Saturday, April 10, 2010



Ojai is a charming village east of the coastal town of Santa Barbara, California. Located in the high desert, it’s famous for its “pink moments” phenomena that occur when the sun sets against the Topa Topa mountains turning the sky pink. Ojai is also famous for its theater and arts community, lavender festival and the exquisite Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, a Spanish style inn and resort complete with a picture perfect 18 hole golf course.

I know all this because my husband and I have spent some wonderful sleepovers with friends who moved to Ojai, leaving behind the smog and stress of “Los Angeles freeway” living. On this trip, however, we were going to try a relatively new and popular Ojai restaurant, “Feast Bistro”… a restaurant with a menu designed by Chef Susan Coulter using locally grown produce and seasonal ingredients.

Located on the main street in the village’s historic arcade,

 the restaurant has a simple and comfortable décor with its open air kitchen, wine/expresso bar, front and back cozy dining rooms and a back outdoor patio. We were warmly greeted by co-owner, Beryl Schwartz (a former carpenter who always wanted to own a restaurant – how cool is that?!) who led us to our table for five set up in the back room.

We sipped a lovely Casa Barranca 2007 pinot noir from local vintner Bill Moses as we dug into our first courses. The caesar salad was creamy with just the right amount of garlic. The “steamers”- mussels and clams in a light garlic cream sauce were ‘divine’ – though as a Long Island girl steamed littleneck clams don’t quite measure up to the soft shell clam steamers you get up and down the coast of the northeast. The only real disappointment was the “Pizza Pizza,” an artichoke, Canadian bacon, mozzarella pizza with red onion. The crust was uninspired and the topping was bland. But, then, this is a “bistro” not a pizza parlor and the steamers and salad made up for it.

Our entrees (none of which was a disappointment) consisted of a robust cannellini bean soup; a medium rare, flat iron steak with a classic pepper cream sauce cooked to perfection; a delicious seared duck breast with a sweet and sour sauce; slow braised pork that fell off the bone with fresh herbs and root vegetables; and the catch of the day - a seared ahi tuna with black beans, rice and chili, topped with guacamole made from the avocados of the chef’s own tree. As our friend said as he tasted a mouthful of this fish combination… “It doesn’t seem as if all these tastes should go together, but this is the best ahi tuna I’ve ever had.” ‘Nuf said.

There are three desserts listed on the menu: Jeri’s Citrus Olive Oil Cake, “Chocolate Chocolate;” and homemade cookies. We opted for two. I’m not a sweet eater, but Jeri’s citrus olive oil cake was amazing. Light, not oily. Sweet, but not sweet. I don’t know who Jeri is, but I want to thank her for this amazing cake. We also ordered the “Chocolate Chocolate” a concoction that the menu describes as “a journey through chocolate heaven.” It was. I’m sorry now we didn’t try the cookies.

As we left the restaurant and headed back to our friends’ house sated and happy, I decided that Feast Bistro is definitely a restaurant that needs frequent visiting.

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