Temple Beth Hatfiloh’s 30th annual Blintzapalooza fundraiser celebrates community, connection and a much-loved Jewish culinary creation whose name begins with “B.”
Yes, blintzes are on the menu, and as always, the event will include a big book sale, but the bagel will be in the spotlight — just as it was when the event began in 1988.
When the temple decided to launch a fundraiser, bagels were unavailable in Olympia except the Lender’s kind carried in supermarkets, according to a history of bagels written by Blintzapalooza organizer Oscar Soule.
“The overwhelming success of the annual Bagel Bakeoff, with sales of up to 750 dozen bagels in four hours, proved there was a market for fresh, good bagels,” Soule wrote.
That success, along with a nationwide bagel boom, inspired local entrepreneurs to open bagel shops.
“We no longer had a unique product,” Russ Linden, one of the event’s founders, told The Olympian.
So in 1997, the temple turned its attention to the blintz, a thin, rolled pancake folded around a sweet cheese filling and topped with fruit.
Bagels remained on the menu, though these days the temple sells about 600 of the holey treats, served with cream cheese and lox, and 10,000 blintzes, served on site with apple or blueberry topping and sold frozen, too, for those who can’t get enough.
With all of that food and a book sale that readers start asking about months in advance, the temple attracts about 2,000 people.
“That’s how you can gross close to $20,000 in four hours,” Linden said.
The temple keeps none of the money. Net proceeds — about $150,000 over the past three decades — go to Interfaith Works and a variety of other charities each year.
This year’s recipients are the Olympia Free Clinic, which cares for people without homes; Concern for Animals, which cares for the pets of people without homes; and The Bridge Music Project, which offers youths a chance to express themselves through music.
The event has always featured a baking contest — bagels in the early years and such delicacies as challah, kugel and coffeecake in more recent ones.
“The idea is to go back to bagels this year, because it’s the 30th anniversary,” said Nancy Koppelman, who taught a bagel-baking class last week at the temple.
Bagels, it’s clear, are still big: Forty people showed up to learn the craft of bagel making.
Koppelman, who teaches history at The Evergreen State College, was happy to share her baking secrets.
She was also happy to share her bagels, which she brought to her Olympian interview.
“These bagels are made with sourdough starter,” she said. “I’ve been maintaining the starter in my kitchen now for a good 15 years. This is devotion. I can’t just give someone a recipe and they can make them taste like this.”
Sunday, the judges — U.S. Rep Denny Heck, Joshua Russert of Batdorf & Bronson and Olympian executive editor Dusti Demarest — will be looking for dense bagels with chewy crust and a modest sheen, a result of the boiling or steaming that happens before baking.
They will not be looking for fancy add-ins. “Raisins, M&Ms, blueberries and chocolate chips will be prosecuted,” the judges’ score sheet warns.
And Koppelman, who came in second one year in the challah bread competition, is looking for a win.
“I’m going for the gold this time,” she said.
What: The 30th annual fundraiser for local nonprofits features a bagel-baking competition; a menu of blintzes and bagels with lox and cream cheese; and a big book sale. Proceeds go to The Bridge Music Project, Concern for Animals, Interfaith Works and the Olympia Free Clinic.
When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, March 18, with doors opening at 9:30 for the book sale
Where: Temple Beth Hatfiloh
Tickets: Free; bring money for bagels, blintzes and books
More information: 360-754-8519, bethhatfiloh.org