November 8th, 2017

Montreal bagels

A while back I sang the praises of the Montreal version of the pastrami sandwich, sampled on a recent visit to that city. Sublime.

I’d heard similar over-the-top praise for the bagels there. Now, bagels are one of those things that come in many different styles, and unfortunately their extreme popularity has led to the proliferation of a sort of cakey soft type in the US rather than the chewy toothsomeness of the original (and best!) kind. Even in the fairly Jewish city of Los Angeles, the softish cakey kind are pretty much the only kind you can get—or the only kind I’ve been able to find.

Bagels have also grown remarkably in size, like so many modern food items.

So I was looking forward to the Montreal version, rumored to be authentic and authentically modest in size. After walking about five miles to get to the very best bagel place in the city (don’t remember the name), I was initially encouraged. They looked good; they looked right. And the method, boiled and then baked, was correct. But they were cakey, like most US bagels in supermarkets, albeit with a hard chewy crust and a nice irregular shape, and not swollen to gargantuan proportions like so many modern-day bagels. They were also sweetish.

Bummer. I threw the remainder of mine out.

Anyone had a good bagel lately in Montreal? Or anywhere?

41 Responses to “Montreal bagels”

  1. miklos000rosza Says:

    I used to love bagels, either garlic or poppyseed,, fresh every morning here at Kornblatt’s delicatessen in NW Portland, but the last time I had one a few years ago it broke off one of my teeth, and I had to undergo expensive dental work soon after. I still love bagels in theory but am not really tempted in practice. Once a habit is broken, it’s hard to re-establish.

  2. John F. MacMichael Says:

    Yes, Kornblatt’s does a very respectable bagel. I used to have a shop just across the street from them and their bagels were one of my go tos for a quick lunch.

    Nowadays I have a bagel as a weekly treat on Saturdays. I buy lox from The Smokery at the Farmers Market (Michael and Rhona Jacobs do some amazing things with smoked fish). Then, because nobody at the Market is currently offering good bagels (one vendor does sell a gluten free version that I would have to be very hungry to eat), I go to New Seasons over on NW Raleigh for bagels. They carry the fine product of Bowery Bagels. I take a couple of them home and my girlfriend turns them into gourmet delights with cream cheese, lox and fresh herbs.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    John F. MacMichael:

    You are making me very very hungry.

  4. Cappy Says:

    Bialys. Cleveland.

  5. parker Says:

    We have a neighbor who creates excellent bagels, as good as Zabars n NYC (yes we have been to NYC). She makes them on every Saturday for pickup in the afternoon. We order the onion bagels and pig out with her bagels Sunday and Monday. Great bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon are a real treat. She also makes a great loaf of black olive bread on Fridays. Missus parker is a great baker, but when it comes to bagels, we go with the pro.

  6. Frog Says:

    For me, there is no such thing as a good bagel. A fresh, fork-split, toasted English muffin slathered with butter beats it hands down.
    When I eat lox and bagel, I don’t eat the bagel. I like my lox on European-style (dense) pumpernickel, with butter, sliced onion and capers.
    There is something fundamentally odd about boiling dough, then baking it, to achieve a bagel. Any other dough treated thisaway?

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Frog:

    My guess is that you have never actually had a good bagel.

    But far be it from me to try to force bagels on you!

  8. Gringo Says:

    I made bagels once. I found them tasty, but decided they weren’t worth the trouble.

  9. Stephen Ippolito Says:

    Afraid I can’t assist on this one, Neo.
    Nor, I suspect, could any of my countrymen or women – unless they have gone the full expat route and have lived in North America.

    I have managed to make it to my early 50’s without ever having tasted a bagel – not because I am not adventurous but because I can’t recall ever having seen one in a shop or on a menu anywhere.

    I even had to look up lox just now.

    Small items like this serve to remind us that despite all that the english-speaking peoples of the world may share in common, there are still many differences. And long may that be so.

    Because I respect your opinion, I will now search for some bagels based on your recommended criteria, (chewy: not “cakey”).

    I suspect that because it is our most European city in taste and style, Melbourne would be the Australian city most likely to stock bagels of quality, or at all.

    Still, I take solace that, though deprived of bagels, I have had the privilege to be raised on our own unique and delicious national pastry, The Lamington https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamington

    Also, my nationality ensured that I was raised on our remarkable national condiment, Vegemite, thus ensuring that I took in an entire year’s recommended intake of salt with each slice of breakfast toast each morning.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegemite

    Gross-sounding but delicious – even on a bagel!

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    Gringo:

    Trouble? What trouble are bagels??

  11. TommyJay Says:

    We’ve had a group of three bagel shops in our CA coastal community, founded decades ago by a NY Jewish family. I thought the bagels were excellent though I didn’t really have a reference. I believe they do or did comply with Neo’s standards.

