Christmas this year at the KRoo was a busy, fun and ambitious time of the year for us. We had several catering events in November and December along with sales of Thanksgiving Side Dishes and Holiday Cookies. The whole crew worked hard and when all was said and done, all of us were glad to have a little down time to rest and spend time with our families. Ironically, the end of December also requires us to renew the registration tags on the truck, which reminds me of the need to renew myself, through rest and reflection on the things that are important to me.
Plenty of time to reflect on the drive to Brule on Christmas Day. Clear, sunny and restful.
Personally, the downtime with my family meant a chance to eat a few meals together, sitting down and talking. It meant seeing Jay giddy as a kid on Christmas morning when he went outside to sit in the outdoor hot tub and ended up staying there for 6 hours! It meant enjoying the kids without the distractions of the truck and all that entails. We were able to leave town confidently knowing the truck was in the competent and loving hands of the rest of the K’Roo folks. Our employees are almost as passionate about the Kangaroostaurant and dedicated to its success as Jay and I are.
Mason and Veronica did a fine job with Rob’s help of keeping the K’Roo out and about over our short Christmas break.
I also realized, that even when I am exhausted and feel like I have nothing left, cooking good food is my passion. We spent two nights in a small cottage over Christmas. By the second morning, I was fighting the urge to wake everyone up at 6am so that I could make them breakfast. That told me that I am definitely doing what I love. Feeding people makes me happier than many of you can imagine. I take pride in the food I serve, as do the folks who work with us.
Emma and Loudon took on the hills of Brule while Jay and I relaxed. These are two good kids ~ who play well with others.
We of course, think that it’s the best food around, but you might be surprised why we think that. After winning 6 Golden Forks this year, I’ve really been thinking a lot about what makes our food so GOOD. That along with all the other Top 10 Lists out there inspired me to list the Top 10 Reasons Why Our Food is So GOOD. For those of you who are fans of David Letterman, my list pales in comparison. I will try to interject some comedy into it, but I take food pretty seriously, so that may not be easy for me. So – here it goes -
Top Ten Reasons Why the K’Roo Food is GOOD
#10 - Our changing menus offer new food experiences - We use less familiar cuts of meat, vegetables and other ingredients to keep things interesting. We as a team don’t get bored with making the same old dishes over and over, thus keeps us creating and experimenting with new ingredients and techniques. Since we began purchasing whole lambs from Painted Rock Farms, I have learned how to braise meats and vegetables. I have to say, that it might be my favorite cooking technique I’ve learned in a while. It’s wonderful for creating tender dishes while sealing in the flavor created by the ingredients.
Braised Leg of Lamb from Painted Rock Farms
#9 - We offer fresh versions of familiar comfort foods. Macaroni and Cheese is fantastic, but add some Sri Racha Sauce or Roasted Veggies and it takes it to a whole new level of flavor. Pancakes with a sprinkling of Indian spices, breakfast sandwiches on fresh baked butternut squash bread and our popular vegetable curries with a hint of coconut are a few more examples of ways that we take dishes many folks are already familiar with and make them better, more memorable and perhaps, even more comforting.
Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash and Nami Moon Turkey
#8 – Nothing sits under a heat lamp. As a matter of fact, we don’t even have a heat lamp – at our home base or on the truck. We prepare your food to order (soups and some ready to serve dishes are made ahead and kept hot in our steam table). We do everything we can to serve each item, as soon after it’s prepared as we can. Because we prepare things from scratch, and don’t use food that contains stabilizers or artificial ingredients to preserve them, our food often doesn’t “hold” well. It’s most delicious just after it’s prepared. I am sure many of you have heard of the McDonald’s experiment where the food is left out for a month and looks the same as it did when first purchased. I wouldn’t recommend that with our food. It contains no fillers or additives to keep it fresher longer than it is intended to be. That combined with the compostable packaging materials we send it home in, may lead to a bit of a mess on your counter. That’s not to say, you can’t take it home and enjoy there (we did receive a Golden Fork for Best Carry Out) we promise you though, that your sandwich is made when it is ordered.
