Avocados and burritos be warned: bagels (yes, bagels) are hitting Oakland by storm. In just the past two years, Oakland has seen four independent bagelries open their doors, to much success. And demand is only growing (these are the people, may I remind you, who waited for hours in the balmy rain this past March for just a bite of a freshly fed-exed New York bagel).
At first, it seemed an unlikely pairing — breezy, light California cuisine with the dense, nutrient-deficient Jewish bread of my youth. But, after allowing the San Francisco sourdough starter dough to fully permeate my taste buds, and (begrudgingly) accepting the more compact (read: too small), I’ve started to get quite a kick out of these California not-quite-bagels.
It is quite amazing actually — these Cali bagels manage to be somehow both overwhelming in their density and mouth-feel, yet also underwhelming in their flavor and size. Which isn’t to say that they are explicitly bad, just somehow lacking something. The grittiness of New York, perhaps? But, I’ll take what I can get. Especially on those homesick weekend mornings, when the sun is shining a little too brightly and people are smiling a little too happily for the anxious New Yorker in me to bear. So I present you with the four best home-made bagel spots Oakland has to offer.
New York is having an appetizing moment.
And down the street, a pair of newcomers are throwing their hats in the bagel ring with an honest-to-God appetizing shop, bagel bar, and sit-down deli on Little Italy’s western fringe.
Baz Bagel and Restaurant is the brainchild of two restaurant veterans who both live nearby. David Heffernan waited tables at legendary lox emporium Barney Greengrass for eight years while Bari Musacchio managed local Italian hotspot Rubirosa. The two became friendly through Musacchio’s weekly pilgrimages to the Upper West Side for bagels and smoked fish.
“We used to joke that we lived a block apart, but only saw each other on 86th Street,” Musacchio told the Forward the day before Baz’s official opening. They’d also commiserate on the lack of decent breakfast options below Houston Street. “Once we got to know each other, we always talked about opening our own place. And then this space opened up.”
Bagels fresh from the oven at Black Seed Bagels in New York City.
It’s impossible to deny: The New York City bagel has gone downhill.
The once small, chewy and crisp bagels have been transformed into bloated overly airy and stale versions of their former selves. While several young cooks took up the call to revive the Jewish deli — smoking their own pastrami, baking their own rye bread and pickling their own cucs — the bagel languished. It was left out in the cold for mass marketers and producers to co-opt and morph into something that would be unrecognizable to the hundreds of bagel merchants that once dotted the Jewish Lower East Side.
Fortunately, two bagel devotees — Noah Bernamoff, the owner of Mile End Deli and Matt Kliegman of The Smile — have banded together to restore the bagel to its former glory at their new Manhattan shop Black Seed Bagels, which opened this morning.
“Matt and I have been lamenting bagels since Hurricane Sandy,” explained Bernamoff. So in October they leased a space on Elizabeth Street, down the block from Kliegman’s apartment, and got to work on developing a recipe with bakers Dianna Daoheung and Rob Rohl.
The now sadly shuttered H&H Bagels. Credit: Wikicommons
There are many things I can live without — New York bagels is not one of them. They are my desert island food.
I’m a sixth generation New Yorker who moved to London in 1996. My plan was to stay three years. One man and a few sporadic years back home later, I am still in London. What remains firmly from New York are cravings: for real pizza, morning dim sum, the cheese counter at Zabar’s, 24-hour coffee shops (They don’t exist here.), bialys (Ditto.) and good, crusty, everything bagels with a schmear of garlic cream cheese.
They don’t speak “bagel” in England.
Ask a Londoner where to get a bagel, and you’re likely to be sent to Brick Lane. If you’re an expat New Yorker in London, caring local friends will bring you bags of Brick Lane beigels. That’s how they’re spelled here: beigel, not bagel.
On Sundays, Brick Lane is Tourist Central, with rows of tables and open warehouse spaces turning the street into an open-air market where you can buy almost everything from an old Rolleiflex camera to a fresh egg-custard tart studded with berries. Walk away from the market, and you’ll reach two beigel shops. In New York, people would cheerfully argue about which one is better. In London, people queue in foot-shifting silence, noses down over mobile phones, fingers busy with texting.
Seanan Forbes missed New York City bagels so desperately that she spent weeks and pounds of flour developing a recipe to sate her craving. Read her story here.
