Two Tri-City Entrepreneurs Launch New
Food Truck Partnership at Columbia Gardens
Winemaker Victor Palencia and caterer Nena Cosic
join forces in new venture called Culture Shock Bistro
By Ken Robertson
A highly acclaimed Washington winemaker is partnering with a top Tri-City caterer to launch a food truck that aims to serve wine-loving foodies.
Victor Palencia, owner of Monarcha Winery in Kennewick, WA., and Palencia Wine Co. in West Richland, and Nena Cosic, owner of European Desserts & Appetizers in Kennewick, celebrated the opening of their food truck partnership on Friday, Nov. 20 at the Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village on Columbia Drive in Kennewick.
The name of their new venture is Culture Shock Bistro, a reference to their somewhat surprising concept to combine the cuisine of their two home countries, Mexico and Bosnia, to create a food and wine experience they believe will be unlike any other.
The two met at a wine event Cosic was catering at the now-closed Clore Center in Prosser. They soon found they shared some common interests and ambitions, plus a common background story. Both are first-generation immigrants who’ve found a new home and a way to turn their love for fine wine and food into thriving businesses.
Palencia, whose family roots and love of farming extend deep into the soils of Michoacan state in southern Mexico, came to the United States as a child. Following his father, he began working in Washington’s Yakima Valley vineyards as a boy, then worked at wineries and graduated from the wine-making program at Walla Walla Community College.
Cosic, known as “Sugar Momma” for the mouth-watering desserts her business produces, left her native land and then moved to the Tri-Cities in 1999, fleeing ethnic strife that had ravaged the Balkan Peninsula. After leaving a full-time job, she turned to her cooking skills to build her catering business, drawing on what she learned in her native Bosnia-Hezegovina. The business now includes one of her sons and her daughter-in-law.
Palencia and Cosic both found a home in the Tri-Cities, a region where hundreds of different crops are grown, including thousands of acres of premium wine grapes, and were drawn together following their meeting at the Clore Center and subsequent discussions.
“I talked about the food culture with Victor,” she said, “and I decided to become his business partner.”
They aim to serve both walk-up customers and surrounding businesses, including three winery tasting rooms — Bartholomew, Cave B and Gordon Estates, all located in the Columbia Gardens complex.
For winery and other business customers, they plan to offer such simple fare as premium charcuterie and cheese plates, which can be customized for wineries that want to offer tasting room visitors food to sample with their wines.
The 24-foot truck will be “absolutely mobile,” Palencia said, and will offer a menu focused on tapas-style plates, plus packages that can pair both a dinner and a bottle of wine.
Cosic describes her homeland’s fare as “a fusion of Mediterranean cuisine from Turkey to Spain” and plans to offer elements that honor that tradition, including Turkish coffee.
Her Mediterranean-style tapas will use dishes from “both our cultures,” plus flatbread pizzas. She also plans to offer Spanish-style breakfasts featuring tortillas and crepes made with charcuterie.
Among the menu items they’ve discussed, Palencia said, are steamer clams and mussels “with an Albariño (wine) sauce. We’ll be trying something new, something unique,” including a Chardonnay salsa.
Cosic also plans to offer her trademark tiramisu and baklava desserts.
They were not dissuaded from the new venture, despite the challenges of dealing with food and wine service restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 virus.
“It makes sense now more than ever,” Palencia said.
The new truck will be sited at the Northwest corner of the Monarcha building, adjacent to the plaza for other food trucks at Columbia Gardens. As their plans began to take shape, Palencia approached his landlord, the Port of Kennewick, about what would be needed to make the concept a reality.
“We were very supportive,” said Amber Hanchette, the port’s director of real estate and operations. “So we talked about what would be a good location.”
After they settled on the site, the port agreed to add a pedestal to the parking lot area to provide electrical power and to avoid the need for the generators commonly used to support food trucks.
Making the infrastructure investment was an easy decision, Hanchette said, because it adds value for other port tenants who can benefit from the food service offered.
“It’s a handy site for Cave B, Gordon, Bartholomew and Monarcha,” she said and an added attraction for their customers.
The port also is adding a restroom and a potable water outlet, and the new truck can use the same “gray water” system used by the other food trucks.
Hanchette and Palencia agree the new venture will supplement and augment the four food trucks already assembled at the plaza: Swampy’s BBQ Sauce & Eatery; Ninja Bistro, with Asian fusion; Don Taco, featuring Mexican cuisine; and Ann’s Best Creole & Soul Food. Close at hand on Clover Island are Cedars Pier One, Ice Harbor Brewing’s pub and Rollin’ Fresh Ice Cream.
“Everything adds something different in terms of our Tri-City food culture,” Hanchette said. “We want something to do seven days a week until we can get back to our every-day normalcy.
Culture Shock Bistro’s menu and hours of operation can be found on the company’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/cultureshockbistro. Or, feel free to call Nena at (509) 405-1919.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ken Robertson is the Tri-City Herald’s retired executive editor and has written about Northwest wines for Wine Press Northwest and other wine publications since 1978.