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From dim sum to crepes to gourmet burgers, food trucks are selling way more than hot dogs these days, and they’re popping up all over.
But gourmet food still comes with both health and safety concerns: Can you find healthy food on a truck? Where do the vendors go to the restroom while they’re on duty? I got the privilege to speak with the folks who run the Rouge Tomate food cart in New York City and let me tell you—food trucks are definitely not what they used to be!
Q: What makes the Rouge Tomate cart different from other food carts in NYC?
The Rouge Tomate Cart maintains the same philosophy as the Rouge Tomate restaurant and uses local, seasonable and sustainable high-quality food products. We visit local markets and farmers markets to find our ingredients and prepare our food using specific cooking techniques that preserve the integrity and the nutritional qualities of the ingredients.
We are also dedicated to proactively address environmental issues. The Rouge Tomate Cart is certified from the Green Restaurant Association. It uses solar panels for electricity and runs on a gas stove. The cart was made from recycled materials and uses biodegradable paper products.
Q: What’s on the Rouge Tomate cart menu?
The new spring menu has several sandwiches including The Green Burger with local, grass-fed beef, avocado “mayo,” local tomatoes, arugula, red onion and salsa verde and The Rouge Tomate Burger with local, grass-fed buffalo, spring onion jam, wild arugula, local tomato, horseradish yogurt and pickled ramps.
Soups (all vegetarian) include a Chilled Spring Garlic, Leek & Potato and Chilled English Pea With Meyer Lemon Yogurt. Homemade beverages include Rouge Tomate Lemonade, Passion Palmer (recipe below), and Citrus Cooler (a combo of orange juice, Meyer lemons, and grapefruit juice). For dessert, homemade ice cream sandwiches filled with freshly-made mint ice cream, rhubarb-strawberry yogurt, Tahitian vanilla gelato or coconut-lemongrass sorbet.
Q: Where is the food prepared?
The food is prepared in the restaurant which is several blocks away from the cart. The patties are made for the burgers, cookies baked for the ice cream sandwiches and soups are cooked. Each morning the food is packed in 4 large wheeled coolers and brought to the cart from the restaurant. The burgers are cooked on the cart, the cut ingredients (like sliced tomatoes and onions) are kept cold by placing the containers in ice baths. We also receive several deliveries of dry ice daily to help keep food cold.
Q: How do you ensure food safety including safe temperatures of foods and proper hand washing?
The Department of Health regulates and inspects the cart regularly. They check that we have things like heat, refrigeration, soap and a sink. There is a manager on site that oversees that the food safety and cooking procedures being followed.
Q: What happens if you have to use the rest room while running the cart? Where do you go and who watches the cart?
Luckily our cart is right next to the arsenal building near the Central Park Zoo. There are restrooms and hand washing sinks readily available. There are always several employees on the cart so it is never left unoccupied.
Q: Could you share one of the recipes from the Rouge Tomate Food Truck?
9 fluid ounces of organic lychee tea
1 ½ fluid ounces of black tea
2 fluid ounces of passion fruit juice
½ fluid ounce of agave
Add ingredient to a tall glass; stir to combine.
Nutrition information (per serving)
Fat: 1 gram
Protein: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 21 grams
Sugar: 10 grams
Sodium: 5 milligrams
Fiber: 1 gram
Potassium: 207 milligrams
Vitamin A: 7% of Daily Value
Vitamin C: 25% of Daily Value
This popular takeout fare tends to be on everyone’s speed dial. But before placing your next order, review the menu and jot down the healthiest options. It’s always good to be prepared, especially when that deep fried egg roll is calling your name!