Bagels Matter. The Bagel Baron at Saul’s

Dan Graf came to us a few years ago from New Jersey. He worked the counter and on the line. His dry sense of humor and East Coast palate captivated customers and co-workers alike. Dan eventually brought a whole posse of his friends from Jersey to work at Saul’s, and it was a lot of fun.

At the same time Peter Levitt, Saul’s Co-Owner and Executive Chef, dreamed of raising the bar for the bagel experience. He believes people could and should be just as excited about bagels as they are about, say, wood-fired pizza, IF bagels were given the time and attention they deserved. But the Saul’s kitchen and chef responsibilities are packed with everything else served in Saul’s 100+ seat deli. Peter always pestered Dan (and any employee that would listen) with: “Why don’t you start a bagel business and sell me bagels?” And so on.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baron’s Bagels (from Dan Graf, Bagel Baron)

Then, Dan goes away for a few years. On Tuesday, June 5, without any warning, he walks into Saul’s with an armful of bagels he made all by himself. Bagels with contrast: dense, shiny, a chewy, crunchy crust and a depth of flavor that can only come from fermentation (and time and attention). They’re a revelation.

Dan didn’t say a word to us until he got them to a level worth talking about (and worth chewing on), after about a year of recipe testing and experimenting. And though he’s just a one-man artisanal start-up in a shared commercial kitchen, he has the capacity to supply us with all the bagels Saul’s needs – unusual for a new handcrafted venture. (We’re a pretty big restaurant and sell quite a few bagels.)

So less one week after Saul’s tasted them, we were selling Barons. As of Monday June 11. Come taste them and let us know what you think.

Celebrate Bagels

Seems it’s famine to feast on “real” handcrafted bagels in the Bay Area: Baron’s based in Oakland, Beauty’s in SF and soon-to-be Oakland, and SF-based Schmendricks. All truly a giant leap forward. Certainly we at Saul’s think so.

Rally your friends and family for the revolution in Bay Area bagels and bagel expectations!

Even in New York, where have all the good bagels gone? For The State of the Bagel in America, read:

Fish: When Farmed is Best

Is the trout wild?

 

This is one of the most commonly asked questions during dinnertime at Saul’s. It’s a well-meant question coming from conscious eaters.

But is “Wild?” always the question to be asking?

Monterey Bay Aquarium has put together a Best of the Best list, and guess what is on it?      A fish we serve near-nightly. Farmed Rainbow Trout.


 

 

 

 

 

Why? It’s a long story, but in the case of U.S.-raised freshwater trout, the difference comes down to a mostly vegetarian diet, efficient feed conversion ratios, and closed system ponds.

From The Sustainable Ocean Project:

At the top of the sustainability list are usually catfish, trout, tilapia, Arctic char, and barramundi. In the U.S. these species are raised in inland ponds or completely closed above ground systems. The risk of escapement for these operations is effectively zero. And, in general, these fish are efficient in converting feed with little to no protein into protein on our plates.

It’s actually illegal to sell wild rainbow trout commercially, even.So this is definitely a Wild vs. Farmed story, rather than simply a Wild is Better story.

By the way, all of our fish is provided by Monterey Fish Market founder Paul Johnson, the seafood leader who wrote Fish Forever: The Definitive Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Preparing Healthy, Delicious, and Environmentally Sustainable Seafood

Our trout is from Idaho Trout Company, via the Monterey Fish Market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In our era of overfishing, the majority of the oceans’ fisheries on the brink of collapse, and wild populations facing extinction, “Wild” gets complicated.

To read more about how Farmed is Often Better, check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Super Green List: Good for You, Good for the Oceans. Farmed Freshwater Coho Salmon and Farmed Oysters are on the list. (Though shellfish is one of the most sustainable seafoods around, it isn’t coming to Saul’s anytime soon, farmed or otherwise. But Kosher vs. Kosher Style vs. Secular Jewish Eatery vs. . . . is a whole other unresolved story).

