Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tatiana's Coffee & Tea, Ventura

Tatiana's Coffee and Tea
2470 E. Main Street
Ventura  CA 93003

My son came home a few weeks ago talking about a coffee house that he and his friends put up a poster for a robotics competition, and he was saying how nice they were. He described the location, and I knew he was talking about Tatiana's Coffee and Tea, and he said he wanted to go back because they were so nice.

Tatiana's has been there for about six months, and I'd been in once before. That time Tatiana was off but her husband was in, and he was nice enough. There were a couple of reasons that I never went back, though. First, the hours weren't very agreeable with my schedule, they being open only 7:30 to 5, and, second, they serve Santa Barbara Roast.

I find Santa Barbara Roast coffee to be a bit bitter for me, and I prefer Beacon or Starbucks. Still, Tatiana was nice to my son, and I did say we can go, so after a morning run we swung in for a coffee, hot chocolate and as an afterthought, an empanada.

The empanada was a great choice. Prepared by Chef Galo of the late Cafe Bariloche, it was excellent. A light, flaky pie crust surrounding a seasoned meat filling, it was excellent, and made me long for the flavorful South American food that I had the few times I was in Cafe Bariloche.

But the coffee...

Tatiana was in on this visit, and she's very nice, and because of her I hope the coffee house succeeds. The prices were in line with other places, the walls were filled with local artwork, all of which is for sale, the chairs were comfy, and so everything seems in order. Tatiana herself struck the right balance between friendly conversation, and backing away so that my son and I could talk, and she seems genuinely proud of her space.

The empanada and Tatiana's pleasant demeanor means I'll be back. They also have Wifi, so it'll be good when I need the internet, but also need to get out of the house.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Attending Spanish Mass, Mission San Buenaventura

211 E. Main Street
Ventura CA 93001

Bloody Jesus
I attended St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Maywood, CA, from first through eighth grade. At the end of eighth grade, my family moved to Downey, and gave me a choice of attending Pious X, St. John Bosco, or Downey High, and I quickly decided it was time to go public, picking Downey.

Still, the Sisters of Notre Dame, who ran the Catholic School did instill some level of Catholicism in me, and I'm often surprised at how much I remember. And in that Catholicism, I try to observe the 40+ days of Lent.

As part of my Lenten Sacrifice, for the last 20 years I've attended Mass every Sunday of Lent. It doesn't seem like much, and I know that many people attend Sunday Services without fail. But when I was single, it was the only time of year that I attended Mass, and now, with my kids all going off in various directions and a wife who can be hit and miss about Mass attendance, it becomes a bit more of a challenge. And it has meant that I've attended Mass out of my comfort zone. 

Faux Marble Surrounding Alter
Many Catholic Churches have a Saturday night mass to make up for Sunday, which can be very helpful for when Sunday happens to be busy. Tonight I needed to attend Mass because of my daughter's all-day water polo tournament in La Palma tomorrow, and she was at a party this afternoon, so we attended the 7:30 Spanish Mass at the Mission. We don't speak Spanish, but since it was the only Mass available, it's the one we went to. For the most part, I have the mass memorized anyway, so I always have a pretty good idea of what's happening. 

Narrow Nave
I have very mixed feelings about Junipero Serra and his treatment of the Native Americans that surrounded the Missions, and Mission San Buanaventura is the last mission that was founded by him. Parts of the Church go back over 200 years, and that appeals to the historian in me. I don't attend services at the Mission often, and find it to be an adventure whenever I do. I enjoy the old, creaking pews, the thick walls and narrow nave, and the old style statues, (featuring a bloody Jesus).

