Category Archives: food

We are all High Risk now

I’ve heard it all about Trump. I agree with much of it. He is all the bad things you think he is. He is a whirlwind of incompetence. All true. Not in dispute on my end. And yes, we should be very vigilant and very involved, because what he seems to be doing, primarily, is making people very uneasy about the future. But enough of the hot-takes and put-downs and emperor-has-no-clothes memes. It is time to put away the childish things. All the rants, all the ridicule, all the facepalm… all of it. Even if it is just for a minute.

 

Try this: Think about Trumpworld like you were having it explained to you by a financial advisor. Maybe your financial advisor, if you have one. He/She is likely very serious, very focused, and not a political blowhard. He can chat about either party with equal ease. He knows that filtering out the political background noise is essential to making good financial decisions. What would the Trump administration look like if you filtered out the stadium-volume politics? That is what good financial advisors do. The good ones are good because they can look at a proposition without getting too wrapped up in the writ-large politics of it. Trump is not a politician. He has no political background, skills, or even firm political beliefs. What he has done with his life is amass a personal fortune, and a key part of amassing a fortune is learning to lay off risk. If you play with big numbers and you can get someone to reliably take more risk than you take, you will reliably amass wealth at their expense. That’s how a guy who couldn’t make a casino work; who rolled craps on bottled water, vodka, and steaks (I guess American’s couldn’t get on board with those things); a guy who has cratered and declared bankruptcy at least four times (plus other sell-offs and bail-outs); managed to become the President of The United States of America: Laying off risk on potential voters.

 

That’s not all of it, of course. The other part of the Trump mystique is getting people to ignore or minimize the risk he are asking them to take. To make this sleight-of-hand work you have to either misdirect them about the degree of the risk, or you have to get them very focused on some other risk. The mark has to be so focused on that other risk that they overlook the obvious risks they are being asked to take by Trump. That is how you get investors to buy in, and it extends executives, staff, regulators, and whole governments. Reading the room and having a feel for what token of misdirection will be most effective is probably the one thing Trump is really good at. He proved it during the 2016 campaign. He routinely clobbered people with better, or better-formed, political platforms because he could play an arena full of potential voters in a way they couldn’t dream of. Prairie Home Companion, meet Tony Montana fronting Led Zeppelin.

 

The last tie-in to Trump’s success in 2016 is evangelism. Not just Christian Evangelical evangelism, but also the idea of a true believer who is all-in. Apple was showing their understanding of the concept’s power when they added “Mac Evangelist” to their org chart. Trump is a Trump Evangelist. The Best. The Smartest. The King of Deals. And so on… And that nauseating passage aside, Trump is pulling from both flavors of the word, almost equally. In a religious setting the risk is always outside, facing in, threatening the audience. The unbeliever. The heavy metal music. The gangsta rap lyrics. The [insert your favorite secular pleasure here]. The reward the religious evangelist offers is the safety of being inside, away and apart from the external menacing force. Trump knows this play like he knows the buttons on his TV remote. All he had to do is sprinkle in the barest soupçon of old time religion and the audience understood. Inside Good. Outside, Bad. Prosperity Gospel Politics brought to the Presidency.

 

And yet again, there is a huge risk component in Religious Evangelism. [“Again with the risk?” you ask? Yes. Stick with me for a sec] Think about it like your somewhat boring and outwardly apolitical finance guy would. Guys like Joel Osteen are just laying off huge amounts of risk on their flocks, and the house always wins. Trump is doing the same thing, but in his case the flock absorbing the risk is 350 million US citizens who are now finding out that the risks are high, they are real, and there is no way to mitigate them.

