Chelsea Madren aka OC Food Diva: Johnsonville's The Sausage Dome Champion, World Food Championships E.A.T. Certified Food Judge, KCBS Certified BBQ Judge, Brand Ambassador, Culinary Researcher, Food & Travel Critic, Food Competitor, and Recipe Developer
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Oxnard, California: 2015 California Strawberry Festival
A new day of adventure starts
with another hot breakfast at Indulge inside The Oaks Hotel in Paso Robles, CA.
On the weekends, an omelet bar is set up in the corner with a great selection
of toppings from meats, cheese, and vegetables. Once we had our fill, it was
time to get on the road and make our journey to Oxnard, CA. Heading south on
Highway 101, it will take 2.5 hours.
Every year, the California
Strawberry Festival welcomes visitors to Oxnard, CA from all over to savor the
sweet flavor of the California Strawberry. Local community groups and companies
set up their concession tents with the most creative strawberry food items: Früli Strawberry Wheat Beer, Frozen Strawberry Margaritas, Strawberry Smoothies, Strawberry Lemonade,
Strawberry Popcorn, Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, Funnel Cakes topped with
strawberries, Strawberry Nachos, Strawberry Chimichangas, Build-Your-Own
Strawberry Shortcakes, Strawberry Salsa, and of course, trays of fresh
strawberries to take home.
Tri-County GLAD (serving the deaf and hard of hearing
community) served up Strawberry Lemonade. The lemonade was refreshing and had a
good balance of lemon and strawberry flavor, not too sour and not too sweet.
Lots of companies gave away
free products like Bimbo – spin the wheel and win one of their snacks. Marinela Gansito is a chocolate covered sponge cake with strawberry preserves and topped with
chocolate sprinkles. It was pretty good and went well with the strawberry
theme. Rating: 4/5
The main event that brought
us here was the Berry Blast-Off Recipe Contest Finals. I was a judge (3rd
year) along with Oxnard PD Chief Jeri Williams (4th year), Michael
Sullivan from the Ventura County Star, Chef Bernie Guzman, and Rob Peters. The
contest was emceed by Anthony Fernandez, comedian and restauranteur.
Jodie Taffel aka “Bacon Babe” prepared Strawberry Vinaigrette Marinated Bacon Steak over warm spinach
strawberry & hazelnut salad with strawberry vinaigrette reduction, ginger
scallion sauce, and strawberry caviar. The strawberry flavor got lost as the
balsamic vinegar overpowered the dish. The use of micro-gastronomy to make
strawberry caviar was brilliant for presentation.
Alethia Shih aka “Wallflour Girl” prepared Steamed Strawberry Coconut Poke Cake. Alethia drew upon her Asian
roots with the steamed cake. It was reminiscent of a coconut cake that
Polynesians used to make by encasing them in tea leaves then steaming. The
coconut flavor brought a tropical and creamy note to the dish. The strawberry
flavor could have been more flavor-forward by splitting the cake into two
layers with strawberry gelée as a layer or reduce the puree to intensify the
strawberry essence. Otherwise, this was a deliciously light dessert.
The judges’ scores were totaled
and it was, remarkably, a tie. As co-winners, they both won a three-day, two
night Welk Resorts getaway vacation to either Palm Springs, San Diego, Cabo San
Lucas, Mexico, or Branson, MO (airfare not included), a Cutco studio knife set
(approximate valued at $500), and a Golden Ticket to the World Food
Championships in Kissimme, FL.
The next order of business
was to get a Strawberry Shortcake. The hubby used the pound cake on the bottom
to create a base to absorb the strawberry puree. He piled the huge ripe and
juicy strawberries on top and covered it with a generous rosé of whipped cream.
On our way out, we were going
to pick up a couple of trays of strawberries, but each stand ran out just
before our arrival. But, never fear, the California Strawberry Festival is
surrounded by acres of strawberry fields and Pleasant Valley Road has numerous
stands along the way back to Highway 101.
As we drove home, the aroma
of fresh strawberries filled the car. I started thinking of ways to incorporate
strawberries into meals this week – eating them right out of the basket, smoothies,
and freezing them to enjoy the rest of the year.
To view more photos, please visit OC Food Diva's Facebook page.