The Taste of Three Cities and why I will not be returning

vendor-1This is my third year attending the Taste of Three Cities food truck event in Baltimore Maryland. In 2014, the event was held in the M&T Bank parking lot with lots of amble parking options available. That event had VIP parking directly next to the event, lots of food trucks, covered seating, easy to get to. The Mayor was there and announced the winners of the foodtruck competition. It was an awesome event that was very well organized and in a great location.

The next year, there was a date conflict in the M&T lot so it was moved to Paterson Park in East Baltimore. While this may be a larger venue, parking is awful. This event had even more food trucks and was an amazing time. However, logistically for the amount of people that attended, it was not very well organized. Lines were crazy long with only 2 entrances, limited parking caused a lot of people to drive around looking for places to park without having to pay. It was chaos. This year, people knew what to expect. But it also appeared that fewer people attended and fewer trucks attended.

After a conversation with a foodtruck owner in DC, I learned that the Taste of Three Cities staff charges the foodtrucks in attendance to be there. Basically a booth rent but a space rent. Not sure how accurate this is, but it appears that there is a set price and then they basically place them where they want. So you can pay the same price as the truck that is right at the entrance or where there is a lot of foot traffic.  So this truck, which was not very good by the way, ended up not making very much money because they were placed in a not so great location where people could not easily see them and decided not to participate this year. Considering that the DC Taste of Three Cities event has yet to be planned, I am starting to believe that may be the cause. There were also only a small number of DC trucks in attendance compared to last year. So, maybe that owner was up to something.

About a week before the event, I got email about 4 parking lots that were available with a shuttle service available to take you to and from the event. There was a charge associated to park in the lot but the shuttles were not.  However, the email did not disclose the parking amount or the name of the company of the shuttle was not available either. There were no VIP parking options available and there was no customer service number to call and speak to anyone about your options. It was extremely frustrating. At this point, I already knew I was in for more disorganization so I made a plan to arrive super early.

The event was scheduled from 12pm-9pm with the general admission price of $15-$20.  VIP cost $49 to $75 bought an early bird ticket and got it at a discount, my cost after the Eventbrite fees were $54. The VIP ticket also includes early arrival of 11am to give you time to get good food and beat the crowd, all you can drink, and a covered tent with table and chairs. My buddy and I decided to ride together and we arrived at 10:30am. We drove around to figure out where the event was and luckily got a street parking space down the street from the VIP entrance. We sat around and at 10:50am, we headed toward the event. When we arrived at the gate at approximately 11am, we were surprised to see that the staff were still setting up.

As we briefly waited, a lady with her group was a bit rude with the staff demanding to enter the event because it was 11am. My friend and I were shocked because usually people are not this rude until they have had a few cocktails and we were just getting started. We would need to avoid her during our trip. Once we entered, we immediately noticed the fewer number of trucks. Some of the trucks were still setting up and getting ready for the crowd.  Our plan was to do a full walk-through of the event area and then get started.

We bought reusable grocery bags so that we could take food home. Another one of the downfalls is that the trucks do not provide sample sizes of their dishes like they do at the Harlem Eatup event I attended in May. So you have to get the full order and it limits your ability to try multiple trucks especially if you like something or you order something that won’t be good later. So our strategy is to get things that we can take home later and eat small sizes of things that have to eaten immediately. It takes a lot of self-control to take a few bites of something you really enjoy and save for later. We made it work.

IMAG0940As we walked around, the Cruisin’ Café foodtruck owner offered free samples of their cream of crab soup and some other crab dish. He mentioned that they were a popular truck and can attract long lines so get it early. We enjoyed the sample and it was flavorful but it was not enough to get me to buy it. I have been to this truck before and was not impressed with the customer service and the food was cold, though it was not cold today. But I attended an event on the Fourth of July in 2014 and looked at their menu which included a lot of American dishes with burgers and fries but also a lot of dishes served with crab since this is a Baltimore truck.  I tried their Crabby Fries which is a variation of a Crabgasm cone served at the Gypsy Queen truck. I was so upset because it was cold. I waited for almost 10 minutes and the gentleman claimed that he called my order long before I went up to ask about it. But the crab dip was not all that inspiring to me. They have tried to lure me back and often have long lines, but I just have not returned. I guess I hold a foodtruck grudge.

I saw a Jamaican foodtruck called Jammin Flava and got excited because I love Jamaican food. I decided to get a beef patty ($3), basically a turnover or an empanada, and see how I felt about that. It was delicious. So flakey and delicious. I was contemplating ordering another one as I walked away. I eventually went back there later and ordered a Jerk chicken dinner ($11) with rice and peas (beans) and cabbage and another patty. When I finally got to the jerk chicken dinner a few days later, I was highly disappointed. The seasoning on the chicken was more like a BBQ sauce with a hint of jerk and not a traditional jerk chicken. The patty was still as good as before but there are other places to get them for about a dollar cheaper. There is also another foodtruck in Columbia, MD called Bennet 5 Star Grill that has amazing jerk chicken, patties, and oxtails. Not sure why they don’t participate but they are awesome!

