Monday, August 31, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XXVI: The Trim is Done!

The trim ended up being a much more involved process than I'd anticipated, but I finally finished sizing it, getting it into place, and painting it. Here are some shots of that:

Here's a shot of the trim around the side window. I'll probably pull the horizontal pieces off at some point and carve some detail into them with the jigsaw...

I also got the ball rolling on the plumbing this weekend. Rick over at Curtis Trailers has my sink and tanks on order, and I'll be picking those up along with the pump, water heater and assorted hardware, hoses and fittings next Saturday. So, things are moving along...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XXV: Nothin' but Trim...

I've spent the last couple of weekends working on exterior trim. This turned out to be a much bigger task than I'd anticipated, but I'm mostly finished measuring, cutting and installing it; just need to finish up on the front window side, as well as a small piece above the door, and it'll be ready to paint. Most of it will be painted with the same maroon I used on the millwork in the door window, but the vertical pieces covering the seams between the siding panels will be the same yellow. Here are some shots of it as it stands now:

So, yeah, just trim. Not a whole lot to look at, but it represents another step forward, and I think once it's painted, it'll make a world of difference, so be looking forward to that next weekend!

Oh, one interesting development that's worthy of mention: My landlords, a couple called Sue and Trip, run a construction business in addition to the three apartment buildings they own. Lately, they've been expanding that business into the development side, and are working on two properties at the moment which will include food cart pods. One of these developments is in SE Portland, right on the new Max line to Milwaukie, and is slated to open mid-fall. I've been renting my apartment from these two for six years now, I have a very good relationship with them, and I'd be more than happy to rent space for the cart from them if the numbers and the timeline pencil out... So that could well be a possibility for a location once I'm done with build-out and have the mechanicals in place. Obviously, this is potentially exciting news... Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XXIV: Big Yella Box, Big Yella Box, Meet Me Down By the Big Yella Box!

I finished gluing up the insulation on the last roof panel this weekend. Behold my innovative clamping method:

With that last panel finally in place, the roof/ceiling is done (the first part of it, at any rate; the upper canopy still needs to be built). Here's what it looks like through the door:

I also got the exterior siding put up this weekend. I went with standard composite bead board. It's not exactly an exterior grade material, so I'm just kind of hoping for the best in terms of how it holds up to the weather. But it's cheap, light, and it was relatively easy to install. Worst case scenario, I'll end up replacing it with cedar shake somewhere down the road...

I finished that up last night, and came in this morning to knock out the first coat of mustard yellow exterior paint:

It's difficult to tell from the photos, but after the first coat, the color is still pretty uneven. Next weekend, I'll give it a second coat, and paint and install the trim. At that point, this thing is gonna start to look like a food cart. It is a pretty aggressive shade of yellow, obviously, so I picked up a can of a slightly lighter shade, and will be using that to paint on a subtle ghosted bamboo pattern, which I think should serve to visually break it up a bit. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XXIII: The Door is Complete!

After spending a couple of weeks on vacation in Michigan, and another couple of weeks re-integrating into society back here in Portland, I've gotten back to work on the cart in earnest. This weekend revolved around the door. I bought a knob, and dead bolts for the upper and lower halves of the door. Before I installed those, however, I filled in a few sections of wood that had been gouged out by a previous owner, primarily where the old knob had been:

After filling and sanding, the door was ready for a few coats of paint (turning a dark brown door into a yellow one, it turns out, takes a bit more than a few coats...), and then for its new hardware:

Once the knob and dead bolts were in place, I drilled out holes in the jamb for them, and installed the strike:

I then painted said jamb and strike...

...And the door is now fully functional:

I painted the mill work with the maroon I've chosen for the exterior trim, and replaced the glass in the window with a piece of bead board, painted to match the door:

The rest of the cart, once the siding is on, will be painted in this same yellow. Because it's a little on the mustardy side, I'll probably get a can of slightly paler yellow and paint on a subtle ghosted bamboo pattern or some such to break it up a bit. But for now, I'm liking the color.

I also started work on gluing the board insulation to the ceiling/roof panels, and getting them into place. The middle section is the first one I've completed. It sits nice and flush with the joists:

Next weekend will involve finishing the other two sections, and most likely a round of phone calls to electricians, exhaust hood folks and Curtis trailer, whom I'm getting all of my plumbing supplies from. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XXII: Civilian Studios Open House Catering Gig

Civilian Studios, whose garage bay I'm renting to build out the cart, had their third annual open house this weekend. I ended up catering the event, so a few items from the Burmasphere menu had their public debut. On the menu for the event was a coconut chicken curry, a pickled tea leaf salad called Lahpet Thok, deep fried chickpea fritters with a balachaung dipping sauce, and ghost chile ice cream (this last one isn't Burmese, it just tastes good). I used Civilian's kitchen as my prep space the day before the event:

Working in an unfamiliar space is always awkward, and if I'd been thinking, I'd have sent an e-mail out asking folks to clear anything out of the fridge that they didn't need in there; space was pretty tight in that fridge. But I managed to make it work. I did, however, spill over onto this rolling table in the next room over. Here we see the chicken breasts, vacuum bagged and awaiting their turn in the circulator:

I also used this space to start building the curry while the chicken breasts were cooking. The new induction burners work really nicely, by the way. I'm very pleased with them so far...

