East Bay Bagel Smackdown: Beauty’s vs. Authentic Bagel Co.

| November 26, 2012 | 3 Comments
  • 3 Comments

Authentic BagelsBeauty's Bagels

All Photos: Wendy Goodfriend

Food trends go in waves, even right in your neighborhood. Upscale frozen desserts, creative doughnuts, thin-crust pizza, retro cocktails with three kinds of artisanal bitters in them: they aren’t there, and then, suddenly, five places selling them spring up within a handful of blocks. Donut Savant begets Doughnut Dolly, Ici’s banana-curry ice cream is followed by Scream’s coconut-Thai basil sorbet.

Beauty's Bagels interior

Beauty's Bagels interior


Beauty's Bagels exterior with signBeauty's Bagels front counter
Blake Joffe making bagels at Beauty's BagelsBlake Joffe about to toss bagels at Beauty's Bagels

Right now bagels, humble and homey as they are, are having their moment. After months of weekend-only deliveries to Wise Sons Deli, and much anticipation in the press, Beauty’s Bagel Shop opened on the southern stretch of Telegraph at 38th, not far from Homeroom, mecca of mac-and-cheese. This isn’t the vegan-cheese, $20-pizza, $12-quesadillas part of Telegraph; it’s the part where beauty-supply shops alternate with nail salons and Chinese take-out joints, and billboards overhead tout credit repair and help getting your GED. But the Mission-East Temescal contingent have found their way inside, with all the tattoos and t-shirt irony that implies. (On one counter worker: a t-shirt emblazoned “Heaven knows I’m miserable now.” Yes, I get the Smiths’ reference, and anyone who’s worked a counter can sympathize, but is that really the best choice of attire for service with a smile?)

Blake Joffe bagelmaker and co-owner of Beauty's BagelsBlake Joffe slides bagels into the wood-fire oven
Rolling and weighing out bagels at Beauty's BagelsBeauty's Bagels

Bagels come out in waves, baked in a wood-fired oven and expertly, showily flipped by Beauty owner-baker Blake Joffe into a long, seed-scattered chute before filling the bins behind the cash register, still oven-hot. (The flip is really just for show, the bagel-baker’s version of the Pike Place Market salmon toss.”Kids love it,” he deadpans.) Any bagel is delicious fresh out of the oven, and these don’t disappoint. They’re nicely sized, not puffed-up behemoths. The crust is a slim, shiny coating instead of a sink-your-teeth-in-and-pull that I remember as a highlight of the bagels of my New York/New York childhood, but the crumb has just the right balance of density and loft. And the whole-wheat bagels, both sesame and “everything” (fennel, caraway, poppy, and sesame seeds, plus salt, pepper, and onion), manage to taste both healthy and bagel-y, with a full whole-grain taste that nonetheless still pushes the right bagel button, even if the green, licorice-y flavor of fennel isn’t exactly part of the typical salty-savory everything-bagel experience.

Owners of Beauty's Bagels - Blake Joffe and Amy Remsen

Owners of Beauty's Bagels - Blake Joffe and Amy Remsen

“It’s a hybrid bagel,” says Joffe.”Not exactly Montreal, not exactly New York.” Having moved to Oakland from Philadelphia, Joffe and his co-owner and partner Amy Remsen also plan to offer some tastes of Pennsylvania on their menu, like scrapple and sticky buns.

Now that local tomatoes are out of season, they’re off the menu, which is a sad loss for the otherwise tasty lox sandwich, thick slices of Scottish-salmon lox from Water 2 Table, swathed over pleasantly tangy Sierra Nevada cream cheese (no relation to the beer), with red onions and plenty of capers. The two tiny half-moon pickle slices alongside seem stingy until I ask Remsen and Joffe, who admit that many customers leave them on the plate. Since the pickles are made in house, it pains Joffe and Remsen to see so many get tossed, especially since, to my pickle palate, they’re delicious.

Sesame bagel with Scottish-salmon lox, cream cheese, onions, capers and housemade pickles

Sesame bagel with Scottish-salmon lox, cream cheese, onions, capers and housemade pickles

Joffe, a former line cook from Delfina, has the weary eyes of a man whose kitchen workday starts at 4am and doesn’t end until some 12 hours later. While Joffe and Remsen aren’t paying themselves yet, the business is breaking even now, and supporting 10 employees. “That’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” says Remsen, of the jobs her business has created in the neighborhood.

When they first started baking, they got sage advice from Wise Sons’ Evan Bloom, himself a self-taught baker of rye and challah. It’s bread, and it will break your heart, he told them: different every day, subject to deep, unpredictable whims, subtle shifts in temperature, moisture, even weather changing a perfect batch into a temper tantrum of intractable dough.

Getting the bagels consistent, learning to work with the new, larger-scale equipment needed to keep up with the shop’s demand: it’s been a steep learning curve, but now, says Joffe, the bagels are almost where he wants them to be, most days. They’ve added bialys, not very many yet, so they sell out fast whenever they appear. There are plans for an expanded breakfast and lunch menu, not just bagels. Joffe imagines a salad of green apples, Brie, and onions charred in schmaltz, topped with roasted chicken skin. Already, a fried chicken-and-slaw sandwich, a bagel version of the popular lunchtime offering up the street at Bakesale Betty‘s, is a hit, as is the matzoh-ball soup.

