Bucharest was once home to 100,000 Jews. Today, there are only 4,000 Jews and no bagels to be found. But that’s about to change.
The saga starts with a pair of twentysomething Romanian entrepreneurs, Alexandru Petrescu and Ioan Rusu, who were seeking a novel menu item to launch their Bucharest food truck.
Online research led them to bagels. In September, the pair got on a plane to New York City, the putative bagel capital of the world (sorry, Montreal). After touring bagel bakeries across the five boroughs, Petrescu and Rusu wanted to learn the ins and outs of bagel-making.
They called on Brooklyn’s Center for Kosher Culinary Arts and Lynn Kutner, a master baker who teaches a course called Jewish Baking Classics.
“They looked us up online, and said they were looking for a place to learn about bagel-making,” Jesse Blonder, the Center’s founder and managing director, told the Forward. “They looked at culinary schools and a few people who do private lessons. Between the fact that we’re kosher and that bagels are associated with Jewish food, they chose us.”
Montreal’s St-Viateur Bagel has come a long way since Buchenwald survivor Myer Lewkowicz opened his humble storefront bakery in a rundown immigrant neighborhood in 1957.
Under the Morena family, its owners since 1994, St-Viateur has ballooned to six retail outlets, a thriving wholesale operation, and a fast-growing delivery business to rabid bagel fans in the United States.
Now, St-Viateur’s taking its wares on the road – literally. The iconic bakery has launched its first food truck, and the only rolling kitchen in Montreal’s nascent food-truck scene dedicated to bagels. The sleek yellow van, emblazoned with the bakery’s familiar dancing-bagel logo, made its debut this summer, and this week unveiled a full schedule for Montreal’s downtown business district.
On the menu: A simple bagel & butter ($2.25CDN); classic bagel and cream cheese ($3.75); “The Traditional”, a bagel with smoked salmon, cream cheese, onion, tomatoes, capers, and lemon ($9) ; and perhaps the ultimate Montreal mash-up, a bagel with smoked meat and mustard ($9). An egg-bagel sandwich with bacon and cheddar cheese – definitely not an item from Myer Lewkowicz’s day – comes with filtered coffee for $7. Smoothies, coffee drinks, and fresh-squeezed orange juice round out the menu.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of St-Viateur in Montreal’s culinary and cultural landscape. Hand-rolled, boiled in honey-flavored water, and wood-fired, St-Viateur’s chewy old-fashioned bagels have become a staple for locals, and a huge draw for tourists; a rivalry between St-Viateur and neighbor Fairmount Bagel even got play on the BBC as “Montreal’s bagel war”. When Brooklyn uber-deli Mile End began importing Montreal bagels, owner Noah Bernamoff – a former Montrealer- chose St-Viateur, as the Forward has reported.
The Melbourne troika of established bagel bakeries — Glicks, Haymishe and Aviv — each have a strong following, willing to defend their beliefs to the last poppy seed. Variously a substrate for avocado, vegemite (this is Australia after all), smoked salmon, egg-and-onion-dip, herring or chopped liver, each bagel has been a link in the chain to the Polish heritage of much of Melbourne’s Jewish community.
Until recently, Melbourne’s bagel-belt never had its authenticity questioned. That was until Zev Forman showed up.
“There are bagel places in Melbourne that make really nice bread products that I wouldn’t really call a bagel. They’re too big; too fluffy. They’re basically bread rolls with a hole.”
When the New Jersey native moved with his Melbourne-born wife Naomi to her hometown, he encountered a local culinary deficiency.
I’ve spent hours — possibly even days — worth of my life debating the perfect bagel and where to find it. Questions like these always arise: Who does it better, Brooklyn or Manhattan? Are seeds essential? Are Montreal bagels worthy of our attention? It seems that the quibbles, questions and criteria surrounding what makes a bagel perfect are endless. Meanwhile, newspapers and blogs are playing Game Of Thrones and crowning different bagels king.
But, we might have all been looking in the wrong place. A recent post on the website Food52 declares: “This is a promise — the secret to good bagels is that there really is no secret, other than you don’t have to be anywhere near New York City to have perfectly chewy, fresh bagels for breakfast this Sunday morning.”
The place to look for the perfect bagel is in our kitchens. Food52’s recipe only calls for a handful of ingredients and while, like any bread recipe, it requires some time (for the bread to rest), the promise of a golden, delicious and chewy bagel hot from the oven sounds too good to resist.
Kosher in Paradise is an aptly named new restaurant in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. [YeahThatsKosher]
Feeling ambitious this weekend? Try making your own bagels with a recipe from Rockaway Beach. [CNN Eatocracy]
A hippie staple gets a Passover twist. Matzolah granola, the “Trail Mix of the Exodus,” features matzo in the recipe. [Kosher Eye]
It turns out negotiations are sometimes literally on the rocks at the United Nations. [The New York Times]
As you enter your last year in office, your legacy is at stake. We beseech you to save the New York bagel! When it comes to food, you’ve done us proud so far. You introduced simple letter grades for restaurant cleanliness (thanks for that one) and banned the big gulp and smoking where we eat and drink. You’ve shown respect for our great city’s food and food lovers. In that spirit, I entreat you to consider one final item for your food agenda: Mayor Bloomberg, please save the New York bagel!
