Last Saturday morning dawned misty and overcast, with the kind of persistent drizzle that one doesn’t often see in Albuquerque. After an incredibly dry March, I thought it was going to be a terrible, soggy day for the Great New Mexican Food Truck Festival. Of course, I should have known better. By noon, as we lined up to get in the gates, the day had turned perfect: blue sky, bright sun, high clouds, cool breeze. The morning’s drizzle was nothing but a memory, a damp smell in the air, and a bit of squish to the turf in the wide field behind the Balloon Museum.
By the time we’d gotten through the admission line – I got in free as a member of the press, yay! – we were pretty hungry. Arne bought a beer ticket ($6 for any of the craft beers available), but before choosing a beer we decided to get a bit of food. We spotted Pasión Latin Fusion‘s cute little cart and jumped in line. We tried Pasión’s brick-and-mortar restaurant years ago, when it first opened; it hadn’t worked the kinks out yet, but we’ve been hearing for years now that it’s great and have been meaning to go back.
It didn’t take long for us to agree on a fish taco and an order of bacon-wrapped plantains. (We shared everything so we could try more items.) The service was impressively fast, with our two little paper boats handed out the window in just a minute or two. The plantains were wonderful. You could hardly expect less from plantains wrapped in bacon, but the lily was gilded with a tangy romesco sauce – I scraped it up with a toothpick to get more after the plantain was gone – and a drizzle of balsamic. The taco was tasty too, with a nice interplay of textures and tangy flavors, but I wished the tortilla had been warmed up.
Initial cravings sated, we wandered around for a bit, ogling the “Doughnut Burgers” sign (on, we noted, the Filipino truck we’ve seen at Talin) and checking out the beer tents. There were a variety of options, but only one we hadn’t seen before: Eddyline Brewing, from Buena Vista Colorado. We have a bit of an attachment to Buena Vista, as the little town is our favorite lunch stop when we take the scenic route home from Arne’s parents’ place in Woodland Park. His family traditionally stopped there at K’s burger stand in the summer for ice cream, and there’s a cute little park to relax in before the next driving leg.
Arne picked the Java Stout and declared it excellent.
Near the beer tent where we found the Eddyline brews was an unassuming truck called Nosh Wagon, a fairly simple white truck with a picture of a red-haired and -bearded man grinning and holding a grill fork. We might have walked right past it, but we turned back at the sight of Kimo’s Hawaiian Barbecue‘s epic line, and took a close look at Nosh Wagon’s menu. When we looked back at each other, we said simultaneously: “Caribbean Poutine.”
The Caribbean Poutine was described as “Beer Battered Fries in our Caribbean Jerk Gravy and Hickory Smoked Pork Topped with Smoked Gouda.” It was a no-brainer. After a short wait spent chatting pleasantly with the order-delivery guy and admiring Nosh Wagon’s speed and clever delivery system, we were handed a very full and tasty-looking dish of food. It was as delicious as it looked: The fries were hot and crisp, the gravy rich and salty with just enough spice, the pork moist with flavorful browned edges. The smoked Gouda was a great choice in place of the traditional Cheddar curds, creamy and smoky and just a little tangy; we just wished there’d been more of it. We devoured it, leaving two gravy-less fries at the end and congratulating ourselves on our willpower.
Next we looked for a couple of places with items that had tempted me when I got a sneak peek of some of the food trucks’ menus. We couldn’t find Fresco New Mexico, which is too bad because I really wanted a sausage slider. We did locate My Sweet Basil, though, and ordered some roasted corn fritters. The little cardboard boat was appealingly heaped, but the fritters weren’t freshly fried. With jalapeños and guac, they were tasty, but they’d have been transcendent fresh from the fryer. I also got a hibiscus cooler, which needed a lot more hibiscus syrup – I could barely taste it over the flavor of the sparkling mineral water.
We followed that with BBQ from a truck with a clever gimmick: a smoker in the shape of a gun, smoke wisping out of its barrel. They had some trouble with their ordering system, so the wait was very long. (As we waited, trying to squeeze into the small bit of shade cast by an awning, we discussed how good food is obviously important, but really the systems are just as crucial for a successful food business.) When we finally got our sandwich it had a nicely toasted bun and good (if somewhat skimpily applied) brisket, but I’m not sure it was worth the wait.
Our final stop was O’Bean’s Coffee Cruiser. My first car was a dark green VW Beetle (with a Tiptronic transmission, a bizarre cross between a manual and an automatic that essentially behaved like a manual with no clutch). I loved that car – though it was a pain in the neck and a money pit – and am still drawn to VWs, so I had to get a drink from O’Bean’s. Their coffee bar is housed in a beautifully refitted VW van, the top open so baristas can stand inside. The line there was slow too, but it was a beautiful day and the people were friendly. We got a couple of coffee drinks and a cookie and headed on our way, as an all-female band played “Barracuda.”