Let’s start with the gorgeous location that’s been a favorite getaway for Angelenos for nearly a century. Then there’s the wildly popular golf course as well as a lineup of guest experiences that might inspire longer stays. But for the food lover, the Ojai Valley Inn is an extra special destination. Here’s why.
A warm welcome
Not far from the charming main drag of Ojai, this resort is tucked away off the beaten path. If you weren’t looking for it, you might miss it.
Once you arrive, though, first impressions prompt a series of wows. The gracious staff at the front desk will direct you to your room on the sprawling grounds while the bellman whisks away your luggage. It’s a large property but it feels completely approachable.
Oh, and what’s that? The friendly squawks coming from a large aviary is home to rescue birds, a space that’s often surrounded by kids of all ages trying to make conversation with these feathered friends.
Just down the path, the Indigo Pool deserves your attention. The views from the lounge chairs and the cozy cabanas show off the nearby mountains to their best advantage. Be sure and look up when the pink hour hits, the moments when the sunsets and bathes the rocky slopes in rosy hues.
Thirsty after that round of golf? The Indigo Pool bar serves signature cocktails, beer and wine throughout the day.
The signature look of this lovely place is credited to famed architect Wallace Neff, the man who singlehandedly popularized the Mediterranean look that became known as the California style. Drink a toast to this creative in the bar named in his honor!
There are several ways to satisfy your cravings at the inn, including a casual pub, healthy fare at the spa cafe and a grab-and-go options in the gift shop. The shining star in the mix is Olivella, the fine dining room where the focus is on classic Italian with clever California twists.
Culinary director Andrew Foskey oversees all things edible. He can regularly be found in the kitchen at Olivella during service. The restaurant’s open five nights a week.
During a recent interview, Foskey said his mission is to showcase the amazing produce grown nearby and source the best possible ingredients elsewhere. That might include chanterelles from the Pacific Northwest, octopus from Spain and heavenly white truffles from some secret place in Alba.
“We find inspiration in the food. We don’t get in its way,” he said.
Born in Maineville, Ohio, Foskey credits a Discovery Channel show called “Great Chefs of the World” with kicking his culinary curiosity into high gear when he was a kid. He graduated from Johnson & Wales and worked in high-profile kitchens in Charlotte, N.C., for several years before heading west.
His vision is on full display in the handsome dining room that glows from the fireplace in the corner. During a recent Friday night visit, the space drew a mix of diners from families gathered at a long table to couples who looked as if they were celebrated a special occasion.
The four-course prix fixe menu changes regularly, though there are a few constants among the tempting options. Foskey said the ahi tuna crudo and an old school bolognese are beloved staples that aren’t going anywhere. Yet, the menu also goes in some surprising directions on time-honored Italian favorites.
Nothing demonstrates that philosophy quite like the cacio e pepe ravioli, a house-made pasta enveloping a Bartlett pear and mascarpone filling that tastes like the perfect expression of fall. Slightly sweet and rich, but not in a heavy-handed way. So memorable in its novel approach while still delivering the straight-up satisfaction of the classic dish.
Among the mains, a fork-tender lamb shoulder braised in Nebbiolo also sets a strong autumnal tone, while a Rockfish preparation transports palates to a bright, happy place. Thin slices of preserved lemons on top of the perfectly cooked fresh filet make a strong case for that beautiful pairing. A fresh date salsa offers a welcome contrast.
Executive pastry chef Heather Campbell’s show-stopping final course offers a lineup that’s definitely Instagram-worthy. Especially the olive oil cake. That luscious baked good is finished in a pistachio cream and adorned by basil meringue and candied fennel. It’s almost too pretty to eat, but impossible to resist finishing every single perfect bite.
Prefer something savory? The cheese plate is a creamy, dreamy assortment that includes a funky blue and accompaniments such as local honeycomb. Oh, and speaking of accompaniments, the bread service is stellar featuring rustic slices baked by the well-seasoned crew at Ojai Rotie.
Not surprisingly, the wine list is world class, an ongoing effort directed by Melissa Lamb, the director of restaurants.
Adding to the compelling reasons to visit the inn, a special event space called The Farmhouse was established in 2019 with legendary chef Nancy Silverton as the culinary ambassador guiding a series of cooking demos and guest chef dinners.
The 2022 schedule was just announced featuring these renowned chefs:
Justin Cogley (January 26, 6:30 p.m.) is the Executive chef at L’Auberge at Aubergine in Carmel-by-the-Sea, where his culinary program was recognized with a Michelin star.
Nancy Silverton and Dr. Steven Gundry (February 5, 6:30 p.m.) James Beard Award and Michelin-recognized Chef Nancy Silverton of Mozza Group is teaming up with cardiac surgeon and dietary expert Dr. Steven Gundry to prepare a multi-course wellness dinner guided by his health principles and highlighting the complexity of the human digestive system.
Mark and Alison Sullivan, Carlton McCoy, Naoko and Maya Dalla Valle (February 19, 6:30 p.m.): Michelin-recognized chefs Mark and Alison Sullivan will showcase a menu to preview their new Tahoe City restaurant Savoie. The culinary couple pays homage to the Sierra Nevada Mountain Region and the Savoie mountainous region in the French Alps. Master Sommelier and Heitz Cellar CEO Carlton McCoy will team up with Dalla Valle Vineyards mother-daughter duo Naoko and Maya Dalla Valle for wine pairings that celebrate Northern California food and wine.
Ryan Hardy (March 4, 6:30 p.m.): The renowned chef of lively New York City restaurant Charlie Bird, Hardy will offer an Italian-inspired, American-executed multi-course dinner with wine pairings that is serious in approach and relaxed in execution.
Matthew Kammerer: (March 7, 6:30 p.m.): The rising chef recently recognized by The Michelin Guide and James Beard Foundation, Kammerer cultivates as much food from The Harbor House Inn’s land and tidepools in Elk, California. At The Farmhouse, he will deliver a multi-course dinner reflective of the two-star Michelin experience at Harbor House Inn.
William Bradley (March 13, 6:30 p.m.): The Chef-Director at two-star Michelin restaurant Addison in San Diego, Bradley will showcase the beauty of California cuisine with a dinner that celebrates regional ingredients and techniques.
Nancy Silverton and Friends BBQ (June 4, 1:30 p.m.): Hosted by Farmhouse culinary ambassador Nancy Silverton, guest chefs Kevin Bludso (Bludso’s Bar & Que), Erik Black (Ugly Drum), Nick Priedite (Priedite BBQ), Bruce Aidells (Aidells Sausage), Nancy Oakes (Boulevard), and Jenee Kim (Parks BBQ) will showcase the diversity of barbecue styles during this afternoon event with BBQ-themed beverages and tastings at this festival-style event.
Thomas Graham (July 29, 6:30 p.m.): Offering his first-ever dinner in the United States, Graham will debut an approachable, ingredient-focused cuisine reminiscent of his menu at Le Mermoz in the chic Élysée neighborhood of Paris with a multi-course dinner and wine pairings.