Monday, July 2, 2018

Quinceanera

Some thoughts.

I dropped my daughter of at her friend's Quinceanera on a farm deep in Oxnard. I was just walking her in and then I was going to exit, but as I was walking out, I heard the grandmother call to me, "Get yourself some tacos!" That, of course, sounded like a fine idea, and I went over to the taco man and had a plate-three tacos, a quesadilla, rice and beans. Most of the party guests were inside, so I found a table outside and watched the crowd.

The Quinceanera was being held inside an old wooden barn, which was decorated with flowers and lights. The barn, if I had to guess, was at least 100 years old, and looked it, but with the ranchero and other Mexican music blasting, and lots of people young and old both inside and out,  it was a lively affair. The farm was in the middle of many fields, and really out in the rural part of Oxnard.

My daughter is a coconut, and that's mostly because I'm a coconut, too. We didn't have a quincenera for her, because that's not what we do. I'm glad she gets invited to them, though.

This one was interesting in that the girl who was being celebrated was only half Mexican. I guess my daughter is too, but she has the dark hair, eyes and skin that betrays my side of the family. Her friend has fair hair and skin, and a 'white' surname.

The crowd had a fair mix of ethnicities, which is good, and everyone was dancing and posing for selfies. As I ate my tacos, with the upcoming 4th of July, I was left thinking that this is what America is-the melting pot of cultures, and everyone is an American.

I seem to be much more race aware than my children, which I think is good. They're colorblind in ways that I try to be-as we all should be.

Now back to Oxnard to pick my daughter up.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Limon y Sal

Limon y Sal
598 E. Main
Ventura CA  93001


My wife and I would pop into the old Watermark for Happy Hour snacks and cocktails. It was a classy setting, with a 1920's, art-deco vibe that we enjoyed while sitting at the bar, and the food and drinks were served quickly and everyone was friendly. We always said that we should go for dinner sometime, but never made it.

Then the placed closed.

The owners of El Pescador bought the place and reopened as an upscale Mexican restaurant, Lim√łn y Sal

So first, I must confess that I've never eaten a meal here. But it's a great place for margarita's, and Margarita Monday is a great time to come. On several occasions, groups of friends and I have enjoyed appetizers and cocktails on their beautiful rooftop bar. It overlooks the roofs, mostly, but Main Street, the hillside, and the ocean as well. There is something special about being up high and enjoying a cocktail. The old Watermark bar is still downstairs, and it's rich art-deco flourishes make it a classy place to sit, but here in Ventura, the rooftop just seems better. The roof is enclosed, but with the ability to open and shut many doors and windows, depending on the weather.

The art-deco vibe is still in place, but with that is a reminder of the dark woods that I remember in the Mexican restaurants of East L.A. that my father would take us to when I was growing up. The food always smells good, and there's usually a crowd.

Friday and Saturday nights the joint is generally jumping, with lines going outside, so I've never been on those nights. Midweek is still kind of crowded, but the service on the rooftop bar is generally quick, and comes with chips and salsa. On my last visit, there was a dj as well as big screen tv's showing both the Dodgers and the World Cup. There are always signs in for Rico and Mambo, morning jocks on a local hip-hop station, who make regular appearances, as well as occasional mariachis. 

A good, margarita vibe.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Wexler's Deli / Blue Bottle Coffee






Several entries mention pastrami. I like pastrami, and good pastrami is hard to find.


Often, if pastrami is not cooked well, it is chewy and bland. Sometimes, it'll be chewy and way too salty, and it's very salty if I say it's too salty. Or, I'll order it, and it'll be just a couple of pieces on bland bread, and still very expensive.

Pastrami is expensive, more so than just a burger, so if I'm ordering it, I want it to be good.

Recently, I was at the Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles, and decided that pastrami would be a good call. So, after circling the premises, I decided to try Wexler's.

Wexler's occupies a counter space in the center of the market, and after watching the guy in the back for a few minutes, I went ahead and placed my order for the O.G., a basic pastrami on rye. The reason I watched the guy is something I learned while watching a video on Langers Deli, (another great pastrami place), and that's if they're cutting with a machine, or just making a bunch of parallel cuts by hand, you end up with some really chewy pastrami. A good deli guy will cut against the grain, and to do that, you need to spin the meet on the cutting board at different points to stay against the grain, and that's what the deli guy was doing.

I took my seat at the counter-I really wanted to sit at the counter, although there were tables near by. The counter just seemed right for eating pastrami, and my order actually came up pretty quick. It came a pickle and either cole slaw or potato salad-I went with the slaw. The pickle was crisp and the slaw a bit tart, both very good. The sandwich, too, was solid. Not too much salt, a bit of smokey flavor, not chewy, everything that I could have hoped for. A good lunch choice.