    A few years ago they sold out to an Asian family perhaps from San Jose. The prices went up but the quality is very nearly as good as before. Interestingly, they now have a competitor that I haven’t tried.

    My faves are sesame, cinnamon raisin, and onion; and super seed and poppy seed are OK. My wife likes pumpernickel. I used to work for the Navy and recall the officers warning each other to avoid poppy bagels. They could fail their drug test.

  12. CV Says:

    Our neighborhood has a block sale every year, the highlight of which is homemade bagels created by a neighbor. I am obsessed with these bagels, which are far tastier, and chewier, than the stuff I am used to grabbing at the Einstein’s or Bruegger’s bagel chain stores near my office. One year, an elderly neighbor (across the street from the bagel house) sold homemade jam and combined with the homemade bagels, I thought I died and went to heaven.

    As a cradle Catholic living in the Rust Belt, I am woefully uninformed about what makes an outstanding bagel. However, my son is now in college in the NYC area and I have the opportunity to get the real deal on one of my trips into the city. Any recommendations?

  13. Gringo Says:

    Neo, just too many steps for my comfort level. When it comes to making yeast bread products, I am lazy. It takes only five minutes or less to put the ingredients into a bread machine. Wait three hours, and you have hot yeast bread. For pizza, take the dough out after an hour of rising, roll it out, and proceed as you like. A bagel entails a lot more steps.
    They were tasty, though.

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    Gringo:

    Oh, so you’re talking about making them. I’ve never even considered making them myself. Aren’t they in every supermarket? (Lousy ones, that is.)

  15. om Says:

    Neo:

    “Some Bagels” Richland and Kennewick, WA.

    http://www.somebagels.com/index.html

    Off the beaten path here in eastern WA. Boiled then baked, of course. They’ve been a nearly daily food item for me since the shop openned in 1992.

  16. Cornhead Says:

    The Bagel Bin in Omaha. No lie.

    Across the street from where Warren Buffett plays bridge.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    Stephen Ippolito:

    Wow. An entirely bagelless English-speaking first world country!

    I had a roommate from New Zealand for a while, and therefore am quite familiar with Vegemite. Or was it Marmite? Dreadful stuff, I thought when I tasted it many a long year ago.

    I just looked it up, and discovered the following:

    A spread for sandwiches, toast, crumpets and cracker biscuits as well as a filling for pastries, Vegemite is similar to British, New Zealand and South African Marmite, Australian Promite, MightyMite, AussieMite, OzEmite and Swiss Cenovis.

    So, basically the same thing or very very similar.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    So many suggestions! I may need to go on a bagel journey. Omaha? Eastern Washington? CV’s neighbor’s house?

    Who knew?

  19. vanderleun Says:

    NYC bagels? It’s the water.

  20. Frog Says:

    neo-
    I agree entirely that I have never had a good bagel!
    And likely never will.

  21. Ymar Sakar Says:

    It probably is the water. The water determines how much yeast Italians and Germans use in their bread. Good quality water is indispensable. Bad quality water creates all kinds of problem.

    And it is not mere purity as people might claim. Water has a certain anti oxidant function associated with its molecular structure. Going through 90 degree pipes changes it.

    It’s better if it flows down waterfalls.

  22. Gringo Says:

    Neo
    Aren’t they in every supermarket? (Lousy ones, that is.)
    Yes they are, and I have certainly purchased bagels, but I wanted to see how they were homemade. Unsurprisingly, they were better than store bought. Nice and chewy. But not worth the effort for me, considering that I purchase bagels maybe once or twice a year.

    I had models for baking. My mother was an excellent baker. My father’s cornbread was also tasty. In earlier days, lots of frontier-living Americans ate cornbread every day.

    It’s that time of year for making Flora’s Lebkuchen. In fact, I think I will take some to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. 🙂

  23. neo-neocon Says:

    Gringo:

    So glad you like the lebkuchen!!

    My great-aunt Flora has been gone for well-nigh fifty years. She was such a wonderful lady, and one of the world’s best bakers, IMHO.

  24. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Born in CT, I grew up in south Florida and moved to southern California in the mid 70s. I spent 20+ years in the Ventura area north of LA and discovered a wonderful little bagel shop that was only open in the mornings.

    They were transplanted semi-retired New Yorkers 🙂

    They closed down years ago and now there’s a chain Noah’s New York Bagel store in Ventura. Noah’s is better than what’s typically available but it can’t compare to what that little shop produced.

  25. Esther Says:

    Back in the 60’s- 70’s my parents bought a dozen bagels (and bialys) every week from a local bagel store in Brooklyn.

