With our long winter behind us, now is the time to spring into Temecula and Fallbrook dining and sample some of the best cuisine around. These area restaurants offer outstanding and/or unique dishes. Some recipes are born in the minds of the local chefs and others are traditional recipes made with a local twist. This story is intended to highlight only a portion of the delicious cuisine I have enjoyed during my most recent restaurant reviews.
(Fresco Grill and Wine Bar)
As an entrée special at Fresco Grill, the luscious, succulent and slightly sweet lobster tail is served with clams and mussels. The warm butter that seeps into the crevices of the lobster meat makes it even more delightfully tender.
What sets this exotic dish apart from ordinary chicken is achiote, a flavoring made from the seed of the achiote tree, grown in Mexico. The seed is ground into a paste and mixed with spices and water. A 10-ounce chicken breast is marinated in the mixture for 48 hours, then grilled. The achiote lends a red hue along with a slightly sweet and peppery flavor I had never previously experienced.
(Aquaterra at Pala Mesa Resort)
A perfectly ripe avocado is split, then topped with prosciutto and gorgonzola cheese, which yields a zesty quality. Roasted garlic and red pepper are also added, but there is only a delicious hint of these flavors. A savory, yet sweet, Chianti Glaze wraps up this ambrosial package. The Baked Avocado is so delicious that you will be driven to scrape it down to the rind!
If you want something cool and refreshing try the “Tostada Grande.” It’s artfully presented and overflowing with fresh ingredients. A crispy flour tortilla is coated with a light layer of refried pinto beans, then lettuce, finely diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo and guacamole. Marinated grilled chicken crowds the top of the tostada. Each piece of chicken is small, and thus the grilled, spicy flavor infuses more of the meat.
Sourdough Rockefeller Bread
(Garden Center Café and Grill)
Pernod (licorice-flavored liqueur) lends a delicious flavor to this appetizer, which is edgy with touches of the traditional. Juve Mendoza, who perfected the recipe, mixes chopped green onions with fresh garlic, then adds chopped spinach, celery and parsley. The mix is sautéed in Pernod, blended with mozzarella and parmesan cheese, then melted over soft sourdough bread. The bread is so heavily smothered with this concoction that at first you may wonder where it’s hiding!
(Trupiano’s Italian Bistro)
This irresistible dinner special was created by Faro Trupiano who was influenced by the cuisine of Northern Italy. The dish, named in honor of Rudolph Valentino, is a delightful mingling of shrimp, marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts, mixed with a dill and lobster-infused cream sauce which seeps into crevices of the corkscrew pasta.
(Broken Yolk Café)
A perfectly toasted English muffin is layered with only three ingredients. Yes, there is something to be said for simplicity. Canadian bacon with a slightly smoky flavor is the anchor, followed by two large poached eggs. Hollandaise sauce mingles with the egg, seeps into the nooks and crannies of the muffin and saturates the meat. This sauce is difficult to get right and the Broken Yolk knows the secret. It is rich, smooth and not too salty.
Irish Whiskey Chicken Boxty
A “boxty” is an Irish potato pancake; and MaGee’s version is folded in half and stuffed with large tender chicken chunks, onions and mushrooms. The entire concoction is then drenched with a thick Irish whiskey sauce. This savory sauce ties the ingredients together to elevate this Irish potato pancake to heights above the ordinary.
The anchor for this bold dish is jumbo shrimp marinated in white wine, red chili powder, garlic, onion and sea salt, plus…some secret ingredients. Afterward, the shrimp are charbroiled, which lends a smoky, outdoorsy flavor. Next, the shrimp are sautéed with onions, tomatoes and cilantro, then bathed in a white wine cream sauce. A fresh pico de gallo garnish wraps up this flavorful package.
(Qdoba Mexican Grill)
A sauce that gets people talking is the “3-Cheese Queso.” Used alone with freshly made tortilla chips, you can taste the subtle chile flavors (poblano and jalapeño) as well as Monterey jack, American and cheddar cheeses. This delicious sauce was developed in Qdoba’s own kitchens and has a fairly mild flavor. It’s what makes the “Queso Burrito” Qdoba’s top seller.
Le Bistro’s Artisan Salad created by Chef Jennifer, is an innovative and flavorful mélange with a base of fresh watercress. Roasted squash lends a fresh, unique flavor and a splash of color. Cipollini onion infuses natural sweetness to the salad which is crowned with a sweet surprise of house-created pine nut brittle that can be broken into pieces and tossed with the salad.
Spinach and Berry Salad
(The Veranda at The Grand Tradition)
This salad is beguiling! Served on a bed of spinach – it’s laden with fresh and flavorful – and very large – raspberries and blackberries along with strawberries and feta cheese. Candied pecans and raspberry vinaigrette dressing add a burst of sweet flavor – taking it to a realm beyond wonderful.
Seared Ahi Tuna Salad
(Hukilau at Fallbrook Golf Club)
The seared Ahi Tuna Salad is a deep dish brimful of baby greens, tuna, mango, strawberries, pineapple and oranges tossed with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Fruity sweetness from the raspberry is just the catalyst to bring the salad to life. The strawberries are large and very sweet and the ahi tuna is abundant. The entire salad is a breath of fresh air!
Flat Iron Steak
(Valley Fort Steakhouse)
This establishment earns its name as a “steakhouse” with the Flat Iron Steak. Smothered in onions and mushrooms, the steak is grilled in their signature butter, which is enhanced by several spices. The flavor of the steak, with its charbroiled nuances, stands on its own, without any steak sauces. There was nothing inedible on this piece of meat – I was able to enjoy the entire piece.
French Onion Soup
(Café Des Artistes)
Pierce the creamy layer of cheese on the French Onion Soup and you will find that it is bursting with sweet onions and focaccia bread croutons. This soup – made from scratch – is enhanced by the use of freshly-made focaccia bread croutons.
Shrimp with Garlic
(Rosa’s Mexican Restaurant)
Wrapped in a slightly spicy aroma, Rosa’s entrée, Camarones Al Mojo de Ajo or, (loosely translated), Shrimp with Garlic, is a culinary delight. The succulent Mexican shrimp are sautéed in garlic butter, then sprinkled with cayenne red pepper and a light scattering of parsley flakes. Diners can make the flavor pop with a slight squeeze of lime.
These delicious half pound burgers are hand-formed from a secret blend of premium chuck and sirloin beef which is ground fresh each morning with secret spices. What enhances the burgers is a secret sauce – probably mayonnaise and ketchup-based – that was developed by Sandra Webster. The burger is placed in a fresh bun then garnished with a slice of American cheese, fresh tomatoes, onions and iceberg lettuce. Simple, but marvelous!
Chicken Pot Pie
Pierce the top pie crust with a fork, and, in a cloud of steam, chicken, carrots, celery, and peas appear – enveloped in thick gravy. Make sure you get a bite of the crust along with the chicken and vegetables. It’s made to be eaten together. This dish is rich and flavorful – with hefty chunks of chicken. You’ll feel compelled to eat every bite!