Plating on the truck is a breeze…
#7 - The packaging we use for our food is minimal. We do everything we can to source sustainable packaging. Our carry out containers, soda cups, lids and straws are all compostable. When you are done with them, they can be thrown in your compost bin or garbage and will assuredly not be around the landfill 10 years from now. (I should note, that there are certain trash bags that biodegrade and others that don’t. Please keep that in mind when purchasing trash bags. If the bag does not break down and the contents are not exposed to natural elements, the waste will not break down as quickly).
Biodegradable and Compostable Packaging whenever possible!
#6 – Our food is fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and feel that eating should be a pleasant experience. Laughter and chatting at the K’Roo are a big part of what we do. We often misspell menu items, we use terms loosely and often hack movies, songs and books for what to call things, but, it’s all meant to be fun, light and often will spark conversation. I recently had the opportunity to hear Will Allen speak and he said the he believes food and the need to eat to be the one thing that everyone has in common, regardless of whom they are or where they are from. Food should be enjoyed, with good friends and often in good humor.
folks dancing up a storm at one of the Heid Music Summer Concerts at Houdini Plaza.
#5 - Communities gather around K’Roo food. We have seen it time and again. Large groups of neighbors bringing blankets and chairs to area parks; kids playing, adults talking and everyone having something to eat as they enjoy beautiful parks and other spots around the Fox Valley where food and communities can come together. This is not so much about our food, as about folks coming together – from many walks of life. It is heartwarming and has often had me wiping away tears when I see this happen. Things are changing and we all look for a way to connect with each other and the fact that we can be a part of that connection of friends, neighbors and even strangers you meet in line, is an honor and truly, for me, one of the best things I’ve experienced in my life.
We were able to have an impromtu food truck meet up at Erb Park last summer ~ great chance to get to know some new folks!
#4 - Our food has been prepared by folks passionate about cooking, baking or whatever their expertise is. No one here takes food lightly. Did you know that Chef Mark spent several years working on the recipe for Lily’s Chocolate Chip Cookies? He experimented and tweaked it until finally, he has come up with what we all believe is the most delicious chocolate chip cookie around. Lindsey has a dry erase board at home that she writes down ideas for Arancini each week. Mason has his own ice cream company called Local Churned Ice Cream. Kaytlin has a box as big as a suitcase with cake decorating tools and supplies. Just before Christmas, Kaytlin prepared pastries for a large catering event as well as a Rubix Cube Cake for a birthday party. All of this while in the middle of finals week at the Fox Valley Tech where she is in the Culinary Arts Program. I don’t think she slept at all that week, but everything she made was delicious, and she never complained. Anytime I asked if she needed anything her response was always, “No, I love this kind of stuff. I’m not overwhelmed at all”. Veronica spends almost as many hours volunteering for Riverview Gardens each week as she does working at the Kangaroostaurant. She someday hopes to have a farm of her own. Her knowledge of storing and keeping produce helped us to freeze carrots, tomatoes, corn and zucchini this past season. The same spirit of volunteerism is true of Rob. He too spends many hours constructing hoop houses and building beds at Riverview Gardens. Each week, these folks do stuff for the K’Roo on their own time and resources. We don’t ask, expect or even want them to do this, they just do. Because, they too love food, and want to see local food GROW in our area.
The dough for Lily’s Chocolate Chip Cookie ~ Chef Mark’s creation.
Butternut Squash Arancini ~ a very popular creation by Chef Lindsey.
One of many items baked by Kaytlin for an all desserts event over Christmas.
Maple Ice Cream with Candied Bacon – just one of Chef Mason’s fabulous ice cream creations.
#3 – The truck itself is a big part of what makes the K’Roo so good. Jay spends much of his day caring for and preparing the truck for service. He changes the oil in the generator, he keeps the propane and clean water tanks filled, changes the fryer oil, schedules maintenance on the fire suppression and ventilation systems, loads and unloads the truck, keeps the music playing and does just about anything else you can think of to keep the truck on the streets, clean and in good running condition. He will often joke with you about being lazy, but, don’t let him kid you. HE IS NOT LAZY! He has the most physically demanding job of any of us. The truck is Jay’s “baby”. He knows it inside and out. What he doesn’t know, he learns. The beautiful wrap and the well-built cookery on wheels, all make the K’Roo experience GOOD.
