Oh wow, I’m officially published! There’s something really magical about seeing your writing in print and not just on your same old computer screen… I guess that’s the smug feeling of validation I’m feeling. Here’s the link to my article online, but it’s probably more fun to read it on here: MEAT YOUR HEART OUT! Also, there’s something to getting paid, too that kind of says, “Hey, maybe people BESIDES YOURSELF like your writing!” …and that feels like a million edible sunshines.
So here you are.
Someone told me recently that the food truck trend is over- and later that day I read that tiki bars are the new couture. Well… I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have more food trucks any day. Though it might be a little hasty to foray into the world of side notes, here it is anyway: I find the whole arena of “food trends” infuriating in itself, since I think that trends should probably stick to the unnecessary facets of life, like hoop earrings. Or, you know, types of lap dogs. The fact of the matter is that even if food trucks are passé, I can’t think of one person who would oppose more mobile food in this town. Apparently Portland has over 200 food carts to choose from which lends the question, “how come I can only think of six here in Bellingham?”
Food trucks, besides being trendy (or non-trendy, depending on who you talk to), are a customer’s bestfriend. Usually low-priced, they’re easy to find, require little wait, and more often than not are run by passionate foodie individuals who are pretty knowledgeable about the food they’re serving. As an added bonus, there is no awkward menu-scoping, so if you don’t see anything you feel like trying you won’t have to exit through a front door with bells jingling on the handle.
While Bellingham could certainly use some more variety in the food truck arena, there is at least one downtown eatery that you’ve probably passed dozens of times. Serving up authentic German fare during both lunch and early dinner hours, Ilse’s Schnitzel Haus has been up and running since September 2010. Vegetarians beware: Ilse Bublitz, owner and sole operator, serves a variety of mouthwatering and potentially diet-altering meats. Trained to cook in her hometown of Pirmasens, Germany, she owned her own restaurant for 15 years and served a menu similar to the one available at the food truck. Since I roll past the truck every day on my bike to work, I decided it was high time to swing in and sample some unusually heavy food for such an uncharacteristically warm (for Bellingham, anyway….) summer day. I settled on the fried schnitzel, since an eager to explain Ilse told me that it was probably the most traditional food of Germany.
A Google image search earlier that day had elicited hundreds of photos of breaded and fried schnitzel, most served with little else but some lemon slices, and honestly I was skeptical about how good a plain old pork chop with lemon could be. In the spirit of authenticity, however, I agreed to give it a shot (and for $9.95 it is served with a heaping pile of simple but perfectly tangy and slightly warm potato salad). My boyfriend opted for the Bavarian plate; a sturdy paper plate loaded with Bratwurst, Polish sausage, bacon potato salad, grilled onions, a giant mound of sauerkraut, and a pretzel roll from Ralph’s Bavarian Bakery ($10.95 and seriously worth it, since two could easily split this). I typically veer away from sauerkraut, as most jarred varieties are too sharp and briny, and usually harbor a strange, too-crisp texture that screams, “I used to be cabbage, but then I got shoved into a jar of lactic acid bacteria and forgotten about!” Which is to say (for me, at least), ew, but Ilse’s? Her sauerkraut was miles away from those grocery store jars- it was perfectly soft, mellow, and light—a perfect pairing with those sausages and even with my schnitzel.
Though I did end up snagging occasional bites of the kraut and onions to pair with the schnitzel, with just the lemon juice accompaniment it was surprisingly satisfying with only the potato salad to keep it company. Though “schnitzel” can mean any number of things, this particular schnitzel was the traditional pork, pounded with a mallet until flat, then breaded and fried. It was tender, juicy, and filling. My boyfriend’s plate did call my name though, and I relented for a few bites of the insanely tasty bratwurst, which was blackened perfectly and (dare I say it again?) super juicy. Served with the bacon potato salad, which is the same as the regular potato salad but with substantial chunks of chewy smoked bacon, my only complaint is that I could have easily eaten about three times the amount of onions. If you close your eyes and eat a tiny bit of everything on that plate at once with a dollop of course mustard, you are instantly transported to a place in your imagination that looks remarkably like the Sound of Music (think the scene with the grassy hills and children in matching curtains).
The next day, just to prove my point to myself, I rode by again and ordered the dessert—an absolutely perfect apple strudel ($4.75). This strudel is a divine handmade pastry, stuffed with soft, not too sweet apples and raisins drenched in cinnamon sugar. Covered with powdered sugar, a dreamy vanilla sauce, and freshly grated cinnamon, this was so good that, sitting on a plastic chair devouring an enormous strudel by myself at 3:00 in the afternoon didn’t even seem remotely out of the ordinary.