Eat More DönerWorks

At SpireWorks’ newest location in Eagle Rock, you will experience a döner – meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie similar to the Arab shawarma, Greek gyros and Mexican al pastor. I met the founder and CEO Bob Kaufman and COO Jeff Rosenthal last week at their grand opening, as they gave away free meals with a dessert and beverage to guests.
Rice bowls and sandwiches are part of the eclectic menu at SpireWorks featuring American diner.

fullsizerender-473

Kaufman introduced himself and shared his story about how he grew up in Encino and now lives in Sherman Oaks. After graduating from Birmingham High School and UC Santa Barbara, he worked as a VP for Tower Records and later The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, which enabled him to travel the world. Along the way, he enjoyed the flavors from countries like Taiwan, Turkey, Japan and Thailand.

fullsizerender-471

It was in Turkey that Kaufman discovered döner. He found a particular restaurant in Istanbul that had the flavors he was looking for and obtained the recipe from the chef. With the help from the food innovation and development company Pilot R+D, and Chef Kuniko Yagi as a consulting chef (she has worked with Chef David Myers as Executive Chef at Comme Ça and Hinoki and the Bird), they realized that the cattle in Turkey is raised differently than in the United States, and affects the beef’s taste. Together they worked with Glen Rose Meats to create the most delicious beef döner. It took 18 months to perfect. They also came up with a spit-roasted rosemary chicken.

To cater to vegetarians, they created a unique köfte, similar to a large falafel ball, yet moist and not as crispy on the outside. Chef Kuniko helped build the menu with seven different traveling destinations – Mexico, China, Italy, New York, Thailand, Turkey and the deep South offering pleasing flavor profiles.

fullsizerender-468

Kaufman led me on a tour of his wilderness-themed café. Above the entrance, it appeared as if we were walking under trees. The tables are decorated with colorful flowered tops, and the green flooring tiles look like grass. On the walls are cork board and birch tree wallpaper representing wood. What stands out in the dining room is the handmade tree branch chandelier. “We found the branches and made our own light fixture,” Kaufman said. The room evokes a camping trip with whimsical retro photo of people standing in front of their VW Westfalia camper.

img_0345

Kaufman encouraged me to try three different döner dishes. First you select a base of either their unique bread, multicolor wild rice or salad greens. I chose the fresh bread made only for SpireWorks. It’s a baked sesame seed bread similar to Ciabatta on the outside and a Turkish bread inside. It’s split to form a pocket for stuffing the fresh ingredients. Then I had a choice of three proteins – their special roasted beef, chicken or vegetarian option. “Both the beef and chicken are antibiotic and hormone free,” Kaufman said. I chose the sliced spiral chicken and had it made Peking style with hoisin sauce, green onions, crispy onions, angel hair carrots, cucumber spirals, and Rayu shaker. The spice reminded me of the aromas of the Chinese Night Market in Hong Kong.

fullsizerender-469

The seasoning mixtures were developed by Chef Kuniko. She created the Japanese shaker Furikake, offering a seasoning that is popular to sprinkle on cooked rice from her native Japan. Kaufman wanted me to taste the New York shaker on the twice cooked baby Dutch yellow potatoes. “It tastes just like the breadboard crumbs after cutting into a double baked rye bread,” Kaufman said. “With Russian dressing and sauerkraut, this is a winner with the döner beef.” The potatoes were warm, soft and creamy and brought back memories of a New York deli.

img_0338

Enjoying the flavor, I ordered a New York style mixed greens bowl topped with beef. Russian dressing, sauerkraut, shaved parmesan, cucumber spirals, angel hair beets and a few New York shakes were added to uplift the flavor profile even more.

Last I ordered a bowl with wild rice and vegetarian köfte balls made with cubed carrots, mushrooms, peppers and onions bound with chickpea flour and urfa briber – dried Turkish chili pepper. I had it made Bangkok style with Tamarind chutney, yellow curry aioli, green onions, pickled red peppers and a delightful crunchy Thai coconut curry crumble. It was a brilliant combination.

fullsizerender-472

“The perfect bite is a combination of hot and cold, salty, sweet and sour, squishy and crunchy.” Kaufman said of my selections.

