March 10, 2012: Taco Maria + Tasting Spoon

On Saturday, March 10, gourmet food trucks Taco Maria and (Chef Joe Youkhan’s) Tasting Spoon joined forces to create an amazing 4 course prix fixe brunch at the SoCo Farmer’s Market in Costa Mesa, CA.  My family attended this event, and below is my sister’s review of the brunch.

Chef Salgado and Chef Youkhan paid attention to every detail to make their first brunch a near flawless success. When you arrive, you see a private tent surrounded by tall, potted plants.

Upon check-in, you received an envelope with artfully designed tickets containing each course served, and a choice of either bottled water or a selection of juices.  Then, you are seated at a table covered in crisp, white table cloths, silverware and a vase of fresh cut flowers. Sure, the table cloths are disposable and the silverware is faux (though looked like the real thing), but hey, you are sitting in a parking lot at a food truck event.

The first introduction was the amuse bouche, an egg yolk topped with cotija cream, and you can’t help but wonder where you are. This did not look like something you’d think would come out of a food truck. The egg was artfully presented in a half shell, perched above a bed of salt in a (faux) glass bowl. It was delightful to eat as it was to admire.

From there, the tag team begins. Tasting Spoon started the first course with a ragu of wild mushrooms over polenta. The wild mushrooms had a nice meaty and earthy texture, contrasting with the smooth and silky polenta that nearly melted in your mouth. 

The dungeness crab served by Taco Maria held its own. A vibrant violent colored shellfish broth infused with wild flowers was poured tableside (see picture of broth being poured). Each bite was full of delicious crab, enhanced by the delicate broth.

Tasting Spoon came back just as strong with the next course, duck three ways. The duck egg yolk was a little redundant, having just had a chicken egg yolk as an amuse bouche, but cooked perfectly runny atop a crisp and airy brioche. The hollandaise sauce had a hint of foie gras to further add decadence to the dish.

Taco Maria ended the meal with fresh charred strawberries, vanilla goat yogurt and granola. These strawberries were charred just enough to be slightly warm, yet still retain the integrity of the fruit. The yogurt and granola added a nice balance of tanginess and crunchiness to complete the meal.

Despite both trucks appearing so different both in cuisine (Mexican vs Italian) and style (Taco Maria’s refined elegance vs Tasting Spoon’s casual comfort), each course was a seamless transition to the next. You would have thought the entire brunch was made by just one truck.
The brunch was certainly not a duel between Chef Youkhan and Chef Salgado, it was a collaborative effort. Who would have guessed such quality dishes could be enjoyed at a parking lot in the middle of Costa Mesa?
The only thing missing from this brunch to make it perfect would have been an ocean view and a flute of champagne.
Bravo! When is the next event?

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