Young restaurateurs are invigorating the dining scene in laid-back Ojai

The laid-back enclave of Ojai, tucked within the Topatopa Mountains some 80 miles north of Los Angeles, boasts the unofficial motto, “There’s nothing to do in Ojai, and not enough time to do it.” For some culinary enthusiasts, the phrase “nothing doing” has pretty much summed up the restaurant scene of this tiny tourist town, but many locals prefer it that way — which may account for the “Keep Ojai Lame” bumper stickers seen here and there.

If the gastronomes are real old-timers, their touchstones may be the Ranch House, which grew out of a vegetarian boarding house in 1950 and is still in operation several iterations later, or Suzanne’s Cuisine, a mom-and-daughter mainstay that persevered for 25 years but closed in 2017.

On the outskirts of town, the Ojai Valley Inn will celebrate its centenary next year. The upmarket destination resort has made a national splash, enlisting Nancy Silverton to curate seasonal events like last November’s sold-out, beef-centric dinner prepared by celebrity Tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini for $500 a pop (plus tax and tip). But if you make a weekend trip to Ojai and stay in another hotel or one of the many Airbnbs in the area, the guest-focused inn probably will not be an option.

The Broiled oysters in fermented chili butter is photographed at Rory's Place, a new restaurant on May 6, 2022 at Ojai, CA.

Broiled oysters in fermented chili butter are served at Rory’s Place, one of the new Ojai restaurants.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Now a handful of young restaurateurs have set up shop a few blocks from one another in the small downtown, invigorating the dining landscape. Three of the four new restaurants make their own sourdough, which prompted one customer to suggest christening the area Ojai’s Sourdough District.

The entrepreneurs, all of whom launched during the pandemic, quickly formed an alliance. “We reach out to one another for a bundle of aprons or a bag of flour,” said Meave McAuliffe, chef of Rory’s Place, a farm- and ocean-to-table collaboration with her younger sister, Rory. “On our respective days off, we eat at each other’s establishments. It’s very sweet.”

Meave and Rory grew up near the beach in Venice and spent their adolescence helping out in their mom’s Santa Monica bakery, Odeon Breads and Pastries. The family summered on the tidal flats of Cape Cod, where the girls harvested and shucked oysters. Meave went on to become head pastry chef at Gjelina in 2009 and ran the kitchen at Saltwater Oyster Depot in Marin County. While she put together a project of her own in upstate New York, Rory, a front-of-house veteran, was imagining a wine pub in L.A. called Rory’s Place. “I thought it was a great name,” said Meave. “I’d never want to have a restaurant named after me, though.”

Meditation Mountain at Ojai

Ojai attractions include pastoral views and sunset at Meditation Mountain, watched by Alex Lee, left, and Tess Natnicha, right.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Their plans coalesced in Ojai, which had long enchanted them with its Meditation Mount, its groves of sugary Pixie tangerines and its otherworldly “pink moment,” a fleeting period before sunset when the peaks that frame the northern edge of the valley take on a pastel glow. “We wanted to add a truly elevated dining experience to the local mix,” said Meave. “Something personal and thoughtful and surprising and playful. Something people would travel here for.”

Though Ventura County is rich in farming and fishing traditions, some Ojai bistros don’t typically procure raw ingredients from local purveyors. Most restaurants exist on such thin profit margins that they can’t afford to buy local. There’s also a problem of seasonality — the menu has to reflect what’s available.

“As we formed partnerships with farmers and fisherfolk in the region, we realized that their bounty was being underutilized,” said Meave. “We brought a new approach to eating in Ojai — an old approach really: eating the food that’s produced close by.”

Co-owners Meave and Rory McAuliffe, left and right, pose for a portrait.

Co-owners and sisters Meave and Rory McAuliffe, left and right, launched Rory’s Place during the pandemic.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Beside crudos, gem salads and winter squash tempura, Rory’s offers such inventive takes as halibut agua chile with passion fruit, and agnolotti stuffed with bottarga and spiny-tail lobster. Among the fun twists on old standards are broiled oysters in fermented chili butter, and a half-chicken that’s been brined, air-dried, seared, roasted with escarole over a wood fire and dotted with blackberries.

While Rory’s rough-hewn, Craftsman-era space adjoins the theater that in 1914 showed Ojai’s very first movie (“Valley of the Moon”), the Dutchess occupies the building in which baker Wilhelm Koch — who in 1916 won $500 in a wheatless-bread-making contest and legally changed his name to Bill Baker — created a one-ton fruit pound cake decorated with 2,000 frosting roses and 1,000 birds. Later in the century, the facetiously named Ojai Men’s Prostate Club met there every morning for coffee.

