Taste of Fallbrook this year was highly competitive as usual, but there was a twist – Connections Fallbrook Networking Group, the organizers, headed by Dannai Mungo, decided on a new judging and award system. Only two awards were given this year – “Ultimate Chef of Fallbrook” and “Ultimate Dessert Chef of Fallbrook.”
The other change is that the judging was done solely by popular vote – not by a panel of judges. Oink and Moo captured both awards. Last year Oink and Moo won the top entrée award which was called “Best Taste of Fallbrook.” That proves that the Fallbrook crowd loves good barbeque!
The “Ultimate Chef” Jonathan Arbel won a thousand dollars as well as the opportunity to have his photo on a local billboard. The “Ultimate Dessert Chef,” in this case the same person, was awarded a $500 check.
This year, Oink and Moo, (owned by Jonathan and Jennifer Arbel), wowed attendees with “Beer Brine Pork Chops” served with caramelized onions and a fantastic blueberry barbeque sauce. The onions and the blueberry barbeque sauce were just the icing on the cake – the flame-licked pork chops held their own with a tantalizing smoky flavor. It’s not surprising that the longest line all evening was for Oink and Moo.
The dessert award was won with Oink and Moo’s “Smoked Banana Berry Foster.” The smoked caramel is a unique flavor. I watched the process and it’s a lot of fuss for one dessert, but Noah Davidson confidently flipped the pan filled with bananas and the smoked caramel over a flaming fire several times before it was ready to be mixed with the blueberries and vanilla ice cream. The result was delicious!
Chef Jonathan posted a thank you note on Facebook after the competition: “I’d like to thank my lovely wife and my incredible service and culinary team that made this all possible. My crew not only performed at the event but all at the restaurant on a super busy Friday night. My crew really made this possible. Thanks Fallbrook for voting for us. Jennifer and I are super thankful and delighted.”
Seven establishments gave Oink and Moo some stiff competition for “Ultimate Chef,” and those included: La Caseta, Trupiano’s Italian Bistro, Rosa’s Mexican Restaurant, Le Bistro, “The Vines” at Regency, Major Market, and Darn Good Asian Food.
For “Ultimate Dessert Chef,” there were five in competition: Oink and Moo, La Caseta, Tutto Dolce, Elegance on Display, and Major Market. As usual, each brought their best to the table giving Oink and Moo a lot of competition.
La Caseta introduced a new dish, “Bacon-wrapped Shrimp” with a fresh corn poblano chili sauce over Spanish rice. Their new dessert was an inventive and moist tres leches cake with mango custard and guava cream. Both of these dishes were excellent.
Trupiano’s served a recipe developed by Faro Trupiano. It was delicious fusilli pasta with Portuguese sausage, mushrooms, chicken, onion, with a Dijon-infused crème sauce.
Le Bistro had tables set up where their guests could sample their tasty “Shrimp Pesto Risotto.” The Darn Good Asian Food and Grill served hot and spicy “Pork Lettuce Wraps.” This restaurant off of Industrial Way is new in town and has only been open one month.
“Walnut and Pear Gorgonzola Stuffed Chicken Breast” was served at the “Vines” at the Regency. Rosa’s Mexican Restaurant offered a delicious combination of homemade chips, tomatillo sauce, and fajita beef. Major Market served a flavorful mini lobster cake and flan for dessert.
Elegance on Display offered tarts again this year, with three great versions – peanut butter mousse, salted caramel; and fresh berry cream cheese.
Tutto Dolce, an Italian sweet shop on Main, served gelato ice cream in various flavors. The chocolate had various shavings and was quite tasty.
The crowd was appreciative of the Fallbrook High cheerleaders who circulated with coolers full of water bottles which they were selling for only one dollar a bottle.
Fred Bozin has been with Connections for 17 years and is still involved. He was busy changing trash can liners when I spoke with him. “It’s a nice event that brings out the people of Fallbrook and exposes them to all the good food here!”
Lexi Houk, Miss Fallbrook of 2012, represented the town this year because the current Miss Fallbrook was unable to make it due to family responsibilities. She circulated around the crowd greeting people with her beautiful smile.
About 750 tickets were sold, but others came to just enjoy the music from Tony Suraci’s band and to check out the vintage cars. The event was held on Friday, July 26 in downtown Fallbrook.