New food trucks on the scene
The food-truck craze owes much to taco wagons, which have kept a firm foothold locally even as Turkish, Vietnamese, Thai, Peruvian and fusion cuisines have gone mobile.
Although the sight of taco trucks on so many street corners may suggest saturation, some newcomers manage to distinguish themselves in the field. Two such vendors recently set up shop at Medford’s Thursday and Saturday farmers markets.
Word on the Street food truck, with its mermaid motif, doesn’t immediately call to mind Mexican fare. But Eric Bell, former chef at Ashland’s Standing Stone Brewing Co., also is banking on customers’ appreciation of sustainable seafood that he sources for the majority of his menu items.
Pacific rockfish, flounder, albacore, coho salmon and steelhead constitute fillings for Bell’s tacos and burritos, priced from $3 to $9. Bell prides himself on adhering to recommendations outlined by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (www.seafoodwatch.org) while serving up something for every palate.
“I always have something for vegans,” says Bell, adding that he also clearly labels gluten-free options.
Soy tempeh can come in tacos or egg-laden breakfast burritos. In addition to the breakfast burrito’s bacon, beef carnitas, filet mignon and organic chicken may tempt carnivores.
Bell’s variety of proteins aside, I’d like to see him feature another sustainable seafood. Pacific pink shrimp would be irresistible in quesadilla or ceviche, now that the small shellfish’s season has arrived and will last all summer.
Hard-pressed to find good-quality, not to mention sustainable, seafood in the Rogue Valley, I capitalized on the chance for rockfish tacos ($4 apiece). Nestled inside corn tortillas, the fillets were nicely grilled, simply dressed with cabbage and cilantro and finished with Bell’s house-made chili-infused aioli, which I thought could have been a bit spicier.
Word on the Street satisfied my craving for heat with Szechuan green beans, which I tried several weeks later with a friend. We both munched blistered beans, Bell’s last order of the day, while seeking out yet another twist on tacos, staked at the far edge of the Thursday market in Hawthorne Park.
Keila’s Arepas had made its debut just that week at the Saturday market with a small but singular menu. Pork and vegetarian are the sole choices for filling a soft, griddled dough of fresh masa. Thicker yet more tender than a tortilla, the arepa is traditional in Venezuelan and Colombian cookery. The proprietress said the dish she first tasted on vacation blew her mind.
If my mind wasn’t exactly blown, I was impressed with the freshness and flavor in both Keila’s arepa and its toppings. I didn’t detect much sweet potato, purported to complement the vegetarian filling’s brown lentils. But Keila’s sweet and sour corn salsa, pickled onions and house-made sauces would make an arepa filled only with avocado seem like a complete meal.
Arepas are priced at $7 apiece. Add $1 for avocado. A side dish of superb, pickled jicama salad accompanies every order. Bringing one’s own plate warrants a 25-cent discount.
Find Word on the Street, Keila’s Arepas and other food trucks are at Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Hawthorn Park and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at The Commons downtown. Thursday markets run through November, Saturday markets through October.