You can design your own bowl or sandwich with a variety of sauces that include tomato jam, zaatar labneh, yellow curry aioli, Russian dressing or hoisin sauce. For crunch there are options of pickled cauliflower, red onions, red peppers with Sambal or sauerkraut.

fullsizerender-470

Coffee beverages are from Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Nitro Brew Coffee. The iced latte is made with cream, Okinawa raw sugar and sea salt to create a satisfying beverage. They also have a Stubborn soda machine with a variety of flavors that include a root beer with no artificial sweeteners, no high fructose corn syrup and full of natural flavors.

fullsizerender-475

Sweet treats at SpireWorks are slices of roll cakes in flavors of banana cream pie, dulce de leche, honey mascarpone, tiramisu, strawberry shortcake and chocolate ganache. These bite sized delights hit the spot, without being too sweet, heavy and filling.

Excited to try other destinations, I visited the Westwood Village SpireWorks before going to the UCLA basketball game. This was the first SpireWorks location and resembles a train depot with guests having the option to dine in a train car to mimic traveling around the world.img_0337

SpireWorks is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. 4945 B Eagle Rock Blvd. (323)895-7888 and 1061 Broxton Ave. (424)220-6299.

This review was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on January 26, 2017.

CUT Lounge in Beverly Hills is a cut above

The new CUT Lounge is a recently-opened Wolfgang Puck chic bar and refined lounge located in the former Sidebar space.

CUT Lounge at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills is the chic bar where Sidebar used to be located. The cuisine is “Wolfgang Puck” at its finest with innovative cocktails to match.

img_8203Since we had theatre tickets to see “Merrily We Roll Along” at the Wallis Annenberg Theatre, we needed a quicker dining option than the leisurely, fine dining experience at CUT by Wolfgang Puck.

Beautiful glass and metal doors open to the dark and cozy lounge, where we were led to a table for two in the middle of the room by Tracey Spillane, regional director of operations for L.A.

img_8204

Slinking into low, mid-century modern chairs around a contemporary table, Spillane shared with us that Wolfgang and his wife Gelila Assefa Puck worked with Waldo Fernandez to reimagine Sidebar and decorate the room in sophisticated hues of gray, brown and beige.

Terence Leavey, the new beverage director, has some interesting drinks on his cocktail menu, like the Pins and Needles cocktail made with Hendricks Gin, a rosemary sprig, sliced Japanese cucumber and lemon. It was refreshing to sip while looking over the menu. They carry a collection of rare whiskies from Scotland, USA, Canada, Taiwain and Japan. A vintage Negroni cart will soon be a featured attraction.

img_8174

To my delight corporate executive chef and partner Lee Hefter and chef Ari Rosenson promoted Hilary Henderson to chef de cuisine. She has worked for the Wolfgang Puck family for quite some time, and most recently, alongside Rosenson as sous chef of CUT Beverly Hills.

We started with the pâté, an ethereal spread served with dark brown bread. The pâté was crusted with honey mustard seeds and decorated with colorful micro flowers.

Another favorite dish was truffle grilled cheese rectangles made with grilled Gruyere and mozzarella cheese topped with decadent black truffle shavings. We also enjoyed the cleverly wrapped empanadas copetin made with Tuscan black kale and Gruyere cheese.

img_8179

I found the Alaskan King crab and Santa Barbara uni toast with avocado a fresh and clean tasting dish, with a pleasing cocktail sauce. For those who like oysters Rockefeller, the CUT lounge version is Fanny Bay oysters served tempura style in shells with cucumber relish, coconut and cardamom.

img_8182

Spillane has a professional team working in the lounge. Throughout our culinary experience, Dylan Resnik from Northern California dressed in a formal business suit, checked on us and delivered a small plate of grilled Maine Diver scallops dazzled with Meyer lemon, sage and celery root. The handsome Italian Corrado Alfano brought us cavatappi mac and cheese made with fusilli pasta and aged Canadian cheddar from Quebec.

Spaniard Esteban Paulin served us the most tender, dry aged American wagyu sirloin steak skewers placed on a pool of red harrisa aioli. The meat at CUT is grilled over hardwood and charcoal, before finished under a 1200- degree broiler.

img_8253

Even though we were in a hurry to get the theatre, I wanted to try two desserts by pastry chef Angela Tong, since she has worked under the direction of Spago Beverly Hills award winning executive pastry chef Della Gossett. Tong’s desserts didn’t disappoint, especially her espresso semifreddo that had a hard chocolate shell covering chicory coffee ice cream enhanced with dark chocolate crumble. The inside was mousse-like and heavenly in flavors. We also ordered her apple cider funnel cake made with beautifully roasted heirloom apples and a dash of maple and chopped pecans. The food, wine and cocktails are definitely a CUT above most Los Angeles lounges and many restaurants.

img_8207CUT Lounge is not participating in dineL.A. Restaurant Week, however CUT by Wolfgang Puck offers a special $95 multi-course Exclusive series menu. It features an heirloom apple salad; sautéed Maine Diver scallops with roasted Italian chestnuts and French black truffles, plus a steak duo of red wine braised short ribs and a dry aged New York steak with a green peppercorn Armagnac emulsion. For dessert, guests will enjoy the espresso and chicory semifreddo that I enjoyed so much. A sommelier will pair the courses for an additional $50 per person.

