I will defend myself to the bitter, un-toasted end.
June 10, 2015 5:46 PM   Subscribe

The Great Bagel Manifesto: in which J. Kenji López-Alt—kitchen guru, national treasure, and relatively recent transplant to the West Coast—rants about bagels.

(I don't agree with a fair amount of this—caraway seeds on a bagel? Heck, no—and the over-the-top tone is not meant to be taken seriously. But that's also what makes it fun.)

Also, here are his picks in San Francisco and the East Bay. And, while we're at it, his SF pizza picks.

(Kenji previously: vegan ramen, American chop suey, chocolate chip cookies, and, well, do a search if you want. There's more.)
posted by Shmuel510 (180 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes to Beauty's. I still get them toasted though.
posted by vunder at 5:53 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm lucky enough to have a surprisingly good (as in, it could be rotten and people would still go) bagel place around the corner, where the bagels are actually well above average. No caraway on the everything--thankfully, sorry Kenji--chewy, dense, perfect color.

Anyway, I read this when it came out, and while I agree with almost everything, I really don't like a lot of stuff on my bagel. Hell, if it's really fresh, I'd almost rather have it dry. Too much butter or cream cheese really kills it for me.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:59 PM on June 10, 2015


He properly recognizes Montreal as one of the two great bagel cities. My trust in him continues unabated.
posted by maudlin at 6:00 PM on June 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


Have told this story before, am telling it again -

About four years ago, my dear friend from Ireland came to New York for a visit. Now, she and I always have a friendly argument whenever one of us visits the other, concerning who is going to pay for things. She insists on trying to pay for everything when I visit her because "she is the host", but conversely when she visits she insists on paying her own way because "I don't want you to pay for it all, it'd be a fortune". This usually turns into an ongoing debate which goes back and forth and lasts the better part of our time together.

Anyway - the last time she was here we were wandering around Brooklyn; we'd already had a few rounds of her insisting on buying some food, some cereal or something, so she could at least pay for breakfasts; I'd managed to reach a detente by that point, and we were instead sightseeing. And she saw a 7-11 and asked what that was. I told her it was just a sort of convenience store kind of place -"oh, like those shops at petrol stations," she said. Then she said "oh, hey, let's stop in - I could get us some bagels for breakfast, maybe?"

I stopped dead on the sidewalk. "Okay - listen. If you really want to get us bagels, I will give in on that one point. But - I will not, as a New Yorker, allow you to purchase those bagels at a 7-11."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:01 PM on June 10, 2015 [53 favorites]


Dehydrated onion, garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, pretzel salt, and caraway seed are what belong there.

Caraway seeds! Yes! Next batch I make...
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:04 PM on June 10, 2015


Portlanders who have not been to the east coast may be interested to know that the doughnut-shaped bread marrketed in their city as "bagels" are not bagels. And the toasting fetish is here too.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 6:06 PM on June 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


As a kid growing up in the 70s my friends and I would walk to the local bagel store and get salt bagels, still warm, and eat them like pretzels. They were perfection. All bagels since then are lesser.
posted by Splunge at 6:07 PM on June 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


BTW, that was on Church Ave. just off Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.
posted by Splunge at 6:08 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bagels and bacon. The B's of breakfast, and as close to perfection as you can get.
posted by triage_lazarus at 6:10 PM on June 10, 2015


Kenji is awesome as always.

Also, is it just me, or unless you live in a giant, bustling hub of science, technology, and industry can you just not find any decent onion/garlic bagel options?

And don't even get me started on the tragic dearth of salmon/cream cheese options any more...
posted by Samizdata at 6:12 PM on June 10, 2015


I'm torn, because on the one hand it really is distressing that you cannot get a decent bagel where I currently live unless you make it, but on the other hand there's nothing more cliched and tedious than someone who moves from the East Coast to the Midwest and then whines incessantly about the lack of decent bagels. I am trying to forget about the existence of bagels and instead embrace the local foodways with their exotic non-bagel breakfast baked goods. So far I don't think I've been entirely successful, but I'm working on it. I have not used the phrase "that's not a bagel, that's a roll with a hole in it" in at least a month.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:16 PM on June 10, 2015 [22 favorites]


No caraway seeds! Everything else is right though.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:18 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like poppy seed bagels and you can't get them as much anymore because of that episode of Seinfeld. >:(
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 6:21 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've literally never even heard of caraway seeds on a bagel, and my first job was at a bagel bakery. Is that a thing? I basically think of the only acceptable bagel types as plain, egg, salt, onion, sesame seed, poppy seed, pumpernickel and bialy. (I know that people love the everything bagel, but that's just overkill.) Caraway seed is a new one to me. It's not quite as much of an abomination as chocolate chip or banana nut or whatever, but it's not something with which I'm personally familiar.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:22 PM on June 10, 2015


Sourdough. Sourdough bagels are the best.
posted by Dashy at 6:22 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh yay. More food snobbery. It's like, you're not allowed to like foods you like anymore, unless they're prepared exactly a certain way, even if the result is delicious.

Now, excuse me while I enjoy my toasted blueberry bagel with honey cream cheese. :P
posted by Aleyn at 6:23 PM on June 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


I laughed out loud at "Amaranth! That is not an everything bagel. That is a seed catalog."

I give NYC bagels the edge over Montreal's only because Montreal's are a little too sweet for me. I think he's right about the toasting too. If you've got to toast it before serving, then you have a yeast-based hockey puck, and not a bagel.
posted by droplet at 6:24 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


RIP Columbia Hot Bagels

Oh what I wouldn't give to have them back.
posted by borges at 6:24 PM on June 10, 2015


But what about bialys? Will no one think of the bialys?
posted by daisyace at 6:25 PM on June 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


He's completely right about toasting. If a bagel was in the fridge for a few days, toasting makes it warm and crisp again; but if it's fresh enough, it should already be warm, crisp on the outside with a chewy interior. Toasting a fresh bagel makes it just a toasted bagel.

By the way, if you like lox on bagels (you are correct to do so), it's easy to make yourself. Just buy a salmon fillet, rub sugar and salt into it, and refrigerate for a few days. I used this guide (for gravlax, actually, which is essentially lox with dill taste-wise) and ended up with close to a pound of cured fish.
posted by Rangi at 6:26 PM on June 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Poppy Seed > Everything and I will fight you.

But unfortunately 95% of bagels are garbage, granted even a mediocre bagel is a superior bakery item but honestly most people typically think that Einstein Bros or Panera's are about as good as you can get in terms of bagels in most towns. Unfortunately in a huge percentage of the country they are probably right.

I can understand mediocre bagels but I really can't understand mediocre cream cheese where the cream cheese basically squirts out the side of the bagel and you end up wearing a sizeable amount on your face and clothes.

Oh and I kinda like toasted bagels just enough to get the cream cheese kinda gooey.
posted by vuron at 6:27 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


There has to be some kind of journalist award for most contrived analogy, and it should go to this person for that orgy+spanx one.
posted by cellphone at 6:27 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


daisyace: "But what about bialys? Will no one think of the bialys?"

Don't wanna. Still mourning the loss of garlic bagels with lox cream cheese.
posted by Samizdata at 6:28 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


RIP H&H.
posted by gwint at 6:32 PM on June 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


God I miss living in a place with real bagel shops everywhere. The midwest (despite it's pronounced love of bread) can't seem to get bagels right. Even places like Bloomington which was rife with Tri-Staters loved to make tough bready pucks.
posted by Ferreous at 6:33 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd actually never had a bialy until we brought some to my wife's aunt in LA (I'm sure everybody on that flight loved us). Turns out they're great.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:35 PM on June 10, 2015


I'm torn, because on the one hand it really is distressing that you cannot get a decent bagel where I currently live unless you make it

And the worst part is that there is no earthly reason why that should be the case. I make fantastic bagels in my dinky oven in my dinky apartment, and if I can do it any bagel place should be able to do it 10 times better. And don't even get me started on bialys. Even my favorite bagel place that makes the best bagels in town (IMO) doesn't make real bialys. And why doesn't anyone know what a water bagel is anymore?

Before this turns into a rant I really just wanted to say I liked that half the tags were variations on Kenji's name. You should add "lopez-alt" and "lopezalt" and take it over the line!
posted by Room 641-A at 6:36 PM on June 10, 2015


ArbitraryAndCapricious - how does one make pumpernickel without caraway seed ? (Or rye, for that matter). You can't explain that.
posted by k5.user at 6:37 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


how does one make pumpernickel without caraway seed ?

Properly.

