Setting the Standard for Food Trucks!
The Home Skillet Truck, as I pointed out in a previous post “Top 10 Food Trucks of 2011”, is one of my favorite new food trucks. This gourmet food truck is the baby of Orange County native, Chef Christie Morisoli. She gained her street cred by graduating from the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute and then cutting her chops at some of the most prestigious restaurants in San Francisco, Austin and Los Angeles.
The Home Skillet Truck emerged into the OC food truck scene in the late summer of 2011. This was a time when the gourmet food truck scene was becoming overwhelmed by a swarm of new trucks. Some of the new trucks were simply roach coaches who purchased expensive wraps and threatened to cheapen the gourmet food truck movement. On the other hand, some of the new trucks were owned by talented Chefs who provided innovative menus and cooking techniques. These new gourmet trucks proved that food trucks have the propensity to be more than just deep fryers and “Fusion Tacos.”
I first tried the Home Skillet Truck while serving as a judge at the OC Foodie Fest. During the event I was one of the “Savory” judges and was trying “one dish from all 70 trucks.” By the time Chef Morisoli from Home Skillet came to my station, I had eaten one too many grilled cheese variations and my gut was reaching its limit. Chef Christie Morisoli presented me their now famous “Lamb Burger” and I knew it was time to suck up my pain and give this delicious looking lamb burger a chance. After that first bite at the OC Foodie Fest, I became a loyal customer. By the way, I gave her dish some of the highest marks in the “Best in Show” category.
The Home skillet truck is a family affair, as multiple members of the family work on the truck, including Morisoli’s mother and husband. This family involvement goes along with the truck’s comfort food theme. All of her dishes have a genesis around a classic home cooking and Americana comfort food theme; with that said, these are not your Grandma’s dishes. Chef Morisoli has given these home style dishes a sexy change-up that only a classically trained chef can pull off. I have eaten from truck about five different times and have always been impressed by the flavors and uniqueness of her dishes. The following descriptions of her dishes are based on 5 months of careful gastromic research.
Review of Home Skillet’s Dishes
The lamb burger consists of a slightly toasted bakery roll, a juicy lamb patty, and feta cheese with chili sauce, pickled cucumber, red onions and tomatoes. The size of the lamb burger is a slightly smaller than a standard burger and can be easily held with one hand. The hand-feel of the burger is pleasant, as the burger has a substantial weight and the bun gives under the weight of your grip.
The lamb burger uses ingredients whose flavors pair well together, resulting in an amazing dish that accentuates the natural lamb flavors. The bun itself is slightly crispy, yet retains a soft steamy center. The bun was the right size for the burger, such that you obtain the right balance of bread to meat. The actual lamb patty is roughly a quarter pound and is seasoned with traditional Greek style seasonings, like garlic, basil, and oregano.
The ground lamb meat has a very pleasant aroma and made me instantly salivate. The red chili feta blend was creamy, salty and had a sweet, savory and spicy profile. The cheese blend by itself is slightly spicy from the hot sauce. Although when the spicy feta is consumed in the context of the lamb burger, it simply brightens up the overall flavor profile of the lamb burger. The pickled onions and cucumbers were refreshing and broke up the complex flavors of the dish. This is one of their best items on the menu and I always have to order it. I give this dish 4.5 out of 5.
Truffled Mac and Cheese Ball
Fried balls of love! I find it hard to describe the emotions I experienced as I ate the Truffled Mac and Cheese Ball. I have listed a series of words that describe my emotional journey, as I noshed down on the balls of love: “Crisp, molten, lush, sultry, orgasmic, crack, guilt, regret, acceptance, bliss.” This dish consists of rich and cheesy scoops of Mac and Cheese, infused with truffle. The mac is rolled in panko bread crumbs and then flash fried. This flash fry fuses the shape together and liquefies the cheese. These balls are fairly large, almost the size of an egg and are crisp to the touch. Despite the fact that these mac n cheese balls are deep-fried, they are surprisingly not very greasy.
When I placed the Fried Mac n Cheese ball in my mouth, the exterior was crispy on my tongue. When my front teeth pierced the ball, hot steam exploded into my mouth and the viscous cheese flowed unto my tongue. The lush and rich flavor of the Mac Ball is attained by being made from 3 types of cheese and an infusion of truffle. As I wiped my face with a napkin, I could feel that I had formed a naughty smile as a result of eating this sinfully decadent treat. What would my Mama think? This dish received 4.0 out of 5.
This dish consists of slow cooked pork baby back ribs covered in a pomegranate-soy glaze and accompanied by a jicama salad. I think that this is one of Home ‘ signature dishes. Home Skillet Truck’s slow cooking method of the ribs results in meat that literally falls off the bone! I yanked on one of the rib-bones to break off a chunk, but the bone literally pulled out of the slab. The ribs were that tender!
Another Shot of the Riblets via my smart phone. These ribs had an amazing flavor. Those are not French Fries they are Jicama Strips. This dish is a good example of traditional home cooking with a foodie’s flare. These ribs had a nice wet pomegranate glaze that set off the entire dish. I tasted the sauce first by itself, via my fingers.
