Few remember the former Holiday Inn exploiting its beachfront location the way its new incarnation, the Crowne Plaza, does, with an open patio and seating that suggests an outdoor lounge a few yards from the promenade. In celebration of this new asset, the hotel’s restaurant incorporated other notable local strengths — namely the Anacapa Brewing Co. — in a showcase of executive chef Nic Manocchio’s gourmand abilities.
Brewing Co. head brewer Adam Ball worked in concert with Manocchio to formulate an original menu with well-matched brews. The evening was open to media only.
Starting off in the downstairs cocktail lounge, we were served a light, crisp Belgian Wit Wheat Beer to complement honey soy Ahi tartar, a delicious pan-seared creation served on wonton triangles.
Seated in the colorfully modern C~Street Restaurant, we were treated to a salad of baby greens harvested from Moorpark- and Somis-based Underwood Family Farms, topped in a subtle pomegranate vinaigrette and embellished sparingly with Boursin cheese and roasted walnuts. The synergy of fresh greens and brewed artistry was played up with the addition of India Pale Ale, which, Ball explained, dated back to the height of British imperialism, when ale required more hops to survive the lengthy journey to Britain’s strongholds in colonized India.
Although the entire meal was innovative, it wasn’t until the summer baby squash saffron risotto cake was served that I felt I was being presented with something truly unusual (there are certain regional dining institutions that I tend to run into seasonally, but this was — dare I say it? — my #first# risotto cake). The buttery risotto was baked thoroughly on the outside, making for a pleasant morsel before the entrée.
The third glass of complementary brew tends to be the point at which even a savvy reviewer’s powers of critique (and, later, her memory) begin to fail, but Anacapa’s sprightly red ale added a hint of spice to the evening’s line-up.
The Nut Brown Ale accompanied the heaviest portion of the spread: aged prime New York steak marinated with the very ale we were sipping. A ragout — or decadent, stewed mix — of caramelized onion and what I strongly suspect was prosciutto mixed with wild mushroom to form a savory alliance with the tender meat.
What would a full beer sampling be without porter? The version we enjoyed was heavier in constitution but smoother than the Nut Brown Ale. There was a noticeable hint of chocolate, which worked to progress (rather than battle) the three-layered chocolate mousse, accompanied by a scoop of fresh coffee ice cream.
Being a media dinner, various reporters and freelancers felt free to trade war stories. Some of the freelancers complained of the blessed burden that is the press trip — every event is complementary, and the hosting establishments tend to go all out to impress their media guests. While an impromptu sunset helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon is lovely though, you cannot recommend to your readers an activity that has been specially arranged just for you.
This is how the C~Street feast first struck me, until I realized that I hadn’t been slipped a one-off treat; I had experienced a showcase of two fine Ventura establishments. And you can sample the talent at Anacapa Brewing Co. and C~Street any night you wish.