Caraway seed goes in caraway rye. It doesn't go in everything made with rye.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:42 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


For the past couple of months, I've been on a quest to find the best bagel in San Francisco.

"I've spent the past few months looking for the best burrito in Vancouver."
posted by mhoye at 6:43 PM on June 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


(Or rye, for that matter).

Rye bread without caraway is the standard in NYC kosher bakeries. It was a source of distress and consternation that I couldn't find any caraway-free rye in the years I spent in Boston.
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:45 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Caraway seed goes in caraway rye. It doesn't go in everything made with rye.

Dem's fightin' words ;)

(I'll concede the pumpernickel has a distinct taste without adding caraway. But rye without caraway is indistinct from whole wheat bread)
posted by k5.user at 6:46 PM on June 10, 2015


I adore Kenji, but his professed love for St Louis style pizza has caused me to seriously question his opinion.
posted by offalark at 6:46 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


This guy would vehemently hate how delighted I was that you could get unusual cream cheese flavors (apple pie! with chunks of apple in it!) in NYC. I will also happily eat all those fruit bagels he hates, and I think the cheese ones make for great sandwich bread once in a while. More tasty fruit for me!

(I did, however, give up on finding amazing bagels anywhere near me; maybe they exist, but I had enough disappointing ones that I haven't tried a local bagel in years.)
posted by tautological at 6:52 PM on June 10, 2015


I grew up in an apparently bagel-less Hawaii. (I never met one till I was ten and we were at a friend of my mom's for brunch one day, and said friend had returned from exotic New York City with a bag of bagels. "What kind of doughnuts are those?" I asked.)

Then we moved to Brookline, MA, where Jaffe's Pick-a-Chick showed me the glory of bagels - plain, onion, egg, or poppy seed. I still miss them.

Everyone can eat whatever kind of bagels please them best. My favorite will always be a good egg bagel. Toasted.
posted by rtha at 6:53 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree that my idea of a perfect bagel is a sesame seed bagel fresh out of the wood-baked ovens of Montreal's St. Viateur (ideally at or after midnight and in good company), so I am in full agreement with him that the perfect time for a bagel is within 30 minute of baking.

I still stopped reading after hitting my food preciousness threshold when he conflated the definition of "perfect" with "good" -- which is a bit disappointing given that Kenji Alt Lopez is the man who popularized the idea of DIY instant ramen, which is a novel way to make mediocre soup.

(full disclaimer: I do a variation of his instant ramen at least once a month for work, and almost all the time when camping. because it's not perfect, but it's good enough.)
posted by bl1nk at 6:53 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


An everything bagel is not the same as an anything bagel. Don't trust a baker who thinks otherwise.
posted by peeedro at 6:56 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


One of the weirdest things about moving to northern Kyoto (the city, not Upstate Kyoto) has been the discovery of Radio Bagel. Leaving aside the fact that they don't quite understand that the point of an onion bagel is that you have to put nearly-dehydrated-but-still-just-moist-enough-to-be-sticky bits of onion on top, they put together a remarkably good plain bagel.

The only other real option for a halfway acceptable bagel is Einstein Bros. six-packs from Costco, and those are, as mentioned, only halfway acceptable (mainly out of desperation).
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:57 PM on June 10, 2015


I do miss everything bagels ever so much though
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:57 PM on June 10, 2015


Toasted bagels are ace. That delightful, dense crunch and then the moderately-melty cream cheese is like a bliss explosion. But my favourite way to have bagels is right out of a cheap bag of the things, a slab of six from the supermarket, and just saw them open with a plastic knife and lay them thick with chunky peanut butter and raspberry jam or honey (and maybe some sliced banana). God-damn that's some tasty bagels. Chow those bad boys down with a big ole mug of instant coffee and just get shit all over the place and hate yourself for hours.

I've never once had a bagel that made me go "wow that's a really good bagel" or "hey that bagel was really bad". Bagels is just bagels - it's what you make of them that counts. Bagels are basically self-responsibility. If you can't take a bagel and make it good, you've got no business being near bagels.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:01 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


you cannot get a decent bagel where I currently live unless you make it,

And if you make it, as I do, you should at least try Peter Reinhart's bagle recipe.

The hard roll still eludes me.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:02 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh god I just realised I have Opinions about bagels, making me officially an asshole.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:07 PM on June 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Some folks also prefer Star Trek to Star Wars. They deserve our condolences and our understanding, but not our respect.

i love you kenji
posted by jason_steakums at 7:10 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Onion is the One True Bagel.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:14 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


water bagel

Well, there's these guys who are using a "proprietary system" to "replicate the natural composition of the water that flows through the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York into the homes of Brooklyn residents."

They've got some woo about "toxins" in tap water, for an added bonus.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:19 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am lucky enough to live right across the street from a family-owned Jewish bakery and tomorrow is my birthday and I guess what I'm saying is, thanks Metafilter, because I'm going to have a birthday bagel for breakfast tomorrow (everything, plain cream cheese, not toasted-- I actually prefer toasted heresy but my poor TMJ can't take it.)

And then down the street to the new coffee shop that just opened less than three blocks from me for a silly romance novel and some fancy tea.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:21 PM on June 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


And if you make it, as I do, you should at least try Peter Reinhart's bagle recipe.

I've been meaning to try this, but I haven't been able to get the high-gluten flour for it. I know you can pull it off with bread flour, but I feel like mine are going to be subpar according to some standard I don't quite understand. They'll come out of the oven, somehow inferior, and a New Yorker will show up just to say "that's not a bagel, that's a roll with a hole in it!" Gosh, we just can't do anything right here.

Anyway, I bought malt syrup and poppy seeds, so that's exciting. Personally, my favorite is the salt bagel.
posted by teponaztli at 7:21 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Toasting is the bagel equivalent of making everyone wear blindfolds and Spanx at an orgy. You may still enjoy yourself, but you'll never really know the quality of what you just tasted.

I think that was the line that settled things for me.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:22 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was ready to roll my eyes at the clichéd pretentiousness of bagel snobbery, but I found this rather charming. Maybe because Kenji and I share the same hatred of fruit-flavored cream cheeses.

As an aside, I tried making his chocolate chip cookie recipe when it was posted here, and I followed it faithfully. The results were good, but I have to say I like the recipe on the Toll House bag better.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:27 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just use bread flour and molasses. But I certainly boil them.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:28 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


In Montreal last month we made the obligatory stop at St Viatuer and now Rosemary and Sea Salt needs to be added to official listing of acceptable bagel flavours.
posted by thecjm at 7:28 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I actually disagreed less with his views on toasting - I like a toasted bagel, but I can see where he's coming from. What I really disagree with is his low ranking of pumpernickel. Pumpernickel is a great bagel. Miles better than egg, and I'd rank it above poppyseed too.

(Also the best bagels in New York are at Absolute Bagel, on 108th and Broadway. You can have that hot tip for free.)
posted by Itaxpica at 7:30 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


In order, the things I will miss about New York when I move next month:
a. Bagels
b. The subway
c. moon hooch
D. How nice everyone is when you need something but then instantly leave you TF alone
E. That's it
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:31 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


The best bagels in New York are at Astoria bagel, 28th and Ditmars. You're welcome.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:32 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm a bagel snob myself but Brueggers isn't half bad. At least my NY and Chicago Jewish relatives have them a lot. And they're half the price of independent places. I guess they don't have them in SF though.
posted by miyabo at 7:32 PM on June 10, 2015


F. Meeting mefites for drinks in Manhattan too. But I won't miss the cheesy Manhattan bars
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:35 PM on June 10, 2015


I used to live 2 blocks from St-Viateur Bagel and have very fond memories of stumbling tipsily home through dark winter streets only to wander a little farther to get a big bag of hot bagels straight from the wood oven at 2 a.m. Montreal bagels have killed my interest in anything I can get in the US, although I've made them at home from an online recipe, and they're actually not bad.
posted by Auden at 7:39 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


New England. We toast corn bread. We toast crumpets. We toast Portuguese sweet rolls. We toast baguettes. We toast pie slices, with cheese on top. We toast leftover oatmeal. I am related to people who in living memory split blueberry muffins the size of a prizefighter's fist from top to bottom, buttered each half, and toasted the christfuck out of that action. I know people who have split and toasted glazed donuts, and they are delicious.

There are rumors of people who toast their toast, and put the crumbled remains on salads as some sort of dark offering to the nethergods of crunchy carbs and the Maillard Reaction.

Hell, yeah your pure and perfect onion bagels will be toasted. Makes the chive-cream-cheese all melty and nice.

