Friday, June 29, 2012

Montreal vs. New York Bagels

We have some friends, the Ms, who are from Montreal, though they’ve been in this country for decades. Even still, I’ve seen in them what I see in a lot of people from Canada, and that’s a fierce pride in their country and a desire to distinguish it, usually for the better, from the US. I can completely understand, and for all intents and purposes, I agree with a lot of the positive vibes, because I, too, am a big fan of Canada.

One area where I’ve taken exception to their aggrandizement, however, was in where to get a good bagel. Having lived in New York City, naturally I knew all along where the best bagels could be found. The Big Apple, where else? In fact, I didn’t know that bagels even existed in other cities. It just doesn’t get as iconic as the New York bagel. Period.

One day I was chatting with AM and she informed me that Montreal bagels were better. What? Get real, what could Montreal possibly know about a bagel? Who in their right mind could possibly say such a thing? New York always struck me as the kosher food capital of North America. I refused to even consider such a comment.

Well, as luck would have it, this past weekend when we were in Montreal, we had a chance to find out for ourselves. Mom went online and did a little research, and found out that there are two bagel houses in Montreal that vie for the crown of best bagel, and they were both within walking distance of each other. We headed out on a beautiful morning and chose to walk over there.

Now I didn’t realize it (in retrospect, it makes perfect sense), but Montreal has a Jewish enclave, and it was here that we found the bagel shops. It was actually a long walk, but a nice one, and we got to really see parts of Montreal that we probably would never had seen had we taken public transportation. Plus, it was like being in New York. You’re just never going to see large groups of Hasidic Jewish people like you do in the big cities.

To make a long story short, we tried both bagel shops, and as outrageous as it may sound, I did sort of like them better than New York bagels (sacre coeur!). The Montreal bagels were smaller and not as bready, and they did have a slight sweetness that allowed them to stand on their own without cream cheese. The were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, though not as chewy as New York bagels because they had less bread. Somehow, the flavor of the Montreal bagel was really nice, though New Yorkers would scoff at the flavor. The sesame bagel in particular was outstanding, while the multi-grain bagels were a little bit dry and like cardboard.

In comparing the two shops, they were both excellent, but I have to say, I rather liked the second one, Fairmont Bagel, a little better. The sesame bagel from there was fabulous, just the right amount of crisp and chew. This was a hard choice because I liked the first shop, St-Viateur Bagel, better. They had a nice vibe (both shops had great customer service), and the woman running the show was so nice, she even gave A&N t-shirts, which was so cool. She said the kids were so polite and nice, so she gave them a souvenir. How cool is that?

Both shops were good for entertainment value, because they make the bagels right there in front of you, and they don’t mind if you take pictures. What amazes me is that they hand roll every single bagel, and they must make thousands of them a day. I’ve made bagels by punching a hole through the dough, but they literally hand roll the strips and then attach them into rings. It’s a lot of work. I thought dumplings were tough, these guys are hardcore.

It was, to say the least, a really cool cultural and city experience, and the next time I see one of the Ms, I’ll be sure to tell them that I agree with them. Montreal bagels just might be a little better, but just a little. Vindication is sweet, is it not?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to RIC for the pics.

1 comment:

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