Holy crap, I figured it out!
Way back, when I was itty-bitty, my grandfather took me to an automat in downtown Birmingham.
It’s painful how much I’m dating myself, but for you gen-y’ers out there, an automat is basically a giant vending machine disguised as a restaurant. Patrons would enter the establishment, peruse a wall of items in individual windowed boxes, insert coins, and voila! Lunch/Dinner/Snacks! Food springing from the air with no visible kitchen behind it! To an impressionable 3-year old, probably the highest form of magic.
It finally dawned on me this morning: this has got to be where my food truck obsession comes from!
If you think about it, it’s pretty similar. Drive to food truck ground zero (Woodruff Arts Center/Sweet Auburn Curb Market/Howell Mill Food Park, etc.) Select your food from a variety of boxes (on wheels). Pay a miniscule amount of money. Voila. Food from nowhere. Magic.
Needless to say, my inner child has been such a happy camper with the recent street food explosion in Atlanta. David and I have been to Woodruff Art Center a couple of times for Food Truck Thursdays, and snacked from the trucks at the last two Castleberry Hill Art Strolls. We’ve spied the hardest-working street vendor known to man, the King of Pops, at such unlikely spots as Kai Lin Art and the Turner Broadcasting Techwood campus, and we’re regulars at El Burro Pollo, Chef Hector’s amazing burrito joint, even though the city chased them from their al-fresco digs to the interior of Super Pan Latino.
Not surprisingly, we (that is, David, me and my internal rug rat) were jig-dancin’ happy to learn some super-smartie had opened up the Howell Mill Food Park in an empty lot in Westside, featuring a rotating assembly of Atlanta’s finest meals-on-wheels every Tuesday night.
Work’s been crazy for us both, but we finally made it out to the Park last night, dragging along my dear friend and college roommate, Beth Hawks, of CoreComm PR. Despite predicted storms and foreboding skies, the park was packed with a motley and culturally diverse assortment of students, young families, hipsters and housewives (a few who snuck in their own vino, clever girls).
What a great selection to choose from! We enjoyed fabulous Pommes Frites (with red curry ketchup and garlic aioli) from the Fry Guy, Chicken Tamales from the Tamale Queen (with the best salsa verde I’ve had in a long time), sinfully delish chili-cheese dogs from the Pup Truck and chicken-stuffed arepas and meltingly wonderful cinnamon sugar donuts from Wow! Food Truck. Surprisingly, Beth, who’s gluten-sensative and mostly Vegan, actually had some pretty substantial options, primarily from Good Food and Wow!Food Truck including an orzo, berry and grilled veggie salad and some tasty taters with jalepeno cilantro sauce. The park has a couple of picnic tables, but it’s first come/first serve and you’ll have to battle the Bettys for a brief butt rest.
Pretty typically, I filled up too fast and didn’t have room for everything I wanted to try, regretfully passing on vendors I’d enjoyed before, including Yum Yum Cupcake, King of Pops, Westside Creamery and (most lamentably) Yumbaii and Boner’s BBQ.
Awesomely fun evening!
We’re looking forward to going back, but in the meantime, my rewoken tamale cravings will need to be addressed, so I found a great recipe and plan to spring it on David this weekend, along with directions for one of my favorite vices in the world, elote, a chili, cheese and mayo slathered grilled corn on the cob, that is totally to die for.
Until next time, keep on truckin!
Yes, I know. I said it. It was contractual. Move along.
Original Recipe Yield 16 tamales
1 1/4 pounds pork loin
1 large onion, halved
1 clove garlic
4 dried California chile pods
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups masa harina
1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lard
1 (8 ounce) package dried corn husks
1 cup sour cream
Place pork into a Dutch oven with onion and garlic, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the meat is cooked through, about 2 hours.
Use rubber gloves to remove stems and seeds from the chile pods. Place chiles in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then remove from heat to cool. Transfer the chiles and water to a blender and blend until smooth. Strain the mixture, stir in salt, and set aside. Shred the cooked meat and mix in one cup of the chile sauce.
Soak the corn husks in a bowl of warm water. In a large bowl, beat the lard with a tablespoon of the broth until fluffy. Combine the masa harina, baking powder and salt; stir into the lard mixture, adding more broth as necessary to form a spongy dough.
Spread the dough out over the corn husks to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Place one tablespoon of the meat filling into the center. Fold the sides of the husks in toward the center and place in a steamer. Steam for 1 hour.
Remove tamales from husks and drizzle remaining chile sauce over. Top with sour cream. For a creamy sauce, mix sour cream into the chile sauce.