In 2014 Conde Nast named The Ranch House one of the most romantic restaurants in the country, and it’s easy to see why when you enter its enchanting world of gardens from exotic to herb.
Founded by Alan and Helen Hooker in 1949, first as a boarding house where Alan cooked the farm-to-table vegetarian meals for his boarders (mostly devotees of Krishnamurti), it became a restaurant in 1950 by popular demand. Through ups and downs and a change of venue, Alan, a precursor to the great Alice Waters, continued to be a pioneer of California cuisine, developing award winning recipes. Now in its sixth decade The Ranch House has fed a patron list that includes Aldous Huxley, Paul Newman, John & Yoko and Reese Witherspoon.
In 2014, hotelier and restaurateur (and Ojai local), Steve Edelson, bought The Ranch House with a vision to fuse old-world Ojai with a new world sensibility. He brought in Russ Brunelli as general manager and Sean Kingsbury as executive chef.
Sean started his career in the kitchen as low man on the totem, rising to sous chef and then to executive chef. He has reworked some of Alan’s old recipes for today’s tastes, as well as adding his own. His food is fresh and contemporary and is prepared without the use of freezers, microwaves or fryers.
No matter where you go in the restaurant…
…there’s something that pleases the eye, from the bicycle riding Topa Topa Topiaries just outside the front door…
… the Martha Moran rock sculptures in the garden…
… the whimsical art in the lounge…
… or the flower pots on the table with sayings by Krishnamurti (“Truth is a pathless land”) and Beatrice Wood inscribed on each one.
Not to mention the lovely gardens, the Koi pond…
…and tables covered in white linen situated among the bamboo shoots.
Of course, a restaurant lives and dies on its food and Sean has put together a mouthwatering menu to please both vegetarians and carnivores. For Taste of Ojai, he has chosen his delicious coffee, chipotle rubbed braised short ribs on polenta.
As you stroll from one delicious taste to another, don’t forget to sample this little bit of culinary nirvana.
By: Ilona Saari
The Ranch House
102 Besant Road
Ojai, Calif. 93023