CUT Lounge is open 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sunday. $$$ 9500 Wilshire Blvd. (310)276-8500.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on January 12, 2017 – http://beverlypress.com/2017/01/cut-lounge-in-beverly-hills-is-a-cut-above/

Italian Street Food at Vinoteca

Adjacent to Culina in the Four Seasons Los Angeles is a newer Napolini culinary experience, Vinoteca Bar. I heard from others that it is so much more than just a bar and was eager to meet my friend Ali for lunch.

img_6770

After pulling up to the front of the Four Seasons, I walked to the right and noticed a very happy Marilyn Monroe statue standing on a metal grate with her white dress blowing up to expose her shapely thighs. At the base it’s titled “Forever Marilyn” by Seward Johnson. Seward was inspired to make this likeness of Monroe after seeing the iconic photograph shot by Bernard of Hollywood.

Walking towards Culina restaurant I noticed a row of privacy trees lining the hotel’s driveway. On the other side is Vinoteca.

img_6744

Since the weather was nice, we opted to sit on the covered outdoor patio, instead of inside the bar and cafe. It’s a more relaxed vibe than Culina restaurant, yet with the same exceptional service. Vinoteca opens at 6:30 a.m., as an espresso cafe with baristas making warm Caffè Umbria coffee drinks and eight hour drip cold brews made from an elegant, multi-tiered Yama maker.

img_6766

Walking along the bar to the patio, I noticed rows of convenient electrical plug outlets for people to plug in their laptop and smart phone to work while sipping a cafe latte and biting into one of pastry chef Federico Fernandez ethereal pastries. Some of his specialities include bacon and cheddar scones, plain and almond croissants, muffins and a powdered sugar pastry called a sfogliatello. To me it looked a little bit like a lobster tail with many ridges. Next to it was another pastry that caught my eye named cannoncini. This flakey treat looked like a croissant and cannoli with powdered sugar dazzling the top. “It’s also known as an Italian horn, filled with hazelnut cream” said the barista. I ordered one for the car ride home.

While sitting at a table, our server discussed the menu and informed us that the produce and fish are local, however the rice, wheat flour for the pizza, burrata, Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar and Buffalo mozzarella are delivered from Italy twice a week to provide authentic flavor profiles. “The same products made here in the U.S. don’t taste the same,” she said.

Looking over the menu, it’s separated into sections. Our server recommended we order three to four plates per person to share. There are frutti di mare with fresh clams by the half dozen, California scallops, and two different types of oysters.

img_6751

Next are crudos made with yellowtail, salmon, tuna or scallops. My friend suggested we order one item from each section to share. We started with the yellowtail tartare from the crudo section. It arrived with a smear of soft, white mozzarella cheese decorating one side of the bowl. In the center was cut raw fish with compressed cherry bottarga (an Italian delicacy of salted, cured fish roe) and tiny chocolate mint leaves. It offered an fresh briny essence.

Under the Santa Monica Farmers Market section we ordered the ancient farro grain bowl filled with a sprinkling of mustard greens, chopped dried apricots, peaches and persimmons with strips of semisoft Taleggio Italian cheese. The cheese was mild in flavor, offering a slightly fruity tang. During the winter, this section will include small plates featuring brussels sprouts, butternut squash, heirloom carrots and fingerling potatoes.

img_6748Next we ordered Vinoteca’s specialty montanaras. They are small flash fried pizzas that are topped before being baked. “No one else makes these on the West Coast like we do,” our server told us. We ordered three of these Italian street food. The lobster montanara arrived first and looked similar to a lobster roll. It was filled with large chunks of lobster, tomato, onion, and celery. There was no mayonnaise, just a dash of Italian olive oil.

