On Saturday, September 28, 2013, a beautiful, sunny morning welcomed the 2nd annual Banana Festival to Port Hueneme, CA. Unfortunately, they did not receive enough entries for the banana recipe contest so we had to readjust our itinerary. Del Monte and Chiquita were giving away free bananas (and pineapples if you came early enough).
We decided to hit the Port Tours early since the weather was cooperating. Hook’s Sportfishing, provided tours of the port – barges carrying shipping containers, huge naval ships, sonar research ships, sea lions sunning themselves on a buoy, tugboats, and uni (sea urchins) in the water off of the gangway. I wanted to crawl down there and collect them for lunch. The boat ride was relaxing and educational for children and adults alike. I’m a very glad we decided to do this first as there was a major line for it right after lunch.
Seeing the uni made us hungry as we didn’t eat breakfast (saving room to try foods offered at the festival). Our first stop was Kiwanis International Banana Crepes. Banana and Strawberries Crepe was a great combination of flavors – bananas and strawberries always make a great pairing from the creamy sweet banana to the sprite and tangy strawberries (Oxnard’s finest). Unfortunately, the crepe itself was underdone with a doughy texture.
Our second stop was Tomas Café, owned by Tom Rey Garcia, in Oxnard, CA. Tomas Café originally opened in February 2001, as a place where loved ones could sit down and reminisce with coffee and pastries during or after a funeral service at Garcia Mortuary situated across the street. Since then, they have been known for the chilaquiles plate (featured on NBC LA in 2012) and mainly open for breakfast and lunch. In true Banana Festival spirit, they offered a Banana Grilled Cheeseburger and Banana Shakes. The Banana Grilled Cheeseburger was served In-N-Out-style, fresh ground beef, fresh lettuce and tomatoes, grilled onions, but what made it amazing was the grilled banana. You’re thinking, banana on a burger? If you’re of Asian descent, bananas work well with savory too. In the Philippines and at Puka Dog in Hawaii, they have banana ketchup. It adds a subtle sweet flavor and goes really well with the grilled onions, making a ketchup flavor of sorts. It was a “hot mess” but totally worth its weight in bananas! The French fries were average and could have been a bit crispier. The Banana Ice Cream Shake was awesome! The fresh bananas were perfectly blended with the vanilla ice cream with a smooth, silky texture. For more information about Tomas Café, please visit their website.
Our third stop was Pizza Man Dan’s. Dan Collier has been in the pizza business for over 30 years. Started as a Rusty’s Pizza franchise in 2002, they changed their name to Pizza Man Dan’s in 2012. They sell over 85,000 pounds of Hot Wings a year, more than the weight of a 737 jet airplane! I love chicken wings so I was all over that one. The California Hot Wings were great – crispy skin and slightly spicy buffalo sauce. I can take the heat so this sauce could have been pumped up a little more or maybe offer different levels of spicy for the sauce fanatics. Their ranch dressing was fantastic and tasted like homemade. On the down side, the Pepperoni Pizza was merely average. Not sure if it’s because they were cooked prior and then held in their mobile truck. But the crust wasn’t crisp on the outside making it taste like a store-bought frozen personal pizza. At their restaurant locations, they offer a Quick Lunch Special (Pizza, Salad, and Drink) for $7.50 and a Manager’s Special (Large Pizza and 12 Hot Wings) for $20.99. I would give their pizza a second try at one of their locations and would definitely come back for the California Hot Wings! For more information on Pizza Man Dan’s, please visit their website.
Our fourth stop was Zamora’s Roasted Corn. My mom loves corn! Every time we see a vendor, whether it’s a county or street fair, we have to make a stop. Unfortunately, the corn was overdone, dry on one side and mushy on the other. It also had way too much salt on it and I had to brush most of it off with a napkin. Needs some work on the roasting and seasoning, sometimes less is more.
Our fifth and final stop was the Buena High School Music Association’s Funnel Cakes. “The Works” Funnel Cake is your choice of powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar, banana and/or strawberry, and topped with whipped cream. The funnel cake was fantastic – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside like a fresh baked cake donut. The banana-strawberry combination was fantastic and very generous with the whipped cream. Oxnard has the best strawberries in California and I always have to get some when I’m in the area.
For a second year, the Banana Festival is heading in the right direction. Can’t beat the free admission and the concession prices are pretty reasonable. I would love to see more creativity from the concession stands next year – maybe mixing the bananas into the funnel cake batter like a banana bread funnel cake (you can call it the OC Food Diva Funnel Cake) or utilizing bananas in savory dishes like Tomas Café. It’s all about fun and introducing locals and visitors alike to the creative uses of bananas! Can’t wait to see what you guys have in store for us next year!
For more information:
2nd Annual Banana Festival