Leaving Beauty’s, drop south towards the waterfront, and if it’s Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, you can swing by the bare-bones retail space for Authentic Bagel Company in Jack London Square, run by the Providence, Rhode Island-born brothers Jason and Mark Scott.

Authentic Bagel exteriorAuthentic Bagel interior

Authentic Bagel owners - Jason and Mark Scott

Authentic Bagel owners - Jason and Mark Scott

With bare, scuffed walls, a chest-high stack of flour bags in the window and a clutter of mixers and ovens in the back, it’s easy to see that the room is mostly the brothers’ production kitchen, hastily made over into a retail space three days a week. As a two-man operation with a heap of wholesale accounts, ABC bakes all its bagels in one early-morning shift. By 4am, bagels are coming out of the oven, ready to be delivered to 15 or 20 cafes and businesses around the East Bay. Three days a week, the rest go onto the trays at the retail shop.

Jason Scott co-owner of Authentic BagelMark Scott co-owner of Authentic Bagel

So, no hot bagels here. But the bagels are made to be a little more durable, using a slow-risen sourdough base that’s held for 24 hours to develop flavor and texture, then boiled and baked. Bigger and a little chewier than Beauty’s, they have a craggy, handmade look to them, no small feat when the bakery’s turning out anywhere from 300 to 1000 bagels a day. “We wanted to marry a New York bagel with a San Francisco sourdough,” says Mark, who, like his brother, has a culinary degree from Johnson and Wales.

Authentic Bagels

Authentic Bagels

From Italian restaurants in Providence, they moved to managing and cooking in restaurants in Berkeley and Portland, then to Monaghan’s on the Hill in the Oakland Hills. For a Mother’s Day brunch menu one year, they decided to offer housemade bagel sandwiches, which were a hit. For the Sunday-afternoon football crowd, more bagel sandwiches, until customers started asking where they got their bagels, and could they buy a dozen to take home? They starting using the Monaghan’s kitchen to bake during their off hours, then, last November, they left the restaurant and started their own bagel business, first baking in a commercial kitchen in Emeryville, now in what was once a hot-dog shop in Jack London Square. Their plans? More retail hours, more cafe clients, maybe an employee or two. But mostly, just keep making the bagels.

Beauty’s Bagel Shop
Address: Map
3838 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland, CA 94609
Phone: (510) 788-6098
Facebook: Beauty’s Bagel Shop
Twitter: @beautysbagel

Authentic Bagel Company
Address: Map
463 2nd St
Oakland, CA 94607
Phone: (510) 459-1201
Facebook: Authentic Bagel Company
Twitter: @bagelco

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Category: baking and bakeries, bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, food trends and technology, local food businesses, reviews

About the Author ()

Stephanie Rosenbaum Klassen is a longtime local food writer, author, and cook. Her books include The Art of Vintage Cocktails (Egg & Dart Press), World of Doughnuts (Egg & Dart Press); Kids in the Kitchen: Fun Food (Williams Sonoma); Honey from Flower to Table (Chronicle Books) and The Astrology Cookbook: A Cosmic Guide to Feasts of Love (Manic D Press). She has studied organic farming at UCSC and holds a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. She does frequent cooking demonstrations at local farmers’ markets and has taught food writing at Media Alliance in San Francisco and the Continuing Education program at Stanford University. She has been the lead restaurant critic for the San Francisco Bay Guardian as well as for San Francisco magazine. She has been an assistant chef at the Headlands Center for the Arts, an artists' residency program located in the Marin Headlands, and a production cook at the Marin Sun Farms Cafe in Pt Reyes Station. After some 20 years in San Francisco interspersed with stints in Oakland, Santa Cruz, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, she recently moved to Sonoma county but still writes in San Francisco several days a week.
  • Anita Gross

    Blake’s and Amy’s Beauty Bagels are going to cause a stir in the Philadelphia, PA, area, for sure. I know Blake, and he CAN COOK, anything. He has traveled far and wide and has picked up lots of secrets. He made a soup I always hated and I LOVED it and had more bowls than I care to admit. He is a self- starter whom I always knew would be a success. He’s got talent, experience and courage and a wonderful partner.

    Where are my bagels?

  • Anita Gross

    Blake is so experienced, having traveled far and wide to learn as much about food as possible.He made me LOVE a soup I always hated. Honestly, he can cook up a storm. He is talented and courageous, a self-starter whom we all respect for his efforts and achievement. Along with a wonderful partner, he will be a household name before too long.
    Where are my bagels?

  • http://twitter.com/Pacific_Coffee Pacific Coffee Roast

    You guys are great ! I love the look of your bagelshop/cafe, I only wished I lived in the US so I could come eat there! Everything looks so good! Congratulations you have done an awesome job, you should be really proud!