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"Proper" bagels find an Inner Southeast home

Photo Credit: DAVID F. ASHTON - Thanks to having been given restaurant equipment by her grandmother, who once operated a retail bakery, Leah Orndoff is prepared to open her first Henry Higgins Boiled Bagels store on Foster Road. Many true aficionados of bagels, the “roll with the hole,” were deeply saddened when Kettleman's Bagels – the company credited with reviving “boiled” bagels in Portland – sold out to national chain store operator Einstein Bagel Company, which does not boil them.

“Kettleman’s had a really great product,” reflected the former General Retail Manager for the company, Leah Orndoff. “It’s a lot more labor-intensive to make a boiled bagel – it takes more people, more effort, more time. But it was the product helped them grow to five stores.” One of those was just north of the Brooklyn neighborhood, and was the subject of a BEE story, back when it was open.

In 2012, as a result of that sale, Orndoff took a job managing a pizza store during the days. But at night, she and two of the laid-off bakers from her former company decided to keep the boiled bagel tradition alive in the City of Roses.

“We started renting kitchen space at night, and were making sixty bagels a day for three accounts,” Orndoff recalled. “We thought, ‘This is the greatest thing we’ve ever done’!”

They came up with the name “Henry Higgins Boiled Bagels” for their product, because “It was weird enough that nobody would forget it. And Henry Higgins, in My Fair Lady, teaches Eliza Doolittle how to be a ‘proper’ woman. In this case, we are making ‘proper’ bagels.”

Creating a “proper bagel” is all about the process, confided Orndoff. “Our dough ‘proofs’ for 18 to 36 hours, depending on the variety and atmospheric conditions. Then, the bagels spend a little more than just one minute in our giant 45-gallon boiler, before being baked.”

Those Portlanders who have learned the difference in taste and texture between a “steamed” and “boiled” bagel demand her product, she says. “We’re now making 2,500 bagels a night, and delivering to eighty shops and delis in the area.”

In mid-January, Orndoff invited THE BEE into what will soon be the first company-owned retail store for the new business, and she hopes to open it to the public sometime in mid-February.

“We’ll be offering eleven varieties of our boiled bagels. We’ll have seven ‘schmears’ [toppings, such as cream cheese], and we’ll offer both breakfast and lunch bagel sandwiches.”

Keep an eye on the store’s windows – at 6420 S.E. Foster Road, across from the Bob White Theater. Or, periodically check their website for information about the opening plans for the store: www.HHboiledbagels.com. Meantime, among the local venues serving their bagels now are Moreland Farmers Pantry, and Kenilworth Coffee House. Reed College stocks them too.