And as it so happens, the Saturday before Labor Day is International Bacon Day. And as it so happens, food truck organizer Moveable Feast is putting on the entertainingly over-the-top named "San Jose Bacon Festival of America" on that same day. And as it so happens, our planned anniversary dinner from the 26th needed to be postponed... and this sounds like a nice proxy for an anniversary night out. A fatty, salty proxy. Mmmm, proxy.
We had ordered tickets a while back, when the event was first announced, and got the tickets for half price (score!), so the parking fee at the flea market is offset by the savings and is essentially free. Free of cost, at least -- there's a highly vocal and self-righteous group of protestors clustered at the entrance of the parking lot, saying that we're all horrible people for encouraging the wholesale slaughter of domesticated swine for consumption purposes; so we do have to pay with our immortal souls, I guess... but hey, it's for bacon, so we're good.
We find a parking space surprisingly close to the entrance and make our way into the night market area of the flea market (passing a few other, closer empty parking spaces along the way, of course, but that's fine.) The Bacon Festival consists of 28 different food trucks, parked along the perimeter of the marketplace; with assorted craft vendors off to one side. We arrive shortly before noon (original plan was to arrive around 11:00 to 11:30, but we didn't account for the half hour it took us to get into the parking lot -- this place is BUSY) and start to look at the various trucks to check out our options.
(Okay, vertically aligned sidebar here -- if you've never done a food truck event, there are several things to keep in mind: line length, food delivery speed, truck popularity, and cost; you need to make judgment calls as to what food you want based on these attributes. If you're hungry, go for the short lines to get something in hand, and feel free to eat said food while you're in line for the truck you really want that has a long wait. If the food vendor takes forever to make their food, even a short line will take longer than a longer line at a fast-preparation truck. For the Bacon Festival, the cost isn't a huge deal -- the organizers have a rule that for this festival no dishes can cost more than $5, and there's a good deal of food that actually costs less than that. This is all fairly obvious strategy, of course, but you'd be surprised at how many people complain about picking the most popular truck with the longest line for their first dish, and then complain about the event afterward because they were there for three hours and were only able to visit three trucks, the last one of which is an overcrowded ice cream vendor on a hot day. Simple enough? Good -- back to the narrative.)
The first food truck at which we stop is Takoz Mod Mex a tacos truck that actually specializes in tacos; their standard beef, chicken, and al pastor tacos -- sorry, "TaKoz" -- just have bacon bits on top as their slight nod to the theme of the day, but their other two food options do sound porkier and we opt for their "Street Dog", a bacon wrapped hot dog nestled in a toasted telera roll, with an arugula greens mix on top, and drizzled with avocado sauce and chipotle sriracha aioli, then sprinkled with cilantro. The hot dog is cooked perfectly, and the slight bite of the sriracha aioli works very well with the avocado sauce as a flavor counterbalance. There's a little bit too much bread in the bun-to-dog ratio for me, but the telera roll is toasted just right so it's crispy and has a nice crunch without being dry. Lucie absolutely loves this dish, and at the end of the day still says this is her favorite.
Our next stop is a Korean food truck called Seoul Bitez (okay, what's with the names of some of these trucks? Was there a sale on truck paint jobs where you get discounts for the letters lower down on the letter frequency list? Should I expect a truck named Jaxkqy'zz to show up one of these days?) that has a few Mexican - Korean fusion dishes listed. We go with their variant on the traditional Korean spicy pork, which is a spicy pork belly taco. The thick cut slabs of pork belly are tender and a good ratio of meat to fat, smothered in a zesty bulgogi sauce. The corn tortillas are soft without falling apart, the roamine lettuce and onion are sliced small enough to accompany the protein well without being a distraction, and the spicy pork belly is superb. Lucie finishes her taco, and after about half of mine I just pull out the chunks of bacon and focus on those -- it's not that the taco is bad at all, but I feel the need to pace myself.
The next truck on our list is one we've eaten from before, the purveyor of Chinese soul food known as Soulnese. The line for Soulnese is pretty long -- it's one of the more popular trucks at every event -- so we divide our forces and Lucie stays in line while I find another vendor.
The line for Grilled Cheese Bandits is crazy long so I rule them out immediately, which is too bad; a grilled cheese with bacon is ALWAYS a good thing, and I've been wanting to try them out for a while now. I make do with Louisiana Territory, a Cajun themed truck, and get their garlic bacon fries for us to share while we're waiting in the Soulnese line. Unfortunately, they seem to have rushed their food to get it out, as the fries are undercooked, limp, and greasy. The bacon pieces are cooked well, but they're added more as an afterthought -- a scant pinch or two tossed on the fries before handing them out the truck window -- than given a starring role. I pick out the new french fries that are the least undercooked, we eat the bacon pieces (because, you know, bacon) and I discard the rest. It's a little wasteful, but we don't want to eat something disappointing just because we bought it.