The sauce was sweet and tangy, yet had a subtle spiciness that left a slight tingle on the tongue. When I placed the rib in my mouth, the exterior was slightly velvety; it appears that the sauce had softened the crispiness on the exterior of the ribs. When I bit down, the meat was extremely tender as it broke apart in my mouth on my first chomp. The flavors of the meat are sweet and savory. The juicy rib meat integrated well with the sweet, tangy and spicy flavors of the sauce. The flavors of the meat and sauce together were a near perfect balance. I was mad munching away and before I realized it, I ate all the ribs! Along with the ribs, the dish included a cold jicama salad which contained strips of jicama and slivers of sweet carrots. This cold side is a nice compliment to the ribs, as it adds a sweet crunchy contrast and serves as a palate cleanser.
I would expect to see this quality of baby back pork ribs from an upscale restaurant like Banderas, the Bungalow or Landmark, for $25+. The only difference is that these ribs came out on a paper plate from a food truck. This dish gets a 4.5 for some of the better ribs I have tried. The ribs were juicy and a good bargain at $7.
Many of you may still harbor negative memories of Brussels Sprouts from your childhood. These memories probably developed from your Mother’s failed attempts to steam or boil these leafy balls. My first experience with Brussels sprouts permanently distorted my opinions of this otherwise worthy member of the cabbage family. For many years, the mere smell of Brussels sprouts would conjure of memories of not being allowed to leave the kitchen table until I finished my Brussels sprouts. My opinion of Brussels sprouts changed four months ago when I decided to have an adult moment and challenge my food prejudices. I was reading the book “The Man Who Ate Everything” and my experience reminded me of Jeffrey Steingarten attempting to eat clams after a lifetime of loathing.
There I was innocently standing in line one day to order my lamb burger from the Home Skillet truck, when I heard all the folks in line ranting about the Brussels sprouts. I must have scrunched my nose into the air when they said the word “brussel sprouts” because soon after an attractive woman came up to challenge me
“You don’t like Brussels sprouts do you?”
I snarkily retorted, “No I detest them.”
She responded, “Then you haven’t tried Home Skillet’s Brussels sprouts.”
I gave her a dismissive look with raised eye brows and lips pursed to one side. My body language communicated, “Do you really think you can convert me to the Brussels dark side?”
Sensing my dismissive attitude, she responded back, “Why don’t you go put some big girl panties on! Get over your food phobia and try the Brussels sprouts already, I will even let you take a bite of mine.”
“But I am a married man, you can’t tempt me with a taste of your Brussels sprouts”, I tartly responded. She rolled her eyes at me.
In the back of my head I was secretly taken aback by the ferocity of her taunt. I proceeded to get out of line, grab a plastic spoon and ask the Brussels sprout bitch for a bite (this was a silly act of bravado). Little did she know I had a napkin in the other hand, to spit it out and hide the Brussels sprouts if the need arose. My inner 10-year old boy was jumping out of my psyche, angry that I was about to put Brussels sprouts into my mouth.
The wine and vinaigrette enhanced the flavors of the Brussels sprouts and opened up my taste buds to enjoy this wonderful pairing of flavors. The capers and onions provided a subtle pungent, saltines to the flavor profile. It looks like the sprouts were first flash fried to cook and crisp the leaves. Next, they were hot tossed with vinaigrette, red wine, capers, onions and herbs. The sprouts were tender and juicy; yet, they retained a crunchy texture.My “Brussels sprout hating inner child” was exorcised and I found myself ordering my own plate of Brussels sprouts. I ended up using the secret napkin to wipe my face and thanked the nice lady for sharing. I am giving the Brussels sprouts 4.75 out of 5, for near perfect execution of flavors and textures. Extra points were given for converting me into a Brussels sprout lover.
Pork Belly Reuben Slider
This dish is composed of a fluffy brioche bun, a generous slab of grilled pork belly, Swiss cheese, and homemade sauerkraut and a creamy Russian dressing. The star of this slider is the pork belly. Pork belly is similar to bacon, but cut higher from the slab resulting in a meatier cut. The pork belly is cooked fat side down; as a result the meat is crisped under its own fat and topped with melting Swiss cheese.
When I took a bite of the slider, I had to open my mouth open wide. My teeth pierced the bun and into crisped meat, molten Swiss cheese, tangy sauerkraut and creamy Russian dressing. As I chewed, the flavors of lush sweet/savory flavors from the meat and cheese mixed with the sweet/vinegary flavors of the sauce and sauerkraut. This dish was obviously constructed with a balance of flavors in mind. An incredible dish when you feel like ordering something on the heavier side. I am giving this dish 4.0 out of 5.
My Final thoughts
The Home Skillet Truck represents the future of the food truck scene, professional Chefs breaking into the gourmet food truck circuit. Chef Morisoli modernizes classic American comfort food by giving them a foodie centric twist. The home skillet truck cooks with love and it shows in quality, presentation and taste. I am giving the home skillet truck an overall score of 4.25, a very high score. Home Skillet represents one of the food trucks who will force other trucks to elevate their game or lose customers.
Visit Home Skillet’s Website: www.homeskillettruck.com
Home Skillet’s Facebook: www.facebook.com/homeskillettruck
Home Skillet’s Twitter: www.twitter.com/homeskillettrk
Home Skillet’s Yelp Review: http://www.yelp.com/biz/home-skillet-truck-orange-county
Special Thanks to one of the better food photographers I know, Anne Watson. Thanks for spicing up my blog post with your amazing photographs. Visit Anne Watson’s Photography Page: www.annewatsonphoto.com.
Email Tom is you want to chat about Food Trucks or the Southern California Food Scene [email protected]
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