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Groups Hope to Cash in on Flavor of Strawberries

Community organizations expect cooking efforts to pay off during feeding frenzy at Oxnard festival.


Jeanne Azbell of Oxnard will spend the better part of today and Friday putting the finishing touches on 700 strawberry muffins and 400 loaves of strawberry bread.

Azbell, with help from her children and grandchildren, will be preparing the baked goods to sell at Oxnard's California Strawberry Festival this weekend.

Proceeds from the muffin and bread sales will benefit the Music Ministries for Youth program at the First Baptist Church of Oxnard. Through the program, children become involved with music and present Christmas and Easter shows for the community.

"Cooking is my hobby," said Azbell, an Oxnard resident since 1941. "The festival is an outreach into the community. They come and share the goodies, and the benefits go to the church. In turn, the church gives back to the community."

The Music Ministries program is one of about 30 nonprofit groups expected to raise more than $100,000 at the festival in support of their programs.

Among the other organizations involved are the Rio Mesa High School Athletic Booster Club preparing strawberry pizza, the Camarillo Roadrunner Youth Football group making strawberry crepes, St. Anthony's School in Oxnard preparing strawberry crepes and drinks, and the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity cooking up barbecue tri-tip sandwiches with strawberry garnish.

* The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at College Park, 3250 S. Rose Ave.


Here's the latest on Eric Ericsson's Fish Co.

The landmark Ventura restaurant on South Seaward Avenue is scheduled to close May 20. Then around Memorial Day weekend owner Eric Wachter is expected to open the doors at his new Eric Ericsson's On The Pier, located at Ventura pier.

After Wachter relocates, John Strobel, owner of the Beachside Pizzeria opposite Eric Ericsson's on South Seaward Avenue will open a second restaurant at Wachter's present location.

"We're going to do seafood and steaks, breakfast seven days a week," said Strobel. The pizzeria, he said, will remain as it is.


Sunday, Sunday, Sunday.

Wheeler Hot Springs Chef Gael Lecolley will put his title on the line Sunday when he takes to the stove at the Santa Barbara Bouillabaisse Festival at Brander Vineyard in Los Olivas.

The two-time defending best-of-show champion will take a different approach this year than he has in the past, entering in the "open" (just about anything goes) bouillabaisse category rather than the "classic" category.

"I'm going to do something very, very different," said Lecolley, who wouldn't reveal many secrets prior to the competition. "The basic concept is the flavor and I'll keep that the same. It's the flavor of the saffron, the garlic, the fennel, all the good flavors of the south of France."

Unlike in years past, Lecolley said, the bouillabaisse festival now prohibits chefs from importing fish from the Mediterranean for their entries. That poses a bit of a problem for Lecolley.

"I have been importing most of my fish from Marseilles," he said. "They taste different, especially the bones. Fish in the Mediterranean has more gelatin. But we'll find something similar. Hawaiian fish is pretty good."

Other competitors from Ventura County will be Chef Ted Gowrie of L'Auberge in Ojai, and chef and restaurateur Sandy Smith of Ventura's Rosarito Beach Cafe, Joe Daddy's and the Busy Bee.

* The festival will run from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $45 in advance, $50 at the door, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the neonatal care unit at Santa Barbara's Cottage Hospital. Call (800) 970-9979. Brander Vineyard is at 2401 N. Refugio Road, east of Highway 154.

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