While I’ve eaten food from the MOE Deli truck, I was intrigued that Owner/Chef Michael Israel would consider doing a weekly pop-up called ‘Fress’ at Wine Expo in Santa Monica. Through my infatuation with food trucks, I’ve been watching MOE Deli because I thought Michael Israel’s culinary experience would evolve the truck’s menu into something greater.
Michael Israel is currently one of four chefs competing on Food Network’s Chopped. Last Sunday, Aug 18, Michael completed against 3 other chefs and won! I’m happy for him because he’s going to use the money to take his wife to Israel!
After Michael graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, he worked at Zoë in the SoHo area of New York. He also worked a number of years at the Thomas Keller’s restaurant, Per Se in New York. Michael attributes much of his knowledge to the time he spent at Per Se. He met his wife, Emily, in New York and they both decided to relocate to Southern California.
Some food truck events lack chairs and tables and I was happy that Wine Expo has comfortable seating inside their wine bar. Shortly after I sat down, I received two truffle potato knishes. While these were not on the pre-fixe menu, Michael prepares this complimentary appetizer for those that select his pre fixe menu. Despite not being able to eat them immediately after I received them, they were still hot and quite tasty.
The Weiser Family Melon salad was served next. If you are not familiar with Weiser Family Farms, they feature high quality and great tasting produce grown using sustainable farming techniques. Cubes of honeydew and cantaloupe were mixed with Persian cucumbers and feta cheese with a mint and lemon vinaigrette. The combination of flavors was amazing. It was so good that I thought about trying to make that at home.
Red wine braised short ribs over a beet-orange puree followed. The short ribs were extremely flavorful, tender and not fatty. Michael confided that having the ribs sit in the sauce for an extra 2 hours after the heat has been turned off prevents the meat from becoming dry. The beet and orange juice puree provided a colorful contrast on the plate and was an excellent alternative to mashed potatoes.
The other entrée, Alaskan cod, was simply seasoned with kosher salt and pepper and was cooked to perfection. It was extremely crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. It was also accompanied with their beet-orange puree and crispy fingerling potatoes.
I ended up dining at the bar inside Wine Expo. I started with the Badia Corti Orvieto Classico Abboccato 2011, from Umbria Italy. This Italian white wine is a blend that is mostly made from Trebianno grapes. It was very clean and crisp. I thought it paired well with the potato knish and particularly, the melon salad.
I switched to a red Italian varietal: Valle Martello Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Prima Terra ‘07, Italy. This was an extremely dark bold red with a great nose. I thought it was an excellent wine to enjoy with the short ribs.
Coconut bread pudding was served for dessert. The coconut bread pudding was in the form of 3 cubes with a generous side of 5 spiced whipped cream. After biting into it, I realized that it was piping hot. I loved the fact that it was ultra crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. It made for the perfect ending to a wonderful meal.
When I asked Michael for his inspiration behind Fress, he said that he wanted to expand the repertoire of MOE Deli. Further he wanted to elevate his food and serve food that is wine friendly. Their attention is extremely focused on Fress as well as Chopped TV series. Michael’s desire is to make Fress as good as it could possibly be.
Co-owner, Emily, and John were on also on hand. John was attentive and extremely polite and was very knowledgeable about the food being served as well as the preparation. Michael’s wife Emily, handles the marketing which includes MO Deli and Fress websites as well as the social media.
Michael exudes so much passion for his craft. Because of that, his food is sourced from quality suppliers and carefully prepared. I had the opportunity to watch him cook and prepare the food inside his truck and I was impressed at the level of attention he gave each dish.
Even if you don’t enjoy wine, I highly recommend you give Fress a try. Their 3 course pre-fixe meal is an incredible deal!
- Fress pop-up dinner