By Timothy R. Smith
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Juan Jose Quintana grew up in Valladolid, Spain. At home, his American mother often combined elements of Spanish and American cuisines to memorable effect.
"She would add mayo, radishes and onion relish to a chorizo sandwich, and my friends loved it," Quintana says.
He now blends those sensibilities at Rolling Ficelle, a 2-month-old newbie to the city's robust food truck scene. The 44-year-old is also new to the industry; his previous career was in non-food-related customer service.
Here, Quintana seems to have a winner.
The truck offers six generous sandwiches (each $6.95) on narrow, soft baguettes called ficelles. He has named the sandwiches after some of his favorite abstract painters, inspired by boyhood visits to Europe's finest museums. Quintana's fusion spin: The artists have had a profound influence on both sides of the Atlantic.
Hence the Gorky, with Danish ham, fresh mozzarella and tangy kalamata olives. The Rothko has shaved Italian prosciutto, provolone and hearts of romaine. The de Kooning features medium-rare roast beef slathered with a delectably sweet and spicy cherry-pepper relish, a nod to a memorable sandwich Quintana once had in Amsterdam.
Thus far, Quintana says, the most popular sandwich is the Davis, whose chicken salad is made creamy with a mixture of mayonnaise, sour cream and lemon. It is named after Gene Davis, the late Washington painter known for his bold, colorful stripes.
The ficelles, made with wheat and rice flours, are freshly baked each morning to Quintana's specifications at Lyon Bakery in Silver Spring.
"When you eat a sandwich on a classic French baguette, it is so hard, it hurts the palate and is uncomfortable," he says. He runs the ficelles through a toaster oven to crisp their exteriors while keeping the insides a little soft.
Among the most enticing non-sandwich items on the menu is the freshly squeezed lemonade ($2), its tartness tamed with sour cherry syrup.
Rolling Ficelle offers one salad: the Frida ($6.95), with watermelon, jicama, baby spinach and a house-made chipotle-Thousand Island dressing. Quintana says it's among his bestselling items.
Combos are available for $8.95 and come with either a salad or sandwich, Miss Vickie's potato chips and a lemonade.