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My friend was really impressed with the DC foodtruck called DC Taco so we stopped there. She ordered 2 spicy beef tacos ($7) that she really enjoyed and ended up getting another order for later. This is special because she distinctly remembered enjoying them last year. They looked delicious and had a large following but I did not want the carbs and getting a salad would not have been as good later. So I decided to just pass altogether on this truck. If I find this truck, I would definitely order their taco salad.

 

Another truck that my friend loved, from last year, was the Dizzy Cow Pizzeria truck serving Wood Fired Pizza. This was more like a tent and an oven than a truck. I was a bit skeptical of this because you can get pizza anywhere BUT this “truck” was delicious. They were tossing the fresh dough and adding fresh ingredients that were vibrant and full of color. It took a while to get the order because you have to wait for your pizza to cook but they were amazing.  My friend got their Good Time pizza ($13) that included cheese, pepperoni, and sausage. After trying a slice, I ended up going back and getting my own personal pizza since those were all my favorite ingredients.  I also added basil to my pizza because basil takes every tomato dish to the next level. This may be a little costly for a personal pizza but remember you are paying for the convenience factor and the quality of the ingredients. My only complaint was that the lady who took orders and money, was also in charge of adding the final toppings on the pizza like the basil. But she did not have gloves when I was there watching and that can get a bit unsanitary especially since their credit card machine was clipped on a cell phone that customers have to touch for a signature.

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While I waited during my friend’s first pizza visit, I made my way to the Cow and the Curd foodtruck from Philly parked right next to the pizzeria. The owner was outside attracting customers and was talking up the fried cheese curds and the dipping sauces.  A lady was eating her order and I decided to take a chance and try. They were fried cheese curds of Wisconsin cheddar cheese. I said it looked like a mozzarella cheese sticks and almost started a riot with the curd lovers but in my opinion, that was all it was. There was nothing really special about it. An order of about 10 curds was $9, which is ridiculous for cheese, and a dipping sauce was $0.50 cents apiece.  I ended up spending $10 to try some fried cheese with two sauces but only liked one.  This truck has won multiple awards and I will never understand why but it is popular because people like cheese and cheese curds.  I took a few bites while it was hot, was not impressed and felt that it had too much breading, and ended up letting it cool down and ate around the breading and ate the cheese by itself.

Before heading to the tent to try all of my different plates, I stopped by my old faithful truck Kommie Pig of Baltimore for some BBQ spare ribs. I luckily was able to get just the ribs ($10, the platter is $13 for a quarter rack and $19 for a half rack with 2 sides) and not the sides, which are not really my favorite. I like baked beans with my BBQ and I remember not enjoying their version too much. I do not think they are supposed to serve just the meat because the owner did not seem too pleased that I did not order sides and the cashier allowed this to happen. Maybe because this was a large event and they did not want to run out of meat. Unlike my many other visits to this truck, these ribs were overcooked and much of it was burnt. But it was covered in lots of BBQ sauce which was flavorful.  I had a rib or two and got disappointed and saved it for later.  This made me really miss the breakout star at the event last year called E’s BBQ Explosion. That was their first event and they had long lines of people who were so excited for something new. They won the Best BBQ award and knocked Kommie Pig out of the race. This place also had a smoker right next to the truck, and the smell of the meat attracted so many people. The sides were good, the prices were just right, the people were friendly and welcoming. It breaks my heart that they are no longer in the foodtruck business.  If I could sponsor them in any way, I would because this truck was everything! I believe that other trucks got jealous of them and ran them out of business. I have the receipts to prove it, but I will just move on. I will always remember my first time.

Once we entered the VIP section, there were several tables to choose from under the tent or outside of the tent. Once we got settled, my friend went up to order her drink but could not order one for me. Once she returned, I had to go up an order one for myself. They had a lot of premade cocktails such as sangria, margaritas, orange crush, pink lemonade and vodka, and maybe a few more. However, most of them were weak and not all that flavorful. Which was annoying because we paid a lot of money for good all you can drink cocktails. And the fact that you can only have one at a time was annoying especially for those who have children. I found out that we could make our own cocktail if the ingredients were available and began ordering my old faithful Vodka Cranberry. Those were nice and strong and my first bartender added Tito’s Vodka. The next one gave me the House selection and I got annoyed and decided to venture out again.

