It was fun trying some of the local wines -- an Ojai rose that I craved due to the severe heat. It was 7pm and barely under 100 degrees!
The first pleasant surprise was the grilled beet salad, which came with radicchio, green beans and shaved parmesan. I usually like my radicchio grilled so its bitterness is tempered but the revelation was definitely the grilled beets. The tiny beets themselves were bursting with flavor. They seemed like they were just picked in the restaurant's own garden. They were naturally sweet but they also had smoky undertones from the grill, which first made me happy but then made me wonder if they had added any liquid smoke to infuse a smoky flavor.
Nah. It's got to be natural, right? Well, I'll never know. But they weren't smoky to the point of being overpowering. They were just right and added a whole new dimension to the beet salad I had never tasted before. Brownie points.
The first pasta, penne with eggplant, tomatoes and chunks of burrata was just average. I liked its lightness.
The sorbets were good too although not exactly revelatory. The lime sorbet was the best, followed by peach.
The next day, we discovered some amazing gems at the Farmers' Market despite the scorching weather. We managed to get the sweetest yellow peaches and juicy plums from the stands. I got the most delicious crusty bread from New Vineland Bread, which is part of a well-known winery in Lompoc that sounds very promising (note to self: must visit soon). I also stopped by Mt. Olive Company's stand, which had the most amazing jams. So amazing, in fact, that I got the peach and nectarine one spiked with chili sauce.
The kicker was the strawberry rhubarb pie from Marcie's Pies/Jimenez Family Farm that was, quite simply, out of this world. I'm a huge pie snob and this was one was, again, not too sweet, and the fruit filling was clearly made with the best quality ingredients where you can really taste the sweetness. You know how many fruit just don't taste like anything anymore? Well, you could definitely taste these berries and rhubarb. This was my very first rhubarb pie and it was divine.
I mean, take one look at this pie. It's a veritable beauty! I just learned much to my delight that I won't have to trek all the way to Ojai to have another one of Marcie's Pies because they come out to the Farmers' Markets in Santa Monica and Hollywood. Woo hoo!! Big thumbs up.
After nearly melting away in the sun, we headed to Oak Grill at the massively expansive Ojai Valley Inn & Spa to seek refuge in the wonderfully air conditioned interior.
Try going to Ojai for a weekend getaway. It's close enough and its greenery and remote feel still make you feel like you've escaped the city.