I Left My Heart in Ojai

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After spending my formative high school years at The Thacher School and then becoming engaged to my now husband at the campus’ spectacular Outdoor Chapel, it is no wonder a little piece of me has always been an Ojai girl. Over the years I have found my way there on occasion, but it wasn’t until this week that I realized how much has changed since my days as a student long ago. I just returned from two days of exploring some of its newer charms as well as revisiting old favorites. I hope this inspires you to make the easy drive from Los Angeles and enjoy this truly magical valley for yourself.

(Note- click the name of each place to link directly to the site for further details.)

IMG_20130516_184055Eating & Drinking

Azu - Actually missed dining here but every local I talked to raved about this place so had to put it on the list and can’t wait to try for myself.

Boccali’s Pizza & Pasta - Gorgeous location at the East end of Ojai with a fantastic lawn for special events. My family and I love going for their famous Strawberry Shortcake.

Deer Lodge - This kitschy cabin off the side of the highway has long been a biker hangout and happy to report that after a recent face-lift, it is better than ever. I went for the absolutely entertaining Thursday night Jamboree Music Showcase and late night cocktails. Very local farm-to-table lunch, dinner and weekend breakfast.

Feast Bistro - In the center of the Ojai Arcade (the heart of town) sits this restaurant with delicious entrees and charming owners. The Ojai Orange Duck and the Steamers are both solid.

Ojai Beverage Company- Wide selection of local wines along with a tasting room and restaurant in back. Next time, checking out “The 50/50″ burger.

Ojai Coffee Roasting – Don’t miss an “Ojai Julius” for a refreshing afternoon treat.

Knead - This is now on my list of all-time favorite bakeries.  A family run spot with sandwiches, salads and some of the best bagels and pastries I’ve had in recent years.

Ruben’s - So I may have a bit more Epicurean experience under my belt since my Thacher days, but there is still something about my favorite Vegetarian burrito with extra hot sauce that makes me really happy.

Suzanne’s Cuisine – An Ojai classic in a gorgeous setting for lunch or dinner.

20130516_162258Tasting

Friend’s Ranches – Home of my favorite Ojai Pixies and W. Murcott tangerines, this packing facility offers tours and a great spot to pick up a bit of Ojai citrus before heading back to city life.

Kingston’s Candy Company- Small, fun candy store where the kids can take part in the Kingston Sweet Treat Scavenger Hunt while you stock up on old-school candy and sodas.

Ojai Vineyard- Open daily from 12-5, this in-town tasting room offers you a chance to try and buy their always lovely wines.

Regalo Olive Oil - Near my old stomping ground is Omaggio Farm, home of Regalo Estate and its picture-perfect tasting room where you can taste the estate made oils as well as flavored balsamic vinegars direct from Modena.

Vino V Wines – Before you get to Ojai, look for a classic red barn with a massive “Cider” sign. This is where you will find Old Creek Ranch Winery which offers not only its namesake wines but also Vino V Wines from winemaker to both, Michael Meagher. Bring a picnic and enjoy lunch and wine tasting in the pastoral setting on your way in or out of town. I took home bottles of Vino V’s Summer Sun and Aventura as well as a bottle of Old Creek Ranch’s De La Tierra.

20130516_111035Shopping

Down Home Furnishings - Great selection of home decor including art, furniture and tabletop.

Hattie - Modern women’s clothes just off the Arcade.

Modern Folk Living – Fantastic eco-friendly selection of gifts, books and clothes set back off the street behind an orange gate.

The Mob Shop - Bike tours and rentals make seeing Ojai all the more relaxing, fun and informative.

Ojai Farmer’s Market - The place to stop on Sunday mornings for local produce and treats.

Rainbow Bridge - Picked up loose-leaf, fair-trade teas from the fabulous Zhena of Zhena’s Gypsy Teas.

Zou Bissou – Adorable wallet-friendly, on-trend clothes. Wearing my new top as I type and sure the locals are happy to have such an accessible, stylish new boutique in town.

Where to Stay?

Seriously, Ojai has a place for everyone. The classic and gorgeous Ojai Valley Inn, the serene, adults-only Emerald Igauana Inn, the cozy B&B Lavender Inn, the boutique Su Nido Inn in the heart of town or Casa Ojai, perfect for families, there is always a place perfect for your getaway.

And if you can’t quite make it there this weekend, here is my husband’s nod to the Ojai Pixie which we enjoyed at home this Friday evening.

20130517_105259The Ojai Sunrise

1.5 Ounces Bourbon

2 Ounces Pixie Tangerine juice

1 Ounce Simple Syrup

Dash Angostura Bitters

Combine all in a mixing glass, stir (do not shake) and serve over ice.

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