We called the Better Bagel Bureau. Manresa Bread answered.

Naturally-fermented plain and everything bagels and an onion bialy (far right) at a Manresa Bread pop-up. (Photo by Elena Kadvany)

Can California ever compete with New York’s bagel scene? Maybe it doesn’t need to.

If you’re an East Coast native who already has steam coming out of your ears and is ready to enlist in the Great Bagel War of 2019, stay with me for a second.

What if instead of competing, the West Coast successfully created its own style of bagel, distinct from the East Coast? Manresa Bread head baker Avery Ruzicka thinks she’s up to the task.

Manresa Bread head baker Avery Ruzicka stands in the bakery’s commissary kitchen, which supplies their retail bakeries in Los Gatos, Campbell and Los Altos, as well as coffee shops in Santa Cruz and two farmer’s market stands in Campbell and Palo Alto. (Photo by Veronica Weber)

Manresa Bread, the bakery spinoff of the Michelin-starred Manresa restaurant, held a bagel pop-up this week at its new all-day cafe in Campbell. These are not your corner bodega bagels. In the ingredient-driven spirit of the bakery’s breads, they’re made using fresh-milled, organic flours and fermented sourdough. They’re topped with asparagus and small mountains of fresh herbs and onion jam. They range in price from $5 (toasted bagel with butter) to $12 (a plain bagel with caper-shallot mayo, avocado and dill).

“We are currently trying to create our own bagel,” said Ruzicka, who was recently announced as one of five semi-finalists for “outstanding baker” in this year’s James Beard Awards. “Truly, most bagels made in New York taste different from one another so we worked to develop our own bagel that represents our focus on fresh-milled flour and sourdough fermentation.

“I think that West Coast bagels can be their own thing!” she said.

Manresa Bread’s onion bialy with cream cheese and all the herbs. (Photo by Elena Kadvany)

Here, they certainly are. The bagel dough is fermented for 12 to 16 hours then boiled and baked in a deck oven. The everything bagel for their bacon, egg and cheese (with bacon from Benton’s in Tennessee and extra sharp Tillamook cheddar) comes out smaller and firmer than its East Coast brethren. It’s elevated with the onion jam, made by cooking down “quite a few” onions with a small amount of oil until they start to stick to the pan and release liquid, which will further deglaze the onions, Ruzicka said.

The onion bialy, Ruzicka’s favorite on the pop-up menu, is made from its own recipe and is more “open crumb” and bread-like than the regular bagels, she said. A slight sourdough tang reminds you of its terroir.

One of our staffers, a skeptical East Coast native, was surprisingly pleased by the bialy’s texture — that coveted crisp on the outside and chew on the inside.

There was also the “spring garden” (herbed cream cheese, asparagus, radish and herb salad on a plain bagel), strawberry jam and cream cheese bagel and toasted bagels with smoked-fish schmear.

Ruzicka said they’re considering offering the bagels as a one-day special at all Manresa Bread locations down the line.

Manresa Bread has locations in Campbell, Los Altos and Los Gatos

Inside Manresa Bread’s airy all-day cafe in Campbell, which hosted a bagel pop-up this week. (Photo by Elena Kadvany)

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Elena Kadvany

A writer with a passion for investigative reporting, telling untold stories and public-service journalism, I have built my career covering education and restaurants in the Bay Area. My blog and biweekly newsletter, Peninsula Foodist, is the go-to source for restaurant news in Silicon Valley. My work has been published in The Guardian, Eater, Bon Appetit’s Healthyish, SF Weekly and The Six Fifty.

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