Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category

East Bay Express 2010: Best Bike Tour

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on July 14, 2010

Wow! I can’t believe it! The February 2010 Tour de Taco won the East Bay Express’ Best of the Bay 2010 award for: Best Bike Tour. (That said, I’m not sure how many bike tours there are in the East Bay, but heck, I’ll take it!)

As the EBE writes:

Sometimes when you hop on a bike, you just want to ride — around the block, through the neighborhood, until you get tired and find yourself lost and in search of a Slurpee. At others, you need a goal, a destination, a mission.

And what’s a more worthy mission than obtaining tacos? According to organizers of the Oaklandish Tour de Taco, not much. Billed as a “gastronomical quest on wheels through the Fruitvale district of Oakland,” the annual ride hosted by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and Cyrus Farivar of leads participants along a bike-friendly course from one taco truck to the next. This year’s ride, held in February, stopped at four taco trucks along a 2.5-mile loop and then visited an ice cream parlor a couple blocks down the street for dessert. Those looking to tack another 3.5 miles onto the ride then convened at a bar in Old Oakland for refreshments. The date for next year’s ride has yet to be set, but organizers welcome taco truck veterans and “mobile food noobs” alike, as well as riders of all skill levels. The ride’s free, but don’t forget a helmet, $15 or so for food, and an empty stomach.

As it turns out, although I’m currently in Germany, I plan on being back in Oakland next February for about two weeks, and would love to organize another one. Or heck, all you 510ers, why aren’t you organizing your own, informal ride? If you do, send me pix, por favor!

Taco truck photo contest winners!

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 4, 2009

First prize in the taco truck photo contest goes to Aurelio Jose Barrera of East Los Angeles. Congrats Aurelio!

He writes: “This was shot Halloween night 2009 on Whittier Blvd in front of Kmart in East Los Angeles.”

He’ll win a copy of Scott Wilson’s new book: Tacos: Authentic, Festive & Flavorful.

Second place goes to Gwen Harlow of Oakland.

She says that this is her favorite shot of a taco truck that she’s ever taken. It’s of the El Novillo Taco Truck in the Guadalajara parking lot at Fruitvale & E. 10th St. in Oakland.

She wins five bucks to go buy tacos with!

Thanks to all those who entered!

California Council for the Humanities grant submitted!

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on September 25, 2009

Amigos y Amigas,

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a grant to produce a one-hour, bilingual radio documentary about the history of taco trucks in California. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve just submitted it to the California Council for the Humanities!

Here are the opening paragraphs of our grant application:

In California Spanglish, they’re known as loncheras. But in English, they’re known simply as taco trucks. Regardless of what you call them, most Californians simply call them delicious. Given their origins in Mexico, a dash of Americanizations and a kitchen on wheels, taco trucks are the perfect trans-cultural metaphor for California. They represent cheap, quality street food that has spread from Calexico to Yreka and beyond — California Taco Trucks will tell their fascinating story. California Taco Trucks is a sound-rich, narrative-led public radio documentary in both English and Spanish that will describe the rich history and newer incarnations of taco trucks.

With their humble beginnings as a blue-collar staple of journaleros statewide, taco trucks have since crossed socio-economic and cultural boundaries as more non-Latinos have discovered them. Further, as these trucks become more prevalent, cities like Turlock, Salinas, Stockton and even Los Angeles have battled with taqueros over how, when and where taco trucks can operate. Finally, many around the state have adapted the trucks to create new types of fusion cuisine served from a taco truck, such as Korean-Mexican (Kogi BBQ), Chinese-Mexican (Don Chow Tacos) and Japanese-Peruvian (Lomo Arigato).

Taco trucks represent a fascinating and unique lens through which to understand food culture, immigration, and demographics of late 20th century and early 21st century California. While taco trucks exist in other parts of the country, their presence originated in California. Raul Martinez is believed to have opened the first taco truck – converting an ice cream truck — outside of an East Los Angeles bar in 1974. He went from $70 in sales that first night to controlling a small empire of 10 King Taco restaurants and trucks around Southern California. By 1987, Martinez had earned $10 million in sales across his various properties. Nearly all taco truck owners don’t establish vast empires à la Martinez. Most are family-run businesses that work long hours and earn slim margins on a product that sells for around a single dollar.

Today, taco trucks exist in probably all of the 50 states, however, their largest concentration is in the Golden State. Los Angeles County alone has over 7,000 taco trucks, according to the newly founded Asociación de Loncheros – the rest of the state likely hosts thousands more. While taco trucks have existed for decades, the association itself was founded in 2009 after many loncheros found themselves afoul of new laws making it harder for them to operate in the City and County of Los Angeles. They have worked with attorneys in Los Angeles and Stockton, as well as UCLA law students to fight back and have struck down unconstitutional laws that restrict their trade.

Since the founding of Kogi BBQ, a Korean-Mexican taco truck in Los Angeles that famously uses Twitter to advertise and stay connected with its customers, dozens of nouveau food trucks have sprung up. They sell various treats including Indian cuisine, Mexican-Asian fusion, ice cream, shaved ice, burgers and various other combinations. However just as the classic trucks before them, this small community of newer trucks has to navigate an oft-confusing sea of municipal and county codes. These new trucks have received national media attention, and although they represent a small minority of the California taco truck community, they may just represent where it is headed both in California and on the national scale.

I’m supposed to be notified if we will receive the grant before December 2009.

If accepted, I will be working with Robert Breuer who will serve as photographer and associate producer.

We’re grateful to have received the support of the Asociación de Loncheros, who will act as the sponsoring organization. Our humanities advisors will be Prof. Abel Valenzuela (UCLA), Mark Vallianatos (Occidental), Prof. Roberto Alvarez (UCSD) and James Rojas (Latino Urban Forum). We will also be receiving culinary consultation from Bruce Aidells (Aidells Sausages) and Melanie Wong. We’ve also received letters of support from the Public Radio Exchange and NPR’s Latino USA.

Clark Boyd has also agreed to serve as script editor and Robin Wise will be our sound engineer.

Muchas gracias to Julie Caine for all her help. She successfully got her radio doc, “Squeezebox Stories” funded last year.

Keep your fingers crossed! Here’s to hoping we get it!

Happy New Year from California Taco Trucks!

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on December 31, 2008

Hey all,

I know that my posting has been a little on the light side these past few months, and for that I apologize. I’ve finally finished the first draft on my book, which means that I’ll have a bit more time to post on this blog.

Reader Lisa Perry mentioned that this blog was mentioned in the October 2008 issue of Sunset magazine. If any one has a scan of that issue, can you send it my way? (I’m temporarily living in France until May 2009.)

Please send tips/pics to cfarivar [at] cfarivar [dot] org — and as always, keep on taco truckin’.

Happy New Year to all!

Welcome to California Taco Trucks!

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on April 23, 2008

Dear Friends,

Let me be the first to welcome you to this new group blog by a quintet of taco truck lovers.

Inspired by the efforts at Slice and YumTacos, our mission here is to chronicle taco truck deliciousness mainly here in the Golden State. If you have taco truck news to share elsewhere, by all means do so, but our focus is mainly on the nexus of culinary mobility — California.

Sadly, as you can read through in our archives, taco trucks are under attack in this great land of ours. So, in the interests of preserving our multi-cultural and heterogeneous food scape, I urge you to support this great institution.

Buen provecho!