In The Orchard
Early spring, when the aroma of orange blossoms permeates the air, is a particularly lovely time to visit. It’s indisputably intoxicating! The temperature is perfect from March to May, and winter’s rainfall makes everything green in the mountains and along the hiking trails. It’s the time of year when this tiny delectable fruit, the Ojai Pixie, is in season. You see them everywhere, served in and on everything. In the Orchard recipes celebrate the Pixie with an Ojai Pixie Spritz cocktail; a Citrus Salad with fennel and crushed pistachio with a bright citrus vinaigrette; Olive, Fig, and Tangerine Chicken; and Candied Pixies that grace a Citrus-Almond Olive Oil Cake served with a delicious, creamy Pixie Tangerine Curd.
June is time for lavender and the annual Ojai Lavender Festival, which promotes the many uses of the purple flower that thrives in the Ojai Valley’s climate. This Mediterranean plant is easy to grow and maintain and can flourish without large amounts of water; its drought tolerance makes it a good choice for the area. Picking up on the colorful theme, the Lavender Inn, a historic home built in 1874, is an eight-room bed-and-breakfast in the downtown area that also houses the Ojai Culinary School. They offer a wide variety of hands-on cooking classes led by visiting chefs and local artisanal cooks. You can visit Frog Creek Farm to pick-your-own lavender for a refreshing lavender elixir—Lavender-Cherry Shrub—in addition to these other fragrant lavender-infused recipes: Lavender Fig Olive Bread, which you can turn into crackers; Basil and Lavender Pesto with a light Spring Chicken Salad; and a luscious Lavender-Blueberry No-Bake Cheesecake.
Sunday Farmers Market
Ojai has a synergy with its agricultural community. The Ojai Farmers Market is what a farmers market should be, with tons of fresh organic produce, as well as plants, flowers, jams, honey, and baked goods and desserts. It takes place every Sunday throughout the year and features more than 24 farms and a dozen vendors of gourmet prepared foods and artisanal goods. The Farmers Market chapter shares recipes for cooking an armful of market-fresh vegetables, such as Charred Eggplant with Creamy Tahini-Miso Dressing, Muhammara with Grilled Torpedo Onions, and bundles of Beets with Raspberry-Thyme Glaze and goat cheese.
Ojai is perfect for a romantic weekend or a weekday stay. There are tranquil lodgings and stylish hostelries for all types of travelers with all kinds of budgets, from a design-forward guest home located on a private road to chic rural hillside farms. The Blue Iguana and Emerald Iguana—sister hotels—each offer a relaxing environment with beautiful decor, fine linens, and original art by a local artist-architect. The charming Ojai Rancho Inn, a Shelter Social Club property, reflects Ojai’s relaxed and friendly personality. On a larger scale, the unparalleled Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, a reimagined historic resort, is breathtaking, with luxurious amenities, sweeping lawns, and golf carts that shuttle you everywhere on site. With its new food and beverage offerings, the “Inn” is worth visiting even if you’re not staying there. Wherever you choose to check-in, imagine being there sipping an icy cold cocktail while eating Spicy Corn Fritters with an Avocado Basil Dip, Citrus-Cured Salmon with Buckwheat Crepes, or Crisp Potato Pancakes with Green Chile Salsa and Homemade Queso Fresco. As you rejuvenate yourself with these upscale appetizers, you’ll feel like you are at a spa getaway at a five-star hotel.
Health and Wellness
Surrounded by majestic oak trees, a backdrop of mountains, and the valley’s healing mystique, visitors can immerse themselves in self-care, yoga practice, and meditation and then hit the town to dine on farm-to-table fare. Ojai offers plentiful fresh, organic, locally grown produce. The Health and Wellness chapter includes recipes for today’s flexitarian lifestyle, foods that nourish the soul. Start by making a Roasted Carrot-Onion Soup with a Savory Spicy Granola or satisfy your hunger with the Gratitude Bowl with Herb Hummus, and other vegetarian offerings.
There are numerous valley hikes. The best views can be found along Shelf Road, the Pratt Trail, and the Ventura River-Rancho El Nido Preserve, to name just a few. They are monitored by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy—a community-based nonprofit organization that works to protect the area’s views, trails, water, and wildlife. Nearby Lake Casitas is a popular recreation area for camping and boating. Or if you prefer glamping with upscale amenities and resort-style services to roughing it, Caravan Outpost is a brilliant combo of a back-to-nature environment and a boutique hotel. This beautifully curated Airstream trailer park has a garden-in-the-city setting. Cook up your own breakfast or dinner with recipes from The Campout chapter: a Greek-inspired Frittata, Gluten-Free Scones, Sweet Potato Hash and Eggs with Homemade Chicken Sausage, or a French Custard Berry Pancake baked in cast iron over rustic hardwood.
Photographed by Andrea Russell Photography