Sunday, July 13, 2014



Y'all know how I love to go wine tasting... well recently I went olive oil tasting.  Like the fine wineries I have been to all over California, with great tasting rooms amidst the vineyards, olive oil tasting at Omaggio Farm and Regalo Estate offers the same lovely experience without the need for a designated driver.

As we drove down the driveway through an olive orchard, past the stunning estate villa to the tasting room, it brought back memories of Richard's and my trip to Italy and the Italian countryside, especially when we stepped out of the car and walked toward the beautiful sun-dappled, Tuscan-designed tasting room exterior...

We were greeted by the knowledgeable and welcoming manager, Carolina Gramm...

... and were first escorted into a room that houses the press and machinery used to make Regalo's pesticide-free, artisan EVOO.  

Carolina explained how the olives from more than 2,000 trees on the farm are all handpicked, how the olives are processed, and that the oil not used for their artisan EVOO, is re-purposed for other uses, such as bio fuel and soap.

soap oil
Carolina then took us into the lovely appointed tasting room...

... where we tasted five oils...


 ...all unique, with a clean, fresh taste.  

We started with a delicate Spanish EVOO which won best in show at the Los Angeles olive oil competition.  It certainly was delicate!

We dipped our bread into the Tuscan, Proprietary, Basil, and Chive EVOO, all delicious and filled with taste nuances.  Last, but not least, we revisited the Proprietary EVOO paired with a ten year old balsamic vinegar.  An exquisite combination of flavors.

Also for our tasting pleasure was a variety of imported Italian balsamic vinegars.

I loved the pear and cranberry vinegar so much I had to buy a bottle, but it didn't keep me from checking out all the different oils, vinegars and a selection of dishes and glassware on display. I wanted to buy everything!!

If you're in Ojai, California and want a delicious tasting experience, I hope you'll visit the Regalo tasting room.  But, even if you're on the other side of the country, you can join their member's club, Amici di Regalo, for subscription deliveries, special limited edition offerings, and news of upcoming members' events.  Just go to their website for all the info about joining or for just buying a bottle or two.

Note:  a portion of all Regalo profits are donated to poverty relief charities.  "Changing the world, one olive at a time."

Omaggio Farm
283 Carne Road
Ojai, California 93023

Because Omaggio and Regalo Estate is family owned and also a private residence, the Tasting Room is only open on:
Saturdays from 10:00am to 5:00pm
Sundays from 12:00pm to 5:00pm

Wednesday, July 2, 2014



I'm a city girl.  I grew up in Bayside, Queens, part of NYC - I went to college in Boston, certainly not a small town... lived in Chicago for a brief time... and spent many years living and working in Manhattan with its 8 million stories of which I was one.  Then, like the Brooklyn Dodgers before me, I migrated to Los Angeles, the city of 11 million angels.

As some of you know, last August, Richard and I left big city life behind - the skyscrapers of New York and the LA movie/tv studios and Hollywood sign and moved to the town of Ojai in the Ojai valley - population 8,000!  (Really?!  My high school in the '60's had a population of 6,000!)

No more hustle and bustle on the city streets of Manhattan.  No more bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 405.  We were in Oz where orange groves were a few steps from "Main" street and the mountains turned technicolor pink at sunset.

And, just this past weekend the town held its annual Lavender Festival. 

Yup, we even have lavender farms a la Provence.

And while meandering through the booths...

.. we heard that one of the lavender farms in upper Ojai was open for Oz-ites and friends to visit and pick some fresh lavender.

We had never been to a lavender farm before, so we drove up the winding road, parked our car on Sulphur Mountain Road and walked the short distance to Frog Creek Farms past corralled horses...

... and a sunflower garden. 

When we reached the organic lavender field, we grabbed a pair of scissors the farm provided and cut away, concentrating on the Provencal lavender you can use for cooking, baking or infusing in vodka (so delish).

When we finished we went inside the little building on the property to pay for our sprigs...

... and found a charming store...

... that Christel Rogero, one of the owners of Frog Creek, has filled w/ all sorts of  lavender sachets, salts, wreaths, bundles and other wonderful sundries (I just love that word) made on the farm.  The aroma was intoxicating.  (Hey, I'm still a fan of Yardley's English Lavender soap that my mom used all her life.)

Frog Creek Farms will be open for the next 2-1/2 weeks, so if you live in Oz or plan to visit soon, take the scenic drive to upper-Ojai and visit the farm and Christel's little store... cut some fresh lavender... and take in the view as you sit under a tree and marvel at nature's beauty.

