Travel : Ojai with Ariane Aumont of Le Picnic

Ariane is a chef and caterer based in Ojai, creating food inspired events centered around sharing and gathering with community. Her dedication to community is deeply felt on our visit and it's clear that in return, her community adores her.  She's friends with the bartender and knows all the farmer's market vendors. She's catching up with the barista at breakfast and running into friends everywhere. And it's easy to see why Ojai loves Ariane so much—she's generous and talented and full of good stories.  

At Tipple & Ramble we swap catering nightmares over white wine (several bottles).  We have a perfect little cheese platea St Agur blue cheese and a soft goat cheese with truffles.  We pick at the blue cheese and take turns recalling misadventures in roquefort. We're on the sprawling patio and enjoying the peak of the afternoon and probably a little buzzed. It feels good to talk "food" with people who make food, to commiserate in the insane hours and worn-down bodies, the never ending study, and the deep satisfaction of cooking a good meal. Ariane tells us about her childhood visiting Greece and her grandmother who wouldn't let her in the kitchen, her layered and multicultural food history, and about the many food-themed birthday parties she had growing up.


In the evening we meet at Chief's Peak for more local wine and a film screening poolside. We're happy to be away from Los Angeles for a weekend, enjoying the company of so many new people, and thankful for our gracious host. We make plans to meet in the morning and then Jaimie, Jeff, and I retreat to our hotel to figure out a food situation since we've been warned that no restaurant serves food past 9 pm. Thankfully we have a fireplace and we settle on grilling hot dogs on our hotel patio. Somehow, Jeff gets the hot dogs to perfectly blister in our makeshift situation and Jaimie and I are eating happily in bed, half-way to sleep. We use Jeff's petty knife to spread mustard and pour sauerkraut from a bag. It's amazingly unglamorous and maybe a little gross but I wouldn't change a thing. It's perfect.

The next morning we meet early for the Ojai Farmers Market. Ariane introduces us to pine needle juice and her favorite vendors. The passion fruit vendor is practically giving away his fruit. His trees are overproducing and he has more than he knows what to do with. Our baskets fill-up with sun-dried raisins, radishes, and vibrant salad greens. I never tire of farmers markets, everything is remarkable, every time.  

After the market, we're teased with rumors of a secret bakery, only open on Sundays from 12 pm -  2 pm. Kate's Bread is kind of magic. I don't quite understand how it exists but I'm glad it does. Run out of a garage and mostly operating on pre-orders, Kate's Bread commands a routine Sunday line of weekend brunchers before her doors are even open, primarily powered through word-of-mouth.  Bread is technically simple -- yeast, flour, water. It almost begs for the personality of the baker, it's practically a 4th ingredient. It's mysterious but I've never had good bread from someone who didn't mean it. Bakers will understand.  Bread is a special alchemy of technical prowess and also just general magic-an inherent care for the simplicity of bread.  Whatever it is, Kate has it. It was such a pleasure to watch her drizzle honey on our still bubbling pizza, minutes after she pulls it out of the oven. 

Ojai has a way of being big and small, open and intimate--all at the same time.  There's a real sense that this is a community built with intention and thoughtfulness.  We loved partaking and being invited in, if only for a weekend.  

Stay tuned for an upcoming pop-up with  Le Picnic!  


photos: Jaimie Lewis