For a comprehensive directory of sustainable and unsustainable seafood, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide.

Housemade Pastrami: brined, spiced, smoked

Pastrami

Pastrami on rye with mustard, a simple pleasure, no?

No, not really simple at all.

We used to get pastrami from New York. It arrived in a plastic bag, and we steamed it to order. It traveled three thousand miles. Next we procured local, hormone free and antibiotic free meat but sent it to Los Angeles for curing.  Then, most recently, we started having trouble with supplies of this special arrangement.

Finally, we decided to bring pastrami production under our roof.

Hand-slicing Saul's housemade pastrami

Now many permutations and decisions.

For the rub: Red or black? Definitely coriander, black pepper, paprika. What proportion each? Allspice, clove, garlic?

Peter slices pastrami on the Spice of Life chef stage

What kind of smoke and how much? Pastrami is a smoked meat after all. A whole generation is used to pastrami out of a plastic bag with only a distant hint of smoke.

Cut of meat? Navel or brisket. One is too fatty, the other too dry.  Strictly grass fed or corn finished?  Cow or steer meat?

About the brine: Pump and float or just float or just dry rub? Minimize nitrates and risk the perfect pink color?

We are aiming for a pastrami that is never too dry or fatty (although this is very subjective), peppery, spicy, smoky and essentially on the fatty side. Please remember that in every piece of pastrami, even assuming the most skilled slicing, there will be sublime to less sublime and then sublime again, in one piece. Hopefully you get a perfect combination of slices on a perfect pastrami day. If not let us know.

With so many variables it becomes a rather complicated and changeable process. We hope you will join us in this journey, still very new.  Your feedback is always welcome, especially written form and shared with kindness.

Pastrami spices

Housemade pickles: brining, fermenting, crunching

Pickles

‘The perfection of fermented foods lies in it’s imperfection. If your desire is for perfectly uniform, predictable food, this is the wrong food for you… If you are willing to collaborate with these tiny beings with somewhat capricious habits and vast transformative powers, then eat on.’

Sandor Katz

Pickle plates at Spice of Life Festival with chermoula peppers

We have committed to make our pickles in house. This means when they are good they are really good.

Before when we gave free pickles, we found more than a third would make their way to the garbage can.

So we reduced the price of a sandwich 50c and charge 50c for a pickle. Believe it or not we no longer find pickles in the garbage.

Also non-pickle eaters no longer subsidize pickle eaters. Its a win-win.

Another benefit: before people did not really have an option of half sour vs full sour. You got what came in those pasteurized buckets.

Now both our customers and staff are developing a real knowledge of the difference, the complexities and the joy of fermented foods.

We now ferment sours, half sours, kraut and pickled green tomatoes.

Pickling tomatoes

Every morning a Saul’s ferment nerd, can be found testing brines, skimming yeast by-products, making sure all cucumbers are submerged and starved of oxygen, and generally prodding the ferments along and keeping them safe from taking wrong turns.

Some days the sours are just not yet sour enough for one, yet too sour for another.

Some batches absorb too much salt, some not salty enough. Some cucumbers arrive from the fields too big, sometimes just right.

 

If you are eating pastrami or corned beef we strongly urge you to eat these with our fermented pickles.

It is good nutrition, good digestion and good old yiddishkeit.

These true and tried complimentary flavors, in balance, provide harmony.

Pickle plate with radishes

Preserved lemon in Jewish cooking

Preserving lemons at Saul's

Joan Nathan says “preserved lemons are an indispensable item in my pantry cupboard.” From her book The Foods of Israel Today on preserved lemons in Jewish cooking:

“(The lemons) are delicious in salads, in chicken with olives, in a marvelous Moroccan brisket, and stuffed into the cavity of a simple roast chicken with garlic and fresh herbs,” Nathan writes. “Long ago the lemons were weighted with stones to keep them submerged in the preserving liquid. (But in the) contemporary method, the lemons sink with the weight of the salt.”