Named for Baker’s original oven, whose bricks were repurposed last year as the backyard patio, the Dutchess was touted by Vogue — which called it “a chic new all-day restaurant and bakery” — even before opening day. The proprietors are Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb, whose L.A. establishments include Rustic Canyon, Milo + Olive, Tallula’s and Huckleberry. At the start of the pandemic, the couple moved their family to a 3½-acre farm in Ojai. “We had no intention of opening another restaurant,” said Nathan, who is also one of the Dutchess’ bakers.

People dine-in at Rory's Place, a new restaurant on May 6, 2022 at Ojai, CA.

Rory’s offers such inventive takes as halibut agua chile with passion fruit, and agnolotti stuffed with bottarga and spiny-tail lobster.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

By day, the Dutchess is a bakeshop run by local sourdough sensation Kate Pepper; by night, it’s a Burmese-themed operation presided over by chef Saw Naing, a onetime heavy metal musician who emigrated from Rangoon, Myanmar, to L.A. in 2007 after repeated jailings for the political content of his songs. A decade later, Nathan made him executive chef at Tallula’s.

Zoe Nathan, left, and chef Saw Naing at the Dutchess

Zoe Nathan, left, is one of the proprietors of the Dutchess, which is a bakeshop during the day; by night, it’s a Burmese-themed operation presided over by chef Saw Naing.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

One day last spring, Nathan was giving a tour of her new farm to her old friends Pepper, Naing and Milo + Olive pastry chef Kelsey Brito. When she got to the pigpen, she confessed, “I can’t bring myself to kill my pigs to eat them, and it’s not because I’m Jewish.” Suddenly, she had a vision: “Let’s start a restaurant that’s a bakery with Burmese food in this Jewish lady’s house where you get a hug, and her mom is liable to walk in any second.”

“Cool!” chorused her three guests.

And on that slender column, the Dutchess was born.

Just inside the kitchen door, savory smells waft with the heat — cloves, turmeric, tamarind, cinnamon, curry leaf and fenugreek: a catechism of Burmese cookery. Naan dough goes into a big, black tandoori oven thin and flat and round as a cardboard moon; 30 seconds later, it comes out puffed up into a toasty brown pillow fat enough for a pasha’s divan.

The Dutchess

The Biriyani, left, chicken cooked in spiced basmati rice and cashews is encrusted in a puff pastry at the Dutchess, one of the newest restaurants in Ojai.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Though less adventurous dinner guests can order a flat-iron steak or quail tikka masala, the most popular dish is a Naing-Pepper creation, the biriyani (chicken cooked in spiced basmati rice and cashews) encrusted in puff pastry. Brito is responsible for the passion fruit lassi pie and rose geranium kulfi, a frozen fever dream of cardamom and pistachios.

While the Dutchess is an outpost in a vast hospitality empire, Pinyon is a pioneering collectivist experiment. The pale, long-haired staff of this pizzeria, natural wine store and sandwich shop — it’s the only spot in town that serves hoagies — tend to look like denizens of Middle-earth who’ve been locked away from sunlight. Credit the Pinyon business model: Every employee gets a cut of the profits and is paid the same wage — $20 an hour — regardless of position. “We’re trying to empower people to take ownership of their work,” said pizzaiolo Jeremy Alben, who launched Pinyon with his friends Tony Montagnaro and Sally Slade.

Co-Owners Jeremy Alben, left, and Tony Montagnaro, right, pose for a portrait at Pinyon Ojai on May 5, 2022 in Ojai, CA.

Jeremy Alben, left, and Tony Montagnaro, right, co-owners at Pinyon, a pizzeria and bakery.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

The son of a poet and a UCLA law professor, Alben is a protégé of the Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson, whose New Nordic ethos emphasizes locavorism. After finishing high school, Alben apprenticed at Nilsson’s fabled two-Michelin-star restaurant, Fäviken, in the wilds of subarctic Sweden. When not foraging for moss, juniper and pine needles, the teenager learned to ferment moose sausages and fry breaded pig heads on a skewer. Neither is featured on the menu at Pinyon, where the most outré topping on the five weekly sourdough pizzas is pureed pumpkin.

The Bog One pizza with tomato, mozzarella, red onion, olives, pork sausage and radicchio is served at Pinyon Ojai.