When New York’s gastronomic history is written, the bagel will merit a chapter all its own. The Lower East Side was not only a way station for Eastern European Jewish immigrants; it was also the neighborhood that introduced the now-ubiquitous bagel to freedom’s shores. New York gave rise to Bagel Bakers Local 338, the union that quite literally defined the New York bagel until it disbanded in the 1970s. As a figure invested in the cultural life and consumption habits of his city, I trust that as mayor of New York, you realize the bagel’s importance. You must also realize that it has become nearly impossible to find a decent one around town.
In December, the Toronto Star ran a long feature on Motti Sorek’s “transcendent” soufganiyot at Haymishe Bagel Shop, the popular north Toronto shop he and wife Bracha have owned for 30 years. Yesterday, the Star reported on Haymishe again — but in more somber circumstances. The bakery was destroyed by a fire that started Sunday morning.
In November 2006, a four-alarm fire destroyed Perl’s Meat & Delicatessen, one of Toronto’s largest kosher purveyors, on the same block. As the Forward reported in November, the founder of that business launched a wholesale company from the ashes of his original enterprise last year.
There’s been no word yet on what the future of Haymishe will be. The Canadian Jewish News, which called Haymishe a “landmark”, said today that Ontario fire marshals will investigate the fire that took It took 17 fire trucks and 65 firefighters to extinguish. A public information officer told the paper firefighters will not have any information until water is cleared from the basement of the bakery and evidence sent to the forensics lab. “This normally takes a long time,” he said.
Despite its location in a heavily Jewish neighborhood, Haymishe was not a kosher establishment, but it was a staple of the Toronto Jewish food scene.
Neither Sorek nor his wife have commented publicly or on the bakery’s Facebook page, where customers had posted comments lamenting the loss of the bagel shop.
Last week, a new bagelry made a bold move.
A few doors east of the Frank Bruni-approved 72nd Street Bagel on New York’s Upper West Side, Simit and Smith, a shop offering thin Turkish-style bagels called simits, opened its doors.
The company launched its first of 20 stores the same week as a popular article on First We Feast circulated the net bemoaning the decline of the New York bagel.
So could the bagel’s skinny Middle Eastern cousin stand up to the New York original? We had to go investigate for ourselves.
East-coast transplants are elevating the Bay Area bagel. [New York Times]
You can certainly get your fill of best-of lists this time of year. Top dishes of 2012 include bialys from NYC’s Hot Bread Kitchen [Serious Eats], Israeli cuisine [Serious Eats], best Shabbat chicken and homemade pop tarts [Nosher].
A post-New Year’s hangover cure: the kosher prairie oyster. [Kosher Nexus].
There’s a new cookbook about shmaltz! (More details to come soon on JCarrot.) In the meantime check out this first look. [Eater]
Eight desserts for eight nights of Hanukkah. Personally, we love the marshmallow dreidels. [Serious Eats
Some seriously wacky bagel flavors are coming out of The Bagel Store in Williamsburg. Sweet potato bagel? French toast bagel? What kind of schmear goes with that anyway? [Serious Eats]
For a bagel purist, the thought of a bagel burger is far from appetizing. Cream cheese, lox, fried eggs, and sometimes deli meat belong between two halves of a sliced bagel—but not a ground beef patty.
But if McDonald’s were to ever introduce a bagel burger, it would have to do so in New York, home of the world’s best bagel — right? Wrong. The fast food giant has debuted its bagel burger in France, home of the baguette and croissant, not the Jewish roll with the hole.
To add insult to injury, one of the three varieties of “Bagel Stories” they’re offering at McDo (as McDonald’s is popularly known in France) involves slices of — gasp! — bacon sandwiched somewhere between the two bagel halves.
The humble bagel is a staple of Western Jewish culture, but what most of us know about it amounts to little more than a shmear. After all, bagels are generally something we buy, not bake.
This makes the bagel ideal for a hands-on workshop, especially at a restaurant-bakery called Spread Bagelry, one of the few United States outposts for what many people would call the food at its very best: the Montreal-style bagel. It’s never made by machine, boiled in honey water, and always baked in a wood-fired brick oven that’s hotter than yours.
And so last night, about 40 people drifted into Spread in downtown Philadelphia, pumped by the promise of watching the bagel-making process and even attempting to roll their own.
“We’re going to discuss them, we’re going to show you how to roll them, we’re going to show you how we boil them and then bake them. We’re not going to show you the recipe,” Larry Rosenblum told the eager onlookers as his business partner, Mark Cosgrove, stood ready to take the rings of imperfect doughy circles they’d be rolling through the process.
The future of the New York bagel is looking up thanks to efforts by Mile End and Russ and Daughters. [New York Magazine]
Panzanella — a bread and tomato salad — is a favorite summer food. Here, it’s given a Jewish twist — pastrami and rye panzanella. [Epicurious]
If you would rather have your pastrami on rye in sandwich form, check out these delis which Bon App named the best new delis in America. [Bon Appetit]
My last day in London, after a gloriously fattening week of Eccles cakes and Bakewell tarts, was a Sunday. Because it was a Sunday, I naturally required a bagel, per tradition.
