After all the wide open spaces we experienced major culture shock rolling into LA and Hollywood for our next dinner. Caleb man-handled the bus on a thrilling ride from the sparse high desert- careening into L.A. and major traffic. Whew!! We situated ourselves in Hollywood and returned to nearby Wattles Farm for our second Outstanding visit. In glorious California weather guest chef Neal Fraser of Grace Restaurant happily roasted two whole Red Wattle heirloom pigs in caja chinas. Head gardener Toby Leaman spirited guests off for tours of the property as we squeezed another enormous Outstanding crowd into this expansive and fertile community garden. It's always a pleasure, and we will be back.
On our way to Ojai we stopped in Ventura to put our toes in the chilly Pacific Ocean. Three and a half months ago we left sight of the Pacific and now 35 Outstanding in the Field events later we were just too tired to get very excited about seeing it again. We slowly climbed back on the bus and made our way to Ojai and scenic Earthtrine Farm. BD Dautch of Earthtrine is one of our favorite farmers and he certainly has one of the prettiest farms we have seen. Guests sipped Michael Meagher's Vino V wine near the orange grove and soon all toured the property. The guests made a bit of a rush on the table during the tour as they sometimes do... and soon everyone was happily dining on local specialties created by guest chef Josh Brown of Bouchon Santa Barbara and Seagrass Restaurant. It was definitely nice to see some familiar faces: Farmer BD, some of our loyal California service staff, even our Paso Robles dinner chef, Deborah Scarborough of Black Cat Bistro, made a surprise appearance at the table. We're definitely almost there.
After dinner everyone was a little ragged and frazzled and our staff after party was more than a little deranged -but no matter- soon we would have time to rest.
Home (?) to Santa Cruz
We did it!! We survived! We succeeded. And we still had the bus - though it did miss 8 or 9 dinners...
The planning, the work, the challenges, all the new friends, spreading the word about farm dinners, and now we're back home in Santa Cruz. The ironic thing about this though (Leah made the observation as we were driving north from Ojai) is that none of us, other than Jim, really had homes, let alone homes in Santa Cruz. The bus had become our home, as we had left so many months ago. Sure enough, everyone spent the night at Jim's house and some of us even slept on the bus in the driveway.
Is it time to think about next year? Who is on the bus? Where will we go?
Maybe we'll think about that a little later.