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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND : First Comes the Harvest, Then It's Time to Feast : Two autumn dinners and a French restaurant's celebration of its 21st anniversary promise anything but skimpy repasts.


It's going to be one of those don't-step-on-the-scale-until-next-week weeks, with a couple of local restaurants celebrating the local harvest season and another celebrating its own longevity.

Ventura's City Bakery will present its Harvest Dinner on Saturday evening, beginning with an appetizer assortment of smoked eggplant with lemon aioli, sweet potato crisps and warm Brie in grape leaves. That will be followed by a squash blossom soup and then a mixed green salad with tarragon vinaigrette.

For the entree, there will be a choice of pork tenderloin with pears and brandy or wild mushroom flan. Both selections will be served with roasted chestnuts and root vegetables and wild saffron rice. For dessert, there will be apples wrapped in sweet pastry, with caramel sauce and ice cream.

The price is $25 per person, and guests are welcome to bring their own wine. Call 643-0861 for reservations. Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The restaurant is at 2358-C E. Main St.


From 1974 until about 1990, Francois Zanni Sr., the original owner of Le Rendez-Vous Restaurant in Newbury Park, paid annual visits to his home country of France. And each time he returned to the United States, he would bring back some extravagant new recipes.

Over the past five years, with his son Francois Jr. now operating the restaurant, Zanni has spent about nine months of each year semi-retired in his home in the Alps. But he still makes annual return trips to Ventura County, continuing to share gourmet French cuisine.

This year's batch of authentic dishes will be featured Monday and Nov. 13 when Le Rendez-Vous marks its 21st anniversary with a pair of celebratory dinners.

The meals will open with an appetizer of clams and oysters, followed by breast of duck with a green peppercorn sauce. Next will be a Norwegian salmon in dill sauce, followed by a mixed green salad.

For the main course, a filet of lamb with bearnaise sauce and white beans will be served. Brie and Roquefort cheeses then will be served, with a fresh fruit charlotte for dessert. Each dinner will include three French wines.

The price is $60 per person, tax and tip included. Call 498-1019 for reservations. The dinners will begin at 7 p.m. Le Rendez-Vous is at 1282 Newbury Road.


Forget the old saying about too many cooks spoiling the broth. At the Pierpont Inn's kitchen Sunday night, the collection of chefs won't be likely to ruin anything.

Chefs Gael Lecolley of Ojai's Wheeler Hot Springs, Tom Kackris of Cafe Monte Carlo in Pismo Beach and Paul Boulger of the Stonehouse Restaurant at San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito will join Louis Ludwig, executive chef at the Pierpont, for the Inn's Fall Harvest Wine Dinner.

The first course will go to Ludwig, who will prepare an herb-encrusted Pacific escolar served in a bouillabaisse. Next Boulger will prepare a pepper-seared ahi tuna salad with julienne of carrot, radish, cucumber and red and yellow peppers tossed with a Thai chili vinaigrette.

Lecolley will take his turn for the third course, of roasted quail stuffed with pistachio mousse, celery root mashed potatoes and a foie gras-port wine sauce. Finally, Kackris will prepare a smoked filet mignonette with Cabernet, Gorgonzola cheese and green peppercorn sauce, served with Cajun sweet potatoes.

For dessert, Pierpont pastry chefs Joan Yates and Lisa Beamer will prepare a chocolate-coated almond cheesecake with pear gratin and carrot cake fritter. Wines from Gainey Vineyard in Santa Ynez will be served throughout the meal.

The price is $65 person, plus tax and tip. A pre-meal reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. Call 653-6144, Ext. 144, for reservations. The Pierpont is at 550 Sanjon Road.

Leo Smith is a regular contributor to Ventura County Weekend. Write to him at 93 S. Chestnut St., Ventura 93001, or send faxes to 653-7576.

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