Since the beginning of the Mozza’s, Nancy Silverton has celebrated this nation’s independence day with her employees. Naturally gracious and generous, Nancy has opened her home to her dedicated kitchen staff (the chefs, prep cooks, dishwashers) and gregarious front of house employees (servers, bussers, bartenders) and invited them to eat, drink and be merry.
Every year a new challenge
The first annual Fourth of July Mozza party Nancy served trays of food from Marouch, the second year employees gobbled up burgers from an In-n-Out truck for hours and on the third annual Fourth of July party Nancy decided it was time for a culinary showdown.
I got a message from Nancy on my voicemail, late Friday night.
“Brooke. It’s Nancy. Nancy Silverton. Call me.”
Granted, Nancy doesn’t call me every day—or ever, to be honest—but the fact that my name and number lives in her phone at all makes me very, very happy. “I’ve got the Kogi truck and the Border Grill girls coming.” She told me early Saturday morning. “It’s going to be a taco truck showdown.”
Kogi was the first to arrive. When the truck pulled into Nancy’s driveway, Mozza employees quickly began lining up for a chance to try Kogi. Kogi + a short line + free meal = happy employees. With plastic cups filled with beer and Italian wine, the party guests happily chit-chatted as they waited for their Korean tacos.
When asked if most people had tried Kogi before, many admitted they hadn’t. A few taco truck afficionados admitted they had and added, “It’s not waiting in one of those lines, though.”
Granted, the people that work at Mozza have very high standards when it comes to the food they eat, serve, and cook. But overall, the general consensus was that the Kogi truck offered good flavors but nothing that was worth waiting for in an hour line.
We all sampled the dishes before passing judgment*. The rich short rib slider was sweet and savory and offered the a perfect textural interplay between the chewy meat and the soft bun. But as we progressed though the spicy pork and chicken tacos we found the flavors to be too similar –everything is sugary sweet and red chili spicy–and the tacos didn’t offer any diversity in taste. Updating a classic street food can offer all sorts of great culinary discoveries, but unfortunately, the Kogi truck’s hand-held dishes all tasted the same. Hitting the same flavor note over and over again is monotonous.
It was about the time when most people were considering what to eat next when the Border Grill truck pulled up curbside. Within seconds of parking outside of Nancy’s beautiful ivy covered home, a line spontaneously formed.
With Kogi truck chef, Roy Choi, near the front of the line to sample the competition, we were all excited to see what the Border Grill girls had cooked up for us. Mozza guests ooohed and aaahed as co-workers at the front of the line offered views of their trio of tacos. The three Border Grill tacos were a bright rainbow of colors: Purple/red pickled onions, green guacamole, bright white sour cream excited hunger and signaled palates to be prepared for some taco diversity.
The sweet, crunchy acidity of the red onions gave a wonderful textural counterpoint to the soft and flavorful meat of the cochinita pibls pork taco. The squared cubes of potato in the potato rajas taco were cooling morsels between bites of the spicy meats. The guacamole had people licking their fingers and stealing mouthfuls from their distracted co-workers. The roasted poblano quesadilla with cheese was a mild choice good for a large party, but had big pieces of pickled jalepeno on the side for those that like to spice things up.
Two taco trucks rolled up. Only one wheeled-kitchen would win.
Based on the unabated line at the Border Grill truck, the tossed trays of half-eaten Kogi, and sophisticated discussion (and drunken banter) about the merits of the Korean tacos and the appreciation of classic Mexican cuisine– it very quickly became clear who the winner was.
Border Grill wheels away with bragging rights
As the trucks pulled away and inebriated–I mean satiated–party guests gathered their things, we gathered around our generous host to thank her for opening her home (and pool) to each and every one of us culinary misfits. We look forward to seeing what’s in store for next year’s party!
*I have had Kogi three times–once at the Alibi room (I waited 45 minutes for my trio of tacos), once at Nancy’s party (the tacos were free) and once at a food event (also free).