Incredible ingredients cooked with passion, skill at Red Truck in Truckee
July 6, 2015
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Grass cools our feet and a sail shades our heads. An orange beach cruiser rolls by and small planes whir in for a holiday landing. Children laugh their way over and under the playground, and my dog pants blissfully beneath the table.
The setting is perfect for a lazy summer's work break at the Red Truck Café in Truckee.
The lovely, effervescent Sophie comes out with our lunch. It's not my usual fantastically deep bowl of layered quinoa, dahl, yogurt, tahini, cabbage and cucumber pico with organic chicken tikka masala.
With determination and owner Larry Abney's coaching, I broke away from my habitual dish to try two of the day's specials: potato dill samosas with tzatziki and the organic chicken gyro.
Earlier, Larry took a break from his hectic kitchen schedule to share Red Truck's story. Even though he recently hired three more people, business has grown in a big way since last year, and he's in the heat of the line nearly every day of the week.
Larry went down to Los Angeles to buy his charming red food truck at the very beginning of the gourmet food truck revolution. As in, there were only three trucks in the large metropolis.
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Larry wasn't looking to be a part of a revolution, though, he simply wanted to open his own place. As much as he hoped for success, he didn't imagine it would be such a hit. And it's still growing.
Operating a food truck at alpine altitudes presents challenges of course. When big winters and thinning street crowds closed his food truck from October until spring, Larry focused on his private catering company, then "Fire in the Sky" now "Red Truck."
A native of Wyoming, Larry grew up eating the food around him: garden produce, local livestock and kills from hunting trips. His most recent hunting trip to Twin Peaks Farm resulted in homemade peach-fed-deer sausage and jerky.
This respect for high-quality, organic ingredients grown with integrity and served up with appreciation is the heart of Larry and his cooking.
After culinary school, Larry cooked in Washington D.C., Aspen and Las Vegas and was always learning more. A lover of ethnic and eclectic food, Larry originally envisioned Red Truck serving everything from Japanese to Southeast Asian dishes.
When the reality of space and time hit, he narrowed his menu to Indian-inspired eclectic eats — giving him focus while keeping all the roads open.
Now, the truck rolls into Truckee Thursdays and serves approximately 500 adoring fans. It will also cater at least 50 private events this year, from high-end to laid-back, including weddings and rehearsals.
The cafe at Truckee-Tahoe Airport serves approximately 250 returning customers daily. The famously friendly counter girls, the bold flavors and the sunny atmosphere make for a jubilant lunch experience.
Larry's food philosophy is all about incredible ingredients cooked correctly. The inspiration of India's roasted spices drives the culinary creations of farmer-fresh veggies and happy meats, sourced from Sierra Valley Farm Co-op, Smart Chicken and Produce Plus.
The house-made naan bread wraps around many dishes and is reason enough to come all by itself. The gyro has tender lamb and hummus, the all-beef naan dog is the best hot dog on Earth, with spicy relish and caramelized curry onions and the naan-wich comes with chicken tikka masala, adana pork, falafel or (one of Larry's favorites) coconut curry lamb.
The crispy and fresh salads are anything but ordinary and the Bahn-Mi special is revered town-wide. For anything and everything, the infamous and bold flavors of the harissa, habanero (it's spicy!) and avocado sauces are not to be missed.
The special chicken gyro made me reassess my sworn allegiance to the quinoa bowl. Larry had just come from the Truckee farmer's market and tucked slices of tomatoes and stone fruit inside the naan with French fries, tzatziki, lettuce, tomato and onion.
With it came a salad of simple mixed greens tossed lightly in orange blossom dressing. Phenomenal, just like the potato dill samosas, which were the size of a small child's fist. We resisted, for once, the massive, fresh-baked cookies.
No matter if you're planning your wedding, socializing at Truckee Thursdays or escaping outside for your lunch break, make Red Truck a part of your happiness routine.
Ashley A. Cooper is a freelance writer residing in Truckee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.