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Sep 29, 2009 09:51 AM

Bagels... lox... cream cheese...

On a recent visit to Manhattan's lower east side, I cobbled together the perfect lox, bagel and cream cheese (open face)... belly lox and cream cheese from Russ and Daughters and bagels from Kossar's. We took it across the street to a little park and got a cup of decent coffee. Good god, was that bliss on a park bench.

This begs the question:

If you were to cobble together the perfect lox, bagel and cream cheese in Los Angeles, where would you get the vital components?

First, let's get this off the table... Ashkenazic Appetizing 101.

For the record, lox is not smoked salmon (nova), and smoked salmon is not lox. Nova = smoked and lox =/= smoked, but rather brined. Belly lox is cut from the fatty belly of the fish and is brined (think the salmon equivalent of toro sushi) and like toro, the best stuff just melts away on your tongue.

It's very common to find belly lox back east, yet it's nearly impossible to find in LA.
I once went into the chasidic owned fish shop on Fairfax and asked them if they had belly lox, and the rebbetzin had no idea what I was talking about. (I told this story to the counter man at R&D and his eyes popped... "How can that be? Belly lox is where it all came from.")

Nearly all the smoked salmon (nova) and lox I've had in LA has been pretty dreadful (or at least not up to the extraordinarily high standards of Russ & Daughters). I mean, I eat it... most recently those air compressed packages from Trader Joes where the wild salmon clumps together in big, inelegant blobs. But to be fair, I haven't searched out a real appetizing shop in LA,. When I think about those gossamer-thin slices from R&D, I must use all my energy to keep from weeping.

I do know that Barney Greengrass in Beverly Hills sells belly lox, and I've had it once (and it's pretty good if I recall). But aside from this place (which is far out of the way for me), where can one get extremely good quality nova, and particularly belly lox? Anywhere? (In a post I made years ago, I was told that "The Nosh of Bev Hills" sells it, but they do not.

OK, let the bagel debates begin. Remember, the question is who makes the best bagel to complement great nova or lox.

Top ones... Bagel Nosh in Santa Monica, the Bagel Factory on Robertson, Bagel Broker across from CBS. Which ones are going to get me closest to Kossar's bagel bliss? Crusty, crackly exterior, chewy interior, with a lovely mildly yeasty, vaguely salty flavor, not puffed up like a white bread ring. Poppy seed bagels go particularly well with lox. Brooklyn Bagel Bakery has consistently disappointed me with their dense, unchewable rings.

This one's a mystery to me. Who makes a great cream cheese locally? I suppose I could just go with Philadelphia, but as long as the question is out there....

OK fellow 'hounds, let 'er rip

Mr Taster

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  1. For bagels, here in the WSFV I like Western Bagel, but be sure to wait if necessary for a freshly made batch of the bagel of your choice. When I'm in Beverly Hills I go to Greengrass for belly lox, but won't make a special trip unless it's a very special occasion. Then I'll settle for Brent's or Labels Table. Good question on local creme cheese. I don't know of a local cheese and have always used Philly.

    1. What about St Urbain Street Bagel in Beverly Hills? I remember I used to love that place but have not been in there for years.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Yes Please

        St. Urbain does do nice crusty bagels.

        1. re: Emme

          They are not real bagels. They are steamed bread. Not kettle boiled. Bagel Nosh is the real deal.

      2. I've never entered the store because I'm too broke, but I would imagine Petrossian in BH would have some very good smoked salmon.
        As for the rest I cannot chime in, since I'm French and my experience of cream cheese and bagels is very limited.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bad nono

          Petrossian has very good smoked salmon. As does Santa Monica Seafood.

          1. re: perk

            Second this. I just had some, it was exquisite.

        2. russ and daughters is one of my favorite places in the world. i'm on a constant search for delish sable. nate and al's is good but the last time i went, i paid $15 for a sable bagel sandwich and they hardly put any sable on it. bummer.

          1. It's hard to find decent lox in this town. I've even resorted to making my own - which turned out great. But the lox at costco is so good, that I dont bother making my own any more. The price is right too. About $12 per pound. For the cream cheese, the tastiest I've found is the wipped at Trader Joes. For the Bagels, that's harder to find than the lox. I used to geat great bagels in the Marina at New York Bagels on Lincoln. But there gone, and if anyone knows a place around Culver City or the Marina, please share.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Baron

              I've gotta tell you, the cream cheese at TJ's is way at the bottom of my list. It has this oddly sweet-ish flavor that is just terribly off putting to me.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                Are you talking about the Whipped cream cheese in the round green containers at TJ's? It has the taste (to me) that is as close to what I remember back east at the local deli.

                1. re: Baron

                  I also find that TJ's whipped cream cheese isn't to my tastes. I like the cream cheese in the case at NY Bagel on Wilshire in SaMo across from Whole Foods. I think their bagels are good too.

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    Just to update this, I think TJ's has reformulated their cream cheese. I no longer taste off flavors from their cream cheese, though perhaps it's just my taste buds aging with the rest of me.

                    Mr Taster