After taking a break for a while, we wanted to get dessert early from the Icedgems foodtruck, of Baltimore, that has won best dessert for several years. It is extremely popular with long lines because they have an array of different flavors to choose from. I ordered the Chocolate Lava cupcake and the French toast cupcake. I ate a bit of them later at home and unfortunately my French toast got smashed in my bag. The few bites I tried were not all that special to me. I was very disappointed and threw it away. The chocolate lava cupcake was dry and uninspiring. I ended up throwing it away as well.  What a waste of my $6.  My friend got several options such as the OREO red velvet, sangria flavor, and a few others. I will not be returning. I still pledge allegiance to Sprinkles Cupcakes until further notice. Moving on.

We walked around a bit more and made our way to the Carmen’s Italian Ice Truck of DC. They had a few tropic flavors such as coconut and mango, and other such as sour apple, strawberry, orange, etc. I ended up getting a blend of the strawberry and the coconut and my friend ordered the sour apple and mango blend. I really enjoyed the strawberry ice but the coconut had chips of coconut in it that I did not care for. I ended up throwing it away.  However, my friend loved her order. Go figure. I always end up getting something I don’t like and getting jealous of my friend’s order. Oh well. While we partook in our ice, there was a showcase of young dancers on a second stage. It was entertaining, a bit random, but we stopped and watched for a while. I guess that was the point.

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I was really excited that my favorite Korean BBQ foodtruck Koco of Baltimore was at the event. I have not been able to visit them because of my changed eating habits as well as my change in job location to DC. They have a K-burrito that includes beef bulgogi, guacamole, rice, lettuce, sauce, and a few other things. It is delicious and I had been craving this burrito for a while. Unfortunately, they did not serve them at the event. Usually they run out early but the fact that they did not include them at all really made me upset. So I decided on a rice bowl with rice on the bottom and beef bulgogi and veggies on top with sauce.  Good dish but just not want I wanted. I saved that for later in the week and enjoyed it for lunch. I like to eat that dish with chopsticks. Good practice.

We decided to leave around 4pm after drinking the drinks in the VIP section and socializing, I decided to get a few more things to try later for the next few days. I stopped by a Guyana and Caribbean foodtruck called Admiral’s Kitchen and ordered their oxtails dinner for $12. I tried my order the next day which included cabbage and rice and peas and this was delicious. The oxtails were on the smaller side but the flavors were on top. The aroma was so delicious and I so enjoyed my meal. I will definitely go back to this truck.

IMAG0964Finally, I left with a treat from the That Cheesecake Truck of DC.  I saw several people eating a slice of cheesecake from a stick that had been dipped in chocolate. I figured out later that there was cheesecake and then there were the slices that had added flavors that were then dipped in chocolate. I ordered the OREO cookie version and I was not all that impressed with the cookie portion but the cheesecake and chocolate side was wonderful. I really enjoyed that. The price was not that unreasonable though I cannot remember the exact price (roughly $5). I did not finish this and ended up just throwing it away when I got home.

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When I got home, I had a quite a few things left over that I was exciting to try including the jerk chicken, oxtails, rice bowl, and cupcakes. The rice bowl and oxtails were the best. The jerk chicken and the cupcakes were sampled and unfortunately thrown out. But overall, this is my third year attending this event and there was nothing all that exciting about it this year. I just did not feel that the price was worth the hassle anymore. The customer service of the event host is lacking. This a year, I was just happy that I found a space and got in early to beat the crowd. But it just seems like the event has gone downhill and so had my excitement. I’ve been there. Done that. What’s next? I hear of something called the Foodtruck Trifecta happening in July. The popular food truck featured on the Food Network called the Smoking Swine plans to be there. I would love to try them. Not sure if I’m going to go through.

Here is a list of a few other trucks that were present and I’ve tried but did not try during this trip:

  • Rita’s Mobile: Italian Ice has locations all throughout the US and serves custard and treats. One of my summer favorites as many of them close at the end of the year and open up on the first day of spring. Chocolate Ice is one of my favs!!
  • GrrChe: serves variations of grilled cheese sandwiches. I got a lobster grilled cheese for like $12-$15 dollars and was not impressed. It has turned me off lobster grilled cheese sandwiches completely. Lobster does not belong with cheese in my opinion. The filling was lacking. I had never looked back in their direction.
  • Gypsy Queen: One of my favorite trucks ever! This one will get its own right up later, stay tuned. I have literally followed this truck around the city looking for them. Great customer service and even better food though I have had some interesting experience.

Please look out for my next post as I travel around and try a few hot spots in DC and Mississippi! Also, you can find me on Instagram @finediningdiva and Twitter @moderndaybeauty. Also, if you would like to follow my blog to receive notification when a new blog is posted, please send your email to finediningdiva@gmail.com.

And remember: It’s a BIG world and we are going to eat our way through it!

 

 

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