Thursday, September 17, 2009

My eating and drinking adventures

So, you probably knew this already, but I absolutely love what I do. I don't make much money (heck - some of my writing is practically for free) but my joy is sky high. For the VC Reporter I write restaurant reviews every few weeks; and for the quarterly magazine Edible Ojai, I just started writing the Edible Notes column. I get to research new foods, places, restaurants, products, books, movies (pretty much anything food or drink related in Ventura County) and then I get to write about it.

Yesterday, I had yet another great opportunity to expand my taste horizons. This time it was Ventura Limoncello, a handcrafted lemon liqeur that is made right here in Ventura on Palma Drive. Imagine your grandma's best homemade lemonade married with a hint of Italy and the grown-up sophistication and kick of pure grain alcohol.

Lemon peel is steeped with pure grain alcohol for a set period of time, filtered, and then mixed with sugar and water to make this delicious liquid. Limoncello originated on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, and is traditionally served ice cold as an after dinner drink. Yet, there are a number of local chefs taking this sweet drink to a whole new, and sometimes savory, level. The Chef at Brooks restaurant does limoncello mussels, and the Chef at the Crowne Plaza makes a limoncello vinaigrette and a limoncello creme brulee. While I may not make anything quite as grand, I'm definitely looking forward to integrating it into both my cooking and my cocktailing. Stories and recipes to follow.

I also got the chance to visit the Knead Baking Company in Ojai. Intrigued by the mother-daughter pair that own this bakery and cafe, I'm writing a story on them for Ventana Monthly Magazine. While they have been selling their bread at the Ojai Farmers Market for a few years now, their storefront location is fairly new. They greet customers like old friends; and sitting there sipping my coffee, I felt like I was sitting in someone's kitchen.

High ceilings, lots of windows, tangerine colored walls, and light colored wood accents give the space an airy and comfy feel. Their baked goods are both pleasing to the eye and the taste-buds. My friend and I sampled a chocolate croissant- crisp and filled with a warm layer of chocolate hazelnut spread. The quiche of the day was built with a perfectly thick and crispy crust, and filled with potatoes, bacon, and lots of fresh dill. The cheddar dill scone was dense and full of flavor. Knead is definitely striking a perfect balance between high quality fresh food and a sense of environmental responsibility (serving organic coffee, selling reusable market bags, etc.) without a bit of pretension, making this a refreshing stop for a coffee, a sweet treat, or a full meal.

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