By Stacie Overton Johnson | The National
The first weekend of the Love Food Festival proved to be a resounding success.
Thousands turned up at Al Ain’s Al Jahili Park – the event moves to the capital this coming weekend – to sample signature cuisine from more than 20 local and international food trucks, and there was no shortage of choice. Dishes on offer ranged from burgers and fishcakes to vegan sushi rolls and southern-American po’boy sandwiches.
Every truck had steady streams of people clamouring to get a taste – for what it’s worth, the longest lines were for The Other Side’s buttermilk fried-chicken sandwiches and Crabbie Shack’s soft-shell crab burgers.
The food was handed out against a background of continuous live entertainment: instructors from Wilton shared expert cake-decorating tips and demonstrations in the tea and cake tent; kids bounced non-stop on a massive six-bed trampoline; and notable chefs, including Suzanne Husseini, Eric Lanlard and Andy Bates, gave cooking demonstrations on the chef stage.
This was the first time in the Middle East for many of the food-truck vendors from the United Kingdom. Mel Duncan, co-owner of Crema Caravan (the only food truck from Scotland at the festival), said she thought someone was pranking her when she first got the email asking her to come to the UAE for a food festival.
“It was a bit weird,” she says. “It’s a little bit of an adventure for us. It’s really cool.”
Her truck dishes up crème brûlée-style desserts in a variety of flavours. The best-seller in Al Ain was the honey and pistachio option.
“It’s a classic french dessert, with a twist,” says Duncan. “It’s a baked custard that’s then chilled, and we put sugar topping on it, burn it and then it goes nice and crispy.”
Chloe Brown, manager of Dixie Union food truck – a UK vendor that serves up Southern American-style soul food – says she is enjoying her trip to the UAE.
“It’s been fun,” she says. “It’s been quite an experience.
“Everything is from scratch – it is so tasty. I had one guy come up and fist-bump me. We’ve had good feedback so far.”
Local food trucks, too, enjoyed the attention.
“I think the event is a great opportunity for us,” says Pascal Moser, co-founder of the UAE-based Yumtingz food truck.
“I was intrigued to hear that trucks from the UK were coming, so I thought we must show them the best the UAE has to offer.”
Yumtingz slings burgers, burritos and its signature Parmesan truffle fries.
“I think people like street lifestyle as a concept,” says Moser. “Street food is a new and refreshing trend here. It’s something different.”
• The Love Food Festival will be at Mushrif Central Park, Abu Dhabi, from Thursday, February 18, until Saturday, February 20. Tickets are Dh30 at www.lovefoodfestival.ae or Dh40 at the event. There is also a Dh5 general admission fee for the park, which is not included in the ticket price