I found the eggplant montanara equally delicious. Shaped in a square it was topped with baked cherry tomatoes and melted smoked Provola cheese and garnished with whole basil leaves. The classic montanara was topped with 36 month old Parmigiano Reggiano.

img_6757

My favorite dish of the day arrived in a bowl and looked like a whole avocado surrounded with cream and microgreens. As we cut into the “avocado” we discovered it was like a geode when cut surprising us with an array of colors. The outside was made with crispy black breadcrumbs covering yellow rice. In the middle was a filling of salmon, chopped onions and English peas. What looked like cream, was a frothy Meyer lemon creme fraiche with basil sprinkled around the bowl. WOW! It’s similar to an Italian arancini (rice ball), yet enhanced with a housemade squid ink breadcrumb crust. I inquired with our server how this is made and learned that it takes the chefs one week to make the bread crumbs. They make the dough for the bread and proof it for 24 hours before baking. Then they let it dry out for a few days, slice it, crumble it, and add black squid ink. Saffron is added to the organic Italian grain rice before it’s rolled into the breadcrumbs and shaped into a true Italian triangle to resemble an avocado.

For those who would like a little wine with their L’Arancino, the bar serves three and six ounce pours, as well as a variety of bottles of Italian wines made in Italy and California. They even have a tasting flight of four wines with three ounce pours. One could pair a glass with each dish. The one page wine list offers Italian Spumante and white Italian wines. Some are created Italian-style in Sonoma, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll, Santa Ynez and Carneros. They offer the same with red wine. There are Italian reds made in Campania and Sicily and other reds inspired by Italy that are crafted in the California wine towns of Paso Robles, Lodi and Mendocino.

For those who don’t like wine, Vinoteca offers artisanal Italian beer, aperitivo cocktails and an array of digestivi e grappe.

img_6765For dessert the chefs make a sweet Montanara pizza shaped as a lobster roll. It’s filled with sweet sheep ricotta, bright red seasonal berry compote, and micro-basil. They also make a true Sicilian style cannoli with the same sweet sheep ricotta, a little chocolate, orange and chopped pistachios.

As we were leaving we learned that Vinoteca is offering an oyster and wine pairing special for $20 during their Wine Wednesdays. Guests may order a half-dozen Beausolei and/or Kusshi oysters and receive a glass of Laura Aschero Vermentino from Liguria, Italy every Wine Wednesday until Jan. 25 from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Complimentary parking is available for those dropping in to pick up pastries and coffee.  The espresso bar opens daily starting at 6:30 a.m. Vinoteca Wine Bar opens Monday-Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. $$ 300 S. Doheny Drive (310)273-2222.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on January 19, 2017 – http://beverlypress.com/2017/01/vinoteca-espresso-and-wine-bar-outstanding-italian-street-food-at-the-four-seasons-los-angeles-at-beverly-hills/.

 

Captivating Carlsbad

Driving up to the coastal inspired Cape Rey Carlsbad resort, I noticed the hotel is directly across the street from the beach. It’s California Craftsman design takes full advantage of unobstructed Pacific Ocean views. The hotel opened in June, 2012, and is part of the Hilton Resort family.

img_6629
Walking into the inviting lobby, a friendly staff member checked me in and gave me a tour of the grab and go market, technology lounge with work stations, Ocean Crest Spa, and full service restaurant Chandler’s.

Checking into my room, number 3010, I opened the balcony door to admire panoramic ocean views. Inside, the modern beach design room offered dark brown woods, water ripple design carpet, Hilton Serenity bed with high end bedding, 42-inch flat screen television, in room safe, Peter Thomas Roth amenities, white robes and complimentary wi-fi.img_6453
After unpacking, I visited The Ocean Crest Spa for a one hour massage before dinner. The 5,700 sq. ft spa offers ocean elements to promote energy, serenity, calmness and enhance beauty. There are seven treatment rooms for facials and body treatments, manicures and pedicures using many products made from ingredients found in the ocean. Across from the spa is a 24 hour gym that looks out to the large heated pool and expansive deck area filled with lounge chairs and umbrellas.

After a relaxing massage, I walked back to my room and noticed the Cape Rey is an art hotel with gallery pieces on the walls of the public areas, and in each guest room. Artists include local surf photographers Aaron Chang, Jon Prud’homme and Roy Kerckhoff.

