Ojai is a funny town for food - and this traveler has eaten in almost every establishment over the last dozen years or so. Without question, if anyone asks, Knead is the only bakery/restaurant that can earn my excellent rating without any hedging AND this rating is given with confidence that the standards will remain high over time and everything will be consistently excellent---as long as Bobbie and family are the bakers and chefs and owners. Ojai restaurants break down into categories: hotel food---such as the restaurants at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa-which I see are highly rated, irrespective of the uneven nature of any given meal---dependent upon who the chefs are as well as the mood of the non-union, rarely full time, and generally cranky, other resort employees in food service and otherwise. The food at the hotel simply is inconsistent and in my opinion over-rated and expensive when compared with other highly rated hotels in the world. The next Ojai food category lumps Foodie and Healthy eating together: where all the bragging and hype is just that. The talk about local sourcing may be true but there's nothing innovative or inspired or worthy of a recommendation. . . just a lot of press and frankly, some of these places seem. . . dirty, hygiene wise. The last category is that occupied by Knead: a charming local place run by a charming transplant family---Boston (I think) to Ojai. It is definitely family owned and operated . . . and non family employees are also NICE, talented, sweet---everyone seemingly loves what they are doing. The result? DELICIOUS SUCCESS! All the Time. No Misses! As such, KNEAD IS the one place that you need to eat while you are in town. And, if you can, you should have a breakfast and a lunch (sometimes it is open for dinner, but that might have been a summer-time trial balloon). And, bring HOME anything from the bakery that you can pack up properly to enjoy later. The breads are fantastic, the brioche is particularly sublime. Of the cookies, the slighly lemon flavored short bread and the cookie with cranberries white chocolate and oatmeal served up by the register, yum yum yum. Oh, the baby ginger cookies. . . insanely good. A favorite lunch of mine is the flatbread pizza, though I admit that I remain torn between the potato one and the sun dried tomato one. A half a short bread pizza and the FRESH salad greens that they dress for you individually with amazing olive oil and meyer lemons. . . fantastic. The little tarts---lemon, pumpkin during some times of year, apple, in amazing crusts and with beautiful and tasty little cookies or fruit on top? Yum. And the butter cake? OMG. My favorites seem to be simple clean fresh tastes. . . but there are cakes with marzipan and other flavors that are more sophisticated too. Everything is made with the highest quality ingredients, you can TASTE that, everything is SO fresh, with local fruit/oils/etc involved, the place is clean, spotless and immaculate and most important: everything is clearly made with love. At the end of the day, everyone is NICE. This is NOT the Ojai fake smile and hypocrisy given by the locals to your face while you can almost hear them muttering "tourist" derisively under their breath. KNEAD. It's not more expensive than food at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, but it is more expensive than some other places in town- - - -but it's worth it, and it surpasses all the rest.
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