Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Smoking Truck

You may have been reading about the glacial Siberian air mass that has been blanketing most of Europe for the past couple of weeks. The thermometer hovers during the day at 18F or lower. My poor little geraniums have just about given up the ghost...

...and by the time I bundle and muffle myself up to go out, I am barely recognizable!

Matthew is suffering severe camp fever from not being able to go out on his daily bicycle ride to the Bois de Boulogne. He amused himself this past Sunday by documenting our deserted snowy neighborhood.

Scurrying past La Madeleine on Tuesday and turning down the
side street, I was, therefore, surprised to come upon a group of people lining up in the bitter cold by a truck!

Not just any old truck, however, but the new "hot" thing in the food world here: "Le Camion qui Fume" (The Smoking Truck)!

Yes, it's a food truck in a country that has never embraced the mobile food movement that you find in American cities. There are trucks in fixed locations that serve crèpes and waffles, but this one moves around the city, roving from site to site. On Tuesdays and Fridays, it is alongside La Madeleine.

Across the street, any number of warm, indoor eateries promote themselves, from the deluxe Hediard with its fancy teas and gift hampers... the Maison de la Truffe...

...or the popular chain wine bar/café, L'Ecluse. Here one could enjoy a leisurely meal in a warm, comfortable atmosphere, savoring each dish as one is supposed to in France.

Instead, these customers have something very different and very specific on their mind, and on their tastebuds...

A good, old-fashioned American-style hamburger! It turns out a really good authentic burger is hard to find here. They are listed on most menus, but the quality leaves much to be desired. Now, you might ask why, when you're in Paris - world capital of food - would you want to eat a hamburger? Well, it turns out a lot of people do!

The brainchild of Kristin Frederick, a Californian who trained at the École Supérieure de Cuisine Française, the operation began last November.

This young woman, who took my order, explained that they began in the winter deliberately, so they could break themselves in slowly.

But with a menu like this, it's been anything but slow! Even the French, it turns out, have been waiting for a real American burger. The truck arrives at 11 am and stays until 2 pm, closing up earlier if they run out of burgers. At other sites they operate until 11 pm. Business has been so phenomenal they are already negotiating to buy a second truck.

The burgers are assembled by the all American crew in batches of ten. First the bottom buns are buttered...

... mayonnaise and salad stuff is added before the burger itself is put in place. Three different cuts of ground beef are mixed together, with extra fat added. (After all, for a real burger, you need about 20% fat!).

The top bun is added, the whole thing is wrapped in wax paper and popped into a nice crisp bag...

...and handed over to the lucky customer, with a cheerful "bon appetit" each time!

Meanwhile, the rest of us continued to wait, huddled together, stamping our feet, blowing into our gloves. Finally (40 minutes after I placed the order!) my number came up! I popped the bag into my tote bag and headed for home.

After thawing out my fingers and feet, I was ready to dive in, and I have to say it was really delicious! An artisanal bread bun that had just the right amount of heft to it, fresh salad layers, and a perfectly cooked and extremely tasty burger. The fries were gone in no time flat. Yum!! It was right up there with the best that Bill's on Clement Street in San Francisco offers -- the highest burger compliment!

À bientôt!


  1. You made me feel hungry!!!

  2. Yum! But did they have veggie burgers?

  3. Oh that burger looked devine!! x

  4. That looks to be a really tasty hamburger! Makes me want to have one and I just ate one last night.
    Alex E