The essence of pleasure is spontaneity. — Germaine Greer
Normally, it would kill me to desecrate a beautiful filet mignon by shredding it with plastic cutlery on a paper plate. But extraordinary circumstances demand extraordinary measures — it’s not every day you find a food truck from San Francisco serving French bistro fare in a parking lot by Seaport Village.
There were ten of us, all hovering over the table and eating from the same few plates. A boom mike floated above our heads to capture our mouth-filled answers to questions posed by a Food Network cameraman. In a conversational manner, and “in complete sentences, please,” we explained how we’d come upon the truck and that, yes, we would most definitely venture from our beaten paths at the prospect of a deluxe food truck at the end of a less-trodden trail.
I stabbed a spear of grilled asparagus with the flimsy fork and spared a thought for my friend Sarah. It was Sarah who’d tipped us off (her sister-in-law works at the truck’s parent restaurant, Chez Spencer). The day before, as David consulted Google maps on his phone and Sarah received texts hinting at the truck’s location, I zigzagged through Old Town and then along Harbor Drive until we alighted on the prize just beyond the USS Midway Museum. But “Spencer on the Go,” having only just arrived, was not yet prepared to serve food. Given the choice of waiting 40 minutes or returning the next day, David and I chose the latter.
When the final morsel had been eaten and the last plate discarded, the group formed a circle in the parking lot to figure out what to do next. One of our compatriots, Charlie, said, “A member of the film crew told me all the trucks started on Cass Street in Pacific Beach.”
David and I had met Charlie the night before at a friend’s birthday celebration. While standing around the party hotspot that is the kitchen, Charlie had explained that the meat on his nacho dish was beef he’d simmered in goat broth, which he’d made himself. Only a diehard food enthusiast would go to such lengths for nachos. We told him about the truck Sarah had led us to and asked Charlie if he and his wife Jen would like to join us there for a bite the following afternoon.
The next morning, three hours prior to our food date, David received a text from Charlie. It read, “The Nom Nom Truck is at the Hillcrest Farmers Market.” David told me that Nom Nom, based in Los Angeles, was famed for its Vietnamese sandwiches. A few texts and 30 minutes later, we were with Charlie and Jen at the market, sharing Vietnamese tacos in front of a film crew.
“So, what’s the deal with all this?” I asked, after the cameraman had lowered his lens. He looked to his cohorts, as if checking to make sure it was okay to answer. In few words, he revealed that Food Trucks was the working title for the show they were filming and that the trucks were traveling from city to city in a competition to see which among them could bring in the most customers. After some carefully phrased questions, we learned that seven trucks were currently posted at various San Diego attractions.
“We saw a truck at the Roots Fest on Adams Avenue yesterday,” Charlie whispered to us. “I bet that’s one of them.”
“Let’s go,” David said. We still had an hour before we were supposed to meet the others we’d told about the rendezvous (Brenda, whom I ran into on my way to the farmers’ market; Hanis, a local chef; Kimberly and Shawn, who live in our neighboring building; and Jordan and Katie, who we’d recently befriended).
Because Jordan and Katie live in Normal Heights, David texted to let them know we were in their ’hood; they caught up with us at the festival. Once there, we were delighted to find not one, but two of the competing food trucks — one serving “puddin’ and wings,” the other Cajun food. My usual germophobiness forgotten, I shared spoons with our growing cadre. Roots had set us back, time-wise, so the six of us hustled over to Seaport Village to join up with the other four.
“When I woke up this morning, I had no idea I’d be eating at four food trucks,” I said, as I dropped the last of my French gar-bazh into the trash bin. Eight of us remained now — Hanis had to work and Brenda had plans. The rest of us were figuring out what to do next.
“We know there are seven trucks, and we’ve already found four of them,” said David.
“We’ve come this far,” added Charlie. “I say we try for all seven.”
“P.B.? I don’t know,” I said. Up until that point, we’d known where each truck would be — we hadn’t hunted for them. Caravanning blindly around town would be like swinging at piñatas. I gauged the faces around me — a hodgepodge of people who had only just met but who shared a common goal. “Okay, I’m in,” I said.
The eight of us split up into three cars and hit the road. Charlie and Jen rode with me. We made it to Cass Street first, scouting the length of it to no avail. I called David and Shawn to report that Cass had been a bust and that I was going to head south on Mission Boulevard. It was Katie’s idea for us to try the popular Mission Beach hangout Belmont Park. We all agreed to meet there to discuss our next move.
“Uh, guys?” said David, his voice piped through the speakers of my car’s Bluetooth system. His next words were like Oprah telling us to look under our seats: “We’ve found two trucks!”
The eight of us were giddy as we skipped across the parking lot toward Grill ’Em All, which offered “heavy metal and hamburgers” and a truck from Austin serving paninis called Austin Daily Press. Nowhere near hungry, but certainly famished with curiosity, we ordered a few paninis and burgers to share.
“Six down and just one to go,” Charlie said. We drilled the competitors to find out where the remaining truck might be. But the trucks had searched independently for an ideal place to park, so none of them knew where the others were.
“If they’re smart, they found out about ArtWalk and they’re somewhere near Little Italy,” I said. This elicited an encouraging raised brow from one of the producers.
At 5:30 p.m., seven hours after our escapade began, we were on foot in three groups, scouring the annual art festival in Little Italy for the seventh truck. At 5:33, I received a text from Kimberly: “State ’n’ Ash — crepe truck.”
“How fitting that the last truck we find has dessert,” I said, taking a bite of the banana, strawberry, and Nutella crepe we’d ordered from Crepes Bonaparte.
“The only thing we have to figure out now,” David said, pausing after savoring a section of the cinnamon apple crepe, “is where to go for dinner.”