Late Lunch – Capriccio, Inc. April 11, 2021 – Ventura, CA.

When I called up and spoke with super young owner Joseph Ramirez aka, “JoJo” of Capriccio, Inc. he was so welcoming that I was so excited about my upcoming tasting. Well I was not disappointed, the food at Capriccio, Inc. is something everyone should celebrate, great Italian food, with great ingredients, what more could you want?

JoJo is so engaging, he has the best smile and when he speaks you really want to listen. From his photo online he had long hair, he told me he recently donated his hair to Love For Locks, what a stand up guy, just loved that. He has so much culinary experience in his young life and many incredible mentors that have paved his way to his very successful restaurant career. Family is everything to him and you can see that in everything he does. Most of his immediate family works at Capriccio, Inc., he wanted to teach them the value of hard work and that even though he is successful, a handout is never an option. The restaurant has had many challenges due to Covid in the last year, but JoJo loves being a mentor to all of his staff, and you can tell his happy attitude is contagious. He learned everything he knows about business from the women that raised him, one being Teresa Mejia, he says the restaurant she owned would wash the dishes if they needed to be washed. Teresa also helped pay for JoJo to go to nursing school, which he still uses, during the pandemic he helped at a local hospital. JoJo says, “Yes I have washed the dishes here at Capriccio, Inc. you just do what you have to do to make things work”. His young nephew Michael was doing many tasks, and was delighted in doing them. You can tell that JoJo’s work ethic has rubbed off on Michael, he takes pride in earning money and making Capriccio Inc., customers super happy. My server Richard, another one of JoJo’s relatives, was great in seeing to my every need while dining at Capriccio, Inc. JoJo wants you to feel like family when you at Capriccio, Inc. Truly, I was treated like family and royalty, I was made to feel so special, but from what I could tell every customer is made to feel just that same way.

Here’s What I Tried:

Starters:

Capriccio Sampler: with calamari, scampi, and bruschetta. The calamari is crispy on the outside and super tender on the inside, the scampi comes separate and has an amazing sauce. The bruschetta is super flavorful and yummy.

Eggplant Parmesan, traditional eggplant parmigiana. These are big round pieces of eggplant, cooked breaded and just delightful. The sauce adds that extra hint of tomato goodness, a real winner.

Soup:

Cream of Potatoes – Leek Soup, I can always tell a great restaurant just from tasting their soup. This soup had some kind of hidden ingredient that made it super special.

Salad:

Blacked Shrimp salad with salmon, shrimp, spinach, tomatoes, candied walnuts, pears, feta, cranberries with honey vinaigrette. I basically took 2 salads and put them together, what made this salad so amazing was the salmon, it just flaked right off the fork and was seasoned to perfection, a fantastic salad.

Pastas:

Fettuccine Bolognese, rich meat sauce in a tomato cream sauce. This Bolognese is different from what I have tried in the past, they use Italian sausage as their main ingredient, so not carrots, just a very meaty sauce that was spectacular.

Crab Cannelloni, crab ricotta cheese topped with lobster cream sauce. Oh by far one of my favorites in the tasting. The lobster sauce takes this on a whole other level; it’s rich and creamy and just takes my breath away.

Linguine Pescatore, with rock shrimp, scallops, calamari, mussels, clams, fish and tomato sauce. A fine array of very fresh seafood with a nice straightforward tomato sauce, just what the doctor ordered.

Pizza:

Bella Pizza, with crispy pancetta topped with romaine avocado tomato salad. So this pizza is a Ceasar salad on top of a pizza, what a novel concept! The crust is what I would write home about, its super thin and bubbled up, just the way I like it.

Entrees:

Italian Beef Stew with mashed potatoes and corn. OMG, this is another one of my favorites. Like my grandmother used to make, and the flavorful mashed potatoes and corn really take it to another level,

Desert:

Tiramisu cake, one of the best tiramisu I have ever had, just save room.

Wine:

Pinot Grigio – Cantina Zaccagnini – 2019. This wine is not on their menu, JoJo told me he orders it special and I can understand why. It is the perfect lunchtime wine; it adds some nice tones to all of the seafood dishes, a real find.

JoJo came in one day when it was another restaurant and he sat at a corner table and told himself that one day he would own this place, It took 6 years but his wish came true. When I asked JoJo why people should choose his restaurant when there are so many choices in the neighborhood, he simply said, “My Food is Better, ” he was right! Capriccio, Inc. opened its doors in May of 2018. JoJo is in the works for another one of his signature restaurants, but it will be something different, I told him to have me in for a review, so stay tuned.

