SLIDESHOW: Food truck flavours hit Cloverdale

Prepared for an overpowering scent of fried potatoes, sizzling meats, sugared baking and just a hint of exhaust, I was underwhelmed by my first impression of the Fraser Valley Food Truck Festival.

More than 20 food trucks lined the parking lot across from the B.C. Vintage Truck Museum on Saturday, April 15. At just after noon, the compound was respectably filled with lunching visitors. Bon Jovi — as played by cover band The Pop Junkies — drifted towards the food trucks closest to 60 Ave, the first stop in our food truck tour.

I had come to the Fraser Valley Food Truck Festival with the plan of eating my way through the festival’s myriad offerings: to enjoy a glorious mastication of delicacies served from the back of a vehicle.

To that end, I had brought with me two men in their early twenties — an integral resource if you plan on tasting as much food as possible — as well as a female friend to make sure my amateur palate remained refined.

Our first stop, like any good Canadian quartet, was the poutine truck.

Big Red’s Poutine. The yellow vehicle smelled like everything a food truck should: warm, delicious and decidedly artery-clogging. While my two dedicated consumption-partners waited for their number to be called, I walked next door to try some of Rocky Point’s blackberry sage ice cream.

It was the perfect first ice cream of the year. The sun had finally peeked out from behind the soft grey clouds, and a light breeze couldn’t mar the tangible warmth of its rays. The purple ice cream melted at exactly the right rate: fast enough to soften it between licks, but not so fast I had sugared drips racing down my fingers.

The taste was nothing elaborate, and the sage was present only in name. But the situation was divine.

Enter poutine. Two orders of it.

The first was your standard, run-of-the-mill poutine with gravy, cheese curds and fries. The second was a pulled pork poutine, with all of the above plus pork.

Except neither of these poutines were ordinary.

Somehow, Big Red had managed to get their fries thick enough to maintain a tender potato texture on the inside, while still keeping the crunchy exterior. The chicken gravy was warm and fragrant, and the cheese curds had melted just enough to caress the tongue.

The addition of pulled pork only made it better, creating a rich, salty taste that mimicked a pork roast without becoming overwhelming.

It was an excellent start to the Food Truck Festival experience, and raised expectations that many of the other food trucks failed to meet.

Old Country Pierogi’s polish sausage was a disappointment. Although the truck itself had a quaint charm, the sausage was at best lukewarm, and served on a dry bun with equally dry sauerkraut.

Likewise with Los Tacos Hermanos’ chicken tacos. Although the food truck had an awe-inspiring presence — its vivid false front was the first thing you saw when you walked into the festival — the taco’s seasoning was lacklustre. The saving grace may have been hot sauce, which I omitted due to my “Scandinavian palate.”

The Original Oktoberfest-style Roasted Pork Hock (the name of the food truck and the dish) was perhaps more in line with what we expected to receive. The oily pork, situated on rye bread, had a flavour-packed rind that paired nicely with the sauerkraut.

Better was Miss Siam’s pad thai. It settled on the sweet side, without the complexity needed to even out the flavours. But the texture was spot-on. Consensus at the table was it was by far one of the best pad thais outside a traditional restaurant.

Tied for best dish of the day with Big Red’s Poutine was The Bannock Wagon’s smoked BBQ salmon sandwich.

Chunks of thick, meaty smoked salmon nestled between two pieces of bannock alongside a maple syrup spread, spinach and red onion. The cool salmon contrasted with the warm bannock to gently diffuse the flavour in your mouth after each bite.

The Bannock Wagon’s smoked salmon sandwich was one of the highlights of the festival. Grace Kennedy

By the end of the afternoon, it would have been difficult to eat more.

Although we had tried dishes from ten different food trucks, there were still more beckoning. The isolated Dim Sum food truck, with its little steaming baskets lined up near the window, had to be passed by, as did the Caribbean street food station, with its sign proclaiming: Donald Trump is a Jerk Chicken Taco, 1 for $6, 2 for $10. There were mini donuts and wood-fired pizzas, cotton candy and macaroni and cheese.

We exited the festival with full stomachs and significantly lighter wallets, leaving behind a woman feeding her dog poutine from a fork and a couple who came out from White Rock to enjoy ice cream in the Cloverdale lot.

The sun continued to bounce off the bare legs and winter jackets of a crowd more akin to a well-attended sports day than a true festival. As we were walking past the gate, a puppy stopped and peed on the recently rain-washed concrete.

In a way, it seemed right.

A Fraser Valley festival doesn’t have to be as tight and professional as a city festival. The food should taste familiar. The crowd should be scattered, at least enough to find a seat.

It should feel like home with a pinch of the exotic — and that’s exactly what the Fraser Valley Food Truck festival managed to do.


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