A pizza at Pinyon comes with tomato, mozzarella, red onion, olives, pork sausage and radicchio.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Alben polished his pie-making skills at Roberta’s in Brooklyn and Culver City, and mastered them with Montagnaro, whose family owned two pizza parlors in New Jersey. They hope the chief virtue of Pinyon’s pizzas (think asparagus, lamb-cetta and local goat kefir) is what Neapolitans call digeribilità (digestibility), an endearing term for easy-to-eat pies that your body welcomes with seeming effortlessness.

That aspiration chimes perfectly with Ojai’s harmonious vibe. Ashton MacSaylor, a teacher at the local Krishnamurti school, observed: “Seating at Pinyon feels like being served gourmet, multicultural food in your best friend’s backyard. If those friends were hobbits.”

Pinyon Ojai

Tony Montagnaro, left, prepares a pizza at Pinyon where, on a recent day, right, the customers included Frankie Falsone, Teresa Falsone and Thomas Veith.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

The name Ojai is derived from the Ventureño Chumash word for moon. Yuya and Asaka Ueno, the Japanese husband-and-wife team who run Izakaya Full Moon, attribute the birth of their first son, Kirato, to the gravitational pull of Earth’s only natural satellite. On a moonlit night in 2011, during her first visit to Ojai, Asaka was pregnant, and when her water broke, she calmly drove to UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica and delivered the baby. “It was the magic of the moon,” she said.

Six years ago, Asaka and Yuya opened Cagami Ramen in Camarillo. Their unassuming Ojai cafe — five patio tables and a seven-seat sushi bar hidden behind Magic Hour, a specialty tea emporium — specializes in authentic, deceptively simple bar snacks like tai chazuke (grilled rice balls doused in snapper broth), barbecued skewers and karaage fried chicken. Yuya’s recipe for white corn tempura comes from his hometown on the rural Bōsō Peninsula; the goma kampachi (amberjack sashimi marinated in a tahini-esque sauce) is a specialty of Kyushu, the island on which Asaka was born. “In Ojai, we feel part of a small community of restaurant owners personally looking after the quality of experience of each guest,” said Asaka.

Anna Thomas, author of the cookbooks “The Vegetarian Epicure” and “Love Soup,” is a longtime resident of Ojai who has viewed the dining scene as lacking. “Ojai has always had a great food culture,” she said. “But the great food hasn’t been in restaurants; it’s been in the farmers markets and people’s homes.”

Now, to Thomas’ delight, great things are happening in the town that takes pride in being lame.

A dish made with beef, salmon roe and unagi is served at Izakaya Full Moon on May 5, 2022, at Ojai, CA.

At dish at Izakaya Full Moon is made with beef, salmon roe and unagi.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

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The case for dining solo on vacation

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Welcome to The Upgrade, By The Way’s new series on travel hacks and hot takes. See how to submit here.

It’s no secret to those who know me: Food is a major source of personal happiness.

And there’s nothing quite as euphoric as enjoying the intricacies of a well-made dish in its motherland, like savoring a forkful of fresh pasta at an osteria in Italy or devouring a cut of meat at a ​​parrilla in Argentina. But because social conventions have taught us that dining out by yourself is not the norm, these moments are rarely experienced alone.

The beauty of a solo trip to Italy

The next time you’re with a dining companion, consider what might be different if you were a party of one. While breaking bread together has its benefits, only dining with others means you’re missing out on one of the greatest joys of travel — eating alone at a restaurant.

Dining alone allows you to go on a culinary journey, one that is often missed when engrossed in conversation.

This is especially true while traveling, when it is easy to get immersed in a semi-predictable dialogue at the dinner table. There’s the rehashing of the day’s events, discussing details of tomorrow’s itinerary and lamenting how sore your feet are from walking on cobblestones.

This isn’t a diss to your companion(s); it’s just the realities of traveling with someone else.

Eating by yourself provides an opportunity to hone in on details as they happen — all in real time. You will be more likely to notice the intricate font on the menu or the server’s delicate placement of the bread basket on the table.

All of the senses truly come to life. I’m imagining it right now, at one of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong. My nostrils inhale the aroma of onions slowly caramelizing, and my ears eavesdrop on the juicy conversation at the next table over.

And finally, there’s the dish itself taking center stage, more than ever before. You’ll notice a dish’s perfect presentation, like the single sprig of fresh rosemary atop a New Zealand rack of lamb. Or you taste the nuanced, layered flavors of a steaming bowl of pho at a street stall in Hanoi.

7 lessons from traveling solo through Japan

For many would-be solo travelers, there’s an intense fear of dining by yourself. And I get it. At some restaurants, I’ve tried making reservations for one only to be told that “we don’t do that.” And if you do get a table, your phone may end up being your companion.

