June 29, 2017
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The jackfruit po’boy contains no meat, but you won’t notice.
Michael J Wilson

Not That Trinity…

… but still explosive

June 14, 2017, 12:00 am

Meow Wolf is settling into its second year by quietly expanding its reach. On May 26, they unveiled their latest endeavor: Trinity Kitchen. But it isn’t a new room in the house within their exhibit—it’s a food truck in the parking lot.

Food trucks have been a mainstay in the parking lot since the arts collective opened the sprawling House of Eternal Return at the former Silva Lanes Bowling Alley (1352 Rufina Circle, 395-6369) just over a year ago. There, you can get everything from tacos to shaved ice, and now, thanks to Eliot Chavanne and Connor Black and the backing of the collective, you can also sample classic Cajun cuisine.

Begin history lesson:

Cajun is one of those things that people think they know, but the nuances are vast. Traditional Cajun has its origins in Canada. Yes, I know, but it’s true—the Acadian people, descendants of original French settlers in the far eastern provinces, were forced to relocate in to Louisiana the late 1700s, and the sudden shift in climate led to a radical shift in cooking styles, since Louisiana didn’t have the same ingredients as eastern Canada. Many old dishes were abandoned, and what we now call Cajun developed naturally from there. Most confuse it with Creole, which is a blend of cooking from the various settlers and Native peoples of southern Louisiana. The truck’s name comes from the “holy trinity” of Cajun cooking: onion, bell pepper and celery.

History lesson over.

Savory crawfish beignets—the most Cajun thing ever?
Absent shade and scenery, the Meow Wolf parking lot is not the best place to experience food. Trinity Kitchen is a blazing white vehicle with a small porch extension on its back end. The side is emblazoned with a beachy retro-futurist kinda logo. The menu sits outside, written on a chalkboard. Chavanne and Black are the staff and cooks behind the window. They rotate through a classic spread of dishes: Po’boys, gumbo, étouffée, fried chicken and waffles, boudin, beignets, and pecan-smoked baby back ribs. The day I stopped by, the list included classic pulled pork, oysters, crawfish and jackfruit.

I joked with Chavanne about buying one of everything, but even if I had, the prices would have made it not entirely unreasonable. I was meeting a friend but decided to order while I waited. I went for the crawfish beignets ($8) and the unusual jackfruit po’boy ($10). As I finished, my friend arrived and placed an order for gumbo ($10) and pulled pork fries ($8).

The food was going to take a few minutes so I checked out the back end of the truck. The custom porch extension houses a nice smoker. It smelled amazing, smoke billowing into the lot, a bag of applewood nearby. In the distance, a storm gathered around the Jemez.

Black called out my name and I collected my trays of food and decided to head inside the main building. (This has nothing to do with the truck, but Meow Wolf would do their patrons well by adding some form of sun coverage to their small picnic area.)

First Impressions:

  • The sandwich is stuffed with fillings
  • The beignets look more like hushpuppies
  • My friend’s gumbo came in a cardboard tray that was less than liquid-tight

Chavanne has previously been a sous chef, a butcher and a seafood slinger. Those varied experiences inform his cooking and it comes out in the flavor. I went for the po’boy first. Jackfruit is one of those weird fruits that easily takes the place of meat in recipes; here it took the spot of what could be pulled pork. Light with hints of pineapple, the fruit was meaty and delicious. The spices combined in a slow burn. It took four bites before I felt the back-of-the-palate peppery heat. The barbecue sauce was smooth, the coleslaw was tart but not too obvious. I ate half of the thing quickly before I remembered the other dish. And I still have to remind myself that this was a meat-free sandwich. It really felt like pulled pork.

I had to eat two of the beignets to really get a grasp of what was going on. I’ve not had a savory beignet. In Cajun cooking they find a spot similar to that of sopaipillas in New Mexican cuisine. They are an after-meal cleanser and are sweet and donut-like; I’ve only had them doused in powdered sugar. Here, Chavanne has turned them into a crawfish fritter. They looked like hushpuppies but were clearly made with beignet dough. The light sweetness of the dough married with the smokiness of the crawfish and the veggies and a nice side of remoulade, a spiced aioli with French origins.

It’s clichéd to talk about the quality of food that comes out of the food truck end of the industry. The oohs and ahhs of pretending that quality can’t come from a window cut into the side of an old van is outdated. Trinity Kitchen is still a step up in the local game, though, and is enviable food by any standard. While I didn’t order it, my friend and I were able to sneak a small sample of the pulled pork. It was incredibly good.

As of now, Trinity will stick closely to Meow Wolf, only moving for special events such as the International Folk Art Market on Museum Hill (July 14-16) and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October.

Find Trinity Kitchen at Meow Wolf every day except Tuesday. They open and close with Meow Wolf (10 am-8 pm Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 10 am-10 pm Friday and Saturday).


 

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