[Year In Review] Of Taco Trucks and Votes That Suck: 2009 On Our Stick a Fork In It Food Blog

Kogi: Overexposed, schmoverexposed!
Keith May

Truckin’ in the ’00s
If you read our Stick a Fork In It food blog in 2009, you’d know that two, maybe three things happened in OC dining that didn’t involve an LA-based Korean taco truck

More than 1,100 posts—and counting. As of this writing, that’s how many entries we’ve published on our food blog in a little more than a year. We began the venture on Sept. 3, 2008, with Gustavo Arellano and me tap-tapping away on our keyboards—usually late at night, usually less than lucid—about the good, the bad and the un-fast-food side of OC dining.

In 2009, we added more writers to the mix, including Lesley McCave, a transplanted Brit who knows the Orange County scene as well as any of us; Dave Lieberman, who is better known by LA and OC Chowhounds as his nom de plume, Das Übergeek; and other dedicated contributors such as vegetarian Grace Le, dessert goddess Jessica Ford and Willy Blackmore, who covers the Long Beach beat.

Through it all, we presented an entire buffet for you to graze on: from bona-fide news scoops (i.e., when local java roaster Martin Diedrich took back some Tustin territory from the Empire of Starbucks) to Gustavo’s weekly Taco Bell crime report to random taste tests we subjected ourselves and our diets to.

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Here are some high- and lowlights from a year of this thing we called a food blog.

One topic that simmered above all this year, based on the sheer frequency of posts: the Kogi Korean taco-truck phenomenon. This was the year of the food truck, and Kogi was the king of the road, showing us that Twitter can be used for good and that kimchi tastes amazing inside a tortilla. Rightly, the press ate this stuff up.

And boy did I ever cover it. Post after post, I tracked LA-based Kogi’s every movement as it inched ever closer to the county line. This year, I logged 22 posts on it, and that’s not counting ones in which I mention or make reference to it while talking about something else. The subject, as my editors point out, is second only to my fascination with Diamond Jamboree, the Asian eating-and-shopping complex in Irvine. (My frequent posts on the latter finally prompted a reader to comment, “This shall now be called the ‘Diamond Jamboree Blog.’ That is all.”)

Below is just a tiny sampling of blog-post titles that I devoted to Kogi, which ironically could’ve been Twitter tweets all to themselves. It all came to a head for me on Nov. 5, when Kogi showed up at Diamond Jamboree—an event I equated to space aliens making first contact at a sci-fi convention.

March 16: Kogi Korean Taco Truck Was at Angel Stadium This Saturday

April 22: Attention: Kogi Taco Truck Lands in Lakewood Tomorrow! Not OC, But Close Enough

April 24: Video: The Kogi BBQ Truck vs. Lakewood Police!

April 25: Kogi In OC! Kogi In OC! Tonight!!!

April 27: Adventures In Chasing Kogi

May 3: Kogi, At Last!

May 12: UPDATE: Kogi In OC This Week! Again!

June 15: Kogi Was in Costa Mesa This Weekend; For Some, Disappointment Followed

June 27: Baja Fresh In Irvine Doing “Baja Kogi”

July 20: Kogi’s OC Permit Issues Resolved, Planning to Come to Tustin in August, And About That Baja Fresh Thing . . .

Oct. 12: Kogi’s Naranja Truck (No Really, That’s What It’s Called) Set for Permanent Run in OC

Nov. 5: Kogi at Diamond Jamboree Tonight. You’ve Been Warned


Thankfully, it wasn’t just about my food-truck obsession. Stick a Fork In It is an OC Weekly blog, and what’s an OC Weekly blog without a little controversy?

Among other posts too numerous to name, Gustavo leveled scathing attacks on restaurateurs accusing us of practicing payola and racists who called for a boycott of ethnic restaurants. But the results of our own Readers’ Poll for this year’s Best of OC prompted him to say this on Oct. 9:

“Gentle readers: Are you marginally better than The Orange County Register’s collection of coffin-dodgers and Mexican-bashers? Javier’s as the BEST FOOKIN’ RESTAURANT?!?! If you want to snatch some siliconed hag, perhaps. Panama Joe’s as best Mexican restaurant? ¿Qué chingada ’tan tomando? Best late-night dining being Denny’s? Not even Norm’s? Have my years of reviewing restaurants taught ustedes NOTHING? And Chipotle has the best burrito in OC the way I’m a CCIR supporter. And guess what? Both Weekly and Reg readers picked P.F. Chang’s as best Chinese restaurant. I might as well take over Yvette Cabrera’s job. Best dessert at Cheesecake Factory? Kill me.”

