Monday, December 5, 2011

Become "One" with the Huckleberry

Los Bagel's Huckleberry Loaves are coming out of the oven as we speak, the smell wafting down "I" Street in Arcata has people wandering into the shop...they don't even know why.  Their eyes are glazed over, their lips are trembling and their eyes are searching for the source of the outrageously good smell.

Fresh baked Huckleberry loaves just don't happen.  All summer and fall our friends Peter and Tsering, way out in Petrolia on the Lost Coast, are hand picking these sensational berries.  Hucks are a small juicy berry with an unparallelled flavor, way better than a blackberry, more delicate than the raspberry, and don't even get me going about blueberries. 

If you've ever done any berry picking, you know that it is hard work and takes an enormous amount of patience, diligence and self control.  Tsering annually picks about 200 lbs of hucks for us!

These berries truly shine in our Holiday Dessert Loaf.  Grab one at the shop, or order one online to treat your friends and loved ones. Feeling adventurous? Grab a copy of our Cookbook and make the bread yourself, the recipe is in there...along with all your other favorites!

Among the really hard core berry pickers, secret picking spots are protected and shared only with trusted family members.  After some serious picking we've seen people with red stained arms all the way to their elbows.  ...No, this business is not for the light of heart or the weak of spirit, you must be "one" with the berry.

Tom Kent at is totally at "one" with the berry.  Check it out his description of the mighty Huckleberry.
This image of ripe Huckleberries in the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge is taken by Gordon Leppig and Andrea J. Pickart. Click on the berries to check out the great chart they built detailing the flora about 15 miles south of Los Bagels. 

Here's Wishing You a Berriliscous Holiday Season!
Los Bagels

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos at Los Bagels!

El Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, November 1 and 2, is a national holiday in Mexico.  It's origins are found in ancient ceremonies of indigenous Mexicans.

Death has a unique persona in Mexico which is not found anywhere else in the world.  In the pre-Hispanic cultures death was just a further step in life itself, a step which offered a security and serenity markedly contrasting with the suffering and worries which afflicted mankind in this world of hardships.  Life and death compliment each other.  The ancient Mexicans believed that life issued from death just as death issued from life.

With the introduction of Catholicism, attention was no longer focused on Death itself, but rather on the dead and on the spirits.  And so the Mexican people celebrate every November 2 on the return of their dear departed who, as ethereal souls, come back for one day to their burial place and the home where they lived.

In many homes a ritual altar is prepared to honor the returning souls.  The altars are often adorned with Zempasuchitl, a kind of marigold which is the traditional flower of the dead.  There is incense (copal) and a candle to light the way for each returning soul.  Food is prepared, always the dish of which the dead is fondest in life.  A glass of water is set out and the personal mementos and an image of the person.

For children, delightful toys, usually skeletons made of paper mache and wire are created for the Day of the Dead.  These calaveras or skulls, and dancing skeletons are wonderfully amusing.  All walks of life and occupations are depicted.  there are even toy cardboard coffins from which a skeleton can be made to jump by pulling a string.

Today in Mexico, Day of the Dead is a tradition that is rapidly changing.  Although celebrated traditionally in rural Mexico, in the urban centers the Halloween influence of the United States is evident.  It is important to remember that Dia de los Muertos is not Halloween for its' origin and traditions are different.  It is from the ancient indigenous traditions and beliefs which held that Death defines life and that our deaths illuminate our lives.

We make pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread) everyday, but we produce a special type for Day of the Dead.  It comes in three shapes, (two human forms) men, women and round with crossed bones on top.  They are made from a bread dough which is flavored with cinnamon and sugar and decorated with colored sugars, and are great with Mexican hot chocolate.  They are a symbol of the departed family and friends and are also an offering on the ofrenda.  The bread is baked for both the living and the dead- since antiquity bread has symbolized the mainstay of human life.

