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Daily Driver, a new café opening June 15 in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, is well-positioned to elevate the Bay Area bagel scene. Its wood-fired organic bagels, house-made cream cheese and butter, and coffee roasted in-house set it apart from your standard bagel outlet. Four partners share ownership — David Jablons, his wife, psychologist Tamara Hicks, and David and Hadley Kreitz (he makes the bagels; she makes the butter and cheese). The four met five years ago at Tomales Homestead Creamery, the West Marin farm outside Tomales where Jablons and Hicks launched their dairy business. Jablons often frequents the San Rafael Farmers Market on Sundays selling cheese from the family-owned farm. He also happens to have a not-too-shabby day job: He is a professor, chief of general thoracic surgery and director of the thoracic oncology laboratory at UCSF.
Alix Wall: I’ve been interviewing people for a long time, but I’ve never called up a thoracic surgeon to talk about bagels. So let’s talk about bagels.
David Jablons: I’m a third-generation New Yorker. Bagels were super important growing up; we had them every weekend. Sunday brunch was always a lox and bagel event, where we went down to the Lower East Side to Russ & Daughters or elsewhere. Then in high school, they were good for the 3 a.m. munchies. They were a mainstay. Growing up in New York City, you can’t not love bagels, even though now the average New York bagel has fallen from its heyday.
I understand that the evolution of Daily Driver can be traced back to when you and your wife fell in love with an old farm in West Marin.
I came out here almost 30 years ago. I had spent summers on the Maine coast where it was super foggy, and when I discovered Point Reyes it reminded me of my youth. One thing led to another, and we found this farm. We bought it [in 2003] and started to restore it. We wanted to put it back into our local foodshed. We got certified organic and started producing dairy under the name Toluma Farms. But after eight years of losing money, we decided we needed a value-added product and started making cheese. One was this amazing Jersey cow cream cheese, which led us to the giant, enormous problem in the Bay Area — that there are no good bagels.
Does a talented cheesemaker make for a talented bagel maker? I’d think not.
Definitely not. We had a bunch of talented people come through the farm, and our cheese program was growing. Hadley Cameron first interned with us in 2014 and then became our cheesemaker. During this time, she met and married David Kreitz. David is an industrial designer and the quintessential maker savant. A few years ago, he built this amazing pizza oven on the farm, and one day he inadvertently let it slip that he could make bagels and made some test batches. At first I told him, “Don’t talk to me, I have so many projects in addition to this challenging day job that occupies quite a bit of my time,” but the thought of these amazing bagels kept gnawing at me. We finally decided to go for it.
What gives your bagels such a good mouthfeel and taste?
We’ve improved the bagel by bringing a California spin to it. We use all organic ingredients, and we hyper-glutenate the bread, which means we spike it with extra gluten by using a high-gluten flour. Ours is a gorgeous, svelte bagel, not some huge doughball that every bagel in New York is these days. It’s all about the mouthfeel and the crumb. The wood fire makes all the difference, as well as the secret sauce in the water we boil it in. New York water is irrelevant.
And somehow you find the time to be a doctor.
I built the thoracic surgeon program at UCSF from the ground up, and now it’s the best in the country. We’re pushing frontiers in lung cancer research and doing minimally invasive this and that. But the way to people’s hearts is through their stomachs.