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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Food-Truck Backlash in Los Angeles, Who Wants a Menu-Definition App?

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 9:17 AM


Today's notes on national stories, local trends, random tastes, and other bycatch dredged up from the food media.

1. The backlash begins.  The L.A. Times has a great article looking at the state of the city's new-wave food truck scene two and a half years after Kogi launched. (Just to get this out of the way, they're not talking about Mexican-operated taco trucks.) Not surprisingly, the original truck operators are complaining that the scene has become too crowded ― the Times estimates 200 new-wave trucks are out there ― and that Jack in the Box and Sizzler are joining them on the street. As Eric Tjahyadi of Komodo says:

Originally you could make a profit pretty quickly, but now you wouldn't be profitable for a long time. ... There is so much saturation that we had to secure our future. Food truck leasing prices have gone way up since everybody is doing it. And it's such a trend that you can't just be a hot dog truck, you have to be an Indian hot dog truck to be unique.

In a sidebar, the Times lists the startup costs for a food truck in L.A. (most of the figures would be similar in San Francisco). Rising competition ... complaints about selling out ... sounds like San Francisco writ larger, no?

click to enlarge Ossi di morti - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Ossi di morti

2. Bones of the dead. Every trip to North Beach these days seems to take me past Victoria Pastry on Stockton, and every look through the window seems to result in a $5 quarter-pound bag of cookies. Even though I've finally mastered the pronunciation of brutti ma buoni, the cookies I usually pick up are ossi di morti, or bones of the dead: crunchy meringues flecked with toasted hazelnuts.

3. Delfina stumps David Pogue. NYT tech columnist David Pogue tests out new food-dictionary apps by plugging unfamiliar menu words at Delfina (brodo, stracotto, ceci inzimino) into his phone. None of the apps could keep pace with Craig Stoll's vocabulary.

As someone who finds himself using single-purpose iPhone apps as often as I do cherry pitters ― once a year, and always accompanied by curses ― I'd have to say that there's a much better app for translating Delfina's menu: Google. I typed all the terms Pogue mentioned into the Google window on my phone's browser, and the correct translation popped up within the first three results every time.

4. One last note about the Beards. The Wall Street Journal notes this morning that in 2011, women took home more awards than usual: five in total (three of them New Yorkers, of course).

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Jonathan Kauffman


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