Christel Rogero
Frog Creek Farms
10924 Ojai-Santa Paula Road
(off Sulphur Mountain Rd.)
Ojai, Calif.  93023

Sunday, June 8, 2014

HOW SWEET IT IS! Sweet Potato-Quinoa-Red Lentil Cakes/Burgers

Sweet Potato, Quinoa & Red Lentil Burgers
(or cakes)

I have a guilty pleasure... Full disclosure, I have many guilty pleasures, but this is an internet guilty pleasure.  OK, stop what you're thinking, it's Pinterest.  I love to take a daily scroll thru the Pinterest park of home design, fashion and, of course, food.  Y'all know how I love to write about food.  Well, I love to find recipes that look and "read" good enough to make.  Don't be silly... not for me to make, but for Richard to make.  He is the one who likes to cook, after all.

Always trying to find healthful food that will taste good, I came upon this vegetarian recipe for a sweet potato, quinoa and red lentil burger.  I'm not all that crazy about quinoa, but it's full of good things and lots of protein, and mixed in with yummy sweet potatoes and lentils, how bad could it be?  Not bad at all, as it turns out. 

Did I mention it also has spinach?  Like Popeye, I love spinach. So I immediately C&P the link and sent it off to Richard, post haste.

A few days later, these delectable morsels were on my dinner table.  Richard decided to make them into smaller crab cake size instead of a burger size so my brain would not think bun (I'm again cutting down on white carbs ie: bread!)  What a thoughtful guy!

Whatever size you make them, you have to have them... they're truly delicious.

Sweet Potato/Quinoa/Red Lentil Burger
Courtesy of Martha Rose Shulman


1/3 cup quinoa (blond or black), rinsed
1/3 cup red lentils, rinsed (note: Richard had a hard time finding red lentils - if you can't find them,
              regular lentils will be just fine)
1 2/3 cups water
Salt to taste
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, baked!
3 cups, tightly packed, chopped fresh spinach
3 ounces feta, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup minced chives
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup panko or chickpea flour (you will not use all of it)
1/4 cup grape seed oil

1. Combine quinoa, red lentils, water and salt to taste (about a rounded 1/2 teaspoon) in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until quinoa is tender and blond quinoa displays a thread, and lentils are just tender. 

Drain off any water remaining in the pot through a strainer, tapping strainer against the sink to remove excess water, then return quinoa and lentils to the pot. Cover pot with a towel, then return the lid and let sit undisturbed for 15 minutes.

2. Skin the cooked sweet potatoes and place in a large bowl. Mash with a fork.

Add spinach and mash together (use your hands for this). Add quinoa and lentils, feta, mint, chives, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together well. Mixture will be moist.

3. Take up about 1/3 cup of the mixture and form into a ball (you can wet your hands to reduce sticking). Roll the ball in the panko...

... or chickpea flour, then gently flatten into a patty. Set on a plate and continue with the rest of the mixture. Refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour or longer (the longer the better).

4. When you’re ready to cook, place a rack over a sheet pan. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch, heavy nonstick frying pan over high heat.  Swirl the pan to coat with the hot oil.  Lower heat to medium. Place 4 to 5 patties in the pan (do not crowd), and cook until well browned on one side, about 4 minutes.  Turn and brown for about 4 more minutes.  

Remove to rack.  Heat remaining oil in the pan and cook remaining patties. Keep patties warm in a low oven until ready to serve. 

Serve with a salad and your choice of toppings, such as the usual (ketchup, mustard, relish), or yogurt raita, garlic yogurt, or chutney.  Richard steamed asparagus.

Bon appetit!!!

Advance preparation: You can form the patties and keep them refrigerated for up to 2 days, or cook them all the way through and keep them refrigerated for 2 or 3 days. Reheat on a baking sheet in a low oven for 10 to 15 minutes. The patties freeze well. Thaw completely before reheating.

Martha Rose Shulman is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”

Saturday, May 31, 2014



Moving to a new place, whether it's a village, town or city presents its challenges.  I mean really, where do you get your hair highlighted and cut?  Where's the best mani/pedi?  And, what about finding a good mechanic or a decent cheeseburger?  All challenges that need to be addressed when you've moved to someplace new.

