Conn: Food Truck Dining Gourmet Style at Got Chef?

Chef Michael Edwards works in the compact yet very functional kitchen in the GotChef? food truck. Photo: Eileen Fischer / Connecticut Post

By NewsTimes.com

Deborah Hertline takes a food order inside the GotChef? food truck. Photo: Eileen Fischer / Connecticut Post

Shared Dish is a he said/she said look at trends, tastes and food obsessions to pass along our thoughts about what’s happening in Fairfield County.

Eileen Fischer: Food trucks are all the rage. The Food Channel recently dedicated a whole series to them. On NBC, restaurateur and chef Bobby Flay‘s new reality competition food show, “America’s Next Great Restaurant,” had contestants design and man their own food trucks to see how their food would sell and if the entrepreneurs could actually make a profit.

Lee Steele: I saw that. Thankfully that “Saucy Balls” guy changed his name to the “Brooklyn Meatball Co.” I’m guessing food trucks are more of a West coast thing. We in the East are a little puzzled by them. But after that episode on Sunday, I want to see more of them. I know the brick-and-mortar restaurateurs would protest, except perhaps for the chef we’re discussing today.

E.F.: A few months ago, I heard about Stratford chef Biagio Barone‘s food truck, GotChef, and knew we had to dine there.

Chef Michael Edwards works in the compact yet very functional kitchen in the GotChef? food truck. Photo: Eileen Fischer / Connecticut Post

I first met Barone several years ago when he came out with his own brand of jarred tomato sauce and have dined at his lovely, eponomously named Stratford restaurant several times. His Southern Italian food is always delicious and creatively plated, which I like very much. Barone told me he has an agreement with Metro North to set up a food truck at the railroad station in Milford, so when tired, hungry commuters get off the train, they can head to the big yellow truck parked on the New York side of the tracks to pick up dinner before going home. Of course, in today’s tech world, they can view the daily menu, which changes, at the website gotchef.com while traveling and call in their orders (203-490-chef) so their food is ready and waiting for them. Lee and I, who don’t commute by train, went on a recent Thursday evening by car, to try a few of the entrees.

L.S.: Well, I used to commute by train. When I got in from the city, I always felt like my access to really great food had been undercut, but I’d never wanted to lug home meals from Grand Central, even with that great marketplace they have there. Positioning a food truck off the train platform is an inspired idea.

E.F.: I expected that the food would be an extension of what Barone serves at his restaurant and I wasn’t disappointed. I ordered the antipasto platter ($8) with a wonderful assortment of aged Italian cheeses, olives and salami. For the main course I tried a whole trout (head still on).

L.S.: That’s what I’m saying! You wouldn’t want to share your seat on Metro North with a trout.

E.F.: Well, this trout was stuffed with lobster, crab and shrimp and served with cooked green beans ($15), which was super, although the beans were a little too al dente for me. The chicken cutlet with San Marzano tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, with a generous portion of creamy polenta ($11), was tasty, but needed a bit more chicken for a satisfying meal. It was more of a lunch-sized portion than dinner.

L.S.: That surprises me. I brought home the Cannelloni Lorenzo ($8), the pork medallions with roasted red pepper sauce ($11) and the lamb osso buco ($13). For the price, I got good portions that I was able to share. My companion, however, thought the choices seemed like something from a winter menu. We would think that pretty soon the options will be adjusted for the season.

E.F: The two chefs and order taker on the truck were very pleasant and seemed to really enjoy their work. Chef Michael Edwards of Danbury gave us a little tour of the compact, yet fully equipped kitchen, where the food is prepared fresh each day.

L.S.: Small kitchens fascinate me. I loved the range, which was tiny but somehow looked powerful. I don’t know if that’s unusual for a food truck. Most of the ones I’ve seen were built for holding food that was already prepared somewhere else. This one fits in a fully realized kitchen and a staff of three. It’s a marvel.

E.F.: The food was pipping hot when Edwards packed our bags, but, unfortunately, when I got home 15 minutes later it had cooled down quite a bit. The good news is the food is packaged so it’s ready to go in the microwave for a quick reheat.

At our separate homes, we enjoyed this gourmet takeout meal, relishing the idea of not having to cook for a change. My husband opened a bottle of chianti as we enjoyed the appetizer with a quarter loaf of a nice crusty bread thrown in with our order.

L.S.: I was skeptical that the cannelloni would hold up. I drove my entrees all the way to Bridgeport. I tested the chef a little when I asked his advice on how I should heat it. It’s packed in a plastic takeout tray, so I couldn’t just pop it in the oven. That’s why I prefer takeout food in those aluminum pie plates. Anyway, he was cautious and told me to zap it for 30 seconds, which was good advice. The pasta was none the worse for wear and the filling had a great depth of flavor.

I wasn’t worried about the osso buco. It was delicious and it’s not something that would dry out or lose flavor in a takeout container. But the lean pork was a worry for anyone who’s had it dry out and begin to resemble the eraser on top of a pencil. Putting it to the test, I loaded both entrees into the microwave and zapped it for a full minute. That warmed it without making it piping hot, which is what I wanted because I certainly didn’t want to restart the cooking process. At the dinner table, the pork was tender and moist, against all odds. They know how to compensate for the vagaries of grab-and-go cuisine.

E.F.: Four of us ate pretty well for about $70 (you can use a credit card). We did pass on dessert, opting for appetizers instead. There was only one dessert choice — an apple tart for $5. I think if I was in a sweets’ mood I would have stopped at a bakery like you did.

L.S.: The apple thing looked good enough, but I was surprised there was no other option. I guess that’s the trend, though. Who eats dessert on a weeknight? And after that osso buco, who would have room?