One of my favorite taste-experiences of all time was so simple, but so perfect. I was walking in midtown Manhattan while there for work a couple of years ago. Hungry and on-the-go in Manhattan--usually circumstances under which you just keep walking until you see something (coffee, nuts, pizza?) that you can swiftly shove in your mouth as you continue to elbow your way through the throngs of people beside you. So I'm walking, and getting a little desperate, when the warm waft of something freshly baking snuck up to my nose. I looked around, and there I stood in front of one of New York's classic bagel shops (the ones with the wood paneling and paned glass--I think it may have been Ess-a-Bagel). As I walked inside, a man was dumping trays of plump, bouncy bagels from the hot oven into the display baskets. Usually I take my bagel toasted, but as these were piping hot, there was no need. The man behind the counter just sliced open an "everything" and spread a good spatula's worth of cream cheese in the middle. The bagel was so hot that the cream cheese began to melt into the soft, doughy center, while the outside was just perfectly shiny and chewy.
I know that's getting a little bit poetic about a bagel, but until you've had a REAL bagel, you'll never know what I'm talking about. You'll never know about this perfect round of dough that inspires poetry. (Those bagels that come in packages of six in the grocery stores are not real bagels. They're bagel shaped rolls. Or bread, or something). Real bagels are of a species defined by the technique of their production: they must be first BOILED, then BAKED. This is what makes them plump up SO GOOD and creates that perfect shiny/chewy exterior. Most often, REAL bagels are found on the East Coast. [Here's what I'm talking about knowing a REAL bagel: Mother's Bistro, a breakfast place here, actually ships their bagels in from H&H Bagel in New York for their Lox and Bagel Plate.]
So one can imagine how excited I was, in early Fall, when I saw signs for "New York Style Bagels" up on the windows of a new store front only 2 blocks from my apartment. Over-eager (as always) I tried this place out promptly after it opened, and was, (as I often am when I try a newborn food establishment) disappointed. The bagels weren't big and puffy, but instead kind of...skinny. And that's not a quality I look for in a bagel. Neither is lopsidedness. But after some time, Kettleman Bagels worked it out, perfected it's technique (maybe the ovens just had to be seasoned), and now I'm addicted. Really, being addicted to bagels in the middle of a grey and sleepy winter is not exactly ideal. But they have so many kinds...the classics (poppy seed, onion, sesame, everything), the sweets (cinnamon raisin, blueberry ), the savories (rye, pumpernickel, jalapeno, sundried tomato). They even have a mulitgrain for those with food-guilt issues (hey, you're still ordering a BAGEL). They've got hot egg sandwiches, lox sandwiches, deli sandwiches and all the sourcream spreads. It seems that they add a new sourcream spread everyday (they used to have pumpkin, now they have wild berry). I LOVE the scallion cream cheese with tomato on an everything bagel, or the lox cream cheese with mixed greens and cucumber for crunch. YUM! Come visit me in Portland, we'll have bagels...
[I just wish they had hazelnut flavored drip coffee, then for breakfast everyday I could close my eyes and be in New York...]