If there’s one thing that eating alone at a restaurant has done, it is strengthening my will and desire to be more independent. I use those moments to observe everything and make my own decisions. And that same feeling can be so empowering for the rest of, well, life.

All I ask is that, if you do eat alone on your travels, put the phone down and look around. Talk to the waiter. Ask questions about the food and how the establishment came to be. Or if you’re feeling bold, comment on the dish at the table next to you.

Go ahead: Eat yourself happy on your next trip. And if you’re doing it alone, all the better.

Chris Dong is a freelance travel writer and credit card points expert based in New York City. He writes a weekly travel newsletter.

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The ultimate guide to cruise ship food and dining

The ultimate guide to cruise ship food and dining

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best restaurants for outdoor dining at Disney World

Best restaurants for outdoor dining at Disney World

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Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Rules and Etiquette of Restaurant Dining Right Now

Thanks to vaccines and reopenings, U.S. diners have been able to return to restaurants in full force after the previous year of shutdowns. But a lot has changed, even as it’s now possible to dine out as we might have previously: There’s more planning required, both within your dining party and to secure the reservation; there are more options for where, exactly, to sit in — or outside of — the restaurant; QR code menus aren’t just at chains anymore.

From booking a reservation to actually going out and sitting down to eat, this is the New Normal of dining out, as told by Eater’s editors and writers.

Before You Pick a Restaurant, You Have to Check Instagram

Checking a restaurant’s Instagram account has always been a part of my MO, but more for recreational purposes: What does that vague-sounding dish on the menu look like? Are there any cocktail specials this week? During the pandemic, though, checking Instagram first has become a necessity. Staffing struggles have made business hours more erratic, and a restaurant’s first line of communication — that they’re unexpectedly closed today or are skipping the usual brunch service or had a positive case that’s shutting down operations for a while — is usually done on IG. As the cold weather sets in, instantly checking Insta has an additional purpose: Scrolling through photos is the best way to sleuth for heated outdoor dining setups at your preferred coziness level. At this point, scoping a restaurant’s Instagram page is just the first step of many in making sure the night out is a good one. — Erin DeJesus, lead editor

Get on the Same Page as Your Dining Companions

Setting up a dinner reservation has always involved the who/what/where questions, but now we must consider: Indoors or outdoors? Or to eat out at all? We’re at a point where everyone is stuck navigating their own comfort and safety levels, where someone who is immunocompromised or has children too young to be vaccinated may have different considerations from someone who lives alone and craves human contact. Being a considerate dining partner now means asking about or speaking up about your own comfort levels, and ideally defaulting to the person who has the strictest rules. Also, be gracious if you or anyone else wants to drop out. — Jaya Saxena, senior staff writer

Reservations Matter More Now Than Ever

The pandemic has put an end to spontaneity in so many ways (simply leaving the house calls for double-checking you have a mask and sanitizer on hand), and the feeling is particularly acute when it comes to dining out. Reservations are now almost essential, and securing one seems to require more planning than ever before. Perhaps it’s a holdover from early-pandemic capacity restrictions, or a result of staff and supply shortages, but gone are the days when you could secure a week-of, primetime reservation at a popular restaurant. Sure, the no-reservations restaurant still exists, but when you factor in the new need to consider the exact table you’ll be sitting at (indoors or outdoors, sidewalk or backyard), leaving your dinner situation up to chance is a less workable prospect. This isn’t all bad. The need to plan ahead calls for being thoughtful about how you’re spending your time; it encourages making plans. And after many months with no plans at all, it can be nice to have something, even if it’s just a casual dinner out, to look forward to. — Monica Burton, deputy editor

You Need a Vaccine Card System

One of the best tips I received this year was how to access my phone’s digital wallet with two easy clicks of the side button. I never needed to access it much before, but as a 2021 diner in Los Angeles — one of several locations in the country where proof of vaccination is now required to eat indoors — I find myself scrambling for my digital vaccine card, along with my mask, every time I approach a host stand. I’m one of the lucky ones; many people never received a digital card and have to sift through 300 photos of their dog and yesterday’s lunch to find that one time they took a picture of it. (Pro tip: Create an album and add your vaccine card photo to that album for easier access.) The most tech-averse go even further, carrying the hallowed paper copy in their actual wallet, all for the chance to have a nice sit-down meal out of the elements. But do bring it; even if it’s not mandated by the city, many restaurants across the country have opted into requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining. — Lesley Suter, travel editor

