Thursday, May 10, 2012 | return to: news & features, local, food, hardly strictly bagels


Hardly Strictly Bagels: Oakland about to get a new deli — sort of

by andy altman-ohr, j. staff

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News about yet another hot new restaurant opening in Oakland would hardly generate a raised eyebrow these days. But this one is called Beauty’s Bagel Shop. And it’s an appetizing shop.

What an appetizing way to begin my first Jewish food column!


An appetizing shop is kind of like a deli, but with no meat. The focus is on bagels, smoked fish, shmears, salads and other things that go well with bagels. “Russ & Daughters is the perfect example,” proprietor Blake Joffe said of that legendary institution on New York’s Lower East Side. “And Shelsky’s in Brooklyn is one that just opened. We’re not a strict appetizing shop like Russ & Daughters, but we do want to sell a majority of fish and not meat.”

And bagels. Many bagels. Montreal-style bagels. Joffe, 35, a former chef at Delfina in San Francisco, and his business partner (and live-in girlfriend) Amy Remsen, 33, have been perfecting their craft by boiling and baking about 700 to 800 Montreal-style bagels per week in the wood-fired ovens at Addie’s Pizza Pie in Berkeley. Joffe even did an apprenticeship at a bagelry in Montreal.

A Montreal bagel is smaller, thinner and not quite as chewy as a true New York bagel, a bit sweeter, a tad denser and fully seeded. Joffe and Remsen have been supplying theirs to some local delis, but they were hoping their off-hours gig at Addie’s was going to be a short one. It’s been a year.

Fortunately, Beauty’s is almost ready to open on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, across from the MacArthur BART station. Seven employees are being hired, and the small place (the former home of Sushi Plus and a Korean restaurant before that) will seat about 34. Speaking to me by cellphone from a bank, where he was finalizing a loan, Joffe couldn’t give an exact opening date, but he strongly suggested early to mid-June.

Cbeautys 1st“I’ve said ‘in a month’ so many times, we’ll just have to see what happens,” he said with a sigh.

The still-under-construction eatery will serve Flying Goat coffee (a premium microroaster) and chopped chicken liver (in a break from true appetizing shop form). At their home near Lake Merritt, Joffe and Remsen have been creating and testing myriad items, such as homemade jams, different cream cheeses, deviled eggs, sticky buns, soups and salads. Lox, whitefish and other smoked fish will be bought from a local purveyor, but everything else will be made in-house, Joffe said.

Beauty’s Bagel Shop

3838 Telegraph Ave. (near 40th Street), Oakland

Opening date TBA

Tentative hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends, closed Mondays

@beautysbagel on Twitter, Beauty’s Bagel Shop on Facebook,


Four Schmendricks

A year ago, two San Francisco couples in their early 30s began talking about turning their collective hobby — making bagels at home — into a business. “We’re all non-bakers by trade, so I would joke that we were a bunch of schmendricks,” said Dave Kover, one of the quartet.

Now, Schmendricks is a rising operation. On occasional weekend days, the two couples set up somewhere in San Francisco and sell their hand-rolled Brooklyn-style bagels (along with a shmear). The focus is on fresh and traditional — plain, poppy seed, sesame seed, onion, garlic, everything and salt — and they sell out fast. They also do a few corporate deliveries, but the product isn’t really available beyond that.

Cschmendricks 1“We’re trying to control the bagel experience,” said Kover, a Brooklyn native. “We don’t like the idea of the bagels sitting on a shelf for 12 hours, and then somebody getting something that’s not at its best.”

The team consists of Kover (a school psychologist) and his wife, Dagny Dingman (an English teacher), and Dan Scholnick (a venture capitalist) and his wife, Deepa Subramanian. Interestingly, it is Subramanian, who isn’t Jewish, who quit her job as a lawyer to become Schmendricks’ full-time baker. She boils and bakes in a commercial kitchen.

More than 800 followers find out about their pop-up locations via Twitter, and online pre-ordering is sometimes available.