Lesley’s year was spent on uncovering new restaurants and reminiscing on cereals of the past, which is by far the most popular post in our food blog’s history. But our favorite Briton was no stranger to controversy: An off-the-cuff comment she made on Aug. 5 about Kris Allen on what should’ve been an FYI post about David Cook attending Taste of Newport unleashed a maelstrom of rabid attacks from Allen’s fans. One commenter who was rightly alarmed at the amount of venom hurled in our fellow blogger’s direction put it all in perspective:

“Lesley, I’m truly sorry you feel you have to keep defending yourself in this situation. I’m a little disgusted that so many (mean) comments have been sent to you about something so trivial and irrelevant. You were trying to relay some information about the upcoming Taste of Newport (a food event!), and these ding-dongs have to go batshit because you stated a PREFERENCE about one performer vs. another in the first sentence. I’m sorry you have to waste your time with this and that these ding-dongs won’t let it go.


Dave, our newest blog brother, jumped headlong into controversy the first chance he got, talking directly to the xenophobes who revealed their ignorance on the subject of food trucks. Dave put out a point-by-point argument on Nov. 18 defending all “roach coaches.” On unfounded fears regarding food-truck sanitation, he memorably wrote:

“Let’s just get this right out of the way: I have eaten at food vendors from Hong Kong to London. I have eaten so-called ‘dirty water’ hot dogs, barbecue brisket, grilled squid on sticks, Mexico City-style quesadillas de huitlacoche and, yes, Korean grilled pork tacos, and I have never gotten sick. Not only have I never gotten sick from a mobile vendor, but I don’t know anyone who has ever gotten sick from food from a mobile vendor. I have, however, gotten food poisoning on multiple occasions at brick-and-mortar restaurants. Now, while the ratio of time I eat at mobile vendors vs. brick-and-mortar restaurants is fairly low, it’s definitely high enough that I should have gotten sick by now if sanitation were the issue the detractors say it is.”


But controversy gets bitter if there isn’t some feel-good fluff to sweeten the palate once in a while.

For our weekly “On the Line” feature, we bugged, cajoled and begged local chefs and restaurateurs to answer our standard set of eight frivolously inconsequential and not-so-probing questions to find out things like what kitchen tools they find indispensable, what’s always inside their home iceboxes, and what fast-food restaurants they will admit to liking. But then there’s what happened when we asked them to complete the following Mad Lib:

“I would like to [verb] [Food Network star] with [noun].”

Some responses were respectful, even deferential to Mario Batali and others. Those—how to put it delicately?—sucked. The following answers were much better—and just might lead to beefed-up security around Food Network’s NYC HQ.

“I would love to do away with Rachael Ray.” (Ray White of Veggie Grill, Dec. 15)

“I would like to call Rachael Ray a liar! She recommended a restaurant in Atlanta, and we went out of our way to eat there in hot and humid weather, and it was horrible!” (James Sar of Cambinos Asian BBQ, Nov. 3)

“I would insist Sandra Lee make an entire meal from scratch.” (Mark Cleveland of Avanti Cafe, Oct. 27)

“I would very much like to feed Guy Fieri to his hairdresser.” (Deborah Schneider of SOL Cocina, Sept. 29)

“I would like to baste Bobby Flay with Mario Batali’s drippings. Whatever that means.” (Steve Samson of Pizzeria Ortica, June 30)

“I would like to sodomize Guy Fieri with a white-hot can of Cheese-Whiz.” (Dave Mau of the Retreat, July 21)

“I would like to slather butter on Paula Dean.” (Marc Cohen of Watermarc, July 7)

“I would like to shower Rachael Ray with EVOO!” (Amar Santana of Charlie Palmer’s, July 28)

“I would like to drive to Las Vegas with Alton Brown in the Wienermobile.”(Rachel Klemek of Blackmarket Bakery, Aug. 18)

“I would like to spoon with Giada de Laurentiis.” (Aron Habiger of the Crosby, Sept. 15)

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