Friday, May 20, 2011

Eating Ojai

Ojai, CA Farmer's Market May 15th, 2011
If and when the unexpected opportunity ever arises for my husband and I to do a quick getaway, alone without the kids, we JUMP on it. So rare is the chance when stars align, neither one of the kids are sick, and a babysitter is readily available. Incredibly this was the case 2 Fridays ago. We almost couldn't believe it when we found ourselves in the car, flying down the 101 NORTH heading towards Ojai, CA. I mean I would have loved to find us on our way to oh let's say San Francisco or Napa instead (Paris would have been nice as well) but this last-minute quickie (we had to be back in less then 48hrs) had to be close to home.
Ojai Trolley

Ojai is a tiny little city in Ventura County, CA on the way to Santa Barbara. You veer off the 33 from the 101 to find this green sleepy oasis, with hiking trails galore, days spas, a wonderful Sunday Farmer's Market, bike paths, restaurants and trees upon trees of gorgeous greenery that makes you feel like fairies are watching you from behind every leaf. No joke, Ojai has a meditative eeriness that once there you are guaranteed almost forced to escape, relax and feel a world away.

For me as usual any place I travel to regardless of how big or small it may be, requires my submergence in the food of the destination! I tried to sample as many places as I could when we were there. A few meals made quite an impression and some were so memorable, my mouth is watering as I am now writing. All in all I managed to try 2 bakeries, a candy store, 3 casual dining restaurants, and 1 fine dining restaurant...not bad for a weekend getaway that lasted less then 48hrs :) My waistline is thankful we were able to squeeze in a few picturesque hikes in between all the eating. The first hike being after our breakfast at the Ojai Cafe Emporium, where I came face to face with a warm, freshly baked boysenberry scone, whose buttery, crumbly texture was true perfection!

Eating in Ojai was awesome, but stumbling upon Knead Baking Company at 4:30pm after yet another hike, was the best! I was anxiously anticipating our upcoming 8pm dinner at Suzannes Cuisine, a place repeatedly on the list of top places to eat in Ojai. But, I just couldn't help myself and pass up an opportunity to sample the fine looking offerings of this adorable artisan bakery.

We decided to grab a cheese and charcuterie plate to go, and minutes later (Knead was a short walk from the inn we were staying at) we found ourselves in the comfort of our hotel room, with a bottle of our favorite Chardonnay devouring this beautifully assembled creation. Artisan prosciutto salami, various cheeses, greens, cornichons, and house made bread and crackers. They even threw in (per my request) a wonderfully tangy gigantic marinaded artichoke.

Cheese and Charcuterie Plate at KNEAD

Let me just say that the level of self control I had to exercise in order to not overdo it and eat every last bit so I wouldn't ruin my dinner was painful. My husband practically dragged me away from this "5pm snack" and I nearly burst in to tears when the possibility of eating every last bite of the cheeses and meat slowly faded.

Thankfully dinner at Suzannes came sooner then later. And with the arrival of our first appetizer, my emotional suffering of not having finished the charcuterie and cheese was immediately erased and replaced by none other then warm crusty toasted sweet baguette and Duck Liver Pate! A rich, decadent, well seasoned, creamy, pate. This time there was no holding back, and against my husbands advice to now save room for main course (what is it with him, first save room for dinner now for main course) there was no stopping me. Every last bit of this ridiculously good concoction was gone.
Duck Liver Pate

 My main course consisted of King Salmon On A Bed Of Homemade Sauerkraut With A Dill Beurre Blanc Sauce and my husband chose the Jumbo Sauteed Scallops On Bed Of Rice Noodles In A Ginger Curry Sauce. Both dishes as expected were phenomenal. I've never eaten piping hot Sauerkraut before and its buttery texture, combined with the perfectly cooked flaky moist salmon, dripping with the rich beurre blanc was indescribably good. 
My Entree

My Husband's Scallops
Suzanne's was as I had read and imagined, hands down the best place to eat in Ojai. Romantic and inviting the restaurant and its food had the feel of established confidence that can only come with experience and knowledge of how to use great ingredients. The food is straightforward, rich and bold. The service was comfortable and efficient. It was evident that the chef and the staff really knew their stuff and were there to give you a prompt but most importantly delicious experience.

Front Of Suzannes Cuisine Ojai, CA

Ojai has always been a recurrent choice on the list of  places as far as quick getaways go. After "eating Ojai" however its definitely jumped a few notches. I have been many times before to this little town but never has my palate been as satisfied as it was this weekend in May. We will definitely be coming back to eat in Ojai very soon. I am not sure how long I can go without another meal at Suzannes and can already foresee the deep ache that will ensue within me as result of craving that magical pate.