The bulk of this week’s smallish S-T food section is devoted to trends and ideas, which we will get to shortly, but if there’s anything close to a review, it’s of the city’s numerous and beloved lunch trucks, apparently also called the “Lunch Bunch”. (Periods shouldn’t go outside of quotes, but when it’s the name of something, putting the period inside the quotes is sort of misleading. We will take clarity over correctness in this instance, with apologies to you mavens).
Lunch carts are an integral part of the urban fabric - quick service, owner-operated, low barrier to entry, and able to move to the latest construction site or other large massing of hungry people. New York’s lunch cart offerings so revered that an annual event - the Vendy Awards - has sprung up to honor them. The article, by Sandy Thorn Clark, mentions both lunch carts sent out by restaurants (Toham, for example, keeps a cart on Ontario Street by LSD), and carts owned by entrepreneurs serving up whatever they know how to make, which almost always includes hot dogs (see diagram). We think the lunch cart is a great institution, and we’re glad they’re getting some press - it’s tough business out there!
In ingredient trends, here’s what’s hot right now:
• Grounded coffee (not coffee grounds, please) in savory cuisine, especially in “stews, rubs and gravies.” [Coffee Cuisine]
• Hey, it’s squash blossom season! When zucchini are born, they have a little flower at the end that eventually withers and dies. If you know what’s good for you, pull them off in their prime, stuff them with something yummy and bake or fry the hell out of it. Try it at Coco Pazzo and Mundial Cocina Mestiza. [Squash blossoms bloom in Mexican, Italian restaurants]
• Have you ever grilled a sweet potato? This weekend would be a good time to start - with a bit of olive oil right on the grill, or boiled, cubed and skewered [Swap shop: New idea for grilling season]
Finally, this was outside of the food section, but obviously relevant: Wikstrom’s Deli in Andersonville, which closed in February (Ingvar Wikstrom was 79 and not having it anymore), is being reopened this summer by his daughter Marie, right next to the Swedish American Museum. In the meantime, your cravings can be sated via the Wikstroms’ mail-order business. Smaklig måltid! [Wikstrom’s to reopen in new place, on a smaller scale]
[Photo: Chicago Hot Dog Cart, abamart Concession Equipment]