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Nona's Chef Uncorks Winemaker Dinner

Fresh ahi tuna with sauteed lentils will be complemented by beverages from Presidio and Brander wineries.


Nona's Courtyard Cafe in Ventura will hold its debut winemaker dinner next Thursday, featuring the wines of Presidio Winery and Brander Vineyard, both of Santa Barbara County.

The menu, prepared by chef Juan Castillo, who has been with the restaurant for about six months, will open with an oyster mushroom strudel served on an aiolo of roasted red pepper and saffron. Next will come a salad of fresh spinach and watercress topped with grilled breast of Muscovy duck and sweet Italian pepper.

For the entree, a fresh ahi tuna, pan-seared with herbs, will be served on a bed of sauteed lentils, finished with a light Merlot and portabello mushroom reduction sauce and topped with French-fried leeks. Dessert will be a raspberry tiramisu with toasted pecans.

Cost is $60 per person and seating is limited. Call 641-2783. Nona's is at 67 S. California St.


Speaking of Nona's, its creator, Jonathan Enabnit, is three months into his other job as general manager of Pineapples in Ventura.

Thus far, Enabnit's time at the beachfront restaurant largely has been spent doing a major overhaul--changes which include a new menu unveiled a couple of weeks ago.

Enabnit was named general manager of Pineapples after one of the restaurant's three partners, Tom Woods, bought out the other two, Eric Wachter, who owns the new Eric Ericsson's on the Pier, and Chuck Smith, owner of KB Roberts gift shop.

Woods owns Nona's Courtyard Cafe, so Enabnit was an easy choice.

"Tom asked me to come in and make the changes I thought were necessary," Enabnit said. "We want the regulars to come back and give us another shot. The service is better, the food is much better, the decor is stimulating."

Perhaps most significant of the changes are those made to Pineapple's cuisine. The formerly all-day menu has been split into three separate ones for lunch, brunch and dinner. And the dish selection has been pared down, added to and tweaked a bit.

Castillo, the chef at Nona's, oversees the food preparation at Pineapples as well.

"We got rid of the stuff that didn't sell and added a few new items," Enabnit said. "I reworked the pastas and the pizzas, changed some of the recipes around. We created a number of new lunch and dinner specials, including a Caribbean dish of the day."

The lunchtime sandwich list was trimmed--meatloaf sandwich is history--and the breads have been improved, Enabnit said. Sandwich specials have been added to the dinner menu as have a series of appetizers.

Enabnit is particularly proud of a Caribbean seafood chowder now served at Pineapples.

"It's made with lots of different types of fish and clams and is spiced with Indian spices," he said. "That's our new signature dish."

Pineapples is next to the Ventura Holiday Inn on California Street.


Mike Loftis and Stan Weiner grew up in Bakersfield where they were regular patrons of the city's half a dozen Basque restaurants. Now in Ventura County, the two would like to bring a taste of home to their surroundings.

Loftis and Weiner are remodeling the former Mariann's Italian Villa at 2437 E. Main St. in Ventura, and in mid-October expect to open the doors to Sheepherders on Main offering Basque cuisine.

"Basque restaurants are family-style restaurants, where they serve five or six courses, not individually, but in bowls where you serve yourself," said Loftis, who owns Chuy's restaurant in Glendale and recently sold the Chuy's in Carpinteria.

"Basque food is very hearty," he said. "Almost as if you dropped in on somebody's farm during their main meal of the day."

Sheepherders menu is not yet set, but the restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, Loftis said. The kitchen will be headed by Chad Capingha, a culinary school graduate who, like Loftis and Weiner, comes from Bakersfield.

"He's the son of a friend of ours," Loftis said. "He's Basque on his mother's side."

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