It took more than 13 years to finally reach Ojai, and it was unclear what to expect from the mysterious town in the mountains east of Santa Barbara. Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby guided us to the sun-scorched, bohemian hamlet dotted with farms and cafes in the shadow of the Topatopa Mountains. Her brunch of choice was at Knead Baking Company, a family run café that opened in early 2009, breathing new life into an old gas station.
The Corbin family business eventually sprouted from Bobbi’s time as an accomplished pastry chef with the Four Seasons, followed by a trial run at the magnificent Ojai Farmers Market. She, Leah, Rachel and Jake operate an indoor-outdoor bakery with exposed wood beams, an open kitchen, enticing pastry counter, and concrete patio with lime-hued tables and chairs.
Bobbi, a Boston native, missed East Coast bagels, so she makes her own sourdough take on the genre at Knead, with good chew, and in the case of our bagel, a lining of poppy, sesame and pumpkin seeds. The bagel provided the parameters of our excellent Breakfast Sandwich ($8), which contained a fried egg, Vermont white cheddar and spinach leaves.
Mixed Greens ($6) featured baby lettuces, lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. The salad’s mix-and-match, and we opted for fried egg and firm slices of nutty Chèvre.
Clasby accentuated our brunch with colorful tomatoes she sourced from the farmers market.
Bobbi Corbin joined us at the communal table in the corner and shared her Quiche ($6), a custardy wedge studded with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, featuring a flaky crust.
Butter Cake ($6.50) turned out to be moist pound cake studded with a single strawberry.
We also scored a Frangipane Tart with buttery almond paste and ripe apricots.
Iced Coffee ($3) of unclear provenance, was certified fair trade organic, served in Mason jar and provided plenty of relief on a day where the temperature skyrocketed into triple digits.
The Corbins bake all their own bread at Knead, and we were interested to learn about their Bread Share program, a 12-week supply of more labor-intensive, seasonal loaves, which come with themed accompaniments. For instance, rye with pickles, or pumpkin sourdough, all available for pick-up on Thursdays. However, people craving Knead’s “standard” breads can find them at the cafe or Sunday farmers market.
The Corbins charmed us with their food and family-oriented approach, and when we return to Ojai, which won’t take another decade-plus, it’s inevitable we satisfy our need for Knead.