Written by Kon-Tiki Taco
Planning a party? Gourmet taco catering carts are all the rage – but to distinguish the good from the mediocre, it helps to approach it with a checklist.
For anyone planning a special event, the matter of catering is foremost on his or her mind. And with the increasing popularity of gourmet taco cuisine and the degree of fiesta! it adds to events, a number of companies providing Latin-Caribbean fare have grown in recent years.
But the challenge is in having some way to distinguish on-site taco catering companies from each other. Do you rely on online reviews, on friends – or something else? What are the factors to consider?
Many web-based lists are somewhat contrived. Either the list is exceptionally subjective, the preferences of one or a small group of people, or those companies on the list pay to be there. There’s some value in user-review sites, but that is often diminished by trolls who never actually used a company but who posit negative reviews to harm a business (the astute reader does their best to weed through those; wisely tossing the outliers of hyper-praise and withering criticism to consider the points made in the moderate middle).
As a customer, it often helps to have a checklist of what you want in your caterer. It might be what everyone expects – great tasting food, excellent service and a reasonable price – or it might be something subtler. Consider applying the following checklist to your top choices for catering an event in the near future:
- Licensing and insurance – Mobile food cart vendors, food trucks and caterers in most Southern California municipalities require licensing that confirms some very important things. This includes observation of sanitary food preparation rules (to limit food borne illnesses), as well as the permits required to operate a business within these areas. Insurance matters quite a bit as well: when a caterer fails to live up to the promises and expectations of a food provider (i.e., if someone gets sick from the food), event attendees need a deep-pocket defendant to sue. You do not want to be that defendant.
- Ingredients – No longer is it sufficient to expect ordinary, factory-farmed produce, dairy and meats. Freshness matters; when in the budget, organic ingredients matter as well. Also, look for that special twist – including signature salsas, sauces and side dishes. A memorable event is one where the host and caterer provide something a little adventurous and extraordinary. Check the taco cart menu and then check it again.
- Chef credentials – The servers themselves should be holders of a Food Handler Card (CFH Card) in Los Angeles County and many other municipalities in California. That covers the matter of sanitation. But food trucks, mobile taco carts and caterers in general now share what their master chefs know, where they trained and what cuisines and travels have influenced their fare. This is part of what makes dining so interesting today, with an explosion of creativity often characterized by fusions of culture, cuisine, ingredients and creativity.
So go ahead and ask questions of your taco cart caterer – the more informed your questions, the greater respect your potential caterer will give you and your event.