Look for Pan de Muerto and ofrendas at all three Los Bagels locations during the Dia da los Muertos celebration, or order it online and have it shipped in for Wednesday November 2nd.

The altar (ofrenda) is central to observing the Day of the Dead and is maintained to ensure good relations between the family on earth and family in the after world.
Whatever the deceased enjoyed in life is remembered in preparing the alter.  Photographs occupy the center, and names are spelled out with cloves on fruits and with pen on nuts. Religious images are placed on the alter, in the hope that the saints thus venerated will intercede for the protection of the soul on its' journey back to the after world.  Decorations may also include a Tree of Death, tombstones, lyres, flowers, skulls and skeletons of all sizes and materials, copal and delicately formed hearts.

Altars can be an eight-course, multi-level feat with enough "soul foods" set out to provide the sustenance required for the visiting soul.  These include dishes traditionally prepared for the Day of the Dead, such as chicken in red or black mole sprinkled with sesame seeds; fruit., beans, tortillas, and tamales made from fresh hand-ground corn; soft drinks; and as always, a glass of water to refresh the travel-wearied souls.  Altars honoring children include a small bowl of milk, special cakes called mamones, copal, pieces of chocolate, little apples, miniature candlesticks and a profusion of toys and sweetmeats. Los Bagels will be offering mole on a bagel, starting October 29th.

Once the honored guest has extracted the essence of the refreshments, they are shared with family and friends, who have often traveled long distances to take part in the family's annual reunion.

Hasta la proxima vida.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lime Corn or Corn Lime

Los Bagels Lime Corn cookies are one of the freakishly good items that you can only get at Los Bagels.  The recipe was developed years ago by our long time baker Jodie Harriel and to date, this is our best selling sweet treat. This cookie is the epitome of a multicultural experience...are there any other cookies on earth that get referred to as "zesty"  ...we think not.   

The magic taste of this cookie has traveled outside Humboldt County.  Tierra Vegetables in Windsor California is a fan,  we hear someone is working on a Gluten Free version  and now you can purchase them straight from the source and we will ship them right to your door.

If you are ready to get in the kitchen and make them yourself (they are incredible right out of the oven!)  here is the recipe.  This is taken from Los Bagels Recipes and Lore.
Whether you call them "Lime Corn Cookies" or "Corn Lime Cookies"  we don't mind, just remember the first place you tried the original zesty cookie.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Getting Toasted, and the Fountain of Youth

Our New T-shirt.

"Would you like that toasted?"  Believe it or not these words never echoed through Los Bagels until the late 1990's when Dennis, Peter and John finally broke down and bought a toaster.  As any purist will tell you, a bagel should not be toasted, it should be eaten fresh out of the oven in all its' chewy glory. 

Luckily, heaps of people like their bagels toasted.  It does have some benefits, such as, crispy edges, melted cream cheese, and the seeds which adorn the exterior of the bagel, reaching their flavor peak.  I count myself among the toasted bagel population and I am not ashamed of this fact, even at the expense of a wee bit of my "bagel street cred"...which is extensive.

This week, Los Bagels did it again, bringing in toasters to the Humboldt State Depot where no toaster has gone before.  HSU Students can now share in the magical phrase, "Would you like that toasted?"

Speaking of students, life here at Los Bagels and I'm sure many other college towns, revolves around the yearly influx and inevitable retreat of college students.  Spending time on campus indoctrinating the newbies into the ways of our multicultural cafe gave me great joy this year.  Seeing the 18 years olds, fresh from Southern California, staring at the redwood trees and trying to look "cool." Their proud parents sharing stories, and wondering why it is so cold here in August.   I enjoyed the energy of transformation as "move in day" got rolling in the early dawn hours.  Talking to the students and parents, giving unsolicited advice on where you have the best chance to see Bigfoot. Mud splattered cars packed to the gills with all the stuff a college freshman needs, kids on skateboards blowing through stop signs without an apparent care in the world. 