Contend With Your Table Obsession

I’ve always been something of a table obsessive. If there is a table that I think would make for a better dining experience, that’s where I want to be, and I’ll politely ask for it and see what happens. I noticed that when folks started venturing back out into restaurants during the pandemic, I saw that many were now on my wavelength. I know a couple who, in those first cautious months in the summer of 2020, would only go to their local sushi restaurant if the lone two-top kitty-corner to the rest of the outdoor dining setup was available when they made their reservation. Even now, there’s still picking and choosing to be done. Reservation platforms like Resy and OpenTable make it clear when you’re booking something outdoors versus indoors, and anecdotally, I’ve seen more people strategizing and asking about tables than I ever recall in the past. To them I say, welcome to caring. Now please don’t be an asshole about it. — Hillary Dixler Canavan, restaurant editor

Let Us Repeat: Don’t Be an Asshole

The “new” normal for how you should treat servers in 2021, 2022, and however long this lasts is pretty much the same as you should have always been treating them, only intensified. Have patience: Many restaurants are short-staffed due to the ongoing labor shortage, which means your server is most likely working even harder for the same shitty pay they’ve always gotten. They’re overscheduled by management, harassed by the customers they must ask to mask or show proof of vaccination. Tip generously: Restaurant workers have either been forced to work on the front lines of this pandemic or else faced months of furlough during widespread shutdowns; some were forced to take unpaid time off for catching COVID or to take care of family members who had. Tipping 20 percent must be your absolute baseline now, and when in doubt, round up. Lastly, be kind: No one (in or out of the service industry) has the time or energy to deal with yet another asshole right now. — Madeleine Davies, culture editor

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Get $10 back after spending $40 on airport dining with this Amex offer

Get $10 back after spending $40 on airport dining with this Amex offer

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Ask Amy: Husband and wife seek to settle argument on whether to tip on total or before tax when dining out

Dear Amy: Two years ago (prior to the pandemic), my husband and I went on a cruise with longtime friends. They then asked us to join them again.

The date is approaching, and we are having a huge problem letting my sister know we are going. I know this is a first-world problem, but my sister is a widow and counts on us to provide her with all her socialization.

My husband has been a saint in making her a part of all our vacations, dinners out, etc., with no complaint. We have been married for 52 years and my sister has been widowed for 20 years.

She is always complaining of how she is bored and feels no one does anything to provide her with “things to do,” or asking her to be part of vacations, dinner parties, etc.

We are at a loss on how to tell her we are leaving without her on this trip.

She is wealthy, we are not, but she has no one to go with her on adventures.

Past experiences when this has happened have been incredibly unpleasant. She becomes very depressed and will go for weeks without speaking to us.

It makes us feel guilty for going without her, but we also believe we are entitled to have our own life. There are many past familial issues with my mother who was mentally ill, leading to feelings of abandonment and guilt.

Is there any way we can tell her we are leaving for nine days without her feeling left out and abandoned?

We have considered offering to go with her on a trip of her choosing at Christmas, but we don’t know how to approach the situation.

It is causing me (and my husband) much anxiety.

I actually vomit due to anxiety over this.

What can we do?

– Guilty

Dear Guilty: Your sister is something of an emotional vampire, and your generosity toward her over the last 20 years has enabled her to control you to the extent that you and your husband have already determined that you won’t be able to enjoy a wonderful vacation without her.

That’s how powerful and successful her training has been!

If you had established some reasonable boundaries years ago, your sister might have her own life by now.

There are many wonderful opportunities for guided travel available to solo travelers with the means and motivation.

If you don’t have the backbone to tolerate your sister’s tantrum, then you should just give in, stay home, and devote yourselves to her needs.

However, you might liberate yourselves from this control if you prepare yourselves for her reaction and simply choose not to be triggered by it this time.

You say, “We’re leaving for a cruise at the end of the month and will be gone for nine days. We’re pretty excited and looking forward to it, and we’ll see you when we return.”

Do not offer her alternate vacations in order to appease her. That is just reinforcing behavior which you are seeking to change.

Dear Amy: My husband and I always have this disagreement whenever we go out for a meal.

Do you base your tip on the total amount (like I do) or before the tax (like my husband)? Please settle this for me!

– Big tipper in NJ

Dear Tipper: Strictly speaking, if you tip on the total (including tax), then part of your tip is actually based on the tax itself – not on services rendered.

However, I base my tip on the total, and then add some.

I do this because I once waited tables.

Also, because I can.

