Diary of a New Food Truck Owner, Part 10: Still Parked

Diary of a New Food Truck Owner is an ongoing series where we talk with Meg Hilgartner, co-owner (with Siri Skelton) of a fledgling San Francisco mobile soft-serve ice cream business called Twirl and Dip. In this installment, Meg and Siri wrestle with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, despair over a stinky kitchen, and ultimately decide that the meaning of life is making incredible butterscotch sauce. Read all the installments.

It's September. We're halfway through September and we're still not on the road. We've lost the whole summer, and I don't know where the end is.

The holdup is with San Francisco Parks and Recreation; we keep going back and forth on where we'll be allowed to sell. I sent them a 36-page proposal in the spring: We'd be serving this handmade food that supports the San Francisco food scene and so on. We sent it and we waited, and we heard nothing. And we'd call, and we'd leave messages. Or we'd send an email and it would come back "out of the office until July 23rd." Finally we heard back late in August. They were going to accept our proposal!

We want to chase the weather, basically, go where it's warm, and there's foot traffic. We wanted a location in Justin Herman Plaza, right by the San Francisco Ferry Building. We ran it by Parks and Rec: NO. That's it. Just, no.

Parks and Rec agreed that we could have a location in Golden Gate Park. What about the concourse right by the museums? "Well, it might work on Mondays and Tuesdays, but Wednesdays through Sundays there's a waffle guy there, and you don't want to compete with him." What? Waffles, ice cream? So next we proposed a spot by the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. No. There's a hot dog vendor there, and he apparently sells Nestlé's Drumsticks, and they have a contract that won't allow competing vendors. How are we competition? A handcrafted artisan ice cream for $4 versus a $1 tube of nastiness from the hot dog guy!

We've been getting our sea legs by doing some street festivals. The festivals were a good learning experience, but they're terribly expensive: We paid $950 to be at one festival for two days. We ended up covering our costs. And we were stuck right by the music stage listening to really horrible bands playing loudly, shouting at our customers to be heard. We are planning on doing the Off the Grid events in Fort Mason on Fridays and on Stanyan Street on Wednesdays.

The kitchen space we've rented is its own headache, too. We share a space with several other companies, and the place smells like meat and taco spices. And it's dirty. We have come in at night a few times to avoid the crowds, but it's not that fun to make ice cream at 10 p.m. in an industrial warehouse in a scary part of town. Oh, and the last time we came in, someone had taken all of our milk out of the refrigerator and just left it on the floor. Why? Who? I don't know!

I feel like I'm just complaining, but it's not all bad. I love cooking for a living. I'm so happy when I'm buying the ingredients and thinking about what I could make, and then making it, and selling it to someone and watching them get all excited. I hand something out the window, and it looks so pretty. And it's so freaking good! We bought four flats of raspberries from the farmers' market for $20 and made a ton of raspberry sauce and a raspberry ice cream, and It. Was. Heaven.

Our butterscotch sauce! Our really intense dark chocolate sauce! Our beautiful ice cream sandwiches! I make the cookies in the morning, so the sandwich is two fresh cookies and ice cream in a bowl. The cookies are soft, not frozen. The ice cream is soft. It's such a sensual and incredible experience, so different than a regular ice cream sandwich. It's stuff like that that keeps me going. I'm buying groceries on my credit card, we won't be making money anytime soon, I'm in massive debt, but my ice cream sandwiches? They are amazing.