Food truck fervor

When it comes to eating, out diners have a broader selection of places to choose from thanks to the ever-increasing number of food trucks. Family owned and operated, the food trucks bring a taste of home and country to the masses, and offer everything from pizza to gourmet dining. Here are two of those food trucks that bring culinary delights on wheels to their patrons.

Jason and Alis Brumbalow, co-owners of Fire Street Pizza food truck, said you can taste the difference when you bite into a wood-fired pizza.

“Humans have cooked on wood for ages and the taste still resonates with us strongly,” Jason said. “This oven is a 10,000-year-old piece of technology. We have this hard-wired thing. When you cook something over wood, your brain goes, ‘Oh, I remember this. This tastes like it’s supposed to taste.’”

He said when wood and bread come together, it’s more than two flavors combined, rather it creates a new, third flavor all its own.

Jason discovered his passion for wood-fired pizza while traveling abroad, where he trained in Naples and Milan and was introduced to the method.

“To me, it was the epitome of how a pizza should be made,” he said. “I noticed they didn’t have a lot of that here (in Bell County).”

Many people back home in Texas would enjoy the fresh flavors of wood-fired pizza as well, Jason thought. Alis agreed, and they purchased a wood oven for personal use.

“This whole thing started because we just got tired of corporate pizza,” Jason said. “So we ended up putting an oven in our backyard. Then we became neighborhood celebrities of sorts. Friends of friends started coming and we had a regular Friday night event. We said ‘maybe we should take this on the road.’”

Jason and Alis hosted a few public taste tests and the response was overwhelmingly positive. People eagerly asked for more, and the couple knew the next step was to open a food truck. That was two years ago—they’ve been firing up pizzas ever since.

“We turn out about 90 pizzas an hour, from the order to serving,” Alis said. “We do a lot of onsite catering and vending. We’ve enjoyed food and wine festivals in Harker Heights and Salado and events and festivals in downtown Temple and Belton.”

At vendor events all the pizzas are eight inches and for catering events they are 12 inches each.

“The Roman” is one of the most popular pizzas, with garlic tarragon olive oil, candied pear, caramelized onions, aged prosciutto and goat cheese. “The Brooklyn,” with pork fennel sausage and pepperoni, is also a hit.

Alis and Jason have been married for 19 years. They have always enjoyed cooking together and maintained long term plans to open a restaurant. The couple purchased property on Highway 439, between Belton and Nolanville, in 1999, with the intention of eventually opening an eatery.

“We’ve just slowly been paying for this building out of pocket,” Jason explained. “We’d get some money and put in doors, for example.”

The success of the Fire Street Pizza food truck enabled the Brumbalows to rev up their work on the restaurant site. They hope to begin opening in a series of phases towards the end of the summer.

“It seems weird, having this restaurant in the middle of nowhere,” Jason said. “But that’s exactly what we wanted, to turn it into a destination place. We have an entire area for kids to play, with Playscape stuff and a log cabin. We’ll also have yard games out there, space for bands, a beer garden and craft wines. Everything will be local.”

There is a greenhouse on the property where much of the produce for Fire Street Pizza comes from. The goal is to maintain a farm-to-fork, enclosed environment, Jason said. All food waste goes into compost that is broken down and put back into the garden in an attempt to create an environmentally friendly cycle.

The oven in the restaurant will be about twice the size of the food truck’s oven and churn out about 200, 12-inch pizzas an hour. The food truck will be used for catering and events only once the restaurant opens.

One of the most exciting parts about transitioning from food truck to restaurant is the air conditioning, Alis said with a laugh.

“We’re excited to put our style on our restaurant,” she said. “My dad was in the military and I grew up in Germany and we traveled to different countries. When you go to European restaurants it’s a family ordeal. You go and talk and enjoy and maybe have coffee or wine before, during and after the meal. That’s the kind of environment we want to have–nobody is in a hurry.”

The Brumbalows are currently having custom made, bench style seating created to further the friendly, social atmosphere.