Just don' geddem from da Dunkin' Donuts awda Grawssey Staw, you'll be awrigh.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:39 PM on June 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


New York (one of the two great bagel cities in North America, Montreal being the other)

Too bad he screws up the whole article right out of the gate. There is ONE great bagel city and it's Montreal.

Also,bagels should be plain, have sesame seeds, poppy seeds or come in cinnamon raisin if it's breakfast.

"Everything" bagel? Yeah, whereby "everything" you mostly mean non-bagel-ness.
posted by GuyZero at 7:43 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know, the corner delis have some pretty crappy bagels, but I think of those delis of representative of what people in New York actually eat. And people seem to ask for them toasted pretty often. In fact, I don't think I ever heard of anyone eating a toasted bagel with BUTTER before coming to the city. Or toasted bagel with PEANUT BUTTER. Gahhhhh. We may have eaten refrigerated packaged bagels back home, but at least we only ate them with cream cheese.
posted by pravit at 7:44 PM on June 10, 2015


I adore Kenji, but his professed love for St Louis style pizza has caused me to seriously question his opinion.

After hearing Metafilter wax effusively on and on about López-Alt, I took a good look at the Serious Eats website - and found a hefty amount of crappy or even flat-out wrong information on it (including in his own contributions). So now I don't trust any of his opinions.

However, since I personally have never gotten into bagels myself, I'll give him a pass on this one.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:47 PM on June 10, 2015


Kenji López-Alt is a national treasure.
posted by Nelson at 7:49 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I realized that my opinions on bagels were not particularly valid after having lived near the Western Bagel bakery in the San Fernando Valley and unironically consuming some of their day-old bagels. Yes, Western Bagel is to bagels as Taco Bell is to Mexican food (as a Very Non-Orthodox Jewish ex-GF from long ago taught me). However, my greatest bagel-based disappointment was upon receiving a half-dozen bagels via another MeFite from a New York deli with a mail-order service (don't want to say too much but the name starts with a Z) ... they were shockingly close to Westerns. (I still thank ya for 'em, dude; I'm just glad you were passing on a freebie because they were nowhere near worth the menu price) At my current location, the best bagels available are made at Costco with the Einstein's brand on 'em (but it's the same kitchen that makes Costco's famous rotisserie chickens, so I suspect they're better-than-average Einsteins, at least a little, right?).

Still, I enjoy Westerns (especially when they're $2 a half-dozen at Vons/Safeway)... not gonna call 'em "bagels", but they're a step above English Muffins as a cream-cheese delivery device. And pretty good for making a 'full mcmuffin' with a carefully shaped fried egg and large sausage patty (NO american cheese obviously, cream cheese please). And as long as I'm confessing my food sins here, I have also enjoyed Asiago-cheese-covered bagels, 'blueberry' Westerns and cream cheese with pineapple in it (but then, I like pineapple in damn near everything). I also like pumpernickel bagels (hold the caraways), and ("well, what can you expect from a Californian?") sourdough bagels legitimately seem to me texturally closer to 'real' bagels than most other varieties from a 'meh' bagel source. YMMV.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:50 PM on June 10, 2015


I was all ready to hate on this, as I usually do on food snobbo, but a man whose polestar is Columbia Hot Bagels is OK by me. A CHB onion with whitefish salad, that's the real New York. Sorry, newcomers, you missed it.

My wife, on the other hand, preferred Absolute. Because I am a good husband I always walked the three blocks to get her an Absolute bagel after I got my own from Columbia Hot. Because I am a great husband I always made sure she knew she was wrong.
posted by escabeche at 7:51 PM on June 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't understand why somebody hasn't opened a Montreal bagel St-Viateur/Fairmount clone (complete with wood oven) here in Portland. It seems like a natural... as long as they didn't adopt a Voodoo Donuts sensibility and stick cereal and cruft on their bagels.
posted by Auden at 8:04 PM on June 10, 2015


Greg_Ace: "I adore Kenji, but his professed love for St Louis style pizza has caused me to seriously question his opinion.

After hearing Metafilter wax effusively on and on about López-Alt, I took a good look at the Serious Eats website - and found a hefty amount of crappy or even flat-out wrong information on it (including in his own contributions). So now I don't trust any of his opinions.

However, since I personally have never gotten into bagels myself, I'll give him a pass on this one.
"

Citation needed.
posted by Samizdata at 8:05 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or toasted bagel with PEANUT BUTTER.

There's a trick to this. One, you need a whole wheat bagel. Is that a non-starter? Is that not good for you? Go have a cream-egg tonic or whatevs. The resta yas? Split it and toast it.

Because the night before, you got you a big tub of unsalted peanuts from the BJ's Wholesale. Dumped it into the Ninja blender. Add in some kosher salt, and a little drizzle of honey. Pulse-grind the hell out of it! It takes time, but the nuts turn to fine crumbs turn to meal turn to goop. Done. Dump it in washed-out Cool Whip tub, and stash it in the fridge.

It's this grainy paste the next morning. Chisel some out with a butter knife, and it spreads so nice on the hot, toasted bagel, and mmmmmmmmeeeeeelllts into it, becoming this unctuous ooze, and it plays with the whole wheat in ways that are continually amazing.

Top with some thin-sliced banana.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:05 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


oneswellfoop: "I realized that my opinions on bagels were not particularly valid after having lived near the Western Bagel bakery in the San Fernando Valley and unironically consuming some of their day-old bagels. Yes, Western Bagel is to bagels as Taco Bell is to Mexican food (as a Very Non-Orthodox Jewish ex-GF from long ago taught me). However, my greatest bagel-based disappointment was upon receiving a half-dozen bagels via another MeFite from a New York deli with a mail-order service (don't want to say too much but the name starts with a Z) ... they were shockingly close to Westerns. (I still thank ya for 'em, dude; I'm just glad you were passing on a freebie because they were nowhere near worth the menu price) At my current location, the best bagels available are made at Costco with the Einstein's brand on 'em (but it's the same kitchen that makes Costco's famous rotisserie chickens, so I suspect they're better-than-average Einsteins, at least a little, right?).

Still, I enjoy Westerns (especially when they're $2 a half-dozen at Vons/Safeway)... not gonna call 'em "bagels", but they're a step above English Muffins as a cream-cheese delivery device. And pretty good for making a 'full mcmuffin' with a carefully shaped fried egg and large sausage patty (NO american cheese obviously, cream cheese please). And as long as I'm confessing my food sins here, I have also enjoyed Asiago-cheese-covered bagels, 'blueberry' Westerns and cream cheese with pineapple in it (but then, I like pineapple in damn near everything). I also like pumpernickel bagels (hold the caraways), and ("well, what can you expect from a Californian?") sourdough bagels legitimately seem to me texturally closer to 'real' bagels than most other varieties from a 'meh' bagel source. YMMV.
"

In for the Asiago.
posted by Samizdata at 8:05 PM on June 10, 2015


For what it's worth, Zabar's bagels have always been meh. Zabar's does a ton of great stuff, but bagels are not and have never been one of them. People would get the bagels at H and H across the street (which I never liked - way too big and pillowlike, but which had its fans. Legions of them) and then put on schmear from Zabar's, but the Zabar's bagels were always an afterthought.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:10 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


i like murray's spinach bagels with tomato cream cheese when i'm feeling ~*bagel fancy*~ but otherwise just plain or salt with strained yogurt or really thick smetana

or my gramma's bialys but i don't imagine i'll be having those again any time soon alas
posted by poffin boffin at 8:11 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Plain, salt, or onion for me. And every time I go up to Cincy, it's “Why be normal, why be sane, why be easy to explain?”
posted by CincyBlues at 8:15 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Portlanders who have not been to the east coast may be interested to know that the doughnut-shaped bread marrketed in their city as "bagels" are not bagels.

Meh, I used to hear this from some ex-New Yorkers in Portland, but now I live in NYC I think they're full of shit. Most of Portland's better bagel places are run by former New Yorkers (or once removed via Kettlemans) anyway. I'll probably get thrown out of the city for saying this, but I come across shitty bagels in New York all the damn time.

Sure, there are some exceptional places in New York, but the real difference between the majority of bagel places here and elsewhere seems to be frequency -- the volume of bagels people buy here means the stores make them more frequently, which means they're often a bit fresher when you get them. But I've had plenty of good bagels in Portland, and I've had plenty of bad bagels in New York.

I don't understand why somebody hasn't opened a Montreal bagel St-Viateur/Fairmount clone (complete with wood oven) here in Portland.

Tastebud did/does. Not sure if they're still around.
posted by retrograde at 8:18 PM on June 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


The only good bagels are the bagels from that place that just went out of business. Damn, you were so close to being a True New Yorker!

