Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ojai Adventure - Suzanne's Cuisine

The patio garden at Suzanne's Cuisine in Ojai

With gas prices low and my spirits high, I decided to take a day trip to Ojai for lunch with a friend.

She suggested that we make a reservation on the garden patio at Suzanne's Cuisine. As soon as I walked onto the back patio, I felt like I was a world, not two hours, away from Los Angeles. We were seated next to a lovely garden with a burbling fountain and hovering hummingbird. It was like being invited for lunch at a friend's house - a friend who loves to garden and cook and has an eye for details.

The bread was crusty and warm and the presentation of the butter with a flat parsley leaf delightful. There was just one problem. My salad Nicoise (unlike the one I prepared a few days later for the trespassers picnic) was a disappointment. The rare Ahi tuna and the dressing were bland and there were just a few small potatoes hidden under the abundance of greens. No green beans, no eggs, no capers, no flavor. I even did the unthinkable and sprinkled salt on my tuna.

Suzanne's Cuisine has an eye for beauty and details.

Ordinarily, I like to blather on about these things, but, for once, I silenced my inner food critic and instead focused on the good bread, the garden, the hummingbird and the sparkling two and a half hour conversation with my friend.

Flagstone pavers and a water pump - just like the one at Grandma Opal's - add character to the garden.

And, yes, I'd go back to Suzanne's in a heartbeat. As a matter of fact, looking at these pictures makes me long to hop in the car and drive there NOW. The other food on the menu, including the chicken chilli and vegetarian sandwich my friend ordered, looked delicious. I just won't order another salad Nicoise.

Suzanne's Cuisine
502 W Ojai Ave
Ojai, CA 93023
(805) 640-1961

Other Suggestions for an Ojai Day Trip or Weekend

Casa Barranca
A stunning Greene & Greene Craftsman house, plus a winery and yoga studio, with views of the entire valley. Owner Bill Moses makes fine Viognier and Syrah and a delicate, Burgundian-style Pinot Noir, all fermented with wild yeasts (he believes in minimal intervention). The winery is not open to the public, but tastings (from $4) are scheduled Wed–Sun at Firehouse Pottery & Gallery, 109 S. Montgomery St.;; 805/646-9453. (From Sunset Magazine, 4-07)
(Susan's two cents: Architecture, yoga wine and views all in the same spot? Sign me up.)

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa Loll in Moroccan splendor as you choose your treatment, perhaps the grapefruit body scrub. INFO: Open to day guests Mon–Fri; treatments from $50, plus $20 nonguest fee; 905 Country Club Rd.; 800/422-6524. (From Sunset Magazine, 1-08)
(Susan's two cents: This is the super-pricy resorted that recently underwent a $90 million renovation. I think $70 is a fairly reasonable price to get my foot in the door of the sauna.)

The venerable Oaks at Ojai destination spa (from $180, including classes and meals; minimum two-night stay required; 805/646-5573) offers a long roster of classes and fitness activities as well as treatments and theme packages, and serves three low-fat spa meals and snacks a day. Men are welcome but rare; the clientele for its 46 guest rooms is mostly women. (From Sunset Magazine, 1-08)
(Susan's two cents: This is one of the best deals in Southern California. My friend Karen went with her rare-breed husband and had a memorable weekend.)

RTK Studios:
A craftsman bungalow is the home of this tile workshop that specilizes in reproduciton tiles of Spanish, Craftsman and art deco designs. The studio is open by appointment only. The website says, "
As artisans steeped in the tile making traditions of a bygone era, we bring the old-world craft of the legendary Malibu and Catalina tileworks back to life." Their work can be found at many of the Spanish-Mission architectural gems around town, including the colonnade leading into Libby Park. (Condensed from Ojai Pages by pigletsmom)

Australian Plants Nursery:
Altadena Hiker recommends this nursery that specializes in "ornamental trees and shrubs for Mediterranean gardens."

My friend Debbi recommends The Ranch House, another beautiful restaurant surrounded by herbs and flowers.


altadenahiker said...

I've been there! And yes, it's loverly. And I think they let us bring my dog to the patio, which is always a bonus. Ojai is one of my favorite places, AND there's a great Australian plant nursery just a few miles away.

Petrea said...

Too bad about the salad. The atmosphere looks unbeatable. Maybe they figure in that case the food doesn't have to be special.

