Ojai Valley Inn’s decadent estate of golf courses, restaurants and cottages is a five star sight to behold. I remember when Food Bestie sent me the link to their on site classes back in 2020. I immediately signed up for two: the Artisan Pizza & Mozzarella class and the Pastry Class: The Art of Macarons.
In the grand ambiance of the Farmhouse, cooking classes at Ojai Valley Inn are gastronomical decadence. I remember eating my wood fired pizza with a glass of wine in front of the roaring fire pit. I remember clumsily piping my macarons at my cooking station while following along with the pastry chef. I remember the pleasure I felt, strolling the above ground herb garden, knowing that it powered everything in their dishes, resort wide. The grounds and the experience of being at Ojai Valley Inn are best summarized as peaceful refinement.
Likewise, both cooking classes taught me that your cooking space is just as important as what you make in it. Sure, you can practice mise en place and stretch your risen pizza dough anywhere. But, if you experience it at The Farmhouse, it’s just – elevated and different.
So, when I received the winter email of experiences at the Farmhouse I immediately browsed and settled on the French Bistro Dinner with Resort Chef Didier Lenders. It was fitting, as I planned a trip to Paris two weeks later.
SEARED DAY BOAT SCALLOPS (Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc, Celery Slaw, Fennel Crystal)
These were the best scallops I’ve had in recent memory. The Meyer Lemon offered a brightness to the dish that was beyond compare. However, the standout star was the usage of fennel crystal.
- When cooking scallops for a dinner party, you can start on them the evening before. Sear one side and let cool in the refrigerator. Then, just before serving, bake them with the seared side down at 350, until temp, to finish them off.
- Plating has just as much to do with the dish you are serving as the stoneware you are serving it on. Allow your serving plate to be as evocative and beautiful as what you are serving on it.
“Steak Au Poivre”
PEPPER STEAK (3 Peppercorn Sauce, Anna Potatoes, Haricots Verts Almandines Lemon Zest, Crispy Shallots)
Perhaps the most quintessential of Parisian delights, the steak was immaculately prepared. So much so that the simple quality of steak seasoned with cracked pepper, was the star of the plate. I still want the recipe for the 3 peppercorn sauce. But, it wasn’t offered during the meal.
The Pommes Anna was like a thinly sliced, crispy potato pie. The layered potatoes, butter, and salt created a dish that was simple – yet distinct.
- For slicing potatoes for an Anna potatoes, Chef Lenders suggested using Yukon gold potatoes, sliced at 1/8th on your mandolin.
- Use clarified butter to fry your potatoes. And always add more butter than you think you need.
- In seasoning your meat, first season with a gracious hand sprinkle over the top of your protein. Then, push each side down into the spice mix.
- The best frying oil mix is a blend of olive oil and canola.
- Once cooking is complete, always remember to let your meat rest about 5 minutes. This is strongly suggested for duck and lamb the most. With chicken and beef being suggested.
LITTLE GEM & BUTTER LETTUCE (Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette with Saint-André Wedge and Baguette Crostini)
I have a certain space in my heart for delicious salad. Chef Lenders’ demo about the salad course was simple – yet profound. Choose your salad lettuce based on texture and firmness. Make sure that the combination can withstand the dressing.
It goes without saying that this was yet another delicious course.
- Chef Lenders recommended using leafs of Little Gem and Butter lettuces for salads, due to their texture and ability to hold dressing.
- The preferred salad dressing ratio: 1 part vinegar / acid of choice and 3 oil of choice.
- To stabilize your bowl when whisking for emulsion, use a wrapped towel around the base of the bowl.
- Salt and pepper your lettuce before piping dressing onto the leaves.
“PARIS-BREST” (Hazelnut Chantilly Cream)
I was able to enjoy this final dessert over the course of a few days at home, as I requested to have this course boxed to go.
There’s something to be said about a good French desert. It’s just a world upon itself, in every bite. That’s how I felt about this. It was simply rich, buttery deliciousness that I savored.
- When using a Slipmat for making a Pate a Choux Dough, use your dough as glue. Consider lifting up the side of your Slipmat and putting a small amount of dough at the corner, so that it doesn’t lift. This should ensure an even surface area for baking.
Domaine Laroche ‘Saint Martin’ Chablis
Domaine Guyon Bourgogne ‘Les Dames De Vergy’ Hautes Cotes de Nuits
In conclusion, this was a memorable dinner for many reasons. Because at this dinner, I understood the true laws of power, as referenced by Robert Greene in his book, “The 48 Laws of Power.”
Power is not having a loud private conversation during a chef’s demonstration, distracting others at your table. Power is not manipulating the conversation around your feelings about the past, your past accomplishments and what you used to do. Power is not feeling you’re more important than the Chef that everyone paid $250 to hear. That’s selfishness and foolish, as taught in the Law, 4 lesson of “Always Say Less than Necessary.”
Power is knowing and fortifying your boundaries. It is being able to stand up from a table, approach a staff member and say: “Is it possible to get my dessert boxed to go? My table is having uncomfortable conversations and I and done sitting there.” Then, being told:
“Yes m’am. What else would you like?”
“I would like someone to gather my things and bring them to me, so I do not have to reenter that situation again.”
“Yes m’am. Of course we will do that. What else would you like?”
Then, the next day, having the general manager of the property contact you to understand what happen and swiftly rectify the situation.
That, is power.
The Farmhouse at Ojai Valley Inn
905 Country Club Rd
Ojai, California 93023