The U.S. Department of Labor publishes a table of minimum wages for tipped employees (which vary by state). Ask your husband to take a look at this chart (search on and ask if shaving a few pennies off of a tip from these truly minimal hourly minimums is really worth it to him.

Dear Amy: I was disappointed by your response to “Tired.” This letter was written by a mom who didn’t like it when her adult children kept bouncing back home for long or short stays.

You should have suggested that she give them jobs to do! At the very least, each visiting child should pay for/prepare one meal for the family.

– Never an Empty Nest

Dear Never: I did suggest that “Tired” should set up some boundaries in terms of cooking and cleaning, but yes – giving them specific jobs would be better.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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The Best Ski Resort Dining With Amazing Views

When considering the best winter resort options, many people look for quality skiing, breathtaking mountainous surroundings, and other activities to keep the group entertained. Dining options, though, may not even make the list. Ski resort food is often adequate and nothing more, with the goal of simply providing enough fuel during your stay.

However, that is not the case for these exceptional fine-dining experiences available at ski resorts around North America. These resorts offer the very best on-mountain dining, with incredible five-star food and drink options and serene views brought together for a meal to remember.

The Roundhouse on-mountain restaurant at Sun Valley with gondola in front
Sun Valley

The Roundhouse, Sun Valley Resort

Sun Valley, Idaho

The Roundhouse at Sun Valley is the nation’s original on-mountain restaurant. It opened in 1939 and, more than 80 years later, is still a favorite among guests for both lunch and dinner. It’s best known for its impeccable service, hand-crafted cocktails, five-star atmosphere, and, of course, mouth-watering menus. Aside from the delectable cuisine, the panoramic views of the Wood River Valley and the surrounding peaks are absolutely breathtaking. The Roundhouse sits halfway up Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain – world famous for its steep, perfectly-groomed ski runs – at just over 7,700 feet of elevation. On one side of the restaurant, diners can enjoy peering down on the classic ski town of Ketchum in the valley below; on the other, they’re afforded views of skiers and snowboarders flying down the slopes.

Lunchtime at The Roundhouse is a more casual affair than dinner and offers the ideal setting for skiers to recharge. The lunch menu consists of hearty sandwiches, crisp salads, and classic comfort-food snacks. For those who enjoy a midday beverage (and who doesn’t while on vacation?), the restaurant offers a fantastic selection of refreshing specialty cocktails. We recommend enjoying a hot toddy while warming up by the fireplace.

Dinner at The Roundhouse is a full experience. After dusk, the only way to get to the restaurant is in style, aboard the Roundhouse Express gondola. The gondola swoops guests up from the base of Bald Mountain and travels swiftly uphill for about 10 minutes — a perfect opportunity to enjoy the evening views while making the 1,975-foot ascent from the valley floor. Upon arrival, we recommend diners take a beat to enjoy a signature cocktail at Averell’s bar (located downstairs from the restaurant and named for Averell Harriman, the railroad mogul who established Sun Valley as America’s first destination ski resort way back in 1936) before settling in at their table. Once seated, sit back and let the best-in-class waitstaff take care of the rest. Menu selections are made simple with The Roundhouse’s signature four-course prix-fixe dinner, but make sure to save some room for their famous fondue.

Pro Tip: Reservations are required and can book up well in advance. The Roundhouse opens for winter lunch service on December 4, 2021, and dinner service on December 17, 2021. They are taking reservations now, so don’t wait!

mountain view from Seven Glaciers at Alyeska Resort in Alaskamountain view from Seven Glaciers at Alyeska Resort in Alaska

Seven Glaciers, Alyeska Resort

Girdwood, Alaska

The Seven Glaciers restaurant at Alyeska Resort in Alaska is another true dining experience, rather than a simple dinner out. The establishment gets its name from the stunning seven hanging glaciers in Girdwood valley, all visible on a clear night from the observation deck or through the 7-foot-tall windows.

Although Seven Glaciers is a AAA Four Diamond restaurant, in true Alaska fashion, dress code does not apply. Dining outfits may range from diamonds and black-tie to jeans and boots, but no one cares nor judges. The experience begins with a scenic tram ride 2,300 feet up Mount Alyeska to an elevator lift, where diners are then guided down a gold carpet walled by towers of wine. Grab a cocktail at the bar or take in the mountainous air on the observation deck before settling into the elegant dining room.

One of the many unique aspects of Seven Glaciers is their emphasis on using locally grown and raised ingredients for their dishes. The freshly caught fish includes salmon and halibut from Alaska waters, and their signature game includes Aspen Ridge angus beef and wagyu steaks. They feel strongly about supporting their local community of farmers and growers, and even thank them by name on their website. You’ll appreciate the dedication, too, the second the fresh, full flavor hits your tastebuds. Let the chef expertly guide your dinner journey via their two available prix-fixe menus.