This place is just the best, it is so unassuming, with its very spacious social distanced dining room and its lovely outdoor dining, inside of the parklett on Main Street. Recently he has had some celebrities, and famous musicians, but the only one JoJo could tell me about was Bruno Mars’ brother. It is such a unique getaway out of the craziness of Los Angeles, so I can understand. It is a very fun atmosphere, but the real star here is their excellent food, everything was just mouthwatering and perfect. Chef Ramon Sanchez makes that all happen, along with JoJo’s special touches. All of their sauces and dressings are made from scratch. Honestly you can’t order anything bad, it is all Italian dining at it’s best.

Capriccio-inc.com
298 E Main St.
Ventura, CA 93001
(805) 643-7115

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Kimberly Dawn – Record Release Party at The Mint – March 12, 2021 – Los Angeles, CA.

What a relief going to hear live music and having a proper martini in a proper martini glass at my go to hang. This night was so special, like pre Covid, bit with a slight twist. Singer Songwriter Kimberly Dawn was performing in the Mint’s green room, which is right upstairs from the outdoor patio. She was performing for a live audience seated in the patio, but her show was shown on a large screen in the patio, as well as being live streamed on many platforms. This party was for her release of her single, “The Bottle”. A novel idea – that totally worked, and the best part is you get to be out amongst people being socially distant, wearing masks and being safe. This is all happening under the stars with heat lamps in tow, everyone was eating and drinking and enjoying their almost normal evening.

Kimberly Dawn recently released her latest single ’93 where 1990’s nostalgia lives on and invites listeners to escape the day-to-day whirlwind of modern life and relive the hidden magic of a decade filled with simple joys of low-tech connection. There were some celebrity sightings, like Cedric the Entertainer, and a few others, but the night was chilly, with a fresh breeze blowing through the air. A country super star entertained while everyone was getting their live music on!!

About Kimberly Dawn:
Kimberly Dawn is a country singer/ songwriter using her natural talent for storytelling and music to express an authentic message of perseverance, humility, courage, and resilience. Through original songs like “Cadillac Lovers” and “Slow Dancin’ in the Dark” – nominated for Best Country Song at the 2019 Hollywood Music in Media Awards – the Canadian-born musician shares timeless stories of real-life triumph in the never-ending struggle to find bold purpose and powerful self-love. As a mother of four, Dawn’s personal journey toward creating inner strength and balance on the road to living out her passion is one to which many women can relate, and one that she feels particularly suited to tell. “All through growing up, raising a family, and finding myself, music got me past the most difficult times. If my song gives someone else strength to get through the day, then I’ve done what I set out to do.” Dawn earned her stripes opening for Wilson Phillips in 2015, along with performances at Los Angeles’ House of Blues and celebrity red-carpet charity events. She has also featured on popular podcasts such as Stripdt Down with Ali Levine and All About You. Don’t miss her popular singles, “Nashville” (released February of 2020) and ‘93 (set to drop September 24th), along with a weekly blog where she shares the inspirational experiences behind the music. Get a daily dose of Kimberly Dawn now on Spotify and follow along with 50,000 fans on Instagram @OfficialKimberlyDawn.

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King and Queens – Late Lunch – March 1, 2021 – Palm Springs, CA.

The Village opened in 1996, offering wonderful food and live bands 7 nights a week, until 2am. Owners Tareef and his sister Roula opened with the idea of pure enjoyment for every customer. But back then, 25 years ago, it was a different time, now with Covid, they like so many other establishments have had to pivot. No Live music inside for quite some time, but they have managed to turn their night club vibe into patio outdoor dining with live entertainment on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Late in 2017 they added a new business partner, David Mariner, also the general manager, he ran some of the best night clubs in the desert, so his expertise would lend itself to starting a new path for The Village.

Like many restaurants in Coachella Valley they have had their challenges. With closures in March and then again in December, finally some of the covid restrictions have lifted and they are able to do patio service again. Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce has created Park-lets, which are patios that go out into the street. King and Queen’s has adhered to all CDC restrictions and is very safe for outdoor dining.

Chef George has had a lot of history with this space, he started as a dishwasher here in 1999, but his culinary career took him to many cities to work after that, but somehow he found his way back, and is so happy he did. He is very close with the owner Tareef, and really likes being part of all of their culinary planning. George says their food is Continental, lots of different food items from many different places. He says, “King and Queens, is a fun place with great food, come for the food stay for the ambience”. Chef George is originally from Guatemala, and has most of his family still there. He has a heart of gold and made my dining experience so great!

Their Philosophy: Celebrating world cultures and diversity, we thrive on it and welcome everyone from all walks of life with open arms. Their goal is to have a melting pot everyday.

The Village is all part of a few other restaurants – other restaurants include: Ojos Locos, Pirates Cove, Whiskey Dicks, The Loft and their food truck.