You want an example of what kinds of risk I am thinking of? Here ya go: You have rank amateurs running the departments of Housing, Energy, and Education. How do you feel about those three things? Pretty strongly, I’d imagine. If there is a bedrock to western civilization it is housing, energy and education. So who were “the best people” to guide these bedrock agencies? You have a guy who initially refused the job because he admitted not having any pertinent experience (aside from having lived in a house, I shit you not), running Housing. You have a guy with an Ag degree [full stop] in charge of our nation’s nuclear weapons and fissionable materials over at DOE. And lastly you have a woman with no professional education or education policy background in charge of Education… but who’s brother (Eric Prince of Blackwater fame) made a cool billion(z) leveraging the US population’s concept of risk in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, oh yeah, this: did anyone notice that her husband is the founder of Amway. Amway is basically a peak-risk-distribution effort. The company always takes on less risk than their franchisees. Always. The house always wins. Always.

 

So stop thinking about what a braying jackass Trump is. He was one before all of this started. Nothing will change. He will always be a braying jackass. Get over it.

 

I am making the case that we start thinking about Trump as the guy who sees the entire US population as a risk-soak. His presidency is just like every other Trump deal: The less equity you have at buy-in, the more risk you gotta take. And over 95% of the US population does not have the required equity to hedge against Trump. We are faced with the prospects of backsliding on worker protections, civil rights, air and water quality, Social Security, healthcare, foreign relations, foreign economics, domestic economics, and the feeling that a world war is imminent. At the same time we are seeing Wall Street deregulated, energy corporations take over the EPA, and a massive increase in military posture and spending. The payoff is supposed to be a period of sustained economic resurgence. Last I checked the DOW was over 20,000. That was pre-Trump. At the end of eight years of G W Bush it was around 6,500. Talk about selling ice cubes to eskimos! There has been plenty of economic growth in the past 10 years, but it all stayed out in shareholder-land. The money was not used to create jobs, build factories, build coal-fired power plants, and club baby seals for fun and profit. It was used to pay the guys who had been exposed to the least risk in the first place. They are the people who bear the least risk of being without good housing, good healthcare, good education, clean water, affordable energy and good nutrition.

 

While the US Senate deliberates in secret over what version of Trumpcare can get 51 votes, think about the risk you are being asked to take on. Guys like Trump use risk as the basic measuring stick for every major decision. Maybe it’s time we all started doing the same.

Ginger Beer the easy way…

 Here is a bottle of Cruzan Aged 151… What was I thinking??????

I previously stated that here in southern New England we have adopted the Bermudian “Dark and Stormy” as a regional favorite. My sense of local drink history tells me it started in Newport, RI and the south fork of Long Island, and spread out from there. This is the spicier version of the Rum and Coke, or more specifically the Cuba Libre (viva lime wedge!!!). I won’t belabor the point: it is a highball of rum and ginger beer, garnished with a lime wedge. You should be able to figure out how strong you want it and not need a recipe. Squeeze the wedge or don’t. Your call.

The Gosling’s rum people have a lock on the “Dark ‘N Stormy” recipe, made with their dark rum, their ginger beer, and your lime wedge. If that sounds excessive, think of it as a badge of honor traceable to the Bacardi Cocktail. Bacardi had a bug up their bung about Bacardi becoming generecized (kleenexed, if you will) and started policing bars to ensure that their rum was not being subbed out of a “bacardi cocktail” for some other, lesser, rum. (Please, no laughing) Goslings wants the same kind of respect, but it seems over the top. You now have to avoid the shorthand “‘N” and use “and” or “&”… I guess. The truth is that not only can you bypass the Goslings Dark entirely, you can bypass their ginger beer as well. Sure, prepared ginger beer is super convenient, but it is also super sweet. You can use crushed ice, or water, to dilute the drink, but you will also dilute the ginger flavor.

Enter Ginger Syrup. This could be the solution to the D&S issue, and it can add a kick to other drinks as well.

There are two paths to follow:

One involves using sliced peeled ginger in a simple syrup base, then straining. The drill is the same for many flavored syrups. You make a simple syrup at some ratio between 1:1 and 2:1 sugar:water, add your flavoring as the sugar gets fully dissolved, steep for a few hours, and strain. Hit it with a small dose of silver rum as a preservative and you are done. It will last a while and does have a ginger flavor.

