Blue Heron in flight

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Local fare

Several readers, including close friends and family, have notified me that they are sick of reading about politics and would it kill me to write something about food? So here goes.

We had friends from New Mexico in last week for Terry's son Mac's wedding so we accompanied them to dinner a couple nights in a row. Mike is a Texas barbecue man par excellence so I tried to take them to Moo and Oink but they were closed Tuesday and we went to Trupiano's instead.

Faro Trupiano's family came to the United States from Italy in the 1960's. Faro was taught to cook by his mother, who was taught to cook by her mother. He cooks traditional italian food without pretense. Not nouvelle but adventuresome enough.

I have always liked Trupiano's but I think that they have significantly raised their game in the last several years. Haven't had a mediocre meal there in ages. They used to have problems with sullen waitresses and slow service, not to mention uneven food. These days none of those problems exist and it is always delicious. I don't think Faro is spending all his time in the kitchen but whoever is back there has definitely got it together and has been trained well.

Trupiano's is more of an east coast style italian restaurant. It has a pretty extensive menu but the ambience is definitely family style. Booths or tables, quite informal. The first thing you get there is a plate of tantalizing hot bread sticks soaked in garlic and olive oil. The trick is to limit your bread intake because the entrées are gigantic.

When people ask me what to eat in Fallbrook I mention three things at the top of my list; Rosa's camarones mojo de ajo, La Caseta's shrimp diavalo and Trupiano's melenzana alla florentine. All of their eggplant dishes are wonderful but this one, baked with spinach, mozzarella, tomatoes and ricotta, is scrumptiously light and simply out of this world.

Mike ordered the eggplant, Leslie and Terry had the cannelloni della casa, a giant mound of grilled New York steak, ground beef, veal, ricotta, spinach and mozzarella. It is wrapped in a house made crepe, and finished with a rosy bolognese cream sauce. The cannelloni is rich, the sauce delicious. I don't know where else one would go to get cannelloni like this?

I had beautiful rare lamp chops this time, served standing up in a bed of mashed and broccoli. The meals were all uniformly fantastic, unfortunately left no room for desert.

I have been to a few cooking classes and demonstrations Faro has performed. He is very engaging, and it is a pleasure to watch him work. Considers himself a cook, not a chef, not trying to reinvent the wheel, cooking in a manner that has been perfected in Sicily for generations. The homestyle way he has been taught. He does what he does very well. If you haven't been back in a while I encourage you to give him another shot. The food has been really good for a while. Our guests said that it was the best italian fare they had ever had.

Trupiano's Bistro

Address 945 S. Main Ave
Fallbrook, CA 92028
Hours Monday:  11AM to 9PM
Tuesday:  11AM to 9PM
Wednesday:  11AM to 9PM
Thursday:  11AM to 9PM
Friday:  11AM to 10PM
Saturday:  11AM to 10PM
Sunday:  11AM to 9PM

The next night we got back together with our friends and headed over to Oink and Moo. We had to get reservations because the place is packed to the gills every night. And deservedly so. Jonathan and Jennifer Arbel have a right to be very proud for what they have created at Oink and Moo. They are very serious about their food but it is still fun. The place rocks.

How do I start to talk about this restaurant? Great kicky atmosphere, funky southern with very pretty waitresses that are encouraged to do their own thing. Oink and Moo had a few growing pains in the beginning but they have all been ironed out and they have definitely found their stride. The food is slow cooked, in the beginning it sometimes took forever to get to your table but the timing is on now and the wait has not been an issue for quite a while.

I typically start out with a glass of their unique and excellent homemade lemonade, something different every night. They have the best maple honey drizzled biscuit I have ever had outside of my mom's own table. Fantastic cole slaw with a little extra dill for punch. Sweet potato fries that are sweet without being cloying and are quite addictive, mac and cheese fritters wrapped in bacon. Tater tots. Crazy corn, soaked in butter, garlic and parmesan. If you have not figured it out, the place is all about comfort food. 