Meeting friends by the pool for a pre-dinner drink, I also met the new General Manager Thomas Lee. He shared with us the new expansion plans for the Sunset Terrace to include additional al fresco seating. This is a very popular spot for locals and guests throughout the day and especially at sunset to sip a local craft beer, and enjoy some tapas. We sat on casual couch-like seating and later moved to a table at a covered terrace. Live music is offered every Thursday through Saturday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. from March to October and a Sunset Terrace Happy Hour is offered daily from 4 to 6 p.m.img_6464

Chandler’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared by Executive Chef and Culinary Director Teri McIllwain. Her menu is inspired by the seasons with many local fresh ingredients. The next morning, I ordered a green smoothie and light breakfast at Chandler’s, before I explored five different attractions in Carlsbad.

Guests can leave their car in the hotel’s parking garage and take a shuttle into the village to shop, dine and admire the colorful outdoor street art.

The hotel also offers complimentary bicycles for guests to ride along a bike path into the village. I spent about one hour in the village, before visiting the Batiquitos Lagoon for a nature walk along tidal wetlands. Inside the Nature Center are free trail guide sheets offering various points of interest and trails to explore along designated pathways.

img_6673
A few minutes away is the Carlsbad Lagoon to rent paddle boards, kayaks, motorboats and jet skis by the hour. We rented a couple stand up paddle boards and kayaks to skim along the calm protected waterway.

Legoland and the Sea Life Aquarium is a fun activity if you have little ones, however I wanted to tour the Museum of Making Music to learn more about music from the early 1900s, through the jazz era, folk, rock ‘n roll, pop, to hip hop and rap. It’s an interactive museum with musical instruments, audio and video clips. Known as one of the most informative music museums in the world, this was one of the highlights of my visit in Carlsbad.

Below the Music Museum is an outlet shopping mall filled with brand name stores at discounted prices. There are also a few fast food spots to grab a hot or cold beverage and snack before driving back home.

Looking at the traffic on the freeway, I wished I had reserved a seat on the Amtrak Pacific Surfrider train. It starts in San Luis Obispo (SLO) and stops at two Carlsbad stations before cruising down to San Diego. Then it makes a reverse trip up to SLO with stops from San Diego to Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura County and Santa Barbara before reaching SLO. At up to 90 miles an hour, travelers get to see some of the most beautiful untouched areas in California, while sitting in comfortable seats with free wi-fi and power outlets.

Guests may call the Cape Rey upon arrival at a station, and a staff member will pick up and take them straight to the resort. When guests check out, they will drive them back to the station to board a train for a stress free ride back home.

To learn more about the Cape Rey Carlsbad, 1 Ponto Rd, Carlsbad, CA 92011, call (760)602-0800.

This review was featured in the January 2017 issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Actor Burt Young

 

Meeting actor Burt Young during a rehearsal at the Zephyr Theatre in Los Angeles, I learned that he was a tough kid as a teen living in Queens, NY. He dabbled in gambling and boxing before joining the Marines. Acting was the furtherest thing on his mind, it was “too corny,” Young told me.

img_8451
After a stint in the Marines, Young met a beautiful girl at a bar in Jackson Heights. She told him about a magnificent man named Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio. Young wrote Strasberg a letter stating “Dear Lee – If acting is about life experiences, my credits are plenty. I don’t know if I have anything in acting, but I’m treading water.” Strasberg responded with an invitation to meet him at his house in Manhattan on 84th Street.

Young was shy when they met and responded with monosyllabic words. Strasberg responded, “I’ve never seen such tension in a man’s face, but I know you are an emotional library. Will you work with me?” Young joined the Actors Studio and sat with other thespians – Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman and Julie Newmar.img_8439

In 1975, Young’s life changed when he received a script to play a brother-in-law of a boxer. “I wanted to do the film, but didn’t immediately respond. I was just dragging my feet a little, to get more money for the role,” Young said. Sylvester Stallone called to meet him to talk about the movie. Stallone got down on one knee and said, “Burt, you gotta do this film that I wrote and will star in. I really need you.” That sealed the deal.

Young was cast as Rocky Balboa’s best friend and brother-in-law, Paulie. He was nominated as Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in the 1976 Oscar awards. That one successful Rocky movie turned into a franchise for Young and Stallone, who are featured in all six Rocky movies in a 40 year period.

Young pulled out his cell phone to show me a YouTube video of Sylvester Stallone at a Lifetime Achievement Award evening honoring Burt Young. In the video, Stallone tells the audience that Young is insightful, worldly, strong and brave. He called him a Renaissance Man who brought such passion to the character Paulie. While making the Rocky movies, Stallone would go home at night and rewrite some scenes based on what Young suggested.

