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If you were in Hopewell Borough in last Friday evening and noticed a fragrant breeze wafting past, it was compliments of the 4th bi-annual Hopewell Borough Food Truck Friday. And if you were intrigued enough to come down to the Hopewell Train Station, you did not just see what authoured those smells but tasted the bounty that was quickly gobbled up by your neighbors. Hopewell Borough’s Food Truck Friday is a festival that happens in the spring and fall and, if Friday’s event is any clue, Valley dwellers love their food trucks!  There were 10 trucks offering up 10 very different but equally delicious taste experiences. 

As I overheard one contented neighbor proclaim, trying to keep her taco from escaping her mouth, ”What a great way to taste differents kinds of food!”

The confluence of people with very different pallets and levels of gastronomic dare seemed to be doing just that. There were 4 year olds with empanadas and fish tacos and 70 year olds sampling donuts topped with vanilla glaze and bacon. There was truly something for everyone to love. Overindulged or underindulged, taste buds were happy in the Hopewell area.

IMG_20150911_181203521_HDRMaddy Cook, an 8-year old Princeton Day School student, was munching quite self-satisfactorily on a beef empanada, skillfully lifted from her mom, Carri Cook. “She went right for it!” Carri exclaimed seeing the tantalizing delight getting smaller and smaller in her daughter’s hands. The empanada was the creation of The Empanada Guy food truck along with a chicken, vegetable, pulled pork and guava and cheese empanadas. Freddy Cuello, the general manager of Empanada Guy, was manning a very busy grill.  “We have 6 trucks and we’re about to get a 7th,” he beamed excitedly.  When asked where they got their recipe for the empanada, as they tasted like something you would get at your “abuela’s” house, Cuello explained, the owner and president, Carlos Serrano, got the recipe from his grandmother!”  Trevor McCarthy, apprentice and former customer was also helping to satiate the growing line.  “I was a customer for years and thought maybe this is something I could really enjoy doing as much as I love eating them. He is training take over one of the trucks in the near future.

Hopewell locals, Mark and Samantha Bean, along with their daughter Emma, were quietly savoring a margherita pizza from a Hopewell favorite, Antimo’s. Trying to gauge how good it was from shy Emma was difficult but her dad stepped in telling explaining  that they frequent Antimo’s often.  

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“We go there every New Year’s Eve,” he said chuckling, “And then we turn-in at about 9:30!”.  One of the things that they said they enjoyed about Antimos was Nino. IMG_1706“We love when Nino comes out and actually shows you the pasta he made for you.”  Mark also sampled a sandwich from The Whirly Pig. “I had ‘The Hog’. It was very lean, no fat on it.  Delicious.” he added.

People from Hopewell Valley, and also the surrounding areas, came out to eat the diverse offerings but also to connect with people — with neighbors and strangers — or to share a bite with someone they only know from Facebook. People were sampling each other’s selections with such willingness, going beyond the stale, civil neighborly acknowledgements. With a nice mouthful of Whirly Pig’s pork belly sandwich goodness filling my soul, this author realized that there’s nothing like food to bring people together.

IMG_20150911_184603927West Philadelphia’s Curbside Creamery was deliciously displayed on the face of 5 year old Natalie Belgrave.  Her chocolate ice cream and sprinkles covered face marking an unwillingness to be deterred, a testament to the quality of their ice cream.  Thankfully her mother, Karin Belgrave, was nearby, napkins at the ready, for her seemingly endless task of face wiping.

The Tot Cart was doing a brisk business, adding a special twists to America’s favorite un-french fry.  They offered tots with garlic and parmesan cheese and a secret beer cheese sauce.  There were sweet tots doused with homemade sweet chili sauce and a few other varieties quickly disappearing into the mouths of hungry food truck visitors.

The non-stop lines at The Taco Truck and Ms. Fu’s Yummy Food Truck continued to grow long into the evening. I sampled the veggie lover Japanese curry rice but mine was over Japanese noodles, as the rice was cooking when I got there.  It was still yummy, to bIMG_1722e sure, although I was sad to have missed one of my favorites, the pork buns.  

Undrgrnd Donuts was a real surprise to many people.  Warm and nostalgic, harkening back to the days of just-out-of-the-oven freshly made donuts, but with a decidedly modern take.  They had a IMG_20150911_181954285_HDRdonut called “The Angry Captain” with strawberry glaze and strawberry sauce decorated with Captain Crunch cereal which seemed to bring out the kid in everyone I saw eating it, even the kids. I saw a man, of a certain age, using his fingers unashamedly(and smiling) to get all the gooey icing off the bottom of his donut box. Well done, sir! Then there was “The Homer,” a vanilla glazed donut with some other stuff but it was the bacon on this that got me and, honestly, that’s all it needed to have on it.

As the evening was ushered on by the sounds of the Magnolia Street String Band, Hopewell’s own Alvin and Debbie Flanders of Four Daughters Franks were slinging slaw and kraut on dozens of hot dogs.  Four Daughters, named for Amanda, Katy, Meghan and Emily was started about 5 years ago.  “There were no concessions when we went to see our kids play soccer,” stated Debbie, hot dog in hand. “We felt like there was a need.”  Since starting, Four Daughters has only increased in popularity throughout Central Jersey, working events like the Watershed’s Butterfly Festival, as well as numerous parties and other community events.  When asked what was one of their most popular items, Debbie shared,  “Pickle on a stick is one of the things we are known for.” They also serve hamburgers, accompanied by homemade potato salad and mac and cheese, to name just a few.

As the crowd began to thin and nighttime commenced, contented patrons made their way to various cars and up silhouetted streets, some homeward, others to local eateries for noshes and drinks. Of all the things that I took home with me (along with a wonderful Cuban sandwich), the sense of community that was the one thing that filled everyone most.

Food Truck Friday in Hopewell Borough is a bi-annual event supported by the Hopewell Borough Recreation Committee and organized by community member, Susan Pollara. The next FTF probably won’t be until June 2016 but get updates on their website http://www.foodtruck-friday.com, follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FTFHopewell or on Twitter @FTFhopewell.

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Renata Barnes
Renata is the author of "The Taste Chase," MercerMe's own food review column. She's a lover of all things poetic, colorful, funny and inspiring. A native New Yorker, who grew up in Hopewell Valley and spent the better part of her adulthood back in NYC, currently finds herself in a growing love relationship with “the Valley”. Latin food, Indian saris and mehndi, French perfume, African music, Middle Eastern spices, South American jewels, Asian fabrics and anything from just about any island (maybe not Riker’s Island) are things that remind her to go out and taste the world, live passionately and always wear deodorant. The mother of one rambunctious boy and the wife of a mellow fellow, Renata tries to put her too many years of university and her film and writing talents to good use here in NJ. “I’ve spent too much time trying to fit in some where when I probably belong everywhere. That slow revelation has been freeing.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for a great article! I felt like it was Friday night again. I can almost taste the bacon donut again… thanks for reminding me, the craving is back.

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