I took a moment to realize that in fact these students and their parents embody the cycle of life.  We are so blessed to share in this cycle, I may never be 18 again, but in about 17 years, I will hopefully be at some college sharing in my sons' dreams of the future.  My grandfather said that existence was about "life everlasting"...and I'm starting to understand what he meant.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What is LOX?

Is there anything tastier than a bagel with cream cheese and lox?  Perhaps the only thing better is a bagel with cream cheese, lox, Larrupin sauce, Slug Slime and Tabasco. We are truly blessed here on the Redwood Coast to live in close proximity to salmon habitat.  Off the coast of Humboldt County it has been a banner year for salmon fishing.  This is very encouraging not only for everyone who likes to eat salmon, but for all the people who work at restoring their habitat and ensuring their survival for future generations.  Here is a picture of three Chinook Salmon caught this week about four miles south of Trinidad, the two on the right weighted about 17 pounds each.
At Los Bagels, our salmon come from Alaska. Our fish are wild, as opposed to farmed, and our most popular variety is"lox."   One of the eternal questions of bagel culture is "What is lox?"
Lox is a salmon fillet that has been cured.   In its most popular form, it is thinly sliced—less than 5 millimetres (0.20 in) in thickness—and, typically, served on a bagel, often with cream cheese, onion, tomato or capers.  Noted for its importance in Ashkenazic Jewish cuisine, the food and its name were introduced to the United States through Scandinavian immigrants, though it was popularized by Jewish immigrants. The term lox derives from Lachs in German and לאַקס (laks) in Yiddish, meaning "salmon".

Lox is traditionally made by brining the salmon in a solution of water, salt, sugars and spices (the brine).

Then the brined fish is cold smoked.  This means it is placed in a smoker which stays at about 70 degrees °F.   In this temperature range, foods take on a smoked flavor, but remain relatively moist. Cold smoking does not cook foods. This leaves the salmon with a beautiful red/pink color and a great texture.  Of course, this process has many variations depending on cultures and types of salmon.

There you have it, a brief description of how lox is made.  And now for a picture of a fishing GOD.  Thank you Salmon.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The History of the Truchas Gallery

Step into Los Bagels Bakery and Café, on Second Street in Old Town Eureka, and experience one of the great landmarks on the North Coast.  Los Bagels is the multicultural hot spot for the region.  Even before you taste the food, your eyes will feast on the eclectic mix of artwork adorning the walls.  The Truchas Gallery is located within the café.   The name “Truchas” comes from the Spanish word “trout” and was named, not only for Los Bagels founder Dennis Rael’s fondness for fishing, but for the town of Truchas, New Mexico.  Mr. Rael’s family has roots in this beautiful region of the Southwest, long before his grandparents migrated west to California.
Dennis Rael as a (very) young man
Featuring a rotating selection of the region’s best artists, the exposed brick wall leaves plenty of room for large works and three dimensional displays.  The other walls house a permanent collection, featuring a large three panel mural created by children at the Equinox School in Arcata. 
Equinox School mural

Above the deli area are a collection of large caricatures originally created for a Martin Luther King Jr. parade at the Trinidad Town Hall.  These images represent Rosa Parks, Stevie Wonder, Mother Teresa, Frida Kahlo and Martin Luther King Jr., and capture the true multicultural essence of Los Bagels. 
Quietly hung out of harm’s way, are also two rare giclee prints by Robert Cassila.  Cassila illustrated the bestselling children’s book, “Jalapeno Bagels” by Natasha Wing.  This book is based on Los Bagels and founder Dennis Rael.  Mr. Rael grew up with a Jewish mother and a Latino father, celebrating customs from both sides of his family.  His multicultural upbringing in southern California inspired Mr. Rael to start Los Bagels over 26 years ago.  Natasha Wing’s story is based on a boy named Pablo who can’t decide what to bring to school for “International Day.”  This book has been a best seller in children’s literature, and is currently required reading for many second graders across America.  Signed copies of the book are available in the café and online.