Anonymous said...

I think it looks like your backyard which probably looks like Grandma Opel's. My guess.
Deep dark secret, I've never been to Ojai. I hear it's a font of tile making.

Susan C said...

AH, I'm itching to go back to explore more of Ojai. I'll have to add the nursery to my list.

Petrea, I think I just managed to order the one thing on the menu that wasn't that good. (Or maybe it's just that it wasn't prepared the way I like it). The other stuff coming out of the kitchen looked yummy.

PA, Interesting observation about the garden. It does remind me both of my own yard and parts of Grandma Opal's. Ojai is definitely worth a day trip. Or a weekend. I'd like to spend the weekend at the Oaks at Ojai, a very modestly priced getaway that includes spa cuisine, classes for less than $200/night.

Petrea said...

I love Ojai. Lurv it.

Margaret said...

I'm with Pasadenaadjacent. I've never been to Ojai, but it looks charming, and you might have to admit that your nicoise salad simply makes even very good nicoise salads pale in comparison.

white on rice couple said...

I have always wanted to go to Ojai and explore! Although it's about 3 hours from me, the drive has never been the issue. I always get side tracked in Santa Barbara!
Thanks for this info and the restaurant. We're certainly inspired to go there soon...and forget about SB!

Cafe Observer said...

MargaretF & PA have never been 2 Ojai???? They must've arrived in SoCal very recently.

Love Ojai. I just wish it were closer, like where Altadena or Highland Park are located instead.

Susan C said...

Thanks, Margaret. I think this Ojai-deficit must be corrected.

Good to hear from you, WoR. I just updated the post with several suggestions for things to do on a day trip or weekend, so now you have no excuse not to hop on your motorcycle for a getaway.

PA, I found one of the tile places that you referenced earlier and updated the post.

CO: If I'm not mistaken, PA is a native. I think it's time for some road trippin'.

Anonymous said...

Thank so much for visiting. Nice blog you have here!~

Petrea said...

Ojai is easy to get to, pretty and fun. If you have money, it's luxurious. If you don't, there's great hiking. I assume white on rice comes from the north/west because otherwise, Santa Barbara's not on the way. (Although SB's another great trip in and of itself.)

Anonymous said...

Great Susan, thanks for the links. I once went to a spa out in Norco somewhere but thats the extent of my experience with pampering. I do recall visiting a group of wine vats serving as spas outside of Bishop off the highway to Tonapah. Cost me 5 bucks to rent one. It was dark, creepy and fun.
Maybe if I did up my maps I can find a camp ground in Ojai. It's probably not to late in the season to camp.

Mary said...

Susan, your photos are gorgeous. It's too bad the salad wasn't up to par. There is always a next time. Thanks for stopping by to visit my blog again. Love new faces!!!!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

My husband and I went to Ojai for the day a couple of years ago. If only I had known about this place. It's positively enchanting.

Laurie said...

I'd love to go there! I'm so weird about dining out -- I always pick atmosphere over food quality when I think about what really matters to me. My husband loves dumpy places with great chow -- I'm more inclined to gravitate toward great ambiance, with food being second. I know, I'm blaspheming on a food blog, aren't I!?

Love these pics.

Susan C said...

Susan, Yes, "enchanting" is definitely the word. I hope you and your hubby have a chance to return.

Laurie, Some of my favorite restaurants are hole-in-the-wall places with zero ambiance, but I do love to eat in beautiful surroundings.

And I've eaten in places with bad food and no ambiance and yet had a great time because of the company.

Piper Robert said...

Would the trifecta be:
1. Good food.
2. Great ambiance.
3. Good company.

Reminds me of the time we all went to Hoggs and Doggs Cafe in Millwood, WV. We hit the trifecta on that one.

Susan C said...


Actually, there's a fourth element and that's value. Hoggs and Doggs is the best value around, so it was a home run.

Margaret said...

My mind is hungry for your food talk? What's up?

Susan C said...

It's nice to be missed, Margaret. It's been a hectic week with deadlines and many, many social events. And am pinch-hosting a dinner party for 8 on Saturday night. The original hostess is on crutches and asked me on Monday if I could do the honors. It's Friday at noon and I don't have a single decoration up.

Anonymous said...

Too bad about the salad. The atmosphere looks unbeatable

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