By Anne Laker (originally published on 1/11/11)
We liken it to John Travolta's return to icon status in his Pulp Fiction star turn. Believe it, foodies: Indy's own earth goddess of vegetarian vittles, Becky Hostetter, and her posse, are back in action, jamming the streets with yummies from a new mobile kitchen.
Hostetter and her carnivorous chef-partner, John Garnier, debuted their mobile kitchen, known as Duos, at Sun King Brewing Company on New Year's Eve. Then, at the January First Friday at the Harrison Center, the kitchen served up creamy tomato fennel soup and grilled fontina sandwiches with caramelized onions and greens on a crusty little baguette, for $6.54 per serving (including tax).It was flavor heaven on a hellishly cold night.
Hostetter's return to Indy's culinary ranks is cause for outright ecstasy. Why? If you lived in this city between 1990 and 1997, you probably remember Essential Edibles, co-owned by Becky and husband David. The eatery was nestled in the shabby-chic basement of an old Catholic school on Cleveland St. in Lockerbie Square. Draped with twinkling lights and always jammed with hungry folk, Essential Edibles spread the vegetarian gospel with eggplant sandwiches, soul-saving salads and luscious lemon bars whose tangy-sweet bite is memorable twenty years hence.
Dining at EE was like receiving a sacrament. Angels flew from every sandwich. The place oozed with pesto. Powdered sugar fell like dew. But tears were shed when poor accounting and a new location killed the mojo. In the years since, Becky has busied herself as a private chef. "I miss community," she says.
Enter Duos, a new vehicle for delivering food and social capital. "Slow food fast" and "let us feed you" are the Duos' mantras. Feeding people food this good from a mobile kitchen is surely a noble civic act.
Q&A with Duos' John Garnier & Becky Hostetter
NUVO: What inspired you to try a food cart instead of a fixed location?
Hostetter: I'd been thinking about this for five years and was ready to make a move. A food trailer seems like a good way to reach a lot of people, have a lot of autonomy, and create a happening in the city. John and I care about Indianapolis and the overall health of the culinary environment.
Garnier: It's about a sense of belonging, like the feeling you get when the ice cream man is coming down the street.
Hostetter: We need to feel ownership of our neighborhoods and relish the sense of dwelling in an urban environment. It's about seeing your friends and getting your food from someone who knows your name. Having more density of creative food helps everybody.
NUVO: Why the name "Duos"?
Hostetter: We didn't want to sound corny; we wanted it short, simple and catchy. I am a vegetarian and John is not. Every menu will include two items that each of us makes: Such as a white bean soup with parsley sauce, and a meatball sandwich.
Garnier: The menu will always have something meat and something vegan, cross-referenced, with many of same ingredients. We want to grow as much as we can and source locally as much as we can.
Hostetter: We can focus on quality and challenge people's palates. I'm looking at things that should be staples for people, such as Indian cuisine. I want to do breakfast too. Like upmas [toasted farina with veggies and tomato chutney].Or rabanadas [deep fried Brazilian french toast]. Or Tunisian chickpea stew. We are exploring homemade ketchup, mustard, and pickles! I'm interested in preserved lemon, bacon jam.
Garnier: This will not be processed food.