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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Road trip to Oxnard and Camarillo: Hamburger, hops, and hip small town charm - Day 1
Traffic in Los Angeles can be
a bear. But once you pass the downtown area, your road trip will be relaxing as
the hills open up with views of the ocean as Highway 101 dips into Ventura
County. It’s only 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles yet feels incredibly
different. Oxnard has diverse land regions for agriculture, industrial, and
commercial uses plus a coastal region with a full service port. One of the
biggest agricultural events in California happens here in Oxnard, the
California Strawberry Festival.
The Hamburger and HopsFestival was one of the draws for a weekend getaway. The Collection at Riverpark is an
outdoor mall of sorts with retail shops, restaurants, large movie theatres, and
The Park for events. The Park lends itself nicely with grassy expanses to keep
your feet happy during a festival. It also has a nice inset in the middle;
perfect for concerts which the Hamburger and Hops Festival used for a few live bands
during the festivities.
Coronado Brewing Company was founded by
brothers Ron and Rick Chapman in 1996 in Coronada, CA. The Orange Avenue Wit is
made with 2-row, wheat, and cara malts; orange zest, orange blossom honey,
coriander, Northern Brewer hop, and Cal Ale yeast. It is a light and refreshing
beer with a mild citrus flavor. It’s a day drinking beer and will pair well with
a lot of different foods like hamburgers, salads, pork chops, chicken, and
seafood. Rating: 4/5
The Road Brothersrocked
the crowd with classic rock covers. The inset in the park made the perfect
concert venue while couples and families set up camp on blankets and patio
furniture setup along the perimeter. There were also bocce ball courts set up on
the side for competitive play. Bocce ball in one hand and a beer in the other!
Island Brewing Companyis a
microbrewery from Carpinteria, CA. The Comrade Black Session IPA is the little
brother of the RISistance Barrel Aged Russion Imperial Stout (Fall 2015). It’s
a medium-heavy bodied beer with a roasted chestnut aroma. It is smooth with
roasted coffee and dark chocolate flavors but with a bitter bite on the end.
Angus beef burger stuffed with bacon served on a
brioche bun, topped off with caramelized onions, aged blue cheese, and served
with tater tots was next on the list. After a very long wait, the burger was a
little disappointing. The burger patty itself was dry but the flavors were
pretty good. Instead of stuffing the bleu cheese inside the burger, a bleu
cheese aioli would be better. The shredded lettuce on top was just messy and
would not stay on the burger. A folded lettuce leaf would have been better. The
tater tots were an unexpected treat that seemed to be made from sweet potatoes.
They were sweet and needed just a touch of salt. Dipping sauce was not
necessary. Rating: 3/5
Chocolate Chip Cookie was okay. It was a little dry
and expected it to be more like homemade with a chewy interior. It did have a
lot of chocolate chunks inside. Rating: 3/5
Upstream brought island
music to the crowd. You couldn’t help but move your feet to the music and for
some, dancing was inevitable. With the sunshine and the cool breeze, it felt
like an island in the Caribbean, but instead of tropical drinks and seafood,
hamburgers and beers were in hand.
It was time to get out of the sun and relax at the
hotel. Just south of Oxnard is Camarillo. Camarillo is nestled below the Conejo
foothills amongst green fields cooled by sea breezes. With more than 300 days
of sunshine a year, activities and dining can be done al fresco. It is a town
with a rich history extending back centuries and melds old world charm with new
sights, sounds, and flavors.
Hampton Inn & Suites Camarillois a great place to stay for the weekend. It
is right off of Highway 101. Even with a face toward the freeway, the highway
noise is not noticeable. They are currently undergoing renovations but some of
the newly completed rooms were available for guests. The King Bed Room comes
with free wifi (internet connection is slow), 32” HDTV, sleeper sofa, dual work
desks, coffeemaker, thermostat-controlled AC, mini refrigerator, dual use
slider door for closet and bathroom, large sliding glass door shower, and brand
For Hilton Hhonor
Gold or higher members will receive bottled water and snack upon check-in.
A great place for dinner is Twenty88in Old Town Camarillo. Vince Pillard and
Annette Natella opened Twenty88 in 2011. They recently expanded the location
and now have an inset bar with Scott Holder, in-house mixologist, creating
craft cocktails made from fresh, seasonal ingredients. The kitchen is run by
Executive Chef Alejandro Castillo with 16 years of restaurant experience in
Camarillo and Malibu. His fusion of California and Mediterranean cuisines
provides the perfect palate for the menu.
Purple Yoda is a craft cocktail currently on the menu.
The aroma is blueberry forward. It has light flavors of blueberry yet the
alcohol is not overpowering. It has an intense play of sweet and sour. Rating:
Blvd Crispy Calamari is seasoned and lightly breaded,
fried, and served with lemon garlic aioli and spicy arrabiata sauce. You won’t
believe that it’s gluten free. The breading is reminiscent of panko bread
crumbs and is light and crispy. The calamari is marinated overnight so it is as
tender as can be. Both sauces work well with the calamari so have fun with the
flavors. Rating: 5/5
Wild Mushroom Chicken is oven roasted chicken breast
topped with wild mushroom and thyme pan jus, served with garlic mashed potatoes
and sautéed spinach. The presentation is a stunner with the look of pan roasted
duck complete with Frenched wing bone. The chicken breast is tender and juicy,
but the star of the dish is the pan jus. It brings all of the elements of the
dish to life and is similar to a Madera sauce in both taste and texture.
Sea Scallops with Lobster Risotto is golden pan seared
scallops atop lobster and asparagus risotto with blood orange beurre blanc.
Another stunning presentation with beautiful colors. The scallops are cooked to
perfection with sweet flavor and tender like butter. The lobster risotto is decadent
with big pieces of lobster. The blood orange beurre blanc worked well with the
scallops with its creamy citrus flavor. Rating: 4.9/5
Delmonico Steak is a 14 oz. bone-in ribeye steak
topped with herbed butter, served with loaded mashed potatoes, asparagus
spears, and smoke horseradish demi sauce. The herbed butter truly brings out
the beefy flavor of the steak. The steak is tender even at a medium
temperature. The loaded mashed potatoes are amazing! The mashed potatoes have a
garlic flavor which works well with the cheese, sour cream, and chive toppings.
Chai Tea Crème Brulee (flavors change so check with
server if available) is a one-of-kind flavor experience. It had a creamy
texture like crème brulee should have. It had a pleasant chai tea aroma and
flavor. Rating: 4.5/5
After a day of standing and walking around, a soak in
the Jacuzzi seemed fitting. As the sun disappeared with the some rays of
sunlight lingering in the sky, another day in Camarillo was only a sleep away.
To see more photos, please visit OC Food Diva's Facebook page.