Dallas’ Lenore’s Bagels Holds Onto A Special Ingredient You’ll Never Find In Stores: Family Legacy And Meaningful Cultural Traditions.
Quarantine gave us all a time for serious self-reflection.
People discovered new hobbies. For some, it was an opportunity to step away from the rat race and put a little time and thought into the things they almost forgot that they loved. For others, like Jessica Brammer of Lenore’s Bagels, it was an opportunity to take a big leap and turn a childhood favorite and foodie staple into a thoughtful, tech-savvy pop-up bagel delivery business.
Nearly anyone who owns a small business will tell you it’s not easy, but as Brammer tells us, it can certainly be fun. Especially when your business partner is your husband and you’re waking up every day and not only delivering delicious homegrown baked goods, but ensuring your family legacy lives on.
With Dallas finally seeing legitimate bagel offerings, we decided to catch up with Brammer on all things Lenore’s.
What exactly is Lenore’s bagels?
Oh, they’re the best bagels in Dallas. [laughs]
It’s a bagel company that my husband Seth Brammer and I started. As it turns out, they’re freaking good bagels. The flour is grown and milled here in Texas from Barton Springs Mill. The bagels are boiled and baked just like like traditional New York bagels. But, unlike some typical bagels that have very white bread flavor, these are much more complex and more of an artisan bread type of flavor.
Just how diverse can bagels be?
They can be everything. They’re very much breakfast, they’re very much lunch. I mean, it’s everything. We’re working on a bunch of different smears right now like cream cheeses that are more dessert-y flavored, like a s’mores cream cheese. But you can go anywhere from just a bagel with butter or cream cheese to a bagel with lox and tomato, to a barbecue brisket sandwich bagel. They’re very versatile.
Wait, if you’re Jessica and these are Lenore’s bagels, then who is Lenore?
Lenore is my grandmother on my father’s side. She was a special woman and a huge part of my life. She encouraged all of us to do our best and be the person that we truly want to be. She holds a big part of my heart. She was a social worker in New York working with kids. My grandfather was in Europe during World War II and they would send letters to each other and everything. When he came back, they got married.
Is that why the logo looks handwritten?
That is my handwriting. When it came to designing what Lenore’s was gonna look like, I didn’t want anything that was computer-generated for the logo. It was important to us that it be handwritten, so I wrote it hundreds and hundreds of times.
I still handwrite the logo on all the bags and boxes that our bagels are delivered in — that’s something that will never change. I kind of want it to be like one of those things like how all the cast members can write the Disney logo. I want a team to be able to write Lenore’s, too.
So, what started the whole bagel operation? Was this a quarantine-hobby-turned-business-venture?
I was laid off in March from the hotel industry. You know, we didn’t leave the house except to go to the grocery store. Other than walking our dogs around the neighborhood, I’ve always enjoyed baking and cooking at home. Over the summer, I did all sorts of different stuff. I tried a bunch of [baking] different breads, cakes, bao buns, dumplings and all sorts of stuff. And then I was like, you know it? I want a bagel.
Did your family background play a role in all of that?
I grew up Jewish. My dad’s side of the family is all from New York and bagels are a huge thing in my family. At every Jewish holiday, there are bagels.
How did your relationship with Barton Springs Mill come about?
Over the summer, Seth was working with Slow Food DFW. He was on lunch break and he was interviewing all sorts of people in the industry like worm and mushroom farmers. He ended up interviewing James Brown of Barton Springs Mill and he talked to him about flour, bread and that whole process.
After the interview, Seth was like, ‘Hey, I’d love to get you to know more about your flour, my wife’s been baking a lot.’ So we got a bag of the Yecora Rojo flour and I tried it with the bagel recipe that I developed and was just like ‘oh, my goodness, this is this something special.’
I’ve heard about the Slow Food movement.
That’s their whole movement is about eating local. It’s not about eating food slowly, but it’s about eating food that’s locally sourced and takes a while to grow — it’s totally worth it. There’s a reason why chefs are all about local ingredients. There’s a big difference.
I’m just going to say this and this: GiGi’s Scallion Cream Cheese.
That’s my great grandmother’s recipe! Gigi was my great grandmother and Lenore’s mother. Anytime there’s a family gathering or Jewish holiday, our family has bagels. So it was a requirement that there was Gigi’s cream cheese and if there wasn’t, somebody had dropped the ball. I actually had to get permission from my parents in order to use the recipe to make it for Lenore’s. The recipe itself my family has not given out to anybody, except for one person outside the family.
I know you can’t explicitly share the recipe but what’s the ingredient that gives it that extra edge?
The big difference between our scallion cream cheese and scallion cream cheese from anywhere else is that ours has hard-boiled egg in it. We’ve had a lot of people that are like, ‘I’ve never had scallion cream cheese with egg in it.’ And it’s just like, yeah, that’s why it’s special!
I feel like people’s preconceived notion for how things “should be” made prevents them from being adventurous on their own and trying different things, you know? Like come on, at the end of the day, it’s all edible.
You mentioned that your husband is a chef. Has he had an influence on your cooking or baking?
Just being married to Seth has been a huge influence on my cooking. I was very much a “follow the recipe” cook for him, with a lot of frozen ingredients. But him teaching me how to cook and helping develop my palate is really changed a lot of things and much more adventurous.
Do you ever wake up and think, “Wow, I get to wake up and bake for a living.”
It’s crazy and I freakin’ love it. This is nothing that I would have ever seen myself do at all, at any point in my life and it was all because of this pandemic. In the beginning of the year, there were no jobs anywhere and I was on unemployment for the first time. I know COVID is a horrible thing, but quarantine allowed me to find something that I’m truly passionate about and absolutely love doing. I wake up excited to bake every single day. I was never excited to go to work at the hotel. It just wasn’t for me. But I have found something that I really enjoy and that I’m passionate about.
Lastly, your bagel services utilize a lot of tech! How does all of that work?
Our company is very tech-savvy — everything is done online. We have no storefront, we are a pop-up. Our bagels are sold via pre-order and you can pick them up at a designated coffee shop or we can have them delivered to you. But a lot of communication with our customers is done via text. There’s always direct communication with our customers. Our customers really seem to like it. You know, emails are very time-consuming and not everybody wants to do a phone call.
And then when it comes to deliveries, we actually have this system set up that will route all of the deliveries for us. Once we start a route or start heading to someone’s house, they’ll receive a text notification that the order is on its way. Once we get to the house, we’ll drop the order off at the front door. We don’t ring the doorbell, because our deliveries are between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. With the current COVID world, you know, face-to-face interaction is not very optimal. I’ll just leave it on the doorstep to keep you as safe as possible.