Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Shout out to Trader Joe's, with a nod to Ventura's Fresh and Easy

As most of you probably know by now, Ventura has just been blessed with the opening of its first Fresh and Easy Market on the corner of Telegraph and Day Road. I can't say too much about it because I haven't had many chances to shop there yet. But, I was pleased with their selection, thought some of their prices were very reasonable (Nathan's hotdogs for $3.99!), and liked the look of the store. The self checkout - not my favorite - especially when you've got little kids who like to press buttons and don't understand the weight sensitive area thing. But, I do absolutely adore the fact that people shopping with young kids (yes, that would be me all frizzy-haired and frazzled trying to squeeze my weekly shopping in between work and a playdate at the park) get to park right in front of the store.

Anyway, I have found myself wondering about the impact on Trader Joe's and their business. But, knowing Joe and his loyal following, he's probably doing just fine thank you very much and probably wouldn't want us doting on him and worrying about his well-being. But still, I wanted to share one of my favorite, super easy recipes which I made this week in his honor. It's for Eggplant Parmesan Pasta, and it hails from Cooking with all things Trader Joe's, a cookbook dedicated to recipes using only ingredients from Joe's.

1 - 24 ounce package Roasted Eggplant Parmesan (found in the refrigerated, prepared foods section of TJ's)
3 cups farfalle or any pasta
1 TBL fresh basil or parsley

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain. While pasta is cooking heat eggplant parmesan according to package directions. Cut eggplant into bite-size pieces (I cut it while still still in the container with the cheese and sauce) . Do not discard any sauce or cheese. Stir together the pasta and the eggplant parmesan cheese and sauce mixture. Garnish with basil or a sprinkle of parmesan. Mangia!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ventura Wedding Cakes galore

During the process of working on my story about wedding cake trends in the VC Reporter Wedding guide, I came across some truly awe-inspiring wedding cakes made right here in the Ventura area. Since they couldn't all fit into the article, I wanted to share some of my favorites here. In the photo above is a completely unique Nightmare Before Christmas Topsy Turvy Cake made by Siblings Bakery.

Siblings Bakery, Pillow Cake.

Knead Baking Company, Stacked poundcake with minimal icing.

Knead Baking Company, top-iced cake with strawberries.

Siblings bakery, Sea Urchin Cake.

Knead Baking Company, fruit decorated cake.

Jana's Creative Cakes, Black on white contrast cake.

LaStarr&Company, Damask Cake.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Local Stars doing way cool things

WeddingWire, the nation’s leading wedding technology company, just announced that Ventura's own LaStarr & Company has been selected to receive the WeddingWire 2010 Bride’s Choice Awards™ for Wedding Cakes.

According to the press release, "The annual Bride’s Choice Awards recognizes and celebrates excellence in quality and service within the wedding industry, as determined by recent reviews and extensive surveys from over 500,000 newlyweds... LaStarr & Company is among the top five percent of all vendors in the WeddingWire community, which includes over 100,000 wedding professionals across the US and Canada." Stay tuned for my story on Ventura wedding cake trends in the upcoming bridal issue of the VC Reporter coming out next week.

And on a completely different note, even though their farm stand is closed for the winter, McGrath Farm is hardly hibernating. They have begun partnering with local restaurants to start a Conscious Oil Collection Program. With help from California Bio-Diesel they are able to take the restaurants' waste vegetable oil and turn it into clean-burning Bio-Diesel that fuels their farm equipment. There are quite a few restaurants with whom they hope to launch this program but, for now they are giving shout-outs to Sage Restaurant, Fraiche, and Real Food Daily.

And, its almost CSA time again at McGrath Family farm - and this year, based on customers' requests for more fruit, they have decided to partner with other farmers to create a CSA box that offers more seasonal diversity. The program starts on March 23rd, so sign up now. Also, mark your calendar for their Spring Grand Opening on March 17th from 4-8pm. If it's anything like last year's, there will be food and music and lots of down home fun.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Whether you're 2 or 92, you're gonna love this place!

Meet Rocket of the newest additions to downtown Ventura, and the only one jam packed with sugar and fun galore.

This unique store with an old-fashioned feel is outfitted with shiny corrugated metal walls, vintage posters, and more treats than any six year old could ever imagine. It is filled with over 500 sodas including Dr. Brown's Celray (a vegetable based soda) and flavors like key lime cream soda, honey blood orange (made with real honey), banana flavored soda, and Oregon marionberry. They also carry a selection of domestic and imported waters, sparkling fruit drinks, and uniquely flavored teas. All come in glass bottles, guaranteed to take you back to the good old days.

Their over the top candy selection includes saltwater taffy in attention grabbing flavors like coconut, pomegranate, apple pie, and cherry cola. Think Wonka bars, pop rocks, candy buttons, bubble gum cigars, and you're starting to grasp what this store is all about.

Rocket Fizz
105 South Oak Street, Ventura
(805) 641-1222