Lee Mathis
INSANELEE DECADENT
Grand Junction Free Press Food Columnist

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April 24, 2013
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FOOD: Exploring the tasty offerings from your local food trucks

There is something about heading out east from the Grand Valley in the early days of spring, knowing that nine out of 10 times, no matter how nice the weather might be in the valley, in about 2-1/2 hours, you will encounter Vail Pass!

Now I have made the road trip to Denver, New Jersey and now Virginia many, many times and know the drill. Enjoy the road until you hit Avon or Eagle, stop and get gas, use the bathroom and load up on drinks. Maybe you can get 850 KOA on the radio as they, sometimes, can give you a heads up as to Vail and Eisenhower, sometimes not, but it's a chance.

Me? I plan for the worst! I think it was two, maybe three years ago, when I was headed out for Christmas with my family in Jersey and hit Vail Pass in the worst weather I had ever seen there when the road was NOT closed. It was nasty!

I saw 4X4s and SUVs off the side of the road, trucks obviously had chains and I really was surprised that they had not shut the road down. I hunkered down (in my soccer minivan, two-wheel drive) and knew that I had to get out east to spend time with my mom and sister so... I got behind a few semi-trucks, knew that their chains would chew up the snow and ice a little, put on my flashers, kicked the transmission down to first gear and went about 5 miles an hour the whole way between Vail and Silverthorne.

As the weather got even worse, which I could barely believe, more cars and trucks slid off the road; my little truck convoy just plugged along at our 5 miles an hour, and yet, people who were thinking that just because they had a real nice and shiny 4X4 or SUV, they could just blow by us in the left lane. Idiots!

The trek from Vail to Silverthorne took about four hours, but I got there, unscathed and thought about what my little minivan went through and realized, it ain't' the vehicle -it's the driver!

So, yeah, I am back in Virginia this week as we opened up operations this week, and yeah, they like us! One of the things I like about Virginia is the abundance of foodies! There are at least 25-30 different kinds of gourmet food trucks, everything from very fancy tacos, to pierogies to Asian fusion cuisine. They even have food truck courts where anywhere from 8-12 (or more) food trucks get together and have a roundabout of sorts so people can just feast! It is really cool. We are starting to get some good food trucks in the valley, and for one, I am happy to see that; now let's just keep pushing the options, kick it up more!

But as much as I do love the road, I cannot wait until I see the Cameo exit as I know that after a few more turns, I will be home!

Lee is the founder and owner of Decadence Gourmet Cheesecakes and Catering. He can be reached via email at decadencecheesecakes@mindspring.com, on the web at www.decadencecheesecakes.com, or by calling 970-256-4688. Also, find him on the web by searching Facebook, Pinterest or by visiting Twitter (@decadenceGJ).

The blending of Mexican and Asian cooking found in Los Angeles is a natural: Both cultures love a hit of heat and subtle spice. Thai Beef Empanadas have a shredded beef filling, flavored with chile and lemongrass, that comes together in 30 minutes. Yield: 8 empanadas

2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

1 garlic clove, sliced

2 tsp. olive oil, divided

1 Tbsp. chopped seeded serrano pepper

1 Tbsp. oyster sauce

1-1/2 tsp. finely minced fresh lemongrass

1/2 tsp. sugar

1 pkg. (17 oz.) refrigerated beef roast au jus

2-1/2 cup cooked rice

8 frozen empanada wrappers (6 in.), thawed

Basil leaves

4 tsp. jalapeno pepper jelly

In a small skillet, saute onion and garlic in 1-1/2 tsp. oil until tender. Stir in the serrano pepper, oyster sauce, lemongrass and sugar; cook for 1 minute. Using two forks, shred enough beef roast to measure 1 cup (save remaining roast for another use); stir into skillet. Remove from the heat.

Spoon 1 Tbsp. rice over half of each wrapper to within 1/4 in. of edges; top with 2 Tbsp. beef mixture and a basil leaf. Brush 1/2 tsp. jelly over opposite half of each wrapper. Fold dough over filling. Moisten edges with water; press with a fork to seal and prick tops.

Place on a greased baking sheet. Brush tops with the remaining oil. Bake at 425° for 10-13 minutes or until golden brown.

When cutting hot peppers, disposable gloves are recommended. Avoid touching your face.

Both recipes are courtesy of freshhomeideas.com.

The meatballs in this Greek Town-inspired Lamb Meatball Sandwich with Mint-Yogurt Sauce are chock-full of golden raisins, chopped walnuts and mint. The sauce provides a hit of fresh cucumber and cumin. This recipe makes 4 servings.

MEATBALLS:

1 egg

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

2 Tbsp. minced fresh mint

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp. salt

MINT YOGURT SAUCE:

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup chopped, peeled, seeded cucumber

2 green onions, sliced

1 Tbsp. minced fresh mint

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/8 tsp. sea salt

1/8 tsp. coarsely ground pepper

SANDWICHES:

4 hoagie buns, split

Cucumber slices and fresh arugula

In a large bowl, combine the egg, onion, raisins, walnuts, mint, 1 Tbsp. oil, garlic and salt. Crumble meat over mixture and mix well. Shape into 12 balls.

In a large skillet, brown meatballs in remaining oil in batches. Drain on paper towels. Place on a greased rack in a shallow baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 13-15 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients. Line buns with cucumber slices and arugula; fill with meatballs and top with sauce.


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The Post Independent Updated Apr 24, 2013 04:02PM Published Apr 24, 2013 03:59PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.