For the dough
2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon light brown sugar (or honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, malt syrup)
1½ teaspoons sea salt
1½ cups warm water (approximately 105 degrees Fahrenheit)
¼ cup finely ground oatmeal
2 tablespoons of olive or sunflower oil (optional)
1 cup whole wheat flour 2 ½ cups white flour, plus more to add while kneading
For the water:
2 tablespoons malt syrup
2 tablespoons sea salt
1½ tablespoons baking soda
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons water
For the topping:
Your choice: kosher or coarse sea salt, smoked sea salt, garlic flakes, onion flakes, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, sea salt and cracked pepper. For “everything” bagels, mix poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sea salt, onion flakes, and garlic flakes.
For the tray:
Photos courtesy of Meesha Halm
You can take the New Yorker out of New York, but evidently, you can’t take the kvetching out of a New Yorker. Big Apple transplants have long lamented that you can’t get a good bagel in the Bay Area (or a decent slice of pizza for that matter). While San Franciscans have come to embrace their Californicated version of pizza, not so with bagels. Despite a spate of artisan bagel shops that have recently opened in the Bay Area (including Authentic Bagel and the now-vanished Schmendrick’s), none seem to pass muster with true bagel snobs. Which explains why several hundred carb-craving hipsters waited nearly two hours in the rain outside of a bar in San Francisco’s Mission District last month, in the hopes of sinking their teeth into day-old bagels flown in from Manhattan. And why, next weekend, on March 15th, when the bagel-focused pop-up Eastside Bagels is slated to return locals are bracing for more bread lines.
If it seems like a big marketing ploy, well it was. Sort of. The bagel-focused pop-up, dubbed Eastside Bagels, is the brainchild of Sonya Haines, an online marketing consultant for tech start-ups who teamed up with Wes Rowe, a local chef who runs Wes Burgers pop-up. Haines isn’t a New Yorker, but spent a few years living there and, like many others, missed its bagels when she returned to San Francisco. Recognizing an untapped business opportunity, she bought the domain name nycbagels.com and hatched the idea of launching a subscription-based bagel box, banking on the assumption that San Franciscans would deem any New York bagel (even a day-old one) better than anything they could get locally.
The duo decided to test-drive their idea with Eastside Bagels, a New York deli-inspired pop-up brunch. The word spread quickly, helped along by social media and the promise of Russ & Daughters bagels. “Our original plan was to order 80 bagels,” Rowe told the Forward, “but as we watched the reaction on our Facebook page, we increased it to 120.” Rowe crafted a menu that showcased the overnighted bagels, revived on a flat top and slathered with a choice of flavored cream cheeses (plain, charred scallions-garlic, jalapeno, olive) for $6, or made into open-faced sandwiches topped with lox, pastrami or poached egg, which sold for $10. There was even an oh-so-very-Californian vegetarian option featuring crispy kale, avocado and caramelized onion slaw. Not surprisingly, the everything bagels topped with plain cream cheese were the first items to sell out.
Montreal and New York bagels have long been in a standoff. Will Black Seed, a new bagelry that plans to combine the two recipes end the feud? Photos courtesy of Mile End and Flickr
When Mile End opened in Brooklyn four years ago, the Montreal-inspired deli made a name for itself by trucking bagels weekly direct from the mothership — the hallowed St. Viateur Bagel in the eatery’s namesake neighborhood.
Now, Mile End founder Noah Bernamoff will source his bagels a little closer to home. He’s teaming up with restaurateur Matt Kliegman of hip Nolita café/general store The Smile to open Black Seed, a defiantly old-school bagel shop at Elizabeth and Spring Streets in Manhattan.
Black Seed’s opening is part of a wave of sit-down bagel and appetizing shops coming to Manhattan and Brooklyn this spring. Lower East Side mainstay Russ & Daughters is expected to open a full-service café shortly, and seating at a new location of Brooklyn smoked-fish emporium Shelsky’s is slated to debut after Passover.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Bernamoff told the Forward. “It’s been reinvented a few too many times in the wrong direction. We’re trying to take it in reverse, to a more essential place. It’s not about introducing new and groundbreaking concepts into the canon of bagel-making. It’s just about trying to bake an amazing bagel.”
Black Seed’s bagels may surprise fans of Mile End, which has built a rabid following by rebooting Montreal classics like smoked-meat sandwiches and poutine. While boiling bagels in honey and baking them in a wood-burning oven a la Montreal, Black Seed will unveil a hybrid that draws on both Montreal and New York bagels.
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]