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.
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.
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.
502 W Ojai Ave
Ojai, CA 93023
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.; www.casabarranca.com; 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
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.