Sunday, May 3, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XV: Let Me Show You the Door!

The door is finally on the cart! The first order of this particular part of business was building the jamb:

Turns out I got all my measurements right; as you can see here, the door fits pretty nicely in the jamb, with just about an 1/8" gap:

I had to shim the Hell out of the strike side, and will probably want to stuff some insulation in there, but once I got the jamb in place and got the door on its hinges, everything was nice and square and plumb. Here are a couple shots of the door on the cart:

Next, I took the door off and sawed it roughly in half. I now have a Dutch door, which will be nice in the Summer:

Of course, I'll need to get a knob and a couple of dead-bolts for the door. I also got the rest of the interior sheathing up this weekend. Next step here is to install the FRP and the stainless...

There's a pretty nice view of the Fremont Bridge right out of the garage bay (we also get a lot of trains going by):

One other fortuitous development this weekend was that Steven Shomler, author of Portland Food Cart Stories and host of Tasty Tuesdays on the Portland Radio Project, came by a barbecue I had on Saturday with his radio producer, Ken Wilson. They're interested in interviewing me once I'm almost ready to open. That'll be a fantastic bit of exposure. Many thanks, Steven and Ken! Oh, and thanks as well to Risa Dale for the door, and to James for helping to hang it!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XIV: Ready For Siding!

So, I finally got the back wall framed and into place:

I also got the last of the exterior plywood sheathing up:

Here's what the corners look like, by the way. Each wall has two 2x4s at the top, and the upper one is either 3 1/2 inches shorter or 3 1/2 inches longer than the wall itself. These then overlap at the corners and  the walls are nailed to each other. This gives any basic box, be it a food cart, a shed or a house, a lot of rigidity:

The next step was wrapping the walls in Tyvek house wrap. You've seen this stuff before if you've ever walked or driven by a typical "stick farm" neighborhood development in progress. It's a waterproof, breathable membrane that waterproofs the structure while allowing water vapor to escape from inside. It's essentially GoreTex for buildings, and lives under the siding. Here are a couple views of that:

I also started facing the interior of the cart this weekend with plywood. Fiberglass reinforced plastic will eventually be glued in place over that. Here it is on the sink wall:

Still haven't gotten the door hung. That, and the windows, will be at the top of next weekend's to-do list. But much progress made...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XIII: Insulation, Backer Board and the Hawaiian Model of the Month

This weekend's cart project revolved primarily around installing insulation. I went with the pink roll insulation you've all seen, the stuff from Owens Corning that uses the Pink Panther as its marketing mascot (it looks brown here because it's faced with Kraft paper, but underneath it's as pink as Pepto Bismol). I chose the R-13 value, which should be plenty of insulation for the typical Pacific Northwest winter. Here it is on the sink wall and front wall:

And here it is on the cooking wall. I also started installing the cement backer board where the cooking area itself will be. It'll reach all the way to the ceiling when it's done, and will be covered with stainless steel, but here's what I managed to get done by the end of the day:

I also built a step platform, sort of a little stoop for the cart, which will be at the back, underneath the door. I'll need something like this anyway, and as I'm working more inside the cart than out of it now, it made sense to build it sooner rather than later. In the past couple of weeks, I've hoisted myself up into the cart on my knee about five hundred times and, well, how shall I put this... that'll make you sore in parts of your groin that you didn't even know existed.

I also picked up a new toy this weekend. It's a justified toy, though. My trusty Black and Decker cordless drill, which has served me well through the years, just wasn't cutting it for this job. The old Nickel Cadmium batteries don't hold a charge long enough, and I needed a bit more power, especially for that backer board, so I picked up this 18 volt Milwaukee lithium-ion hammer drill:

I've saved the best shot for last. This is, without a doubt, the most effective way to get a bunch of dudes in a shop to remember to turn the dust collection system on and off:

If you look closely, and I know you are, fellas, you'll notice that this is Miss August, despite the fact that I'm writing this in April. The month is not what's important here, though, so get your minds back into the gutter! Hated to censor this, by the way, but being that Blogger is owned by The Man, aka Google, who no doubt have some Draconian anti-nudity policy in place, I decided to play it safe here.

