Saturday, December 15, 2012

Stark Raving, Man-Made, and Delicious: Joel Stein's Book Tour + Food Truck Competition

Would you believe me if I told you that food trucks were supplying free food in Hyde Park village last Thursday? How about if I told you there was free Stark Raving Wine to wash it down? Yes, even in this economy. Add the slightly inappropriate, but always hilarious, Joel Stein, peddling his first book, and a deserving charity, Meals on Wheels Tampa, and you get Stark Raving Food Truck Book Tour. It’s quite a mouth full, but I can deal with the extensive title when there is this much awesome involved in the event (it could be called the 'I hate Blaire Festival' for all I care).

I attended this event with the always lovely, Leslie (Dash of Les) and Megan (I Run 4 Wine). In honor of Joel Stein's new book, Man-Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity, four of Tampa’s best food trucks gathered to compete with their Stark Raving wine-infused dishes (because what’s more masculine than competition). In some alternate universe I must have been having a good hair day, because I, along with my esteemed blogging dates, were asked to help decide the fate of these trucks in the death match that was the Stark Raving Food Truck Competition. More on that later...

I was impressed with Joel and his ability to put himself on the chopping block, our masculinity-obsessed society wielding the ax. The effortless comedic banter rolled off of his tongue with so much ease, it’s clear why he has a column in TIME and I have a blog that probably won’t earn more than a phone call from my mother… “I read your blog, are you sure that was spaghetti? Looked strange to me.” It took Joel and I no time to bond over shared celebrity doppelganger, Angelina Jolie. I think he’s a little more convincing, yes?

All funny business aside, Joel was a great guy, and I think his book presents a relevant point about society, and the pressure of the idealistic vision of masculinity as seen through the lense of a material focused elite… okay, so I haven’t read the book. However, I did see Joel on I love the 80s Strikes Back. Plus, our shared love for Easy Bake ovens removes the necessity that I join him on this ‘Stupid Quest’…. fine, I’ll buy the damn book, Joel.

Right before he did an elaborate dance move...
While I do enjoy some nice reading material, I enjoy stuffing myself with delicious food truck creations even more, so I was thrilled with the opportunity to put these taste buds to work! Wicked ‘Wiches, Two Asian and a Grill, Maggie on the Move, and Tasty Stacy all created mouth-watering dishes using the playful, but potent Stark Raving vinos! We were offered a wine pairing with each dish, and using our mouth as a guide, we delighted in the stark difference in the approaches of each truck (add two points for using 'stark' in that sentence). 

Looking strange is more than a hobby for me, it's a way of life.
Maggie on the Move created some deliciously tender lamb kabobs marinated in Stark Raving Red and glazed with a combination of the Red and Cab, served alongside a fresh Greek salad with generous chunks of feta, and almond and asparagus cous cous made with Stark Raving White. Add a yummy little nibble of baklava (also made with the White), and we started with a bang!

We moved on to the wonderful smells of Italy with the Baked Manicotti, showcasing the Stark Raving Red, and Caprese stack from Jersey-native, Stacy, and her truck Tasty Stacy. Now, both of the prior were delicious (especially the fresh caprese stack, with a yummy Stark Raving Malbec and balsamic reduction), but Stacy does not play around when it comes to her knockout chocolate chunk cookies, which showcased the Stark Raving White. I went into a full on sugar coma while eating this decadent mound of chewy, moist, chocolate goodness. The cookie was huge and doughy, to my delight! It’s like the best of both worlds, like eating the dough and the finished product at once. Honestly, this cookie deserved an award in itself.

Photo courtesy of Rob Cypher

Two Asians and a Grill, who serve up the best fried rice in Tampa (hey, I’m no expert, but any time they are at a rally, I grab a to-go order for later), made the delicious Korean dish, Bul-gogi. This yummy beef, combined with staple Asian flavors like sesame oil and soy sauce, and the Stark Raving Cab, was offered in lettuce wraps making the perfect small plate. Take the wrap and smear it in the spicy sauce paired on the side, and the dish offered one of the single most perfect bites of the night, for me. I would like the spicy dipping sauce bottled and in my pantry!

Not to be outdone by the other trucks, Wicked ‘Wiches pulled out all the punches, serving three delicious dishes, the Stark Raving Cab Lost in Havana Cuban Philly (phew), a Mango Pulled Pork sandwich using Stark Raving Red, and the always popular lobster poutine (I’ve featured this goodness before) with a Stark Raving White gravy. And just for the ultimate knockout, a Blackberry Hibiscus Gourmet Popsicle using the Stark Raving Malbec… It’s now wonder this truck came out victorious in the end. When they are in a competition, they don't play around. Each dish called to the my inner glutton, and I found myself imagining swimming in the poutine gravy and whispering sweet nothings to the pulled pork sandwich. A job well done, Wicked ‘Wiches. Another win for your imaginative and innovative truck!

Photo courtesy of Rob Cypher
Photo Courtesy of Rob Cypher
Who would have known? I’ve been spending way too much time drinking wine, and not enough time cooking with it. These trucks took on the challenge of incorporating these wines, and beautifully showcased the luscious liquid’s ability to enhance dishes across all culinary traditions, from Asia to Italy. To steal Stark Raving's tag line, the food was 'crazy good'.  I left pleasantly full, and honestly, a little tipsy from all of the wine pairings. I found myself laughing at the ridiculous exchanges I had with Joel. It was a great final night in Tampa for the year! And, of course, in addition to on-site donations, Meal on Wheels Tampa was presented a lovely $2,000 check from Stark Raving Wines! I swear, whenever there is wine involved, something good usually happens in the world. Another thing bound to do some good? Volunteering, and you're in luck, because Meals on Wheels is looking for volunteers. Perhaps it's time to offset some of that bad karma?

See you in January, Tampa, and we'll see if we can try to top this awesome evening!  


  1. LOVE this post! We had such a fantastic time and your recap just proves that :) And you do kinda look like A. Jolie...not a bad dopplegander Blaire, not bad at all! See you in January...have an amazing time in Memphis..

    1. Well, I do appreciate it! It's a lot better than, say, Danny Devito. Ha! I did have a bast and was so happy we finally got together! Again.