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Monday, July 19, 2010

on assignment... at a food truck festival!

if you've been following me and my crazy exploits around LA, you know there are things i'm hopelessly addicted to -- yoga, cycling, music, and, strangely enough, food trucks. so far, i haven't been able to find an event that has successfully managed to blend all four, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. or that i won't be able to find a way to make it happen.

until now... well, maybe.

let me take a step back, just for a minute, and give you some background information.

with the growing number of gourmet food trucks that have been hitting the street and the number of people who've been wanting to try them out, it was getting harder and harder for people to keep track of all the new trucks, much less figure out how to get to them.

a couple of enterprising individuals eventually put their heads together and came up with an idea: how about getting a bunch of food trucks together in one central location so that people don't have to go chasing after them? that idea eventually spawned the much-publicized and much-talked about 1st LA street food fest which was held in downtown LA last february. the plan was to charge a minimal $5 entrance fee to cover costs (and of course, net the organizers a nice profit); once there, the hungry and happy consumers would be able to buy food from as many trucks as they pleased.

as with many first-time efforts, it didn't quite go as well as many had hoped. the number of people who showed up greatly exceeded the capacity limitations of the location; after circling the neighborhood for a place to park their cars, attendees then had to wait in line for hours just to get in the gate. and for those who did make it inside the grounds, they found that they had to wait in even more lines to buy food from each truck, with some wait times as long as an hour. ouch. which meant that even if there were almost two dozen trucks plus an assortment of street vendors represented at the festival, most people were able to try only a handful of them, if they were lucky.

the LA times posted their take on the event the next day: LA Street Food Fest attracts thousands

i made it to that food fest and managed to have a fairly good time, only because i decided to bike to the event; cyclists like myself entered through a separate bike valet entrance, so we were able to bypass the delays at the main entrance and walk right in. it also helped that i was there specifically to try trucks that i'd never been to -- namely a couple of orange county-based trucks -- and because they were lesser-known trucks, their lines weren't as long. so while i can't say my experience was exceptional, i knew that i was witness to something that would be the start of many more food truck gatherings to come.

and since there was a 1st, you know there'd be plans to have a 2nd... which brings us to this coming saturday, july 24th: the LA street food fest's summer tasting event!

hoping to have learned from their mistakes, the same organizers have changed things up quite a bit. the only thing that hasn't changed is that food will be provided by street vendors, with the bulk of them being food trucks.

so what's different?

- the venue was moved from downtown LA to the rose bowl in pasadena
- the entrance fee was increased from $5 per person to $45; the cost now includes all the food and drink you can down in three hours (a VIP pass entitling the bearer to an early entry plus preferential parking costs $20 more)
- there will be ample FREE parking on site
- tickets must be purchased in advance; no tickets will be sold at the door
- attendance will be capped at 5,000
- instead of the usual menu selections, the food served will be limited to tasting-sized portions chosen by the vendors
- all food will be served from booths set up inside the stadium (which means that while food truck chefs will do the cooking on their trucks, they'll have to somehow transport the food over to the booths)
- there will be bands providing live entertainment while everyone's busy hustling from one vendor to another; there will also be contests, photo booths, and other things to do for those who've had their fill of food

so you'd think that after all the gourmet food trucks i've eaten at (at last count, i've been to around 115 different trucks!) and all the truck gatherings i've been to -- including the insanely crowded downtown art walk and the venice first fridays on abbot kinney -- i'd be tired of the food truck scene. and maybe so, because i'd decided that while i wanted to attend this sequel just to see how it turned out, i really didn't want to go so badly that i'd pay big bucks to get in. after all, i get to eat at these trucks on a regular basis without having to drive far from home. and the lines i stand in are usually negligible.

but there was this nagging need to be there... you know, just because.

enter felicia tomasko, editor-in-chief of LA yoga magazine, who heard about my dilemma. unbeknowst to me, she contacted the street fest organizers and managed to wrangle a press pass with my name on it.

there you go, she said, as she forwarded to me the confirmation e-mail. thanks for all the work you do for us... now go celebrate!

of course, media passes mean that i'd be there to cover the event, and since i was there to represent a yoga magazine, i had to find a yogic enough angle. hmmm...

so since a big part of being a yogi means practicing ahimsa, or non-harming, i've decided that i'd have to do just that. i'm going to limit myself to just vegetarian choices (even though i'm pescetarian, i'll be abstaining from fish and other seafood), get there via public transport and bike to reduce my carbon footprint, and bring my own reusable flatware and water bottle.

and despite all those restrictions, manage to have a great time :)

will i succeed? i'll find out this saturday. stay tuned...