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Entries in Street Food (6)


Central Valley Ramate, Swap Meet, Flea Market Trifecta

"Shopping Made Fun" Slogan of the Cherry Auction

I've been to the Cherry Auction, Selma Flea Market, Madera Flea Market in recent months and had a few wonderful dining experiences. 

I remember as a child hearing about the Sunnyside Swap Meet, something my parents never brought me to. In recent years commuting through Fresno on a Saturday or Sunday, I’d notice the Selma and Madera Ramates just off Highway 99. Sure, I’d see the food trucks, but I was usually in too big of a hurry to stop and grab a taco.


So, after nearly 40 years of never going to a swap meet, I went with my Dad to the Selma Market and wandered around for a couple hours looking at everything from cooking to contractor supplies. Dad actually picked up several packages of high-grit rotary sandpaper at a cost lower than Harbor Freight. From the foodie perspective, The Selma Market had some nice looking portable flat-top grills for a pop-up meal, as well as huge cauldron style deep fryers for carnitas. I remember being at the market in Tlachichuca seeing these type of deep-fry cauldrons being put to work on a daily basis.

In the last couple weeks, I’ve been to the Cherry Auction and the Madera Flea Market. Each of these markets have their own character, their own groove. Madera had a nice layout and entry way which brought patrons through the fruit and veggie section first. The Cherry Auction greets patrons with food. The upside of the Cherry Auction? Animals are for sale.

Looking for a prize fighting cock? Oh wait, that’s illegal. Perhaps an exotic bird? Rabbits to cook…I mean a pet for you children? The Cherry Auction has all of this and more. If I were looking to raise some chickens for eggs or rabbits for meat, this is the place I’d come to buy them. Of course, I’d finish my animals on specific diet before I slaughtered them.

Call it what you like, a Flea Market, Swap Meet, Auction, or Ramate as far as I’m concerned it’s the Central Valley’s version of Off-the-Grid in San Francisco and the original food truck scene for Fresnans.

Off-the-Grid in San Francisco has a variety of cuisine, from simple sandwiches, to Chinese dumplings, to dessert trucks. The Ramate has Mexican food, plain and simple. If a reader would like to quibble with me about the errant pizza guy or the coffee guy that shows up at these things, yes, there are always exceptions like the one-and-only Chinese Food truck that shows up at all the Ramates in the area, but in terms of frequency and volume, Mexican food rules. I’ve already highlighted the Selma Ramate in a previous post.

Cherry Auction, while it’s great for live animals, the food was coming in a distant third when compared to Madera and Selma. There is an upside at Cherry though, the Espresso guy in the converted van.

Be on the lookout for pupusas at the Madera Flea Market from a small trailer with an address marked from Chowchilla. It looks to be a family operation, with every age group represented from the family; 12 year old girl making tortillas from scratch up to Grandpa opening up bottles of cold Mexican Coke. Another truck of note in Madera, the one with Mikas sort of rubbed out, had fabulous al pastor tacos. 

I continue to head to the Ramate for food and I’m curious what else I’ll find around the state.


Chef Martin's Bistro Burger (at Pinot Wine Bar)

I know Chef Martin is working on rolling out his food truck. I haven't spoken to him about timelines or if he's going to work at Pinot and his truck. 

However, I did stop in to have a burger and a beer a couple weeks back at Pinot Wine Bar in the Tower. I must say, an outstanding burger Chef! I don't know what Martin's menu is going to be on the truck or if he can bang out burgers; but if he can knock them out of his truck as good as the one I had, Chef Martin will have no trouble being THE force to reckon with in the food truck scene. 

I know, I know, lots of competition for a burger in Fresno. Lots of other sandwiches to choose from. Lots to prove once Martin gets rolling. I know. He'll be judged again in the truck.

Let's just hope that Chef Martin and others thinking about joining the foodie scene is a preview of how good the competition is getting and why I keep writing Open Letters to the first wave of gourmet food trucks and blogger cafes; there's always a fresh face looking to take down last year's number one.


Selma Flea Market and Tacos

I have driven by the Selma Flea Market dozens of times and never stopped. I was probably in a hurry to get back to Los Angeles and miss traffic. I hated living in LA, but that's another story.

I went with my Dad, T.L., for a couple hours of browsing around for supplies and eventually eating at the market. I could have even gotten my hair cut here, which I found out was a spectator sport.

Angel’s Mexican (lengua was tender but flavorless and cabeza was very tasty)

La Mexicana (cabeza good but the carnitas were dry. Also they were out of onions) from Sanger

Los Toritos (al pastor, best of the day) from Orosi

Frito Boats also are available.


The People's Pig in PDX Expands

The People's Pig is the king of sandwiches in the PDX cart scene (at least according to The Cured Ham). Upon each visit from The Bay Area, I make it a point to get at least one lunch sandwich here. The only other restaurant I have this rule for is Frontera Grill in Chicago.

Cliff actually has 6 pork sandwiches to choose from now, rather than his highly specialized single sandwich, the original porchetta with arugula and lemon.

At the suggestion of Cliff, I ordered the Cuban sandwich. The Cuban has a lightly dressed slaw on top with a pinch of cumin on it. The pork is moist, well seasoned and delicious. He’s getting quality bread for the sandwich as well, no cheap hoagie, but durable well made artisan bread.

Simply put, I love these sandwiches. Keep it up Cliff!

The People's Pig (Food Cart) on Urbanspoon


Portland in Review

I had a great mix of out-to-dinner and dinner-in on my latest trip to Portland. Portland is a great food city, no doubt. But Downtown Portland only represents a slice of the city. Neighborhood places are all over. Sure there are food trucks, but there are also some great brick and mortar places too. Similar to The East Bay cities of Oakland and Berkeley, Portland has some "Gourmet Ghettos" throughout town specializing in charcuterie, cheese, and ethnic cuisine.

I was also fortunate enough to dine with some great home cooks. The bagels you see aren't from a bakery,they're my friend Edwin's creations. The brother/sister team of Edwin and Mary helped craft dinner one night, and I couldn't have felt more welcome. A wood fire for our sausages (Tails and Trotters), fresh veggies from the Farmer's Market (tomato lady), fresh bread from the rudest (and best) bakery in PDX Little T, and a personal food discovery for me, Wooly Pig Proscuitto from North Carolina purchased at the Cheese Bar. And might I say, The Cheese Bar was fabulous! Tons of beer, wine by the glass, salumi (beautiful salumi) and it's namesake, CHEESE!




 And then there was this kind lady at the Farmer's Market. I basically touched as many as I could before I purchased several. They were top quality. And she even threw in a extra one after I paid. Maybe the bark on the sign is worse than the bite.

Until the next time PDX, it's time to fly.