Gluten-Free in Ojai
The Ojai Valley Inn: “If you know about us, you’re lucky.” – Arnold Palmer
Table of Contents:
- Activities for Your Gluten-Free in Ojai Getaway
- Dining Gluten-Free at the Ojai Valley Inn
We were lucky enough to know about this beautiful Inn for our gluten-free Ojai getaway about 80 miles north of Los Angeles, thanks to our Virtuoso travel agent, Stephanie Louzil. A short drive from LA on a gluten-free getaway, and you are truly a world away, in a land of pixie tangerine and olive farms, where “pink moments” wash the mountains with a pink glow at sunset.
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For celiacs, the highlight of a gluten-free getaway at the Ojai Valley Inn is its Resort Chef, Didier Lenders. Chef Didier and I connected by phone and email prior to our arrival and planned out a rough idea of when we would eat at which restaurant and some of our likely meal choices. The Inn publishes its menus online, making it easy for Miss E and me to pre-select some of our food. We also had the flexibility to make changes on the fly. These extra steps of preparation, MADE our trip.
Chef Didier met us in the hotel foyer when we arrived. He had spoken to his staff at every food service location and they were ready for us… from dedicated cutting boards to a new blender… to an assigned chef at each location for every meal, the service was truly above and beyond anything we expected. Any visit or a call to a restaurant was met with, “Oh, yes, Mrs. King, we have your (prepped sandwiches, assigned chef, assigned server, specially made trail mix….) ready for you.
Before delving into the restaurants at the Ojai Valley Inn, let’s look at our favorite…
Activities for Your Gluten-Free Ojai Getaway:
Beekeeping & Gluten-Free Honey Tasting
Top of the list was Beekeeping and Honey Tasting! This takes place on the property of the Ojai Valley Inn. We met Julie (beekeeper) and Victoria (photographer and assistant) at the Discover Ojai Center where we suited up in our beekeeper outfits and were escorted to the apiary in a golf cart.
We held the hives and saw the bees in action up close, as we learned about the bees and the responsible beekeeping effort at the resort. The Inn harvests a small amount of honey for use at its restaurants, but does not bottle and sell the honey, instead leaving it for the bees and focusing on caring for the pollinators and educating guests on the importance of bees and beekeeping.
As a mom, I LOVE when my kids (and the adults!) have educational experiences that are fully cloaked in fun! Later, they were at the Pixie Pool rescuing bees who had found their way into the pool water, and cheering them on, “you can do it, girl!” (We learned most bees are female.)
The apiary experience was followed by honey-tasting, which included the BEST lavender lemonade (made on the property), gluten-free bread prepared just for Miss E and me, olives, cheeses, fruit, and a variety of local raw honey samples. We were so satisfied, that we skipped our lunch plans!
The honey varieties were all delicious and unique. Avocado honey was the most robust, reminded me of molasses, and would be perfect in a gingerbread or molasses cookie recipe. My favorite was the orange blossom honey, followed closely by the Ojai Valley Inn honey, which is considered a wildflower honey. The tour included a gift of honey to take home. I also followed Julie’s recommendation to visit Heavenly Honey, a family-owned honey tasting room in downtown Ojai, where visitors can taste and purchase additional quality honey.
Gluten-Free Picnic & Pedal
The Inn’s Picnic & Pedal program offers complimentary bikes available to borrow to use throughout the resort and to take into town, an easy 1-mile trip each way on a charming bike path. For an adventurous ride, you can explore more of the Ojai Valley Trail; but we opted for the easy bike ride straight to Libbey’s Park, which CJ calls the “best playground ever”.
Libbey’s Market (onsite at the resort, and right next to the bike stand) offers reasonably priced picnic meals with crackers, sweets, cheese, fruit, cured meats, olives, and trail mix, packaged with a picnic basket and blanket which fit perfectly in your bike’s basket!
For our picnic and pedal day, we pre-ordered gluten-free picnic food: pesto chicken sandwiches (yum!), Ojai Valley Salad with chicken salad, fruit, and chips, along with gluten-food for CJ.
We later ordered (and highly recommend) a gluten-free picnic for our road trip home. The resort chefs were able to accommodate us with a completely gluten-free picnic meal by substituting in-house-made gluten-free crostini for crackers, pre-packaged date bites for chocolate, and safely prepared trail mix (which is otherwise normally made in the pastry kitchen).
We enjoyed the ride to town, which takes you past the Ojai Valley Inn golf course, a Chumash Hut (a model of a typical home of the Chumash tribe), unique local residences, a shack that serves as an egg market stand along the bike path, an old one-room jailhouse, and finally the back entrance to Libbey Park, which then leads to all of the shops in Downtown Ojai.
Artist’s Cottage & Apothecary
After our ride to Libbey Park, we returned to the Ojai Valley Inn and pedaled down to its Artist’s Cottage & Apothecary, a peaceful place to relax and create. During the family craft hour in the morning, we had already enjoyed complimentary painting and taken a peek at some of the crafts we wanted to work on in the afternoon.