    Mom said they were too big and doughy and that it was impossible to get a good bagel anymore. So we pulled out the doughy centers. That made them so much better for stuffing with cream cheese, lox, tomatoes and onions. Mmmm.

    Come to think of it, every week my dad also bought a bag of donuts, a challah, a pumpernickel, a big crusty Italian semolina bread and an Ebingers blackout cake or a Junior’s cheesecake– in addition to the bagels– and we ate it all and were skinny as rails. How?

    Anyway, a couple of times I had H &H bagels from the store in Manhattan, those were bagels.

  26. adagny Says:

    Canter’s Jewish Deli on Fairfax just South of Sunset in Hollywood is the place for bagels and lox or just bagels.

  27. Laura S Says:

    When I was a kid we ate delicious bagels at Kaufman’s Bakery in Skokie, Illinois. Kaufman’s is still in business, but I have not lived in the Chicago area for over two decades. Can anyone tell me if their bagels are still up to par?
    http://kaufmansdeli.com

  28. Gary D. G. Says:

    Having grown up in NY metro and escaping to the Portland area around my mid-century, I can tell all of the above: “There ain’t no such thing as a bagel to be found in the NW, not even in or around the much-vaunted Seattle metro or even Vancouver.”
    We escape to SW Florida when the the shoulder-hunching ceilings and the continuous/continual mizzle sets in and we have found true, honest, real NYC bagels here.
    Yes! there are fakery bakeries, but one baglery takes great care to make “the real thing.”
    I make no comment about their bialys.

  29. Lurch Says:

    the puffy ones do make good sandwiches.

  30. stu Says:

    My wife and I once bought three dozen bagels from H &H in New York and drove them home to Virginia. The only problem was that the garlic was so strong we had to stop periodically to get out of the car to breathe fresh air. It was worth the trouble.

  31. Frog Says:

    Best to ignore Ymar’s pseudo-science.

  32. Richard Saunders Says:

    Schwartz’s Bakery, Pico Blvd, Los Angeles.

  33. Mamaof2 Says:

    Have you tried Rosenfeld’s in Newton Center (west of Boston)? Be sure to look up their hours before you head over. Half the time I’m in the area, they’re closed.

  34. MollyNH Says:

    Why all this concern about going somewhere to get a bagel, I am sure if you can locate who sells what you’re looking for you can get it FedEx ed to you. Hurry end of the year craziness is about to descend on us.

  35. Esther Says:

    Seems there is still an H&H bagel store, but it’s just the name, not the original.

    The original was founded in 1972 by two Puerto Rican men, Helmer Toro and his brother-in-law Hector Hernandez (hence “H&H”). In 2012 the store went defunct because Helmer, who had full ownership by then, was indicted and jailed for larceny and tax evasion.

    And so went the best bagels on earth.

  36. Baceseras Says:

    Cappy beat me to it.

    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=bialy%27s+bagels+cleveland&t=hf&ia=web

  37. neo-neocon Says:

    Molly NH:

    Nope, that would not work. Bagels get stale in a couple of hours.

  38. Esther Says:

    stu,

    when I would drive to visit family in Michigan from NYC, we always brought 3 dozen fresh bagels from H &H too. Everyone would dive into the bag before our coats were off.

  39. Bryan Says:

    I was too busy to leave a comment earlier, but my long residence in Montreal and familiarity with the Montreal bagel obliges me to comment. There are two basic bagel recipes: the New York recipe and the Montreal recipe. The difference is that the Montreal version is baked in a wood-fired oven and the dough is boiled in water sweetened with honey:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal-style_bagel

    The best Montreal bagels come from St-Viateur Bagel.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St-Viateur_Bagel

    I am shocked and horrified that you didn’t like and didn’t even finish your Montreal bagel! I think that they are better than the New York variety, that often seem to me like big chewy buns.

    Your post on Schwartz’s smoked meat is right on the money, though. A large plate of smoked meat on rye there is an outstanding culinary experience. And the atmosphere is unique. Whether at the counter or at one of those long tables, you are always sharing the space. I have eaten next to Russian sailors, Argentinian dancers, Quebecois political scientists, writers and a host of others. I have seen lineups out the door at three in the morning.

  40. neo-neocon Says:

    Bryan:

    I am sad to inform you that the bagel place you mention is indeed the place I went to. I don’t like sweet bagels.

    But guess what? The person who told be to go there for the bagel was the very nice woman I was sitting next to when I had my sandwich at Schwartz’s. Wonderful people. She nearly seemed ready and eager to take me on a tour of Montreal.

  41. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Frog, as a Doctor Class, for you to snipe at those above you, is beneath your credentials. Not that they are worth anything here.

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