Hurricane Harvey Relief: Challenge Accepted!

It was on day 4 of Hurricane Harvey that I realized my home was going to make it through without flooding.  Despite my relief, I felt terrible about what was happening in my city so I reached out on Facebook to find other chefs who could plug me in to the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.  I didn’t have a boat so the only possible thing to do was cook. On Tuesday, I dropped off 40 lbs of frozen chicken to Chef Richard Knight who was cooking at Les Begat, but he had enough chefs in the kitchen. Chef Rogers William Closson III contacted me about helping with a huge prep effort over at Grand Prize bar so off I went. When I arrived at Grand Prize around noon, I found Chef Closson and his co-worker Rusty in a postage stamp-sized kitchen with 1,000 lbs of donated beef. What started out as chili soon became a deconstructed shepherd’s pie as we had to be out of the kitchen by 10:00 p.m.  At 9:55, we loaded the last of the food into a delivery vehicle and I felt a great sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction in being able to assist in the effort.

Chef Tony contacted me about cooking the next morning early (7:30 a.m.) at the only available kitchen, Saint Danes on Elgin.  The challenge was to prepare a meal for 300 people in a tiny kitchen meant to prepare bar food within 2.5 hours at which time the bar staff would arrive to open the kitchen for business.  Challenge accepted!

Wednesday morning, I met up with Chef Tony and Chaise Dykes at Saint Danes and went in to check out the facilities.  The kitchen was only big enough for 2 people at a time and the tiny stove had 4 burners, but we fired it up and started water boiling for pasta Bolognese.  Have you ever tried to cook in someone else’s kitchen and you don’t know where anything is?  Well, it was like that—we had to do a little McGyvering to make it work.  Luckily, we found a large chinois to strain the pasta water and utilized large spatulas to move the ground meat around in large pots so it would brown but we pulled it off!

We loaded up 7 large aluminum pans with penne pasta and meat sauce, covered them in foil and drove it over to Reef, which was the designated drop-off for food to be picked up and delivered to shelters and first responders.  Once we had unloaded not only the pasta but the 200 lbs of frozen fish that Cat Nguyen had found and boxes of vegetables that other chefs had collected from their sources to help feed rescuers and rescuees affected by Harvey that I took a moment to let what was going down wash over me and I felt what I can only describe as a sense of community flooded through me.  I am very thankful to have been a part of a huge effort—it was the most humbling and gratifying experience of my life.

The Most Decadent Food Truck Meals In Existence

The past decade has certainly seen no shortage of incredibly intriguing and completely unmissable food trucks pop up throughout the country. From Mexican-inspired chili dogs to triple-fried Mars bars, you can find whatever flavor your heart desires on a truck these days. So, what are some of the most indulgent meals you can find on four wheels? Here are our top picks:

Fork & Truck – Houston

Fork & Truck’s menu bridges the gap between traditional classics and modern fare. Martin Lowe, founder of Fork & Truck, is the mastermind behind the creative, diverse menu, which is influenced by Chef Martin’s varied past as a line cook for some of Houston’s most unimaginative kitchens. Test out the totally mouthwatering Chicken Beignets, which lend a certain Cajun flair to classic chicken and waffles grub.

Kogi BBQ – Los Angeles

Roy Choi’s Kogi rules the streets of L.A. with its mashing of Korean and Mexican ingredients – try the kimchi quesadilla if you’re feeling adventurous. There are vegetarian options, caramelized Korean BBQ menu items and cilantro-inspired salsa toppings galore. Arriving on the scene in 2008, Kogi was one of the first to make a splash on the food truck scene, and it is one not to be missed.

Grilled Cheeserie – Nashville

A list of decadent meals surely has to include this ageless comfort-food staple – grilled cheese. Since 2010, The Grilled Cheeserie has been a Nashville legend, where it’s been serving happy customers gourmet grilled masterpieces with gooey cheeses and seasonal flavors. Created by Joseph Bogan and Crystal De Lune-Bogan (a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef), the Grilled Cheeserie’s food is perfect for a night at the drive-in or a picnic in the park.

The Cow & The Curd Philadelphia

Battered cheese curds? Yes, please! The Cow & The Curd gained their mass following by combining the Philadelphia cheesesteak with the relatively foreign cheese curd. These little gems are made through separation from the liquid during the cheese-making process, so they start out 100-percent natural and unprocessed – but they are delightfully battered and fried when ordered from The Cow & The Curd!

