If I had never met my wife and was left to my own derelict, anti-social ways, I would probably be holed up in log cabin somewhere outside of Nederland, CO: sitting on a rocking chair, spitting into a spittoon and grumbling to myself about society's ills. In fact, that sounds like a pretty appealing prospect to me at least once on any given week. However, my latest foray into this quirky mountain township wasn't to scope out my mountain refuge, but rather to give our toddler boys a little taste (and smell) of our favorite mountain freak-fest: Frozen Dead Guy Days.
Most of the morning we spent meandering through the crowds that had swarmed Nederland largely to celebrate death and drinking with such notable events as a hearse parade, coffin races, frozen turkey bowling and of course, jumping in an ice cold lake. It was only on our way out of the festival, alternately trudging through mud and negotiating icy snow pack, that I spotted a beat-up blue truck that seemed to be selling food, but just as easily could have been mistaken for any work-related utility vehicle from a laundry truck to a handyman.
At first glance, this was my kind of food truck. The words "The Orange Crunch" were scrawled on the side using the fat part of a piece of chalk. The menu was scotch-taped onto the side. That's it. As I have made it known before, I am very much tired of the all-too-common flashy food trucks that have clearly spent more time on their custom paint jobs and LCD displays then on their actual food. One look at the Orange Crunch food truck and you would know that could not possibly be the case. If they spent less time on the menu than the time it took them to scrawl their name on truck, it would be logistically impossible to actually have made any food at all.
Now this could be a turn off for some people, but not those who have been eating at food trucks since before food trucks were hip and cool. No, it is very well-established that food truck flashiness tends to have an inverse relationship with the taste and quality of the actual food. The Orange Crunch was no exception.
I wasn't able to get any details from the Orange Crunch team that day, as they were slammed, but I am going to assume that it was named for the orange-colored empanadas it slings. These empanadas are often considered a regional specialty from Ilocos, Philippines. They are made from rice flour dyed orange and while they can have many fillings, but almost always feature an egg. That is, they are rolled out fresh, an egg is cracked into the center before it is folded up and deep-fried.
There were two kinds of empanadas that day, and I had the bacon and cheese one. It was fantastic. The eggs were cooked to medium-hard and the gooey cheese was rich but balanced well by the thick-sliced bacon. Hard to go wrong with fried dough, cheese, egg yolk and bacon; and though not always the case, this was yet another example of how bacon does indeed make things better.
Though still full from breakfast, I had to try a lumpia. It was a delicious version of this Filipino classic: crispy thin layers of dough packed with fresh veggies and meat.
They also had a take on Turon, or banana lumpia. These caramelized bananas were folded into little squares--fried-- then coated in powdered sugar. There was a chocolate dipping sauce on the side. A worthy turon by any standards and a welcome replacement to my favorite that went missing many years back (RIP Tropical Grill).
They also had a chicken adobo, which is a must on any Filipino menu, but I didn't get to try it. There were also a couple of other cultural-melding menu items that looked interesting. But there wasn't that much on the menu and that's probably another reason why everything was so great. Just a couple people, cooking food they love and spending the time to make it right.
If you don't know Dead Guy Days or haven't been, I highly encourage you to go at some point in your life-- unique only begins to describe it. And if you can ever track down the Orange Crunch, please eat there. It is one of the rare food truck gems that you don't want to miss--and I'm not just saying that because it serves Filipino.
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