A few months ago (on June 14th to be more specific), I had the pleasure of attending the 4th Annual Philadelphia Vendy Awards at Penn Treaty Park. The Vendys are Philadelphia’s effort to reward the culinary prowess of the under-appreciated lunch trucks that serve the needs of the Delaware Valley. While acknowledging their work, the event raises both money and awareness for The Food Trust. We had trucks that offered sliders, tacos, fried cheese curds and desserts. There were savory pies, pork cheeks and mac and cheese. They offered handmade ice cream, cupcakes and crepes. And, of course, we had a choice of beverages (Grown Up Sodas for the kiddies and Sam Adams beer and Angry Orchard cider for the adults).
I was joined on this excursion by my significant other and the urchins. As we approached the park, my oldest kept questioning why I had received an invite to the event. Despite my repeated attempts to explain that I am an esteemed member of the media, she continued to harangue me and then egged on the boys. Anyway, I approached the media tent and we received our wristbands and then had at it. This was a little bit like banding a family of wolverines and then observing their eating habits. I half expected to see a National Geographic film crew following us and then hearing Morgan Freeman narrating the special that captured our afternoon.
We quickly scanned the layout and made our way to the shortest lines. With three hungry urchins, the Bonjour Creperie truck was our first stop. There, we made short work of the Smores and Strawberry crepes. It was all I could do to keep them from eating the plates so we then moved on to the Eating Light tent for some flavored water and gummy vitamins. Next up was the Smokin’ Tacos Truck. A delicious mac & cheese with pork and then a brisket taco (complete with a wedge of lime). At this point, I explained the purpose of the lime and the boys began to add a few drops like old pros. The tacos were fantastic.
Next, we turned our attention to The Cow & the Curd truck but quickly abandoned that effort as the line was at least fifty deep (and would stay that way for the rest of the afternoon). I’m not sure what they were giving away, but by the size of the crowd, I thought it might have been some cold hard cash. I never got the fried cheese curds (judging by the heaping plates and happy faces, this was our loss) and we moved across the park to the Cheese E. Wagon truck. There, we had a pork quesadilla and some ice cream at the Curbside Creamery truck and then we found some chairs to set up camp.
The chairs were strategically surrounded by the stage, Jimmy’s Cupcakes, The Pie Stand, and the Brotherly Grub (and a display from Martin’s potato rolls who gave out stress balls shaped like slices of bread). Our first go round, involved me taking my children by the hand (well, aren’t they shy!) and asking them what they would like from each truck. My better half and I then took turns waiting in the line for the Pie Stand (the only real line of the day for us).
Jimmy’s Cupcakes had an ice cream sandwich, comprised of a salted toffee brownie and vanilla ice cream and two cupcakes: the Lebron James, a vanilla cupcake with key lime glaze and raspberry icing and the James Cameron, a vegan banana cupcake with maple cream and a ganache drizzle. Needless to say, the kids balked at the idea of anything fruit-filled or vegan and found the ice cream sandwich much more to their liking. Brotherly Grub (not even an entrant in the event) offered a pulled pork slider with pickled pink onions and chipotle aioli on a mini Martin’s potato roll bun. The Pie Stand offered savory pies (Shepherd’s Pie, Coq Au Vin and a BBQ Rib). The desserts from Jimmy’s and the pulled pork sliders from the Brotherly Grub were quickly demolished and then I took my turn in the line for The Pie Stand.
This is where I would insert my only complaint (if I am allowed to complain about such a great event). Each truck was slotted a time to bring platters to the judges’ table. I would have expected the judges to have tasted all of the food prior to the event. Instead, the various trucks were given a warning that they were to prepare their best and take it to the judges’ table. This lead to an awkwardly long line at The Pie Stand (and I am sure other vendors as well) as the truck was virtually abandoned while the gourmands took their potential winners to the judges table. I waited over 25 minutes in a line that did not move in front of a truck that was unattended. I’m not sure why I did this but I was so close to the front of the line that I didn’t want to give up my spot. And, I fear my Pavlovian response had kicked in and I was now powerless until the food came.
So, while I waited, my better half ran around checking out other trucks and when I inquired about the urchins (who, I imagined, were waiting patiently near the bandstand), I came to find that all of their feigned shyness had melted away and they were helping themselves at each truck (even the not-quite-six year old was running up to Jimmy’s Cupcakes to get his own ice cream sandwich).
With this stage of the judging over, The Pie Stand (the overall judges’ favorite and winner of the 2014 Vendy Cup) was now fully attended and out came two great samples. The Shepherd’s Pie and the Coq Au Vin. Both were met with a level of appreciation that exceeded the level of anticipation. My next stop was The Whirly Pig where I got the last sample of the potted pork & duck confit riquettes and a healthy portion of the braised pork cheek. The urchins passed on the pork cheek (their loss as it was quite tasty).
With the samples demolished, we headed back to The Cow & the Curd stand. Regrettably, the line was no shorter than an hour earlier and we were running out of time. A quick stop at the Oink & Moo Philly BBQ for a chipotle chicken taco and BBQ brisket and pulled pork sliders (boy, there was a lot of pork served at the event). Our final stop was a return to the Smokin’ Tacos Truck (my oldest boy, now an aficionado, remarks “what no lime?” when the taco sample is presented).
Then, as the day was coming to a close, we took one last look at The Cow & the Curd truck, handed in our ballots and made our way home.
This year’s winners were:
- The Vendy Cup Winner: The Pie Stand
- People’s Choice: The Cow & the Curd
- Rookie of the Year: Oink & Moo BBQ Philly
- Best Dessert: Bonjour Creperie
Many thanks to the folks at Food Shelter PR for providing us with press passes, and I (probably we, now that the urchins have had a taste of the good life) look forward to the 2015 Vendy Awards.