The Lobos Truck – Los Angeles

Dive into some seriously indulgent calories at The Lobos Truck. If you’re not afraid to tackle something incredulous, go for the OG Wachos, nacho-style waffle-cut fries. You’ll find yourself with a pleasing mess of guacamole, bacon, scallions and blue cheese piled on top with a number of other sauces. This feel-good food is the kind of hearty American meal that fills you up for days.

Mac Mart – Philadelphia

Drexel University’s campus got a new treat in 2013 when Marti Lieberman decided to tackle the street truck version of the Mac ‘n Cheese – everyone’s favorite comfort food. First, she perfected her trademark cheese sauce and then added the most delicious, tender macaroni in existence. Smoky, cheesy and golden on top – what more could you ask for?

Coolhaus – NYC, Los Angeles, Dallas

What’s better than a melding of traditional ice cream truck offerings and decadent five-star desserts? Coolhaus dishes out on-the-go ice cream treats that are in high demand at each of its three locations throughout the country. Think chewy cookies, and classic and intuitive flavors combined with the creamiest ice cream you could wish for from a truck. Even the wrappers are edible. So, if you’re not already full from chowing down on one of the savory options above, check out Coolhaus for a quick dessert on the run.

Gourmet Food From a Truck in Houston

Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States and is second only to San Diego in food trucks per capita. Houston’s diverse residents love their food trucks, and the city, starting in 2014, began making the life for food truck operators easier. They lifted bans on food trucks downtown and allow the establishment of “food truck parks,” where multiple food vendors park and sell their foods.

Food trucks are not new and have a history dating back to the early 1900s, when street food was often available from push carts in immigrant communities as a way to get cheap food. Today, food trucks rival gourmet restaurants and offer foodies an almost inexhaustible number of alternatives in food styles and types. Folks who enjoy food truck fare are drawn to food trucks by a sense of adventure, the feeling of food authenticity and the mystery involved in trying dishes with ingredients you never had before.

Joining the ranks of top Houston food trucks is Fork & Truck, maker of international sandwiches under its owner and operator Chef Martin.

Chef Martin has years of experience in the restaurant industry where he was a line cook. He remembers his career as one of being in an interminable number of uninspired kitchens. Finally, Chef Martin reached his limit and worked to open Fork & Truck, a food truck that shows off his extraordinary culinary talents and excellent training.

Houston Food Trucks Are Big Business

According to a study by researchers in management and organizational behavior at Rice University, despite truck owners being highly competitive when it comes to menus and preparation styles, they are very cooperative in meeting the “central tendencies” of food truck operations, such as:

  • Tasty food
  • Good ingredients
  • Best practices for food truck operations
  • Legal matters
  • Location

Fork & Truck joins this community with an emphasis on fresh ingredients served in imaginative recipes.

Menu Highlights for Fork & Truck

Diversity is an undeniable aspect of Houston’s population. Chef Martin celebrates that diversity with a menu that is as varied as the city’s residents. In addition to his own creations, Chef Martin has partnered with Darling French Confections so that your meal ends on a sweet note. Following are some of the offerings from Food & Truck exceptional menu.

Sandwiches

Chimichurri Lamb

Freshly grilled lamb and a classic chimichurri sauce are a match made in heaven on this unique sandwich where South America meets the Mediterranean.

  • Grilled marinated lamb
  • Chimichurri mayo
  • Greek salad
  • Served on pita bread

Cuban Sandwich

The classic medianoche.

  • Seasoned pork tenderloin
  • Ham
  • Swiss cheese
  • Pickles
  • Banana peppers
  • Mustard
  • Served on a French roll

Fried Green Tomato BLT

South your mouth with this update on a childhood favorite. It won’t disappoint!

  • Balsamic bacon
  • Lettuce
  • Fried green tomato
  • Mayo
  • Served on Texas toast

Signature not Sandwiches

Chicken Beignets

A Cajun-inspired spin on chicken and waffles.

  • Brined & fried chicken strips
  • Encased in beignet dough
  • Served with honey maple bourbon dipping sauce

Foie Gras Boudin Eggrolls

Boudin (pork and rice, using fois gras for a gourmet twist) and it is wrapped in a pastry wrapper for extra crunchiness.