Depending on the season the café may be adorned with a Day of the Dead ofrenda, a collection of Judaica from around the world, or even handmade tin hearts from Oaxaca, Mexico.   The menu at Los Bagels is as diverse as the collection of artwork.  Featuring the tastes of Mexico combined with traditional Jewish fare, Los Bagels offers boiled then baked bagels, along with a great selection of toppings, including smoked turkey, lox, hummus and a great variety of spreads.  In the pastry case find handmade croissants, rugalah, challah and a selection of muffins and cookies that is sure to please. Serving fresh seasonal local produce, gourmet coffee and espresso, Los Bagels will delight the most discriminating palette, yet is fun and family friendly. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

2 ON 2 Basketball Tournament Story

The year was 1985, the owner of an upstart Mexican Jewish bagel shop in Arcata, took an old wooden sign, attached a metal hoop and mounted it on the side of his building.  He grabbed his worn basketball from the back of the shop, took off his flour encrusted work shoes, laced up some black and red Converse high tops and set out into his parking lot on I Street with determination in his stride, a gleam in his eye and a mean jump shot.  Thus, the basketball court in the parking lot of Los Bagels was born.  Over the ensuing years, this court has played host to thousands of formal and informal basketball games.  If the red painted walls of the court could talk, they would speak of momentous victories, painful defeats and all the blood, sweat and tears that have been shed, purely for the love of the game.

On Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26 this legendary court will once again be the site of a basketball showdown, the likes of which have not been seen in Humboldt County for about 5 years.  The Los Bagels 2 on 2 Benefit Basketball Tournament returns to its’ home court after a five year hiatus.   The tournament started in 1993 as an informal group of players decided to put on a competition and use it as a fundraiser for a kid’s camp in the Trinity Mountains.  It immediately became a staple of the Humboldt County athletic scene, drawing players from all strata of society, from high school and college players to working professionals, peace-loving hippies and basketball fans of all shapes, sizes and colors.  
 The tournament is double elimination round robin format, and for the first time since the tournament began, will have both men’s and women’s brackets.  The number of teams in each bracket will depend on how many teams sign up.  The cost per team is $30 and includes two limited edition t-shirts.  At a certain point the brackets will close, so do not hesitate if you plan on entering.  The games will be to eleven points, with each basket counting for one point.  Teams must win by two to eleven or by one to fifteen.  This fast and furious style of basketball sets the stage for great competition and epic drama.  The great equalizer of the tournament is the combined height rule.  The combined maximum height for the men is 12 feet 2 inches and 11 feet 6 inches for the women.  Teams will be measured before playing, and the action will start at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 25 at 1061 I Street in Arcata.

The original backboard was literally an old painted plywood Los Bagels sign, on the eve of the 5th annual tournament in 1998, a new glass backboard was installed.  This change in equipment created a tumultuous tourney in 1998, since so many players were accustomed to the sluggish thump of the ancient wooden backboard.  This new backboard was procured from the Centerville Beach Navy Facility, and still stands today. 

All the proceeds from this event historically support Camp Unalayee in the Trinty Alps Wilderness area.  The tradition continues this year, as the money raised goes directly to the Camp Unalayee Scholarship Fund.  Founded in 1949, Camp Unalayee’s mission is to bring together children from all walks of life to learn the lessons of respect for nature and community, as well as sharing the joys of camping and backpacking.  The scholarship fund helps send children to the camp whose families don’t have the financial means to cover the cost.  Camp Unalayee organizers strongly believe money should not get in the way of a young person attending the camp.  For more information or to apply to the Camp Unalayee visit their website at