We usually get a rib sampler. When they opened he was doing kobe beef ribs but the supply got less than consistent and he went through a few different iterations while checking out vendors. The ribs are back to being really good. Superb baby backs, chicken, in fact really great barbecued chicken. Sounds so ordinary but you taste it and go, whoa.

Jonathan is from Ithaca originally I believe, I think his father teaches at Cornell. He ran a popular chain of restaurants in the Bay Area (that I have dined in) but being serious about food had a vision about doing things his own way, according to his own approach and imprimatur. And so a very unique restaurant was born. He could be open lunch and packed if he wanted to but I think it is enough to do what he is doing, the food taking sometimes days to prepare and being quite labor intensive. They are working their asses off and why kill yourself?

I wanted to bring Mike Bradford over because Mike is the best barbecue man I know. He is a Texan who has been doing hill country style barbecue semi professionally for over thirty years. I have been to a couple of his fourth of July feasts in Santa Fe and they are legendary. He cooks on a large Santa Maria style barbecue, usually on oak. Mike is thinking of opening his own dining establishment in Albuquerque and I thought that he would appreciate Oink and Moo's approach. I was right.

We ordered piles of everything, far too much food but I wanted Mike to get a feeling for what they were doing. I told him that Jonathan's take on brisket was pretty far afield from Texas style and it is, more like grandma's pot roast, with onions and mushrooms. I order it every time, loving grandma's pot roast and not getting that sort of thing at home. Terry loved the brisket and so do I but I don't think it was the Texan's cup of tea, but he grokked everything else. The Arbels cook their brisket on a mix of apple and cherry wood, smoking it for up to 14 hours, and you do that, you just don't get any blood left.

That is cool, I know where he is coming from. The barbecue joints around Bourne, Round Top and Luckenbach do things differently, the brisket comes rare on paper, sold by the pound. Frankly the best I have ever had, best barbecue I have ever tasted. But there is room for many styles of brisket in this great big world of ours.

Very hip and fresh decor. There are a couple really tall chairs they will sit you in in back that give you a nice perch to view the surroundings. The Arbels have recently planted a fresh herb and vegetable garden in the back. 

There is always something surprising featured on the menu. They go to great lengths to keep it all fresh. A variety of game burgers. Had a really nice duck burger with a blueberry sauce a few months ago. I salute them for both their culinary chops and iconoclastic vision. Place is really cooking.

I think one of the signs of a great restaurant are lines of people waiting to get in outside (something that never happens in Fallbrook), a packed parking lot, and uniformly happy faces on the diners. People have a good time here, kids to adults and it shows. Plus the classic music selection is simply killer. Not a lot of places that you can order ribs to the sounds of Tales of Brave Ulysses.

I have written about Oink and Moo once before and although I was 99% affirmative I think I was a little smarmy about one food item and it might have got under the owner's craw. I confess that I know many people who happen to adore the particular culinary item in question so I must take this opportunity to apologize for being such an elitist swine and take it back, which I happily do.  If you have not tried Oink and Moo, hustle over. But do yourself a favor, go early and make a reservation.

Oink and Moo Burgers and BBQ 
121 North Pico Ave, Fallbrook CA 92028 (760) 451-6005

Saturday the wedding was held for about 200 people way out on a ranch in Valley Center called Rancho Magdalena. Bradford cooked tri tip and chicken all day with Haskell on a rented Santa Maria. Couple outrageous Texas and Santa Barbara salsas.They were a bit shorthanded so I donned an apron and ladled out the vittles to the guests. Didn't get to eat too much but practiced my running patter and had a really great time!


Anonymous said...

We have never been to trupianos guess its time to check them out. Thanks for the info.
Deli guy.

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Those cannelloni are my favorite too. Cannot be beaten!

Anonymous said...

Well Done sir:
I actually understood the subject. Yum....