Story and photos by Karen Weber
Our group of writers headed up the coast to join the Downtown Ventura Tasting Tour conducted by Ventura Food Tours. The tour proved to have just the right blend of architectural history and food sampling. One companion said he would have been bored with just a tour about buildings, but a little architectural history followed by a chance to sit and eat was just right for him.
Plus we had a chance to walk off our calories. There are several blocks of walking on the tour, so if you go, wear comfortable shoes and plan for the weather.
Our guide Maureen Durkin said the tours were started to share “the bounty of the county” with visitors. We met at Bella Maggiore Inn, designed by architect Albert C. Martin, who also built the Ventura City Hall just up the street. Durkin said the inn is reputed to be haunted by an amiable ghost named Sylvia.
We hiked east on Santa Clara Street, crossing Plaza Park diagonally and admiring the
huge Moreton Bay Fig Tree that was planted in 1874. Durkin said kindness almost killed the tree. Park gardeners kept the ground beneath it clear of fallen figs and leaves, which turned out to be bad for its roots. It looked big and healthy now, as we passed beneath its spreading branches.
Our first food stop was at Spencer MakenziesMakenzie’s Fish Company, known for its giant fish tacos. The tacos are available with
grilled or tempura fried fish. We had a sample of the tempura fish, and it was moist and tender inside with a light, crispy batter. They use only sushi-grade fish in the restaurant and make their own sauces (including the signature Spencer sauce) and clam chowder. Available in cups, bowls or bread bowls, the chowder was simply the best I’ve ever tasted. The secret is a touch of white wine in the blend that cuts the typical fishy flavor.
Heading to our second food stop, we passed Ema’s Herbs where the succulent lady stands guard. The amusing statue is covered with succulent plants. We learned a little about several historic buildings as we passed, but the main focus was the food.
Trufflehound’s Fine Chocolates was our second stop. Owner Claudia Gilman talked about making fine chocolates. “Chocolate is a great teacher. The No. 1 thing it teaches you is patience,” she said.
She showed us truffles and molded chocolates and acetate transfer sheets used to decorate flat chocolates. She let us sample her couverture chocolate — white, milk and dark. This is the foundation chocolate she uses to make her treats.
This was just the beginning of our food adventure in Ventura.
Spencer Makenzie’s Fish Company
806 E. Thompson Blvd. 805-643-8226
Trufflehound’s Fine Chocolates
607 E. Main St., Suite E 805-648-5870