But you will not be happy. You want a strong ginger bite with real ginger heat. You are always looking for stronger siblings in the already limited ginger beer family. Reed’s is kid stuff. D&G is as close as you have been to the ginger promised land. You, friend, need to get on the juice. No, not Barry Bonds’ juice. You need to juice that ginger, then use that as a base for your syrup. In fact, you can stop at the straight juice stage and blend with syrup to taste, but that might be overkill and involve taking a lot of notes and using a precision measuring device. You can go straight to ginger syrup by mixing one part ginger juice with two parts simple syrup. Either way it is better than anything you will buy.

I was introduced to straight ginger juice by my friends Sharon and Mike, who have Caribbean roots and know what is what. I get my ginger at the Indian market because it is better and cheaper than the regular supermarket stuff. Then I peel it (a spoon works great to scrape the thin skin off the rhizome) and feed it into my impeller juicer. Viola, juice. Blow ya head off if yer not careful.

Here is a more complete exploration from Summit Sips

The resulting juice will be super strong. Probably too strong to take straight unless there is serious cash prize money involved. But nailing down an exact ratio will be difficult because some ginger will be stronger and some juicers will be more efficient. Let’s start like this:

  • 1/2 oz ginger juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 1.5 oz Jamaican Rum*
  • 4 oz sparkling water
  • 1 Lime Wedge
  • Combine ginger juice, syrup, and rum over ice in a tall glass
  • Stir.
  • Add sparkling water
  • Squeeze/drop lime wedge, stir, serve

As usual I will not get prescriptive with your rum selection other than to say that the charm in this drink is the way a stronger rum flavor plays with the spicy ginger beer, with a little lime kick for balance. Using a dry white rum may not be horrible but it will miss the mark. It will be drinkable, just not delicious. Your usual dark rum suspects like Goslings, Meyers, Coruba, and El Dorado will do just fine. Likewise, Plantation 5, Pussers, Bacardi 8, Angostura 7… will be delicious. You want a big tasting rum to tangle with that big tasting ginger root.

If you notice a trend, you are correct: I put a lot of stock into the mid-range of the rum world. Rum is, after all, relatively rough company. You can get some very amazing sipping rums, but they are hard to compare without spending a lot of money since they only come in full size bottles and run upward of $35 a piece. Cheaper than a scotch habit, but still, not cheap. In general I stick with a rule of avoiding sipping rums in highball drinks, and only using them in cocktails when they will stand out and I have the time to do a proper job of it. That rule is a money saver as well as allowing me to stretch my rum dollar further and get to know more good rums in place of many fewer great/expensive rums.

That’s it for now. Next up is a list of resources for rum information and tiki culture.

Rhum for the Hills!

I have not been blogging recently, but I have had a project in mind and now is as good a time as any. Even through there are many Tiki culture and craft cocktail books out there, many of them are either extremely broad or end up being very complicated. I enjoy a good cocktail, and I especially enjoy rum. That means stumbling into one of the most confusing and dangerous sections of your local liquor store. Rum is mysterious! They said. Well, yeah, it is mysterious. The range of styles and flavors, and quality, is broader and less predictable than in any class of alcoholic beverages I can think of. Rum ranges from bone dry white liquor that compares to vodka, to dark and heady “pirate juice” with aromas that can be overpowering to the unsuspecting consumer. My plan for the next few posts is to establish a plan of attack, and look for ways to simplify while lowering the initial cost of a basic rum selection.

  

Clement VSOP, a very nice Martinique rum. This is not where the rest of this blog post is heading. Thanks for looking at this rather spendy rum. This is distilled from pressed cane juice, not molasses. Nerd, out.

What’ll ya have, sailor?

What kind of drinks are you interested in? Rum can play well in anything from the simplest Cuba Libre to the most devious Zombie. Narrowing your focus is a good way to get off to a good start, and making a tasty drink, without needing a shelf full of specialty rums.

