By Jessica Webster | MLive.com
A new food truck hit the streets of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti this summer. Helmed by UM grad Christine Gauthier, Wild Violet Gourmet Food Truck advertises its food as “perfectly strange and suspiciously good.”
The menu, on first glance, could look like your usual banal list of sandwiches and salads. But that promise of perfectly strange is fulfilled when you look closer. The turkey and avocado panini is made with peach mayonnaise. Another panini boasts arugula, nectarines, spinach pesto and goat cheese.
“For the menu I wanted to create something unique that people wouldn’t have seen before,” said Gauthier. “I also wanted to use in-season produce and get a lot of color so the food would look as good as it tastes.”
The menu at Wild Violet changes every week, reflecting whatever is fresh and in season at the local farmers markets. It’s heavy on fruit, since Gauthier loves incorporating fruit in savory dishes. After gathering her haul at the markets, Gauthier gets to work finding the best flavor combinations. She and her friend Amanda Karpack look for pairings that are surprising, flavorful, and look good together.
“It’s actually just a lot of trial and error,” said Gauthier of the recipe process. “A lot of the times I will just make something with what’s in the house and make my husband taste it. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it doesn’t work. Then it’s back to the drawing board.”
The truck operates as a mobile food cart, and uses Harvest Kitchen in Ypsilanti as its commissary. Sandwiches and salads can be assembled in the truck, but more complex tasks like frying Wild Violet’s popular root chips (made with beet, sweet potato, and russet potatoes) take place in the licensed commercial kitchen at Harvest Kitchen.
Gauthier holds a degree in architecture, but says she found that work in that field didn’t feel fulfilling.
“I really wanted to do something where I could have a direct impact on people in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti,” said Gauthier. “My husband and I prayed a lot about what we should do. I decided to start a food truck. It’s a way to incorporate my love for cooking and giving back to the community.”
The business is new, and the couple is still recouping start-up costs, so for now that giving back is in the form of food donations to food pantries and needy families, but Gauthier hopes that before too long she’ll be able to donate a percentage of monetary proceeds, too.
You can find Wild Violet Gourmet Food Truck every Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. at theDixboro Farmers Market (5221 Church Rd., Ann Arbor). Other stops, including an appearance on Wednesday, Aug 19 at the Wednesday evening Ann Arbor Farmers Market Food Truck Rally, can be found on the Wild Violet website or Facebook page, updated daily.