A launch party held this week at Four Barrel Coffee offered a glimpse at Schmendricks’ future plans: not a permanent spot yet, but more consistent service, starting this Sunday, May 13, at a pop-up location in SoMa called The Window.

“We’re not food entrepreneurs by trade, so we’re kind of feeling our way through this,” Kover said.


The Window, Howard and 12th streets, S.F.

May 13, 19 and 27

9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Other dates, locations vary

@Schmendricks on Twitter, Schmendricks on Facebook


Synagogue to hold Pop-Up Shabbat among food trucks

On Friday, May 11, Kehilla Community Synagogue in the East Bay is holding an outdoor Shabbat service right next to a food truck gathering called Bites Off Broadway. It's open to the public, and it sounds like a Shabbat unlike any other. Adding to the excitement is that this will be the first Bites Off Broadway gathering in quite some time — the first since Oakland instituted a new interim policy on mobile food pod events.

Here are all the details — including which trucks will be there.

Fish in a box

The new café at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco has been up and running for seven months, but so far, it’s been only a “soft launch” with no major fanfare. Why? Officials are waiting until window service with outdoor seating on the plaza can begin, a plan bogged down in the permit process. It should happen

within a month or two, a CJM staffer said.

The café is called American Box at the CJM, and it’s under the direction of F&K Restaurants, a consulting firm behind many well-known ventures, such as Fish & Farm in San Francisco. There is also an Asian Box in Palo Alto, and the concepts are similar: humanely and sustainably raised products from local vendors, with all food served in biodegradable boxes.

At the CJM, choices include the Smokin’ Fish Box (whitefish), the Sloppy Box (ground lamb and beef), the Squawk Box (turkey) and the Peace Box (hummus, tabbouleh, etc.). Each includes artisan ingredients that I didn’t put in the parentheses, as well as one side dish. Most cost about $9. Soups, desserts and kids’ (non-junk-food) options are available, too.

American Box at the CJM

736 Mission St., S.F.

Open during museum hours; closed Wednesdays

In the lobby, so museum admission not needed

(415) 655-7800; (click on “Visit”)


Amba expansion

Amba, which in January hit the 2-year mark in Oakland, is planning to add not one but two new locations, both on the Peninsula, by the end of the year, according to owner Jonathan Wornick. The kosher, vegetarian Israeli restaurant is doing well, but its location off the main drag in Montclair lacks foot traffic. “It’s easier to do two at a time,” said Wornick, who said he now owns 95 percent of the restaurant after starting with a handful of partners. Leases should be signed this month or next, after which it’ll be six to eight months until the doors swing open, he said.


New column

Welcome to my new monthly column, which will spotlight endeavors like Beauty’s and Schmendricks, but won’t focus strictly on bagels. Thus the name “Hardly Strictly Bagels.” I was thrilled the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco gave J. the OK to use it.

The column will keep tabs on any bit of Jewish food news in the Bay Area — delicatessens, pop-ups, bakeries, food trucks non-Jewish eateries that offer Jewish favorites, hummus joints, chefs, new menu items, food events, etc. I’ll also be posting and tweeting Jewish food news as it happens.

Please, share! If you know of something cooking out there, don't hesitate to let me know.



The seventh season of “Check, Please! Bay Area” premiered on KQED-TV April 26. During reruns a few months ago, I saw an episode that included Miller’s East Coast West Delicatessen in San Francisco from 2006 (years before the opening of the new location in San Rafael). Everyone really liked it! Check out the episode at … Saul’s Deli in Berkeley has started having live klezmer Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. And it has Schmaltz Brewing’s Genesis Dry Hopped Session Ale on tap … I tried to make it through my first column without mentioning Wise Sons Delicatessen (does it really need any more publicity these days?). But this I must mention: Sporadically, it has been serving up chocolate babka cereal for breakfast: dried babka bits with strawberries and milk. It’s been a big hit, so it looks as if it will stick around.

Hardly Strictly Bagels runs the second Friday of each month. For more frequent Jewish food news, follow @andytheohr on Twitter. Send hot tips and out-of-the-way finds to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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