“Stallone is a genius,” said Young. “Rocky is not a boxing movie, it’s a movie about plain people standing up to adversity and standing tall during stressful times in life.”

Born in 1940, I asked Young what keeps him young? He replied that “aches and pains are normal, you just have to work through all that nonsense.” Young used to run, but not as much now, however he does enjoy throwing punches on his big punching bag in his bedroom.”

Living in Port Washington, NY, he also loves to paint. He won a Department of Parks & Recreation contest at the age of 12, and has continued painting ever since. With over 1,000 paintings, many have been shown all over the world and others are in museum galleries throughout the United States. “It’s a selfish passion, just color, canvas and me,” said Young. “I don’t need a producer, editor or studio to paint.” His inspiration comes from a color and then the injustice he sees in the world.

When I asked Young how he could sum up his life in one sentence, he thought for one second and said, “A Grand Trip With No End In Sight.”img_8448

Come see Burt Young in new comedy production of The Last Vig. It opens on Jan. 14 through Feb. 19 at the Zephyr Theatre on Melrose, Los Angeles for a six-week run. Young plays an aging character “Big Joe,” a Mafia wiseguy who might just be the last of a dying breed.

To purchase tickets call (323) 960-7712. The theater is located at 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046 (between Fairfax and La Brea).

InTravel Review: The Lavender Inn in Ojai

One block from the main street of Ojai, California someone with a big heart is the innkeeper of a historic home turned into an elegant bed and breakfast. Her name is Kathy Hartley. Her goal is to pamper guests while they’re staying in one of seven individually decorated rooms or the 1,000 sq. ft. cottage in the garden backyard.img_6301

Kathy discovered a forlorn 1874 house in need of a little love called the Moons Rest Inn. The teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing purchased the inn and renovated it to be a comfortable bed and breakfast filled with antiques and local art.img_6286

Located one street away from the hub of Ojai with it’s art galleries, shops, and farm to table restaurants, she changed the name to the Lavender Inn and incorporated a small spa on the property.img_6260

Throughout the year, couples reserve a room for a peaceful respite from work and family obligations. Some go for a BabyMoon to enjoy some personal time together before their baby is born. The in house spa offers moms to be a pre-natal massage and a Mommy facial to help with hormonal changes. A nearby baby boutique Ojai Baby, offer a 10% discount for guests staying at the Lavender Inn.

Girlfriends stay at this affordable bed and breakfast for a social getaway to be pampered with a healthy breakfast, enjoy spa time, and sit to sip wine with appetizers out on the large veranda during “the pink moment” as the sun sets.img_6274

Every late afternoon, the nearby Topatopa Mountains glow in pink hues every early evening. The Lavender Inn is a popular destination during the annual lavender and music festival in June. It sells out for the Ojai Film Festival and for healing woman’s retreats twice a year.

Over eight years ago, Hartley had a dream to provide a retreat for women with cancer. She woke up and started talking to nurses at three different local hospitals to find eight women with cancer that need pampering.img_6296

Her first InnCourage retreat, was eight years ago, as a three day and two night no cost retreat for under-served women undergoing treatment for cancer. These selected women received healthy meals, massages, facials and on site counseling. Classes by the American Cancer Society Look Good, Feel Better were offered in a group workshop setting teaching ladies beauty techniques to help them feel beautiful while undergoing appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment. For those who felt strong enough to go on a gentle hike with Hartley, explored Ojai and then came back to attend a cooking class in the Inn with the in-house Italian chef. After the “pink moment” Hartley and the women sat down in the dining room to eat what they prepared. Afterwards, there was a fireside chat to get to know each other and share stories about their families, cancer fears and hope.

Each year, Hartley notices a transformation with each woman as she explores new healthy and holistic approaches to find time to relax, rejuvenate and renew her senses. Some women have told Hartley that after this “I’m strong enough now to fight this disease.”img_6276

In 2016, Hartley is now offering the same type of retreat for Veterans suffering from PTSD. She asks Vets in nearby communities to write a short story of why they deserve a getaway at the Lavender Inn. Those selected get to wake up on Veteran’s Day with a gourmet breakfast, hike around Ojai, receive a massage and special dinner.

The Lavender Inn is more than just a bed and breakfast, it’s a little slice of heaven in Ojai thanks to Kathy Hartley.

This article was featured in the January 2017 issue of InTravel Magazine – http://www.intravelmag.com/intravel/innkeeper/angelic-innkeeper-at-the-lavender-inn-and-spa