Man, what a bummer. ...eh, I dunno, maybe you wouldn't have been into them anyway. They're an acquired taste, sorta like this new band I like. You won't have heard of them, they're pretty cutting edge...
posted by aramaic at 8:18 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh man. So I grew up in the Midwest, which ordinarily is bagel wasteland, but my family was savvy and fortunate enough to find the one place in the region that makes proper New York-style bagels. (bare minimum, if the dough hasn't been boiled first it is not a bagel.) I've been told by my parents that they gave me bagels to gnaw on while I was teething, and they still have stories of the way my eyes lit up when they finally took me to the shop as an infant. I ended up with a New Yorker's bagel snobbery long before I ever lived in the city.

It's been a long while since I've been back, but looking on their Yelp page, the most common complaint is that they don't have a toaster. Right on.
posted by Wemmick at 8:29 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Screw this guy, I like my warm, crunchy bagels, and I like my warm cream cheese slightly leaking out the sides. If this makes me a provincial Midwesterner then by God, I will bear that title with pride.
posted by schroedinger at 8:47 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


A good Montreal bagel is on a different level entirely. They're dense and sweet. They're incredible. That's coming from a person who would never live in Montreal and who goes out of his way to avoid any unnecessary interaction with it's residents.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:47 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Some folks also prefer Star Trek to Star Wars. They deserve our condolences and our understanding, but not our respect.

totally lost me there, your argument is invalid, bagel dandy
posted by aydeejones at 8:49 PM on June 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Any bagels meeting the author's standards in Seattle?
posted by Joe Chip at 8:50 PM on June 10, 2015


the over-the-top tone is not meant to be taken seriously. But that's also what makes it fun.

It's the new cop-out that everyone's coppin' to! I actually do like these contrarian pissy writeups when I agree with them, heh heh
posted by aydeejones at 8:50 PM on June 10, 2015


his picks in San Francisco and the East Bay.

GODDAMNIT PEOPLE the East Bay is bigger than "Oakland, shading into Berkeley if you're lucky."

(Although sadly I am prepared to believe there are no good bagels further East than Berkeley.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:59 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sourdough. Sourdough bagels are the best.
posted by Dashy at 8:22 PM on June 10


Flagged as trolling. Because you can't possibly be serious.

And as a girl raised in Brooklyn by parents and grandparents on both sides who were born and bred Brooklynites, he is spot on about every single thing except the caraway seeds.

Also, regarding Beauty's Bagels: until very recently, I worked for a Jewish deli that every year goes head to head against Carnegie as Zagat's best deli in the country. As well, some filmmakers from the History Channel just made a documentary about the history of Jewish delis in America, and the movie centers on this deli and my former boss, the owner. He is, in fact, considered America's reigning expert on Jewish delis and Jewish food. In December of 2013, I was visiting Oakland, and he asked me to bring him back a dozen Beauty's bagels, because he had heard so much about them. Which I did. Picked them up on my way to the airport, and handed them over while still a little warm. His verdict? "They're good, but they're not bagels."
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:15 PM on June 10, 2015


Einstein Bros bagels are just fine, deal with it.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:15 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Them's fightin' words.
posted by Wemmick at 9:24 PM on June 10, 2015


(Although sadly I am prepared to believe there are no good bagels further East than Berkeley.)

That's why I started ba.gl, a micro-delivery bagel-sharing app. It's like uber for bagels.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:32 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know those bagels that are in the refrigerated section of the grocery store? They come in French toast flavor. My kids begged me to buy them. They didn't beg me to buy them a second time, at least.

I want to try to make bagels now! Not French toast ones though.
posted by artychoke at 9:35 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


"They're good, but they're not bagels."

What is his take on Montreal-style bagels in general? Because it is a different style.
posted by vunder at 9:56 PM on June 10, 2015




Fuck yeah Beauty's. (I can't wait until Wise Sons is making their own bagels too; if their rye bread and their bialys are anything to go by, they'll be great.)
posted by asterix at 10:12 PM on June 10, 2015


Why do I like onions yet detest onion bagels as gross and insidious in the way they infect every other bagel in the bag with their weird onion flavour? But also find black olive bagels amazing?

And, Bagelsaurus in Cambridge MA.
posted by transient at 10:35 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why somebody hasn't opened a Montreal bagel St-Viateur/Fairmount clone (complete with wood oven) here in Portland.

Tastebud did/does. Not sure if they're still around.


Interesting! They're still around, aparently, although their bagel cart isn't. Looks like they sell their bagels at New Seasons, Pasta Works, some of the local farmer's markets. Anyone familiar with their bagels? There was a vender who sold "Montreal style bagels" at the Beaverton Saturday market which were nothing at all like a Montreal bagel... I hope it wasn't them.
posted by Auden at 10:40 PM on June 10, 2015


Bagels is just bagels

It is impossible to explain how wrong this without resort to multivariable calculus. Bagels from the supermarket? Flagged for madness.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:56 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


High gluten flour ---> all purpose flour + small amount (2 tsp per cup AP) of pure wheat gluten you see next to the weird flours in the baking section. I'm pretty sure it would work on bagels. Go forth and make glutenous bagels.
posted by permiechickie at 11:01 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is impossible to explain how wrong this without resort to multivariable calculus. Bagels from the supermarket?

Bagel elitism benefits nobody. (except maybe New York real estate/tourism boards)
posted by CrystalDave at 11:03 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Einstein Bros bagels are just fine, deal with it.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:15 PM on June 10 [3 favorites +] [!]


Lord, Einstein Bros are garbage. This doesn't even take a sophisticated palate or social posturing, just look at the reaction of average Portlander's to Einstein's promise (and subsequent actions) to "preserve" kettleman's goodness.

Anyway, Tastebud is still alive in PDX, Bowery is quite good, and Spielman is perfectly okay.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:22 PM on June 10, 2015


I am eating a Montreal bagel right now. I have had bagels in most major North American cities, and London. Montreal is a cold, difficult, often Xenophobic city, but the bagels, oh Moses the bagels. Also, fuck St Viteaur, FAIRMOUNT FOR LIFE BITCHES
posted by PinkMoose at 11:50 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


High gluten flour ---> all purpose flour + small amount (2 tsp per cup AP) of pure wheat gluten you see next to the weird flours in the baking section. I'm pretty sure it would work on bagels.

It does. I do this exclusively for all bread baking now because it's cheaper than bread flour. This Mixed Mass Percentage Calculator is a super cool tool that tells you exactly how much of both flour and gluten -- by brand! -- to use to achieve the exact percentage of protein you want for whatever mass you need. I write the formulas on the recipes for future reference. (Thank you archive.org for saving this!)
posted by Room 641-A at 12:17 AM on June 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


In Which J. Kenji López-Alt is a pontificating ass.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:26 AM on June 11, 2015


Honestly, though, I actually like the same stuff he likes in this case, but the whole internet food snob performance persona is less palatable than the worst crimes ever committed against bageldom. Fuck a snoblogger.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:30 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why do I like onions yet detest onion bagels as gross and insidious in the way they infect every other bagel in the bag with their weird onion flavour?

That's a feature, not a bug. Won't fix.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:49 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


tautological: "This guy would vehemently hate how delighted I was that you could get unusual cream cheese flavors (apple pie! with chunks of apple in it!) in NYC. I will also happily eat all those fruit bagels he hates, and I think the cheese ones make for great sandwich bread once in a while. More tasty fruit for me!

(I did, however, give up on finding amazing bagels anywhere near me; maybe they exist, but I had enough disappointing ones that I haven't tried a local bagel in years.)
"

When I worked at Kenny's Castaways I'd go to the bagel place nearby with all the flavored cream cheeses. We'd always drink for a while before going home. You know how hungry you can get after drinking? My trip home on the F train was me eating a huge sesame bagel with olive/pimento cream cheese. And then, very often, a second plain bagel with cherry cream cheese. Since it was 4 or 5 AM nobody was there to see me make a pig of myself. Not that I would have cared either way.
posted by Splunge at 3:47 AM on June 11, 2015


Biscuit Country asks, "What in the hell are y'all arguing about?"
posted by Public Corruption? at 4:05 AM on June 11, 2015


It's probably a five hour drive from here to the nearest decent bagel place, so it's been a while since I had a good one. I've never liked how much cream cheese places load on a bagel -- I always have to scrape off half or more of it to get the right proportions for my taste.

