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Monday, November 16, 2015

Ojai, California


 

It’s a bit warm, dusty, and the bees are swarming around the rosemary.  A couple of friendly dogs wander around, a weimaraner and one of indeterminate lineage, as Ron Asquith leads a tour into a nearby olive grove.
After turning off of the highway; onto a side road; onto another smaller road; fording a creek in our car; and then up the final dirt road; Letty and I decide to skip the tour and head into the Quonset hut that serves as the Ojai Olive Oil Company’s production facility and tiny tasting room…



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From Los Angeles, Ojai is a 90 minute drive away, tucked about a dozen miles up the hill behind the coastal town of Ventura.  If you’d like to skip the drive, AMTRAK can take you from L.A. to Ventura.  From the train station, you can catch the SCAT line 16 bus which will take you up to Ojai.  A local  trolley can get you around town. The entire route is wheelchair accessible.

Our trip was a driving trip.  While Tim spends the night with his uncles, Letty and I are having an anniversary getaway.
It’s still early when we arrive, so a side trip to the olive farm at Ojai Olive Oil is in order.
Ron’s wife, Alice, mans the counter inside and chops up bread cubes. 
Stabbing a cube with a toothpick, we dip it into the first of the oils.  The extra virgin oil tastes a bit grassy…I don’t know if that is how it’s supposed to taste, but not one I particularly enjoy.  Better are some other oils down the line that exude a pepperiness, one that is infused with basil, and another tinged with garlic.
Also on sale here are a range of Balsamic vinegars imported from Italy.  While most of the tasters in the room are wild for the peach flavored vinegar, I’m partial to just the plain variety.
We pick up a few bottles and pay.  Outside, up against the rocky hillside, is a great picnic area.  Up above, one might see a giant bird flying in the distance if they’re lucky.  Nearby is the habitat of the extremely endangered California Condor, one of the largest birds in the world.  Saved from the absolute brink of extinction, they are gradually being re-introduced in the wild here.  We’re not lucky today and have no food for a picnic so we make our way back down the hill to Highway 33.
Once back at the road, a quick couple of blocks takes us to Boccali’s, a roadside Italian restaurant just outside of town.  There’s a quaint, roadhouse feel to the place with its lively patio, large lawn area (closed today), and small dining room out in the country.  At this cash-only restaurant, we just have a salad, some bread, and a glass of beer from their tap.
The pizzas and sandwiches looked delicious, but we’re also saving room for a good dinner later.
After lunch, we figure it’s time to check in now.  Our lodging would be at Casa Ojai, just east of downtown.  Although the outside looks pretty generic, the room is a bit beyond that with a very comfortable king size bed, a nice sized living area off to the side with love seat and coffee table, flat screen TV, small refrigerator, and a large closet area.
Casa Ojai makes it known that they are the “greenest” hotel in town.  That means various things are done to reduce waste and the hotel’s carbon footprint such as using saltwater in pool & spa, putting recycling bins in each room along with the trash cans, using low flow shower heads, low flush toilets, and putting all soaps, shampoos, and lotions into wall-mounted dispensers instead of little, plastic bottles on the counter.  Even the coffee mugs are ceramic to eliminate Styrofoam cups.
We’re traveling without Tim so our room is a non-accessible, second floor room with an amazing view to the east.  Two barrier-free rooms are available with roll-in showers, one with a king bed and the other with two queen size beds.
After check-in, we go over to the small downtown area to do some shopping.  Not a lot of bargains to be had here but Rains, an actual old-town, independent upscale department store, is a great place to browse around.  It’s kind of amazing that it still exists in this world of big mergers and disappearing stores.
After parking back at the hotel, we walk a couple of blocks to the Ojai Beverage Company where wine and beer tasting are offered for a nominal fee.  The store has a huge selection of wines, beers, and liquor.  We get a couple of Belgian-style sour ales and a regular Belgian tripel to take back to the hotel where we enjoy them while swimming a sunning by the pool.
For dinner, we go back into downtown and get a window table at Azu, a Mediterranean-influenced bistro serving tapas and entrees.
Starting off with a great salad and creamy tomato soup, we get three tapas to share…a crawfish dish that was on special that night, lamb kababs, and a chile relleno.  I have to note that it was all delicious and the relleno the star of the show.  It was not like a Mexican relleno with the thick batter and sauce, but more European in the lightness of taste and the tomato based sauce it was served with.  It was incredibly good, different, and the pepper was spicy.  The ingredients only served to enhance the natural flavor of the chile.
After a good night’s sleep on the very comfortable bed, we head to the west side of town and have breakfast at Egg’s ‘n Things.  This is the Ojai branch of a small, Ventura based chain.  After ordering our food, the server pops a couple of crepes on the table.
“This is your complimentary Swedish pancake while you wait for your food,” she says.
It’s perfect with the buttery crepe, sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with a dollop of jelly.  Breakfast arrives and we have a little feast with omelets, pancakes, biscuits, and bacon.  Not a bad thing on the table.
After eating, it’s a stop at the local farmer’s market, held each Sunday morning behind Rain’s.  We pick up some tangerines and sample some great oranges…this is citrus country and this is the season.  We also meet some orchid growers that worked at the same nursery we did many years ago and pick up a plant for my wife’s mom.
We check out, and head home via the back road…a continuation of Highway 33 through Santa Paula and Fillmore.  Numerous fruit stands line the road, beckoning us to sample their citrus.  We stop at one and buy some of the tastiest navel oranges I’ve had in years.
With that, and a toast with one of our newly purchase oranges, we say goodbye to another quick trip and head back down Interstate 5 into Los Angeles and then home.





Darryl
Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful video. For people who haven't been there before, this video is really helpful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Chris. Ojai's a great place, I can't wait to get back.

    -Darryl

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