Pictured: Carne empanadas with chimichurri sauce. Photo by Kimberly Rivers
by Kimberly Rivers
Tipple and Ramble
315 N. Montgomery St., Ojai
With our current weather, I’d not normally choose to sit outside into the evening sipping wine, but sometimes you have muster the troops — in this case, me and a friend — to explore a wine patio in Ojai.
There are several spots in this area to sip a glass in a nice spot. But Tipple and Ramble is set apart with an eclectic patio that does seem to transport you to a small village in some exotic locale. The colors and textures of the patio are lively, and sitting niches offering hammocks or chaise lounges offer a Balinese flair, and a bit of romance too — fabulous for warm summer evenings.
On this cool (not cold) winter afternoon, the patio heaters and colorful Mexican-style blankets kept the chill at bay. I let my friend know to wear a coat, and she doubled down with a warm hat. The two of us were sufficiently comfortable to focus on conversation and the light bites.
Tipple and Ramble’s curated wine menu is quite minimal, but of sufficient quality and taste that everyone should find something to their liking. I opted for a crisp and citrus-sparked Stolpman Sauvignon Blanc hailing from Los Olivos ($13).
I ordered two warm Argentinian empanadas ($5 each). Tipple and Ramble gets them freshly handmade from Buena Onda in Santa Barbara. The family-owned supplier offers several options and getting these divine little pockets of deliciousness in Ojai — without making the trek out of the valley — is a treat.
First I tried the vegetarian Caprese empanada. The organic Roma tomatoes and basil enmeshed with fresh mozzarella cheese, packaged perfectly in the handheld, flaky crust, was delicious and satisfying.
And the dipping sauce! The olive oil-based chimichurri enhanced the savory tastes of the Caprese empanada, and teased out the flavors of the carne empanada, my next enjoyable tasting. Made with ground beef from Sunfed Ranch in Northern California and paired with onions, bell peppers, green olives and hard-boiled egg, this small but hearty bite was ideal for the cool weather.
Other empanada flavors include Hongo, with crimini mushrooms, caramelized red onions and organic spinach; Humita with white corn, green onions and cream, and quinoa with peppers, onions, goat cheese and spinach.
Another option are the nibble boards. For the meat eaters among us, a lovely charcuterie board ($23) includes several meat selections. Ours featured a fantastic salami and a thinly sliced beef bresaola. Marcona almonds, Castelvatrano olives, pickles, dried apricots, pickled carrot, apples, oranges and a delicious fresh baguette created a beautiful and tastefully diverse board. I particularly enjoyed the dollop of whole-grain mustard. A common complaint of mine with these boards is that they are not served with enough of the bread or crackers to properly enjoy all of the delicious offerings and I frequently have to request more. That was not the case here — plenty of bread for two of us to eat all the accoutrements.
I spotted a cheese board on another table and it was similarly appointed. Tipple and Ramble’s menu also includes a hummus-based option, a few salads and the nibble of the moment — toast, offered here in savory or fruit versions.
Even on this cool afternoon the space had a modest bustle. The patio is dog friendly and, if you’re lucky (or order the meat board), the resident cat may say hello. While some may be put off by the idea of another upscale wine-sipping spot in the Ojai Valley, I found the patio so pleasant, the service so very warm, that I almost didn’t notice the gaggle of hipsters talking about Instagram escapades. I’m looking forward to trying the corn empanadas.