The roots of Camp Unalayee run deep through Humboldt County.  Dennis Rael both the founder of Los Bagels and the host of the 2 on 2 Benefit Basketball Tournament was a camp counselor starting in 1972.  In later years, Marsha Lenz, owner of Folie Douce was a counselor, as well as current Humboldt Supervisor Mark Lovelace.  Tom Marquette, the Trinidad Fire Chief, is still involved with the Camp volunteering yearly as their medical officer.  Instrumental in starting the 2 on 2 Tournament in 1993 was Lowell Fitch; he has been the director of the Camp for the last 20 years and has perhaps the most feared three point shot in Northern California.  His enthusiasm for the sport of basketball spilled over into his love of Camp Unalayee, and he can truly be credited with being the inspiration for this event.   Many of the original organizers are back on board volunteering to bring the tournament to fruition for the 13th time.  Dave Deyman, Kiah Ginsberg and Jess Bareilles are working diligently behind the scene to bring off what will certainly be the best tournament to date.
What is at stake besides bragging rights for the whole year?  Prizes baby, heaps of prizes.  The community support for this event is outstanding.  At least twenty local businesses are generously contributing prizes ranging from gift baskets to gift certificates, the organizers of the event have about $900 worth of prizes stashed in an undisclosed location.  These prizes will all go to the participants, with special prizes for merit, or lack thereof.    In cash donations for Camp Unalayee, organizers have also raised over $1,200. 

As the host of the tournament, Los Bagels sees this event as an extension of their philosophy of supporting community organizations.  This tournament is similar to the “I Street Block Party” which happens every Labor Day as a fundraiser for the Arcata / Camoapa Sister City Project.  These events start with a couple inspired people doing some grassroots organizing and then mature into a true community event which not only raises money for a worthy cause, but makes living in Humboldt County a richer experience.

Everyone is invited to sign up for the 2 on 2 Benefit Basketball Tournament.  Go to the Arcata or Eureka Los Bagels, or email to get a registration form.  Even if you don’t play, this is a great event to watch, so feel free to stop for some great basketball and be a part of the fun.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gluten Free for the People!

We have been serving up fresh boiled then baked bagels among the redwoods for over twenty seven years.  In recent years, we have seen an ever increasing demand for gluten free bagels.  Customers have been requesting them at the shop, asking for them on our Facebook page and even stopping owner Dennis Rael on the street to plead for a gluten free product.
In a great victory for gluten intolerant people, Los Bagels has partnered with local gluten free bakery, Arise Bakery.  This somewhat unlikely partnership is a first for both Los Bagels and Arise Bakery, and so far the public has been thrilled to see what the spirit of cooperation can yield, in this case a delicious gluten free bagel.

 Partner John Monahan, with Reah Roberts of Arise Bakery

Arise bakery was founded by Reah Roberts in 2009.  She began baking gluten free breads and pastries for herself in 2005, when she discovered she could no longer tolerate gluten in her diet.  In sharing her creations at potlucks and with other gluten intolerant friends, she found that she was getting an incredibly positive response on the quality and taste of her baked goods.  In an inspired entrepreneurial move, she saw that locally there were very few, if any gluten free options.  She decided to start Arise Bakery to offer fresh, locally made gluten free products to the people of Humboldt County.  Ms. Roberts currently runs a booth at the Arcata Farmers market on Saturday mornings and will happily take special orders for her creations.   The most popular items are her pecan sunflower-seed brownies, strawberry-date scones, brown rice sourdough bread and spiced teff thumbprint cookies.  Arise Bakery also offers vegan options, sugar free options, organic ingredients and locally sourced ingredients.

When asked about this new partnership, Ms. Roberts says, “I am grateful to be partnering with Los Bagels to bring the public a gluten free option.  Customers have been asking me since the beginning of Arise where they can buy my products during the week, and this is a great new option.  Feeding people makes me happy, and it’s wonderful that now people can buy fresh gluten free bagels seven days a week.”

