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Judging by the Food Network and the Cooking Channel - where 72 percent of their programming is now devoted to the cuisine and culture of food trucks - we are clearly dealing with THE nutrition source of the future. Restaurants, gardens and grocery stores will pass into oblivion - and that's okay because food trucks are cool and you don't have to deal with snippy five-star waitpersons who sneer when you don't order the lamb neck nestled in a purée of smoked blackberries.
New Londoners can take full advantage of the four-wheeled dining trend from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday when the first Food Truck Festival takes place at the city's Waterfront Park. Not only will a dozen rolling food purveyors park hard to the Thames River - offering a rich and tempting variety of options - but, unlike the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, you won't have to listen to the ludicrous pontifications of the "food bloggers" featured on those television shows.
Scheduled to participate are Rollinred (Uncasville, lobster rolls and steak and cheese grinders); Spuds Your Way (Hamden, stuffed baked potatoes); Lil' NoRA Cupcake Truck (Middletown, cupcakes); Uncle D's Blazin' BBQ (Norwich, pulled pork, brisket and ribs); Caseus Cheese Truck (New Haven, grilled cheese sandwiches); The Rolling Tomato (Groton, wood-fired pizza).
Also: Snowie of Connecticut (Trumbull, designer shaved ice); Keifer's Kettle Korn (Griswold, gourmet kettle korn); Del's (Cranston, lemonade); The Four Drummies BBQ (Niantic, beef fat french fries with aoili topping); Italian Express (New London, meatball grinders and cold grinders); and Supreme Hot Dogs (Groton, hot dogs).
The Food Truck Festival replaces the nobly conceived but ultimately under-performing "Grinder is King" gathering of years past.
"We have so many great grinders in New London, and it seemed like a natural idea," says Barbara Neff of Neff Productions, who will present the Food Truck Festival for the Downtown New London Association. "But the participants were all existing restaurants. We had problems with refrigeration as well the fact that they still had to work their restaurants on a busy Saturday night."
By definition, then, a food truck is a perfect and viable concept for a waterfront gathering. True, certain civic issues and statutes have prevented a full scale development of active food truckery in the Whaling City. But this festival doesn't have to deal with parking and traffic flow issues.
"Food truck festivals are very popular," says Neff, who by chance, on vacation, met a guy in Colorado who put on food truck events. She says, "He got me thinking. We've wanted to have an outdoor food event downtown, so we started checking out festivals in New Haven, East Haddam and at the Tangier Outlets in Westbrook. They're really going over, so we met a lot of the participants and started passing out applications."
Another advantage to the food truck experience is the reasonably modest prices. For example, a hefty grilled cheese sandwich from the Caseus Cheese Truck is $5, with a variety of creative additional ingredients available for $1 each. Or a huge potato from Spuds Your Way, depending on the varied and bountiful toppings combos, range from $6 to $8.
In addition to the bounty of food, Neff says Food Truck Fest will be a very family-friendly occasion. There will be plenty of activities for the kids, along with music from the versatile and accomplished Andre, Eddie & Friends.
"It's a good summer night on the waterfront," Neff says. "They'll be four hours of free docking for boats, and it's just a good opportunity to come downtown, have dinner and make a special evening of it."
FOOD TRUCK FESTIVAL, 5-9 P.M. SATURDAY, WATERFRONT PARK, NEW LONDON; FREE; DOWNTOWNNEWLONDONASSOCIATION.COM.