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(Gerry Furth-Sides) A visit to Oxnard is like stepping back into time (think Ray Bradbury’s book, Dandelion Wine, and American Graffiti) . Our five reasons why: the Salsa Festival, the Farmer’s Markets, Moqueca, the Maritime Museum and 27 Mexican restaurants.
The competition remains a wonderful, small town, second-generation family affair. Let’s start with this year’s professional competition judging, which took place back at La Dolce Vita Restaurant in quaint Heritage Square. The painted “woodie” wagon on the shirt below says it all.
La Dolce Vita was current owner Michelle Kelley’s mom, who hosted the competition for years. Sister, Cathy Moreno, who handles the catering, put on the VIP party afterward.
Cathy previously owned the Kitchen, which put Oxnard on the food map a few years ago with a spot on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” on the Food Network with Guy Fieri.
Both local professional chefs and amateur salsa makers compete for top honors in the ‘2016 Great Oxnard Salsa Challenge’ during the 23rd Annual Oxnard Salsa Festival, which takes place July 30 & 31 at Plaza Park in downtown Oxnard. The Professional Division Winners were:
The professional division of the salsa competition introduces the first “taste” of festival excitement for this summer’s Salsa Festival in Oxnard. Food writers, bloggers and professionals judged the entries in a blind tasting. Guests at the VIP party afterward who included the director plus participants who put the festival together also had a vote for “favorite.” Below is the “cool” cake of the winner of the “hot” division.
Because of the heat, the judging was on the outside veranda, with bags of Mission tortilla chips and little tubs of sour cream on each table along with great big tubs of beers nearby. Mild, Medium and Hot, red and green and specialty (such as fruit) were the categories judged with a winner for best specialty and best overall.
This always brings to mind that Salsa is the Spanish term for “sauce,” although in English-speaking countries usually refers to the sauces typical of Mexican cuisine, particularly those used as dips. The entrants are more and more of a surprise as the years go around with very liquidy and very textured “salsas,” along with new specialties.
On the festival week-end, 40 non-professional cooks got into the action with an annual recipe contest dubbed The Great Oxnard Salsa Challenge for first place category winners and a ‘best of the best.’
The award-winning, expanded event features Southern California’s electrifying salsa and Latin bands plus salsa dance performances and non-stop salsa dancing, marketplace shopping, a fiery Salsa Tasting Tent, international foods, and an expanded Kids Korner with Tortilla Art first created in 2014 with real tortillas provided courtesy of Mission Foods. This year, a mechanical jet ride, inflatables, a giant maze and slides were added to interactive games in the parking lot, along with a climbing wall for older kids. Festival admission and parking are free. www.oxnardsalsafestival.com
The Oxnard Downtowners Festival producers are locals, not corporate event planners, who somehow maintain the town’s homespun qualities amidst their ever growing multi-faceted event, a quality that distinguishes it from the rest of the endless, international salsa circuit. The theme is simply “celebrating everything salsa — the music, the food and the dance.” Below Jim Martin’s aerial photo.
The Festival Marketplace Food & Shopping features a wide assortment of international foods and shopping opportunities in the Festival Marketplace, filled with close to 150 food, craft, gourmet sauce and retail exhibitors.
Inside the big-top Salsa Tasting Tent, the Festival showcased 22 different exhibitors dished up close to 60,000 samples of all six categories of salsas by local restaurants, gourmet salsa purveyors, specialty grocers and Mexican markets and gourmet salsa vendors. (photo credit Z Studios)
Located just 60 miles north of Los Angeles and 30 miles south of Santa Barbara, Oxnard Salsa Festival is accessible by train, car, or bus. The Oxnard Transportation Center is conveniently located just three short blocks from the Plaza Park festivities. For Festival information, visit www.oxnardsalsafestival.com
The coastal location makes for an ideal year round getaway with beach, bike riding at the harbor, sport fishing, golf and the Dallas Cowboys Training Camp and the Channel Islands nearby. For information, please visit www.visitoxnard.com.
The 23rd Annual Oxnard Salsa Festival is presented by the Oxnard Downtowners, and sponsored by Gold Coast Broadcasting, Bud Light, Mission Foods, Ford, Pepsi, Premier America Credit Union, Ventura County Star, and many other generous community partners.
For Festival information, call 805-535-4060, 800-2-Oxnard, or visit www.oxnardsalsafestival.com
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