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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND : A Toast to the Holidays With the New Beaujolais

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In France they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. And they certainly don’t have a Macy’s parade with floats and big balloons. But they sure know how to usher in the holidays.

“Where the holiday season in America starts on Thanksgiving Day, in France the new Beaujolais gets us in the mood,” said Jean-Claude Guerin, food and beverage director of Capistrano’s restaurant at Oxnard’s Mandalay Beach Resort. “It’s a tradition.”

As it does every year, the French government allowed its winemakers to release their new batch of the garnet-colored Beaujolais on Nov. 15. Guerin is scheduled to have his supply delivered by airplane today. And on Friday he will serve it as part of his five-course Beaujolais Nouveau Dinner.

“This year’s Beaujolais is supposed to be good, that’s what they say. But they say that every year,” said Guerin, who grew up near the town of Beaujolais, in the French province of Burgundy. “I’ll make my decision when I taste it.”

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The menu will begin with a choice of Sonoma duck pate or French onion soup, followed by a salad. For the entree, diners may select salmon filet poached in red wine, cream and shallot sauce; chicken with wild mushrooms in a mustard and tarragon sauce; or roast leg of lamb with herbs.

Following the entree, a selection of cheeses will be served along with walnut and olive bread. And for dessert, it will be a pear clafoutis topped with vanilla sauce. Each meal comes with one bottle of the new Beaujolais per couple.

Guerin said the wine’s popularity stems from its unpretentiousness.

“It used to be the wine of the blue collar because of its low price,” he said. “However, now it has caught the fancy of everyone. It’s a young wine, it’s fresh, it’s easy to drink. It’s a fun wine.”

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And it goes with many types of dishes, said Guerin. “You can drink it with a lot of chicken dishes, rack of lamb. You can drink it with fish,” he said.

Cost for Friday’s dinner is $44 per person, tax and tip included. Call 984-2500, Ext. 569. Capistrano’s is at 2010 Mandalay Beach Road.

Leo Smith is a regular contributor to Ventura County Weekend. Write to him at 93 S. Chestnut St., Ventura 93001, or send faxes to 653-7576.


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