In the middle of the summer heatwave, Tori and I drove up to Ventura on Monday for a short getaway to the central coast. It was a nice surprise to find cool weather and a heavy fog when we arrived. After checking in to the Motel 6, we walked into the nearby downtown to explore. Our first stop was the Mission San Buenaventura and its museum. It was the ninth California Mission and the last to be established by Father Junipero Serra in 1782. The Spanish Mission system started to break down in the 1830s when the Mexican government secularized the missions and sold them to private owners. By 1895, only the church remained as the surrounding mission buildings were demolished. Inside the still active parish church is a marble-cast replica of the Pieta, my favorite Michelangelo sculpture in the Vatican. The original is behind bulletproof glass so it was cool to be able to examine this life-size copy up close.
Walking along the pedestrian-only Main Street, we stopped at the Bank of Italy, Cocktail Trust for a drink and a small bite to eat. We shared some garlic bread and the Chopped Kale Salad (radicchio, spiced garbanzos, fennel salami, fontina cheese, brined peppers, cherry tomatoes, and bergamot-thyme dressing). The salad was so delicious that Tori and I came back two days later to order it again. Highly Recommended! In nearby Plaza Park, we visited the giant Moreton Bay Fig. The native Australian tree stands 73.5 feet high with its branches spreading over 139 feet and a massive trunk that is 8 feet 8 inches wide. It was planted in 1874, the same time as the giant fig tree in nearby Santa Barbara.
The coastal fog was still heavy along the beach as we walked along the Promenade and out to the end of the Ventura Pier. First built in 1872, it is the oldest pier in the state where it served as a commercial wharf until 1914, importing lumber & building supplies and exporting farm products & crude oil from the Ojai Oil Field. Ventura was one of the major oil producing areas in the state and there are still about 3,800 active wells in the county. Walking back, we stopped at Barrelhouse 101 for a couple beers.
Even though the sky cleared briefly, the fog came back before we drove up to the Serra Cross to check out the sunset. The view was completely obscured so we drove back down the hill for dinner at Spencer Makenzie's where we sat at the bar and shared their fish and shrimp tacos. Both were very delicious with the Spencer Sauce! On Tuesday morning, we drove over for breakfast at Pete's Restaurant and a latte at Singing Sun Coffee. Knowing how much I hate having sticky fingers, Tori had me pose for a photo outside the Sticky Fingers Bake Shop. Ha!
At 1pm, we drove up to Santa Barbara for wine tasting in the Funk Zone, the former industrial zone near the waterfront that is now full of restaurants, galleries, breweries, shops and wine tasting rooms. We started out with a Zinfandel at The Valley Project and enjoyed chatting with the bartender before moving down to Corks n' Crowns where we sat out on the sunny deck with a glass of wine and a small cheese plate. We ended up at Riverbench for a Pinot Noir. The 2018 One Palm was very good!
For dinner, we walked next door to The Lark where we shared three dishes, the Brown Butter Cornbread (wildflower honey, rosemary), the Picked Summer Vegetables (spicy picked okra, dill pickled radish, wild foraged ramps), and the Wayne Farms Buttermilk Fried Chicken (anson mills cheddar grits, chile de arbol honey, b&b pickles, scallion). The pickled okra was perfect to counter the richness of the other two plates. For desert, we had the awesome Salted Dark Chocolate Ganache (charred stone fruit, aerated vanilla corn cream, smoke pecan crumble, basil). Driving back to Ventura, we just missed sunset at the Serra Cross but we enjoyed the pink sky of twilight and watched the city lights come on as darkness fell.
On Wednesday, we drove up to Ojai, the small artistic town in the nearby Topatopa Mountains where chain stores are prohibited. Tori and I visited the Ojai Meadows Preserve and walked around the little downtown. We were passing the Ojai Post Office Bell Tower at noon when it peeled out a long musical tune on the 65-foot tower's amplified Westminster chimes. We were not very hungry so we skipped lunch and just ordered tasty smoothies from Rainbow Bridge Natural Food. Since my check engine light came on and my AC stopped working on the drive to Ojai, we drove back to Ventura early.
While Tori took a quick nap, I visited the Ventura City Hall that was built in 1912 as the county courthouse. In 1974, the city purchased the building and it became the town hall. There is a great view of downtown and the ocean from the front steps. With clear blue skies, I drove back up to the Serra Cross for a better view of the city. In 1782, Father Junipero Serra raised a wooden cross on the mountain overlooking his newly established Mission San Buenaventura. The current cross, the 4th, was raised in 1941.
At 3pm, Tori and I walked back into downtown for our second Chopped Kale Salad at the Bank of Italy. Still awesome! After the light meal, we walked along Main Street, visiting several of the many local Thrift Stores. Back at the motel, I called my mechanic and we were able to determine that it was safe to drive my truck back home to San Diego after I borrowed a check engine light reader from another guest. For a late dinner, we went to Paradise Pantry near the mission for panini sandwiches. Tori had the Roasted Turkey and Pesto while I had the Grilled Cheez with caramelized onions.
Driving home on Thursday, we stopped at the Camarillo Premium Outlets for a few hours before heading down to the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles. While we waited for our dinner reservations, we walked over to the new 6th Street Bridge crossing the Los Angeles River. It replaced the original viaduct bridge built in 1932 that was shown in countless television shows, commercials and films. When the new one opened this year. it caused a bit of a stir on social media because of the undulating arches that light up at night with different colors. We were seated as soon as the Girl & the Goat opened at 5pm. We have been wanting to try the new restaurant by Chef Stephanie Izard, the winner of Top Chef Season 4 for awhile now. It's her first outside the city of Chicago.
With a couple of cocktails, Tori and I shared the Naan & Dips (tahini tofu, carrot hummus) and the Sautéed Green Beans (fish sauce vinaigrette, cashews) which were so delicious! For her entrée, Tori ordered the Pan Roasted Redfish (spiced tamarind-shrimp broth, crispy rice salad). While I had been eager to try the Goat Curry, it was unavailable this night so I had the Grilled Skirt Steak (sichuan peanut sauce, pickled cucumbers, fresno chiles) instead. While the base proteins were excellently prepared, what pushed both dishes over the top was the amazing sauces and toppings that brought so much extra flavor. For desert, we shared the simple but tasty, Sesame Cookies and Cream Scoop (sesame caramel, chocolate crunchies). On our drive home, we lucked out with hardly any heavy traffic!
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