By Vivienne Pearson
A Steely Dan song of the same name gives the first clues about the inspiration for the Pearl of the Quarter food truck and catering business.
‘On the water down in New Orleans, my baby’s the pearl of the quarter…’ start the lyrics.
The French Quarter of New Orleans – the food and the music – is one region that Pearl of the Quarter food truck and catering is inspired by. But that’s not all – not wanting to be restricted to just one region, inspiration is also drawn from other quarters: the Latin Quarter in Paris and the Ipanema Quarter in Rio.
‘And, though it’s not an official “quarter”,’ says Shoshannah Orenstein, one of the co-owners of the Pearl, ‘we’ve added Brixton in London as the fourth quarter, for the strong Caribbean influences there.’
So, though Pearl reaches widely for inspiration, a fair summary would be that she (for this is a food truck that seems worthy of a personal pronoun) is about tastes from the Caribbean, New Orleans, Brazil, Cuba, Southern US states and beyond.
To get specific, here are three signature dishes. A Florida-style soft-shell crab slider, served with a mango salsa, aioli and a hot mango sauce on an organic brioche slider bun. Jamaican Jerk Chicken (‘jerk’ means spice), a coconut-cream-braised free-range chicken served with gravy, coconut ice, peas and ’slaw. And a Cuban sandwich filled with orange and lime roasted free-range pork, swiss cheese, dill pickle and mustard.
‘The unifying theme is flavour – we don’t hold back on flavours,’ says Lorne.
And, though these three examples are meat based, the Pearl has plenty of seafood and vegetarian options too.
Though some of these dishes are new to me, Lorne Rawlings says that they are like coming home to others. ‘It is thrilling for us to introduce food that people haven’t had before, but also to serve food to people who find it reminds them of home,’ he says.
Shoshannah and Lorne hail from the UK. Lorne was a DJ who got into food via catering for bands, including the Buena Vista Social Club and the Afro-Cuban All Stars. ‘It was a great way to learn different cuisines,’ says Lorne.
Both were involved with the Spiegeltent in the UK and this connection led them to this area, with Lorne project managing the renovation of the Brunswick Picture House. The magic of the Spiegeltent also flows into the Pearl of the Quarter, with Shoshanna bringing a perfect combination of theatrical ‘hostessing’ to the window while Lorne creates food magic in the back.
And there is always music. Whether in full-service mode or simply while cassava is being chopped or dishes are being done, music is an integral part of the Pearl – so much so that Lorne has created a Pearl-specific playlist on Spotify.
If your mouth is watering as much as mine, check out the Pearl’s next public local gigs: Nudge Nudge Wink Wink at the Billinudgel Hotel on Sat 5 November, then Mullum Music Festival (Market Place behind Civic Hall, Sat 18/Sun 19 Nov)
Information: Pearl of the Quarter food truck and catering. Ph: 0412 535 376, Facebook / Instagram, Spotify: search for Pearl of the Quarter
Lorne, Shoshannah and the Pearl. Soft-shell-crab slider – Photos Amy Carter