After a week of dealing with stressful work and personal tragedy, my girlfriend and I are ready for a weekend getaway with her parents, who have been equally stressed as of late.
Before we leave to Ojai for our weekend of relaxation, we are kicking it off with some Burmese cuisine at a terrific restaurant near our house. Over coconut curry salmon, fried basil tilapia, some barley, chickpea, and potato soup, tea leaf salad, loads of rice, and Burmese beers we talk about the weekend ahead.
We are taking out my girlfriend’s parents for food, drink, and leisure. When we get to Ojai the next day, we begun our stay with lunch at Suzanne’s Cuisine, the restaurant I have seen all over internet as a must try.
Suzanne’s is decent, with a vibe akin to Mimi’s pan-European French cafe but with class and good food. We share toasted bread with duck pate before tomato gazpacho, herb roasted chicken and potatoes, tuna bruschetta, and a knockwurst sandwich. Washing it all down with various kinds of beer, we kick off our weekend right.
After lunch, we want to get out into the Los Padres National Forest–a gargantuan park of woods near Ojai. The city provides a quaint sensibility that kind of reminds me of the tourist district in Ensenada, Mexico, but surrounded by the mountains of the national forest.
Since there are so many hiking opportunities in the park, we drive up to the nearest entrance and hit the trail we find. It is a pretty day, and the trail is filled with boulders and rocks we step over as we wonder why materialized here in the first place. But we leisurely ate lunch and now the Sun is high up in the sky scorching the trail relentlessly. Though we’re having fun, our hike turns into a short walk because we’re all red in the face and ready for some air-conditioning.
Then we head to the Capri Hotel where we have reservations for a double queen room. We’re only staying one night and have decided to share one room despite all of us preferring separate rooms. When we go to check in, however, the receptionist says they wrongly booked us for a single king-sized room. They don’t offer to accommodate us though they were the ones that messed it up. Even though I clearly show them the email confirmation, my girlfriend’s father picks up the tab for a second room. I am pretty furious because the rooms are $160 each and I was planning on paying for it for them. Needless to say, I wouldn’t recommend their hotel.
Still, I cool down from my anger with a dip in the pool and read Haruki Murakami’s After Dark poolside while the others rest and shower for the evening ahead.
Once everyone is ready, we head to the Ojai Valley Vineyard for a few flights of interestingly dry wines. After receiving our tasting from an athletic employee who knows his stuff about the wine, we order a glass of the variety we enjoy the most and sit down at one of their tables.
We talk about Colorado, Slovenia, San Francisco and traveling in general. We make tentative plans for the future and enjoy each other’s company. I am sitting enjoying my Syrah when it is announced that there is an oyster truck outside.
We order habanero butter oysters and they’re one of the best things I have ever tasted. No joke. Total bliss. A perfect bite. And that’s saying something coming from a foodie like myself. We leave the tasting room with ethereal heads and hazy eyes, ready for a substantial meal.
We walk over to Azu, which is not far at all in this tiny town. Immediately when we walk into the chic and modern restaurant, we’re overjoyed. Azu is basically a Mediterranean restaurant with Spanish tapas, the Ojai Valley Brewery on tap, and an eclectic cocktail menu. It’s an incongruous mix that works perfectly.
We order Patatas bravas, which are perfectly fried potatoes in garlic aioli and a sauce that is supposed to spicy but really isn’t. Though it lacks heat, the potatoes are magnificently delicious. We also order buffalo fried cauliflower, piquillo peppers stuffed with cheese and drizzled with sherry vinaigrette, fried calamari with more garlic aioli and bravas sauce, falafel chile reilleno with capers, currants, and pine nuts, and our favorite thing: chorizo stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. The dates are sweet, the chorizo spicy, and the bacon salty. A perfect balance of flavor and texture, the food is incredible. We all order the same black lager with malt and oaky vanilla and each have a fruity cocktail. In my case, the blackberry mojito is a tad weak, but it is still a tasty drink.
Finally, we wrap up this glorious meal with a chocolate torte with salted caramel gelato and a creme brule with earl grey tea that no one seems to like. It doesn’t matter much, the rest of the meal is glorious and the restaurant takes the ostracized dessert off the bill.
Back at the hotel, my girlfriend and I take a night swim in the pool. Floating around in the water, we watch the stars above from the sky that is unimaginably clear compared to smoggy Los Angeles. A relaxing end to our first day in Ojai.
In the morning, we wake up at a reasonable hour and head over to the town’s farmer’s market. Not before grabbing some jet-fuel cold brew at the Ojai Coffee Roasting CO. For me, the cold brew is a bit strong, but my girlfriend’s stepmom Shannon loves it. Then at the market, we peruse the vegetables, marvel at the myriad tomatoes from the tomato farm, buy some hot sauce from Char Man, sample essential oils, and eat some tamales from a cart.
We walk back to the hotel (everything in town is walk-able) and cool down before catching some mimosas and snacks at the Ojai Emporium Cafe. Everything seems to have Ojai in the name because here, in the land of wine, fine dining, and artistic hippies, the city’s name is a mark of quality.
Finished with our eggs, garlic fries, muffins,and alcoholic beverages, we’re headed to the Day Spa at Ojai where we get bliss-ed out in the ambient atmosphere. A full body massage with calming spiritual music, low light, and warm wood colors, the masseuse is professional, relaxing, and loosens me up very well. I leave the massage feeling like I just took drugs, with seemingly a new body and a new mindset. I wait for the others while drinking tea they have set out for us and enjoy simply being.
To wrap up our short trip, we go to the Ojai Beverage Company for lunch. There is just about every imaginable alcohol here, and I grab a San Fernando Brewing IPA with grapefruit called the Grapefruits of Wrath. A kitschy name but a delicious beer. I also try the Avery Brewing White Rascal because my coworker said it was delicious. The grapefruit is fruity and refreshing and the Rascal is light and fluffy, like the menu said it was.
We order fish tacos with pickled onions and garlic aioli, lobster rolls, a casear salad, and a mushroom salad with truffles. We don’t share, but everything looks amazing, and my tacos are very tasty, even without salsa.
Just like that, we’re off. We drive away, the passengers a little drunk, and enjoy each other’s company on the ride back home. It was a quick, but successful weekend to remember. A perfect little getaway from our hectic lives.