Bagels & lox are my comfort food and are a legacy passed on to me by my father 45 plus years ago when I would accompany him on Sunday mornings to local deli's in the San Fernando valley to bring home the goods. My father is long gone, and I, while living in a very nice home in a very nice neighborhood in Chino (famous for cows and convicts and not much else) which is east of L.A., crave for decent bagels. Alas they are not to be found at the local bagel joints in my neck of the woods, where most establishments believe the local populace expects white bread food, no matter what "ethnicity" the food is supposed to be representative of.
So my wife (who is a bagel convert) and I were surprised and very pleased when we discovered Bagel Street Cafe in a shopping center in San Rafael. I believe the shopping center was adjacent to "Northgate Mall". This establishment is run by Asian people who apparently have been reincarnated from hibitues of real Jewish bakeries. Their bagels were thankfully, not of the massive, globs of not baked enough dough, with barely brown outer soft crusts that double as softballs in the major bagel chains. No, the Bagel Street Cafe bagels were of the traditional size, with nicely browned outer crusts with a good bite to them, with a contrasting soft, chewy interior. The fragrence upon entering this shop is reminiscent of the smells that would assault my nose upon entering a real, Jewish bagel bakery (the kind where you see them dipping the raw dough in a water bath) on the west side of L.A.
We visited the place two days running. Since I am currently on a very restrictive liquid diet, on that first visit I could only take in the wonderful aroma, and have a cup of coffe. On our second visit we were getting ready to hit the road out of town, and I succumbed and ordered a toasted poppy seed bagel with cream cheese and a toasted onion bagel with cream cheese to go. Once on the road my wife began passing me portions of bagel and cream cheese, ah bliss! It was worth blowing the diet for those two bagels. These were real bagels, not bad oversized imitations. The wonderful mouth feel of poppy seed, bagel crust, bagel interior and softended cream cheese had been missing from my experience far too long.
My only disappointment was that I had wanted to try one of their sourdough bagels, but there were out that morning. I am intrigued and curious about what a sourdough bagel would taste like. Of course I would only buy a sourdough bagel that was produced in the Bay Area, in order to get that special taste that only comes from San Francisco sourdough starters.
This trip to San Rafael was my wife's business trip, I was along for the ride and the free room and board. So now all I have to do is figure out how to convince her company that she needs to make another trip north, and maybe I will get to try that sourdough bagel at the Bagel Street Cafe.