  • Long Drinks, aka Highballs (rum, ice, mixer)
  • Cocktails (rum or rums, syrups, bitters, lime juice)
  • Tiki Drinks (rum, fruit juices, syrups, ammendments)

When it comes to the rum itself, let’s keep the categories simple:

  • White Spanish (dry white rum such as Bacardi, Ron Matusalem, and Ron Barrelito)
  • White Jamaican/Caribbean (lighter but flavorful such as Cruzan, Don Q, Meyers White, and J.Wray)
  • Gold Rums (medium bodies rums such as Bacardi 8, Appleton VX, Plantation 5, Pussers)
  • Dark Rums (Meyers, Coruba, Goslings, El Dorado 12)
  • Specialty Rums (Wray Overproof, Cruzan Blackstrap, Flavored Rums, Spiced Rums)
  • Overproof Rums – the bad boys of the bunch. Ranging from 120 to 160+ proof, they are usually used for flaming in a tropical presentation, or as a float. Beware: the bad ones are a waste of money and the good ones will kick your ass.

Even that simple list is up for debate, especially the Gold/Dark distinction. I love El Dorado 12. It makes the best Dark & Stormy I have ever had. It is more “rum” than the vanilla, molasses, and rootbeer flavors that dominate other darks. But some rumheads will balk at calling it a true dark. Getting over the nit-picking is the best way to save time, money, and frustration. The wealth of information in books and on the internet is astonishing, but it can also be confusing. I will list some resources later, but remember that one good rum is better than a lot of bottles of “meh” rum.

The first order of business is to nail down what kind of drink you want to make, and then find a good recipe and a good rum. I have no idea what that will be, but I don’t need to know. I will pick a few examples as we go along and hopefully my reasoning will become clearer.

Obviously, the easiest route is a long drink with a prepared mixer. That is not always bad. Somewhere between getting clandestinely hammered on poorly mixed rum and RC Cola in some dimly lit parking lot, and having a Jeff Berry tattoo on your ass, is a lot of very good real estate. If you can make a well balanced Dark and Stormy or Cuba Libre you are off to a good start. So, let’s start there:

  • Dark and Stormy – 1.5oz rum, 8-12oz ginger beer, ice, lime wedge optional
  • Cuba Libre – 1.5oz rum, 8-12oz Coke, ice, lime wedge almost essential

Note: There is one commandment – Thou shalt always use fresh lime juice and fresh lime wedge. Any other source of lime juice is an abomination and you will have only yourself to blame for the horrid results. Amen. If you have a bottle of Rose’s and are not making a pitcher of Kamikaze’s in a frat house, you are on the wrong path. Step up thy game!

Despite the simple appearance, you have some latitude in the strength of the drink (dilution) and the acidity/complexity of the drink. Normally I wouldn’t specify a brand of soda, but Coke has that nutmeg note built in and nothing else does. That is key because someone has put that “je ne sais quoi” into a readily available and affordable mixer, and you don’t have to. As for Ginger Beer, Goslings is easy to find as is the Jamaican DG brand, or the Reed’s Extra Strong. Another option if you want to go all foodie on it is to make a ginger syrup and then top off with seltzer (more on that later). But I digress.

The question is “which rum?”. If I had to pick one rum to make these two drinks I would choose between Coruba and El Dorado 8. First off, they are very good rums. Secondly, you will be making a distinctive drink with a rum you won’t find on the line at the local bar. Lastly, those rums taste like rum. You can pick a lighter option like Cruzan Barrel Aged Silver, or a heavier rum like Kraken (which to me tastes like vanilla and little else). Or whatever you see that piques your interest. I have a bottle of spiced rum from Quebec that is actually quite good, so it isn’t just speculation.

So far all you needed was some rum, a mixer, ice, and a lime. Hardware-wize you needed a paring knife and a stirrer. You can use a pocket knife and your finger, but if you are trying to impress friends or a date, up your game just a tad. The next step up the rum ladder is to use a sweetener, usually in syrup form. They are as easy to make as a cup of tea, and they will improve your life in many ways. Flavored syrups are like moving from a tea bag to loose tea. Still very simple.