Miss E “assisted” me (i.e. took over with permission) in making hydrosol face mist and then selected candle making for her craft. CJ chose to enjoy the patio shaded by a 200-year-old oak (that he later climbed, and which also served as the backdrop for Jimmy Kimmel’s wedding), while putting together a gorgeous terrarium that now graces our table at home.
Gluten-Free Olive Oil Tasting at the Ojai Olive Farm
About a 10-minute drive from the resort, the Ojai Olive Farm is well worth the visit for a gluten-free olive oil tasting experience in Ojai! I discovered this gem because I had agro-tourism on my mind from planning a future trip to the Mediterranean. It occurred to me that the Mediterranean climate of the Ojai Valley was perfect for the types of agricultural adventures I was seeking in Europe.
Our visit to Ojai was during Covid restrictions, so you may find more “tour” type activities now available at the Ojai Olive Farm or nearby pixie tangerine farms; but we thoroughly enjoyed olive oil tasting in the middle of a beautiful grove of olive trees, complete with picnic tables, a wooden-rope swing, and swinging hammock chairs. The Ojai Olive Farm provided samples of four varieties of olive oils and two varieties of vinegar, all milled on site, and an informational sheet walking us through the tasting with details about the samples.
Our favorites were the Ojai Pixie Olive Oil and Peach Balsamic Vinegar, both of which (along with a couple of other varieties) made it home to join our Ojai honey and pixie oranges. We have been enjoying the “tastes of Ojai” since our return, and I have been wondering if my black thumb could handle growing a couple of rosemary and lavender plants.
This was a 100% gluten-free olive oil tasting. Due to Covid protocols, our tasting was a private experience outdoors with to-go containers of oil and vinegar. There was no gluten on-site. The bring-your-own-bread policy was celiac safe. However, from website photos, the usual practice appears to be a common bowl with cross-contamination. Contact Ojai Olive Farm directly to confirm its current practices before visiting.
We booked this activity through the resort with CJ in mind. Geocaching is basically a worldwide scavenger hunt. You can learn more at geocaching.com. Experienced geocachers would just do this activity on their own, but we enjoyed the assistance (clues when we were stuck) of the guide.
Geocaching gave us a chance to explore more of the Ojai Valley Inn property, and a little off property; and there were a few fun surprises for the kids along the way. Of all our activities at the Ojai Valley Inn, geocaching was the least appealing to me. It was, as expected, a big hit with CJ, and we will likely do it again.
Now, what you have been waiting for, gluten-free…
Dining Gluten-Free in Ojai at the Ojai Valley Inn Restaurants:
There were a couple of fine dining locations at the Inn that we did not visit during our stay. For a relaxed, family getaway, we opted for the more casual dining options:
Gluten-Free at the Pixie Pool
Our first stop was the Pixie Pool where Miss E ordered fries and a hot dog, served on sliced gluten-free bread, and I had a delicious strawberry salmon salad. On another visit, we had gluten-free spring rolls and smoothies. It was truly a treat having safe food to eat poolside, food that was not schlepped there by yours truly.
Gluten-Free at The Oak
Several of our meals were at The Oak. We consistently sat in a section of tables next to the golf course for the beautiful view of the golf course, 200-year-old oaks, and mountains, which were stunning during “the pink moment”. At dinner, the family shared gluten-free braised short ribs with flageolet beans and gluten-free vegan enchiladas (yum). Miss E opted for fries and gluten-free chicken tenders, which Chef Didier prepped in advance with rice flour just for her.
During breakfast, table service was not available in that section, so we took our breakfast to-go in favor of enjoying the vistas. Miss E’s breakfasts included: fruit, bacon, gluten-free muffin, eggs, sausage, fried potatoes, and an acai bowl without granola. My breakfasts at home are simple, usually purity protocol oats or a smoothie, and always with green tea matcha powder… it is my source for daily caffeine, as I do not typically drink coffee or soda. The chef at the Oak made me a delicious, gluten-free smoothie of the day every morning, and I mixed in my own Encha Matcha brought from home.
Gluten-Free at Libbey’s
Libbey’s was a real treasure at the Ojai Valley Inn. We found labeled gluten-free snacks, like Black Market gelato, Chaos peanut butter and dark chocolate kettle corn, and Torres potato chips in black truffle and Mediterranean herbs flavors. My above review of the Picnic & Pedal experience goes into greater detail on Libbey’s food offerings. Highly recommend!
Gluten-Free at Jimmy’s Pub
There were plenty of gluten-free options at Jimmy’s Pub. We enjoyed oh-so-refreshing lavender lemonade, crispy brussels sprouts, fish tacos a la plancha, pastrami sandwich, and fruit. The chef converted the grilled chicken Caprese sandwich into a salad for me. As at every location at the Inn, we were provided detailed information on safety measures to prevent cross-contamination. It was wonderful to eat without worry.
Near Jimmy’s Pub and the Indigo Pool there are complimentary firepits. We just asked to be added to the waitlist at Jimmy’s Pub and were able to head straight to our available firepit once we finished dinner. Libbey’s sells a gluten-filled s’more kit, but we were prepared with our own gluten-free kit from home to enjoy gluten-free s’mores.
Arnold Palmer was correct. If you have the chance to visit the Ojai Valley Inn, you are lucky indeed.
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