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Sundance spurs new food trends

Though she enjoys a good dinner out as much as anyone, that kind of thing isn't a big part of Kristina Parker's life during the Sundance Film Festival.

As manager of the festival's press office, Parker spends the festival in what seems to be a permanent rush, with little time for sleeping, let alone sitting down for a meal.

"It's more just keeping a granola bar in my purse," Parker said.

Despite the high-profile, food-addled events and parties that go along with the annual festival, most Sundance-goers are more like Parker: focused on the films and the experience (and maybe a little star-watching), they tend to neglect the epicurean for the immediate sights and sounds, not wanting to miss a thing.

That means Sundance food is likely to be pocket conveniences like Parker's granola bars, something snatched from the concessions at the theaters or, though it's the last thing most Sundancers will admit, fast food drive-through.

But there are alternatives, of course. In fact, one of them may be rolling into a prime spot at Trolley Square, not too far from the Sundance box office, right now.

Local entrepreneur SuAn Chow is the founder and self-described "boss lady" of Chowtruck, a food truck serving quick, fresh and fast fusion food from several downtown Salt Lake locations.

The business takes its inspiration from the southern California trend of mobile trucks serving high-quality food that's a mix-up of various cultures — think Korean tacos. The trucks have become so popular in Los Angeles that hungry fans following the vehicles' locations on Twitter and the Web ensure long lines wherever they go.

Chow plans to show up at several downtown locations that she, too, will post on Twitter. While Sundance runs until the end of January, Chow's bright yellow truck, emblazoned with a red dragon, will be parked either at Trolley Square or in the empty Club DV8 lot across from the Salt Palace, where the Outdoor Retailer Show runs through Sunday.

Chow and chef Rosanne Ruiz have assembled a concise menu of unusual dishes, none of which cost more than $6: coconut-lemongrass chicken tacos, flash-fried calamari and lemon slices, pineapple-ginger pork, spicy beef with cilantro-chile pesto. They also will offer specials, but Chow said the small menu helps the business focus on quality and speed.

Chow views opening her business just before Sundance as an opportunity, since Sundance fans tend to be the same crowd who are likely to try a gourmet food truck: what she called the "young hipster crowd," foodies and people not afraid to try something new and different.

"The people who go to Sundance, they've been exposed to what's happening in other cities," she said. "They're people who have a tendency to be on the cutting edge and are looking for that cutting edge and what's happening right now.

"Because (Sundance) is independent film, it's people who care about quality, care abut the environment, all those things. With this truck, the concept is doing fresh food, not doing frozen, being more healthy — it falls in line with those priorities. … It's a great alternative to grab-and-go, greasy fast food."

e-mail: skratz@desnews.com