Here’s What I Tried:

Martini’s – Lemon Drop, Regular, Cosmopolitan, and all drinks were served in proper martini glasses, which I love. Each one had its own nuances, and each one was very drinkable and good. I didn’t try any wine, but Kings and Queens prides themselves on having 24 different beers on tap.

Sharable and Classics:

Hummus and Pita, the hummus is very flavorful, with green onion in the mix, and the pita is delicate but delightful.

Sharable Pretzels, with sea salt, IPA Mustard, and cheese sauce. This presentation is over the top, it comes upright in a pretzel contraption, and the sauces are excellent.

Parmesan Brussels sprouts, with smoke bacon, garlic, brown sugar, fresh cilantro, breadcrumbs, and Caesar dressing. These little darlings are so special, and truly could be eaten as a meal. The cheese and the breadcrumbs make it very hearty.

Truffle Mac & Cheese, with mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, Parmesan, bacon, crispy breadcrumbs, and truffle oil. Oh my goodness, just spectacular, all I can say.

Pork baby Back Ribs, with Korean Pepper and Kimchi. These are full of Korean flavor and the Kimchi is hot but adds an overall punch to this great menu item.

Entrée Salad:

Gorgonzola chicken, Asian pear Salad, with Gorgonzola cheese, grilled chicken, spring mix, sliced pear, crusted walnuts, and a fat free raspberry vinaigrette. Another stellar menu item, a must have.

From the Grill:

King Burger, with Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, bacon, house sauce, cilantro, lettuce and tomatoes. This is a very large meaty burger, with all of the fixings, cut it in half and share with your dining companion.

Signature Pizzas – 12”:

The Coachella, with Basil Pesto Sauce, Mozzarella Cheese, Chicken, Roasted Bell Peppers, Fresh Basil, Balsamic Glaze. The crust alone will make you come back for more, and the marriage of all these wonderful ingredients will blow your hair back.

Entrees:

Fettuccine Al George, with shrimp, cherry tomatoes, crushed red peppers, Parmesan Cream, Basil, and Truffle Oil. Chef George said I had to try this, he was right. Just a really perfect pasta dish.

10 oz. Rib eye Steak, with Brandy Peppercorn sauce, roasted potatoes, and mixed vegetables. The steak is super tender and the sauce is sweet and peppery. The vegetables and potatoes are the best accompaniment.

Sides:

Coleslaw, this is a no nonsense coleslaw, and it hit the spot.

French fries, big thick fries with a hint of secret seasoning, just the bomb.

Dessert:

Deep Fried Twinkie, I have heard about this dessert but never tried it, it is amazing, and the raspberry sauce is terrific as well.

Double Fudge Brownie. This dessert is meant to be shared. It is huge and super tasty, enjoy!

So for me The Village has always been my go to spot for dancing and live music when I am in Palm Springs. Now that Covid has stopped all of that, The Village has managed to recreate itself, and has done a great job. The food at King’s and Queen’s is fantastic, and the outdoor dining is super fun. There are lots of people watching and sunshine, what more could you want?

The Village

King and Queen’s

266 S. Palm Canyon

Palm Springs, CA 92262

760-323-3265

www.thevillagepalmsprings.com

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Casa Blanca – Dinner – February 28, 2021 – Desert Hot Springs, CA.

This for me was a great experience. Located super close to the hotel and the downtown area of Desert Hot Springs, Casa Blanca has lots of yummy food and libations in a very colorful and spirited setting. If you’re looking for good Mexican cuisine with all of the bells and whistles, then this is your place. This would be my go-to place for Happy Hour and Dinner if I lived nearby. Also to my surprise the dining was inside, not patio dining. I was a bit taken aback but was assured that it was safe, so I dived in.

Here’s What I tried:

Margarita:

Regular, served in a proper margarita glass, this cocktail is huge and delicious.

Mango, with nice pieces of Mangos in this huge glass, this is a very light and refreshing cocktail.

Appetizers:

Guacamole, with fresh avocado, onions, cilantro, and secret their ingredients. Their chips are to die for and this creamy guacamole offers a nice accompaniment to their crunchy tortilla chips.

Casa Blanca Sampler, A sampler platter, with beef rolled taquitos. Meat quesadillas, jalapeno peppers, chili relleno, enchilada, sour cream and guacamole. It’s got a little bit of everything. The presentation is super cool, served up in a big white platter, with everything separated out. This is a nice way to start my meal.

Entrees:

Hard Shell Beef Taco, I ordered this as a side dish and it did not disappoint, nice crunchy outer shell with great beef flavor on the inside, a true keeper.

