Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Vendy Awards

On July 28th, a voracious crowd descended upon The Lot at 39th and Market, ready to eat the entire afternoon. They were there for the second annual Vendy Awards, a competition of the city's best food trucks. While the location was not as glamorous as last year's awards (held at the Piazza at Schmidt's), the promise of delicious food kept people's spirits high, even during the mid-afternoon downpour.

The food trucks competed for the title of People's Choice, Best Dessert, and the coveted Vendy Award. People's Choice was given to Vernalicious, which serves up "eclectic comfort food" and the most scrumptious grilled-cheese. Vernalicious is owned by the dynamic duo of Verna and David. We had the grilled tomato, pesto, and mozzarella sandwich. The gooey mozzarella provided a great balance to the ripe tomatoes and the flavorful, homemade pesto. Though the sandwich was grilled, Monica found the butteriness of the bread to be a bit too much. But if you don’t mind a super buttery sandwich (which Elliott definitely doesn't!), then Vernalicious will be sure to satisfy your comfort food needs.

Best Dessert went to new-kid-on-the-block Lil' Pop Shop, whose permanent location can be found near campus at 44th between Locust and Spruce. Elliott discovered Lil' Pop Shop earlier this summer, and before the Vendy's had already had an embarrassing number of popsicles, with the goal of trying all their flavors. The mini-sized popsicles served at the Vendy's allowed her to get closer to accomplishing that goal, concluding that Vietnamese Iced Coffee is the best. It was smooth, creamy but still refreshing, with the perfect combination of coffee and sweetened condensed milk. Even their most unique flavor, Sweet & Salty Summer Corn, was tasty.

Finally, the Vendy Award went to the Smoke Truck for their pulled-pork on mac and cheese. We were quite surprised that Smoke Truck brought home the gold, because we found their dish to be the most disappointing of the afternoon. The Smoke Truck specializes in Southern BBQ and soul food, bringing a taste of the South to Philadelphia. We tried their southern style BBQ pulled pork over a bed of homemade mac and cheese. Their pulled pork was unpalatable with a very vinegary taste and left slight fizzy feeling in our mouths after the first bite. Giving up on the pork, we took a taste of the mac and cheese and were disappointed by the bland flavor of the macaroni and the uneven distribution of cheese. Regardless of their new title of Vendy Cup Champion, we will not be returning to the Smoke Truck.

So, we have decided to create our own award, the Penndy Award! And our Penndy goes to... Philly Delicias! Delicias serves up traditional Venezuelan cuisine carefully crafted to please the lunch crowds. They specialize in arepas which are thick cornflour patties that are split open, making them perfect for stuffing. For the Vendy's, Delicias served a mini platter of appetizers that consisted of a tender and juicy pork loin topped with a colorful salsa, sweet melt-in-your-mouth plantains, and a mini arepa stuffed with plump black beans. The soft and doughy arepa was filling, satisfying, and oh-so-delicious. This was Monica's first time trying Delicias, and she is now hooked. Luckily. Luckily, Delicias is located on 34th and Market, so she can become a regular.

Our two other favorites of the afternoon were SweetBox, King of Falafel and Yumtown. Yumtown is unique in that their menu changes based on the seasonal ingredients that they locally source. The side of their truck sports a hand written list of each ingredient used on their menu and the local farm from which it originates. Not only does Yumtown deserve a pat on the back for keeping it local, but their food is delicious. We tried their beer braised pork topped with a sesame slaw and cornbread underneath. Their pork was done right and the slaw had a satisfying local bite. Their cornbread was a little buttery for Monica's taste, but the flavors were all there. The sweetness of the cornbread balanced out the kick of the pickled jalapeño. In addition, they served up a peach cider and black tea that was bursting with flavor and so refreshing that we returned multiple times throughout the afternoon.

We were also big fans of King of Falafel, owned by the Syrian couple Nabil and Hined Akkeh, who arrived sporting matching Team Babaganoush and Team Tabouli jerseys. They pride themselves in serving up authentic cuisine, including soaking and grinding the chickpeas used for their falafel and hummus themselves. The dedication they put into their food showed- their falafel was the best we've had in Philly, while Monica deemed the tabbouli to be "just like her mother makes it," with lots of parsley and lemon. They also served hummus and babaganoush, with warm pita for scooping.

Besides the Lil' Pop Shop, we were quite taken with Sweet Box, who won Best Dessert last year. Since the Vendy’s, Monica has been dreaming about their vegan chocolate espresso cupcake topped with a hazelnut and praline crumble. The cupcake itself was delicious and moist but what really reeled us in was the crumble on top. Covering the cupcake was a smooth layer of ganache that allowed hazelnut and praline pieces to stay intact on top of the cake. The cupcake was therefore not overly sweet and instead perfectly showcased the flavor of the deep chocolate and bold espresso. Though the cupcake we tried was vegan, Sweet Box specializes in many non-vegan creations. Upon a Google search to locate the whereabouts of their truck since we are now completely in love with Sweet Box, we found out that they are opening a store soon (in addition to their truck) on 339 S. 13th Street. We can’t wait to pay them a visit at their new storefront!

Check out our photos from the Vendy's below.

-Monica Purmalek and Elliott Brooks

Lil' Pop Shop's Sign

Popsicle power!

Decadent espresso and praline cupcake from Sweet Box

Yumtown's sign

The disappointing Vendy champion: Smoke Truck

And our Penndy goes to Delicias!

Lip-smackin' grilled cheese from Vernalicious 

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