It appears this event has been gathering some of the best food trucks together at Bates Nut Farm since 2012 when these so-called mobile kitchens were quickly scattering themselves across much of San Diego. In the years since, this event has kept bringing some of San Diego’s best food back to the same location.
I had attended some years back after meeting some of these Chefs and “truckies” that make up this event, when some of these same trucks appeared near my workplace on a regular basis for a little over a one-year period. Luckily today, most of my visit at Bates Nut Farm, was a visit with just one of those food trucks. It’s where I got the scoop on this years Valley Center Gourmet Food Truck Festival.
Amongst the planned 15 food trucks (yeah, there was probably 13-15) I yell, “Steves” (yes, there is supposed to be an ‘s’ at the end), as I approached Underdogs Gastro Truck, basically serving gourmet sausage sandwichs. Steves are two guys named “Steve” that are what make up this particular specialty truck. I have just become used to calling them that . . . as many friends of their truck have become used to doing the same. I continue, “Where the hell is everyone?” Steves replies, “I think it must be the heat”. I mean this place was dead.
I figure only about 150 folk . . . at the entire event, were here at any one moment to grab a bite or shop the art and craft vendor booths. Steve again chimes in, “Yeah, we are usually sold out by this time . . . this has always been our best event”; referring to the normal one day attendance of better than 5000 eager truck diners.
Today, while approaching the festival location, the other original “Dick” (yeah, I got lucky today) kept commenting, “where’s all the cars . . . where’s all of the people?” As we delved further, nothing materialised . . . no one was around. There were no lines, there were no children and I bet . . . there were no animals; referring to the heat probably had them hunkered under a shady spot in their farm enclosures. I did not go check on them.
In years past, just about every food truck would have a line that was a 20 minute wait until you actually ordered your food. Then another 20 minutes to get it. Today, you could walk up to any truck and immediately order, and probably receive your food before you finish paying. The trucks were dead, but ready, anticipating a crowd rush at any time. It never happened while we were there. Our friends and I felt bad for the vendors participating today. Although, with very few potential patrons, the trucks did seem to be selling . . . that’s a good thing. We grabbed some desserts from Sweet Treats Desserts truck before heading back down the hill to our friend’s house that had a pool, a refrigerator, . . . and a grill.
I spoke of this event with another food truck operator just days before. He was preparing for the Del Mar Food Truck Festival taking place the same day. He said of the heat at Bates Nut Farm during this event, “it is often times inescapable when working inside of these trucks”. That’s why he now performs comparatively in Del Mar with 40 trucks each year. I think this year he might have a good idea being closer to the beach’s today 89 degree weather. As we drove away at about 5:30pm, my truck thermometer was indicating 100 degrees in Valley Center. All of this heat precedes indicators of a rumored “El Nino” weather phenomena’s impending approach to the region. It was damn hot!
Now I looked up a bit on this Valley Center event happening at Bates Nut Farm. If we take the normal attendance and do the math, that’s about $4000 bucks gross for each truck. Unfortunately, I don’t think these guys made their take on what they had hoped. I even scored some sausage inventory from Steves as I walked away from the event. Steves uses a very good sausage from a local provider. Steves agreed to sell me some inventory because he realized, otherwise he was going to be eating a lot of that sausage if not. I took some of that inventory back down the hill and grilled them tonight, along with having those deserts, and having a “hanger” steak nearby, and some wine . . . made for a nice finish to this otherwise uneventful day in Valley Center.
Don’t misunderstand me; this is normally still a great event for the family. There’s was also a kid zone that can keep the youngsters happy while mom and dad chow on their parmesan French Fries. Today there were no kids . . . or very few; yet the kid activity vendors were still making a few bucks also. What I did notice today was the giant-kid-ball (I guess the kids climb inside of it) -on-water vendor, did not have any water this year . . . hmmm.
Well, we made our way to the beer garden after following some very informative signs only to find the only smart people (obviously not the sign people). They were the ones sitting under some shade sipping a cold one . . . or two, or only the three beers being offered at the beer garden today. In this craft beer inundated North San Diego County event, there were only three beers to chose from . . . and NO Imperial Pale Ale (IPA’s) . . . and no wine. The other Dicks says, “Isn’t it a requirement to have an IPA if you’re having a beer garden in San Diego?” We both kind of agreed that this was a pretty bleak beer garden for an anticipated 5000 attendees. The area of the beer garden was very small and sat as far away from the stage where the band was performing. The band only played a couple of songs as we got to the garden area until they took their first break. A quirky kind of cover music band made up of a three old guys that seemingly just didn’t play very well; I only heard two songs though. I guess it would have been ok if I had been in the beer garden for a while (drunk!).
So I think the weather got to everyone. The other “Dick” and I had discussed potential reasons as to why the lack of attendance. My suggested answer was the fact that food trucks are a dime a dozen nowadays. In other words, tomorrow there is another food truck on another corner in San Diego. The food truck festivals are also a dime a dozen now in San Diego. Essentially saying there really is no reason for customers to even come out in the heat, when in the near future (just not tomorrow, literally) it will cooler and there will be another food truck festival happening nearby, where the families can relax a bit and enjoy the event . . . without trying to get out of the heat.