Sunday, July 21, 2013

California's Gold 2: Texifornia Tamale Co


Texifornia's Taco Trio
For Huell.

The term "fusion cuisine" has been beaten into a dead horse, particularly in its birthplace of California. I can't count the number of times I've cringed at the sight of the word fusion in the name of a near-empty restaurant during lunch or dinner hour, wondering how much the sign had cost and how marketable it must have felt to owners who didn't realize that they may as well have named their restaurant "Da Bomb".

First popularized in the 1960s at Chef Richard Wing's Imperial Dynasty restaurant in Hanford, CA by combining Chinese and French cooking, fusion is any combination of elements from two or more culinary traditions. Like any cooking style, it has produced beauty and knock-offs. You know the types: Tex-Mex, Asian Fusion, California Cuisine, and on.

When it's right, it's right. No matter how played out the term or its trappings of angular plates and mico-portions, the proof is in the product. Good cooking doesn't require a show.

High in the San Bernardino Mountains, in the sleepy "Gateway to Lake Arrowhead" known as Blue Jay, CA is where a great example of fusion without the frills can be found at Texifornia Tamale Co. Combining the traditions of Texas BBQ and Mexican cuisine in a setting that could pass as the dining hall at a summer camp, the Smith family and Executive Chef Mario Huidor are doing fusion fresh and right.

Slow-Smoked Angus Brisket Tamales, Smoked Seafood Chile Relleno, and Smoked Pork Tacos are just a few of the flavorful wonders produced fresh daily by the Smiths' tiny kitchen. They do organic whenever possible. They don't just give you beans and rice. They give you great beans and rice. It's all win.

Yes, they use angular plates and bowls. I've never asked the Smiths why, but I see it, in that small-town-summer-camp setting, as a bit of fun.

My personal favorite item is the Taco Trio, featuring a choice of three smoked brisket, ancho pork, or shredded poblano chicken tacos, (I get the standard one-of-each), with their delicious rice and beans for $8.50. The portions are not fusion-tiny either. It's a satisfying meal. The house-made lemonade and great beer selections help the food go down.

It's out of nearly everyone's way, but the beauty of of the San Bernardino National Forest and Lake Arrowhead round out a worthwhile drive up the mountain. There's shopping, summer concerts and boat rides at Lake Arrowhead Village to consider as well.

Explore California's Gold this summer. It's how Huell would want it.

Texifornia Tamale Co.
27226 State Highway 189,
Blue Jay, CA 92317