Savor the Season

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by T Christian Gapen


trawberries, tomatoes, plums, melons, zucchini . . .. These fruits and vegetables are as synonymous with summer as sunshine and swimsuits, and here in Ventura County, we get some of the best. It’s a delicious time of year to be thinking with our stomachs, and the reason why our July/August issue is our annual celebration of food and drink. In these pages we take a culinary journey around the county (and beyond, in one instance) to get a taste of the amazing flavors beckoning from field, vine and branch.

Many a good meal begins at cocktail hour, and so we feature some wonderful drink recipes this month. We asked Ventura-based bartender Sara Beckton to shake up some magic in a glass, putting the bounty of the county to work in a collection of libations that are perfect for summer sipping.

If you prefer to uncork your summer celebrations, you might consider a trip up the 33 to Old Creek Ranch Winery. The winery has a lot of history, sitting as it does on land that was once part of a Spanish land grant. It’s changed hands a number of times, and the most recent owners spent three years renovating the place. The “new” Old Creek Ranch Winery reopened in April, with beautiful grounds and a stylish new tasting room.

In Moorpark you’ll find Apricot Lane Farms, the home of Molly and John Chester, who left Los Angeles for a life closer to nature. Their 200-plus acres are home to a variety of farm animals as well as avocado, lemon and stone fruit orchards. What the biodynamic farm produces feeds both body and creative spirit, as personal chef Molly relishes the opportunity to create delicious and healthy recipes from her homegrown ingredients — some of which she was kind enough to share with us.

Jarrett Chambers, executive baker of Ventura’s Café Ficelle, went to Paris in May to take part in La Fête du Pain, the prestigious baking festival and competition where the country’s top boulangers battle it out for the distinction of making the best baguette. For the first time, the United States sent a delegation to these “French Baking Olympics,” and Chambers and his cohorts got to strut their stuff in the big tent near Notre Dame, rising to the occasion to feed and entertain the crowd. He shares his experiences there, and talks about his love of bread and baking in a conversation that’s sure to whet the appetite.

I hope all the stories herein will do the same. We’re not just celebrating food, after all. We’re celebrating our food: the people who grow and prepare it, the culture that informs it, the way it brings us together. It nourishes us, body and soul, so dig in!


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