Eventually I finished the prep, and it was time to get the show on the road. My sous chef, Jen, and I set up in the garage bay right next to the cart, so folks could get a look at it as they were waiting in line for their Burmese eats. Jen's foodservice experience is limited to ice cream (for that matter, apart from coffee, so is mine), but she was a natural on the deep fryer. She was responsible for all of the chickpea fritter orders, and did an awesome job. I was on saute, cranking out the coconut chicken curries. Here we are getting things set up:

My mom and my aunt came into town to help out as well. They were mostly responsible for assembling the tea leaf salads. My friend Chelle helped out as well, but managed to dodge the photos...

Apart from a minor circuit issue involving the deep fryer and the rice cooker, the whole thing went off pretty much without a hitch. In just a little over two hours, we ran out of food; we went through around 45 coconut chicken curries, probably 50 chickpea fritter orders, 40 or 50 tea leaf salads and maybe 30 orders of ghost chile ice cream. It took 20 or 30 minutes for people to pick up on what we were doing, but once they did we had a line most of the time, and we never did get in the weeds. Great work from this crew, and having never cooked for a large group before, it was nice to discover that I'm at least reasonably good at cooking under pressure. And thanks to all of my friends and fellow Civilian folks who tried the food. I got lots of positive feedback; I have a hunch Portlanders will eat this stuff...

I wasn't able to get any photos of the rest of the open house, because I was pretty busy with this. But there was a lot of great art on display, and a number of folks trekked across the railroad tracks to North Coast Seed Studios, who were having their open house as well. I didn't get over there, but it's apparently a pretty impressive place. I'll have to check it out next time they have an art sale over there.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XXI: Equipment is Rolling In!

I got some more work done on the ceiling/roof structure this weekend, but that's still a work in progress, so no photos as of yet. The photogenic aspect of this weekend's progress, however, is the equipment. I picked up my undercounter freezer on Friday:

My ice cream maker also arrived. This is technically a home unit, but it has a compressor, so I won't have to go through the rigamarole of freezing the bowl for every batch of ice cream...

I picked up my magnetic induction burners and a second deep fryer:

I may have to cover those counter surfaces with stainless, we'll see... Here's the larger view, with the freezer moved into place:

I also brought my immersion circulator in from home. I'm not sure if the Coleman cooler set up will pass muster with the Multnomah County health department, but if not I'll just get a Cambro for it...

Here's the mohnyin tjin for next weekend's open house. I figured I'd let it ferment in the cart, maybe it'll pick up some terroir...

Photos of that Civilian open house catering gig to come next weekend, by the way. That should be fun. In other important news, my loan with the credit union was secured last week, so this project is now funded. That's a big step forward. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XX: Roof, Lighting, and Plumbing Talk.

I started sheathing the ceiling/roof structure this weekend:

Once I got all of that sheathing in place, the interior of the cart suddenly became significantly darker...

...Which is nothing a couple of LED shop lights can't take care of:

I also started filling in the cracks around the window trim. I hadn't worked with wood filler for a number of years, so I was surprised to discover that it's now purple. It turns white once it's dry, though...

I also started working on the canopy that will be attached to the roof. This will be covered in corrugated metal, and will be slanted at about 3 degrees, high to low from front to back:

It's time to start thinking about getting the plumbing work underway, as well as start coordinating contractors for the electrical and exhaust hood work. I had a brief but very useful conversation with Rick Humphrey at Curtis Trailer on SE Powell. Rick's the go-to guy for food cart plumbing issues in Portland, and he gave me some great information about the sinks, pump and pipes/fittings I'll need for the cart. One thing I discovered in talking with Rick is that the Multnomah County Environmental Health department now requires ware sinks with a drain pan at either end, which means I'll need a sink significantly wider than the one I spec'ed in the plan review, and unless I can get grandfathered in, which is probably not likely, I'll have to tear apart two of my counters and rebuild them. It's the first real setback I've run into thus far, but it's a manageable one. Thankfully, I didn't rush out and buy that sink I'd spec'ed...

Here are two more of Austin's bonsai stands. The one on the left was fumed with high concentration ammonia, giving the mahogany in the middle a nice reddish tint. I'm amazed at the variety of styles Austin's able to work in. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of them...

So, lots done, very productive weekend. Keep checking in, things are really starting to come together!