  • Plain syrup – equal parts granulated syrup and water, warmed to dissolve sugar, cooled, stored in the fridge
  • Rich Syrup – two parts sugar to one part water, as above
  • Ginger Syrup – Peeled, sliced ginger in plain syrup, bring to barely a simmer, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for about 2 hours, cool, store.

Note: You can add a shot of rum to your syrups to prolong their life and prevent crystallization. It is a good idea.

I will end this entry with the mother of all simple drinks, the daiquiri. This is a great drink and easy to make as long as you have rum, limes, syrup, ice, and a drink shaker. Use any rum you have. Many rum drinkers use this as their reference drink when trying a new rum for the first time. My one caveat is that rums with strong flavors, or spiced rums, will be tricky to balance. But under no circumstances let that stop you. A weird daiquiri is better than no daiquiri.

Classic Daiquiri:

  • 1.5 oz rum
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • Combine in a shaker with ice, shake well
  • Strain into a cocktail glass or an Old Fashioned glass

The shaker can be as simple as you want. I have made very serviceable drinks in one of those plastic shakers that come free with tequila bottles. Search the web for all kinds of nerd-lust related to drink shakers and the perceived merits of each type. I am not going to pick favorites. A metal “boston shaker” and a pint glass is what most people get by with. A two-piece metal “french shaker” is better yet. The three-piece “cobbler” shaker is very common and very useful, but usually has a limited capacity.

So that is it. Keep it simple, don’t get dragged into the weeds by mysterious rums from near and far, and don’t buy nasty bottom-shelf rum unless it is completely appropriate. Good rum is out there for not much more money. I will cover my choices for best values in good rums, as well as syrups and accoutrements in the next few entries.

Lemoncello Brain Dump

After a few questions about the not-so-fine art of homemade liquors, here is a quickie brain dump on the ubiquitous and simple Lemoncello:

First, it is not rocket science. Extract citrus zest with vodka, sweeten with simple syrup. Ballgame. There are some fine points that can help with the appearance, color, and depth of flavor, but you could read that sentence and make a good Lemoncello.

I live in an area with no indigenous lemons and no indigenous neutral spirits, hence, my approach is based on the ready supply of imported lemons and commodity hooch. Good lemons should smell like a lemon. Easier said than done in New England. But never fear, look at places selling quality produce and take your chances. Even average lemons get the job done. Any mid-grade vodka will do. Nothing too cheap or too fine.

I have used grain/everclear and the results were drinkable but I found that the high proof spirits extracted too much oil. It works, and the end product is much stronger. Proceed as you wish. I have toyed with using Grappa… I will report back if I dare go down that rabbit hole.

Zest, not peel, 6-12 lemons. Zest means not taking the white pith away with the peel. Don’t stress, just use a sharp peeler and try to avoid too much pith. It is easier than it sounds. Too many lemons is waste unless you are heading towards a 2L+ extraction.

Add zest to a half-gallon widemouth jar and top with 750ml to 1.5L Vodka. The proportions are not super-critical, but you will end up with almost twice this volume of finished Limoncello (this is a good case for starting small and scaling up). Cover and allow this to extract for at least 2-3 days, and a week is a good target. A funnel with a piece of cheesecloth will help you make a clean transfer to a mixing vessel. You can also transfer to a bowl, clean the jar, and then transfer it back for mixing (my preference).

Ahead of the transfer, make a batch of simple syrup. 1:1 water and sugar heated to dissolve, short simmer is ok. Don’t boil. You are not making candy. Cool syrup.

Now comes the part that will help you zero-in on the character of the finished product: Start at 1 part syrup to 2 parts vodka extract. If you used a 750ml bottle of vodka, start with no more than 400ml of syrup. Mix well. Let it stand. Mix again (agitating the bottle us fine). Using that big widemouth jug makes this easier.

Taste and assess. You can always add more syrup if it is a little too astringent. Also, you will have a less dilute product by starting on the low end of sweetness and working up if necessary. Viola! You have a house-made liquor to amaze your friends.

