The Unfussy Epicure
Finding the sweet spot between flavor and fuss.
It's no secret that I love food trucks, and have been excited to sample their fare in Portland and New York. But possibly my best food-truck experience ever happened Tuesday night, right here in Albuquerque. ASAP was not as soon as I might have liked. But two weeks later, we walked from our house to Hyder Park on a beautiful Tuesday evening. The yellow Supper Truck with its exclamatory red fork logo waited for us under the graceful elm trees. We walked past a multigenerational neighborhood soccer game and chatted with the super-friendly counter (window?) staff for a few minutes, then checked out the menu.
I have to thank my friend and neighbor Mary. A few weeks ago, she rode by on her adorable flowered bike as I was picking some tomatoes from my front-yard garden. "We're heading down to Hyder Park to have dinner at Supper Truck!" she called, and of course I had to press her for details. I was tempted to join her right then, but dinner was almost ready. So I immediately made plans to get there ASAP. Because what could be better than a gourmet food truck combined with one of the prettiest parks in Albuquerque?
Arne was, apparently, feeling decisive that night, as he immediately suggested we share the cornmeal-crusted catfish tacos and the shrimp and grits. Since everything on the menu sounded good and I didn't want to dither all night, I agreed - though I've only once or twice had grits I really enjoyed. We decided to order dessert later. No one else was in line, so it was less than five minutes until our order was called. The shrimp and grits came out first, and the presentation was so nice that at a startled first glance I thought they were using ceramic or plastic bowls. The bowl was actually paper - by far the nicest-looking disposable bowl I have ever seen. The tacos followed immediately after, in a more conventional paper-lined boat.
We sat down at a stone picnic table in the sunset (and, Arne pointed out to the exasperation of my romantic heart, sodium) light and dug immediately into the shrimp and grits. It wasn't just the bowl that made them attractive; the brick-red bacon crumbles and green onions against the white and pink of the dish were lovely. But the flavor was even better. The grits were creamy but with enough texture to be toothsome, and deeply flavorful - I think they were enhanced with goat cheese. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, sweet and moist. I was really impressed.
I tore myself away from the grits to sample the catfish tacos. They were impressive too. The catfish was crunchy on the outside and still moist inside; the beautiful red cabbage slaw was crisp and tangy-sweet. One of the best fish tacos in town... though not quite as wonderful as the shrimp and grits. (Can I just mention again that I've never been a fan of grits?) As we'd been savoring our dinner, the soccer game had broken up, the sun had gone down, and a line had formed at the Supper Truck. We were glad to see a clientele building. Taking our place at the end of the line, we decided to quell the agony of deciding between the two luscious-sounding desserts by ordering both a Moon Bomb and apple-pie dumplings with salted caramel sauce.
The wait was longer this time - an estimated 12 minutes - because many orders were in before ours. At another time, perhaps this would have been bothersome. But not in Hyder Park, with the last of the light leaking from the sky, surrounded by happy people in quiet conversations (and one not-as-happy baby). We lay down in the grass, eyes to the emerging stars, and relaxed. Sometimes there is nothing more peaceful than waiting.
Dessert was worth the wait, and would have been in far more trying circumstances. Both were clearly better hot and fresh than they would have been if we'd ordered them at the same time as our entrees. First we each tried a dumpling. More like fried wontons than dumplings, they were delightfully crisp, with a lightly tart apple filling. The salted caramel sauce was a wonderful counterpoint, and lick-the-plate good. (Did I actually lick the plate? No, of course not. I'm far more civilized than that. I ran my finger through the sauce and licked it off. Repeatedly.)
Then we turned to the Moon Bomb. Being one big sphere, it was not as easy to eat as the dumplings. The chocolate drizzle made it look pretty messy to go at by picking it up and taking a bite. So we set to with forks. "Wow," we both said. The Moon Bomb is named for Moon Pies, but to me it was more like a big round S'more. The center was filled with warm, yielding marshmallow, and there was some kind of grahamy dough goodness and crisp panko and melty chocolate. And the amazing thing is, it wasn't too sweet. The texture was so rich and decadent that too much sweetness would have been... well, too much. This walked the line perfectly, leaving us making little moans of pleasure without feeling like we'd pay for it later.
Before we'd even received our awesome desserts, we were looking forward to next Tuesday. I can't wait to try Supper Truck's fried chicken banh mi, pulled-pork sliders, and hand-cut fries with pimiento cheese sauce. I don't know how much longer the weather will cooperate with evenings in the park, but Supper Truck can be found at other places: in Nob Hill at Tractor Brewing Company some evenings, and at Talin Supermarket's food-truck pod on Wednesdays for lunch. Like The Supper Truck on Facebook to stay informed of the schedule. You'll be glad you did.