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Food Trucks: A Family Affair on the East End

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Laurie Trujillo-Mamay’s Hamptons Foodie truck at Sagg Main Beach on Monday. Photos by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic

As August begins and the masses descend in full force upon the East End, it seems to take longer to do everything. Longer lines mean that the simple process of buying a picnic lunch to take to the beach can eat up a full hour of valuable Vitamin-D time. But entrepreneurial gastronomes are providing an option with affordable food trucks just steps from the dunes.

Laurie Trujillo-Mamay grew up in Southern California, where food trucks are a dime a dozen. She has never had any formal training but has fond memories of being young and vigilantly watching her mother’s every move in the kitchen. “I just love to cook,” she said. “I cook for my family and people always said that I should open something up.”

With rental prices through the roof, opening up an actual restaurant was not an option for Ms. Trujillo-Mamay. One day, a little over 10 years ago, Ms. Trujillo-Mamay saw a food truck for sale in Montauk and decided to look into the feasibility of opening up her own.

Now, her truck ,“The Hamptons Foodie,” is in its 10th year, and has been feeding beachgoers at Sagg Main Beach for the past six summers. Her menu changes and she is always coming up with new recipes, she said. She predominately makes what she describes as “food for foodies.”

Kale and vegetable dumplings are new to the menu this year, and her sesame noodles and fish tacos are also particularly popular. But then again, so are her burgers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. “There’s gotta be some things that you cater to everyone,” she said, adding that people often compliment her on her wide range of choices.

“It’s all about good food, friends and family,” she said, and she was not kidding. Not only have Ms. Trujillo-Mamay’s daughter, mother, niece and nephew all helped out in the truck at times, but this summer she has also employed two other groups of mothers and daughters to work in the truck on the busy weekends.

Family involvement is pretty common in the food truck business, it seems, if Montauk-mainstays The Beach Dog and The Ditch Witch provide any indication. The Ditch Witch, located near East Deck motel in Montauk, is the original alternative food truck and is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary this season.

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The Ditch Witch at Ditch Plains

Lili Adams has run the Ditch Witch since 1994, and her children both help her with the day-to-day operations, as do other local kids, year after year. A ceramic tip jar sculpted by local artist Maura Donahue has the words “college fund” taped onto it.

The Ditch Witch serves a range of sandwiches, wraps, and salads as well as a large selection of iced teas, coffees and other drinks. An extensive special menu changes over the season. Last week it included exotic options such as a bahn mi sandwich and Thai chicken wraps.

Pickier eaters can find a selection of hot dogs, grilled cheeses and nachos around the corner at the first parking lot at Ditch Plains. Sisters Jenna and Jaime Bogetti have worked in their grandfather’s food truck, “The Beach Dog,” for years. Jenna, now 24, recalls helping her grandfather, John Bogetti, out from the age of around 12. Mr. Bogetti was in a car crash in May, and so this year his granddaughters have been running the truck on their own.

“The Beach Dog” has been around for 25 years, according to Ms. Bogetti, but this year the girls are running the business out of their cousin’s truck, a grilled cheese truck aptly named “Beacheesy.” But the name shouldn’t fool anyone. Their menu is the same that it always has been and hot dogs are available with all the fixings every day it doesn’t rain.

One of the newest food trucks to the East End is the Purple Truck, owned and run out of Indian Wells Beach by best friends Kerri Wright and Kristen Walles. “Well, we’re family,” Ms. Walles said. The women met at basketball camp when they were 15 and “have been best friends ever since.” Ms. Walles had the idea of opening up a truck serving acai bowls after traveling to Hawaii with her boyfriend, Leif Engstrom, a professional surfer from Montauk.

“We talked about it a lot when we were Australia and we said we should definitely do it. And then we got back here and we said, no really let’s do it.” Ms. Wright said. As restaurants in the Hamptons began to focus more on healthy eating, Ms. Wright and Ms. Walles decided it was the right time to bring the anti-oxidant-filled Brazilian berries to the East End. Their very purple Purple Truck sells dairy-free smoothies and smoothie bowls topped with granola and fresh fruit every day. “We just thought people would love it,” Ms. Wright said.