 After, I though a bit of coffee would be nice, so I went over to the Bradbury Building, (one of the premier architectural buildings in the city, seen in many movies and T.V. Shows), and had the pour over coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee. 
I want to say that I liked it. At twice the cost of Starbucks, I really want to say that it was a transcendent experience that no coffee drinker should miss. But, frankly, it wasn't. It wasn't bad, mind you, but it wasn't worth twice what I would normally pay. The place looked nice, though.



Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Ventura Spirits Company

I'm really beginning to enjoy Groupon. I don't use it often, but every now and then, something comes up that I want to try. In Vegas a few years back, I used it for tickets to Zombie Burlesque, (for the adults) and Nathan Burton Comedy Magic, (for the family), both well worth it. I've used it for Red Tandem Brewery last year, which I was thankful for because I now know that I won't likely head back there. I've used it for Gloria's Kitchen (one of my first entries, from 1/13/13, before I knew how to put pictures up), which I go to no matter what.

But when I saw a Groupon for Ventura Spirits Company, I was ecstatic. I knew it was there, but I had never tried any of their spirits, and I didn't know they had a tasting room. I bought it, mentioned it to a friend who bought one also, and suddenly it was couples night.

Located way up on the Avenues, in the basement of an old factory space, the distillery is a bit out of the way. It is, however, right off the Ventura River Trail bike path, if you happen to be out riding. Inside, it is very much a small scale, small batch kind of place, and there is a short, interesting tour led by James, one of the four owners.  He explained how they went about making their own still, and how they've repurposed various items to suit their needs. James mentioned that when it's bottling time, everyone in their distillery, plus family and friends, touch every bottle in some way.

James also discussed how they get their fruit for alcohol, and the types of alcohol they're making. Their alcohol is fruit based, and their fruit comes from local fields.

And as a reward for being good on the tour, there is the tasting!

The tasting room is a result in a change in their license, and has been open for about a year. Henry, another owner, was pouring each spirit, and then he also mixed a couple of simple cocktails to show how to use the alcohol. It's only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The actual tasting room space is quite small, being the former office of the distillery, and the eight or so other people there pretty much filled up the room.

I'm not much of a gin drinker, but I did like their gin. They also had two types of vodka, both of which I liked. There was a subtle flavor difference between the two, but too subtle for me to understand how one would work better for a martini then the other. My favorite, though, was the Opuntia, made with prickly pear, which means it is a close cousin of tequila. I thought it was very smooth, like a good tequila should be, and I could see how it would brighten up a margarita.

The whole adventure took about an hour, after which (since it was date night), we all headed to Lalos, just a few minutes away.

James mentioned that the goal was to open a restaurant at some point, and to have limited run spirits (the Persimonn Brandy was only available in the tasting room on this trip) in the tasting room, a reason to return. Also, if you buy a bottle there, they'll let you do a tasting for free.

I brought home a bottle of Opuntia, and I'm looking forward to using it for a margaritas on the rocks this summer.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Beacon Coffee

Poseidon Brewery, right next door!
A friend once told me that this was the perfect set-up. She’d spend a Saturday Morning coming here to Beacon Coffee , and getting her java fix, then hit the cross-fit gym next door for  a good sweat, and after a couple of hours there, close it all out at Poseidon Brewery, for some recovery carb loading.

I don’t do cross-fit myself, but if there were a run or swim involved, it might work for me.

I’ve talked about Beacon Coffee in other places on this blog. A few of the coffee shops in town brew it, (See my posts on Kays' and Palermo), and I certainly prefer it to Santa Barbara Roast, the other larger local coffee purveyor.

I don’t often get to the place where they actually roast the coffee. It’s located in a storefront of a business park behind the Ventura Auto Center and close to Buenaventura Golf Course. But it is worth the trip. There are five tables in the dining area, and the smell of roasting coffee permeates the premises, even when coffee isn’t being roasted.

If you’re staying, they’ll top off your cup with the coffee of the day. On this visit, it’s some sort of Guatemalan thing that is a bit bright with a hint of citrus-that’s what the young hipster (glasses, longish hair, tan long sleeve shirt, Patagonia puffy jacket) guy said who topped off my cup. Whatever it was, though my preference is generally for dark, it was good. A nice, flavorful cup of coffee.

They usually have some pastries from their Ojai branch, and they’ll do espressos, macchiato, chai teas and mochas. The same person who told me about her Saturday morning dream routine also swears by their “Cold Brew Nitro,” which I’ve tried, but I like my coffee hot, even, strangely, on hot days.

The early 60’s era Rolling Stones playing is a nice touch, too. They also sell bags of coffee, coffee brewing equipment (no drip coffee-makers here!), t-shirts, and bags.

Coffee, two sugars and cream, and I’m very happy. Good coffee here.