Editor’s Note: Seven Glaciers is temporarily closed but will reopen December 10, 2021.

The Viking Yurt in Park City, Utah at night

The Viking Yurt, Park City Mountain Resort

Park City, Utah

The Viking Yurt at Park City Mountain Resort is the perfect break from the summit to the base for a beer or bite. But in the evening, it becomes a gourmet, six-course, Norwegian-inspired experience. 

The evening begins with a snowcat pulled sleigh ride up the mountain, where you can enjoy the stars and twinkling lights of the town. The ride lasts 23 minutes with a 1,800-foot elevation gain, so hats, gloves, and layers are recommended. While you might want to wear a cute pair of shoes, you’ll be walking across the snow during the evening, so think warm boots.

The sound of an antique baby grand piano and the beautiful glow of candlelight set the mood when you arrive. You’ll feast on lobster and salmon bisque, a variety of fruits and cheeses, beef short ribs, mashed potatoes, and marzipan and valrhona chocolate cake for dessert. Once you’re full, you’ll waddle back to the sleigh for the ride down the mountain. The entire evening lasts about 3 and a half hours.

Outside of the Christmas holiday period, dinner costs $240.59 per person. Alcohol is not included with the dinner price but is available to purchase. That’s a Utah thing, by the way. 

The Yurt only seats 40 for dinner, and that number could be reduced. You must book a table for two, four, or six. If your party is an odd number, you’ll want to have a conversation with the reservation folks.

tabletop food spread at The Mountain Room at Sunday River
Nick Lambert, Sunday River

The Mountain Room, Sunday River

Newry, Maine

While most of the dining choices on our list are for those special evening events, The Mountain Room experience is only offered during the day at Sunday River, Maine’s second-largest ski resort. Chef and Maine native Harding Lee Smith is a well-known Portland restaurateur. What he offers at Sunday River is something you won’t see at most resorts.

Just to give you a sampling of the menu options: fried scallop PLT (sandwich), pork belly buns, oxtail, duck rillette, and whipped farm ricotta. The list goes on. There isn’t a chicken finger or generic cheeseburger in sight. Top it all off with a Maine craft brew, of which there are many, and they are fabulous. You’ll have a fantastic afternoon.

You don’t have to actually ski to the mid-mountain Peak Lodge to enjoy Chef Smith’s fare. You can also ride the Chondola to visit, but you’ll need a lift ticket either way.

Beano’s Cabin, Beaver Creek Resort

Beaver Creek, Colorado

If you are making a trip to Beaver Creek this winter, dining at Beano’s Cabin is an experience not to be missed! It is known as one of Colorado’s top restaurants, having earned the coveted four-diamond designation from AAA.

While the elegant, rustic cabin is a favorite among those looking for a five-star dinner, getting there is half the fun. Beano’s Cabin is located on Beaver Creek Mountain, within the White River National Forest. Check-in for the restaurant is at the designated Beano’s Greeter at the Beaver Creek CBar. Guests are given warm blankets and whisked away on a 20-minute open-air sleigh ride up Beaver Creek Mountain. Upon arrival at Beano’s, guests are invited into the lobby to remove coats, gloves, scarves, and even boots. From there, guests are offered comfy slippers and shown to their table.

The luxurious log setting is the perfect backdrop for the five-course dinner. The menu features local Colorado favorites and prides itself on an exceptional wine list and top-notch service. If there’s ever a time to splurge on a meal, this is it!

Eagle’s Eye, Kicking Horse Resort

Golden, British Columbia

Known as Canada’s “most elevated dining experience,” Eagle’s Eye Restaurant is a culinary experience not to be missed. The restaurant sits 7,700 feet above sea level and offers stunning, panoramic views of three mountain ranges and five national parks.

Eagle’s Eye is open for dinner reservations on Friday and Saturday nights — and on holidays. Every dinner includes a gondola ride up the side of the mountain. Guests are also welcome for lunch or aprés — but must have purchased a lift ticket or have a season’s pass.

The dinner menu consists mainly of local fare influenced by classic French techniques, with rich flavors and savory sauces prepared in-house. Besides being a fantastic restaurant, Eagle’s Eye has an incredible bar with a backdrop like no other. It may be one of the only bars where you will need to wear sunglasses. But if you forgot yours, they have spares on hand.

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These 8 eateries will be in Gateway Center’s huge new dining complex

Newark’s Gateway Center plaza will debut several new eateries next year.