And add me to the people who find a certain kind of internet food snobbery tiresome. It's great to emphasize and discuss artisanship and interesting foodways, but it's also super easy to cross the line into being the foodie equivalent of the guy who stands too close while talking to you.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:17 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I haven't had a really great bagel since H&H closed. There's a real void. The ones at Fairway are okay, but sigh.

Apocraphal story, but my sister swears it's true: when she first moved to a small town in Alaska, she couldn't find bagels anywhere. Most places she tried (and there weren't many places to choose between) had never even heard of them. So the next time she came home for a visit, she brought back a bag of bagels to her favorite coffee shop.

The woman tasted it and said "That would probably go great with smoked salmon."
posted by Mchelly at 4:38 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why somebody hasn't opened a Montreal bagel St-Viateur/Fairmount clone (complete with wood oven) here in Portland.

While visiting Philly, I stopped in at The Spreadery specifically because they billed themselves as a Montreal-style bagelry, and ... well ... it's a decent bagel. Or more specifically, it was a decent NY-style bagel that's been baked in a wood-fired oven. While certainly, the wood fired oven is one of the more important distinguishing traits of the Montreal bagel, it's not the only one. At the risk of being a hypocrite and taking my own turn at highly precious food snobbery, here's a few traits that I'd highlight for anyone evaluating expatriated Montreal style bagels
  1. boiled in honey and water then baked in a wood-fired oven - they need to be sweet and have just a touch of smokiness to them
  2. rolled dense, but still chewy - this is probably the more drastic (and undercounted) difference between New York and Montreal style because it's a significant change to the texture. I sympathized with Bourdain when, on an episode of No Reservations, he went to Montreal and tried a bagel at St. Viateur, and you could see this confusion play out in his face as he was trying to parse what he was eating, and he finally had to conclude, "this is amazing, but this is not what I think a bagel should be." A bit of a copout but perhaps also the best answer that a loyal New Yorker can give.
  3. proudly hand formed - this, honestly, is one of its most endearing traits. Like, every Montreal style bagel is uniquely shaped because none of them are perfectly round. They're kind of squishy and uneven, and you can almost trace how the dough was draped around the baker's hand and where the seam was as they pinched the roll closed.
(though, of course, the best method for education is to go to Montreal and stop at St. Viateur or Fairmount for a bag of a half-dozen fresh from the oven, then cling tightly to that memory)

It, honestly, shouldn't be hard to replicate, but I can see how point 2 could be a risk for a commerical bagelry as it's definitely a departure from what people consider to be a traditional bagel and not everybody likes the denser texture, but I also hope that more places in the States give it a shot, because I think there's space for both, and I'd like to have more options for a Montreal bagel than 6 hour drive to Fairmount or waking up super early on a Sunday and firing up my charcoal grill.
posted by bl1nk at 4:46 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was just reminded of one of my dad's favorite jokes, relevant to this discussion:
A flying saucer lands outside a bagel shop. Two aliens walk in, point to the bagels, and say "we'd like to buy four of those flying saucer wheels, please."

The shop owner says "you mean these bagels?"

"Bagels?" say the aliens. "Those are flying saucer wheels, and we'd like to buy four, please."

"No, no, no," says the shop owner. "These are bagels, you eat them!"

The aliens scoff. Who would eat flying saucer wheels?

The shop owner hands them a couple bagels. "Look, just try taking a bite."

Both aliens take a bite, and one says to the other, "hey, these are pretty good!"

The other alien says "yeah, and they'd go great with lox!"
Thank you, I'll be here all week.
posted by teponaztli at 4:51 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pumpernickel is a great bagel. Miles better than egg, and I'd rank it above poppyseed too.

Yeah, I don't do egg bagels (wrong color; too chewy), and there's no point to poppy (gets everywhere; tastes like nothing), but a pumpernickel bagel is a fine thing, indeed.

I'll probably get thrown out of the city for saying this, but I come across shitty bagels in New York all the damn time.

I'm pretty sure this is one of the points he makes in there; hell, most of the bagels in New York are bad. Which, again, like Einstein's or Breugger's or Dunkie's or whatever, it's utility bread, so fine. Toast it and put some lube on it and get on with your day, but a good bagel it ain't.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:55 AM on June 11, 2015


Why is it so weird to toast a muffin? And really, a lightly toasted bagel is great -- you don't toast a fresh bagel, no, but once they aren't fresh there is a significant taste difference between "toasted bad bagel" and "toasted good bagel". Plus it's better than no bagel.

In conclusions, bagels are good for breakfast and I am going to have one.
posted by jeather at 5:04 AM on June 11, 2015


...it's utility bread, so fine. Toast it and put some lube on it and get on with your day, but a good bagel it ain't.

Ah, ontology, the most insufferable of the philosophical diversions.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:18 AM on June 11, 2015


boiled in honey and water

Not just any water either, it has to be soft (low calcium and magnesium, as is the case for both NY and Mtl tap water) and a little alkali. That's what develops much of texture.

The dough apparently has to rest for quite a while too.

The ACS did one of their explainers recent on bagel chemistry.
posted by bonehead at 5:31 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is impossible to explain how wrong this without resort to multivariable calculus. Bagels from the supermarket?
Bagel elitism benefits nobody. (except maybe New York real estate/tourism boards)

Maybe the Upper-East-Side-versus-Brooklyn crowd are gazing a bit too deeply into their own navels, but if you're telling me with a straight face that a supermarket bagel is even in the same phylum as a fresh crunchy bagel from a bakery that knows what they're doing, then all I can do is offer my condolences on the tragic loss of your tongue.
posted by Mayor West at 5:43 AM on June 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


This isn't really snobbery, though it's played up that way for comedy. Snobbery doesn't demand caraway seeds. It's nostalgia.

Here's the secret: to get a Good Bagel, you must be in the right place at the right time. Specifically, you must be J. Kenji López-Alt. You must be eight years old.

Columbia Hot Bagels must be in business, still. It must have a glass display with exactly eight flavors. If you are asked -- or if someone appears uncertain in line -- you must happily explain your ranking of the eight flavors, from greatest to least Good.

Cinnamon Raisin used to be your favorite, but now you are eight years old. It is still Good, but you prefer Everything.

You must put your hand on the glass. The Everything bagels -- the ones with the caraway seeds -- are still hot from the oven. You feel the heat settling into the glass. Today you want butter.

The bagel must be sliced twice, horizontally and then vertically. Four quarters. You must eat each bagel-quarter with care and attention. You are a serious child.

Each week you come here and each week the bagels are Good. Each week the world outside is a little more complex.

You must reach your last bagel-quarter. You must give it your complete concentration. Everybody knows the last bagel quarter is the best. It is edged in radiance.
posted by jhc at 5:44 AM on June 11, 2015 [24 favorites]


Why is it so weird to toast a muffin?

Toasting a muffin enhances an English muffin's naturally complex texture, provided one is subtle about it. It's practically mandatory!
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:47 AM on June 11, 2015


English muffins rarely have blueberries in them.
posted by jeather at 5:53 AM on June 11, 2015


I grew up in a St. Viateur family so that was that until my teen years. Fairmount was definitely real bagels, but not as good. Then I realized I had friends who actually preferred Fairmount. So much thought went into this. One such friend was born in Vancouver, so clearly simply hadn't formed right opinions yet. Another was Francophone and maybe just didn't understand? Then I moved out to my first appartment in Mile End and started to form more sophisticated theories: St. Viateur was better right out of the oven, but Fairmount was better the next day (a small sacrilege for them to last that long). Maybe the overnight guy at Fairmount was nicer. Fairmount's sign was a little nicer but maybe St. Viateur was more authentic?

I guess the proof is that I don't live in Montreal any more, but it's St. Viateur I think about at 2am.
posted by ~ at 6:03 AM on June 11, 2015


jhc's comment is perfectly stated.

As supporting evidence, I would note this comment by Kenji on the original article, after a great many people called out the inclusion of cinnamon-raisin bagels (emphasis added):
OK, regarding the flak on the cinnamon raisin bagel business, I have two things to say about that:

Firstly, cinnamon raisin was sold in every bagel shop I knew as a kid and obviously only things that existed in my extremely narrow viewpoint as defined by my childhood are important.

Secondly, my wife loves cinnamon raisin bagels with scallion cream cheese therefore according to rule #1 in life (my wife is always right), cinnamon raisin is an acceptable flavor.
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:10 AM on June 11, 2015


" Firstly, cinnamon raisin was sold in every bagel shop I knew as a kid and obviously only things that existed in my extremely narrow viewpoint as defined by my childhood are important."

