In search of… A real BAGEL!

In search of…a BAGEL!  The wanna-be gourmet returns from vacation…        11/11/11 (I couldn’t wait until 12/12/12 for this blog)

Pictured above: The INCREDIBLE Everything Bagel from David’s Bagels, NYC…

Pictured below:  Behind the scenes at David’s Bagel:

I just finished breakfast only to be disappointed—again—because I cannot find a New York Bagel in Maryland. Sure, I can physically find several Bagel prototypes, but there is something missing from the translation. Perhaps my judgment is eschewed and biased because I grew up in New York. Bagel places were a dime a dozen (technically a baker’s dozen is 13 and much more than 10 cents) and I never really thought about ever having to do without them. For the first 23 years of my life, I found great tasting Bagels in the 5 boroughs of New York City. When I moved to Southwest Virginia in 1993, that all ended. In fact, I vividly remember going to Darrell’s Mart in Radford, Virginia, and seeing people lined up for Breakfast. They were holding a cheap paper plate covered with a lumpy spotted Plaster of Paris. The guy couldn’t serve it fast enough and people were inhaling it as if Armageddon was approaching. I turned to one of my friends and asked the profound question, “what are they eating?” “That’s biscuits and gravy,” they replied. “People actually eat that stuff for Breakfast?” I responded, in a flummoxed manner. “You’re not from around here, are you…” Apparently, I’m not!  I couldn’t begin to describe the magnitude of culture shock. In the back of my mind, I was wondering where I could find the nearest Bagel place instead of clogging my arteries with that enigmatic slimy white substance on a cost cutter plate. That was probably the beginning of an endless soul search, as long as I lived outside of New York City. Not only was I exploring new territory, but I was trying to hold on to 23+ years of 1 particular food to define the essence of who I am. It might be cliché, but you are what you eat. I care about Bagels as much as a Southerner yearns for biscuits and gravy or a Hispanic person who craves rice, beans, chicken, and plantains. Hence, we define ourselves from the food memories of our past and we don’t realize how much we appreciate food until it’s not available.

How can I describe a great tasting Bagel? Just look at the golden brown exterior of the Everything Bagel (poppy and sesame seeds, Kosher salt, garlic, onion, etc.). When you bite into it, the crunch is deafening and the inner fluffy texture is as soft as a feathered pillow. The flavor is neither White Bread, nor a Kaiser Roll. At times, the flavor reminds me of a baked New York City Pretzel purchased from a street vendor who’s pushing the cart with the intense charcoal aroma. I don’t really know how to describe the taste objectively, but I know the flavor intimately. In fact, the Bagel flavor should be great BEFORE you spread Butter or a “shmear” of Cream Cheese on it.

How do you actually make a great Bagel? This is the “lost in translation” part. However, I’m including a YouTube video below to provide some perspective… Does it start with a special blend of water only available from New York? What kind of flour is used—Pillsbury? High-Gluten? Bleached? Non-Bleached? Is a special oven required? Must Bagels be cooked on a somewhat fireproof board? How long does it take for the dough to proof? All of these questions will be explored in just a few moments…

At this point in the blog, I’m going to get opinions and testimonials from family and friends regarding their Bagel experiences. Just think of this as a Food Network segment from “Tyler’s Ultimate…”

Thomas Brown commented on your status:
Thomas wrote: “Bagel Depot 3854 Richmond Avenue, Staten Island, NY These are the best bagels I have ever had!!”

Marcee Kueckelhan Ben-Menachem commented on your status:
Marcee wrote: “The best bagel in Seattle is at Stopsky’s Deli on Mercer Island. In New York, it’s H and H. I think Drory will concur :)”

Carolyn Jacobson (one of my two sisters and Facebook aficionado) posted on your Wall:
“So, my first bagel theory is like good friends, their geography to you, as well as the timing, as far as good bagels go…it depends on how much you are craving a bagel, how hungry you are, and how convenient they are when you finally get it in your hand; the taste depends on all of this.

My second theory, is that it must be made in the Tri-State area, due to our water, be seeded on both sides, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, but not doughy, and it must have the perfect spread…maybe a good White Fish Salad, or a good Belly Lox spread. Unless, of course, you can have the whole deal, which is an Everything Bagel, dual-side seeded, lightly toasted, with fresh Scallion Cream Cheese, Belly Lox, Vidalia Onion, and a Jersey Tomato on top…THE BEST!”

Pictured above from left to right is Sister Carolyn, Sister Joyce, Evan J., and a Turkey just before it was devoured…

PLEASE NOTE that Carolyn wrote her testimonial after I spent Thanksgiving with her… During that lovely time, I sampled 2 excellent New Jersey Bagels and went into New York City (later on that day) to grab a few everything bagels from David’s Bagels on 1st Avenue (between E15th and E16th Street). While in New Jersey, I ate an Everything Bagel from Yorktown Bagels, Gordons Corner Road, Manalapan. It was excellent and just as good as David’s Bagels. I’m hoping that either of the aforementioned places will open up for business in Silver Spring, Maryland in the next few weeks. I can dream, right?

Nicky Murray commented on your status:
Nicky wrote: “OMG! Kaufman’s Bakery in Chicago. Best water, best bagel. Toppings from Lazar’s Deli next door. 2nd best was actually at Ray’s Pizza on 58th St. in NYC.”

Jeff Francesconi commented on your status:  Jeff wrote: “The best bagel I never had was when your old drum teacher, Joe, drove “Four Hours For A Bagel and a Smoothie!”

Pictured above: Jeff pays tribute to the Late Ronnie James Dio; Pete is loving the experience sitting in the middle; Evan J. has had way too much coffee–shocking!

Meredith Elrich commented on your status:
Meredith wrote: “Golden Dove, Lox platter, Everything Bagels…shared with my favorite cousin. Didn’t matter what the food actually tasted like. Xoxo The End.”

Tara Sanborn commented on your status:
Tara wrote: “Hoboken Bagels, 6th and Washington. Hoboken NJ. Miss you!!!”

Jason Dooley commented on your status:
Jason wrote: “I bake my own. Maybe we can have an “event” sometime during which you could try (and critique) them. You will loose your NY bagel discipleship once you bake your own. Honest.

Thank you for the testimonials. At this point, it’s time to watch a short, professional, and excellent (9 minute) video about the Bagel cooking process:

YouTube video: How to make a NY Bagel:

Here are a few websites if you’re interested in the HISTORY OF BAGELS:

Here are some website/articles about the best bagels (totally subjective):

This website contains a HUGE directory of NYC bagels:

It’s time to wrap up the Bagel Blog. I did manage to find a great bakery in Germantown, MD: Royal Bakery. I believe that New Yorkers are running the business. For the moment, they have the closest thing to a Bagel that I fancy. Here is the website:

My search will still continue because that is the type of guy that I am. Please feel free to email me: if you’d like to share your ultimate Bagel. Put “Bagel Comments” in the subject line.

I’m Evan J. Wanna Be Gourmet. Thanks for eating. ☺