Chef to Court Flavors of Caribbean in Class


Continuity is an important ingredient in a quality dinner menu.

That's what Christine Hartnett Denney will try to impress upon her students in her Dec. 12 class at the Amestoy House Cooking School in Ojai.

"People should try to build themes, think about foods that are indigenous to the same area," said Denney, the lunch and dessert chef at the Ranch House in Ojai. "Pay attention to the herbs and other things that complement the food you are making."

For her class, "A Caribbean Winter's Dinner," Denney will prepare a baked chicken dish marinated with limes and chiles with baked sweet potato wedges, curry-baked winter squash and coconut rice with pumpkin seeds.

Though time probably won't allow her to prepare other dishes, Denney said, she likely will hand out recipes for a black bean dish with tomatoes and bell peppers, an avocado salad with minced vegetables and Spanish olives, and pineapple and banana fritters.

The menu is similar to one Denney created last year for a fund-raising dinner at Ojai's Oak Grove School.

"I like the way the whole menu comes together with lime juice, the chiles and the coconut rice with ginger," Denney said. "I like those types of seasonings and I like the way they taste together."

Denney resurrected the menu for the class, she said, largely because it is appropriate for wintertime in Ojai.

"A lot of the food you prepare with the oven on, which you really can't do here in the summertime," she said. "And it seemed like a break from the typical holiday meal."

* Denney's class runs from 2 to 4 p.m. and costs $25. The Amestoy House is at 8950 Highway 150. Call 646-7970 for reservations.


Back by popular demand: a wine-tasting dinner at Bella Luna Italian Restaurant in Newbury Park. Bella Luna owner Tony Fiumerodo said response was so strong to the establishment's inaugural wine dinner in October that he has scheduled a sequel for Sunday.

The meal, a tribute to the cuisine of Southern Italy, will begin with an antipasto, followed by a choice of pasta with rapini, olive oil and garlic, or pasta in a lamb-flavored tomato-onion sauce.

For the entree, there will be a choice of Sicilian-style fish filets prepared with garlic, tomatoes, black olives and capers or Italian sausage in a sauce of burlotto beans, onions and tomatoes. Traditional desserts from Naples and Sicily will close out the meal. Each course will be accompanied by an Italian wine.

* Wine-tasting dinner at Bella Luna, 579-A Ventu Park Road, $37 per person. $20 deposit required with reservation. Call 499-6767.


Speaking of Italian restaurants, longtime Ventura County restaurateur Giovanni Tromba, owner of Pastabilities in Ventura and former owner of Giovanni's in Camarillo, has opened a new restaurant in Ojai.

It's name: Pastabilities of Ojai.

"It's a continuation of my career," Tromba said. "It's a combination of Giovanni's and Pastabilities."

The menu includes such appetizers as baked brie and bruschetta; pasta dishes served with boneless breast of chicken in herbs, or fresh seafood; and an entree list that includes scampi in ginger sauce and capers with white wine and coconut-cilantro sauce.

Felix Irebe, who has worked with Tromba in a variety of settings, including Giovanni's and the Ventura Pastabilities, is executive chef.

* Pastabilities of Ojai is located in the former Bank of America building at 307 Ojai Ave. Hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for lunch and 5-10 p.m. for dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

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