Soon enough, we arrive at the ordering window for Soulnese, and place our order. They don't have their awesome Seoul Stix (skewers of shrimp wrapped around hot link slices) today, which is a shame; but it doesn't really work with the bacon theme so it's understandable. They do have a good selection otherwise, though, so we choose bacon mac'n rolls, bacon garlic noodles, and bacon wrapped corn dogs. The bacon mac'n rolls are their usual mac'n rolls (macaroni and cheese in a deep fried egg roll) with bacon added; however, unlike Takoz Mod Mex's seemingly afterthought action of "let's toss bacon bits on our usual fare", the bacon mac'n rolls have the bacon mixed in with the macaroni and cheese before being rolled up, and bacon and macaroni and cheese are ALWAYS a great combination; these are certainly no exception. Crispy wrapper, creamy and salty filling -- not too dry but not so moist that it leaks or drips when you eat it -- these are fantastic. I love their standard mac'n rolls, but I love these suckers to eleven. The bacon garlic noodles are slightly underwhelming -- the taste is okay but they're cold and a little dry -- and the bacon wrapped corn dogs make up for that. We love corn dogs, and we love bacon, and we really, really love the two together. It's the Reese's Peanut Butter cup of the savory deep fried food world.
After Soulnese, we wander for a bit through the craft vendors and ooh and ah over the San Jose-centric designs on the shirts (I'm very entertained by the "Fin City" shirts in Sharks colors, but of course they don't come in my size) and pick up a pair of bright red knee socks emblazoned with "BACON" on the sides for Lucie. We also briefly look at the other trucks in the area, but the line for Grilled Cheese Bandits is even longer than before, and none of the other items at Louisiana Territory seem appetizing after their bacon garlic fries, so we head back toward the other side of the marketplace.
We stop along the way at Chutney Mary's, who offer a wide variety of dishes covering many different ethnicities and influences. Today, the truck is very definitely NOT doing their usual http://photos.mercurynews.com/2013/08/08/chutney-marys-food-truck-serves-up-halal-dishes-in-the-south-bay/ shtick of serving halal food -- they're all about the bacon. We get a bowl of the bacon and beer gumbo with andouille sausage and chicken, which is a delicious concoction with densely savory flavors and large chunks of sausage and chicken, sweet onion, and of course bacon. We also buy one of their salted caramel apples covered with bacon and chocolate chips for eating when we get home; the combination proves to be surprisingly good... the sweetness of the chocolate and saltiness of the bacon, reinforced on both fronts by the salted caramel, added to the refrigerated crisp tartness of the apple -- it's a strange combination of flavors on the surface, but the result is much deeper than you'd think. In fact, this ends up being tied with the Soulnese bacon mac'n rolls for my favorite dish of the day.
We also buy a cup of the bacon lemonade, which is just what it sounds like -- lemonade with bacon pieces submerged in it like porky jetsam. The taste actually isn't bad, but the glossy, iridescent veneer of bacon fat on top is a little off-putting, and we discard the drink when we're about two thirds of the way through it so we avoid the top layer. If I'm going to drink bacon fat, it'll be fresh from the pan after frying the bacon (thought cooled down a bit), and it'll be in a shot glass. Actually, that doesn't sound half bad.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: No, it sounds *all* bad. Don't do it. Only a sadistic cardiologist looking to put kids through college would advocate this, and even then it'd be strictly off the records to avoid legal ramifications.)
Our next stop is at Taqueria Angelica's, where we get a churro (no bacon involved, but it's a taco truck and they have churros, and it's our moral obligation to provide positive reinforcement to churro distributors) and a bacon quesadilla. I have most of the quesadilla -- it's cheese, after all, so Lucie limits her lactose intake -- and it's a simple yet effective delivery system for the bacon, much like what I imagine Grilled Cheese Bandits is providing on the other side of the Bacon Festival, only in a flour tortilla and with a much smaller line. It's got monterey jack cheese and bacon, in a flour tortilla with a drizzle of crema decorating the top, and it comes topped with chopped lettuce and tomato that I ignore because I'm not here celebrating the Healthy Food Accompaniment Festival. We wash that down with a bottle of Coke (Mexican Coke, made with real sugar and not high fructose corn syrup) and decide it's about time for dessert.