Owner and developer Onyx Equities announced last week plans to open eight new spots in early 2022 as part of The Junction, a 100,000-square-foot retail and dining experience at the Gateway Center’s front entrance.

The developer also announced it would connect Newark’s talent pool with the restauranteurs through a job fair, bringing new jobs to the city. The job fair is expected to take place in early 2022, coinciding with completion of construction on The Junction.

The eight new eateries coming to The Junction are:

  • 375˚ Chicken & Fries
  • The Brookdale
  • Brooklyn Dumpling Shop
  • Chip City Cookies
  • Farinella
  • Fresh & Co.
  • Greek from Greece Bakery & Café
  • Serafina

The spots will be grab-and-go or full-service offerings and provide a variety of food options for those who travel through the building.

The new restaurants will join the center’s existing eateries — Jersey Mike’s Subs, Caffé Margherita and Dunkin Donuts.

“Newark is a great center for dining, and Onyx Equities is adding a new dimension to that with its transformation of the Gateway Complex to accommodate eight diverse upscale restaurants,” Newark mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement. “Residents, visitors, and Gateway workers alike will all enjoy outstanding dining choices and Newark’s hospitality in one place.”

Onyx Equities also announced the final available restaurant space at The Junction will be built out and awarded to a Newark-based restaurant operator, at no up-front cost. Applicants can fill out a form on the company’s website until Dec. 31.

“Newark’s got a great community, great infrastructure, great people and business,” Onyx co-founder Jon Schultz told NJ Advance Media. “It’s got culture, the Prudential Center, Rutgers, Seton Hall, NJIT. It has everything that anyone would want to be around as it’s very diverse in what it offers, and I think it’s terrific.”

The entire Gateway Center complex has seen major improvements since 2018. Those include renovated lobbies and collaborative spaces; a unique concourse walkway; exterior plaza improvements; and pedestrian walkways.


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American Express Profits Jump as Travel, Dining Normalize | New York News

By KEN SWEET, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — American Express saw its profits surge last quarter by 70%, the company said Friday, as Americans and companies pulled out their cards to start traveling, dining out and entertaining as they had done before the pandemic.

The New York-based company said it earned $1.83 billion last quarter, or $2.27 a share, compared with a profit of $1.07 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the same period a year ago. The results were significantly better than what Wall Street analysts had been expecting.

AmEx attributed the surge in profit to cardmember spending, which the company said jumped to a record high in the third quarter. AmEx earns most of its revenue from the fees it charges merchants to accept its cards, and the more money spent on its network, the higher the company’s profits tend to be.

AmEx cardmembers spent $330.7 billion on their cards, an average of $5,771 per card issued, up from $225.5 billion on its network in the same period last year.

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The pandemic had a unique impact on AmEx. While the company did not have significant defaults or losses from companies or consumers, spending on its cards dropped sharply as consumers were unable to dine out, travel or go see movies and shows. It required AmEx to look for new ways to get customers to use their cards, or at the very least, not cut up their cards.

That has now mostly abated. There have been multiple signs in the broader economy that consumers — who make up 70% of all economic activity in the U.S. — have returned to their old habits. Last week, the U.S. reported that retail sales surged 0.7% in September, far stronger than economists had expected. AmEx now says U.S. consumer card spending is at 98% of what it was before the pandemic.

Corporate spending has not recovered as much as consumer spending, however. Many companies are still having their employees work remotely, and business travel has only started to recover. The company says corporate spending will likely fully recover next year. Corporate accounts have over time become a smaller part of AmEx’s overall business, but roughly 60% of Fortune 500 companies still use AmEx for their charge card needs.

“We’re not surprised that’s still at low levels. It will recover,” said Jeff Campbell, American Express’ chief financial officer, in an interview. “The human urge to travel and gather is insatiable. We saw with individual consumers and will see it with corporate customers. It will just take more time.”

In response to the economic recovery and re-openings, companies like AmEx have aggressively been trying to find various ways to encourage ways for its consumers to use its cards.

The company has launched dining events with exclusive chefs and restaurants accessible only to AmEx cardmembers, added benefits for customers using their cards on gyms and digital entertainment as well as its traditional markets of travel and entertainment.

Spending on marketing and business initiatives was up 29% from a year ago, and cardmember rewards costs were up 50% from last year, the company said.

The credit card issuer and global payments company posted revenue of $10.93 billion, also beating the projections of analysts.

This story has been corrected to show that net income was $1.83 billion, not $1.78 billion.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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