Fresh food fills the landscape in a Southern California valley. Here's how to experience it all

Margo True

The scent of blossoms ― orange, grapefruit, tangerine,lemon ― floats on the fresh, cool air every spring in Ojai.Thousands of citrus trees grow in this little mountain-ringedvalley 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles. So do avocados, olives,lavender, and a wider smattering of other crops, including walnuts,tomatoes, and persimmons, each planted in the microclimate thatsuits it best. Full story»


These restaurants all use locally grown ingredients.

Auberge at Ojai Chef-owner Christian Shaffer has raised thebar for dining in Ojai; seasonal menu. $$$$; closed Mon-Tue; 314 ElPaseo Rd.; 805/646-2288.

Boccali's Good, fresh pizzas, hearty pastas; much of thesummer produce comes from the restaurant's garden. $$; 3277 E. OjaiAve.; 805/646-6116.

Bodee's Lovely place set in the side of a canyon; goodtri-tip sandwiches but slow service. $$$; closed Mon-Tue; 3304Maricopa Hwy.; 805/646-5300.

Feast Bistro A warm downtown nook with an eclectic menu:blue cheese flatiron steak and orange-olive oil cake are bothpopular. $$; closed Mon; 254 E. Ojai Ave.; 805/640-9260.

The Ranch House With its gardens full of fragrant herbs, theRanch House has been an Ojai institution since 1956. $$$$; closedMon; 500 S. Lomita Ave.; 805/646-2360.

Suzanne's Cuisine Chef Suzanne Roll sources many of theingredients locally for her fine, easygoing French-Italian cooking.$$$; closed Tue; 502 W. Ojai Ave.; 805/640-1961.


Friend's Ranches Tucked away in Matilija Canyon, Friend'shas a packing house where the public can buy fruit. 7-noon Tue andFri; 15150 Maricopa Hwy.;;805/646-2871.

New Oak Ranch In summer, Bill and Karen Evenden invitepicnickers to have lunch on this gorgeous, hilly property, plantedwith lavender (available for picking starting in June), tangerines,a century-old walnut orchard, and 1,400 olive trees. Sat-SunJun-early Aug; 9599 Ojai Santa Paula Rd.;;805/640-3026.

Ojai Certified Farmers' Market Here are all the fruits ofthe valley, from citrus to lettuces and honey ― including JimChurchill's avocados and tangerines. 9-1 Sun; 300 E. Matilija St.;;805/698-5555.

Ojai Olive Oil Taste Ron Asquith's Tuscan-style Crisp(peppery) or Sweet (fruity) oils, plus oils flavored with rosemaryor mandarins, and tour the pressing room, nursery, and stately oldolive grove. Free tours 10-2 Sat; 1811 Ladera Rd.;;805/701-3825.


The Blue Iguana Inn A former motor court turned into abeguilingly stylish but reasonably priced inn; on State 33, 2 mileswest of town. 12 rooms and suites from $99;;805/646-5277.

The Emerald Iguana Inn Blue's more upscale sibling, thisIguana is art-filled and luxurious ― its "cottages" are sospacious and comfortable, you have to fight a desire to move inpermanently. Secluded yet convenient location six blocks fromdowntown. 9 cottages from $139, including continental breakfast;;805/646-5277.

The Lavender Inn Pretty gardens, as you'd expect from thename, but also charming rooms, substantial breakfasts, and a nicesense of Ojai history: The inn began life in 1874 as the town'sfirst schoolhouse. 8 rooms from $115, including breakfast plusevening wine and cheese;;805/646-6635.

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa Eighty years old but newlyrenovated (at a cost of $90 million), this rambling, Spanish-styleresort remains the plushest place to stay in the valley by far.Superb golf course and luxurious spa; Maravilla ($$$$) is theformal restaurant, but we actually prefer the more relaxed OakGrill ($$$$). 308 rooms from $400;;800/422-6524.


Ojai Vineyard The valley's best-known winery, but it's notopen to the public.

Casa Barranca A stunning Greene & Greene Craftsmanhouse, plus a winery and yoga studio, with views of the entirevalley. Owner Bill Moses makes fine Viognier and Syrah and adelicate, Burgundian-style Pinot Noir, all fermented with wildyeasts (he believes in minimal intervention). The winery is notopen to the public, but tastings (from $4) are scheduled Wed-Sun atFirehouse Pottery & Gallery, 109 S. Montgomery St.;;805/646-9453.

Old Creek Ranch Winery A charmingly ramshackle place inbusiness for 26 years, surrounded by California poppies, roses, and1,200 young cherry trees. In the tasting room, good wines made withgrapes from coastal regions all over the state, plus three sweetcats. 11-5 Sat-Sun; $5 tasting fee; 10024 Old Creek Rd., Oak View;;805/649-4132.EDIBLE OJAI

For free seasonal recipes ― starring local produce ―and details on subscribing to the quarterly Edible Ojai newsletter ($28 for four issues), visit

Read more about Ojai and get seasonal recipes »

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