If you followed along yesterday for Day One of Portland week, there’s one thing you probably learned, if you didn’t already know about food carts – things can and will change, and they will change very quickly… especially if you land a spot on a national television program like Eat St.
This tale spans thousands of miles, and a decade in between. It goes to show you just how small a world really can be – some people (and food carts) are just meant to cross paths, over and over again.
We started Day Two of our culinary trip down memory lane in Portland in the usual way. Final decisions were made in the morning, and we planned an afternoon of eating debauchery at Mississippi Marketplace, owned by Roger Goldingay who happens to also own the bike-centric super food pod known as Cartlandia. If you’ve been reading about my adventures in Portland, you might recall that Cartlandia is the first food pod in Portland to become licensed to serve alcohol.
The plan was to visit Garden State, a local favorite at Mississippi Marketplace previously featured on Eat St. Mississipi Marketplace is an amazing food pod flanked alongside Prost!, a very friendly, bustling pub that literally opens up into the food pod.
Back to Garden State – or not. When we arrived at Mississippi Marketplace, this is what we found where Garden State should have been.
That’s when I grabbed my iPhone and went to work. I immediately caught the Tweet from Brett Burmeister, owner and managing editor of Food Carts Portland, Portland’s premier resource for all things street food. It simply stated, “Garden State closed last fall.” My heart sank, my stomach growled, and I reached for the nearest order of sliders to appease my appetite.
We grabbed a quick bite at Koi Fusion, specializing in a funky fusion of Korean BBQ and fresh Mex. This once solo taco truck roaming lonely roads of Portland, has grown to a present day line-up that includes three mobile trucks, two stationary carts and an entire catering division.
Brett from Food Carts Portland joined us at Mississippi Marketplace and chatted with us while we enjoyed some incredible beef, pork and short rib sliders from Koi Fusion.
Brett explained that Kevin Sandri, chef / owner at Garden State closed his cart as many do during the winter months, but joined Rick Gencarelli at Lardo, another very popular cart previously featured on Eat St.
Last December, I had the honor of presenting the Best Food Truck award to Jim Angelus, owner and general manager of BaconBacon, which was also filmed for Eat St. this spring. You can watch the segment in Season 4, and maybe catch a glimpse of me, attempting to gracefully bite into a pork belly, egg and cheese sandwich.
“The Pork Belly Sandwich was developed by my friend Rick in Portland. He was really generous and he’s a great friend,” Jim said. Little did I know at the time, that the “Rick” he spoke of is one and the same Rick Gencarelli at Lardo.
Even my pork slider got goose bumps when we reminisced on this story! What a small world.
Jim and Rick are long-time friends, and have worked together for many years. Jim was once general manager of Rick’s restaurant, Miramar in Westport, Connecticut.
Fast forward a few years, and a detour through New York, Rick and family made their way to Portland in 2009 with the intent to open a restaurant, and Jim made his way to San Francisco to eventually launch BaconBacon. But not before some consultation with his confidante, Rick in Portland, first, which brings me back to that pork belly, egg and cheese masterpiece.
Rick launched Lardo as an incubator in September, 2010 to introduce himself to Portland at the Good Food Here food pod. A year later, he was discovered by the ravenous researchers at Eat St. headquarters.
The crew filmed Rick and his cured fatback creations in October, 2011, inciting a flurry of carnivorous customers to “praise the lard.”
In December, Serious Eats raved about Chef Ricks’ salume and melted cheese, in February, the Smithsonian.com placed Lardo on its list of 20 Best Food Trucks in the United States, his porchetta recipes have been featured in Saveur Magazine, and the list goes on.
Before his episode on Eat St. even aired, Rick was on the market for a building. A very bittersweet moment for both Chef Rick and his loyal customers, the last day of operation of the Lardo food cart was June 23, three days before his Eat St. segment aired, and only a few months prior to the closure of Kevin Sandri’s Garden State cart.
Kevin, along with Paul Straub, Chef / owner of the Awesome Cone food cart, which served waffle cones filled with savory ingredients, joined Rick at the brick and mortar location as what locals hail, “a trifecta of exceptional gourmet culinary artists.”
Of course, this story doesn’t end without a visit to this, now dare I say, “world-famous” eatery. A far cry from the original Lardo food cart, the new space features an old-school Italian design with 40 seats and counter-to-table service.
What did I order? Well, the pork belly, egg and cheese sandwich, made with local egg, arugula and caper mayo, and a freshly made sangria of course! It was as delicious as my favorite sandwich at BaconBacon in San Francisco.
Andrew was there throughout the week, manning the camera and staying on top of the details. I just show up for the food. He ordered the Pork Meatball Banh Mi sandwich, made with sriracha mayo, pickeled vegetables and cilantro.
You won’t believe what we discovered on Day Three or where we discovered it!