I was hoping to get the fourth wall up, and the door hung, this weekend, but that's going to have to wait until next Thursday. Still, a very productive weekend. Also, I managed to secure Burmasphere's first catering gig/pop-up event, which will happen at Civilian Studios in June. Pretty excited about that!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XII: Walls Rising!

Having gotten the new axle, springs and hubs installed on the trailer, and the floor secured to the frame, I've spent the past few days put-ting up walls for the cart. I started with the cooking wall. This is the wall that will house the refrigerator, mise space and cooking area. For those of you who like to keep track, I'll be using magnetic induc-tion burners, deep fryers, an under-counter convection oven and sous vide for proteins; yes, that's right, no propane or gas! Magnetic induction is a great way to cook, and it kicks out a lot less ambient heat than gas powered burners or flat-tops, which will be really nice come those dog days of August. Anyway, here's what that looks like:

I then put up the sink wall. As you might guess, this is where the three compartment ware sink, as well as the hand washing sink, will be. One of the windows will be on this wall as well, which may serve as the service window. Otherwise, a prep space will occupy that spot:

Next up was the end wall, which, once I have the top plate in place, will be attached at the corners to the other two walls, and shore the cart up considerably with respect to rigidity. This wall, as you can see, will have its own window, which I'm hoping to use as the service window. In that case, this will be the "front" of the cart:

The remaining wall will be the "back" wall, and that's where the door will be. This will be the most challenging, as before I build it I have to essentially teach myself, virtually, how to hang a door, so I get the measurements of the door opening right. Windows are surprisingly easy; doors, those are a little tricky... At any rate, here's an overall view of the trailer, on its jack stands, proudly sporting its new walls:

So, much forward movement made again this weekend, just like last. I had a lot of help hoisting these walls into place from my fellow artisans at Civilian Studios; Austin, of course, as well as James and Elise, and a couple other folks whose names I don't yet know, but really should... Thanks a million, everybody!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XI: Back to Construction!

So, construction on the cart has been held up over much of the Fall and Winter by a number of factors: Hiccups with the studio space, going through the whole rigamarole of the plan review process, writing up the business plan, horrible time management skills on my part, etc, etc, etc... But things are back on track, and much forward movement has been made recently. It started with the installation, a few weeks back, of a new axle. When I bought the trailer, it came to me with an axle rated for, as best I could estimate from its diameter, around 1500 lbs. That's about as much as the lumber and plywood by itself will weigh, so I'd bought a new axle and pair of leaf springs rated for 3500 lbs from Potter-Webster, a local suspension supply firm, only to eventually discover that the axle was about two inches wider than the old one. I managed to talk them into swapping it out for a slightly narrower one, and installed it with the new leaf springs:

If you know anything about suspensions, you might be looking at that and thinking "the U bolts and tie plates are usually facing downward, aren't they?" I thought that as well, but it was set up this way with the old axle, and I've got locking washers under those nuts, so this arrangement is gonna work just fine. This newer, much beefier axle has a different style of spindles than the old one, of course, which meant I needed new hubs as well, which I picked up at Six Robblees:

Greasing the bearings and installing the hubs was surprisingly easy (I barely passed my high school auto shop class), and with the new axle and hubs installed, I was able to get the floor I'd built back in place:

This was then secured to the trailer's frame from underneath with a bunch of lag bolts drilled directly into the floor joists:

That floor, by the way, is nearly dead level (no small feat given the sloping garage floor and dodgy Harbor Freight jack stands it's resting on, but definitely an advantage), and makes for a very convenient work surface as I'm framing out the walls, as you can see here:

