One of the perks of our new home is the proximity to the two most widely accepted bagels types: New York and Montreal. The primary distinction between the two is that New York bagels are boiled in barley malt and then baked, whereas Montreal bagels are boiled in honey and then baked in a wood-fired oven.
Recently, we found ourselves with a rare opportunity. My mother sent us a couple of dozen bagels from Zabar’s for our anniversary right before I headed to Montreal to meet up with a friend. We made stops at the two oldest and most widely recognized bagel shops, Fairmount Bagels and St. Viateur to give them a try. Since they were fresh, we did a taste test of the two and the consensus was that Fairmount had the best of the Montreal bagels.
Once we returned home, we could add the Zabar’s bagels into the mix. Zabar’s was clever in framing a bug as a feature by calling their’s “toasting bagels.” By which they mean, that since they are unable to ship truly fresh bagels, they are “designed” for toasting. But beggars cannot be choosers, so we go with it.
Our friend declared the toasted Zabar’s bagel as the best toasted bagel he had ever had, but he still needs to try a toasted version of the Montreal bagels to know that for sure. And as it so happens, we still have some frozen bagels from Kupel’s in Brookline, which are the bagels that David grew up eating. We are still waiting until we get hungry again to add them into the mix.
What about the bagels we can get in Plattsburgh? Our local bagel place, The Bagel Pit, has perfectly acceptable bagels. The texture isn’t quite right (they lack some of the requisite chewiness), but the flavor is excellent. I use pumpernickel as my flavor indicator and they have it just right. In other words, I am not nearly as bagel deprived as I was for so long in Portland.
Speaking of Zabar’s, while my friend and I were in Montreal, we took the opportunity to go see a production of Bad Jews at the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts. I had heard very positive reviews of previous productions from friends, and since this production starred Jamie Elmon of YidLife Crisis fame, how could I not go?
Anyway, the play takes place in an apartment on West 84th and Riverside Drive in Manhattan. And I was very excited to see that the set designer of the production we saw had insured that there was the requisite Zabar’s bag on the counter. There were some additional details that I appreciated, including a Camp Ramah sweatshirt and a copy of Moment magazine. This guy really got all of the details just right.
If you are even slightly culturally Jewish (just being from New York suffices), I would strongly encourage you to go see it. The production in Montreal runs until November 26th and it is very much worth the shlep.
One last note on the bagels: Out of some weird sense of obligation, I purchased a single chocolate chip bagel from Fairmont Bagel to try. In part, because it is even more of a shanda than a blueberry bagel, I felt it needed to make the effort to redeem itself.
Unfortunately we didn’t get around to trying it until the following day. Un-toasted, it was just…weird and wrong. Toasted it was described as “at least having a reason for existing.” In my mind that is no where near the redemption necessary to acknowledge their status as an acceptable category of bagel.