New Adventures in Local Dining

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by Viktor Budnik


ring your appetite this month, because we’re serving up a tasty Food and Beverage issue for July/August! Yes, we’ve gotten away from the Food and Wine theme, because it felt too limiting, especially with beer, cider and cocktail culture enjoying such a vibrant renaissance. There’s plenty of room in this area for the grape and the grain (not to mention all the other wonderful foods available here), and we’ve happily embraced both.

And just to clarify: Yes, Ventana Monthly still loves wine! So does Neil Conway, a Ventura-based wine expert who has played a large role in making Hozy’s Grill in Santa Paula a top destination for oenophiles. Conway shared some thoughts on wine, food, the evolving palate and more in a fascinating Conversation.

Like Hozy’s, La Dolce Vita, a charming Italian restaurant in Oxnard’s historic Heritage Square, is a lovely spot for a nice glass of wine. For something stronger, head downstairs to its newly remodeled lounge, 1901 Speakeasy. As the name suggests, an era gone by is definitely the driving narrative here, and Jared Krupp, the man behind the handsomely refurnished bar (who looks like a throwback to the Roaring Twenties himself), will be happy to serve you some classic cocktails that hearken back to Prohibition. He shares these vintage recipes — some with a more modern twist — in our Cover Story. 

The hottest news coming out of Ojai these days is the Farmhouse at Ojai Valley Inn. This culinary and event space takes food tourism to a new level, with a wide variety of cooking classes offered by people who aren’t just experts in their fields, but are some of the most recognizable names among today’s famous foodies. Suzanne Tracht (Jar), Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill) and even Phil Rosenthal (Somebody Feed Phil) have all popped in. Much of the Farmhouse’s prestige comes via Culinary Ambassador Nancy Silverton, founder of La Brea Bakery. We’re lucky she’s gracing our county with her presence and prowess (and fantastic connections), and she talks about what she’s got cooking in Ojai in About Town. 

This month we also turn a spotlight on two local chefs who’ve been bringing some sizzle of their own. Chefs Abdu Romero of Slate Bistro and Julia San Bartolome of Sweet Arleen’s took top honors in the Yummie Culinary Competition at this year’s Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food and Brew Festival. We find out why they built careers in the kitchen in Profile.

Top chefs, wine and wisdom, brushes with fame, time travel in a glass . . . in Ventura County, every dish tells a story — and every meal is an opportunity for adventure. That’s what’s on our menu this month, at least, and we hope you’ll find it as delectable as we do.


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