Get ready for a short but beautiful road trip. Just head up the 101 to Ojai, whereÂ yes – another shopping benefit – will focus its efforts on raising funds for Share Our Strength (umbrella org over Taste of the Nation) and Help of Ojai. You’ll get to shop – poolside -Â Stella McCartney‘s 2010 Spring & Summer lines while nestled in that Valley Inn 30 minutes south of Santa Barbara.Â A vegetarian lunch is included and you’re encouraged to bring the family.Â Your kids will get to indulge in planned fun activities and a face painter will be on-site.
The best part of your admission to the shopping event is that it comes withÂ a complimentary dayÂ pass to Spa Ojai. So after you shop, you can lay back and relax in some posh amenities – especially if they’re anything like the rest of the resort-hotel (impeccable). Just be sure to mention code “SDSP” to the representative when you call to make your reservation.
What a fun getaway with the girls! Helping end child hunger never needed a better occasion; retail therapy, beautiful scenery, delicious food and a day at the spa come packaged as one.Â
Saturday, April 25, 2010
11 AM – 2 PM
$60 adults, $30 ages 5 – 12, free under age 5 Includes shopping, vegetarian lunch, Ojai Spa day pass (code: SDSP)
I had occasion to visit Ojai Valley Inn & Spa not of my own accord, but on invitation to spend the night there after attending the Papabubble candy-making workshop one Saturday afternoon. That is, not before enjoying a special meal in the resort hotel’s main restaurant (of a total 4), Maravilla. The resort itself is a special place tucked away in that green valley, with Maravilla helming its top-notch cuisine. The hotel is not for the slight-of-wallet – a room with a fireplace will run you $600 – so it should make sense there would be a minimum standard attached to the restaurant nestled within that retreat. The great thing, though, is Maravilla meets that posh standard.
The ambiance of Maravilla is warm and welcoming – and its dishes do well to embody that same mood. I was very impressed with Executive Chef Jamie West‘s menu and the execution of at least the dishes that came to our table. The service was impeccable all night (granted, it was a bit of a media review arrangement but everyone else dining seemed to also be pleased).
We started off with the soup of the day: French onion. It was deliciously smoky and the onions were sweet, carmelized and perfect. While part of me wished for a pot covered with a layer of cheese, the complex flavors of the soup were more than enough to keep me intrigued.
Another starter we had was the Mediterranean Mussels – which, surprised my dinner companion Bridgette that they were to her liking as she hasn’t been “a mussels kind of person” prior to this meal. The broth was compelling, though, and had a good, weighty kick to it thanks to the spice in the chorizo and paprika. We sopped up the mussel broth as well as some french onion soup with the accompanying bread.
The Moroccan Spiced Lamb Loin (title picture) came highly recommended and with good reason. It was perfectly cooked with the appropriate rings on the inside of the cut and the meat itself was awesomely tender without hardly any gamey consistency whatsoever.Â It ranks up there with the best lamb I’ve ever had. Additionally, the cous cous bed it lay atop was a surprising treat; I’ve rarely had cous cous cooked to exactly the right texture as I had at Maravilla. Each one was spritely to the bite and the vegetables added vibrantÂ flavor, as well.
This past weekend, I had the unique opportunity to attend a Papabubble candy-making workshop at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. After doing some online research, I learned that the only Papabubble shop in the U.S. is in New York City – Little Italy, to be exact – so I couldn’t wait to see the demonstration. Maybe the West Coast would finally get a taste of these hard goods.
Papabubble is handmade hard candy which is made through a very time-sensitive process beginning with pots of liquified sugar. I was delighted by the story of Chris and Rachel Grassi, two artists from New Mexico who co-own the American flagship in New York City, and the discovery of their love for candy-making while on an extended trek through Europe together. They learned from friends in Barcelona, and decided to bring the traditional European craft Stateside since they figured they “had to go home, eventually.” New York proved most conducive to their business plan and product, and today their Little Italy storefront hosts a most eclectic gathering of spectators intrigued by the sight of candy being made by hand.
When we arrived in the hotel banquet hall, we couldn’t see the extreme boiling action going on in the kitchen next door. When the pots were finally brought out, though, they went straight to a heated marble slab. Chris and Rachel then started spreading the melted sugar evenly across the slab while using metal bars to knead the sheets as they became thicker while cooling down. And then when it was solidified, the “clay” was transferred to a heated rubber mat to undergo continued stretching. Chris and Rachel continued to stretch and fold the warm putty repeatedly with respect to their separate colored shares. And then the molding began.