful plate. The wife and I had questioned about a Branzino (European Sea Bass) dish for two offered on the menu that indicated a Chimichurri marinade. And, if you know our background, would fully understand why, we wanted to taste Chef Mario’s Chimichurri. It was almost natural for us to be saving a piece of that Tri-Tip for an opportunity to taste it dipped in Chimi. pig17Anna, our server, was very nice and very friendly explained that she had only eaten at the Oceanside location and had tried many of the meals there, but had not tried the Chimichurri. She had explained that the staff at the Vista location had tried most of the dishes but simply ran out of time before the opening. She then gladly went back to the kitchen to see if she could find some for our sampling pleasure only to return empty-handed as the Chimichurri was only used as a marinade for the fish plate, and so we are to be unlucky tonight.pig13 Upon our departure we wished all of the staff well and especially to Roddy (get some rest dude) and his wife Aaron (probably the real strength) well in the years to come; telling them both we would definitely be back because of the very fair value (price and plate sizes) for that level of culinary treat and warm experience at their new facility. For some reason my wife argued that $20 tip. She thought it should have equated to $50 at least since we didn’t pay for the plates. I argued that by telling her it was $100 worth of food and drink and the tip was correct. I mean Anna our server was great; however, certainly not worth the $50. I guess I’m Richard again. Another controversial issue was the fact there was not yet any noticeable audio system. The wife said it’s better without. I, on the other hand, will win that bet. And finally, one last questionable argument were the plates of clear glass in the women’s restroom on the wall. My wife argued that if she had some lipstick, she would have left a message like “CritDicks”. I, argued, “what do the guys use?” As the men’s room also had those plates of clear glass. SHARPIE!!! This will definitely be one of our all-time favorites, just as the Oceanside location has long been on that list. Good luck and dreams. I’m definitely gonna give this one to Roddy and Aaron! flying pigflying pigflying pigflying pigflying pig A full five Flying Pigs Dicks

“Being at the tip of the spear” . . . no shit . . .

. . . It’s a saying that I had learned when I was in the Navy. It means to be at the battle’s edge . . . ready to engage (way more simply put).

I feel now as though I am on that spear’s tip. I have an idea, and a very potential opportunity to raise the bar. To have my first culinary business. But that’s not all; I have found a cash-cow opportunity right near where I live. The kind of opportunity that makes you say . . . , “No Shit!” dr-evil

I had stumbled on this thought because of something I was told one day. Then I happened to think about what I had learned in school by a very successful entrepreneur/professor. Jane Said (Jane’s Addiction) . . . (yes she and I were about the same age), “Find something that is truly missing . . . there, you will find success”. I’m sure she said it nothing like that, but that’s what I’m going with. And yes, I plan to engage her very educated mind about this idea. She was one of the truly great professors I had learned under while at AI. Now you know why they’re hired as “Professors”.

When I brought this idea to my wife and kids they too said, . . . “No Shit!” And thought the idea to be an awesome opportunity to enter the restaurant business. But this idea isn’t something that needs to be much even though about. WHAT???. I mean this idea is a no-brainer. Once you realize my idea . . . You’ll be like . . . . . . NO SHIT!

So now we have to start creating the menu. That is the first step in creating any food business. What are you going to serve?

Unfortunately, I cant tell you what I’m going to serve, because that is what is missing.

Because you’ll be like. “Duh, . . . . No Shit!”

