Friday, May 6, 2011

Eating Out Your Sweet Dusty Buns Mi Corazon

Boom!  Two reviews in a row!  I'm as shocked as anyone.  But with it being 92 degrees in my apartment due to my outrage at starting up the A/C in May, there was no way I was firing up the stove or the oven.  It was too hot for microwave popcorn up in here!  So when the Mrs. comes home and asked about dinner, it was obvious that we were going out to Art Hop and brave the legendary lines to try out the Fresno phenomenon and scourge of brick and mortar restaurants, Dusty Buns Bistro truck.

Upon arrival I was pleased to note that the line was only about 10 yards long out in front of Wishon Row.  That's The Frosted Cakery, The Voice Shop, The Hashtag, Twee Boutique, Ancient Pathways and Cafe Corazon (more on them later).  10 yards doesn't seem like a long wait, but I am the biggest bitch when I'm hungry.  Hence the whole snarky blog thing... 

I look at patience as a currency that you pay out in expectation of a compensatorily enjoyable experience.  An emotional loan on fun, if you will.  And with the Dusty Buns experience, make sure that you have an excellent credit rating.  It's just two folks to handle lines that I'm told stretched around the block initially.  Which also made me glad we were as tardy as we were, as I might have lost my hungry mind in 90 degree heat.  As it stood, we were easily in line for 45 minutes to an hour as they served my line mates in ones and twos.  But as with most Tower events, there were friendly and interesting folks to help while the time away and keep me from having a hunger hissy.

As darkness starts to set in and the temperatures dropped, we at last found ourselves the next lucky contestants.  Given the wait, I'm not gonna screw around.  It'll be days and sweaty hours before I get to order again from Ms. Buns.  So it's two of their signiature Dusty Buns chipotle chicken sandwiches, fried fingerling potatoes, broccoli raab and spring onion soup, an entree sized polenta with confit garlic and summer squash, with chocolate dipped strawberries for desert.  All this for $28.  Not bad for 3 entree items, plus sides and dessert.  And to top it off, you can take your ticket into Twee for a free Dusty Buns pin!  And given that they're so cool, we made sure to pick up a couple extra Fresnocentric pins.

And speaking of cool, Cafe Corazon is so nice that they're happy to let you cruise in and grub down on your Dusty fare.  And what is a better compliment to bistro eats than a wonderfully hand crafted cup of iced coffee?  They roast their own beans in the cutest little compact roaster and have coffee by the pound if you want to take some home as well.  The coolest part is how un-cafe it is.  No espresso maker, no blended mocha chai pumpkin monstrosities.  They just serve coffee.  And they'll brew it for you in a myriad of manners that you don't often see.  Vacuum brewing anyone?  It's an older method than you'd think and it makes a fabulously robust cup of joe.  Although, sadly, they had run out of cream right before our arrival, the quality of the iced Columbian with a dash of Yemeni espresso was able to make up for the powdered creamer.  That, the general ambience and some very mellow reggae made for a superlative environment and headspace to enjoy an epic feast.

Another great thing about the Dusty Duo is that Ms. Buns knows that her customers don't wander far and she's not afraid to track you down to hand deliver your precious order.  That was one heavy bag!  And everything was packaged well for travel, so that you can ferry your treasures home safely to mock your roommates as you devour every morsel in front of them.  Truly we had an embarassment of culinary riches as the odors of our dinner vied with rich aroma of the coffees for dominance in my starving nose.
Enough with the lead up!  My stomach already thinks that my throat has been cut, so it was high time to dive in.  First up, the signiature Dusty Buns chipotle chicken sandwich with a sesame, carrot, lime slaw.  The bun itself is really quite good.  It's warm and fairly soft to the bite, but has the ability to stand up to the fairly moist slaw without becoming sloppy.  The chicken is amazing moist and tender and most importantly, well butchered.  There's nothing I hate more than getting a nice fat bite of gristle in my sammitch.  However I have to say that I was a little disappointed in overall flavor.  The chicken really didn't carry any of the smokey flavor I expect when I see chipotle, and zero spice.  And the slaw too was very mild and didn't seem to have either sesame or lime as dominant flavors.  It was tasty enough, but I think it's a poor example of their culinary ability.  But then again, being their flagship sammitch, they might be secretly sick of it to the point that they're not taste testing them anymore.

Okay, with my one general criticism out of the way, I can dive into the stuff that I fell in love with.  Highest on that list would be their broccoli raab and spring onion soup.  Topped with a little sour cream and smacking you in the tongue with a bright, sour, opening flavor that opens up to reveal the raab and onion and further unfolds into a strong chicken boullion and citrus finish.  I know it'ss odd to fall in love with hot soup while it's still 90 degrees outside.  But the refreshing spring flavors in the soup cool the soul in a way that defies physical temperature.  This baby was so good, I made sure not to finish it, so I can reheat and renjoy it in the morning.  It's that friggin' good!

The other $3 side that we picked were their fried fingerling potatoes with a smoked cayenne mayo.  The potatoes were about as perfect as you could want.  Nice and crispy on the outside, fluffy and earthy on the inside.  The smoked cayenne mayo was savory and seasoned, but again far too subtle for me.  When I see that a smoke hot pepper is part of the ingredients, I expect it to have a noticeably smoke flavor and some vague hing of spiciness.  This tasted more like a very mild chili powder was whipped into the mayo.  Perfectly allowable, but I hoped for a bit more in the sauce.

The favorite in the $6 entree range would have to be the polenta.  Now here's a dish that is supposed to have a milder, comforting flavor.  Topped with confit garlic and some roasted summer squash and a creamy sauce to bring the ingredients together over 2 cakes of fluffy, moist polenta.  It was lightly savory and not too heavy on the dairy.  The garlic set a pleasant mellow flavor throughout and the squash added a nice al dente texture to contrast the pillowyness of the polenta.  I'd have tried to get some of this home for a later snack as well, but the Mrs. was having none of that.

And finally we come to dessert.  I had been hoping that they were still serving the chocolate dipped tangerines that they are advertising on their homepage, but who is going to cry over chocolate dipped strawberries?  Especially when you get 3 for $3!  They're not the redonkulously huge berries like they serve over at Spinner's Records during the Toast of the Tower, but they're still of a nice size and pleasant to the eye.  The chocolate is a much darker version of milk chocolate than common, which I really liked.  Not so bitter that it took over the berry, but make for a nice game of flavor peek-a-boo in my mouth.  Very simple, but simply good.

And so as I sat back with my iced coffee, with my guts alternately cursing me for overstuffing them so, yet also giving me a nice little endorphine award for no longer starving them, I felt the music and the art on display and the ambience of happy mellow start to really alter my conciousness.  A feeling of being transported far far away from dreary reality.  Like Cafe Corazon was somehow a million miles away from anything.  The coffee house on the edge of tomorrow, watching as soft orange sun sinks below a purple sky and the universe joins you in a long sigh of satisfaction and pleasure.

Yup.  The Dusty Buns' food, it'll get you higher than a mug!