When I set out for lunch on Saturday, I was on a mission - introduce my husband to the food truck phenomenon and sate my ever-present burger hankering. Both objectives were met but not without tremendous stress. I'll explain.
Two weeks ago, Paris by Mouth broke the news that another food truck had just hit Paris streets. When I read the name - Cantine California - I knew it was the one Kristin Frederick, chef-owner of the city's first itinerant food truck Le Camion Qui Fume, told me about several months ago. Then, the only information she had sussed out about the mystery copycat was that its theme would be Californian and the menu would resemble her own but with a twist- burgers and Mexican food. How curious. I shrugged it off, convinced that Kristin's bureaucratic suffering would deter any and all overeager food entrepreneurs from considering the truck as a viable option. I stand corrected. The American upheaval of the Paris food scene continues, time to compare.
I've been touting the virtues of Le Camion's burger to Cédric, my fellow burger enthusiast, since my first bite back in early December but their hours and locations of operation don't match his schedule and I've never had the opportunity to take him. When I saw that the Cantine would be parked at the Marché St. Honoré at lunchtime on Saturday, I coerced him to join me. He's rarely enthusiastic about trying new places unless said places happen to be unexplored, unclimbed bouldering spots in the heart of Fontainebleau.
When we arrived, there was only a small line to reach Jordan Feilders, the Canadian-American, Paris-raised owner fielding orders in front of the sizable truck. Tall, dark and handsome with an indelible smile combined with tight branding (an homage to UPS success perhaps?) and an organic ethos certainly makes for a potent package. As he slipped effortlessly between French and English taking orders, chef Jordan Powers (also an American trained at Ferrandi) commanded the kitchen where she frantically prepared burgers, tacos, carnitas, and cupcakes.
We both ordered The Dude - organic beef and bacon, beaufort, caramelized onions, blackened red peppers, lettuce and tomato on an artisanal bun - though mine without bacon. We had a choice of sweet potato or regular fries. Naturally, we opted for both.
Jordan F. informed us that our wait would likely clock in at 8-10 minutes so we parked ourselves at a high table and watched as chef Jordan sprinted from one side of the kitchen to the other and called out orders. 20 minutes later and now ravenous, Cédric and I watched as people who had been behind us in line joyfully picked up their orders first. The heavy sighing and groaning from my French half commenced. Ils nous ont oublié. They forgot us. I immediately detected the impatience in his voice and the irritation in his posture.
Please relax, I urged him. Probably just a mix-up, don't write them off yet. A minor hiccup wasn't about to foil my best-laid plans of enjoying this moment with him. As it happens, most of our arguments or spoiled experiences occur over, around or about food.
Jordan apologized profusely for misplacing our order ticket and promised our burgers were up next. I bet they forget to leave off the bacon for you, Cédric added. I didn't even have time to roll my eyes before Jordan placed our feast before us. I peeled back the greasy wrapper, inhaling sweet potato fries in the process. This must be yours, I said pointing to the bacon. No, his was identical. Apologies flew once again and Jordan F. returned the sandwich to Jordan P. who, to Cédric's incredulous shock, simply removed the bacon, plopped the bun back into place and sent it on its way.
If I were religious, I would've whined. If I had tasted even a hint of bacon, I would've whined. But I didn't and I certainly didn't want to be branded the high-maintenance customer so I stuffed the fallen peppers and lettuce back underneath the bun and indulged. For Cédric, each bite defied his expectations and quieted his grumbling. All was calm, the wave of stress had passed. He liked it.
So how did the burgers stack up? The beef was tender and juicy, less fatty than Le Camion's, the onions were caramelized to perfection and the melted beaufort brought extra flavor. But the patty seemed too small for the bun and the toppings repeatedly slipped from their places making for a particularly sloppy sandwich.
Would I go back? Definitely if for no other reason than to test drive their veggie burgers which will soon be available. Should you? Sure, especially if you put a premium on organic, locally sourced meat. But for the best in street burger dining you'll have to queue at Le Camion Qui Fume.
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