Are you ready for some chiles? Or food trucks?


Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat:

Craig LaBan: I attended one of the funnest food parties in a long time Saturday - and a unique one by Philly standards. One of our new neighbors is from Texas, and September for Southwesterners, apparently, is Hatch chile-roasting time. So with 50 pounds of Sandia hots ordered in, my friends Devin and Meg rustled up some pals for a blue-glove event to char-grill roast, peel, snack, and freezer-bag a year's supply of smokin' hots. We labored for beer, chile-topped burgers, great conversation around the peeling table, and a little take-home stash. Even better, Meg forwarded this handy link of their favorite recipes for those chiles ( Can't wait to make the posole. Don't go light on the beer supply - these peppers had serious spice!

Reader: Need to get my hands on some of those chiles to add some kick to slow-cooked meals, perfect for fall.

C.L.: Those were special-ordered for the event. . . . let's see if I can get the mail-order address from Meg and Devin before the chat ends. . . . This just in, chileheads! My pal Devin has passed along the link to his Hatch chile source:

Reader: Went on a short food-truck binge last week (Koja, Magic Carpet, and Cucina Zapata). Yes, all in one day. Loved Koja and for $3 it is quite a deal. You reviewed the Koja Grille in Temple several years ago. Have a preference?

C.L: The Koja truck near Penn has been sold since I wrote about it several years ago (the storefront in Temple, meanwhile, is run by the same owners-get the bulgogi wrap sandwich!) I've heard pretty good things about Koja on Penn's campus since, though. Haven't had a chance to try Cucina Zapata yet (it's relatively new, right?) But I'm still a fan of Yue Kee-the beaten-up Chinese truck near Koja that is probably still the single best flavor-to-dollar value in the city. Beijing "hot" noodles, ma pao, and beef with eggplant and black bean sauce that go "boom!" for less than $5 a platter. . . . Also, had a pretty nice set of desserts from the Sugar Philly truck. They burned the creme brulee to order - impressive, even if the custard was a little underpowered on the vanilla. But still . . . not what you expect from truck cookery. On the rise in Philly, I'm betting 2012 is the year our trucks really get on the stick-shift.

Reader: Thanks for the tip on Yue Kee. I'm not sure when Cucina Zapata started. They were my fave at the Vendy awards, and I wanted the full experience. I preferred the Thai short-rib taco over the chicken satay. Although I do wish the short rib had more of a kick. You get 2 for $5 so it's a good cheap eat.

 Reader: Based on Michael Klein's "60 New Restaurants Coming" article, what are you most looking forward to?

C.L.: That is a crazy amount of new restaurant action in the next few months. I'm amazed by the pace of it, which seems faster than ever. For my picks of some of the most interesting newcomers, check out this Sunday's annual Fall Arts Preview in the Arts & Entertainment section. New staffer Ashley Primis chimes in, too. . . .

Reader: Pizza is the new steak house. It seems "dining" pizzarias are opening everywhere. Revolution House, Serafina, Is it a reflection of the economy or just a trend?

C.L.: Pizza's been happening for several years across the country, and at least a couple around here - so it's hard to call it new. Plus, chefs have been upscaling comfort food - from burgers to pierogies and now hot dogs - for at least the last decade. It's a reflection of a wider trend, for sure, and will surely continue. Personally, I'm glad we can finally get good hot dogs in this town. BBQ, which keeps sputtering, needs more serious effort.