Dicks

Sunrise Bistro and Catering . . . and a stay in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Sunrise BistroTraveling our first afternoon throughout the bay area, we had treated ourselves to lunch at The Dead Fish directly across the bay from California Maritime Academy (the wife and my personal favorite for school selection). Again, The Dead Fish’s cuisine and service was very good. Watch out for the burger . . . it’s quite a large bite. That evening, after retrieving our trailer from Travln Trailer, we stayed at the Elks in Walnut Creek. Yeah, we just came from that direction. Walnut Creek Elks was a little slim on the camping sites but they did have 2 spots precariously placed with full hook-ups, and another along side of the building with just a 30 amp electrical outlet. Good enough for us since we are already self-contained.Elks The next morning upon our departure from Walnut Creek we happened upon Sunrise Bistro and Catering. Sunrise had a very complete menu and served very substantial plates. All of the food was very good but the Florentine Benedict had avocado on it. I think the avocados must have been cheap up in that region because there was a lot seemingly everywhere we visited. Dunno on that one. Like the benedict seemed to have almost an entire avocado ( it was just half, but plated eloquently). I had the Joe’s Scramble and my son had the French Toast. The food at Sunrise was highlighted by the best breakfast potatoes we have ever had. They were a red-skinned potato but perfectly balanced with a very crunchy burnt crust. Awesome! Sunrise also had a very good cup of coffee . . . even highlighted by the biscotti along the cup’s edge. That’s the kind of touch that people remember; but you better not stop . . . they’ll expect that patron touch-point every time. After our trip to Cal Maritime we headed again south on the 101 to see how far we can get toward San Luis Obispo before we frankly run out of steam. That was about a 4-5 hour trek, but we again ended up at an Elks. My cousin had gladly arranged an RV spot for us that night so we had a focus in mind. Luckily the Elks bar was still open and so was my spot. We were told they had filled up that day with the visitor’s anticipation of attending the Mid-State Fair which is some distance up the road. We had passed it about an hour before getting to San Luis. A bit far if you ask me. Once in San Luis Obispo, we luckily got an end spot for the trailer and plenty of room to hide from the other campers. This Elks had about 20 spots with water and 30 amps to run the A/C, but a very convenient dump station as you exit. You ask, “why all the talk and review about the Elks?” I recently got hooked up with the Elks nearby me by another chef; Niko’s Express Italian in Vista, CA. I had previously written about them upon their initial opening a while back. Anyway, we decided that this trip was open for anything including staying at Elks facilities if that’s what the day holds. I figure if we use the Elks benefits, then perhaps we’ll continue . . .

We stayed at the Elks for two nights. While in San Luis Obispo, we toured the Madonna Inn; an interesting place to swing through, drive around and check out. Quite a history there. You can’t view the rooms as they are always packed. I did speak with the GM (I’ll call him) or Director of dining or something like that. I noticed his menu and spoke with him about the native Oak grill. A bit pricey on the value point, but I bet that’s going to be one of those places I’ll just have to check out on my next stay in San Luis. Smelled like heaven or home . . . one of the two.

We also tried a Mexican/Irish place I guess. It was called Spencer Makenzsie’s. Not sure but that just seemed kinda wrong. A Friday lunch and the place was minimally busy. It looked fresh from the outside, it had a couple of tap handles, some pretty flavorful fish taco’s (these were really just kinda ordinary though) and some French fries. I can’t knock the joint, it seemed to attempt to hit the “healthier eating” target market. Perhaps they’ll do fine.

Another Friday night was upon us and we hadn’t had pizza the entire trip, so pizza it was. Who are we top change up our lives . . . and we’re somewhere else that probably boast a pretty good pie. So we ask . . . maybe the wrong thing to do. While sitting at this bar inside of Tahoe Joes, a steakhouse, while my son got a haircut. Asking the servers was the wrong thing because they all said in unison “Fatty’s”. I said a really good pizza, unique . . . it stumped the kid-bartenders.

While finishing our drink, the wife and I noticed this small little port behind the bar/kitchen area that seemed to be a pass-through. It’s a small hole back there along the wall . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . we joked about watching it . . . and waiting for it, but nothing ever passed through that stupid hole. hole in the wallWhile watching that stupid hole we finally reverted to reviews on the internet and found nothing other than stupid Yelp. So we had to start with something ’cause there were no other independent reviews such as what I do. Continuing on Yelp we found Petra, a Mediterranean Pizza and Grill to have the highest marks and the most reviews. It was 4-stars on Yelp so I said, “it’s a least slightly above average” . . . let’s give ‘er a try.

We ordered by phone on the way and they said it would be twenty minutes. We got there in 5 minutes and so I ordered a beer from their well handled bar area and paid for my pizza, The cashier/server/greeter/whatever said, “Ok, your pizza will be done in two minutes. I looked in the back and the belt drive pizza oven was cranking them out. I already don’t like belt drive pizza; and other than some original toppings, their pizza was really just slightly above average. Belt drive none the less.

While swiftly drinking my beer out front, I did stumble upon some folks that found Petra the exact same way we found it . . .through Yelp. Sheesh! Passed them a couple business cards and I was back off to claim my pizza.

We took that pizza back to the Elks hurriedly to meet up with my already had-a-couple cousin at the Elks bar. My cousin’s beau happens to also be the day chef at the Elks in San Luis. He too is an artist . . . he kept calling me “Chef” . . . what an honor . . .

Dicks

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