Moveable Feasts Navigate the Mountains
More food trucks are on the road in the Roaring Fork Valley than ever before, sourcing local ingredients and trying out new ideas
Until a few years ago, the only food truck in the Valley was a Carbondale taco wagon that never left its Main Street location. There was a noticeable dearth in the food truck movement that, over the last decade, has taken over most metropolitan areas in the country, offering affordable eats by some of the country’s most lauded young chefs.
While there’s a great appreciation for food here, our region is often criticized for its lack of diversity, creativity and affordability— problems food trucks could easily solve. But local governments aren’t so eager to jump on board, requiring multiple restrictive state, county and city permits.
“It’s a tough market to break into,” says Peter Hans Ward, entrepreneur and owner of Humble Plum Kitchen (HPK) a 35-foot upcycled, purple, turbo-diesel school bus that serves as event space for chefs who require a fully equipped mobile kitchen. “Public food vending is challenging because of the various regulations between the counties and municipalities throughout the Valley. Clientele can also be unpredictable, which makes it difficult.”
The upside, notes Ward, is that trucks like HPK foster community, great food and connections between farmers and customers.
“That’s why I built it,” he says of HPK. “Getting consumers more involved with their local food producers and highlighting the farmers and ranchers and foragers—the people actually working the land—and integrating them full-circle into the community.”
It’s also the ideal business incubator. Humble Plum Kitchen is low-cost to rent (by the half or full day) with infrastructure capable of turning out 700 plates a night; all the permitting is handled by Ward, who will even drive the bus. Chefs just have to show up with their ingredients and start cooking. This “collaborate creative spaceship,” says Ward, is the ideal space for those looking to test a dining concept or new business. “I want people to dream up their own uses for it.”
In addition to private parties, HPK finds a home each summer at Carbondale’s Mountain Fair and First Fridays. Without the permits to park and serve on public roads, food trucks locally are finding a niche at special events like festivals and private gigs like Woody Creek Distillers’ Food Truck Fridays.
“Last summer Food Truck Fridays were such a huge hit,” says Tracey Snow, WCD’s tasting room manager and special events coordinator. “We had a deck built so people could sit outside in the nice weather. Every Friday people brought their kids, enjoyed our cocktails, and had some good food to go along with it. It brings the community together.”
The distillery hosted a variety of local food trucks including Humble Plum Kitchen’s collaboration with Senor Taco Show, as well as Slow Groovin’ BBQ and The Sled—the latter a trailer owned by Aspen Skiing Company. In winter, it’s pulled by a snowcat to and from its onmountain locations at Snowmass Ski Area. In summer, it trades the snowcat for a truck.
“We follow the same style, and the same mission with the food in the summer as we do in the winter,” says Jim Butchart, Aspen Skiing Company’s culinary director. “It has to be unique, and it has to be delicious and unexpected for a food truck.”
From kimchi hot dogs to bahn mi sandwiches, cucumber gazpacho and short rib tacos, each of The Sled’s dishes has a twist inspired by what’s available at local and regional farms and ranches.
“We never write a menu ahead of time,” adds Butchart. “We find out what’s available, create something on the fly, and throw it up on the chalkboard. It’s a lot of fun.”
That creative freedom for Butchart and his team is what has most of the food trucks in the area forging on, despite the challenges.
“Food trucks have a really cool mentality,” enthuses Ryan Vinciguerra, owner of Slow Groovin’ BBQ, which launched its two food trucks after the brick-and-mortar restaurant in Marble found success. “They have no boundaries. It can be a pulled pork sandwich on a doughnut, or waffles and pancakes—it doesn’t matter. Food trucks are pushing boundaries and making great food.”
GO FIND IT!
Slow Groovin’ BBQ
Humble Plum Kitchen
Woody Creek Distillers Food Truck Fridays