Monday, May 02, 2011

Zany Flies Solo - Empanadas and a Really Good Friday

Times have been tough without my pal Zany. When I haven’t been feeding my sense of abandonment with an endless diet of Peanut Butter and Fluff sandwiches, I’ve had to endure one bad catered business lunch after another consisting of slimy pasta salad and dry cookies the size of hockey pucks. I’ve been trying to organize a new lunch team, but so far, the candidates have been dubious at best. One of them even told me he couldn’t make a food truck run one day, because “he felt fat.” How do you respond to that?

Through it all, Zany has been an ever-present force on email. Despite the move to Chicago, she’s even more tuned in to New York truck food news than ever before. I heard the news that the Frites ‘n’ Meats Truck had exploded from Zany first. Still, I’ve worried about her. Chicago can be a lonely city for food truck aficionados. Is she keeping up her strength? Is she eating well? Is she consuming the minimum daily requirement of meat and fried foods? I learn more when the following missive - the first official "guest post" ever on Culinary Types - appears in my email box from Zany:

Dear TW -

Forty-four. That’s how many days it was since I graced the line of a New York City food truck. The drought of culinary adventure was leaving me weak and delirious. In fact, when I saw it, I was confused and thought it was a hallucination.

It was Good Friday and I had effectively accomplished little on my work holiday. It was around noon when I mustered the energy to put on my gym gear. I shuffled to the table to grab my iPod when out of the corner of my eye – there it was. Thirty-eight floors down and two blocks over was a parked, blue pastel truck with a growing crowd of people. I paused and my inner Zany hit me – “It’s a food truck, you idiot!” Easter had come early.

I gasped, causing my husband, Luigi – the Italian baker, to come dashing into the dining room exclaiming, “What happened?!” I lowered my hands from my mouth and whispered, “It’s a food truck.” Luigi – after scolding me for my sheer excitement – trudged back into his home office.

I threw down my iPod, opened the computer, and within five minutes identified the vehicle as the 5411 Empanada Truck. I quickly changed, ran into Luigi’s office and furiously started digging through a box. “Now what,” he demanded. “CAMERA – I NEED the camera,” I explained. “It’s empanadas…I’ve just got to go.” Luigi had many more questions – like “I thought you were going to the gym,” “What’s an empanada,” and “Can you get me one” – but I didn’t have time. It was 12:30 p.m. and I had to make it to the truck before lunch was over.

As I hurried out the door I felt a renewed energy. “TW would be so proud,” I thought as my smile spread and I quickened my pace. And then my step got slower. I had no TW. No Mad Me-Shell. Not even a Marie-Antoinette. I was alone.

When I joined the back of the line, I began to feel better.

In true Zany fashion, I craned my neck to examine the line and menu options, and suddenly the rain drops came. My excitement outweighed my prudence and I didn’t bring an umbrella. As I pulled my scarf over my head I mumbled, “Marie-Antoinette would never stand out in the rain.”

The line moved quickly but by the time I made it to the front, two of the six empanada options were sold out. I shared in the collective groan when a woman crossed the “beef” and “sweet corn” flavors off the board. When the kind gentlemen asked, “What would you like?” I was anxious, but with confidence I did what TW would’ve done. I asked for one of everything they had.

With brown bag in hand I ran back to my apartment, but caught the “local” elevator that made eight stops before my floor. As I impatiently tapped my foot, I noticed another smart food connoisseur carrying the same brown bag. I leaned over and in a low voice said, “So you got the empanadas, too?” He smiled and we quickly exchanged pleasantries about food trucks. Another passenger joined the conversation and commented, “I hear food trucks are really big in New York.” The smile disappeared from my face as the elevator reached my floor and I stepped out.

Back in the apartment I laid out the beautifully packaged spread – ham and cheese, spinach and cheese, barbeque chicken and caramelized onion. I called out to Luigi to join me.

Feeling bad about skipping the gym, I broke into the spinach and cheese empanada first. The pastry shell was perfect and there was a distinct hint of parmesan.

We tried the ham and cheese next. Its taste was as unique as its shape. The weight of the cheese and the thickness of ham made this empanada a true comfort food.

While I had been tackling the empanadas by finger, Luigi came to the table with silverware. I decided to cut him some slack, but asked, “So what do you think so far?” He replied, “The ham and cheese is too heavy for me.” With a blank stare I replied, “You’re going to have to do better than that.”

We tore through the barbeque chicken next, which had a tangy, sweet sauce. I took a quick break to text Mad to let her know that she would definitely enjoy that empanada. She quickly wrote back to say she was jealous of my lunch, but it was OK because she was off gallivanting on a boat somewhere in Tennessee.

Luigi and I wrapped up lunch with the caramelized onion empanada. We both didn’t know what to expect, but the sweet flavors of the onion drew us in. We almost had to rock, paper, scissors it out to determine who took the remaining piece of this empanada, but Luigi recognized it was in his best interest to let me have the honors.

