I would wake up 5 times a night, the compressor for either the refrigerator or air-conditioner kicking in, just close enough to the sea for the nights to stay warm despite being in the desert, to nightmares of being chased by a tchotchke and microphone bearing zombie Huell Howser... "CALIFORNIA'S... GOLD... WOW!... WHERE AM I?..." The thought of Thousand Oaks still gives me chills.
In reality, however, the area is full of charm and weird little surprises - take CA 118 North and check out President Reagan's Air Force 1, a Boeing VT-137C SAM 27000 (the military version of a 707), or go on a quick road trip for great wines in Simi Valley and Paso Robles, to the coast for the Getty Villa in Malibu and clean, cool dessert nights and clear skies in beautiful Topanga National Park.
So, Thousand Oaks is not LA, as I was misled not so long ago in a mercifully short-lived contract gig, but we made the best of it.
One of the gems of the area is the Ladyface Ale Companie in Agoura Hills, California, in Los Angeles County just south of the Ventura County line, opposite the Hilton Homestead Suites - a corporate residential hotel somewhat more posh than the Residence Inn I found myself stuck in for most of the contract*.
Ladyface gets it name from the profile of nearby Ladyface Mountain, part of the Santa Monica mountain chain, rising 2031 feet above sea level.
Ask for an outside table at dusk and watch the mountain get painted an entire crayon box full of colors as the sun descends over the valley and into the ocean. Dessert flowers, sage and smoke create the perfect atmosphere for a pre-dinner glass of Scotch.
Order the excellent flat breads with the nice, chunky beef tartare. Gougéres and pretzels are an excellent accompaniment with grilled sausages or white bean purée.
The menu is designed for people to share... starters, small and medium plates; pommes frites with a variety of accoutrement.
The oven uses fruit wood to impart a smoky sweetness to grilled meats: the steaks, broiled chicken and sausages.
"We have 7 core ales we try and keep on tap at all times," says Robyn Britton of the Ladyface Ale Companie, "The Trois Filles Tripel is one of those, as is the Porter. Ladyface Red Rye as well as our Ingenuity series of barrel-aged inventions."
That's why it's a good idea to arrive early as these specialty brews can sell out fast.
The Red Rye is a balanced, refreshing ale at 7.4% ABV, single hopped with a crystal, amber color.
The Picture City Porter (6.9%) if full bodied but not heavy handed, with raisins, caramel and smoke.
Also excellent is the Trois Filles Tripel, an Abbey style strong pale ale, usually with a high ABV (8.3%).
Of course, you don't have to be at the Brasserie to enjoy the beer: beers are available to go from the bar in reusable 64-ounce growlers ($6 plus cost of beer).
The bar has a respectable collection of whiskey, mainly Scotch, but enough Bourbon to make a satisfying Manhattan (I like mine with Michter's), and definitely enough variety of Tequila to satisfy your margarita needs (when in Socal...)
* Travel tip: assuming the tourism market hasn't recovered since I was there, look for great deals in high-end hotels, like the Thousand Oaks Four Seasons. A room that normally goes for over $400 a night can go for as low as $140 (our corporate rate, late summer 2010).
Each room comes with a crystal chandelier over a four post bed, ice service at happy hour and a giant marble bath-tub (plus all the L'Occitane toiletries you can steal).
That was about the only perk of the contract, and I only got to stay for 4 nights before the home office shut us down and forced us back to our $110/night corporate ghetto behind Thousand Oaks High School.
Luckily for me, we had growlers ot Ladyface Ale to get us through the misery of migratory contract work.
Ladyface Ale Companie and Brasserie
29281 Agoura Road,
Agoura Hills, CA 91301