Monday, January 18, 2010

Around Town: Bagel maker goes boldly

In honor of their 20th anniversary, on Jan. 20 Goldstein’s Bagel Bakery will sell all bagels (with the exception of cheese bagels) at their 1989 prices — 35 cents each, limit 1 dozen per customer.

The story of the bagel is the story of America. In the 1880s, Jewish immigrants brought with them the doughnut-shaped bread product from the shtetls of Eastern Europe. Kraft’s trademark Philadelphia Cream Cheese was first marketed in September of 1880. For the next century, the bagel (with or without lox and cream cheese) was primarily a Jewish food item.

Joan Nathan, the author of Jewish Cooking in America, explains:

“When my family first moved to Larchmont, N.Y., in 1946, my father had a feeling that the neighbors living behind us were Jewish. In those days, you didn’t broadcast your religion, so he devised a plan that would reveal their cultural background. We would go to the Bronx and bring back some bagels. If our neighbors knew what the rolls were, they were Jewish. If they stared at them in bewilderment, we would know they were not. To my father’s delight, as soon as our neighbors saw the bagels, they recognized them. Nowadays, dad’s devious plan to determine a neighbor’s religion wouldn’t work. After all, who doesn’t know what a bagel is?”

In 1989, Michael and Bridget Goldstein brought the Old World bagel to the San Gabriel Valley, when they opened the first Goldstein’s Bagel Bakery in Old Town Pasadena. Today, there are two venues. One is in Arcadia and the other is in La Cañada Flintridge, near the United Artists movie theaters on Verdugo Road.

Not much has changed. Goldstein’s Bagel Bakery makes bagels at each location from scratch, without preservatives, additives of artificial flavors. The mix is allowed to rise for 24 hours and then the bagels are boiled and baked in hearth ovens, using Old World methods. Even the cream cheese is special — it’s whipped fresh, with no additives.

There is a lineage and history to bagel making. The Goldsteins learned their trade by apprenticing with River Gurtin, the founder of the Monterey area Bagel Bakery after Michael Goldstein became obsessed with Gurtin’s cinnamon raisin bagels. The Goldsteins were not alone. Lowell Morse apprenticed with Gurtin before founding Bagel Basket in Portland, Ore.

Why Gurtin? Gurtin, a true bagel maven, had learned the trade in New York City, home to the International Bakers Union, founded 1907 was formed by bagel makers. For years, only sons of union members could be apprenticed to learn how to make authentic bagels.

Michael Goldstein told me the secret is in the high quality ingredients and the attention to detail. Goldstein’s bagels have no preservatives, so they must be eaten or sliced and frozen the day of purchase. They are not frozen, then thawed. They are boiled and then hearth baked.

It was obvious that Michael Goldstein’s love of the bagel deserved recognition. But I had to ask Michael about the cinnamon raisin bagels. “Did you grow up eating bagels?” I asked. “No,” he said.

This made sense. Those of us who grew up with bagels have strong preferences, usually plain, egg, or onion.

The chocolate chip bagel, in my opinion, is practically heresy. Cinnamon? Raisins? Jelly? A sacrilege.

But as I listened to Michael Goldstein, I began to relent. He vividly described the mouth-watering, early morning wait at River Gurtin’s. Goldstein waited for favorite cinnamon raisin bagels to come out of the oven.

Suddenly, I began to understand Goldstein’s quest: to boldly go where no bagel has gone before. To bring high quality techniques to the San Gabriel Valley, and to be innovative.

Goldstein’s Bagels were the first. They are still the best.

Happy 20th Anniversary.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at

La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California


Published Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 4:10 AM PST
Around Town:
Bagel maker goes boldly
By Anita Susan Brenner

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