I've attended Spanish Mass during Lent before, when a girlfriend I had and I were driving through Baja California. We made it as far as Bahia Palmas in Baja California Sur, driving my Honda Civic, and it was an eye opening trip for me. We were someplace in the interior, I'm guessing San Ignacio, but I don't really remember and would have to dig up my notes from 20 years ago to find out for sure. It was Palm Sunday, and everyone from the neighboring country-side was attending Mass in their Sunday best, all Stetson straw hats, polyester western pants and shirts and polished boots. I know there were women, too, but strangely only the men come back to my memory-possibly because they were all staring at my Arkansas bred, blonde haired, blue-eyed very petite girlfriend. She was the only blonde in the church, and if I stood out, being clearly an American of Mexican descent, she really had no business whatsoever in that church.

What I remember most was the volleyball game that started up after the service, with about 20 men on a side in their Sunday finery hitting the ball over the net.

In 2009, my son had a state project, and I told him that we could go to the state if it wasn't too far away. His teacher assigned him Utah, and that's how we ended up at St. Gertrude's in Panguitch, UT. Being from So. Cal, I'm used to huge Catholic congregations, so though I was familiar with the idea of the priest traveling from place to place and covering a great deal of ground, this was the first time I'd seen it in action. St. Gertrude's is a bit bigger than my classroom, and it still being winter, my son and I definitely stood out. Mass started with only 9 people, and got up to 16, including my son and I. Like I've had to do in Protestant Churches, I was asked to introduce ourselves,which I had anticipated by the way that everyone in the room was greeting one another. Though the priest delivered one of the more confusing sermons I've heard, and headed off to another service as soon as this one was over, we stayed after to talk to the congregates over some cake and punch. They were very friendly.

Possibly the prettiest Catholic Church I've ever been to was on my honeymoon just about 17 years ago, when my wife and I attended our first mass together as husband and wife on a Palm Sunday in Lahaina, Maui. Maria Lanakila Catholic Church is a small, all white interior Catholic church, and with the windows open, the building was filled with the smells of Hawai'ian flowers.

Fulfilling my Lenten of Mass attendance can be challenging, but the result is always interesting on some level.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Cordello's Pizza, Ventura

Cordello's Pizza
1700 E. Thompson Blvd, #E
Ventura, CA 93001

Every neighborhood I've ever lived in has had a neighborhood pizza joint, one of those places that specialize in take-out and may or may not have a few tables. They serve sandwiches, pasta and some sort of anti-pasto, and generally aren't too expensive.

For the most part, I've always felt that like potato chips, no matter how bad a pizza is, it's still a pizza. So what if a Little Ceaser's pizza and the box it came in taste about the same-it's still a pizza. The pizza taste bar is pretty low. 

The best pizzas in town are probably those served at Toppers (good salad bar, too) and Ferraro's, but both can be a bit pricey if you just want a basic pepperoni or cheese pizza. Santino's (one of my early posts, before I learned how to add pictures) is where the family goes if we want to have pizza out. But if we're having pizza in, I'm usually sent to Cordello's.

Cordello's is everything a take-out pizza place should be. Reasonably priced, quick turnaround, and they'll deliver, though I usually just pick it up. They usually have specials, and you'll see coupons around town. At differet points, I've also had their sandwiches, wings and antipasto salad, and all are pretty good.

One thing to note-Cordello's is located in a sketchy looking stripmall. It's kind of like the Avenues, and though I've never been bothered in any way, I thought I should mention it. The liquor store next door usually has an array of odds and ends if you need to kill a few minutes.

I'm not saying I'd drive a long way to pick up a Cordello's pizza. However, it'd be worth a 10 minute drive if you're staying at one of the hotel/motels in town.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Taqueria Vallarta, Ventura

Taqueria Vallarta
278 E. Main Street
Ventura, CA  93001

Most of the places in the downtown area of Main Street are expensive, and not that expensive is bad-it's just that I can't always afford it. Sometimes I want to eat fast, cheap and not in a chain. There's a Subway on Main, but who wants to eat there?

My wife turned me on to Taqueria Vallarta years ago, going there with some friends of hers who worked at City Hall, which is a few blocks away. Taqueria Vallarta is across from the Mission, and is very reasonable for the area.