Shrimp Fajita served with sizzling, bell pepper, onion, tomato, with corn or flour tortillas. This came to my table hot and sizzling, the shrimp is plump and the vegetables are super tasty.

7 Mares, & seas soup. Shrimp, halibut, scallops, crab legs, clams, fish, octopus, with celery, carrots, potatoes, and chayote. This is to me Jewish Penicillin done Latin style. The super fresh seafood and the nice tomato broth, all a perfect blend of flavors, another must have menu item for me.

Sides:

Beans and Rice. They must put in a chicken broth, because these are super rich and have a great homespun flavor.

You can tell there are many regulars that are indulging their exotic senses. There are many Mexican places to eat in Desert Hot Springs. Casa Blanca has 2 other locations, Cathedral City and Palm Desert.

This location opened in 1996, and in 2006 was the opening of The Cathedral City location, the Palm Desert location after that. Owner, Mr. De Leon, migrated from Jalisco Mexico in 1990. He brought with him the rich traditions of his homeland, authentic Mexican and Seafood cuisine. The servings are huge and this real Mexican fare is bringing his loyal customers back time and time again.

The interior is full of color, but done in a very fun way. You feel light and joyous being inside and the staff is so helpful, all in all it was a treat for my senses and my taste buds, just loved their great Mexican flavors.

Casa Blanca

66370 Pierson Blvd.
Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240

(760) 251-5922

Desert Hot Springs, CA.

casablancamenu.com

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El Morocco Inn & Day Spa – Stay Feb. 28, 2021 and March 1, 2021 – Desert Hot Springs, CA.

My first stay here was in April of 2019, when life was so different, you could be free and not have to worry about all of the little germs called covid; getting into your lungs. But I have to say with all of that crazy stuff in the past year, coming to El Morocco Inn & Day Spa will make all of your worries and safety concerns just melt away. They have done a stellar job of sanitizing and keeping all of the CDC regulations up to par. That being said, high tail it out to Desert Hot Springs El Morocco Inn & Day Spa and enjoy a much needed trip to Shangri-La or in this case Morocco.

Think 1942 American romantic drama starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid in the controlled city of Casablanca. El Morocco Inn is all about Morocco and CasaBlanca, from its looped screening of the film in the TV lounge room, to its décor all over the property. What you don’t figure out until after you are bathing your troubles away in one of the hot mineral baths is that this décor will enhance your overall experience. The spiritual new-age background music adds to the incredible heightened mood. One thing you will be guaranteed of for sure is that once you enter the compound, all of your stress will be left outside of the wooden gate.

The grounds are very charming as well. There are lots of hammocks and little nooks to meditate. There are fabrics flowing off of every available area, which in the wind adds an extra sexiness. There are canopied sofas, a fire pit surrounded by Moroccan leather poufs on prayer rugs. The guest rooms are painted in Blue, Called Majorelle Blue, and a color named for French artist, Jacques Majorelle. This blue signifies warding off evil spirits, supposedly they are attracted by the color but will linger and not enter. So much attention to detail, all contributes to why you feel so exhilarated staying at The Morocco Inn & Day Spa. The overall ambiance is fun and welcoming, one that makes El Morocco Inn & Day Spa so unique and special.

People come here from all over, my trip there were like-minded people, as well as Shamans and healers. Folks are just drawn to this very therapeutic space. From the restorative healing baths to the alternative holistic medicine discussions, El Morocco Inn & Day Spa will reset your mind, spirit and body.

They usually have a happy hour and self serve continental breakfast, but during covid they cut out the happy hour and gave you a menu planner for your breakfast. In the morning you pick up your very cute blue bag in their refrigerator and all of your breakfast items are individually wrapped and secured for your enjoyment. They still have their coffee presses but now they are individually portioned with coffee, so all you have to do is add water. I sat out by the pool and had my coffee and breakfast, a truly terrific way to start your day.

My room was on the first floor and very close to the mineral baths. The bed is super comfy, and their small but cute kitchen gives you everything you need if you want to stay in and chill. The motif aligns itself with the rest of the Inn with Moroccan details, which for me was very soothing. Many of the ornate features were brought directly from Morocco. I just love all the arches, jewel tones, and creative ways they make being in Morocco right here in Desert Hot Springs.

Robert, who arranged my stay this time and the last time was extremely accommodating, he is just so sweet. Anything your heart desires he will make happen. He is one stand up guy! But El Morocco Inn has had some tough times as most hotels in the great Coachella Valley. With closures, lock downs and everything in between most are super lucky they have weathered the storm of this pandemic and are back on track. El Morocco Innhad to completely close down two times during the pandemic and for months at a time. Now reopened and gorgeous there is no reason not to come here.

Desert Hot Springs is off the beaten path, but something not to be missed. It’s about 25 minutes away from Palm Springs, worth the drive, in a very quiet low-key area. The hills are all part of the San Andreas Fault, and they release minerals so all of the hotels are privileged to have mineral baths that are great for healing any ailments. After 1 day of soaking in the baths my body felt great, all of my aches and pains were literally gone.

A truly amazing romantic getaway, but not just for lovers, it can be a nice time by yourself as this hotel is quiet and rejuvenating. Whatever the occasion, I would make your next trip a very memorable one by trying a nice spot, The El Morocco Inn & Day Spa.

El Morocco Inn & Day Spa
66810 4th Street
Desert Hot Springs, CA. 92240
760-288-2527
www.elmoroccoinn.com

 

 

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Sea Fresh Ojai – Dinner – February 22, 2021 – Ojai, CA.

This is a very popular spot; lots of local and tourists alike, but everyone knows that Sea Fresh Ojai is the place to get the freshest seafood in Ojai.

For me it did not disappoint. Hands down the best sushi I have ever had. Each piece was, with the freshness of the sea, just like it had just been plucked from the ocean.

From what I could hear at other customers tables every knows the family that runs this restaurant, people talk about Mayra as if she were a member of their own family, that is the level of comfort you feel at Sea Fresh.

Here’s What I Tried:

Cocktails:

Martini’s – Regular Traditional With Vodka and 2 Olives, Lori’s Lemon Drop, and Cosmopolitan. They were all served in a modern type of a martini glass. Mimi the fantastic bartender had some great stories to tell and the perfect ways to infuse her fun takes on these 3 cocktails. What a nice way to start my evening dining experience.

Sushi:

Unagi – Fresh Water Eel – The eel sauce has just the right amount of sweetened, and the piece itself was just huge, tender and fragrant, a lovely piece of sushi.

Giant Scallops, that are glistening and have such a delicate flavor of the ocean, a sure fire winner for me.

Hamachi – Yellow Tail, once again just so fresh, I just do not know how they are able to serve these huge pieces of fish and that they are so incredibly fresh.

Sea Fresh Roll with scallops, with hot and cold tuna, cucumber and sprouts, topped with avocado and salmon with spicy ponzu sauce.

So if you are new to this dining spot you would not know that the real star of this show is their sushi. I loved everything I tried, but when I come back I will order the bulk of my dinner on the sushi side of the menu, it is just the best sushi you will ever have.
Here’s What I Tried:

Oysters Rockefeller, spinach topped with béchamel sauce. Mayra the owner said I had to try these little darlings and boy was she right, such a nice creamy version of this awe inspired dish.

New England Clam Chowder, it has lots of potatoes and clams and it very rich and creamy, perfect chowder.

Steamed Clams, clam broth with drawn butter served with crusty bread they serve small clams with a nice clear broth, a very simple and light dish.

Sea Fresh Cioppino, hearty tomato fish stock, selection of shell fish and fish served with crusty bread. This is a very traditional staple amongst the San Francisco Italian restaurants in North Beach. This Cioppino was right up there with the best of them, a nice tomatoes infused soup with lots of fresh fish scallops, shrimps, and King Crab, just stupendous.

Ala Carte Alaskan King Crab legs and claws. These lovely crab legs are steamed and served with drawn butter. They come right out of their shell and are super sweet, just delicious.

Dessert:

Chocolate Brownie A la Mode, with vanilla ice cream. Super rich, super chocolate and super yum!

Wines:

Chardonnay, Trefethen, Napa Valley. A nice oaked, buttery, creamy wine just was spectacular with the crab legs.

Chardonnay, Napa Cellars, Napa Valley. This wine is more of a blank canvas with what ever food item you are trying it will open up and be a good accompaniment, but of course any seafood item are the best with this wine.

They get their fish fresh everyday from their local fish market, delivered everyday except for Sundays. Sea Fresh will be in business 36 years in August. Mayra’s husband Bill Sutton is a commercial fisherman, and brother Gus Garcia is the other partner, and it is a tight knit Cuban family. Mayra has been told she should put some Cuban items on the menu, but she says no. It would be too much work to change stuff up now, and why change a good thing. She has 50 employees at this location and it is hard for her to keep up. They also have an Oxnard location, it is her son and daughter in-law that are her partners there, so she is one busy gal.

Some History: In 1985, Sea Fresh began serving up the freshest catch available from the Pacific Coast, and from around the world. Proud owners Bill & Mayra, along with Gus (Mayra’s brother), opened their first Sea Fresh in Ojai, California.

In 2012, a long awaited change occurred, a complete remodel of “the original” Ojai restaurant. The continued support and encouragement from the local community is truly what made the transformation possible.

But their story began long before that. Bill’s love for the ocean began at the ripe old age of four, when his dad took him on a fishing trip. As he got a little older, his mom would drop him off at the pier in Redondo Beach. Bill would bring his catch home, and with a little red wagon in tow, sold his catch to local neighbors. At 15 he started working on a sport boat called The Pursuit. The time spent on The Pursuit would satisfy his love for the ocean until he graduated high school. He was then able to fish commercially on a full time basis. In 1973 Bill & Mayra were married, and in 1977, built and launched The Aurelia, their 42 foot fishing boat.

Bill and Mayra have two kids, Chris and Janelle. As the children grew closer to school age, they decided to move the family out of the big city, in search of a small town to raise the family. So, in 1981, they moved to beautiful Ojai. Mayra’s parents and brother Gus soon followed.

Bill still fishes daily, weather permitting, and supplies the restaurants with the highest quality seafood caught locally. They believe that everyone will love fish if it’s truly fresh.

There Oxnard location is a bit more casual with counter ordering and outdoors seating. They had a horrible thing happen a while back when the restaurant burned down to the ground, so when they rebuilt they decided to do a different model of service that they felt was smarter for them given their circumstances.

What I can say about Sea Fresh Ojai is – try it, you too will be a big fan!!

Sea Fresh Ojai
533 E. Ojai Avenue
Ojai, CA 93023
(805) 646-7747
www.seafreshseafood.com
“Our boat To You”

* Note – Some Content was taken off of their website.

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Home Kitchen of Ojai – Lunch – February 22, 2021 – Ojai CA.

Located in a shopping center, this unassuming restaurant will make you want to be a breakfast or lunch regular, it’s just that good. Owner, Hector Orozco, made me feel super special and had what I should try in mind when I arrived. Hector comes from a long line of restaurant owners and workers and has been in Central California since coming from Mexico – 11 years ago. Hey don’t mess with perfection was my inner mantra on that day, and I was right. Hector showed me his super farm fresh organic eggs that he gets locally and uses for all of his egg dishes. Those eggs will make any taste buds happy and a fan of Home Restaurant in Ojai.

Here’s What I Tried:

Crepe, you have to ask, but a complimentary crepe comes with anything that you order, but you have to know about this perk to ask for it.

HKO Burger with bacon, Green chilies, Swiss cheese, onions, tomato, lettuce and avocado. This hamburger, piled super high, this is a burger you won’t forget for a very long time. It completely hit the spot.

Ojai Panini, Hector said I should try this one as well, so I did and he was right. Nice melting cheese with nice grilled bread, you just can’t miss. With ham and Turkey, Chipotle Aioli, Pepper Jack Cheese, Onions and tomatoes.

Chilaquiles, a big wonderful breakfast item with 2 sunny side eggs on top, just loved this dish. Tortilla chips covered in house made salsa topped with Mexican Quesos, onions, sour cream, served with eggs and potatoes.

Sweet potato Fries, cooked to perfection – my go to fries!

Small bowl of fruit, a very nice array of fresh fruit, a good side to enjoy with your breakfast.

Small side salad, it is crisp and delicious, try it with their ranch dressing.

This location used to be Egg and Potatoes, and Hector was pretty much talked into taking over ownership from the past chef who was his buddy, but he told me he is super happy he did. Server, Marin is the one who has really seen it all; she has been at this location through many of its past incarnations. She helped Hector get up and running, seeing how she worked at their past restaurants at this location. Marin has also been an Ojai resident for 38 years. Most customers are local; people driving by, and some tourists, everyone enjoying themselves, and their delicious food. Their goal is to leave their customers with a happy heart and a full belly.

HOME KITCHEN OF OJAI
1103 Maricopa Hwy.
Ojai, California 93023
(805) 646-5346

https://homekitchenofojai.com/

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Ojai Rotie – Lunch – February 21, 2021, Ojai, CA.

This is such a great way to have lunch or dinner. It is in a beautiful courtyard/patio nestled under a gorgeous tree. You order at their counter, they give you a number and you are served the most delicious picnic style food you will ever eat. Plus when I was there they were playing all Beatles music, which I just can’t get enough of.

Here’s What I tried:

Olive Pain Rustique – A 1.5-pound long-rise rustic sourdough loaf with oil-cured Moroccan olives. I was given this as a present in Togo. I toasted it with butter and was just astounded; it is an amazing loaf of bread.

Bread & Butter, their organic, slow rise Pain au Levain with a scoop of house made organic butter. Another fantastic bread, super crunchy crust, just loved it. If I was stranded on a deserted island and could only eat one thing, it would be their glorious bread. They bake their bread fresh everyday, and it really is a modern miracle.

Rotie Chicken Meal, free-range, antibiotic and hormone-free rotisserie chicken meal includes 2 picnic sides, grilled Lebanese flatbread, pickled turnips and garlic sauce. The chicken has a very flavorful skin and the moist tender center; it is the best chicken you will ever taste.

Pommes Rotisserie (hot), Potatoes cooked in chicken drippings, lemon-pepper aioli. Nice cubed potatoes with the chicken drippings and aioli, it is out of this world.

Cardamom Carrot and red quinoa salad. With cardamom carrot, red quinoa, harissa, roasted chickpeas, sumac, and parsley. I have honestly never tasted this combination of flavors. It is healthy and just pops in your mouth, carrots never tasting this good.

Our Slaw, green cabbage, fennel, jalapeno, blistered peanuts, and cilantro-lime dressing. The cabbage is super crunchy and the peanuts add just the right amount of goodness, I had to keep coming back for more.

Caramelized Cauliflower, with turmeric, toasted pinenuts, golden raisins and baby kale. Oh my, another spectacular side dish, I would have to have this as a Togo item in my fridge at all times if I lived here.

Lamb “Kafta,” hand chopped on Skewer, with harissa & lebne
marcella white bean hummus. A super flavorful lamb dish that is an added protein must when you’re eating here.

Grilled Lebanese Flatbread, fire-grilled Lebanese flatbread, brushed with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with zahtar. I just can’t say enough about any of their freshly baked items, and the seasoning on this really sets this apart from any other type of flatbread you will ever eat.

Makela’s Fatouch, romaine, cucumber, radish, tomato, mint, parsley, green onion, flatbread, lemon, olive oil. A super fresh salad, and a great accompaniment with the chicken.

Owner Lorenzo is so charming and fun, he made my experience really great. He let me try whatever I wanted and filled me in with some of the facts about his 2-year-old restaurant, but the real star of the show is their food and amazing concept.

Ojai Rotie has created the perfect model for outdoor picnic dining. You’re under this gorgeous tree, in the beauty of this town and their stunning patio, what more could you want.

Ojai Rôtie

469 E Ojai Ave.

Ojai, California 93023

https://www.ojairotie.com/

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Stay at The Chantico Inn – February 21 & February 22, 2021 – Ojai CA.

Right on the path into downtown, this Inn is convenient and has everything you would need from a nice hotel without all the fluff and hype. You can walk just about anywhere and or take the trolley or bus. I took the train into Ventura and a friend picked me up, so I was without a car during my stay. But honestly it didn’t matter, I could get around just fine.

During usual times they would have a breakfast and a happy hour but due to Covid they have coffee and breakfast bars and juice in a cooler always there for you to drink. Chantico Inn happily makes you feel like home, their staff is very inviting and will take care of whatever you need. Not to mention their nicely heated pool and Jacuzzi which is just a lovely extra touch, the days I was there it was in the 80’s so taking a swim was so fantastic, I just loved it. I can only imagine how cooling it would be in the hot summer months, Ojai does get pretty steamy.

They gave me a wonderful room; it’s a King/Queen suite. It is a 4-poster bed, very large, with ceiling mirrors, and a queen bed in a separate room with an archway as a divider. There is also a Jacuzzi in the main room, so if you’re wanting a special romantic weekend this is the room for you.

The Chantico Inn has a bunch of great Amenities, pool, spa, fireplaces, private outdoor patios, WiFi – internet access, cable TV with premium channels, refrigerator/microwave/coffee maker, parking, pet friendly, mountain views, antique bed frames, marble countertops and stone basin sinks, antique oak wet bar, beautiful stained glass windows, jacuzzi tub.

Ojai is a lovely land of coastal oaks and lush groves of citrus, olive and avocados. The views are legendary, centrally located, close to first class restaurants and art galleries and within steps of the exclusive Ojai shopping arcade, The Chantico Inn has everything to make your stay a time to relax and enjoy this enchanting valley.

The city is nestled within the Ojai Valley, a tiny sun-drenched, east-to-west laying valley – 10 miles long and three miles wide that closely resembles the look and climate of either Tuscany or the south of France. Topa Topa mountain range is right there in full view from the hotel and just about anywhere in Ojai.

A place to unwind, Ojai, which takes its name from the Chumash Indian word A’hwai, meaning “nest” or “moon” is a special place with a long history of reverence and appreciation for agriculture, the arts, education and the human spirit. With its richness in physical beauty and cultural history, the valley attracts artists, entrepreneurs, activists and actors. The views are legendary. The sight from the top of Dennison Grade is so extraordinary that it was portrayed as Shangri-La in the legendary movie “Lost Horizon”. At the end of the day you are privileged to witness Ojai’s “pink moment”, when the Topa Topa Mountains display an otherworldly pink hue.

The Ojai Valley offers horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, paragliding, rock climbing, shopping in historic downtown Ojai, theater, many art galleries, a skate park, yoga retreats, world-renowned spas, musicians, a whole calendar full of festival events you won’t want to miss, our natural hot springs, wineries and the Ventura County Wine Trail. You can also enjoy fishing for trophy largemouth bass and a waterpark with a lazy river at Lake Casitas and on Sunday you can enjoy our wonderful Certified Farmers’ Market.

There are so many amazing restaurants and family owned shops; you will need to come back again and again to experience them all.

My stay was relaxing; with their great beds you too will sleep like a baby. It’s the perfect getaway, close to Los Angeles, you can be there in less than 2 hours and step into an environment that will make you fall in love with Ojai’s subtle beauty. Whatever the occasion, think of Ojai as your quick relaxing getaway, you will be forever hooked.

Chantico Inn

406 West Ojai Avenue

Ojai, CA. 93023

https://www.chanticoinn.com/

* Note – Some content was taken off of their website.

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Dinner – Izakaya Tora – February 11, 2021 – West Hollywood, CA.

When owners Francis and Ben suggested I come in to do a tasting I was very happy. This is just the best-undiscovered specialized sushi and maki restaurant in West Hollywood, and Los Angeles. What a pleasure to try truly unique and delicious Japanese food at it’s finest, and right in the heart of one of the most fun neighborhoods in West Hollywood.

Here’s what I tried:

Miso Soup, a nice fragrant soup, made with fish stock, with tofu and seaweed, takes the chill off of the evening air.

The chefs did this special sushi mini combo for me:
Blue Fin Tuna Toro, Salmon Belly, Mackerel, and Tamago.
Each piece was surprising, using only the finest fish from many regions, each with unique sauces and toppings. They make their tamago fresh everyday and you can totally taste the difference, what a treat.

Tonight’s Special – Pork Gyoza, pot stickers with truffle oil sauce. These are fried to perfection, with the delicate truffle oil sauce – this is a must have appetizer item. It’s just that good.

Special Maki – Rock Shrimp and Spicy Tuna Roll. The tuna is fresh and a bit spicy, but the star of this show is the tempura fried rock shrimp on top, with a subtle mayonnaise sauce, it just is the best. They have a few wonderful mayonnaise sauces that you can ask for that go great with this dish.

Salmon Danabe, with rice, furikake, kizami nori, sesame oil, shiso, green onions, benishoga, masago, micro greens and ikura. This dish comes in a sizzling hot pot, so the rice is crispy on the bottom. Fresh Salmon with many Japanese fixings make for one elegant dish. It is full of flavor, with each bite my taste buds just exploded with happiness, wow.

Kushiyaki – Skewers – Scallop and Miso Chilean Sea Bass. Both of these were super tender and delightful, nicely cooked, and very light. A great menu item for Keto or protein dieters.

House Sake – served in a large vessel, delicious and warm, a nice accompaniment.

Ben and Francis were co-workers previously at a Silver Lake eatery Osen Izakaye, very popular amongst the hipster Silver Lake crowd. They decided to open their own place in July of 2019, customers simply loved their cuisine, but with Covid closing many Los Angeles restaurants down for a period of last year and this year, they have had their hardships. Their model is fresh fish, which has to be served at their restaurant; it does not translate to Togo or delivery. So for every stay at home order they had to completely shut down. Now newly opened again for 2 weeks, they are slowly getting their return business. Ben’s adorable wife Kate was working hard the night I was there, they are short on staff now since they reopened, but it seemed to me that all the customers were well taken care of. By the time I left they were fully packed.

With food this good you know it’s only a matter of time before there will be lines down the block to get in. For the sushi lover you need to get over there now, and try perhaps the best sushi you have ever had in Los Angeles, and beyond, I am a true believer.

(Real Meaning of Izakaya: An izakaya is a place to go after work is finished to drink and share light snacks between friends or colleagues, similar to a British Pub or Irish pub, Spanish tapas bars, and American saloons and taverns. If we want to look into the origins of this type of establishment, one must look back to the Edo period (1603 C.E. – 1868 C.E.), in which a sake merchant who was serving a tasting of several of his beverages in the corner of his shop decided it would be a nice touch to also serve food. The Japanese word “izakaya”, is actually a combination of “i” (meaning to stay), and “sakaya” (meaning sake shop) – indicating that izakaya originated from sake shops that allowed customers to sit in the premises to drink!)

Izakaya Tora
8908 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
818-288-5989
www.izakayatora.com

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