Some people might take advantage of a rare 60 degree and sunny day in January by taking a long hike in Forest Park. Others might seize the opportunity to do a little mid-winter garden clean up, or even pull together an impromptu Ultimate Frisbee game.
Are they crazy? Me, nothing says doing the weather justice like pulling together some pals and eating at an outdoor food cart. Why everyone isn’t outside eating on a day like this is beyond me — haven’t you seen the forecast, people? Don’t you know it’s likely to start pouring again in just a couple days?
Okay, I can’t help others inability to see the light — and stuff their faces al fresco — but I can grab some of my nearest and dearest and hit the road. In this case, the road only as far as Mississippi and Skidmore where a couple of my favorite food carts reside inside the Mississippi Marketplace (the name given to the pod of carts anchored by Prost, a brew joint next door).
There were about eight food carts up and running yesterday, but I narrowed the search based on mood and smells wafting from the carts. It came down to Native Bowl and Miss Kate’s Southern Kitchen, but I ultimately decided that until I am a few weeks out from failed New Year’s resolutions, I am not yet ready to succumb to the gorgeous gluttony of a biscuit filled with fried chicken and topped with bacon gravy. (I can be strong that way). Native Bowl won –and my pals and I all got food from there.
NB is known for their jasmine rice bowls, each filled with their own slightly different ingredients and toppings. We sampled three of them and there was not a dud in the bunch. First off, let me introduce you to the Broadway Bowl. You can’t tell from this shot here, but there is a feast just underneath this carrot and scallion cloak — gobs of garlicky tofu and cabbage tossed with spicy peanut sauce atop steaming hot rice.
Next up, meet the Hollywood Bowl. This one features grilled garbanzo beans, pita chips, cabbage and peperoncinis in a lemon garlic tahini sauce. Well, hello gorgeous.
And finally, Alberta. She too has her charms — again garlic tofu but this time furikake and a “fire breathing dragon sauce” makes her spicier than most. (Note how lively and fresh all the produce looks on each one of these).
Only problem with these babies is their layered construction. I understand the reasoning behind this and I love that they are made to order, but I think that they are best eaten with all the ingredients tossed and allowed to co-mingle (instead of layer by layer as they are given to you). The take-out containers are so abundantly filled that a good mixing without undue spillage necessitates a precision and deliberateness that is beyond me. Sadly, whenever I do try this a little always ends up in my lap or on the ground — or both. Sad face.
That aside, these bowls are spectacular– they are vegan and so packed full of so much flavor that you never miss the meat. And when I say you won’t miss the meat (someone who considers bacon one of the most important food groups), trust me carnivores, you’ll be cool here.
And the winner?
Broadway narrowly beat out Hollywood. The tahini sauce was spectacular on the former but something about how the peanut sauce on the Broadway embraced the tofu and the way the warm rice succumbed to the crunch of carrots and cabbage left me tingling with joy.
Eight dollar feast, sunshine in January, girlfriends swapping stories. Good times, my friends.