The service is fast and friendly. It's a clean space, too, though it has a worn look to it. They have a fresh juice bar, which my wife has ordered from. It's not a Jamba Juice kind of place, though, with no added sugar, just the blended fruit flavors.

But I wasn't there for juice. I had a ceviche tostada and an two asada tacos, along with a small Dr. Pepper. It came out to just under $9. 

When you order, they hand you complimentary chips, and the salsa bar, though not extensive, serves up a bit of fire.

I put my chips down at an indoor table (they have some outdoor seating, too), and went to the salsa bar, serving myself some pickled, spicy onions and one of their salsas. I brought them back to my table, and was just settling in when my order was up. 

Not worth a special trip, but I find that I end up there often, and might come even more if parking were a bit more convenient (free parking is located around the corner). My family will eat there, and I can feed them for around $40, which is a plus, too. It's certainly the best lunch deal on Main Street.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Coffee, Gelato & Gifts
321 E Main St.

Though I'm sure I'll revise this later, I'm doing the first draft while sitting and enjoying my El Salvador sourced, Beacon roasted coffee at Palermo, which was always my intent when I started this blog-to write while things are fresh in my mind.

Palermo is a popular and busy place here in town, a gift shop that also serves a selection of Moonstruck chocolate (from Portland, Oregon), and Leo Leo Gelato (from Paso Robles). There always seems to be a large crowd of locals in exercise clothes lounging with their coffees and their dogs at the outdoor tables, while tourists walk among the shelves looking at the local tchotchkes for sale. It's clean, and as I sit here, there isn't an empty cup in sight. The counter girls (I don't see any men working right now, and all are reasonably attractive in the quirky, coffeehouse girl fashion), greet everyone as they walk in, even if it's only "I'll be right with you."

The 16 oz. medium coffee is served piping hot (a coffeehouse peeve of mine-too often I've walked into a "local" coffeehouse, and been served a warm coffee), and costs $2. There is ample seating both inside and out, with the inside seating being the thrift store couch and chair variety and outdoors being more bistro style. In the background, soft, "adult contemporary" music plays, amid soft lighting, unfinished brick walls and concrete floors. It's a comfy space that conjures "coffeehouse," and reminds me of coffee houses I've visited in every revived downtown space I've traveled to.

That's not a bad thing.

Years ago, I remember a wine bar in the back, but that's gone now. There are some baked items, too, as well as a variety of teas. Free parking is available about a block away, and the stroll helps one to get into the coffeehouse spirit.

Free wi-fi, too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Roxbury Deli, Port Hueneme

The Roxbury Deli
443 W. Channel Islands Blvd.
Port Hueneme, CA  93041

Back in LA, I loved going to Canter's Deli on Fairfax. Open 24 hours with a wide variety of good tasting food, it was a a great place to go after hitting the clubs in Hollywood, or any time that I wanted to look cool on a date. Occasionally a celebrity could be spotted dining-I saw members of Guns n' Roses, Nicholas Cage, and Rodney Bigenheimer (who became a regular after the closing of Ben Franks). More often, I'd see people that looked familiar-the character actors that got enough screen time to make a living. But really, being a 20 something in LA, I prided myself on having a handful of go-to places open 24 hours-a-day (Tommy's, The Harbor House Cafe, Gorky's, The Atomic Cafe) that weren't Denny's spread all over the city.

I don't really need that knowledge anymore, but I never lost my taste for a good deli. I'm a regular at Danny's Deli and have been since it opened. It's across the street from my church, and we go at least one Sunday a month. And though they're friendly and fast, I don't know that they are really good. Convenient, yes, and certainly edible, but not really good.

Roxbury Deli opened in Hueneme about the same time I moved to the area 18 years ago,  and though I've driven by, I've never had occasion to stop. It's across from the SeaBee base, and I'm just not down that way very often. But my daughter wanted a sandwich for lunch, and we were nearby, so we pulled in and gave it a try.

It was a good call.

