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August 04, 1994|LEO SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sip and nibble. Sip and nibble.

That should be about the most strenuous exercise guests will be expected to perform at Ventura's Leeward Winery on Saturday and Sunday during the third annual "Taste of Ventura."

The function is intended to illustrate the impact Ventura County has on the agricultural industry. So, along with samplings of the Leeward wine, folks can try raspberries and strawberries from Driscoll Farms of Oxnard; organic dried apricots from Hall Ranch in Ojai; baby carrots, sweet corn and mixed salad from Underwood Ranch in Somis; and mushrooms (sauteed in wine, butter and garlic) from Pictsweet Mushroom Farms in Ventura.

DeWayne Boccali of Boccali's Restaurant will bring along some of his fresh tomatoes, grown in a garden behind his establishment, and The Chart House people will prepare a Caesar salad. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Admission is free. The winery is at 2784 Johnson Drive in Ventura.

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For another example of the county's agricultural impact, don't forget the 27th Santa Paula Citrus Festival from Friday through Sunday along Main Street, off the 10th Street exit of Highway 126. There will be a farmers' market at the Veteran's Memorial Park from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday.

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About a month ago, Irvine's trendy Zuni Grill was dramatically transformed into a down-home, family-style restaurant called Saddlerock Ranch. The new place is the first of what is expected to be a chain of about 10 restaurants.

So what's that have to do with the local scene?

"We're looking at Ventura County and Agoura Hills as our next locations," said Harold Herrmann, the chain's director of operations. "We are very committed to that."

Saddlerock Ranch offers a "grass-roots style of cooking," said Herrmann. "The food is very Americana--roast turkey, meat loaf, steaks, hamburgers, brisket, vegetarian dishes, cream corn, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese. Very, very straightforward cooking that people can recognize."

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