Variations: Oranges and limes work very well. My kumquat experiment, not so much. Live in a climate with local citrus? Use that. This technique is applicable to a variety of flavors. I am partial to citrus, but you can experiment and find a cool variation. Pawpawcello might be good. You tell me. I will take your word for it.

Restaurant Bites Guy Fieri

As much as I despise the celebrity-chef industry, there are a few people who I have a level of tolerance for.  Alton Brown.  Anthony Bourdain.  Guy Fieri.  I have my reasons for all of them, but since Guy Fieri is currently front and center in the news, I would like to throw a few thoughts out there.

The background is that NY Times food critic Pete Wells wrote the mother of all poison-pen reviews, and it was Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar that was in the crosshairs. The review is priceless, by the way.  Written almost entirely in rhetorical interrogatives, it is the kind of review that professionals write when they feel that it is the only way to convey their extreme disappointment.  Pete Wells has nothing, and I mean nothing, to gain from slagging a restaurant that is making an honest effort.  I think “honest effort” might be the thing that is going unsaid in the current web-frenzy on this situation.

First things first [do I have to even say that this is opinion and conjecture?]: Guy Fieri does not have the personal capital to open a 500-seat, three-floor, three-bar monument to the fryolator in Times Square, Manhattan.  He is well paid, and is doing well on a personal basis, but the location in question is the apex of high-roller real estate, and even the best backed restaurant ventures are still low-odds propositions.  GFKaB is a high cost, high risk venture, and it has many people with a financial interest.  Guy was part of a deal to be involved in branding, menu design, consulting, etc… brought in by an investment group.  He is the “face guy”.  If there are any notions that this is Guy Fieri’s pet project and he had intimate involvement in the food and beverage production, disabuse yourself of those notions now.  Guy Fieri has a large stake in seeing the place succeed, because he has a lot to gain if it goes right.  It most likely isn’t make or break for him, but it could (temporarily) ankle his career in a way that only Rocco DiSpirito could empathize with (and even Rocco only had himself to blame).

It is apparent that after four separate visits to the establishment by the NYT food critic, they were all badly received.  Wells slams the bulk of the menu, the service, the bar, and the decor.  If you can, please go read the review.  It is crystalline wrath for subjecting a reviewer’s palate to overpriced swill.  For all of Fieri’s protestations, he is currently finding out that he trusted the wrong people.  Fieri made his mark by championing the food of the common man, executed with great care by good cooks, often with a strong regional sensibility, in the low-rent venues that dot this great nation.  Pete Wells knows EXACTLY what this kind of food is supposed to look, smell, and taste like, and the kind of people that make and serve it.  If the execution at GAKaB was even within horseshoe-close distance of hitting the mark, Wells would have written a very different review.   It wasn’t close.  It was offensively off the mark.

As much as I think he pushes entertainment over substance, and his chain restaurants are tweaked Applebee’s clones, Fieri deserves credit for his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show.  He gets what is cool about regional fare and does a great job of showing it the appropriate respect.  I was impressed by how he handled one of my favorite local diners: He did an awesome job of profiling O’Rourkes in Middletown, CT, and the quirky and inventive Brian O’Rourke, and he fit right in with Brian… that is hard to fake.   So I don’t have it in for Fieri, nor do I cheer this smackdown.  But, again, it looks very much like Wells couldn’t let Fieri slide with a slap on the wrist.  His experiences must have been soul-destroyingly bad.  Fieri can bitch at Wells and the NYT all he likes, but he got sold out by some guy with an MBA, not a fellow traveler in the cooking trade, and Pete Wells is just the messenger.  Don’t shoot the messenger.