Arise Bakery is now supplying Los Bagels with gluten free bagels.  Los Bagels boils and bakes them fresh daily, so people with gluten allergies can share in the experience of a fresh baked bagel any time they want.  Dennis Rael says, “We are excited to partner with Reah.  I have friends in the community who don’t come to Los Bagels, because one of their children or their spouse is allergic to gluten. The response we’ve gotten from our customers has been terrific.  For people with food allergies, it is a challenge to eat out and I‘m happy some of these folks can come enjoy a Veggie Delight or a bagel with cream cheese and lox.”

Los Bagels General Manager, Cindy Jassar, is working on making sure that their customers know that since Los Bagels is a traditional bakery there is still wheat flour (high in gluten) in the baking environment, and even though steps have been taken to maintain the bagels gluten free nature, there is still the possibility of cross contamination. She says, “We have set up a system to keep these bagels separate from the rest of our production. We have designated separate pans for baking, clean water for boiling and separate cutting boards and knives.    We are educating our staff and our customers about exactly what we are offering, since some people do have an extreme allergic reaction to gluten. So far, it seems a large majority of our customers are only mildly allergic or not eating gluten for other health reasons.  We are also freezing these bagels in 4-packs, for our customers’ convenience.”

Los Bagels is offering these gluten free bagels seven days week at both their locations, on I Street in Arcata and Second Street in Eureka.  For the gluten intolerant people of Humboldt County, you now have a great new option for dining out.  

These bagels are not availbale online just yet...but it will be soon, we promise.

Hasta el dia Soloso

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Summertime and livins' easy

Local photographer Sam Camp with friends.
Ahhh, summer in Humboldt County.  The rain has tapered off, the sun is making its' presence known and the sounds of happy people on the Los Bagels patio fill the air.  Just yesterday, a cute couple spend about 3 hours sitting on our patio playing Scrabble, while eating  Lime Corn cookies, 2 Pan Dulce and 4 cups of coffee.  What a nice way to spend an afternoon!

This is not to say everyone in Bagel land is taking it slow.  Our awesome baker Elena has just about perfected a recipe for "Rosemary Polenta Muffins" and our production manager John is searching for the first solid harvest of Strawberries so we can get to work on a batch of our Strawberry Muffins.  It was a rainy spring, so the crop is a few weeks behind, although this always seems to be the case.

Farmer's Market on the Plaza in Arcata is really picking up momentum as more and more produce is available.  You can find the Los Bagels tent there most Saturdays, we are right in the center near the President McKinley.

Out in Willow Creek it is warming up, the Trinity River is still flowing really high, but soon the perfect swimming holes will appear and we will yet again be able to commune with the salmon and Bigfoot.

Cheers to the sun, notice it is the same shape as a bagel.  Coincidence?  I think not. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Graduation Madness Grips Humboldt County!

What has happened to our sleepy community in the redwoods?  A huge influx of parents and families from around the country are descending on Arcata for Humboldt State University graduation. This wild bunch of celebrators is sure to reek havoc on the city of Arcata and the surrounding hills.  Wild parties, fancy dinners and a huge parental sigh relief will characterize the next 48 to 64 hours.

Here at Los Bagels World Headquarters, we have added extra staff, stocked up on Slugs, Slug Slime and Larrupin.  We have heaps of T-shirts and hats at the ready...including our brand new "Slug Slime T-shirt". This beauty features a yellow slug on the shoulder, with slime gliding over our logo.  

The weekend madness will only spiral upward and outward.  Saturday Farmer's Market on the Plaza is sure to become a horticultural  free for all, where every man, woman and carrot will be on their own to score the best produce from the region.

Saturday and Sunday, "I" Street will be CLOSED for the Humboldt Arts Fair, featuring art, bands, and kids activities...yes there will be a beer tent, so come thirsty.  We are planning on staying open late Saturday evening, but if things start looking dicey, we may just lock the doors and hide under the counter until the smoke clears.

If you are in Arcata, better strap on your boots for adventure, and if you aren't in Arcata, please pray for us.

Hasta la proxima