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.
Walking inside from the cold wintery streets of Montréal, where the smell of onions and carrots fill the two-story shul, one can hear Friday night prayers ring out from a boisterous crowd of 20-somethings, excited university students and local community members welcoming the Shabbat Queen. The smells come from the Shabbat dinner last week, which consists of a warm chicken soup with kosher organic grain-fed chicken from a farm located in the Eastern Townships of Québec, a locally-grown bean puree and, “Spectacular Salsa” with local tomatoes, onions, and garlic, a cabbage salad with carrots and beets, and a frittata with mushrooms, onions, and eggs. And that’s just the first course.
Thanks to the Shefa Project, a student-run organization aimed at engaging Jewish people with sustainable solutions to environmental problems, members of the Ghetto Shul in Montréal, Québec enjoy weekly Shabbat dinners that are local, sustainably-grown and kosher. The initiative called Sustainable Shabbat began in 2010, when second year Agriculture student Aryeh Canter started holding educational programs at the Hillel at McGill University. Canter was interested in promoting sustainable practices within the Jewish student community at McGill. The programs became more practical when Canter’s friend Jordan Bibla found organic kosher chicken raised in Québec and they applied for grants from Gen J, a Jewish community grant organization, and the Student Society at McGill University.
It may be hard to believe that for some bagel lovers, New York bagels are not the be all and end all. Not everyone may know it, but Montreal is a big bagel town, too. And now some U.S. cities — New York, included — are serving Montreal bagels on their turf.
“My folks are from Montreal, so I always grew up with a sense of bagel superiority,” David Sax, Jewish food connoisseur and author of “Save the Deli,” told the Jew and the Carrot. He thinks a niche market for Montreal bagel has formed since word got out around the U.S. about them from ex-Montrealers and others who visited the French-speaking city, tasted the bagels there, and loved them.
During the wee hours of a recent morning I was doing quite the opposite of what I was taught to do as a child: moseying through the alleys of downtown Montreal picking things, particularly food items, out of the garbage. I wandered deliberately, winding my way in and out of the alleys behind Rue St. Dominique, the narrow, badly-lit road that backs on Rue St. Laurent, the area’s main drag of shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. In my defense, at least I wasn’t alone.
As recently as six months ago, I had the same aversion to dumpster diving as you are likely having right now. The idea of a fuzzy piece of fruit ― and I’m not talking peaches ― or a half-mushy sweet potato, from the garbage no less, evoked free association with “ick!” and “filth” and “Get that out of my kitchen!” But as I learn more about our food system and revisit some of the Jewish agricultural laws, I’m growing more and more convinced that cutting away the rotten parts of foods that grocery stores discard and using the rest is a great way to get my groceries.
When Torontonian Zane Caplansky was 16 years old, his then-girlfriend, who was from Montreal, introduced him to the smoked meat of the famed Schwartz’s Delicatessen. Caplansky broke up with that girlfriend many years ago, but his devotion to good deli has been abiding. “My love affair with smoked meat has been long lasting,” he declared.
Now 42, Caplansky, who opened his eponymous Caplansky’s Delicatessen in downtown Toronto a year and a half ago, has wedded his name and reputation to his own version of cured and smoked beef brisket. Not to be confused with corned beef (the pickled and boiled brisket for which Toronto is traditionally known), Montreal smoked meat is more like pastrami — the main difference being that the former is made from brisket and the latter from the tougher navel cut.
When I grew up in Toronto in the 1980s and early 1990s, a lot of my classmates in day school were the children of recent transplants from Montreal, and they brought with them nostalgia for the Jewish foods of their home city like Montreal bagels and smoked meat. But I longed for a Montreal food of a different kind — a Montreal smoked turkey at Passover. Heavily spiced and delicious cold, we ordered them from Montreal and they were the centerpieces of our seders. It was a special treat, not in the least because smoked turkey wasn’t the kind of the thing you could make at home (at least not easily).
The tradition started with my paternal grandfather who was in the shoe business. He started receiving smoked turkeys every year from a customer who gifted hams to his other clients but knew my grandfather kept a kosher home (one year, he sent us a ham by accident). It became an integral part of our Passover dinner table and we continued the tradition for many years.
For Sarah Karnasiewicz of the LA Times, borscht is “my family’s edible valentine,” she shares her ode to the dish and several recipes for varieties including spiced mushroom borscht and a white borscht.
Gearing up for Passover, Epicurious wants to know, is “Matzoh, Better Plain or Dressed Up?”
In Florida noted chef Michael Baum is remaking himself and the knish with his gourmet interpretations of the classic Jewish snack, writes the Miami Herald.
Hosting a group of young adults for Shabbat dinner, Rabbi Yisroel Bernath and his wife, Sara, noticed something odd: salads and kugels were disappearing quickly, but the chicken went largely untouched.
When a little post-dinner sleuthing revealed many of their guests were vegetarian, it was all the incentive the Chabad rabbi needed to take his storefront center vegan.
For the 28-year-old Chicago native, whose friends at yeshiva called him “alfalfa sprouts” and ribbed the health-conscious bocher for his blender-buzzed vitamin shakes, the idea of a vegan/organic Chabad house was hardly a stretch.
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