“I think the best part about what we’re doing is growing a good community of people who love food,” Jason said. “The people we now know by name and face have responded in the way we did to good pizza. Now we have a club of foodies.”

Brooke May has always loved to cook. Her husband, Anuar Ayech, is from Mexico and often requested dishes his mother made as he was growing up. May could come close to replicating the meal but knew it wouldn’t be exactly the same, so she experimented a bit and ended up with a unique spin on traditional Mexican fare.

The result was so good that Ayech suggested they open a food truck.

“So we decided to go out and look around and found a good deal with this truck,” May said. “We’ve never looked back.”

Hecho en Queso has been open about a year and a half. In June, May quit her job in corporate management to run the food truck full time. She described the food as Mexican fusion.

“We like to say we have one foot in Mexico, while the other foot travels around the world wherever it needs to go,” she said. “It does taste very authentic, but there are also some things you haven’t had before—especially the different sauces —they’re not something seen on any Mexican menu.”

Hecho en Queso also prides itself on fresh food—so fresh that the freezer inside the food truck is used only as storage for napkins and cups.

During the summer months, Hecho en Queso can often be found parked along the creek in downtown Salado. They also set up at local breweries, wineries, events and festivals and cater private parties such as birthdays and weddings. May said the best way to keep up with the truck’s whereabouts is to follow them on social media. She fondly referred to her followers and business regulars as “Queso Peeps.”

“Not only is this fun and something we love to do, we grow friends out of it,” May said. “It’s really cool to be part of a community and grow the Queso Peeps and keep up with them. We also love it when we meet people we’ve never met before, yet they already know who we are.”

May’s son, Drew Baker, also has a hand in the family business.

“I help take orders and run food out,” Baker, 11, said. “Sometimes it gets really busy on Fridays and my mom has so many things to do, so I like to jump in real quick and help her out.”

Baker said he likes Hecho en Queso’s quesadillas best. May likes the steak quesadillas and steak tacos. Hecho en Queso is also in demand during lunchtime on weekdays as business parks in Temple and Belton join in on the trend of welcoming food trucks as a fun, new lunch option for employees.

May said between all the public events in Bell County and the private parties, they stay busy and are usually booked solid for two months in advance.

“We have the idea of a brick and mortar location set for way down the road,” May said regarding future plans. “But it’s too cool of a gig to be on wheels and be able to go to different festivals and get a change of scenery.”

Getting positive feedback about the food at Hecho en Queso and seeing people smile as they take their first bite is one of the best parts about the business, according to May.

“It’s really humbling,” she said. “It started with a wild hare idea and it’s grown into a full blown business.”

4 cups of black beans (2 cans, drained if you’re in a hurry)
4 cups of fresh grilled corn kernels (frozen or 2 cans drained)
1 small red onion, diced
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
2 avocados, diced
Small bunch of cilantro
Cotija Cheese to taste (or Queso fresco)

Dressing to taste: recipe follows

Toss together first four ingredients until well mixed and then gently fold in the next three. Cover and refrigerate at least 20 minutes or until ready to serve. Serve with chips or as a salsa topping

Juice of two limes
2/3 cup of olive oil
1-2 cloves of finely diced garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 heaping teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon of fresh grated or finely chopped white onion
1 small jalapeño finely diced (I leave seeds and all, but can he deseeded for less heat)

In a Mason jar or sealable plastic container; combine all ingredients, seal and shake vigorously. The dressing will emulsify and turn creamy. Taste for salt and heat. Store sealed in the refrigerator for up to one week.

SALLY GRACE HOLTGRIEVE is a full-time freelance writer in Central Texas. A few of her favorite things include traveling, hiking, camping, reading, cats, classic rock music and cheese. As a kid, Sally Grace could never figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up — astronaut, Celtic dancer, entomologist, Egyptologist — everything was interesting and she couldn’t decide on just one world to immerse herself in and study, so she became a journalist. She learns new things every day.