Just Keep (Food) Truckin' On
Food trucks may have reached their big city tipping point about five years ago, but they’re just taking off—metaphorically and literally—in mountain towns throughout Colorado. It’s part of the natural order of things: When I first moved to the state 20 years ago, there were no farmers’ markets in ski towns (I was attending culinary school in Vail at the time). Now, they all boast a thriving market or three.
So it is with food trucks. What was once financially unviable is now in demand, in large part because the evolution of the food truck is intrinsically linked to local food sourcing. It’s not enough to merely make great takeaway—ethnic or otherwise. Food trucks have become mobile extensions of family farms and restaurant or catering kitchens that showcase seasonal, regional ingredients.
Here on the Western Slope, we have a handful of food trucks, and more important, we increasingly have venues in which to find them. A fine example is Woody Creek Distillers’ Food Truck Fridays, which launched in early June. Every week, from 4 to 8 p.m. through the first snowfall, a different truck sets up shop in front of the Basalt distillery (which debuted its patio at the first food truck event). Working in collaboration with the tasting room, the truck offerings can be paired with the new summer cocktail menu, and enjoyed on the patio or at the bar.
I attended the inaugural Food Truck Friday, which featured Slow Groovin’ BBQ (the truck can be found around the valley, from the Carbondale Thursday Rodeo and the Basalt Recycling Center to festivals; check their Facebook page for updates). Being able to get a primo pulled pork sandwich at my neighborhood distillery was something I never thought would happen here in the Roaring Fork Valley, and I’ve since become a regular at Food Truck Fridays. I’m not alone. According to Tracey Snow, the distillery’s hospitality manager, the first event attracted over 200 people, and business has been brisk ever since.
Food Truck Fridays’ goal is to feature a different vendor every week, as well as provide a place for trucks to do business. Since the launch, the distillery has hosted Humble Plum Kitchens (the fully-equipped school bus is a mobile rental venue, so you never know who may turn up, but thus far there have been chefs from the region as well as the Front Range), Senor Taco Show, ItaRuma Foods, and SkiCo’s The Sled, which debuted at Snowmass this past spring and is overseen by executive sous chef Andrew Helsley (click here for location updates).
I particularly loved Helsley’s short rib tacos with kohlrabi slaw and salsa verde (I also loved the price, at just $2.50 a pop), as well as his green gazpacho with Cotija ($5). Paired with a refreshing Basil Gimlet (vodka, basil, simple syrup, celery bitters) or three and a rowdy game of Cards Against Humanity on the patio, they made for a memorable summer evening.
Over in Paonia, farms are getting in on the food truck action. Zephyros Farm and Garden is holding a Food Truck Throwdown on August 7, featuring several local vendors (including Slow Groovin’), and live music by the New Orleans Suspects (get your tickets here).
The best thing about our fledgling food truck scene, besides the menu diversity? The way it benefits communities. From throwdowns and rodeos to distillery parking lots, food trucks draw locals and visitors together, are family-friendly, and support the local economy and foodshed. I think Jerry Garcia said it best. “Together, more or less in line, just keep on truckin’ on.”