Having left for my summer European excursion as an Upper West Sider, I’ll admit that my initial reaction to nearly all of the bagels I came across on my trip was that of interest but with a slightly raised nose. In Berlin and Amsterdam the bagels were dense bread rolls in the shape of a bagel — good but not what I crave on a Sunday morning with shmear. Perhaps I should have spent my energy and time seeking out the best bretzeln and pannekoeken. But, as I traveled westward, towards London, my bagel pursuits paid off.
A quick Google search for “best bagel in London” yielded one place: Beigel Bake, on the bustling restaurant-lined street of Brick Lane, in the once predominately Jewish area of East End. Family owned since 1977, open 24 hours a day, super cheap… bingo! Though I didn’t really have time to make it there and back in time for my flight, I risked it because bad things happen when I don’t have bagels on Sundays. And when I had to slow my sprint down Brick Lane to a crawl due to the massive crowds browsing the food stalls on the street, I nearly gave up.
Is there actually something in the water that makes the classic chew of a New York Bagel the best, or is it all just bragging? [Smithsonian Food & Think]
The world’s first kosher 7-Eleven in Monsey, N.Y. is now serving up Slurpees, snacks, and specialty hot dogs, cooked on a rabbi-blessed grill with a convenient condiment bar including spicy mayo and (what else?) hummus. [Kosher Nexus]
Elevate your vacation reading with these eight fresh picks on sustainable food. [Grist]
Writer David Sax remembers his father-in-law and a shared lifelong love of Jewish food with a bite of babka. [The New York Times Magazine]
Serious Eats weighs in on kosher ice creamery Chozen’s new Chocolate Babka and Heavenly Halvah (dairy-free!) flavors. [Serious Eats]
Pastrami and rye panzanella: marbled meat, toasted bread, and sweet ripe tomatoes mingle in a deli-cious twist on the summery salad [Epicurious]
A new cereal-centric shop in NYC’s Greenwich Village puts the meal in oatmeal with toppings like fresh fruit, toasted nuts, and…gorgonzola? [Serious Eats: New York]
Two hundred years ago, famed philosopher Hegel wrote “The Science of Logic.” Sixteen decades later, Hall of Famer Ted Williams penned “The Science of Hitting.”
Are we now ready for “The Science of Bagels”?
Dan Graf is. While the 27-year-old resident of Oakland, Calif., hasn’t written a book (yet), he definitely is trying to re-write the predominantly steamed, bready and flavorless history of bagels in the San Francisco Bay Area.
And he’s doing it with science.
Graf is the founder and so far the sole employee of Baron Baking, which has been operating in earnest for about seven weeks. Most of Graf’s business is with 26-year-old Saul’s Delicatessen in Berkeley, which jettisoned a relationship with a local upstart Montreal-style bagel baker in favor of Graf’s more traditional New York-leaning style. He is also supplying two other local eateries.
Some of the world’s finest caviar is coming from a kibbutz in Northern Israel. Who knew? [NPR]
The owners of Schmendrick’s bagels are sharing their story and secrets of opening an artisanal bagel company. Last week we shared wtih you the beginning of their story, now, check out part 2 of the doughy tale. [Serious Eats]
The Napa Valley Register is hosting a small kosher wine tasting this weekend followed by an alfresco lunch. [Napa Valley Register]
Yael Krigman arrived at our interview with a bag of frozen chocolate rugelach in hand. Well, almost frozen. “People are always asking me if my products freeze well,” she explained. “I figured I should find out.”
This sort of diligence is the norm for Krigman, 30, who started Baked by Yael, which specializes in bagels and cake-pops as well as deli favorites like rugelach and black and white cookies, in Cleveland Park, a neighborhood in Northwest Washington, DC, about a year and half ago.
The last H&H Bagels store was evicted from its last New York location for failing to pay back rent, the New York Daily News reported.
The iconic bakery outlet on W. 46th Street in Manhattan was chained shut Thursday after owner Helmer Toro failed to pay about $600,000 to the landlord the paper said.
“It’s the end,” Yann Geron, a building official told the paper.
H&H was best known for its location on W. 80th Street on the upper West Side, near famed deli Zabar’s. That shop closed last year, to tears from schmear-lovers.
Sabrina Malach is an inspiring leader of the New Jewish Food Movement in her native Toronto. She is currently the Director of Outreach and Development at Shoresh, a grassroots organization that aims to build a more ecologically sustainable Toronto Jewish community. Having received inspiration from her experiences as an Adamah Fellow and her work at Hazon, Sabrina has channeled her passion and knowledge into new food projects in the Toronto Jewish community. Most recently, she is one of the coordinators of the Shoresh Food Conference coming up this February.
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with her and hear about her work on the Shoresh Food Conference, and how the New Jewish Food Movement takes a Canadian twist north of the border.