Monday, May 26, 2014

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Santa Cruz Island aboard Island Packers Catamaran "Islander"  We chose the open upper deck which offered views in every direction.  The crew were polite and most knowledgeable and the Captain explained what we might see.
When we sighted a large pod of dolphins he slowed the ship so everyone could look and take photos.
And this was repeated when we sighted a group of whales and here we stayed some time as the whales surfaced, then dived and sprouts of misty water would show them again.
The trip from Ventura harbor to Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island is about 20 miles and takes one hour.  Many on the Islander were backpackers planning on spending some days on the Island.  We were among the day trippers.  We had about four and one half hours on the island before getting back to the pier at 3:45 p.m. for the return to Ventura.
There is a second landing place on Santa Cruz Island at Prisoner Cove and we plan to make a return visit, this time to see this other location.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

We first met the Moreno family when they operated a restaurant in Port Hueneme.  Now we met Cathie Moreno once again as Proprietor of The Kitchen located in downtown Oxnard.
In three and one half years since opening, The Kitchen has achieved fame for its outstanding presentation of craft beers to match its American menu.
Currently there are twelve draught and one hundred bottled beers.  We admire the talents of those that come up with the brand names for some of these brews.  A few that caught our eye were Heretic, Mother Earth, Dogfish Head and Magic Hat.
Our tasting of three draught brews included Mission Blend, an ale, Hod City's Barking Squirrel, a malt and a stout named Peanut Butter.  Cathie passed around some wonderful appetizers with the tasting.
The Kitchen is located at 529 South A Street in Oxnard and open seven days a week from 11 a.m.  For more information call 805 355-8980, on the web at

Saturday, May 24, 2014

One of the highlights of our stay at Mandalay Beach Resort in Oxnard was our dinner prepared for us by Tim Hulbert, Executive Chef, at this showplace Embassy Suites hotel.
First to arrive were a selection of southwest themed appetizers including Chicken Quesadilla, Baja spring rolls, Latin styles chicken wings and tamale stuffed rolls.
Our starter was a memorable lobster bisque.  Our entree a New York strip steak with roasted potatoes.
Others at our table with entrees like Linguini Primavera with chicken or Simply Fish.  The fish in this dish changes with what is currently in season and fresh.
Oxnard is the center of a large agriculture region famous for its fresh vegetables and Chef Hulbert takes full advantage of this by using the freshest seasonal ingredients in his cooking.
Then we were able to preview a new dessert featured at the Coastal Bar & Grill.  This is a metal rack offering several different desserts in small sizes including Molten cake, Creme Brulee, Key Lime Pie,  Banana Split and rockside Brownies.
Also special for Mandalay guests is the complimentary breakfast buffet with a full menu including to order omelets.
Mandalay Beach Resort is located at 2101 Mandalay Beach Road in Oxnard.  For reservations call 805 984-2500.  On the web at

Friday, May 23, 2014

Viva Italiano.  In Oxnard one evening our culinary experiences centered around Italian cuisine.  As one stop on a progressive dinner we discovered The Italian Job  Cafe.  It is located on the always popular Channels Islands Marina.
We met with General Manager Susan Smith who briefed us on the history of this delightful  dining establishment with both indoor and patio seating.
This was the last stop on our dining tour that evening which meant desserts,  all Italian and all made on premise.  These were presented to our group family style and included Tustin pie, Tarts, mousse cake and puff pastries stuffed with vanilla and chocolate cream.
There was also Gelato and Sorbetti.  There is no question that this restaurant presents authenic Italian cuisine.
The Italian Job Cafe is located at 2810 Harbor Blvd., Channel Islands Harbor.  It is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner with free off street parking.  For more information call 805 832-4945, on the web at

Thursday, May 22, 2014

We have enjoyed a long relationship with La Dolce Vita Restorante located in Oxnard's picturesque Heritage Square.  It is owned by Michelle Kenney whose family has operated restaurants in Oxnard for two generations
Besides its classic Italian and Mediterranean  fusion cuisine the original house dates back to 1901 offering a serene traditional dining experience.
Our dinner opened with a crispy fried calamari which we savored to the last bite.  Our entree a port loin stuffed with gorgonzola atop  roasted garlic mashed potatoes in a port wine reduction.  The portion was so generous we took half of it with us for further enjoyment later.  Our wine was a Santa Barbara Rancho Soquoc 2013 Sauvignon Blanc.
The menu is large and there are daily specials. There is a special lunch menu and the bar lounge offers a tapas menu and entertainment Thursday through Saturday with a daily Happy Hour.
La Dolce Vita is located at 740 South B Street in Heritage Square.  For more information call 805 486-6878, on the web at

