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Local bagel barometer on the rise

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Olive oil-poached albacore tuna stuffs a bagel sandwich from Laika’s Lox & Bagels food truck. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Olive oil-poached albacore tuna stuffs a bagel sandwich from Laika’s Lox & Bagels food truck. truck. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
The “Baja” is a breakfast bagel at Ahuva Bagel Company in Central Point. truck. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
The “Mansfield” is an open-face bagel preparation with turkey at Ahuva Bagel Company in Central Point. truck. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Sundried tomato-basil cream cheese is one of 17 spread options on a toasted bagel at Ahuva Bagel Company in Central Point. truck. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
The “Baja“ is a breakfast bagel at Ahuva Bagel Company in Central Point. truck. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Ahuva Bagel Company opens second bakery, Laika’s Lox & Bagels serves high-quality sandwiches

Bagels’ popularity arguably peaked prior to low-carb and gluten-free crazes.

But if recent expansion of Ahuva Bagel Company is any barometer, local appetites for its fresh-baked specialty also must be growing. Indeed, the business name comes from the Hebrew word for “beloved.”

Siting a second Ahuva in Central Point’s Mountain View Plaza lets owners Jacob and Lauren Troyer do business closer to home. The original Ahuva, purchased from founders Brad and Chris Stebbins, still operates in the Bear Creek Plaza on Medford’s Biddle Road.

As with any bakery, it pays to arrive early. When Ahuva opens at 7 a.m. (an hour later on Saturday), its display case is tightly packed with bagels from plain, whole wheat and multigrain to apple-cinnamon, jalapeno and — my personal favorite — spinach-Parmesan. In between are such staples as raisin, sesame and poppyseed. The quintessential “everything” bagel has an alter ego in Ahuva’s “slug,” an oblong that delivers bagel flavor and texture without the hole.

A single bagel sells for $2. Split it, toast it and spread it with one of seven flavored cream cheeses brings the price to $5. Almost infinite ways to customize with produce and protein can add as little as 50 cents for onions, tomatoes or sprouts or as much as $4.50 for lox.

When customers reach that price point, they likely want to consider a bagel sandwich or open-face preparation — from $7 for meat, cheese and mayo to $10 for classic lox, cream cheese, tomatoes, onions and capers. Breakfast sandwiches with and without egg run from $5.50 to $6.50.

While I love traditional bagels’ leathery chew, I prefer it one half at a time, which the menu’s open-face heading accommodates. Among more worldly recipes — including the Reuben melt, hummus-slathered “veggie delight” and Mediterranean with its side of balsamic dressing — I selected the relatively plain “Mansfield” ($9) with herb cream cheese, turkey and sliced scallions. The combination of cream cheese and turkey on my palate signifies high-school brown-bag comfort food.

My partner requested the “Baja” breakfast bagel ($6.50), which enlivens egg with chipotle and enriches melted cheese with avocado. We also added a bag of Kettle chips for $2. More health-conscious diners find options for garden and Caesar salads from $7.50 to $11 with chicken.

The poultry on my bagel wasn’t as hearty as I hoped — more finely shredded and scattered, rather than layered, over the adequate application of cream cheese. In comparison with other bagels that incorporate more produce, the Mansfield seems a lesser value.

My partner consumed his neatly assembled breakfast sandwich in a few bites. Stacked against others he’d tried, though, the “Baja” didn’t deliver either as much freshness or spice. Because we visited Ahuva late in the day, our bagels likewise weren’t at peak freshness.

For our next foray, I made a point to arrive at Ahuva within an hour of opening time. I doubled up on the toasted raisin bagel’s fruit and sweet spice with a schmear of cinnamon-raisin-walnut cream cheese. For old time’s sake, I couldn’t resist the spinach-Parmesan bagel with my idea of the perfect complement: sundried tomato-basil cream cheese.

This time, the bagels’ crumb was more tender, contrasting with crunchier crusts, their cream cheeses spread more thickly. If I hadn’t toted a travel mug of coffee, I could have ordered from Ahuva’s espresso and specialty beverage menu. There also are fruit smoothies and Italian sodas.

Old World sensibility for serving bagels defines one of the region’s newest food trucks. A regular at Ashland and Medford farmers markets, Laika’s Lox & Bagels is doing more with salmon than its name indicates. Gravlax cured from wild-caught coho, as well as wild-caught keta salmon prepared in the style of pastrami, headline Laika’s gourmet topping combinations.

Wild albacore – house-poached in olive oil — was the fish the proprietor recommended the morning I visited. I readily agreed, given that I prefer sustainably fished Pacific tuna in most cases to salmon.

Formerly operating Alfred’s Arepas, Laika’s owner does not bake its bagels. Absent that distinction, prices from $10.50 for a bagel with lox spread to $16.50 for gravlax seem high. The high quality of Laika’s other ingredients, I soon discovered, does much to compensate.

Organic greens, hummus and raw sauerkraut are among Laika’s core toppings. Piquillo peppers, preserved lemons and horseradish impart bold flavors.

Dressed with lemon aioli, my bagel boasted an inch-thick layer of moist, mild, utterly delectable tuna. Tomato slices were bright and juicy, offset with crisp, peppery arugula. Crafted with care, the sandwich was so filling that I needed only half for breakfast and saved half for lunch.

A lighter vehicle for Laika’s fish options, from $15.50 to $16.50, is its salad of organic greens with sweet corn kernels, cucumber, tomato, avocado and cilantro in mango-poblano-lime vinaigrette. Laika’s also serves an assortment of internationally inspired sausages — Polish, German, Italian and Hungarian — on pretzel buns with raw sauerkraut and choice of mustard for $10.50 apiece.

Located at 1205 Plaza Blvd., Ahuva Bagel Company is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, at 8 a.m. Saturday. See facebook.com/ahuvabagelcompanycentralpoint or call 541-423-5177.

Find Laika’s Lox & Bagels at Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Markets, Tuesday in Ashland at 1554 Webster St., Thursday in Medford at Hawthorne Park. See rvgrowersmarket.com for hours and updates.

Reach features editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or slemon@rosebudmedia.com