Monday, April 14, 2014

Food Cart Project Part V: Lease Signing, Repacked Bearings, Rust Removal and Sous Vide

Things are moving along nicely with the food cart project. On Friday, I signed a three month lease for the space where I'll be building the cart, beginning in May. It'll take me longer than three months, of course, but the initial lease is for three and then it's month to month after that. The space itself is at a warehouse full of artisan studios called Civilian Studios, which is run by my upstairs neighbors. Build out will occur in the middle garage bay, conveniently located steps away from the wood shop:

Before any of that occurs, though, there's still much work to be done on the trailer itself. This weekend, I hitched up the trailer to my across the hall neighbor's truck (I have awesome neighbors) and took it to Les Schwab to have the bearings repacked.

That, combined with the new tires I had installed a couple of weeks back, has this trailer rolling very nicely. It still has a good amount of surface rust, however, which I've just begun the process of removing. The rust removal rig is a pretty simple affair:

Here are the rust removal results, thus far anyway. This is going to be a multi-day project for sure, and once done, I'll give it a coat of paint before moving it over to Civilian.

I've also been playing around with the new sous vide rig. Why, you might ask, do I need sous vide for a simple food cart? Well, I don't, really. But as a matter of practicality, sous vide makes a lot of sense. And, to be honest, it's just hella cool. This technique has made its way beyond the realm of molecular gastronomy and is becoming fairly commonplace in mid-market professional kitchens. It's a great way to cook up, say, twenty five chicken breasts or fish filets at a time. And because they're vacuum packed, they keep in the fridge for a good long while, and you can pull them out as needed for service and give 'em a quick sear for some color and extra flavor. For the vacuum sealer, I went with the Vacmaster 260:

I'm pretty happy with it so far. The immersion circulator itself is a Polyscience unit, the "Chef Series," which is the smaller of their two professional grade circulators:

If you're not familiar with this technology, basically the way it works is that it has a heating element which brings the water up to temperature, and a pump to keep the water circulating so no cool spots develop. Food is vacuum packed, and submerged in the water bath, hence "immersion," and "sous vide," which is french for under pressure. These things were originally designed for keeping laboratory specimens at a constant temperature, and they're precise to within a tenth of a degree. I've got mine set up in a Coleman party stacker cooler because, in theory at least, it's more thermally efficient than a Cambro container. I cut a notch out of the lid for the circulator, and Bob's yer uncle:

So, like I said, things are moving right along. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Food Cart Project Part IV: New TIres and More!

The trailer got some new tires this past weekend. Looking pretty nice, I have to say:

Still need to get the thing into a shop to have the bearings repacked and the springs looked at to make sure they're up to the weight they'll be holding, but fortunately they can do all that at my local Les Schwab (for those of you non-Westerners, Les Schwab is a regional competitor to Firestone, Goodyear and the like). I'm also fortunate to have been able to reclaim a significant amount of lumber from the trailer's previous incarnation. Said lumber has lots of screws to be removed (many of them bent):

And now for the really exciting news of the day: My immersion circulator arrived this afternoon!

Rather than go the standard stock pot or Cambro food box route, I've set up the rig with a cooler, to minimize heat loss. Or to maximize thermal efficiency. Or both. Or whatever. Anyway, I'll be cutting a notch into the lid for the circulator, and as soon as the vacuum sealer arrives, I'll start playing around with sous vide!