Kerri Wright, left, and Kristen Walles, right, in the Purple Truck at Indian Wells Beach

Kerri Wright, left, and Kristen Walles, right, in the Purple Truck at Indian Wells Beach

“We don’t add anything else to it, we don’t add sugar,” she said, but added that their younger customers are fans of the Reeses bites and chocolate chips that they keep on hand in the truck.

Occasionally, Ms. Walles’s brother and father help them out, but usually the two girls run the show alone. “It’s easier for us because we understand each other without talking,” Ms. Wright said. “We just balance each other out and it’s good teamwork.”

All four of the trucks are at their spots every day (except during downpours,) during the summer season. On Friday, August 9, East Enders will get a chance to sample food from over a dozen food trucks from as far away as Manhattan that will congregate at Hayground School for the third annual Great Food Truck Derby. The general admission price is $65, and guests can taste samples from each truck. Ms. Trujillo-Mamay and the Hamptons Foodie will be there.

Circling the Wagons

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By David McCabe

For years, food trucks have been huge on the streets of Manhattan, but in the Hamptons they are normally relegated to beach parking lots.

Now, for one night only, denizens of the East End can enjoy what office workers in Midtown Manhattan enjoy every day at the first Food Truck Derby, which is being held this Friday at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton.

The event is organized by Edible East End, a food magazine that has been published since 2005 and is part of a national chain of Edible publications. Its publisher, Brian Halweil, said the magazine wanted to bring a taste of food truck culture — which has reached a fever pitch around the country in recent years — to the East End.

A $50 ticket buys a guest a tasting portion from each of the trucks, as well as unlimited beer and wine.

“The concept was to create a food experience that doesn’t really exist out here but that we love from the city,” said Halweil.

Long Island, however, will not be entirely unrepresented amongst the trucks present. Hampton Coffee Company will have an espresso truck at the event, Halweil said, as well Wandering Palate, a truck that specializes in Long Island cuisine. Montaco, a Mexican food truck that’s normally parked at Ditch Plains in Montauk, will also be at the Derby.

Mars Ostarello, who owns Montaco, said her truck focuses on producing food that honors her Mexican heritage while using locally-sourced ingredients. Everything the truck serves is made from scratch, she said, from the blue-corn tortillas to the salsa.

This is not Montaco’s first Derby, so-to-speak. After their first season on the East End, the staff wanted to keep the truck open, so they took it down to Miami, where a food truck culture was just forming. That meant that five days a week, the taco truck was going to events like this weekend’s derby.

“So we’re pretty well versed on food truck derbies and gatherings of all types,” Ostarello said.

This weekend, they’ll be serving three types of tacos. Their fish taco, which is made with mahi and garnished with lettuce and chipotle mayonnaise, a chicken and salsa verde taco and a zucchini and roasted corn variant with hints of cumin and salsa verde.

Ostarello said that she doesn’t want the East End to become saturated with food trucks, as Manhattan has been. Instead, she praised the way the hamlet of Montauk as regulated vendors: only one food truck is allowed in each small beach parking lot, and two are allowed in larger spaces.

Other than a little more variety, she said, “I think we’re all good here.”

Some of the trucks featured in the event will be coming from their regular berths in New York City, including La Bella Torte, an Italian dessert truck based out of Brooklyn.

Joe Glaser, who owns the truck with his wife AnnMarie, went to culinary school when the recession of 2008 began, and he and his wife decided that it made more sense economically to open a truck rather than a brick-and-mortar store.

The truck specializes in traditional Italian desserts, and was nominated for a Vendy award after being in business for only four months.

“Everything that I do is classic Italian and I keep everything traditional,” Glaser said.

Halweil, for his part, hopes that this event will perhaps encourage more operators to create food trucks on the East End.

“We hope that this event encourages more food trucks to come out here and stay parked, at least for part of the summer,” Halweil said.