Always a blast when the K’Roo shows up! The UW Marching Band was playing around us and I couldn’t resist!
Jay wears this when he’s working on the truck in the winter ~ warm is the key to running the truck in the winter.
When Jay’s not running the truck, he’s often helping serve food or even wash dishes. He does it all, and I’m not kidding.
#2 GOOD (great) INGREDIENTS make the food what it is. We don’t do anything complicated or magical to the food. When you start with fresh, clean, and wholesome food, you don’t have to do anything to make it delicious. We put it together. We do everything we can to maintain the integrity of the ingredients. A cheeseburger should be just that. We were recently asked to submit a recipe for our cheeseburger and we all looked at each other and said “Recipe?” Our hamburgers are as delicious as they are because of the meat – Venneford Farms Ground Chuck, the cheese – Red Barn White Cheddar Cheese and the buns from Mom and Pop’s Bakery in Kimberly. Throw on some delicious toppings and that is a great burger. No hocus pocus or tricks to make them taste beefier or cheesier – just high quality, fresh, local and clean ingredients. This is true of all the dishes we prepare. We are very proud of our suppliers and where we purchase the ingredients we use from. We have been working with some of these folks since day ONE! Olden Produce, Red Barn Family Farms, Vennerford Farm Country Meats and Trust Local Foods are several of the folks whose food was served at our tasting events we held before we even had the truck. They have stood by us for the past year and a half during times that were not always the greatest. We’ve worked out communication problems that occur when you deal with two folks trying to run a restaurant with no experience. We have learned so much from these folks and are deeply grateful to them not only for their commitment to producing good food, but also for their HARD, TIRELESS and often THANKLESS work. Over the past year we have also learned a lot about what we want in suppliers and that not all local producers are the right fit for us. We have also learned that by expanding our sight and meeting new folks, we’ve been able to forge many new relationships. Nami Moon Farms, Trusted Earth Farms, Painted Rock Farms and Riverview Gardens are a few of the newer relationships we have established and look forward to growing together and continuing to bring the fruit of these folks hard labor to tables here in the Valley. HIP HIP HOORAY for FARMERS!
Tracy Vinz of Olden Produce CSA Showing off one of her Naked Neck Chickens
Produce used from the Riverview Gardens for a recent catering event.
And FINALLY, the #1 reason our food is so GOOD!
YOU – Our friends, customers, fans, followers, supporters and cheerleaders. You give us feedback. Good, honest feedback about our food, your experiences and just about anything we ask for. You encourage us when times are difficult such as flat tires and snowy weather and high five us for a job well done. You find us, and follow us wherever we go. Folks have come to the truck from several different states and countries. In the next summer we will be catering weddings for folks who grew up in this area but have since moved to New York, Colorado, Portland and Minneapolis. What an honor to have a future bride and groom tell us that they’ve never been to the truck but have heard such fantastic things about it that they would like to hire us for their wedding – some of them, without ever even eating our food. Whew. That’s humbling. That is thanks to you. All of this encouragement and support is what drives us and motivates us to continue working so hard, and doing all the things we do so that you enjoy the food you eat from the Kangaroostaurant. Each week that we can pay our staff and continue doing what we love is a blessing for Jay and I. We’ve made countless new friends, while many of our lifelong friends continue to stop by to say hello and catch up. It’s hard work, we have all had to put things “on the back burner” in order to continue doing what we do. But, YOU make it worthwhile. You inspire us every day to be better partners, parents, friends, people, coworkers and bosses.
Miss Ellie Mae ~ big fan of the K’Roo!
So, as the New Year approaches, we will you all the best this New Year can bring – but most of all, we wish you happiness. We are happiest when doing what we love and you give us that opportunity each and every day – we hope you have the opportunity to experience that happiness in your life as well.
Peace + Love to You and Yours,
Jay, Kelly, Emma, Loudon and the Rest of the K’Roo Crew
P.S. – Sorry, not a lot of humor in this Top 10 List but some in the pictures!