This is a tale of two cities, each with a venerable Jewish culinary legacy that claims boasting rights to the world’s best bagel. Until now, these parallel universes have existed at a safe distance. But Mile End – a new Quebecois-style restaurant opening next month in Brooklyn - will bring the long-standing New York/Montreal bagel standoff to a head. In preparation, I consulted the experts about which “roll with a hole” steals their hearts, and their stomachs.
Read what they said below – and for more on Mile End, check out my article in Edible Brooklyn.
TEAM NEW YORK
“Smoked salmon tastes good with everything, but a real, old-fashioned New York bagel is lox’s ideal match. Our bagels are water hand-rolled and boiled before they’re baked so they’re crispy on the surface and chewy inside – the definition of a perfect bagel.
- Herman Vargas, Manager 29 years at Russ & Daughters in NYC
“…no city, perhaps in the history of the world, is so closely identified with a breadstuff as New York is with the bagel. Whether eaten plain or with a “schmear” of cream cheese, with whitefish salad or a slice of Nova, with sesame seeds or salt, toasted or untoasted, by Jew, gentile, Muslim, Buddhist or agnostic, the bagel has, for more than a century, helped define breakfast in New York.”
- Ed Levine writing in The New York Times Dec 31, 2003
“New York may have many gastronomic wonders, but in the bagel department, it’s challenged. New Yorkers who consider those giant, fluffy hockey pucks manna from heaven haven’t tried a warm, thinly-rolled, sesame-crusted (and not merely dusted), sweet Montreal bagel.”
- Lara Rabinovitch, editor of CuiZine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures
“The “everything bagel” seems to me the quintessence of New York bagel hubris – about as tasteful as Wonder Bread. Not so the delicate and subtly sweet Montreal bagel, which comes in only two varieties: sesame and poppy seeds (the taste derives from the dough; no need for fancy toppings). As my Zayde once explained to me, the Montreal bagel is better because it’s made with more love, sweetness and patience than New Yorkers have to spare.”
- Professor Alan Nadler, Harvard University
“I happen to be a New York snob and generally assume everything is better here, but that’s not what I’ve found with the bagel. The New York bagel of my childhood was wonderful – sweet and chewy – but it’s rare to find one like that anymore. Montreal captures the taste of the bagels I remember.”
- Sharon Lebewohl, co-owner of 2nd Avenue Deli
Bagel photo credit: Epicurean Life