On a side note, one of the Poseidon brewers just walked in and said they’re expanding next door, and experimenting with more brews. Poseidon is my favorite of the local breweries, but the seating area is generally full if you don’t get there early, so I'm looking forward to that change.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

VenTiki II

Let's start with this-I like VenTiki. I like the look and feel of the place. I like the vibe from the employees, and the idea of tiki lounge and lanai in the beach city that I live in. The place goes well with my collection of Aloha shirts and ukuleles, and I really, really, want to like the drinks.


And that's the issue. The drinks are not cheap, and I find the drinks to be, well, something to drink. You might make a case that I'm drinking the wrong drinks, and that might be true. But with VenTiki, I've ordered drinks based on a few things. I know that I like rum and whiskey. I'm okay with tequila and vodka, but don't really care for gin. So using that bit of information, I stick with rum, whiskey, tequila and vodka based drinks, and VenTiki has several of those. And then I check the name. A good name-like say "The Alter of Sacrifice", should lead to a good drinking experience.

But it doesn't quite seem to. The drinks are generally a bit too much of something-usually sweet, but interestingly, occasionally too strong.  And you'd think too strong would be a good thing, but this is a cocktail bar, and I'm ordering a cocktail, not a shot.

Yes, the drink is on fire!
The food on my last visit was better than before, and generally seems to be improving, so that's a good thing. It's fun food, but not great food. And your really only ordering food to have something in your hand between cocktails.

There's always a crowd, and I'd be lying if I said my complaints were enough to keep me away. The outside sitting area is comfortable, and they'll light the heaters on cold nights, as well as keep the fire pit going. The inside bar area is tiny, so outside is the place to be. I'd recommend going on Tsunami Tuesday for the all day Happy Hour, and bring friends. I also like their gift shop next door, but I can't quite figure out when they're open-the gift shop hours seem to be a bit random.

And if you get the $25 Mai-Tai, it comes in a custom VenTiki mug!

I really haven't blogged much lately, and I'd forgotten that I wrote about VenTiki back in 2014, when they first opened. My opinion hasn't changed, and like I said, I'd go back again.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tamales Alberto, Echo Park






I've been writing a book about a guy from Echo Park in the '40's, and though nothing may come of it-I've tried to write books before and nothing has come of them-I have an idea and a timeline, and now I just have to get it all done.

So I've walked Echo Park a few times since the summer, and what I'm seeing is a neighborhood in transition, what was a somewhat frightening part of town in the 80's now being filled with both hipsters and homeless. I'm getting good ideas and background for my book, and that's all good. Maybe in a few years, I'll have it finished and my blog will be looked at as my early writings, and isn't it obvious how talented I am. Or not.

I was hungry as I walked the area last week, and I was going to go to a food truck that I'd seen every time I was there. It's always crowded and smelled pretty good, but when I walked up to check it out, I noticed that the health inspector gave it a 'B'. I'm not opposed to eating someplace with a 'B', but something has been bothering my stomach the last few weeks, and I didn't feel like risking it.

I continued on, and noticed Tamales Alberto. They had other items on their menu, and since I'm not a big tamale fan, I figured I'd try something else.

I walked into the small dining area and up to the register, ready to order a burrito, which I saw on the menu. I noticed a tray of tamales, and they smelled good, but I still wasn't planning on buying one.

I should mention why I'm not a tamale fan. My wife buys them, and I'll eat them, but I always find them a bit dry. Sometimes they're too spicy, sometimes they're nothing but masa, and sometimes they just aren't good. There's a tamale man who comes through my neighborhood from time to time, and we usually buy, but mostly because he seems very nice. I'm never sure what he's going to have, and there's nothing that I feel I really want. For Christmas this year, we bought some tamales from somewhere in Oxnard, and they just weren't good at all.

Tamales, I could take 'em or leave 'em.

I was hungry, though, and they had a place to sit down, so I picked out two, pork with red sauce and pineapple.

The pork with red sauce was excellent! The masa was moist, with a strong corn flavor. There was a good amount of pork, and the red sauce had a hint of heat.

Then the pineapple...I had a flash back to being an 8 year old boy. My grandparents on my Father's side had a place that they liked going to, but I don't know where it was. They would bring back tamales for my family once in a while-I think my father liked them, but I don't remember now. I was a little, fat kid who didn't like anything spicy, so they would bring me sweet tamales. I seem to remember those have cinnamon and raisins, and weren't spicy at all.

This pineapple reminded me of that. The corn tasted almost like a cornbread, and with the pineapple, it started to take on the qualities of a pineapple upside down cake. It was great!

So after devouring both (with a can of Coke), I decided to have one more. I went for the chicken mole. The mole had a bit of heat and a bit of sweet, and it soaked into the masa, spreading the heat/sweet combination into every bite. The chicken also picked up some of the mole flavor. Another excellent tamale.

And I was out under $10.