Our weekly bite explores the city's food trucks, one at a time, highlighting our favorite mobile dishes and snacks.
The Truck: Pacific Puffs
The Cuisine: Cream puffs in seasonal and classic flavors
Specialty Items: Mini and regular sized cream puffs
Worth the Wait in Line? At peak lunch time, a total 4 minutes from the end of the line to food in hand.
Before I started logging a serious number of hours and calories exploring food trucks, a friend of mine asked what my favorite food truck was. "Oh, the cupcake truck," I replied, smiling and closing my eyes with the memory of it. Annoyed, he asked me again, implying I provided an invalid answer, and that the cupcake truck somehow didn't qualify as a food truck.
It made me think of the discussion you often hear in the music scene about DJs and their validity as musicians. Just like DJs sequence their rhythms ahead of time, dessert trucks make their wares in a kitchen before loading them on the truck. Perhaps if we referred to both as conductors (one with sweets, the other with beats) we could stop arguing, start dancing and enjoying truck dispensed sweet treats again, preferably at the same time.
The truck serves some seasonal varieties and a few anchor flavors like The Classic ($3.25, choux pastry puff, madagascar bourbon vanilla cream, chocolate glaze), but the special Peanut Butter Cream Puff ($3.25) that was the most irresistible of the ones we tried. The crackling chocolate coating on top had just the right amount of give without shattering, and concentrated chocolate flavor that contrasted in synch with the fluffy peanut butter filling. The cream stuffing is simultaneously velvety, gooey, and peanut buttery without the eating-straight-from-the-jar intensity. Eating one is a messy affair, and trying to share one is only advised if you don't mind crumbs and plops of cream on your clothes. They make mini sizes ($2 each) of some flavors, but not the peanut butter, because everyone is going to need their own full-sized one.
The cream puffs dished out at the Pacific Puffs truck (part of the operation that includes two storefronts here in SF) are classic pâte à choux style morsels of crisp and light pastry. The dough is unique in that part of the preparation involves some stovetop cooking before baking, and that step can make large-scale production a challenge to get right. Done wrong and it's dense and a dangerous object; done right and it's the perfect vessel for sweet and delicious things. This type of pastry often ends up cut in half, stuffed with ice cream, drizzled with chocolate sauce, and served as profiteroles.
While cream puffs may not be a new idea or baked or made on the tuck with sizzling smoke and aromas to entice you from across the parking lot, the show happens in each bite. Get your puff on and dance like nobody's watching.