At four oâ€™clock in the afternoon, it was 30 Fahrenheit and my FiancÃ© and I were looking for somewhere warm to sit, drink some wine and conduct our personal Scrabble tournament. We set our sights on the quaint cottage-cum-cafÃ© that weâ€™d noticed earlier on the main street in town. As we weaved through the tall Pines and Cedars, leaving our foot prints in the perfectly white and fluffy snow, Hennessey â€“ our rental cabin ownerâ€™s adorable mutt - trailing us with her ball, we spotted the chimney smoke of CafÃ© Aroma, promising a roaring log fire; the perfect setting for a serious Scrabble playoff.
It is snow season and many Angelinos will hit the slopes as near as Big Bear and as far as Utah over these coming weeks. But what of those of us, who donâ€™t want to ski, but want the snow experience without the crowds and the ski season prices? The answer is only two hours South East of Los Angeles, in the San Jacinto Mountains.
At an elevation of some 8,000 to 10,000 feet, this idyllic, little, sleepy hollow boasts the legendary rocks of Tahquitz and Suicide Rock for avid local, national and international climbers, in the terrain of the Cahuilla Indians who inhabited the area. Without a single set of traffic lights and only locally owned shops, services and restaurants, Idyllwild has the perfect, small town, quiet atmosphere for a winter wonderland, weekend hideaway experience.
Deliberately devoid of ski runs, there is a happy absence in Idyllwild of the seasonal, obnoxious influx of a booming skiing population and matching tourist prices. With a strong arts history, Idyllwild is home to the former UC Jazz School and is also home to the esteemed, arts high school, Idyllwild Arts Academy. The community reflects this spirit, with a colorful collection of interesting, mountain-men-meet-fine-art folk, all with exceeding good taste. Throughout the turning of the seasons, the myriad, remote, log cabins, have housed the likes of everyone I am told, from Elvis to Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio (in secret seclusion on their wedding night).
Typical of small country and mountain communities, Idyllwild is inundated with art and craft boutiques and galleries. As opposed to being stuck in time with a crochet hook and too much overripe fruit however, the locals here seem to be turning their backs on quality, big city exhibitions in favor of the quiet life.
Back at CafÃ© Aroma, with the Scrabble tournament in full swing, we were lucky enough to meet the enterprising young couple Frank and Lori, who moved their brood up to the mountain, opening up this cozy and quaint coffee house-cafÃ©-bistro-social club. You feel very much so that you are enjoying the hospitality of some kind strangers who have taken you in for the night. With attentive and efficient, local wait staff, the atmosphere is intimate, the music in excellent taste (they have live music also at various times) and the creative dÃ©cor boasts eclectic art pieces - the bathroom even wallpapered in the interesting poetry and musings of the coupleâ€™s poet friend, Rumi.
It was here in CafÃ© Aroma, that I easily had one of the best meals I have had since living in Los Angeles. As we wrapped up the game, the young (and exceedingly talented) Chef emerged from his kitchen offering a plate of fresh, organic, baby artichoke hearts that heâ€™d been experimenting with for their antipasto dish. Issued with forks, we sat with the owners exchanging wine soaked tales, as we gave our critique of the amazing, fresh produce, bursting with flavor and cooked in the perfect style that Italians have spent centuries perfecting â€“ â€˜simple.â€™
Like the baby artichoke hearts, Idyllwild is perfect in its organic, unfettered state. There is no need to try to improve what is already perfect. And by the way, I won.
For any information you need on Idyllwild, including accommodations from the basic to luxurious, see www.idyllwildchamber.com and to book a dinner at CafÃ© Aroma, see www.cafearoma.org
WORLD - CULTURE
Copyright © 2010 V
Copyright © 2010 V
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