[much smarter blog post from TIME… ]

Chalupa-cabra

20110810-110651.jpg

On a lighter note… The mighty “Chalupa Dog” from the good folks at Lucky Taco! Can you say “hell yes”?

and sooner or later you end up hanging out with vegans…

Welcome to Part 1 of a new petebrunelli.com series on mobile food service!  As someone who formerly cooked in restaurant kitchens, cooks most of my meals at home, but works by day in an office building with no food service, I eat a lot of meals from mobile catering, food trucks, roach coaches, and various hot-dog cart looking operations.  Over the years I have been lucky enough to eat some great street food made by dedicated and talented cooks, as opposed to being poisoned by indifferent schmoes with no regard for my well being.

One of the more recent bright spots in the Hartford, Connecticut food truck scene has been GMonkey, a vegan catering truck run by Mark Schadle and Ami Beach Schadle.  You might know of Mark as chef and co-owner of It’s Only Natural in Middletown, CT. GMonkey also have a web presence at their blog, Farm2Street.  This is a new venture for Team Schadle and they are hitting the ground running.  I see lines and happy faces at their truck every time I stop by.

A few things about my diet can make street food, or any dining-out experience, a little nerve wracking.  One, I’m dairy free due to a lactose tolerance issue, so someone forgetfully slipping sour cream or butter into my food is a bit of a disaster.  Hooray for vegans who don’t use any dairy!  Most places have no problem with accommodating a dietary request, but at a truck like GMonkey I don’t even have to ask.  The other is that while I do eat meat, I eat a lot of vegetarian and vegan meals just out of routine.  I also eat a lot of whole grains and legumes, so I am on familiar ground with most of the GMonkey menu offerings.  I am also learning a few things about dairy substitutes that I am looking to steal and incorporate into my own cooking (or not-cooking as the case my be)

I was recently interviewed as I grabbed a raw food smoothie from GMonkey.  They were parked in front of the State Capitol building for a health awareness day event, instead of being parked in their usual Wednesday spot about 100 feet from the entrance to 79 Elm Street.  Yes, I used the miracle of Tweeter to find out that their scheduled location had moved, and the miracle of Facebookie to see the daily menu.  Ain’t the social interwebs amazin’?

gmonkey truck at ct state capitol

gmonkey at work

So, with that preamble laid out, here is my independent and unauthorized review of the GMonkey experience:

First, the food quality is off the charts.  Mark is at the controls and bringing his A-game to this endeavor.  The ingredients are top shelf.  The flavors are fresh and clean.  The variety is way above average.  The vibe at the truck is extremely positive.  I’ve tried a small sampling of their dishes, but between their one or two appearances in Hartford each week, and my schedule and my unpredictable daily food preferences, it has taken a while to sample their offerings.  My favorites are the black bean and brown rice (with greens and more) “downward dog burrito”, and the peanut butter and cacao raw food smoothie.  The burrito is a good sized meal, with fresh flavors and a slight chile kick.  Nothing groundbreaking, but very good.  The shake is fantastic, with a good texture and strong but not overwhelming flavors of vanilla, banana, chocolate, and peanut.  Their spicy noodles are a very strong item as well.  I wouldn’t call them traditional, but I would call them delicious.  I really do feel good after a meal from GMonkey.

I intend to work my way through more of the menu as the summer goes on.  The Schadles are doing a job worthy of patronage, if not obsession.  Ami really does bring a huge amount of energy to both taking orders and being (apparently) the social networking voice of the GMonkey team.  OK, I admit that it can sound a little cultish sometimes, and I am not sure I want to be considered a GMonk, but that is my problem.  Another facet of the GMonkey operation is that of cost.  GMonks better not be looking for a lot of change from a Gtwenty.  Not confusing price with value is hard, and the quality end of this operation screams “value”, but when a burrito and a shake run $16, and I can get three vegetarian falafels and a drink for $16 over at Alladin, or eat $16 worth of nowhere-near-vegetarian tamales at El Serape on Broad Street, etc… well, you gotta really want to “feed the monkey” as The Dude would say.  Once a week or so I can splurge, but a cheap eats experience is not what GMonkey is selling.  What they do is occupy the high end, and the specialty end, of the mobile catering spectrum.  I applaud them for it, and vote with my wallet as often as I can.