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

First stop on our visit to Oxnard was the California Welcome Center, newly located at The Collection, the city's new enclave of retail stores, restaurants and entertainment facilities.
It is one of 17 Welcome Centers spaced the length of California.  It is unique in that it is the first to offer wine tasting from the local wineries.  The wineries represented are from Ventura County.
It is also the place to start if you wish to follow the Ventura County Wine Trail.  This trail now includes 16 wineries most located in Oxnard, Camarillo, Ventura and nearby Ojai.  Maps and othe rinformation about the Trail can be found at the Center.
Also the Center offers a unique tasting experience with the choice of wines,white and red, from eight of the local wineries.  Here we tasted two white wines and two red wines.
The California Welcome Center is located at 2786 Seagrass Way, Oxnard.  Telephone 805 385-7545.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Our delivering culinary arts scholarships for the Southern California  Restaurant Writers 'Doris Crandall Scholarship Fund, continued yesterday when we visited Riverside Community College.  There we met with Bob Moghaddam, director of the school's culinary arts program to present him with a check for student scholarships.
The college culinary arts program includes a cafe at the school manned completely by students both in the kitchen and dining room.
The cafe is open for breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and for lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday thru Friday.  It is open to the public.
Jim Woodin, president of the Writers, and I enjoyed an excellent lunch while meeting with Chef Bob. I opened with a very good tortilla soup, then  the baked cod with creamed spinach and oven browned potatoes.  And raspberry pie for dessert.  Prices are most modest and the quality and service outstanding.
The Cafe is located at 1155 Spruce Street in Riverside with free off street parking.  For more information call 951 955-2271.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It is always a pleasure to visit Valentino Restaurant in Santa Monica.  This restaurant has earned five stars as long as we can remember and is currently celebrating a 40th anniversary.  This visit was to attend the Vino California Grand Tasting which featured wines from some of Italy's most prominent vintners.
The wines represented many regions from north to south.  But for us it was an opportunity to direct our attention to the wines of Sicily.
Some of these wines now have the DOC Sicila label. It marks the 23rd DOC designation in Italy.  Our interest is somewhat proprietary since my maternal grandparents were from Sicily.
Valentino owner Piero Selvaggio was on hand to personally supervise the buffet of Italian specialties that was featured along with the many vintages.

Friday, May 9, 2014

It was a brief note in a news bulletin of Lucus & Lewellen Winery that alerted me to the opening of an exhibit at the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society Museum & Carriage House.  This new exhibit told the story of the early beginnings and growth of the wine industry in Santa Barbara County.
That was all the information we needed to arrange a visit with Chris Bashforth, director of the Museum.
The exhibit is entitled "Uncorked-- Evolution of Wine in the Santa Ynez Valley" and takes the visitor through the plantings of the first vineyards in the late 1800s to its huge presence today with 16,000 acres of vineyards and the many wineries with famous names.
Besides this exhibit we were awed with the scope of this museum and its other exhibits including the best collection of stagecoaches, buggies, wagons and carriages from the late 1800s that we have ever seen.  These are in the well named Carriage House.
The Museum is located at 3596 Saguntgo Street in Santa Ynez and is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.  Admission $4 for adults and free for children under 16.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

It is the season for me to present culinary arts student scholarships to community colleges in Southern California.  These scholarships are by the Doris Crandall Scholarship Fund of the Southern California Restaurant Writers.
These culinary arts scholarships have been presented by the Writers throughout its 40 year history.  Currently I am scholarship chairman for the Writers.
Yesterday I attended a Donor Appreciation Reception at San Bernardino Valley College at which time I presented this year's scholarship check.  Here I met Dr. Gloria Fisher, College Foundation president as well as Executive Chef Stacy Meyer who heads the culinary arts program at the college.
The college culinary arts program started eight years ago with less than a dozen students but has expanded to now having 350 students enrolled in the program.
The Writers, with scholarships, has supported this program since its inception.