Our corner bagel shop just closed down - they weren't very good, but they somehow made rainbow bagels, making them by definition THE BEST bagel shop in the eyes of my son and his 6-year-old cohort. There are new bagel shops opening all the time (this is the Upper West Side, after all), but I have no answer on where to go to get him another rainbow bagel. Very hard to explain this to a kid at the age where Rainbow is a flavor.
posted by Mchelly at 6:32 AM on June 11, 2015


If you are in Raleigh/Cary NC, my go-to place would be Manhattan Cafe. It's run by a nice Japanese lady with a Le Cordon Bleu Japan diploma up on the wall who has makes huge crunchy-outside-chewy-inside bagels (and bialys!). They aren't doing as well as I would hope due to Bruegger's across the street but they have regulars, many from up north.

We also have NYBD III, inauspiciously placed in a Wal-Mart Plaza. They are from NY (signed pic of Tony Soprano on the wall lol) and the bagels and fresh cream cheese rock! Some of the staff are pretty cranky by southern standards but oh man .... yum.
posted by freecellwizard at 6:41 AM on June 11, 2015


Why is it so weird to toast a muffin?

it's not, and whoever tells you it is weird is WRONG and must be CORRECTED

i suggest using a 2-day-old bagel in a sock
posted by poffin boffin at 6:42 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


After everything, the best flavors are, in order of goodness:

Salt


GOD BLESS THIS MAN DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO FIND A SALT BAGEL AND NOT HAVE PEOPLE ASK YOU IF YOU WANT A PRETZEL
posted by knownassociate at 6:49 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I never met one till I was ten and we were at a friend of my mom's for brunch one day, and said friend had returned from exotic New York City with a bag of bagels. "What kind of doughnuts are those?" I asked.

Related, and related to my story about my Irish friend - the first time I visited her was in college; so we were both much younger than in my earlier story. At some point we decided to go on a midnight fridge raid, and she kept talking about how they had "Philadelphia cheese" that we could have, had I ever tried it? I had no idea what "Philadelphia cheese" was, but then she pulled the package out of the fridge to show me. "Oh, cream cheese!" I said. "Oh, yeah, I love that, I have that on a bagel for breakfast most of the time."

She frowned at me, puzzled. "What's a 'bagel'?"

....I had no idea what to say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:51 AM on June 11, 2015


Downtown Oakland addresses on some of those bagel shops? In downtown Oakland you wanna get over to Chinatown and pick up a Vietnamese sandwich. Cheaper, tastier, and don't forget to find a juice shop for a mango smoothie to wash it down. Eating bagels in Oakland is like eating Pizza in Mexico. Non-optimal. Would you look for a burger joint in Shanghai?
posted by telstar at 7:01 AM on June 11, 2015


Albuquerque was lucky enough to have a real bagel bakery for a while in the '90s, Fred's Bread & Bagel, which was opened by a young Jewish guy from New York who had Strong Opinions about bagels. I worked there and had free reign of all unsold bagels and loaves. It was heaven. They also sold cold brewed iced coffee, my first encounter with that elusive beverage, and it wasn't overpriced. They even had the occasional punk rock show in the basement on weekends. They sold several ironic shirts which were also official employee uniforms- one said on the back, "If it's not boiled, it's just a roll with a hole."

The business was successful and always busy for several years, but one day the owner discovered The Forum. All the employees were invited to this creepy party with a bunch of Forum people, who all seemed impossibly attractive and ephemeral. I didn't trust anything about it. But the owner of Fred's sure did, and next thing you know, he closed the bakery and moved to Phoenix to be more involved in The Forum- keep in mind this is a profitable restaurant he shut down, not a money pit. In the meantime, Einstein's had opened down the street, which we all had previously mocked as phony corporate bagels on principle, though we had secretly dreaded the deadly creep of bad baked goods into our sacred territory. But when The Forum swallowed up the owner of Fred's, suddenly everyone started going to Einstein's. Some people were so blinded by the sudden lack of authentic options, they accepted and even praised their bagels... which are steamed and come to the store pre-baked, not boiled. No cold-brewed iced coffee. No punk shows in the basement.

This is why I don't trust The Forum. If you like real bagels, you should be wary.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:08 AM on June 11, 2015


Alls I know is I'm gonna be in New York this weekend and I'm gonna eat the hell outta some bagels and bialys.
posted by cooker girl at 7:10 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a Londoner, my views on bagels have been completely altered by working in New York, and I now can't eat the BSOs (Bagel-Shaped Objects) that get sold at home. Like baguettes, what you tend to get is ordinary bread dough formed into a shape and sold as something it just ain't.

But the real eye-opener for me was bialys... a regular weekend trip takes me down to the East Village to buy a bag from Kossar's. I've never found anyone in the UK who has even heard of them, so I guess I'm just going to have to make my own.

Anyone got a good bialy recipe?
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 7:19 AM on June 11, 2015


I am trying to forget about the existence of bagels and instead embrace the local foodways with their exotic non-bagel breakfast baked goods.

This is the correct choice. No bagels outside NYC, no shellfish outside New England (or maybee the coastal south). That way it is extra good when I get to visit those places and indulge. And lord knows, the Midwest has its own specialties.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:24 AM on June 11, 2015


yes but it's in yiddish and also in my storage unit which is very hot and far away.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:25 AM on June 11, 2015


We have Montreal-style bagels. The rest of y'all eat BAGGLES.
posted by Theta States at 7:33 AM on June 11, 2015


Although, actually, is there a Good Bagel J. Kenji López-Alt approved recipe for making at home? Because I'd be willing to give it a try. (I miss bagels sooooooo much and I was in NYC as recently as three months ago.)
posted by likeatoaster at 7:35 AM on June 11, 2015


Salt.
posted by dame at 7:40 AM on June 11, 2015


(Also I did not really like Montreal-style but I think maybe I am more at Bourdain level. They are fine but not what I am jonesing for when I want a bagel.)
posted by dame at 7:41 AM on June 11, 2015


Anyone got a good bialy recipe?

This recipe may not be your bubbie's, but unless you buy them in Brooklyn you'll have the best bialys in your jurisdiction. (Like the recipe note suggests, I do add a pinch or two more salt.)

Rye bread without caraway is the standard in NYC kosher bakeries.

Seedless rye isn't made without caraway, it's made without caraway seeds. Ground caraway still gives it the distinctive rye taste. I make a decent rye bread (seedless -- I hate seeds) but I can't come close to that crackly skin.

is there a Good Bagel J. Kenji López-Alt approved recipe for making at home?

The standard seems to be Peter Reinhart's. You can buy jars of malted barley at Whole Foods. Try it. The worst homemade bagels are a billion times better than almost anything you can buy.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:46 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


The standard seems to be Peter Reinhart's.

That's what I follow. I add a liberal amount of baking soda to my boiling water. Should I be adding a dollop of honey as well?

Also: fried garlic is AMAZING as a topping.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:55 AM on June 11, 2015


I prefer the barley malt. I've used honey in a pinch and it's a little sweeter, but that's just a personal preference.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:05 AM on June 11, 2015


Seedless rye isn't made without caraway, it's made without caraway seeds.

That is indeed what they believe in Boston! I reiterate that it ain't so in NYC.
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:13 AM on June 11, 2015


I've never been to Boston so I believe you. Either way, I have no beef with anyone who appreciates a good seedless rye.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:43 AM on June 11, 2015


(Unless it's a good pastrami.)
posted by Room 641-A at 8:44 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am not from NYC and don't really know from a truly authentic bagel, but even I have felt betrayed by some of the things I've been given when I asked for a bagel. They're gigantic, the texture is strange and way too soft, they have these weird soggy crusts, and/or they're even inappropriately sweet sometimes (!!!).

Those things might be fine if you called them something else, but when you're looking forward to or even just expecting one thing and you get something else entirely, whatever the thing you get is going to seem wrong, even kind of disgusting.

And it doesn't even help to look for "New York style" bagels. That doesn't seem to actually mean anything. I miss bagels a lot, but I've pretty much given up trying to find them.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:47 AM on June 11, 2015


Speaking of Orlando... So my mother seems to have done the impossible, but if anyone could do it, she could. She found a decent bagel place here. It's called Brooklyn Water Bagels. Their web site drips with hyperbole, but the bagels are pretty damn good. And let's face it, almost is better than none at all.
posted by Splunge at 9:21 AM on June 11, 2015


Also, fuck St Viteaur, FAIRMOUNT FOR LIFE BITCHES

I'm going to unleash a maelstrom of hate and say that I'd take a St Urbain bagel from Toronto over anything except one of these two places. The bagel bakery at the St Lawrence Market is really pretty darn good.
posted by GuyZero at 9:23 AM on June 11, 2015


I can't disagree with much about this except for the fact that he puts Montreal bagels as almost an afterthought. They are the One True Bagel, and while New York bagels are certainly excellent and worthy of the name "bagel", they simply are not St Viateur / Fairmount / (insert your choice)

One of my favourite things to do when I was carefree and in my 20's was going to Fairmount at 3am after the bar closed, getting a dozen fresh, warm bagels, cream cheese and some OJ and soaking up all the booze.

