Friday, June 25, 2010

Lots to love at Limoneira

Until this week, I had no clue that so much goes on over at Limoneira. This place, which I thought was just a big lemon orchard in Santa Paula, is really more like a town (they even have their own post office and fire station). They do tours, host weddings and events, have their own skincare line (Limoneira Lifestyles), and will take you on a hot air balloon ride if you want.

Here are some interesting facts about Limoneira:
  • They grow produce on 7,000 acres of land in California; Sunkist markets it and sells it all over, from your neighborhood Vons store to high end restaurants in Japan.
  • They utilize solar power (6400 solar panels to be exact) to run their lemon packing plant.
  • A group of English miniature sheep graze under the solar economical and cute way to keep the grass from getting too tall.
  • While you may know Limoneira for their lemons, they also grow oranges, avocados, and even pistachios.
  • They love to do tours...even for school groups. And you can play bocce ball on one of 12 bocce courts while you're there!

Limoneira has even partnered with Chef Jason Collis from Jonathan's, and they are doing "Blues, Barbeque, and Bocce" every Sunday this summer. There's live music, plenty of space for playing bocce, beer, wine, and beautiful scenery everywhere you look. Above you'll see some of the decadent food he served us out in the avocado orchard this week, including ice cold lemonade and refreshing lemon bars.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Best thing I ate this week: Filet at the Sidecar

Isn't this just about the prettiest thing you've ever seen? A thick filet of beef, sitting pretty atop creamed spinach, yukon gold potatoes, and a puddle of port wine sauce. This was the best thing I put in my mouth this week, by far. And it all happened at The Sidecar Restaurant under the watchful and skilled eye of one of my favorite local chefs, Tim Kilcoyne. The filet, which I like to order medium rare, was tender with just the right amount of pink and the outside was perfectly caramelized and peppery.

Now to tell you the truth, the reason I ordered the filet is because of the creamed spinach. When done right, this is the ultimate comfort food. So when I see it on a restaurant menu, especially a restaurant as good as the Sidecar, I rarely pass it up.

Rather than creaming his spinach in a thick and heavy bechamel, Chef Tim likes to keep it simple. The spinach is blanched and then mixed with a decadent sauce made with heavy cream, and then finished with a bit of butter just to make sure you never forget it. And even though only a small amount comes on the plate with the filet, here I am three days later, still thinking about it. The combo of the filet, the creamy spinach, the thick potatoes and the sweet port wine sauce was Oscar worthy.

And in case you just love looking at pictures of memorable food, this is what we had for dessert. Above is the Sidecar bread pudding, made with their homemade bread and finished with a caramel tangerine sauce. Below was the dessert special of the day, a fresh blackberry shortcake. Chef Tim Kilcoyne got the berries from Old Creek Ranch Winery around 4pm, and here they are on my plate around 9pm. The shortcakes were sweet, the berries the epitome of summertime, and the whip cream infused with the flavor of the blackberries as well.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Food Happenings this month

Cafe Fiore is offering 30% off any bottle of wine this Sunday (Father's Day), June 20th. Call 653-1266 to make your reservation.

Check out the Wine and Wishes event at the Ventura Wine Company on Sunday, June 27th from 2-5pm. They will be pouring tastes of over 100 of their favorite wines, alongside small bites prepared by their chef, Gary Daniel. The cost is $55 per person, and $30 of each ticket will go to the local chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The Sidecar Restaurant is celebrating local food yet again with their Rio Gozo Farm dinner on Wednesday June 30th. This four Course meal costs $45 per person, plus tax and gratuity. This menu is available in addition to their regular dinner menu from 5pm-9pm. Farmers will be on hand to talk about their farms and produce! Reservations are recommended.

This week, their big carrots are half-off. Now, normally, I wouldn't get really excited about carrots, but they put this recipe in their weekly newsletter, and its got me thinking. I just might need to play hooky from work, drive down there right now, and get me some carrots.

Roasted Carrot Salad
2 pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 (4 ounce) package crumbled Danish blue cheese
2 cups arugula

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Combine the carrots, almonds, and garlic in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread out onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake the carrots in the preheated oven until soft and the edges turn brown, about 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

Once cool, return the carrots to the mixing bowl, and drizzle with honey and vinegar; toss until coated. Add the cranberries and blue cheese; toss again until evenly mixed. Combine with the arugula and serve immediately.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Best thing I ate this week: Ferraro's Fried Rigoletti

Nothing beats Sunday dinner at a traditional Italian restaurant like Ferraro's in midtown Ventura. I really love this place- I love it because it isn't flashy or trendy or trying to be something that its not. It's totally old school, all the way down to the paper placemats, dinner plates, and, yes, grape wallpaper. And their food is on point.

The best thing I ate this week is their baked fried Italian rigoletti (above left). I've never had anything like it. The rigoletti (similar to a corkscrew noodle) are cooked al dente and then pan fried in olive oil until brown and crisp. The noodles are then tossed with steamed broccoli, topped with shredded cheese, and baked until the cheese melts. It comes with a side of marinara to pour over the whole affair. The rigoletti become crispy and a bit chewy - giving a normally plain noodle a whole new bite. Ferraro's has been around the block a few times, but for me, this is a totally new way to experience pasta. Ferraro's is located at 2788 East Main Street, Ventura. Phone: 648-7270.