If you were a strawberry, in what kind of dish would you want to be? Strawberry pie, perhaps? Strawberry salmon loaf? How about strawberry cannelloni?
Not to push any ideas on you, but the deadline to enter recipes in this year's Berry-Off competition, a standard of Oxnard's California Strawberry Festival, is fast approaching. All entries must be postmarked by March 31 to be eligible. The 13th annual festival itself will be held May 18 and 19 at Oxnard's College Park.
As in previous years, there are six Berry-Off categories: hors d'oeuvres; soups and salads; main dishes and vegetables; breads, pancakes and crepes; pies, cakes, cookies and other desserts; and other (such as condiments, sauces, butters and vinegars).
The top strawberry chef will receive $1,000, with the first-place winners in each category walking away with $200 each. Non-cash awards will be given to all other finalists. Recipes will be judged, in part, on originality, taste, ease of preparation, appearance and, of course, use of strawberries.
Anyone who enters the Berry-Off is likely to go berry to berry with perennial entrant Roxanne Chan of Albany.
Chan, who has entered 15 recipes this year, covering all but one category, is no stranger to the Berry-Off or to the victory stand. Between 1992 and 1994, Chan won three first-place awards, six second-place awards and a third-place award. She came up empty in 1995.
"My hobby is entering contests," said Chan, who dons her apron for about 100 cook-offs each year. "I've been entering contests for 12 years. I just came back from the Pillsbury Bake-Off" in February. Her other contest credits include entries in the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the California Prune Festival in Yuba City, and beef, crab, walnut and other festivals throughout California.
As for the Berry-Off, Chan said the key to her success has been a vivid imagination.
"They look for unusual ways to use strawberries. Not too far out, but unusual," she said. "I take a little different twist and combine unusual ingredients. With the Strawberry Festival, I can let my creative juices flow."
In 1993 Chan won in the Berry-Off hors d'oeuvres category with her antipasto stuffed strawberries (berries stuffed with goat cheese and mint leaves, wrapped with prosciutto, and topped with a vinaigrette).
Contestants should send recipes to Berry-Off, Berry Bin 95, 3600 S. Harbor Blvd., Oxnard 93035. Include name, address and phone number.
Recipes should be titled and printed on an 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper. Specify the category entered. Three finalists will be chosen in each category by April 5. The Berry-Off itself will be held April 20 at Oxnard College. Call 385-7578 for more information.
Happy anniversaries to Ventura's Classic Carrot.
Owners Dolores and Craig Woods on Wednesday celebrated the restaurant's 25th year in business, their 20th year operating the establishment and their first year at their present location with the official grand opening of a 30-seat patio.
"We just thought we'd celebrate all of the anniversaries together," said Dolores Woods. And to what does Woods credit the health-oriented restaurant's longevity and popularity?
"Quality food," she said. "And I think it's a very friendly place. People feel comfortable here."
In addition to the patio, the Woods also recently added more dishes to their breakfast menu and have extended their hours. The restaurant is now open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Classic Carrot is located at 1967 E. Main St.