Ojai Valley Inn Farmhouse Chef Dinner

The reasons for travel are many, I adore combining a hotel or villa stay with a fine dining experience. The Ojai Valley Inn recently completed a Farmhouse event space on their rambling property which is utilized to host elegant pop up dinners with famed chefs. Last week I attended my first and I hope just the beginning of many more events at The Farmhouse. The stunning event space, designed by famed architect Howard Backen of Backen Gillam Kroeger in Napa Valley encompasses an expansive 20,000 square foot culinary and event center, connecting world-class food culture with indoor/outdoor functions. The space is amazing, an indoor /outdoor experience – see previous post for full description of events.

Ojai Valley Inn The Farmhouse

In an exclusive dinner wine tasting experience Neal Fraser, chef and owner of critically acclaimed Los Angeles restaurants Redbird, Vibiana, and Fritzi Coop mingled with guests and served a tantalizing dinner. A culinary journey inspired by his renowned style of cuisine with a family-style dinner paired with wines from Heitz Cellars. Chef Fraser touts an impressive resume that includes a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and an honor roll of kitchen credits such as Wolfgang Puck’s Eureka and Spago, Checkers Hotel under Thomas Keller, Joachim Splichal’s Pinot Bistro, Hans Rockenwagner’s Rox, and the highly revered Boxer.

Bar Director , Redbird, Tobin Shea.  

The cocktail hour began beneath the immense Oak trees, so indicative of the Ojai Valley Inn property, with passed appetizers and a Redbird-inspired cocktail bar by Bar Director Tobin Shea.  Mingling with the guests were the Inn’s Director of Operations Ben Kephart and Master Sommelier, Carlton McCoy, the President and CEO of Napa Valley’s famed Heitz Cellars, and former wine director of Aspen’s The Little Nell. McCoy, 34, was one of the youngest candidates ever to achieve Master Sommelier status in 2013 and is one of only two African American master sommeliers. Although we moved inside the spectacular Farmhouse for the seated dinner, the massive glass doors on each end of the soaring space revealed the evening sunset and the warm evening breeze. Chef Neal Fraser and Chef de Cuisine Jason Bowlin announced the menu for the family-style dinner as wait staff served generous platters of each course.  The scrumptious wine pairings by Heitz’ Carlton McCoy, included the very collectible Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard.

We were thrilled to have Chef Fraser sit with us post dinner, staff delivered a small craft bottle of Russell’ Reserve Single Barrel Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey and we toasted his success. If you are interested in having Chef come to your home, I have his personal contact info. One meal he would particularly love to curate is a hunt dinner – if you have a Ranch and hunt boar, he’s interested in preparing a full-blown feast!

Foodies, golfers, sun seekers will all enjoy an experience at The Ojai Valley Inn and The Farmhouse, earlier post lists all the upcoming events which include cooking classes and famed chef dinners.

Chef Neal Fraser chef & owner of critically acclaimed Los Angeles restaurants Redbird, Vibiana and Fritz Coop at Ojai Valley Inn Farmhouse Dinner
The Farmhouse at Ojai Valley Inn
The Farmhouse Dinner Menu with Neal Fraser at Ojai Valley Inn

Summer Sojourns

Many of our clients have already spirited themselves to the South of France and returned from delightful à la française seashore jaunts, Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc is particularly busy with our Travel Tribe. Ranch at Rock Creek Dude Ranch again hosted one of our favorite extended families over the Fourth of July – if you haven’t trotted your kiddos here, it is our beloved western Ranch.

Havana Cuba

I once told a magazine writer I’m certain I was born with the DNA of a gypsy. For my 8th grade graduation, I coveted a small leather suitcase – at that age I never went further than my best friend’s house 4 blocks away or maybe to my grandparent’s home which was only 15 miles away. My parents surprised me with a hard-sided, stitched baby blue suitcase, lined in silky pale blue satin; a small lock and a gold key on a narrow blue ribbon guaranteed the safety of my valuables! I treasured it for my overnight getaways.

High school graduation yielded a trifecta prezzie: a full set of luggage, including a lady’s leather travel cosmetic case. I didn’t have an itinerary, in my heart, I knew adventure lay beyond the very small town of Ojai where I spent my childhood.

Image result for beatrice wood studio ojai
Beatrice Wood

The Avant-Garde artist and potter Beatrice Wood lived in Ojai; as a young girl, I was mesmerized by her stacks of shimmering wrist bangles, enormous ethnic silver necklaces and riotously decorated costumes – a mysterious bohemian gypsy – she truly represented uncharted territory – a different realm, somewhere far from the little burb of Ojai. Had I known she had spent time with Duchamp and lived in Paris, I might have worked up a petite bit of pluck and uttered a few words to her; but sometimes mystery is better than reality; don’t you sometimes find that to be true about people you meet?

but sometimes mystery is better than reality; don’t you sometimes find that to be true about people you meet?

Travel creates a teaching environment, we learn, we are challenged; I find travel the absolute essential antidote to everyday routines. When I pack my suitcase, I am usually completely pre-occupied with all the tasks that must be accomplished before I can escape. The  ever-growing list of must do prior to departure creates some stress; slowly each item is crossed off. Lock the gates and off to the airport. On arrival at the airport lounge, I let out a sigh of relief and let the pure sense of excitement wash over me.

My comfortable routines are banished and the anticipation of a new far off destination begins to sink in. Fresh vistas, foreign languages, interesting foods, curious customs, and people in indigenous dress – seeing places I’ve never seen before. A pleasing adventure of searching new locales for client travel, the pursuit never gets old.

Turnip Farmer Kingdom of Bhutan

There are times certainly that the luxury of my soft little pillow is missed, the paradox of travel – the comfy reminders of home – while enjoying the adventure at hand. Certainly, the brave seafaring explorers in tall masted ships, civilizations crossing boundless lands and seas to explore new countryside felt the tug of home. The spark of curiosity about uncharted territory overruled the dilemma experienced by all civilizations that left their comfort zones to search the world.

Vegetable Puree at Gaggan Restaurant Bangkok

“To get away from one’s working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one’s self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change.” ~Charles Horton Cooley

River Market Bangkok Thailand
Istanbul Market
The Marquesas aboard Lindblad National Geographic Orion

Travel means edging out of your habitat, traversing new pathways, being alive in an unknown place, a Journey.