But, then, there are some wonderful discoveries you find as you explore your new home town.  In my case, a thriving theater and art community, beautiful mountain and valley trails to hike, new restaurants and wineries to review, and two new favorite women's boutiques that sell that layered, drape-y Kate Hepburn-style clothes I like.

Not to mention the more elusive discoveries known primarily to only those in the know.  Private Chef Robin Goldstein's Table 18 is one of those discoveries.

Richard and I first met Robin when we took the Ojai Artists' Studio Tour.  We drove here and there, to Upper Ojai and back down to lower Ojai.  We went from the east end to west end and saw some amazing artwork, and as the day ebbed and flowed, we found ourselves at the studio of Eilam Byle, a painter who also turns wood into amazing works of art whether it be furniture, kitchen counters, bowls or pieces of sculpture.

So, you're asking - what has that got to do w/ Robin Goldstein?  Well, Robin is Eilam's wife.  The studio is also Robin's gourmet kitchen.  Richard and I didn't know which to ogle first - the artwork or the kitchen. While talking to Robin about her kitchen, however,  we learned about her and Table 18.

Robin attended the world-renowned Culinary Institute of America in New York and has lived and cooked in Europe, as well as worked and consulted with some of L.A.'s top caterers and established restaurants.  She's also worked and cooked for private families in California and Hawaii, Spain, Norway and Switzerland.  Now settled in Ojai, Robin is working as a private chef here in the valley and in the Santa Barbara area (she also conducts cooking classes, has her private pop up dinners and helps people transition to vegetarian/vegan and raw food diets).

You're next question is what is Table 18, right?  It's a series of private "farm to table" dinners Robin gives a few times a year in their studio for up to 18 people.  Why 18?  As she tells it, that's how many  charger plates she has.  We were lucky to get a reservation to her latest dinner.  

When we arrived, vodka celery martinis awaited us made from fresh juiced local celery and cucumber, with a splash of Lillet.  I was surprised how refreshing and delicious it was.  For the teetotalers, Robin made mocktinis with fresh pineapple juice, mint and ginger w/ a splash of sparkling H20. 

I meandered around the studio ending up at the serving bar...

... covered with sweet smelling fresh produce where I talked to a few guests.

As we continued to mingle with the other diners, we nibbled on ahi sliders with a garlic-wasabi aioli and crisp cucumber on mini buns or, if you're non-carbing it, on sliced cucumber rounds, plus whipped feta with crushed pistachios and fig on walnut bread.  Loved every nibble.

Cocktails over, we took seats at one of the two farm tables crafted by Eilam.  

Dinner was served.

The first course, served with a chilled chenin blanc wine, was a citrus marinated Kampachi Crudo with orange blossom essence, along with a raw spring vegetable salad of shaved radish, asparagus, turnip, carrot citrus-olive oil and Himalayan sea salt.  So light, so lovely, so delicious.

For our entree, Robin seared Watkins Ranch grass-fed sirloin steak on rosemary twig skewers and served the steak with a parsley chimichurri with preserved lemon, on top of a roasted cauliflower risotto with porcini mushroom spice and white truffle oil...  So yum.

 ... and two rich red wines.

Dessert was poached local peaches with fresh basil, rose water-basil syrup and Marsala whipped crema.  Normally I'm not a dessert lover, but I loved this. Light and airy as gossamer...

Robin's goal is to create, not only an interesting culinary occasion - but a social experience as well, to bring groups of people into an unfamiliar setting for an evening of good food and good conversation.

She accomplished her goal, and then some.


2 Oz. 
​Vodka or ​
Gin 1 Oz. Fresh Celery Juice
​ and cucumber juice​
½ Oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
Lillet Blanc
Celery bitters


Combine Gin, Celery Juice, Lemon Juice, A Dash Of Bitters, And A Dash Of Lillet In A Cocktail Shaker Filled With Ice. Shake And Strain Into A Chilled Martini Glass. Garnish With Celery Leaves, If You Like.

*To Juice Celery, Use An Electric Juicer And Follow Manufacturer's Instructions Or Purée Roughly Chopped Celery Stalks In A Food Processor Until Smooth. Pour Over A Cheesecloth-Lined Sieve Set Over A Bowl; Press On Solids Until All The Juice Is Drained. Combine Lemon And Celery Juices Immediately To Prevent Browning.

Makes one martini.

Private Chef Robin Goldstein
(805) 284-4264

check out my photos and monthly recipe on my website

Eilam Byle