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The Cut

 

ating and drinking. Along with breathing and a few unmentionables, they’re two of the most fundamental things we all share—“we” referring to nearly seven billion of us. It’s a serious thing, dining. And we happen to live in one of the world’s best places to do it.

Sounds like hyperbole, I know. But consider the surroundings: in one of only five Mediterranean climates on the planet, mountains drop into rich agricultural flatlands, with soil as good as anywhere, then reappear as islands teeming with seafood. Within an hour north or south we have an unparalleled collection of ethnic fare (you may not like L.A., but it’s a helluva place to eat) and some of California’s most highly regarded wine appellations. Not to mention our own coterie of fine wine producers (p. 14).

One of the hottest trends in the world of food is utilizing local, sustainable ingredients. For some places, that means wheat. Around here, we’re talking petite red abalone with a squeeze of Santa Paula lemon, Ojai squab with local spiny lobster jus. And don’t even get me started on Ventura County fruits and vegetables.

Chef Nic Manocchio (p. 26) of C-Street restaurant in Ventura knows what we’ve got. He’s one of a handful of local chefs to partner with area ranches, farms, and orchards—and now he’s teamed up with The Salvation Army, too, donating a meal for every entrée ordered through the end of July.

Deciding which articles make the cut each issue is an ongoing conundrum; that philanthropic hook snagged us. But truth be told, I was reticent to publish an interview with Nic. My wife and I like to sit oceanfront at the Aqua bar, adjacent to C-Street, which serves food from the same kitchen. We play a little game called, “What if we were in Santa Barbara?” Replace SB with virtually any location on the California coast and you’ll get the same answers: crowds, long waits for tables … and forget about that prime wave watching spot or the cozy seats by the fire pit. Here, we’re often alone. Oceanfront. And, yes, it is nice.

Reveling in obscurity is among the favorite pastimes of many of us living in western Ventura County. Perhaps the most obscure dining gem of all is buried in a Santa Paula industrial park. To be sure, there’s nothing hip or trendy about Hozy’s Grill (p. 38). This is a place for people who love to eat—and drink wine. In fact, it’s one of just ten restaurants in the county to receive a Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.

During breakfast and lunch, it occasionally gets busy. But dinner is when Hozy’s really shines, with an eclectic menu that, considering the multicultural influences, defines the hazy term “New American” cuisine. You’ll find everything from prime steaks to duck confit ravioli and crispy Catalina sanddabs. Topnotch food served amidst a refreshingly unpretentious scene. Actually, it’s not a scene at all. Just a straight-up good restaurant in a fabulously bizarre location.

One final tip: Before reading Ivor Davis’s article about fine cheeses in Downtown Ventura (p. 18), log on to YouTube.com and search “Monty Python Cheese Shop Sketch.” Cheers!

07-01-2009

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