Livin’ Large – Stretchy Pants Large – At The Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo.
Q: What do you get when you combine a military re-enlistment ceremony with a thirty-first birthday celebration with a visit from the in-laws with a pending house sale with an imminent do-it-yourself move?
This was me. Pretty much all week.
People deal with stress in all kinds of ways. I deal with stress by eating, obsessing about the problem, and then eating some more. See, the eating part distracts me from the obsessing part and, for whatever length of time I happen to be eating, I can pretend that whatever’s doing the stressing doesn’t exist.
Also, food is how we entertain. Justin’s parents were our house guests this past week, and since I haven’t birthed any grandchildren with which to entertain them, we ate. And then we ate some more. And, when we were tired of that, we did a little eating. From strawberry chocolate baked oatmeal and potato-crusted veggie quiche at home to drinks out on The Porch and incredible Smoked Salmon Pasta at Sherefe, it seemed there was no limit to the lengths we’d go for a fabulous food experience.
So when my friend Danielle told us about the Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo happening on Sunday, right after my birthday and before Justin’s re-enlistment ceremony, we figured a day of rest was overrated.
The entire street was filled with food.
Stretching ten city blocks from the capital building to Raleigh City Plaza, there were over 50 food trucks from all over the state of North Carolina gathered in one, glorious location — just an hour from our house.
Justin, his dad, and two bellies full of brisket.
Now, look. I’m not much of a crowd person. But this event, despite the massive amounts of people and long lines, was pretty flawless. First of all, it was FREE. Well. Free admission. Also, there was plenty of seating along either side of the road, the lines moved fairly quickly, and the absolute coolest thing is that the trucks were running on silent commercial power, which meant the air was filled with the smell of garlic, fried chicken, and grilled beef — not exhaust fumes.
We quickly realized that splitting up while waiting in lines was key to efficient food truck rodeo sampling. We’d gather in a circle, put our hands in the center, shout, “Ready… BREAK!” and head off to see who could score the best grub.
No, not really. But in retrospect, we should have.
In any case, splitting up to divide the line waits was pretty smart, because there was a lot of food to try.
It was great to go with a group, too, because everything was full-sized. With a group, we were able to sample a lot more by splitting up our orders. Some foods we nibbled while we were in line for the next truck, and others we assembled at a table and sampled all at once.
My only real complaint, in fact, was that the trucks weren’t offering bite-sized portions for bite-sized prices. Instead of $8-10 for an entire baguette, I would’ve gladly paid $3 for a quarter baguette so I could try it in four different flavors. That’d be a win-win for everyone involved, I think.
So while we didn’t get to try nearly as many trucks as we would’ve liked before our tummies started to protest and the wind began to chill our bones, there was a clear winner out of the places we tried. (And we tried a lot of great food, including a French baguette stuffed with sweet Italian sausage and homemade red pepper sauce from the Baguettaboutit truck, and breaded, deep-fried boudin balls with rice and pork from Batonrouge Cuisine.)
Our winner, though, was from Papi Queso Food Truck, which served up the delicious Leek & Mushroom grilled cheese with Braised Leeks, Roasted Mushrooms, Gruyere, and Truffle Robiola pictured above, as well as these tasty lemon, rosemary, white truffle, & parmesan kettle chips:
But the best thing they had and the best thing we tried, was this:
The “Pig Mack” Grilled Cheese, served up with Carolina pulled pork, macaroni ‘n cheese, and bourbon onions.
The taste was out. of. this. world.
We loved it so much, in fact, that we went back and ordered two more to have for dinner that night.
I kid you not.
I also tried a Mexican Coke from a glass bottle, and while our typical canned U.S. Coke has been ruined for me ever since the time I left a fast food cup of it in the garage for a week before I discovered the disgusting, syrupy, conglomeration of coagulants at the bottom, I have to say — I wouldn’t mind another bottle of that Mexican stuff.
Plus, Papi’s stamps its boxes with cute little mustaches.
Papi Queso Truck is native to Charlotte, North Carolina, so if you’re ever in that area, I highly recommend looking them up. When I went back for my second order, I told them it was the best we’d tried at the rodeo, and they all beamed with pride. And to me, there’s nothing better than experiencing food created by people who so clearly love what they do.
I don’t even feel too bad about the whole gluttony thing — Justin’s parents are Catholic, so that means we have an “in.”
*Papi Queso Truck did not pay me to wax on about their food — nor was I influenced (well not much) by the orange mustache sticker they gave me when I told them that the Pig Mac was the stuff of dreams. Seriously. You just need to try it.