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. Rating: 5/5

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. Rating: 5/5

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.

For more information:
3000 Riverside Ave
Paso Robles, CA 93446
+1.888.298.4141 (Hotel)
+1.805.237.8700 (Restaurant)
Restaurant hours: Wednesday through Monday from 5pm to 9pm (closed on Tuesday)

California Strawberry Festival
3250 S Rose Ave
Oxnard, CA