After living out west for almost 20 years now, the things I find myself missing the most are the bagels and Boreal Rousse (although it's probably not as good as I remember)
posted by sauril at 9:32 AM on June 11, 2015


The main mystery for me about cinnamon-raisin bagels, apart from the obvious one about why you'd put one in your mouth, is why they are often they're so often the only ones available when late-night shopping in supermarkets. I understand that they haven't sold, because who'd buy, but why do the shops bother stocking them in such quantities when they could have something nicer?

And yes, supermarket bagels. No local alternatives in my bit of north London - the nearest proper bagel shop is a ten minute bus ride away - after the Manhattan Bagel Bakery (run by Russians) closed down. That did acceptable-if-not-great proper bagels, of the sort that were usually warm from the oven and properly doughy and not-at-all-possible-to-stop-at-one-ish. I used to have occasional Bagel Days at work, where I brought in a large number of these bagels and everyone else brought enough fillings to share, and we'd take over the lunch area for a big bagel bash.

But the best London bagel experience was (and maybe still is) in the Brick Lane bagel shop, where you'd repair at dawn after a hard night's clubbing or other misadventure, to queue with fellow dissipates, jovial policemen, taxi drivers and other night denizens to claim your warm torus of total restorative power. I once went there with a girlfriend of the time who was, shall we say, prone to being particular. She stood at the front of the queue and pondered, then said "Onion bagel with poppy seeds, please", to which the East End baker said "Sorry, luv, they're all just bagels..."
posted by Devonian at 9:56 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was fortunate enough to grow up with Bodo's Bagels in Charlottesville, Virginia. Every trip at home begins with a visit to the store to get fresh, hot bagels. Every departure from home to the airport begins with a visit to the store for fresh, hot bagels. I generally don't buy bagels anywhere else (I haven't been to any of the aforementioned locations in this thread - except Einsteins, found wanting).

There is definitely something to finding someone who knows how to prepare a good bagel. I will sometimes give in and buy a supermarket bagel and just spit out, "WAS THIS EVEN BOILED?"

I once stopped in Forrest City, Arkansas, which I had stopped in before as a way station on I-40, a place you only stop at because you're not quite to your destination and need a break or a night's sleep. It's the kind of place where they have mosquito repellent in a can at the check in desk of hotels and swarms of mosquitoes that inspire you to partake (it's rice growing country). But I stopped once, desperate for a bagel with Bodo's still on the mind 24 hours after leaving Virginia. I dashed into a convenience store and politely asked, "Is there anywhere in town to get a bagel?" The attendant's eyes widened slightly, then narrowed just the same, before he said in a slow drawl, "Bagels? Only Jews eat bagels...."

Incredibly, it was really the first time I even thought bagels were identified with anyone of a particular faith. And I thanked him, and walked out slowly, shaking my head, praying for his soul. Every city deserves an excellent bagel place.
posted by Atreides at 11:07 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Most so-called bagel places in the Bay Area I have to order a bagel "with cream cheese and lox"; if I order it "with lox and cream cheese" they think I'm saying "with lots of cream cheese" no matter how hard I emphasize the "x." "Lox" should not be an unfamiliar term at a bagel place. Especially if they have it on the menu.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:09 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Have to add myself to the Montreal pile-on. A great NYC bagel is like the ones you've had your whole life from your local supermarket, perfected. They are the perfect version of an imperfect form.

A Montreal bagel on the other hand is like discovering something exists that you had never even considered.
posted by Cosine at 11:37 AM on June 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Downtown Oakland addresses on some of those bagel shops? ... Eating bagels in Oakland is like eating Pizza in Mexico. Non-optimal.

No, Beauty's isn't in downtown Oakland. Eat a bagel there before writing it off. It's pretty damn good, they have a wood-fired oven in the back. And I grew up with Kupel's in Brookline, MA, so I have a decent bagel pedigree, but was won over by Montreal-style in Montreal.
posted by vunder at 11:38 AM on June 11, 2015


My experience in bagel wasteland has been that what are listed as rye bagels (at places named something NY related!) are just unboiled rounds with caraway sprinkled on top.

This native Angelena is rather fond of Western bagels.
posted by brujita at 11:52 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


My husband is Jewish and grew up in Brooklyn. I am NJ Irish/Polish Catholic and never had a bagel until I met him. (we are old). The only good bagels came from NYC, were small, never ever toasted, and never eaten with butter, only cream cheese and if you were lucky, lox. I pretty much agree with my husband's bagel opinions, except he won't even eat cinnamon bagels and regards them as heretical, whereas I think they are OK. It is still hard to get a really good bagel here in suburban Jersey. We prefer poppy seed or sesame toppings.
posted by mermayd at 12:14 PM on June 11, 2015


There's a local shop or two in Ottawa where we can get a good cinnamon bagels in the Montreal style. I prefer the classic poppyseed ones myself, and sesame ones are apparently the run away best sellers locally, but there's nothing wrong with a cinnamon bagel with hot butter.
posted by bonehead at 12:43 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


A Montreal bagel on the other hand is like discovering something exists that you had never even considered.

That's a great description. And the best part is that if you've discovered bagels in Montreal you've probably also discovered smoked meat. Smoked meat: it's like Corned Beef and Pastrami had a little smoked baby.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:08 PM on June 11, 2015


Room 641-A: On a recent trip to NYC I noticed the number of Jewish delis now advertising "Montreal Smoked Meat!".

(which is neat but not likely to ever be quite right as American beef is different to begin with and American brisket is a different cut than a Canadian one)
posted by Cosine at 1:24 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Despite growing up in a suburb of NYC, all we had were Lenders frozen bagel, thawed and toasted, served with cream cheese. Needless to say, I didn't understand the appeal until I had my first real bagel, in NYC at my first post-college job. When I told my native friends "wow, this is actually good, not the lumps of stale cardboard I'm used to," they dragged me up to the Columbia area and we visited a couple of the better places. Nowadays, 25 years later, I'm in northern VA, and when I want a good bagel, I tend to make my own. Locally, it's a bagel desert.
posted by Blackanvil at 1:26 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait, you guys don't have smoked meat either? What are you putting on your smoked meat on rye sandwitches?
posted by bonehead at 1:34 PM on June 11, 2015


My neighborhood in Portland just got its own bagel shop (and the bagels are halfway decent...hooray!). The bagels are advertised on their menu as being boiled. At first I thought "Really? They have to advertise that?"

Then I remembered all the bread rolls masquerading as bagels I've had here in the past ten years...
posted by medeine at 1:38 PM on June 11, 2015


I agree with Kenji on most of this, and I think a lot of it is context-based -- we both grew up in the NYC of the seventies and eighties and early nineties in parts of town that seem like they had similar kinds of bagels/bagel culture.

I am right there with him about toasting. I'd never even had a toasted bagel until going away to college upstate. I didn't understand why you'd want to adulterate something that was in its purest and most beautiful state. (I am not as much of a food rockist as I sound, but that was my thought process. I thought toasting bagels was one of those weird things that only goyim did, like thinking mayonnaise was edible in anything but tuna salad.)

I do really like caraway seeds! I suspect people who hate them just aren't used to them, because there's no comparable flavor in the American diet. It's a very specific Russian/German kinda vibe. To me, if they're not in rye bread, the rye bread feels incomplete. It's an appealing sourness for me -- Eastern European cuisine sometimes relies on a certain flavor vocabulary that doesn't translate over here, hence why it's so hard to get a proper goddamn full sour garlic pickle in the United States. I cook with caraway seeds when making cabbage or other potentially stinky cruciferous vegetables -- they actually mellow out the gaseousness.

And cinnamon raisin is one of those weird anomalies -- New Yorkers hate fruity/sweet bagels but for whatever reason, cinnamon raisin is so strongly entrenched in the bagel canon for people who are at least Gen-X age that it often gets a pass out of a sense of propriety. I like them and I find them a good companion to meat, the same way tagines rely on that marriage of savory and fruity and often in Chinese cooking you'll see cinnamon and anise mingling with meatiness.