  • Pork
  • Rice
  • Foie gras
  • Encased in a pastry wrapper
  • Served with Creole mustard dipping sauce

Chef Martin is active on social media and updates his truck whereabouts daily. Find Fork & Truck on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. For an unmatched culinary experience, give Fork & Truck a try. Once you do, think of Fork & Truck for catering your next business or pleasure event. Call Chef Martin at 346-316-0129 for further information.

5 Reasons Food Trucks Are Better Than Restaurants

A quick Google search returns dozens of restaurants in your local community, if not more. Choosing between these can sometimes take longer than the actual meal, but as it turns out, there are a variety of options you likely didn’t see. If you’ve ever walked by a food truck, for instance, you’ve witnessed the current revolution in the food industry. And in many ways, food trucks are actually better than restaurants.

1. Faster Service

When you walk into a brick-and-mortar restaurant, there’s often a wait to even be seated. Once you’re at the booth, you have to wait for a waiter to take your order. Then comes the waiting related to cook time. Once you have your food and finish it, you’re not even free to leave until someone shows up to take your money.

This isn’t an issue with food trucks. You hand over your money as soon as you order, and these mobile culinary concepts are streamlined to get your food to you as quickly as possible. The owner of a food truck doesn’t want you to have to wait any more than you do.

2. Cleaner and Safer Food

If you saw a restaurant with a health inspection rating of “A” and another with a “C,” you’d likely opt for the eatery that outperformed the other. If that’s the case, food trucks are the choice for you.

The Institute for Justice did a study on food trucks and restaurants to see which were cleaner and safer. They found that restaurants receive more safety and health violations than food trucks, on average. That’s right: Street food is often cleaner than fine dining.

3. Lower Prices

Even if you ignore the massive property taxes brick-and-mortar restaurants have to pay, they still are far more expensive to run than a food truck. Hiring a kitchen full of employees, maintaining front-of-house staff and paying the utilities to keep a building running can get expensive.

Why does this matter to you? Because it’s not the restaurant that’s paying these bills — it’s you. Higher overhead costs mean they have to charge more for food. You’ve likely noticed great prices at food trucks, and that’s because they’re less expensive to operate. Want a low-cost and tasty meal? A food truck has you covered.

4. Avoid Restaurant Hassles

While food trucks provide faster service than restaurants, there are also several other hassles you avoid by getting your meal from a street corner. Ever been in an eatery where children were running amok? What about other guests speaking far too loudly? Has your server ever forgotten to refill your drink?

The truth of the matter is that you avoid all of these issues — and many more — by eating at food trucks. You get in, place your order, maybe toss around some friendly banter with the owner and others waiting for their food, get your food and leave. It’s just that simple.

5. Variety of Foods

Someone who has never eaten from a food truck might think their only options are hamburgers and hot dogs. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most food trucks are nothing like the fast-food eateries we frequent far too often. In fact, many of them are downright exotic.

In Houston, for instance, Fork and Truck offers a menu that includes chimichurri lamb, Cuban sandwiches, chicken beignets and even duck banh mi. In New York, the Luke’s Lobster truck offers crab rolls, New England clam chowder and lobster bisque. The lesson here? Don’t judge a truck by its corner.

If you’ve never eaten at a food truck before, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The atmosphere, selection, health ratings and food all put brick-and-mortar establishments to shame. Next time you see a food truck, stop on by. It might be the best meal you’ll have all week.

From Bánh Mì to Cubanos: A History of Classic Sandwiches

Where do we even get the idea, and name, for a sandwich? The idea of eating meat piled between two slices of bread is credited to a man named John Montagu, otherwise known as the Earl of Sandwich. The story goes that in the 1700s, Montagu, who was a minister of state in London, was so wrapped up in a gambling session that he refused to leave the table and had his dinner beef piled between two slices of thick bread for ease of eating while at the gaming table. The birth of the term “sandwich” is credited to Montagu’s gambling binge, where the popularity of this portable, handheld meal caught on.

The first recipe for a sandwich appeared in an American cookbook in 1816 and revealed the dish was no longer limited to just a meat filling like Montagu’s creation. Fruit, cheeses, and vegetables were now included in the items that could be put between two slices of bread. The sandwich would gain ground over the next 100 years all over the world much in the same way Montagu’s first experience was created — people wanting a handheld, portable way to eat a variety of tastes and textures in one bite.

A Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich encapsulates the history of Vietnam. Meaning “all kinds of bread,” the sandwich was created in the 1950s after the end of French colonization. However, there are hallmarks of French cuisine littered throughout the sandwich and its creation. The French baguette is the shell of this savory sandwich, a remnant of the French colonization that Vietnamese eaters quickly embraced. In the communist north of Vietnam, the sandwich was quite simple: bread, meat, salt and pepper. However, in the democratic south, you’d see a mix of Vietnamese influences such as basil, jalapeños and pickled vegetables to provide several contrasts: chewy and crisp, sweet and sour, spicy and cooling. Another French influence sometimes included in this sandwich is the traditional French pâté, which adds another layer of texture and a rich, mineral-like taste. At Fork & Truck, our protein of choice is duck, with the addition of cooling cucumbers to offset the fiery jalapeños — it’s our modern take on a Vietnamese classic.

The Cuban, or Cubano, sandwich is a pork lover’s delight. The Cubano first made its appearance in Cuban sugar mills and cigar factories as a quick, handheld meal for workers. As these workers left Cuba for southern Florida, they brought their favorite lunchtime sandwich with them, where its popularity made it a signature dish in Tampa and Miami. The key to this sandwich’s popularity in such a hot climate is its play on contrasts. The layers of ham and slow-roasted pork are salty, fatty and savory. This is juxtaposed with pungent Swiss cheese, vinegary pickles and tangy mustard to cut through the salty pork flavors. The combination of flavors is amplified at Fork & Truck by the addition of banana peppers to add another briny, spicy kick to complement the rich pork products.

A classic American diner staple, the BLT sandwich has remained popular for over 60 years because of its simplistic beauty. The sandwich’s popularity skyrocketed after World War II, when shoppers were able to source tomatoes year-round instead of just seasonally. Toasted bread slathered in mayonnaise houses warm, crispy bacon that is nestled between crunchy iceberg lettuce and acidic tomatoes. The combination of flavors at Fork & Truck is cleverly re-imagined with fried green tomatoes in place of standard red tomatoes and thick slabs of Texas toast used for the bread.

As our tastes evolve to include more experience with food from around the world, sandwiches will surely be on the list of foods that will continue to change. At Fork & Truck, we’re already putting our own twist on classic sandwiches that could have easily extended the Earl’s winning streak at his gambling table.

The Mobile Gourmet

Food trucks are “the new incubators of culinary innovation,” according to Smithsonian, and cities are waking up to the benefits – including a multicultural, festive atmosphere – that food truck culture brings to urban streets. Houston, already renowned for its exceptional restaurants, is extending a warm welcome to their mobile counterparts.

Food Truck Culture

You could say that food trucks are a Texas thing, since it began back in the 19th century with the chuckwagons that fed the cowboys and the “Chili Queens” of San Antonio. However, the mobile kitchens of today serve up menus as varied as any restaurant and they’re equally attentive to quality. Some popular restaurants originally tried out their menus on the road – Franklin Barbecue, for instance. Then you have Coolhaus: the architecturally inspired desserts of California’s Coolhaus ice cream trucks are now available in brick-and-mortar markets.
Culturally diverse fare and lower costs often make food trucks popular with millennials, who embrace different taste experiences and the thrill of discovering a great meal on the street. Updates on Twitter and Facebook keep customers in the loop when they’re craving something special.
Food trucks are a vibrant part of Houston’s dining scene, enlivening the streets and special events with menus that range from adventurous to classic fare. Options for finding a food truck in Houston are increasing all the time, too.
Catering is often available from mobile units vendors, for special events and private functions.

Tasty Tuesday – and Friday

On the second Tuesday of the month, The Post Oak Central at 1990 Post Oak Central Boulevard hosts a dozen food trucks in the parking lot, bringing the food to workers in the area so they can save time over lunch hour. Locals estimate that over 1,000 people take advantage of this opportunity; that number represents a lot of vehicles with drivers who aren’t on the road in search of lunch.
Food Truck Fridays are a feature at a few venues around Houston. First Methodist Houston at Travis and Polk invites up to six selected food trucks on site, with the emphasis on quality and variety. The line-up changes every week, giving customers the opportunity to sample from the wide selection on offer from Houston’s food trucks.
Sam Houston Race Park also hosts Food Truck Friday periodically, and so does Houston Press at 2603 La Branch (at La Branch and McGowen). Check their websites for dates. Keep an eye out for more venues to join the Food Truck Friday trend in the future.

