Street food comes to the wild west

March 3, 2008

Julie Van RosendaalWhat better way to start nutrition month than by having a conversation with Canada’s own One Smart Cookie, Julie Van Rosendaal? Actually, my conversation with Julie took place a couple of weeks ago on a grey and dreary late winter day. Toronto is not a lovely place when the sun is hiding and the snow banks are draped in a gauzy black film, but Julie Van Rosendaal’s sunshine-coloured hair and blue sky-coloured eyes managed to light up the day.

Our conversation ranged from sharing frustrations about the difficulties of making a living as cookbook authors, to the learning curve we’re both on as new bloggers to our families and, of course, to food trends (which reminds me that I should tell you that my latest Topline Trends Newsletter is now posted.)

During our trends discussion, Julie told me about a wonderful initiative she’s involved with that will revolutionize Calgary’s street food offerings. Like people in so many other cities, Calgarians are realizing the value that good quality street food can add to their city.

Beyond finding options that deliver more nutrients than hot dogs, at its best, street food can enhance the personality of a city. While Toronto has deemed that street food vendors should be encouraged to express themselves creatively and offer more than just humble tube steaks, our councillors seem to be having trouble agreeing on how the system should operate; so we’re unlikely to to see interesting food on TO streets anytime soon. Check out my post on January 3rd where I discuss more 2008 food trends, such as street food.

Meanwhile, cities like L.A. and New York have vibrant street food cultures. In L.A., trucks that move from location to location keep regular hours and have websites, complete with menus and schedules. The mobile restaurant concept is so successful there that chains such as Jamba Juice are joining independent vendors such as Café Nagomi by putting their first ‘Fender Blender’ on the road. Meanwhile, New York vendors are encouraged to excel with reward programs such as the ‘Vendies’, which congratulates street food excellence.

Julie reports that Calgary plans to launch a fleet of shiny silver trailers, laden with wonderful food, into Calgary traffic. Each trailer will feature a different food concept. While some will be satellites of successful Calgary restaurants, other trailers will feature more novel fare. The trailer I’m most excited to visit is the Pie Trailer that will sell slices of classic prairie pies. I do hope they have ice cream as well!

Have you visited any cities that have great street food?