Some people say that you can create romance by highlighting your environment- a sort of curb appeal. Although there’s nothing romantic about eating in a parking lot, there have been moments when the food you’re consuming transforms you elsewhere. The Architect’s Kitchen, a one-year old truck that’s building and serving fried chicken and beignets, was up for proposal.
Standing in the Berkeley cold with finger-less mittens, I read the sign that states: $8.50 buys you your choice of 2 pieces of fried chicken and fries, or 2 pieces of fried chicken and beignets. Seems like a decent amount of square feet for the price. Most people in line were opting for the beignet combo, and so I blindly followed suit. The chicken looked incredibly enticing, the Arkis had managed to build a successful, slightly mahogany stain colored, crispy skin. After greedily rushing to find a chair behind the truck, I found out that the skin was indeed not only crispy, but also incredibly seasoned. A perfect insulation to lock in necessary juices that should end up in your mouth, and not the basement. Some of the crispy bits of my skin had found its way into the beignet glaze, creating its own rendition of fried chicken and syrup laden batter cake.
Unfortunately, that was the end of the delicious insulation. Beyond the chicken skin, the meat itself -the foundation- was bland and void of any personality. Okay, it was moist, but without salt to elevate the flavors…(shrugs). Without a solid foundation, the insulation is pointless. Ask one of the three pigs!
The beignets…are not beignets. They also label the beignets, doughnuts, which is a far more appropriate term for these batter cakes. Their doughnuts were big. They were the perfect size for fat and fat friendly people who love doughnuts. They were also so damn dense and heavy, I hadn’t even gotten through half of it before I gave up. Of all the beignets I’ve ever eaten, when I’ve bitten into them, there’s almost a pocket of air between the center of dough and the skin. It’s as if, the lightness tried to feverishly escape, and if you wouldn’t have put it into your mouth at that very moment, it would have succeeded. You greedy bastard. I watched through the truck window as they piled on this intensely sugary glaze on top of the doughnuts, “Ok, that’s enough!” Just watching it made my teeth hurt.
I seem to be the only person on the face of the planet that isn’t saying, “This is some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.” Am I becoming pessimistic towards the food truck phenom? My taste buds sending messages to my curmudgeonly heart and brain, saying “We’re over this.”? Or, is it that the current generational wave of trucks are not the too-poor-to-open-brick-and-mortar-but-worked-under-Thomas-Keller chefs that started the movement? Are these new trucks the ones that jumped on the bandwagon for profit and A.D.D. amount of time fame?
This can’t be true, because a few of the original trucks still manage to amaze me. The Arki truck just wasn’t one of them. Sure, their blueprints for a solid Craftsman Bungalow were amazing, everything looks better on paper. But, the end result was a 2005-style Suburban Tract home. I was completely aware of sitting in a parking lot, in the cold, eating chicken in the dark, and watching the street kids walk by, occasionally asking for change. The only place I was transformed to was the Tuesday queue at Popeye’s on Mission and 22nd.