There were only a handful of diners on a recent Saturday afternoon, and we were seated, interestingly, in a booth that backed up to another booth of diners, instead of being spaced out, like I expected. That being said, the space is filled with Broadway play posters (I've seen this at other delis, being some sort of New York thing, I think, but having never been to New York, I can't say for certain), and what seemed to be a zillion TV screens showing college basketball. Service was fast and friendly-my water glass was kept constantly full, and the menu was extensive.

Even though I had eaten at the Oinkster earlier in the week, I opted for the half pastrami (watching my figure, you know) which came with an option of fries, cole slaw, potato salad or fruit. My daughter went with a half BLT, and we split an appetizer of garlic and parmesan fries.

Service was quick and friendly, and my half sandwich was quite good. Not Oinkster good, mind you, but good, and with the coleslaw, which was much better once I added salt, certainly was plenty. My daughter said her BLT was good, and the fruit, fresh.

I have to confess that I was a bit disappointed on the garlic and parmesan fries. I expected the flavors to be blended more, but it seemed like they cooked the french fries, and then put garlic and parmesan on top. The french fries weren't bad, but tasted like french fries with garlic and parmesan on top.

That being said, I'll certainly come back. I saw a pizza at another table that looked quite good, and some of the other plates looked tasty too.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

San Restaurant, Pasadena

124 E. Colorado
Pasadena, CA 91105

Though I've been busy, I haven't really been busy doing anything that is blog worthy lately, and I'm falling behind in my "One Post a Week," goal. I've been to some pretty good places a long way from home, mostly because I've been driving my kids hither and yon, but for whatever reason, haven't written.

Today, I was in my old home town of Pasadena, and I knew that I'd find someplace interesting to eat.

I lived in Pasadena back in the 90's, and was just at a point in my life where I was starting to explore the interesting places there, and then I moved. Pasadena is very dynamic, so though I was on Colorado, I was more surprised by stuff that was still there than by stuff that was gone.

Anyway, there's no saying how many restaurants occupied the space where San stands since I moved away in '98. But it looked good, and my youngest thought the picture of the udon looked tasty, so in we went.

It's a Korean/Japanese fusion, with sushi and Korean dishes. K-pop was playing in the background of the small restaurant, vaguely familiar sounding except that I couldn't sing along. I'd guess about half the tables were occupied at 2 pm on a Sunday afternoon, and we were seated in a booth immediately.

I just glanced at the Yelp reviews, and they seem to run the gamut. I found the service to be quick and attentive. The waiter did forget to bring my edamame order, but after I pointed it out, he immediately brought it out and told me it was on the house.

My daughter ordered the small tempura udon, ($5.95) which was plenty for her, and probably would have been an okay light lunch for me. There was a sweetness to the udon which I really liked.

I had the Hot Stone Bibimbap, which came with miso soup. I've had Bibimbap once before, in the Red Pepper in Koreatown, and remember it being good. This one, at $10.95, was a bit more expensive than the Red Pepper, but everything in Old Town Pasadena is that way now. I've wanted to try another Bibimbap.

The food came out fairly quick, with the servers often asking if I needed my water full, something that I always appreciate. I think there were more things in the Koreatown bibimbap, (no mushrooms in this one) but this was still good. Again, it's still cooking when it hits the table, and it's important to start stirring right away or you'll end up with crunchy rice. I put everything that they give me into it and mixed.