Food Truck Park

You can find Magnum Food Park at 2924 Mangum Road, where the environment is pet-friendly and shady. At Houston International Food Truck Park, 1311 Leeland Street, you can enjoy a rotating roster of food trucks and themed food events, like the recent Brazilian Food Festival.

Food Safety

The same food and safety regulations apply to mobile food vendors in Houston as brick-and-mortar establishments. Vendors need to conform to stringent standards to obtain and hold the proper mobile food unit medallion and permits. Rigorous inspections of the unit are conducted, and in some cases, there may be restrictions on the operation.
Fork & Truck is proud to join the venerable Houston food truck line-up, with a unique menu that blends Cajun and Asian flavors with our own twist. Look for us in Houston, and check us out on Twitter and Facebook.

Fried Green Tomatoes to Duck Sliders: Say What?

There’s a lot of folks in Houston, Texas.

According to the U.S.  Census Bureau’s July 1, 2015, population estimate, Houston is home to over 2.2 million souls. These people are of all ethnic backgrounds, such as Caucasian-American, African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American, to only name a few. When talking about Houston, no other word describes it better than “diverse.”

We Are One When We’re Hungry

When peoples of differing cultures and ethnicities make up a population, finding common ground may be a difficult undertaking. However, the one place where common ground is not a problem is food.

Everyone has to eat. Most of us love to eat and we love to try new foods. It is all about the taste, and how good the taste is lies in the hands of the chef.

Houston’s Chef Martin has taken the best from Houston’s multi-ethnic population and combined it into signature dishes at The Fork & Truck. Chef Martin’s goal is to make certain everyone in Houston knows there are incredible, innovative foods to be had outside of fancy, high-priced restaurants.

The Fork & Truck for Foodies

The eclectic cuisine you’ll find here is a tribute to Houston’s diverse cultural history and blend of ethnic populations.

For example, Chef Martin took a tried-and-true favorite – the Cubano sandwich, a beloved traditional sandwich – and added Cuban mojo sauce and a fried pickle to give an exciting twist to something we all know and love.

A Menu Worth Hollerin’ About

Chef Martin has put together an amazing menu of dishes that you won’t find offered by other food trucks or catering services in the Houston area. He’s added his own flair to each item while retaining its beloved traditional appeal. These menu offerings are sure to get your mouth watering:

  • Fried Green Tomato BLT: Everyone raised in the South knows the joy of a traditional BLT sandwich. Now imagine a BLT made with a fried green tomato, then topped with Balsamic bacon and crisp lettuce. Slap some mayo on Texas Toast, pile it all up and you’ve got a serious sandwich.
  • Duck Sliders: For a modern upgrade to this traditional Vietnamese dish, The Fork & Truck version uses duck breast topped with hoisin mayo, carrots, green onion, crisp cucumber, spicy jalapeno. It’s then served up on a Hawaiian Roll.
  • Cuban Sandwich: This classic is dressed up with seasoned pork tenderloin and ham, followed by Swiss cheese. Add on pickles and banana peppers, then throw it in a French roll with mustard.
  • Chimichurri Lamb: This unique sandwich pays tribute to South American and Mediterranean cultures to create an unforgettable delight. Fresh grilled, marinated lamb meets chimichurri mayo sauce. Throw in Greek salad to serve on pita bread and you have a meal made in Heaven.
  • Elote Fritters: You can’t go wrong when you add traditional Mexican grilled corn on the cob to any meal. We dish them up as fried bites served with a cilantro cream sauce. Watch out; these guys are addictive!
  • Korean Turkey Burger: Looking for a low-calorie choice? Imagine ground turkey cooked up with Korean chili paste. We pile on our own homemade kimchi for a surprising twist on a new favorite.
  • Chicken Beignets: Here’s a shout out to our Cajun Houstonians. Brined chicken strips fried up crisp in beignet dough that’s served up with honey maple bourbon dipping sauce.
  • Foie Gras Boudin egg rolls: Cajun fusion meets American Chinese in this amazing offering. An pastry wrapper encases chicken, pork, rice and foie gras. Dip it in our Creole mustard dipping sauce and you’ll have a new favorite in no time.