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Summer Splash: Eats | TIDBITS

Start Sizzling

Barbecue, chili and salsa concoctions will add zest to the season's lazy days.


Now for the summer forecast: hot.

And somewhat spicy too, what with a salsa festival, chili festival and Capt. Barbeque all making an appearance in Ventura County.

The captain, or Jim Lyons as he was known before he singed his first briquette, already is heating things up with his new Kansas City Bar-B-Q establishment, which opened last week in the food court at Channel Islands Harbor.

A longtime barbecuer and caterer, Lyons has kept a pretty good watch on the trends in the field. He offered some suggestions for folks who find themselves playing the role of backyard cook this summer.

"People are barbecuing ostrich, a lot of people are barbecuing fish and they're actually doing vegetables more," Lyons said. "Shark is the great thing that people are doing now. It cooks quickly--in five minutes--stays moist and has a good flavor as long as it's cut right and cleaned right."

Whatever the grill of the day may be, Lyons said, the trick to barbecuing is knowing how to work the equipment. Gas grills with double burners, he said, sometimes pose a problem. He said the trick is to fire up only one burner.

"Use one side to cook the meat and the other side with no fire at all," he said. "You never have to worry about burning the meat. Once it's cooked, move it to the other side for indirect heating."

Lyons will be doing his own share of cooking over the summer. In addition to running the Kansas City Bar-B-Q, he'll be selling his own line of sauces. Lyons, who specializes in ribs, rib tips, chicken and hot links, attributes his culinary skill to his genes.

"I think I inherited the skill from my father," Lyons said. "He was a bootlegger--he still is at 90. I don't drink, but I have a keen sense for making sauces. He makes sauce, I make sauce."

It also helps, Lyons said, to have a good time preparing the food. "The best food in the world," he said, "is nothing if you don't have fun."


There will be a variety of food festivals in Ventura County this summer, but probably none hotter than the Sespe Creek Car Show & Regional Chili Cook-Off on July 4 in Fillmore, and the Salsa Festival on Aug. 2 and 3 in Oxnard.

The 11th annual chili festival, a competition sanctioned by the International Chili Society, will include about 80 of the top chili cooks from throughout the U.S.

Organizers expect participants from Missouri, New York, Kansas, Virginia, Arizona and California, who will prepare their specialty for a panel of judges as well as for the general public.

Fillmore's Jim Beaty, festival founder, judge and former world chili champ, said the secret to good chili is to keep things pretty simple. "I don't think a person needs to get exotic," he said. "A lot of people add too much. Just keep it basic."

Beaty said a good chili is one in which the spices are evenly balanced. "Where one spice doesn't dominate the others," Beaty said. The event, to be held at Central Park in downtown Fillmore, will include a car show of 350 to 400 cars. The program will get underway at 11 a.m. July 4, with the cook-off beginning at noon. Fireworks at dusk will wrap up the festivities. Call 524-0351.

Rosemary Pace, founder of Oxnard's Salsa Festival, is proud of the rapidly growing popularity of her chosen condiment.

"Salsa is a step over and above all other sauces, with a flavor uniquely its own," Pace said. "Salsa is palatable on everything, from fruits and vegetables to crackers and chips, or even alone. Salsa is the No. 1 condiment."

There certainly will be plenty of it heating up Oxnard's Plaza Park at this year's fourth annual event. More than 18,000 people are expected to turn out for the two-day August festival, which will feature professional and amateur cooking competitions.

Pace said contestants may prepare their salsas any way they like, as long as the creation is original.

"Traditional salsas use tomatoes, cilantro, crushed chilies and also a little hint of a secret spice, the chosen spice of the creator," Pace said. "And depending entirely on how hot you want it, is what pepper you choose."

Events run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 2 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 3 at the park, at 5th and C streets. Call 247-0197.

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