Going on the two times that I've now had bibimbap, I now feel something of an expert, and I've decided that I enjoy the mix of flavors in one bowl, as well as the simplistic nature of the dish.  As for the San Restaurant, I'd certainly eat there again. The other things I saw come out of the kitchen looked pretty good, too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Jimmy's Slice Pizza, Ventura

586 E. Main Street
Ventura CA 93001

Walking home from a recent doctor's appointment, I was thinking "Sandwich, Sandwich" over and over, and looking at all the restaurants to see if someone served a sandwich. Looking at the doorway of Jimmy's Slice, I saw this sign. Half sandwich, salad, drink and cookie? The perfect lunch items. And all for $6.99? Even better!
I've eaten at Jimmy's slice once before, coming in with my son right after they opened. Then, I thought the pizza slice was too small and too expensive for what it was, and with the other good family pizza places in town (with better parking and lower prices), I'd never bothered to come back again. 
This time, though, the price was right and I was on foot.
It wasn't crowded when I walked in, but it was just before noon and more people came in after. I ordered from the friendly girl at the counter ("The chocolate chip is really good!") and went to a table over by the window.
The space itself is kind of funky. A repurposed building with high ceilings, brick walls and hard wood floors, it has a large front window with counter seating overlooking Main Street and the Century 10 movie theatre. They serve beer, have a happy hour, and really on appearance I don't know why I don't eat there more.

I had a Caesar salad, which was just lettuce and Caesar dressing, but it wasn't bad, and the garlic toast was very good. The sandwich followed immediately after, and the waitress refilled my soda, even after things got busier.

The sandwich was okay-I thought it was a touch dry and overly bready, but the cost balanced out what it lacked. The pickle and pepper were both good, too.

So, for a quick, cheap lunch in downtown Ventura, it was good. Does it make me want to come back and try something else? I wouldn't be opposed, but I don't know that it would be my first choice.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

WPA Era Post Offices Ventura and Oxnard

WPA Era Post Offices

675 E. Santa Clara St.
Ventura, CA

1961 N. C St.
Oxnard, CA

When I started this blog, this is really the stuff that I wanted to put into it. 

If you were paying attention in your US History Class, then you heard about the Great Depression of the 1930's. The short version is this-if you want to get your country out of a depression, you put everyone to work. Governments have been doing this forever, and it's important to note yet again-the government jump starts the economy by putting as many people as possible doing whatever work they do. 

One of my favorite examples I discovered inside the Hoover Dam when the family was on a 'Dam Trip' a few years back (my kids loved that part of the trip-"Can we go to the dam gift shop?""I want some dam souviners""Look at the dam clock,""What's the dam tempature?" My wife wanted to go to the "Dam car," but the kids and I explained that we didn't have a "Dam car," that those were inside the dam. At least I think that's what she meant). Inside the Hoover Dam, where almost no one can see it, is some really amazing tile work and terrazzo floors, because the people who did those things needed work, too. Thanks to Jennifer Roberts and her Flickr account for this excellent picture from inside the Dam.

And another example is the murals that ended up inside many post offices and libraries. Ventura and Oxnard both have examples of this work. 

This sign from the Ventura Post Office explains as well as I can. The pictures were taken with my beat up iPhone 4, the same one I use for my "Pictures of Ventura Churches" blog.

I really should get the iPhone 6 if I'm going to do all this picture taking.

I found a website that lists all the WPA Post Offices in California.

Oxnard Post Office

I knew the Oxnard Post Office was from the same era, and I was expecting to see the same type of murals when I went in, but there was only one, and it really wasn't very interesting.

The craftsmanship of the building, however, was impressive, with lots of wood and tile. I also noticed that what appears to be a second floor from the outside is actually just a row of high windows, and I imagine that the idea there was for cooling in the time before air conditioning. Hot air rises, and would be blown out by the afternoon winds of Oxnard.

February 5, 2015
Santa Barbara Post Office
836 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, CA

I initially wrote this because the Oxnard and Ventura Post Offices reminded me of the Post Offices of Bell, Maywood and Huntington Park, where I grew up. All of those cities grew around the turn of the 20th Century, and were all hit hard by the Depression, which necessitated Roosevelt's WPA building projects.
The Santa Barbara Post Office is of the same era, but reflects the Mission Style that all of the cities' public buildings display, including the great City Hall. In the lobby, though, everything is Art Deco, including the six plaster reliefs, entitled "Transportation of the Mall." The doors and tables have some great craftsmanship, and it was worth the few minutes that I stopped.