In a final attempt to elicit some good discussion, I asked Luigi again about his opinions. He didn’t seem to get it. He simply ranked his opinion of the empanadas – onion, barbeque, spinach and ham and cheese – and resumed his working day. I sighed in disappointment – even Marie-Antoinette could do better.

Then I did what I should’ve done at the outset. I turned to The Boss and he was eagerly waiting to sample everything.

Yours in condiments,


©2011 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

How fun T.W. I hope Zany can hear me way up there in Chicago 'cause I'm yelling from down south, "More, more, more. We want more stories from you." We miss you girl.

My favorite part was when she said she did what you would have done - order one of each. What a clever way not to have to make a decision. And Luigi certainly did the honorable thing when he let her have the last one. He's a good man.

Great post T.W.

Julia said...

Great story! My favorite line: "I did what TW would’ve done. I asked for one of everything they had."

Glad to know that Chicago isn't the food desert I was starting to think it was.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Even though you and Zany aren't foodtrucking in the same city, it's nice to know you are still sharing the experience.

Zany said...

I'm glad you all like my tale about empanadas! Chicago is debuting at least three new food trucks this summer, so there will be more Zany and Mad Me-Shell adventures in the future!

~~louise~~ said...

What a delectable story, Zany.

Thank you so much for sharing it T.W. I think my favorite line is the rock, paper, scissors, choice. After spending this visit with the kids, I actually know how to do it:)

I do hope you conger up a few adventurous "dining" partners, T.W. Peanut Butter & Fluff sandwiches can only sustain for so long. Good Luck!

Marie-Antoinette said...

First, I have to say impressive eyes Zany! Second, you are a true photographer - everything looked amazing!

Love the introduction of Luigi and The Boss - I'm sure The Boss will have some pretty strong opinions in the future :). And I'm pretty sure the Chi-town food truck scene won't know what hit 'em - you're going to get them competing with NY in no time!

Miss you Zany!

Oh, and I'll excuse the "even MA" comments.... for now ;)

Liz said...

OMG, I'm dying - the 5411 Empanadas truck stops at Ketchum (well, the Aon Building, where Ketchum IS) every Friday! Tera and I had them this past Friday. Now that I know where Zany must live, Zany, if you're reading this, reach out - it's time to eat together!

Barbara said...

Cute guest post, T.W.! Sounds as though Zany is going to have a good summer. Perhaps Chicago is a little slow to understand food trucks know no season.

I hope you'll soon find some new lunch partners (although nobody could take Zany's place)! You are so fortunate to be thin enough, work out enough, young enough, have great metabolism, low cholesterol or whatever combo of those five to enable you to frequent food trucks. I'm super jealous!

Mad Me-Shell said...

First, I feel it important to let everyone know that I had already been to the empanada truck, not once but twice! PLEASE don't think that little Miss Zany was telling ME anything new about the Chicago food trucks. I visited with my co-workers and shamelessly tried all the flavors for 'research' purposes. Second, I too am quite impressed by your photography skills, Zany! I am looking forward to combining our powers once again! And third, T.W., I almost shed a tear after reading the sad, sad tale of your (gasp) homemade sandwiches -- these new recruits seriously need to get their act together!

tasteofbeirut said...

First I thought you were impersonating her; she has a similar writing style, very witty and sharp. Enjoyed the story, will have to tell my neighbor, Mary, who is headed to chicago for a few days of bliss (she is a native and misses it even after 30 years of Texas and Dallas). Well, what else is there to say? You need to move to Chicago.

Kalyn Denny said...

How fun to get an update on Zany. and I dare say even without her your lunches are still more fun than my time eating in the elementary school cafeteria all those years!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What fun! I hope Zany will stay in touch and keep us up to date with food news from Chicago. It's also great to see that sibling rivalry has survived the move :-). Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

alfred p said...

I learned recently that food trucks used to roam wild across the whole country. They were beloved by the original Native Americans who desperately sought them out after long nights of peace-pipe smoking and rain-dancing. In fact, that's why the pappoose was invented--to keep the hands free while eating by the side of a truck.

Unfortunately, with the new European settlers' preference for dining at tables with utensils, the trucks, like the buffalo, were hunted to near extinction.

It was only in the last few years, when a pair were re-introduced into the wild (in Montana), that they began to reproduce and settle in urban canyons. Interesting that one turned up in Chicago--it looked lonely in the rain, likely separated from its pack and lost.

Lori Lynn said...

Hi TW - I loved this post, especially since I just returned from Chicago. We drove downtown to experience the best doughnuts for the Doughnut Vault, and were so disappointed to see they were sold out :(
Definitely can relate to Zany - I hope she is enjoying Chicago's food scene, it rocks! I am in the process of sharing some of the highlights on my blog...

Stacey Snacks said...

I have been hearing so much about the Chicago food scene....I have to get there.
I loved this post TW!