There are a few different vendors providing dessert (other than Chutney Mary's caramel apples), but the lines at both Fairycakes and Treatbot are prohibitively long and the food options at Rocko's Chocolate Tacos sounds good so we decide to give them a go. This turns out to be both good and bad -- the bad part being that the line, although shorter, moves excruciatingly slowly due to the food preparation process: the customer orders a waffle cone or other frozen concoction which is then hand-dipped in one of the chocolate dipping sauces available, then dunked briefly into liquid nitrogen before delivery to the customer. This, plus the two facts that the customers are ordering multiple items and that there's only one person making them with one canister of liquid nitrogen, makes for very slow throughput. However, the good part of the equation is that the food is very good and worth the wait. Lucie has a frozen banana dipped in dark chocolate with a generous amount of bacon rolled into the chocolate; it's another one of those seemingly strange but very tasty flavor combinations which we've been experiencing today on this day of smoked cured meat goodness. This is her second favorite food item, just after the Street Dog from Takoz Mod Mex. My food choice is a salted caramel ice cream in a waffle cone, also dipped in dark chocolate, and also with bacon mixed in. Salted caramel is one of the biggest trends in the foodie scene right now, but it's a very delicious trend so I'm okay jumping on the bandwagon -- the caramel flavor in the ice cream is a little drowned out by the dark chocolate and bacon, but it's refreshingly cold on this hot day, and even without a strong salted caramel bass beat the lead guitar of bacon and rhythm guitar of dark chocolate crank out a great tune. I don't know what the drums would be, as I didn't think the metaphor fully through... let's say it's a jazz trio instead, and the upright bass and drums carry the tune even without the sax for a while. That actually works, too. Niiiice.
That having been our dessert, we decide to get one more bacon item for the road (to go along with the apple from Chutney Mary's), and Lucie's request is another Street Dog from Takoz Mod Mex. Unfortunately, I get my food trucks (did I mention just how many there are here? Most Moveable Feast events are six or seven trucks, so tripling the number is a little jarring) mixed up with my food names and we end up at the Road Dogs truck instead. In my defense -- Street Dog, Road Dogs... understandable, right? Right?
By the time I realize my mistake (read: check the notes app on my iPhone where I'm trying to keep track of everything we've been snarfing down) we're at the front of the line so we shrug and order from them anyway -- we stood in line already; might as well get something out of it. Ordering off the hot dog slider menu, Lucie goes for their Classic sliders and I go for the Cheesy Bacon sliders; I wait in line for them and get them packaged to eat at home while Lucie heads off to wait in line at Takoz Mod Mex for another Street Dog. The Classic is a cute set of beef dogs with bacon, homemade relish, brown mustard, and ketchup; and the Cheesy Bacon is a purist's idea of a bacon cheese dog -- two short beef dogs smothered in cheese sauce and a large mound of bacon pieces. These are sliders so it's technically a full size hot dog cut into two smaller pieces (or maybe a foot-long hot dog cut into three pieces for cost savings -- the pieces are cooked separately judging by the ends but they don't last long enough to take a really close look), but they're both very good and we end up eating what we ordered before belatedly realizing we could have split our choices and had some of each. That's actually okay, though, since Lucie says her Classic is very nicely made and is mighty tasty (just not at a Street Dog level), but I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much since I'm not much of a sweet relish person. Likewise, my Cheesy Bacon slider is pure gooey cheddary salty awesome in a soft sweet roll, but the cheese sauce wouldn't have been a big favorite with Lucie.
By the time the Road Dogs order is ready and packaged and I get over to Lucie, she's almost at the front of the line at Takoz Mod Mex, so the timing for waiting in line is almost perfect. Unfortunately, the timing for ordering food is not perfect, because they're out of the bacon wrapped hot dogs and have stopped selling Street Dogs for the day. Curses! We make do with a BLT Torta (Sorry, "TorTa", because in addition to an infrequent-letter discount I believe they also had some sort of deal on capital letterz), and also bring that home to enjoy once we're on a couch and not standing in direct sunlight. The TorTa is a BLT on a toasted telera roll, with the same avocado sauce and chipotle sriracha aioli that came on the Street Dog. The roll is still very nicely toasted, and the sauces are still a nice kick in the taste buds, but the bacon to bread ratio is way off due to the telera roll's thickness. It's still a decent sandwich, but the bacon is almost lost, which is a shame. Maybe it's just not enough protein because it's early afternoon and some trucks are already running out of bacon (the event organizer says that there are 5,000 more attendees than expected) so they feel the need to ration; maybe they just didn't think about the bread's size and figured that what would be a small-but-acceptable amount of bacon for two slices of sourdough bread would also be acceptable for a telera roll; maybe the guys at Takoz Mod Mex originally had tons of bacon in the sandwich originally but their cost would have been over the $5 maximum allowed price, so Takoz Mod Mex had to KompRomyZz; maybe their Street Dog was so darn delicious that anything else naturally pales in comparison... who knows? At least their Street Dog was freakin' awesome.
So maybe it wasn't exactly dinner at a four-star restaurant, or a private dinner at an oceanside gazebo with a personal musician and private waiter and hostess, but it was -- in my humble opinion, at any rate -- a very nice anniversary meal, on a beautiful day, with the woman I love, fairly close to the 12th anniversary of the day she said "I do."
And that makes it wonderful.