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Bagels in the house 

Great eats and low prices are you hungry yet?

Fifty hungry citizens gathered outside the front door of the House of Bagels in Paso Robles on an early December morning in 2005 to be among the first to taste their authentic, crusty-chewy donut-shaped rolls. Clearly, the folks were impressed. Ever since, they've been buying out those fresh bagels, smears, and giant muffins and cookies at the location on First and Spring streets daily.

click to enlarge SIT UP AND BAGEL :  House of Bagels, a favorite in Paso Robles since 2005, recently opened an eatery in San Luis Obispo, where Cheri Dart (pictured) works. - PHOTO BY JESSE ACOSTA
  • PHOTO BY JESSE ACOSTA
  • SIT UP AND BAGEL : House of Bagels, a favorite in Paso Robles since 2005, recently opened an eatery in San Luis Obispo, where Cheri Dart (pictured) works.

# Now, House of Bagels is making the same delightfully fresh treats in San Luis Obispo and hoping to be discovered the way it was by those savvy Paso foodies.

Before opening in SLO, the trio of owners spent six months searching for the right location. They finally chose a small strip mall at Higuera and South streets. Although it's a highly trafficked area, it's not easy to spot House of Bagels unless you're looking for it then it's as obvious as the pink on the Madonna Inn. And you'll be feeling in the pink once you've had one of these delicious, satisfying bagels.

Based on the original San Francisco treat, House of Bagels was founded in 1962 from a Brooklyn family's recipe. Today, there are 22 bakery/delis offering the same traditional New York bagels. In SLO, the "contract store" (similar to a franchise, but only in relation to its brand name and recipe) is owned by Sharon Michelucci and her husband Mike Prowse and their lifelong friend Bill Reeves.

 

"Our bagels aren't just racked and placed in a steam oven," Michelucci explained. "It takes a lot more skill to make them from scratch, boil them, and then bake them."

Unlike the fresh or frozen supermarket packages, House of Bagels doesn't use additional fat, stabilizers, or preservatives, so their bagels are always wholesome. The trio of owners retired from the Bay Area's "high tech" world to settle down in SLO County, and Michelucci said they love living here: "We're taking full advantage of life in SLO and the bounty that comes with it."

We transplants can all relate to that sentiment. But Michelucci and her partners aren't just here for the taking. They've brought a taste of the city to us. Their bake shop offers great quality in fresh products, which are sold at bargain prices. They also go the extra mile by offering free Wi-Fi service. And they have free parking right in front of the shop, which as we know all too well no downtown business can promise.

"People think of bagels as just for breakfast, but we're trying to get the word out they make great sandwiches," said Michelucci, who offers an array of generously filled lunch bagels from vegetarian and tuna to chicken salad and lox for $5.75 to $7.25. "Our chicken salad is all white breast meat that we oven roast with special seasonings."

If you want a chance to try the bagels and coffee without digging into your pockets, you'll have it on May 11. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. you get a bagel and coffee for zip, and the first 100 customers receive a free T-shirt such a deal!

 

INFOBOX: Need some dough?

House of Bagels is at 158A Higuera St., SLO, open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Info: 594-1818. The Paso Robles location is at 630A First St., open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Info: 237-1818. Both bakery/delis are open Saturday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

SIDEBAR: Food and wine lovers unite

Pallet to Palate, May 16, 6 to 8 p.m.

This food lover's event at the Inn at Morro Bay features some of the finest SLO county chefs, including Robert Root of Orchid at the Inn at Morro Bay, Tim Bolle of L'Amour Catering in Arroyo Grande, Deborah Scarborough of Black Cat in Cambria, Evan Treadwell of Lido at Dolphin Bay Resort in Shell Beach, Jensen Lorenzen at Papillon in Baywood Park, and Pandee Pearson at Windows on the Water in Morro Bay. Designed to highlight the bounty from local farms in a delicious array of gourmet dishes, this charitable tasting supports the Paso Robles Culinary Academy. The food tasting was the vision of Root, a Mediterranean cuisine specialist who buys fresh fruits, produce, and gourmet specialties grown or made in SLO County. Root wanted to help make local food lovers more aware of those products, which are available to everyone.

"The local bounty we showcase from local farmers helps the community in many ways: You get exceptional taste and freshness in ingredients it strengthens the local economy supports endangered family farms preserves open space promotes healthy choices and protects the environment," Root pointed out. "We're all supporting farmers and chefs by presenting this reception."

Priced at $10 per person, entry allows guests to enjoy wine, liquor, and non-alcoholic beverages at the bar. Root has also put together an outstanding raffle so guests can buy tickets to win fine wines and other edible prizes.

"People have asked me, 'Why make it only $10 per person?' I tell them I wanted to make this an event where everyone can afford to come and bring the whole family along."

Reservations are required. Call Root at the Inn at Morro Bay at 772-2238, Ext. 1710.

Pinot and Paella Cook-Off at Templeton Community Park, June 10, 2 to 5 p.m.

What do you get when you pit 13 chefs against each other for a paella cooking competition? One great event where every guest gets to pig out but this splurge is nothing like a hot-dog-eating contest. It's a feast sure to sate the pickiest gourmet. Thirteen impressive chefs from around the county will be stirring up their best version of paella that I can assure you will be abundant with the freshest prawns, clams, mussels, langoustines, squid, and peas. Of course, you never know what elaborate combination each chef will come up with. Celebrity judges include Wendy Thies (KSBY), Anne Vidor (Central Coast Magazine), Janis Switzer (Tribune), and me. Guests get their chance to vote for their favorite chef, who'll win the people's choice award. This is one event where even the chefs get into the fun of it all by voting for their favorite paella.

It's a worthy venture just for the amazing food, but you'll also enjoy it with 13 of the finest local Pinot Noirs, including Windward, Jack Creek, Adelaida, and 10 more. Apropos to the event, they'll have live Spanish music by the talented Louie Ortega and a performance by salsa dancers. Dancer or not, I'm betting we'll all be out on the lawn learning to salsa. Tickets are $60 per person, which benefits the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation. Last year, they earned an impressive $28,000 to bring out the talent in local kids whose families otherwise couldn't afford classes. For directions and ticket purchases, visit www.pinotandpaella.com.

You can reach New Times Cuisine columnist at Kathy@GrapevineRadio.net.

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