I also managed to get one of the counters constructed, which I'm using as a basic workbench as I get the walls up. I ran into a bit of luck on this. First, there was a bunch of 2x2s left over from somebody else's project that were available (you can see them leaning up against the wall in that last photo, next to the garage door), and second, the table saw's outfeed table in the wood shop was *exactly* the right height for building the counter:

Here's the basic structure of the counter itself:

And, here it is topped with plywood, which will eventually be finished with Formica once it's ready to start serving prep duty in the cart:

So, things are starting to move along. I've got a bunch of dimensional lumber cut for the walls, and will be working on framing those over the rest of this weekend and next. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Food Cart Project Part X: Plan Review Illustrations

I've taken a break from the food cart project in recent weeks (okay, months), in the interim having prepared for, taken, and recovered from a greatly anticipated and well deserved vacation in Northern Michigan. But I've now returned, and have thrown myself back into the fray. The latest phase of the project involves what ought to have been the first phase of the project, i.e. the Multnomah County Plan Review. This is basically the procedure by which you pitch your idea to the authorities and they give it their yay or nay. It's a pretty big step, and one that requires no small amount of preparation. And preparation is what I've been busying myself with this week. A big part of the plan review process involves scaled drawings of the cart itself, construction plans, and lists of equipment, ingredients, etc. I figured that you, my faithful readers, deserved a sneak peek before I send these off to the county officials, so I present to you my framing schematics, interior layout and exterior drawings. These represent the "bones" of the cart, as well as a general idea of what it will look like once said bones are fleshed out. To wit, my illustrations...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Food Cart Project Part IX: Sous Vide Kachin Chopped Beef Salad

I've run into a bit of a lull in construction as I've begun seriously assessing the weight capacity of the trailer I'm building the cart on. A little research on trailers of similar size and purpose - the original purpose of mine being hauling ATVs - suggests that my trailer is rated around 2000 lbs, which is about half the weight of what the cart will be once built (a good resource for determining this, via axle size, can be found here). So I've made an appointment for tomorrow with a local shop called Oregon Auto Spring, which specializes in building and modifying suspensions for pretty much any sort of vehicle, right up to heavy duty trucks and RVs, to have them look at it and give me an estimate for swapping out the axle and springs for a beefier set-up. In the meantime, I've continued to experiment with new recipes, some of which might make it onto the menu as specials. This weekend's experiment was a chopped beef salad. This is a specialty of Kachin state, in the far north of Burma along the border with China, and was loosely adapted from Naomi Duguid's Burma: Rivers of Flavor. The salad starts with beef, as you might have guessed. I went with a pound of stew meat:

I tossed the beef with some minced shallot, garlic, galangal, birds eye chiles and ground sichuan peppercorns. The cuisine of Kachin state, being adjacent to China, is heavily influenced by that country's flavors, hence the sichuan peppercorns.

I then vacuum sealed this in a bag to marinate overnight.

Here's what that looks like:

I cooked the seasoned beef in the immersion circulator. While there are plenty of guidelines for cooking times for beef, I couldn't find one specifically for stew meat. It's a tough cut with a lot of connective tissue, and intended for use in stews of course, so it generally cooks for a few hours at a simmer, somewhere around 180 or 190F. I wanted to stick more to a low and slow method, given that I was taking advantage of the circulator, so I set the temperature at 143 and let it go for twelve hours.

The result was pretty good, though in the future I may set it at a slightly lower temperature, somewhere between 135 and 140, and let it go a little longer, closer to 16 hours, perhaps. Here's what it looked like after I took it out of the circulator:

After cooling to room temperature in an ice bath, I pulsed this in the food processor until it came to a nice fine chop. In keeping with the Chinese-influenced flavor profile of Kachin cuisine, I then tossed it with some five spice powder, sugar, salt, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. I also incorporated some chopped mint and added a little bit of lime juice to nudge it back toward Southeast Asia. Here it is next to some Indian beer, along with a grated carrot salad (a specialty of Mandalay) and some turmeric rice: