Camping in Ojai

Last February Joe and I went on a weekend camping trip to Ojai. I am so excited to share some details of the trip with you guys. Ojai is one of the more relaxing and beautiful places I’ve been in a while and our trip was fantastic. I love that California is filled with fantastic vacation locations.

I’ve wanted to check out Ojai for years. Ojai is about 90 minutes north of Los Angeles in Ventura Country. All of my friends who have gone to Ojai say that it is a very calming and spiritual place. Joe and I have been talking about going camping for our entire relationship but hadn’t organized ourselves enough to go. Joe’s birthday is right after Christmas so this year I decided to surprise him with a weekend camping trip as a joint birthday/Christmas gift. On Christmas morning I gave him smores ingredients with a card that had photos of all the activities I had planned for us. I preplanned most of the trip before I gave it to Joe. I know the activities he likes and this way he could just relax and enjoy a break.

I picked a camp ground, planned out our activities and our meals. Before we drove up Friday afternoon, I went to Trader Joes and Albertsons to get the essentials (i.e.: wine, cheese, firewood). We drove up Friday afternoon and managed to beat traffic.

Dennison Park

We camped at Dennison Park outside of Ojai. I read a few yelp reviews of this campground and knew it would be perfect for us. There were only 20 campgrounds and few people staying there the same weekend as us. We were the only people when we arrived so we had our pick of spots and snagged this one with a killer view.

It was only $20 a night. Each site had a fire pit, picnic table and there were toilets and running water nearby. The camp host came by in the early evening to introduce himself. There were only two other groups camping each night and we had barely any interaction with them. The tree cover kept the site pretty private. After setting up we commenced with our favorite vacation activities: drinking wine/beer, eating and generally doing nothing.

On night one I made salmon and baked potatoes. I’ve never camp cooked before so I went simple on night one. The potatoes were just wrapped in foil and cooked over the fire. After they were soft enough I cut into them and added cheese, garlic salt and pepper. For the salmon I made a simple marinade and cooked with foil over the fire. It was so nice to relax in the fresh air, under the stars. We (mostly) turned off our phones while on this trip so we just sipped wine and enjoyed being outside.

Day 2 we ate homemade cheddar scallion scones and then explored downtown Ojai tomorrow which is very small. We walked the whole thing and got coffee. After we did a hike in Los Padres National Forest and went wine tasting.

Rose Falls, Los Padres National Forest

For hiking we went to Rose Falls in Los Padres National Forest. There are many hiking trails around Ojai. I didn’t want us to kill ourselves with anything too long or intense but I wanted to end somewhere beautiful. The hike was on the short side, maybe only a mile, but the trail ends at a waterfall. It was a bit drier than usual because of the drought. Luckily the waterfall wasn’t totally dry. I highly recommend this trail. It wasn’t too challenging but the end product was beautiful.

There was a longer trail but after the mile out, exploring around the waterfall and walking back along a small creek we were OK with not spending hours going on a much longer hike. The falls was truly beautiful. I would love to hike this trail again. While hiking we met a nice golden retriever and took photos. The falls were tall and beautiful. I wish we were able to go when the water was flowing more. We were able to stand in what should have been a water bed. Pray for rain.

Old Creek Winery

After hiking we went to Old Creek Winery. Again, I researched this winery online and liked the reviews. The winery is on a large, open ranch. There were dogs running around and the vibe was very laid back and relaxed. There was an outside sitting area and a building where they do the wine tasting. For $10 we got 10 pours.

Great policy!

The verdict? We loved it! I highly recommend Old Creek. Joe and I were keeping tabs on which wines we liked and I think were starred about 6 bottles which is way more than usual for us. Usually when we got wine tasting one or two bottles are good enough to want to buy but at Old Creek there were several we absolutely loved. I even liked the Rose which I am not typically into. The women who poured for us was so nice and personable. Overall, we loved Old Creek and will be making return trips.

California, I love you.

After the winery we went back to the camp ground to eat more wine and snacks. Saturday night dinner was campfire pizza which I burned. Still need to work on some of my campfire cooking skills.

Sunday we drove back to LA through Ventura where we grabbed a delicious diner breakfast.

We really loved escaping for a weekend to Ojai and camping. Joe and I both love camping and are OK with going for 2 days without a shower so I think there will be a lot more camping in our future. I highly recommend all the places we went to in Ojai. I could not have imagined a more relaxing vacation and I really hope we are able to camp out again soon. As far as budgeting goes, I managed to cash out my tips from work and that paid for almost the entire trip. Campsites are cheaper than hotels and I loved being outside and seeing all the stars at night. Even though we went in February it wasn’t too cold and luckily there wasn’t rain while we were camping (unlike the time I camped in a tornado rainstorm with my dad as a small child). We came back to LA recharged, relaxed and with more wine than we left with. I’d say that it was an excellent vacation.

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The best of the rest

So, over three months after it ended, I am finally wrapping up my posts from my California post-bar road trip with my Dad. I don’t have enough for a single post for each meal but I thought I would highlight the best food I sampled on my trip.

The first major stand out of the trip was this grilled cheese sandwich I ate at a tiny restaurant across the street from the entrance to Hearst Castle. The restaurant was a window that you walk up to. They were advertising grilled cheese on brioche so it was a no brainer. I was expecting a run of the mill grilled cheese but what I got was so much more:

Yes, that is oozing white and yellow cheddar cheese with avocado and bacon. I love the huge chunks of creamy avocado and the thick and crispy bacon. The bread was obviously grilled with butter.

The bacon could not be contained.

Crispy and perfect!

The shop also had a great selection of bottled sodas including these more off beat selections:

As a native Midwesterner I was drawn to the sweet corn soda but I restrained myself from actually purchasing it.

The next notable meal that has yet to see the blog is my lunch at Chez Panisse. Yes, that Chez Panisse.

Lunch at Chez Panisse was a big surprise for me. My parents made the reservation far in advance. For those that are not familiar, Chez Panisse is kind of a big deal. The Berkeley restaurant was started by Alice Waters in 1971. Alice is a pioneer of the local, seasonal and sustainable food movement. As a frequent farmer’s market patron and general fan of the local food movement, I was very excited to have the opportunity to dine in her restaurant.

I did not take that many photos when I was there. To be honest, I didn’t want to be “that blogger girl” with her camera out. My dad, my cousin Mary and I ate a three course meal and left no bite behind. The dining room was warm and inviting, like I was sitting down at a fabulous yet homey dinner party.

I did snag a photo of the amazing dessert I ordered:

Peach Tart with Blackberries and Blackberry ice cream. It was complete and total perfection. I actually do not have words to describe it. Suffice to say, if you ever have the opportunity to eat at Chez Panisse you should hop on it. Side note: for the past month I’ve been playing around in my kitchen with a version of Alice’s simple apple tart and it will be posted on the blog eventually. Promise.

While in SF I also dragged my Father along to the Saturday farmer’s market at the Ferry Building aka the greatest farmers market in existence.

I went to my favorite stand and got the pork sandwich with arugula and caramelized onions for breakfast at 8 am.

So much spicy and crispy arugula!

Gooood morning indeed!

After eating around San Francisco we headed into wine country and the food continued to be delicious.

Do you want to know what I love about Healdsburg? It was 60 degrees in the morning and around 85 during the day. This means that I was able to bundle up a bit and get a warm latte in the morning and then got to enjoy sunshine and warmth in the afternoon.

I insisted on more than one trip to Flying Goat Coffee.

Love.

No photos came out of the first meal we had in Healdsburg but we ate at a great restaurant that was recommended by family friends called Baci. Baci was notable because I had short rib ravioli. It was amazing. Does it get better than one of my favorite kinds of meat wrapped in homemade pasta? No. The answer is no.

Again, at the recommendation of friends we went wine tasting at several vineyards and tasting rooms. Our family friends are serious wine country veterans and gave several great recommendations in the Dry Creek Valley. First we went to the Williamson Vineyard tasting room off the Healdsburg Square. I splurged with some of my law school graduation money and bought a delicious and expensive Cabernet which I am saving for a special occasion.

Next we went to the Talty Vineyard. The tasting room was not supposed to be open when we were there but they opened up just for us to check it out. Talty exclusively produces Zinfandel. I drink red wine almost exclusively and I really like the spiciness of the Zins. The owner of the Talty Winery was so nice and took time with us even though he was not supposed to be open. I highly recommend checking it out if you ever end up in that region.

After we grabbed a quick bite at a pizza restaurant. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant but the pizza was something to behold.

After the pizza we went to the Teldeschi winery also in the Dry Creek Region. Again, great wine, nice people. I ended up taking home a Zinfandel and a Petite Syrah. Overall, it was a great haul!

My absolute favorite meal in Healdsburg was at Scopa. We barely got in because I forgot to make a reservation (whoops). Once we started eating even my Dad conceded that the food was worth the wait.

To start I had an arugula salad with grilled peaches.

This photo isn’t the best but the peaches were fantastic. The warm peaches mixed with the spicy, crisp arugula. I ate many, many peaches on this trip because they were in season at the time. This is probably my favorite way to eat peaches. They’re just so good when they’re grilled.

For the main course I had homemade ravioli. I can’t remember exactly what it was stuffed with but it was one of the best plates of ravioli I have ever been served bar none.

The photo doesn’t do it justice but I had to give Scopa a shout out. The sauce had rich flavoring but was light at the same time. Seriously, anytime you get anywhere near wine country you need to check out Scopa. The menu is all locally sourced and seasonal.

Oh and we ate this for dessert. Because I’ve irresponsibly waited 3 months to write this post I cannot for the life of me remember what it is (Dad- do you remember?) but I remember eating every last bite and wanting more.

I mean, giant slab of homemade whipped cream. So tasty looking, amiright?

Finally, on the way back to LA my Dad generously offered to drive through Santa Barbara to hit a bakery I had eyeballed on our first pass through. I had not been able to get a treat from said bakery because I had a nasty bout of food poisoning on my birthday. While I wanted a post birthday treat I didn’t feel like it was the right time to test my belly with more than my morning coffee. I realize I was probably gambling putting coffee in my system and I didn’t want to push it.

However, on the second trip I was able to successfully enjoy some New York Olive Oil Cake from Our Daily Bread Bakery in Santa Barbara.

I really like olive oil cake in general. I find that the olive oil makes the cake more spongy and moist than usual. I also love the flavor of olive oil. You can taste a hint of olive oil in the cake but overall the cake itself isn’t very rich. Perfect end of the trip treat!

So that does it for my updates from my road trip. I am so fortunate that my Mom planned this amazing trip for my Dad and I. While my Dad did give the occasional side eye as I marched him from food location to food location, I’m glad that I had a travel companion who wanted to eat as much good food as I did.

Project Food Blog Round 3: Champagne Luxury on a PBR Budget

Yesterday night I hosted a luxury dinner party for challenge 3 of Project Food Blog. Let’s just say that the theme of the night wound up being, “four guests, crazy honey”.

When I read the prompt for challenge 3 I was initially worried. “Throw a luxury dinner party?” I thought, “how can I do that when most of my friends don’t even have dining room tables?” I have maintained on this blog that just because you are a student and short on cash, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fabulous party! Personally, I think there are two keys to this: 1) use ingredients you already have and 2) use a few, really special ingredients in simple dishes. I did both last night and I think I accomplished my mission.

I decided to throw the party at my friends Catie and Emily’s house because I have a midterm on Monday and it looks like a Wills and Trusts bomb went off in my apartment. Unless dozens of pages of tiny family trees with dollar amounts next to them is your idea of luxury I knew it just wouldn’t work. Plus, Catie and Emily have a big, open concept kitchen which allows for plenty of chef to guest interaction. The kitchen is the heart of every home and I love cooking surrounded by friends. Catie’s long time friend Jackie also attended.

My favorite part of dinner parties is cooking with everyone, sharing stories and laughing. We had to start with wine of course!

Once the vino is poured the party really starts rocken’.

One of my pieces of advice if your on a budget but want to host a luxe dinner party is to use what you already have plenty of. I happen to have a ton of honey leftover from making baklava last week so I incorporated it into every course. Honey was used liberally in the creation of this meal.

Explaining the importance of using what you got

As you might have gleaned from the title of my blog I am a bit of a Barefoot Contessa fan. I love Ina because everything in her world is always fabulous and even challenging dishes are so easy and simple to make. All I want to do is move to the Hamptons and eat leftovers with Jeffrey.

I always take study breaks when Barefoot is on and yesterday was no exception. While watching I decided I had to make a cheese appetizer she was featuring: Baked Brie with Honey and Pecans. I served it with farmers market fresh honey crisp apple slices. I made this first so my guests could enjoy it with wine while I prepped the rest of the meal.

Another Barefoot classic was the entree: Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter.

This dish is amazing because it has very few ingredients and you might actually have some of them lying around the house. One thing that won’t be lying around your house if you are a twenty something graduate student is truffle butter. Lucky for me, it was on sale at Whole Food this week! Even I can afford $7 for “the finest truffle butter in the world”.

Can you believe my friends had never tried truffle butter?

This dish cooks in a matter of a few minutes.

While the pasta was being prepared I honey roasted some fall vegetables. This is a simple recipe that utilizes honey, because I have an excess of it, and some great farmers market finds including the first butternut squash of the season, carrots, parsnips, and walnuts.


If you read my blog you know I’m a sucker for roasted veggies. This is a sweet twist on your typical roasted veggie.

And then, dinner was ready.

Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter

and Honey Roasted Fall Vegetables


Dinner is served!

Who says you can’t have a luxurious meal and sit on the floor? I think we proved them wrong last night!

And then it was time for dessert… Vanilla Ice Cream with Drizzled Honey and Raspberries.

Simply delicious.

I am so glad I have made it this far in Project Food Blog and was able to serve this fantastic dinner party to these fabulous ladies! I was able to combine simple and special ingredients with the ingredients I already had to craft a tasty dinner for everyone. The best part of any dinner party is getting together with old and new friends, swapping stories and laughing. We had a wonderful, food coma inducing time. Thanks for being a part of it!