I think the only thing I disagree with is the amount of cream cheese -- I grew up disliking "creamy" foods so it was an acquired taste, and even now I only want just enough to lubricate the bagel. (Yes to cutting them in quarters -- it's the dignified and humane and menschy way to do it.)
posted by mirepoix at 3:33 PM on June 11, 2015


Any bagels meeting the author's standards in Seattle?

Not sure about the author's standards, but I like Eltana and Bagel Oasis.
posted by hades at 3:54 PM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Salt or everything, from Bagel Gourmet in Providence.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:09 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


no shellfish outside New England (or maybee the coastal south).

That seems weird, given how many other coastlines there are with great shellfish. (Being suspicious of seafood when you are far from the sea, however, makes total sense.)
posted by Dip Flash at 8:03 PM on June 11, 2015


Authentic Bagel Company (which also isn't downtown)? No, no — not worth the trip. Certainly not worth getting there on a weekend morning before I do and thereby causing them to sell out. Definitely not worth trying their vegan bagel dog. And their everything bagel? Terrible. Don't inflict it on yourself.

No need to thank me. Just an Oaklander looking out for your wellbeing.
posted by Lexica at 9:47 PM on June 11, 2015


I also want my bagels cut in half vertically.

That's when I couldn't decide if the article was parody or not. So I stopped.

Arguing about bagels is like arguing about hamburgers, pizza, burritos, or hot pockets. "No, the Ranch flavored Hot Pockets are the best!!!"

A bagel is like 300 calories of nothing. Nigh worthless.

Eat real food.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:00 PM on June 11, 2015


More bagels for everyone who likes bagels. Mr crankypants there can lecture all he wants while not eating our delicious bagels!
posted by rtha at 10:20 PM on June 11, 2015


Also, mrgrimm, you'll be happy to know you've inspired me. I've been low-carbing it for a couple years, and I like it and it works for me; it's been quite a while since I had a bagel. But tomorrow at work is bagel day, and I'm gonna have a bagel! They're not the best bagels ever, but they're fine, especially toasted, and I have some lox, so I'll bring that in and raise my toasted bagel and lox to you!
posted by rtha at 10:27 PM on June 11, 2015


The problem on the West Coast is not bagel frequency. The problem is they don't goddamn boil their bagels.
posted by corb at 11:19 PM on June 11, 2015


Western and several other indie places do.
posted by brujita at 12:55 AM on June 12, 2015


Western Bagel - since the day I was old enough to eat solid food. Boiled. Chewy. When we were kids, the bakery on Sepulveda would give us littles tiny bagels for free. Western (egg bagel) for life.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:56 AM on June 12, 2015


The problem is they don't goddamn boil their bagels.

A non-boiled bagel is just a donut-shaped bun. It can be good, but it has no more right to be called a bagel than unsmoked gas-grilled pork has to be called barbeque. People do it sure, but it's wrong from a technical standpoint.

Boiling the dough, then cooking (in a wood oven preferably) is the thing that makes a bagel a bagel.
posted by bonehead at 8:19 AM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Arguing about bagels is like arguing about hamburgers, pizza, burritos, or hot pockets. "No, the Ranch flavored Hot Pockets are the best!!!"

A bagel is like 300 calories of nothing. Nigh worthless.

Eat real food.
posted by mrgrimm


I usually don't take this kind of thing too seriously, but as the Brooklyn-born, Jewish, daughter of a Pole I find it really insulting that you would take this traditional Polish-Jewish food, with hundreds of years of history, and dismissively compare it to a goddamn Hot Pocket and claim it is not "real" food.

Bagels are flour, water, and yeast. AKA bread. AKA The staff of life. Tens of thousands of years old. It doesn't get more real than this, even if you can't personally justify the calories. It's like, is pita not real food? Are tortillas? I mean, huh?
posted by Room 641-A at 8:35 AM on June 12, 2015 [15 favorites]


Don't worry about carb haters, let them eat meatloaf cake.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:48 AM on June 12, 2015


Bagels are flour, water, and yeast. AKA bread. AKA The staff of life. Tens of thousands of years old. It doesn't get more real than this, even if you can't personally justify the calories. It's like, is pita not real food? Are tortillas?

In my head The Battle Hymn of The Republic is playing behind you as you say this and you're standing in front of a flag with a picture on it of a sheaf of wheat poking through a hole in a bagel.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:43 AM on June 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


I also want my bagels cut in half vertically

Pistols at dawn, sir.

I have come to the conclusion that the only way to obtain a bagel that has been sliced ONCE - not TWICE - is to specifically and pointedly state that I do not want my bagel cut in half, at all. Sliced yes, bisected, no. It is not possible to hold and eat it with one hand if it has been bisected. I made it through college with a coffee in one hand and a bagel in the other (and a second bagel in my pocket to stay warm until I finished the first). And then my favorite bagel place closed*, and the bastard Breugger's that replaced it started toasting AND bisecting every bagel without even asking if this is what I preferred first!! And to add insult to injury, they somehow decided that asking for lox meant I wanted a "sandwich" that would necessitate tomato and capers and lettuce and a $5 markup for $1 worth of lox. There is literally no way to order a bagel with lox unless you pay for a $6 "sandwich" and then ask the poor bastard behind the counter not to put anything on it except the salmon, all the while feeling like the entitled, picky asshole who comes into a burger joint and orders a burger sans meat patty or something. I mean, what the fuck, Bruegger's, how can you pretend to sell bagels and not have lox - plain, ordinary, lox - as a topping option? It's like you're a pizza place but you refuse to sell one with pepperoni on top.

*To be more accurate, my favorite bagel place, Bagel Fragel, didn't close so much as it was run out of business by Bruegger's. They were a bit... lax, I suppose, in their catering philosophy, so when Bruegger's showed up people stopped ordering from the 'Fragel, because Bruegger's would deliver on time, every time. That hurt them. But as a poor college kid I could hit Bagel Fragel with a $5 in my pocket and leave with two bagels plus a large coffee, including cream cheese, and often with one of the "experimental" flavors they seemed to create just for fun. They made them fresh and they were usually hot even late in the day, you could see the big pot for boiling them through the kitchen door, and their sandwich options were fantastic (RIP Groovin' Reuben). Then Bruegger's happened, as one of the first salvos in what became the McDonaldization of the campus main drag... small, unique places out, corporate franchises in, and while we older folks were distraught the younger kids were too dumb to realize what they were losing and were just happy they could shop at the Gap between classes without driving to the mall. Bruegger's was smart about it, albeit ruthless. They kept pace with the Bagel Fragel hours and prices until the store went under, then doubled the bagel cost and cut their hours, because who wants a bagel after 4 PM right? Salt in the wound, more than 15 years ago now, but it still stings. There's still a Bagel Fragel alive in Ann Arbor, and it isn't exactly the same store but it has about the same menu. I'll stop if I can when passing through, but it's like visiting your aunt when you miss your mom... pretty close but just not the same.

God damn it, now I want a bagel.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:55 AM on June 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


The best bagel is the Pickle Bagel, where you get a salt bagel with dill cream cheese.
posted by lauranesson at 1:23 PM on June 12, 2015


Now the word "bagel" looks really weird to me, even though I'm pretty sure I spelled it right.
posted by lauranesson at 1:23 PM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Western Bagel - since the day I was old enough to eat solid food. Boiled. Chewy. When we were kids, the bakery on Sepulveda would give us littles tiny bagels for free. Western (egg bagel) for life.

Western is okay in a pinch but I still find their bagels too soft. There's no bite to them. I like bagels (and bread/crust in general) where your jaw has to do a little work. And toasting doesn't have the same effect -- you get the char without the complex blistery crackle.
posted by mirepoix at 1:01 PM on June 13, 2015


Also, literally anything you can eat that isn't poisonous is "real" food. Doesn't matter if it's nutritious (and even if nutrition has a scientific basis it's still a construct and a value judgement).
posted by mirepoix at 1:06 PM on June 13, 2015


but paleo
posted by Burhanistan at 1:22 PM on June 13, 2015


I can't shake the discomfitting suspicion that some of you people probably pronounce it "baggle."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:58 PM on June 13, 2015


I pronounce it "puggle."
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:29 PM on June 13, 2015


Natch
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:44 PM on June 13, 2015


buh-JEL, duh.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:06 PM on June 14, 2015


This seems like a good opportunity to insist that the plural of bagel is bageln.

Bageln.

Yep. You know damn well I'm right, so let's do this thing.
posted by aramaic at 8:57 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


베이글
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:17 PM on June 15, 2015


« Older Bad Art   |   Mac or PC? Coke or Pepsi? Peanut butter first, or... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments