Girlfriend Getaway: Part One, Ojai Valley Inn, Ojai, CA

Ojai, which in Spanish means ‘Valley of the Moon’ is one of those under-the-radar destinations that everyone who knows about but is torn whether to keep for themselves or share with others. The excellence of the food served at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa’s (which recently underwent a most tasteful $70 million renovation) signature restaurant, Maravilla, just adds to that dilemma.

Located a short 90 minutes (w/o traffic…at least double that with) from LAX , the sleepy town of Ojai was most famous for being cast as the mythical Shangri-La in Frank Capra’s classic 1937 movie “Lost Horizon,” although the real inside story is that due to the length of the movie, all the Ojai scenes were cut.

By the end of our first day there we found out the local Ojai residents include Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, Larry Hagman, Malcolm Macdowell and everyone from Anthony Hopkins to writer-producer David Zucker has recently snatched up property. The latest buzz is that Jerry Bruckheimer just bought a $25 million spread there so I guess it’s OK for me to let the “secret” out!

My DInner at Maravilla was Simply Mahvelous!
After fighting rush-hour traffic, we were more than ready for a relaxing dinner in the warm, welcoming dining room, complete with fireplace. Although the seasonal ala-carte menu tempted me with upscale comfort-food offerings such as Kobe Beef Slider & Truffled Potato Bouquets; after one peek at the special wine-tasting dinner for $150, there was no turning back.

Our evening opened with a little gift from the kitchen, a few sips of yellow heirloom tomato gazpacho. Taste buds, Ready, Set, Go!

Not yet content to begin for real, the Chef sent out another amuse bouche. This time a petite salade, fresh from the local organic farm. Comprised of tiny beets with their rail- thin, leafy stems still intact, teensie weensie radishes the size of cheerios, and gorgeous fluffy lettuce–but where was my wine?

The next course shone, Santa Barbara Spot Prawns with Ruby Grapefruit and Serrano Ham nibblets splashed in a sweet basil foam. Oh, here’s our sommelier, bringing a 2004 Santa Barbara Sauvignon Blanc from Faith Vineyard, which paired perfectly with the salty ham and citrus.

The Alaskan Sable sported a delectable crisped skin, accessorized byHen of the Woods ‘shrooms, baby chard, with some Fois Gras and Cranberry Beans creatively completing the mix. Provocatively matched with a Whitcraft, Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley, 2004 to which my dining partner and I gave an enthusiastic double thumbs up.

When the Niman Ranch Lamb Loin came with it’s tasty trappings- Sicilian pistachio,sweet and sour eggplant and a small swish of smoked butternut squash, there was no doubt left that the Chef deserved all the kudo’s we had read.

Save room for the dessert–which also includes a pre and post offering. “Pre” was a zingy little palate-cleanser of Chocolate, Wasabi and Lime, which cleared the way for dessert-proper. A deep, dark, dense warm chocolate mousse served with interesting side-kicks of pear sorbet, candied pear and hazelnut. Sipping my glass of Barreto Cellars, Vintage Port, Lodi 2003 I thought,”hmmmmm, a girl could get real used to this”– and the little”Post” take-home box of fresh baked macaroons and tropical marshmellows.

Service at Maravilla is exactly as it should be… Everywhere, knowledgable, fun, friendly yet highly professional, without any of that hovering nonsense that can be so annoying. Indeed, it seemed like our waiters were real people who truly loved their jobs and took personal pride in making sure their guests to had a wonderful time. We did.

Posted by Janice Nieder on March 21, 2007 in Food

Comments (5)

  1. Richard
    Richard says:

    Ojai is spanish for “valley of the moon???” In which dialect???? As a 20 year resident, (and former Ojai Valley inn employee) I was always taught that Ojai is Chumash Indian for “The Nest.” I’m curious as to where you heard that. . .

  2. Janice Nieder
    Janice Nieder says:

    Either/either…Tomato/tomato…
    Ojai, California – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The city was renamed Ojai β€” a Chumash word meaning ‘the Nest’ or ‘Valley of the Moon’ β€” when the name Nordhoff was deemed too German, given the Amercian …

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ojai,_California

    or “Ojai (pronounced β€œOh-hiβ€?) is a Chumash Indian name now thought to mean β€œValley of the Moon,β€? although many residents who favor a previous translation fondly call our mountain-ringed valley β€œThe Nest.β€?
    http://www.ojaischoolofmassage.com/location.htm

    Thanks for pointing that out…Now if you could only correct my punctuation:)

  3. Richard
    Richard says:

    Good stuff, Janice! Despite the wiki entry, most locals go with “The Nest.” Longtime residents might remember the fine restaurant of the same name which used to reside in the building now occupied by the “Ojai Coffee Emporium.” Regardless, I’m very honored that you had a wonderful time in our little town and that you enjoyed your stay at one of Southern California’s finest resorts that most people have never heard of. Cheers!

  4. Christopher
    Christopher says:

    Ojai is not a spanish word. It is Indian and it does mean Valley of the moon. but it is not a spanish.

  5. Janice Nieder
    Janice Nieder says:

    YOU ARE SOOOOOOOOOOOO RIGHT. My mucho bad. Thanks for pointing it out.

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