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Hitting the Rails for Train Fare

Company hosting variety of themed excursions that offer meal service.

May 27, 2000|RODNEY BOSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As summer approaches, Fillmore & Western Railway Co. is making a bid to lure your recreation and dining dollars to its tracks for a casual chug across the citrus-rich Santa Clara Valley.

With its refurbished 1949 San Cayetano diner car, the rail company is hosting a variety of themed excursions that offer meal service.

Here is a look at your options:

The first installment of the "Summer Sunset Barbecue Trains" takes place June 3.

The vintage train will head west to a nearby private picnic area, where participants will dine on grilled tri-tip and chicken.

The outing includes live music and dancing, or just sitting back and taking in the sunset. Boarding: 6 p.m. Departure: 6:30 p.m. Return: 9:30 p.m. Cost: $48.50 general; $42 ages 60 and older. Also scheduled June 17, July 15 and 29.

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The "Spaghetti Western Dinner Train" will next run June 9.

The spaghetti reference is self-explanatory; the western part refers to the Frontier Gunfighters, a group of Old West history buffs who will dress in costume and opine about the gritty days of yore.

The meal includes all the fixings. The outing, with a brief stopover in Santa Paula, is family-oriented. Boarding: 6:30 p.m. Departure: 7 p.m. Return: 9:30 p.m. Cost: $40 general; $20 ages 4-12; $5 ages 3 and under. Also scheduled July 14 and Aug. 11.

With Giessinger Winery nearby, the "Spirit of California Wine & Dinner Train" is a natural collaboration. The next run will be June 16.

The first leg of the outing begins at the Fillmore winery, founded three years ago by UCLA laser physics professor Edouard R. Giessinger. Guests will sample wines and then board the train for a meal prepared and served on board.

The meal includes a choice of entrees: prime rib, stuffed chicken breast, grilled swordfish or pasta primavera. Performing onboard will be the jazz-inspired Sespe Trio. Romantics take note: Seating is mostly four to a table, although there is a limited number of more intimate tables for two. Wine-tasting begins at 5:30 p.m. Boarding: 6:30 p.m. Departure: 7 p.m. Return: 9:30 p.m. Cost: $56.

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The "That's Hollywood" excursion aims to entertain with a nostalgic show featuring impersonators of Tinseltown favorites, who sing, crack jokes and interact with guests.

A complete meal, with the same entrees offered on the wine train, is prepared and served onboard. Schedule: June 30, July 28, Aug. 25 and Sept. 9. Boarding: 6:30 p.m. Departure: 7 p.m. Return: 9:30 p.m. Cost: $68.50. Note: If you want theatrics, Saturday night murder-mystery dinner trains are also scheduled a couple of times a month.

The company's depot is near Central Park in downtown Fillmore. Reservations are required for the excursions, and it's a good idea to plan ahead--many trips sell out. For more information or reservations, call (800) 773-8724. Internet: http://www.fwry.com.

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Wine-tasting: Leeward Winery in Ventura will use the Memorial Day weekend to host an extended open house wine and cheese tasting. Today through Monday, the event will pair Leeward's current releases with a variety of cheeses from around the world.

Visitors will also have a chance to compare the nuances of how wine ages through a vertical tasting of the winery's Bien Nacido Vineyard Pino Noir, vintages 1996-99. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. each day. Admission is free. The winery is at 2784 Johnson Drive, Ventura. Call 656-5054.

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Rodney Bosch writes about the restaurant scene in Ventura County and outlying points. He can be reached at 653-7572, fax 653-7576 or by e-mail at: rodney.bosch@latimes.com.

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