Bagels go big league in NYC
The best new bagels in New York come from heavy hitters who are giving the breakfast staple a revamp with highbrow spins and novel shops
Tue May 6 2014
Say goodbye to those oversize, plastic-like bagels from your corner bodega. The deli-case classic is getting a high-minded jolt, from the NYC-meets-Montreal rounds at Black Seed to a Middle Eastern take at Bar Bolonat. To the great New York bagel, we say welcome back.
Sesame bagel with tobiko-caviar spread at Black Seed
Don’t call it a comeback—bagels have been here for years, a much-welcome contribution from late-19th-century Polish Jewish immigrants. Yet despite how deeply the bagel’s become woven into our city’s fabric, its handcrafted heyday ended in the ’60s with the advent of automated bagel-making machines. That spawned five decades of far too many steam-baked, dough-conditioned pucks, puffier than an aging screen star’s face and stripped of taste and tradition. Now the New York bagel is returning to form, with a batch of fresh-baked, high-powered shops giving the icon its due.
At newfangled Nolita bagelry Black Seed (170 Elizabeth St between Kenmare and Spring Sts, 212-730-1950), from Mile End deli-case remixer Noah Bernamoff and The Smile impresario Matt Kliegman, the ambitious, hand-rolled rounds merge two disciplines: They’re honey-enhanced à la Bernamoff’s native Montreal, but with an eggless, touch-of-salt bite to satisfy lifelong Gothamite Kliegman. Kettle-boiled and wood-fired, the small but mighty bagels are crowned with house-made toppings both classic (scallion cream cheese, silky cold-smoked salmon) and fanciful (salty tobiko caviar, crisp watermelon radishes).
Bari Musacchio—Rubirosa’s longtime general manager—is also tackling the old-fashioned boil-and-bake technique at nearby diner upgrade Baz Bagel & Restaurant (181 Grand St between Centre and Mulberry Sts, 212-335-0609). Partnering with Barney Greengrass vet David Heffernan, Musacchio’s operation is, like in the olden days, small-batch and labor-intensive: Slow-rising dough rings are set on burlap-covered boards and given a spin in a rotating tray oven, resulting in springy-yet-crusty vehicles for the house nova-and-chive spread.
Meanwhile, bread savant Melissa Weller, the Per Se and Roberta’s vet behind Smorgasburg’s acclaimed East River Bagels, will continue her own bagel redemption tale at an in-the-works shop with Carbone heavy hitters Rich Torrisi, Mario Carbone and Jeff Zalaznick. Expect tangy, sourdough-based discs schmeared with housemade cream cheeses made from primo dairy products.
The bagel boom doesn’t stop at deli standards—riffs are showing up on new restaurant menus all over town. All-star team Nick Mautone (Gramercy Tavern), Mark Fiorentino (Daniel) and James Beard Award winner Bradford Thompson (Miss Lily’s) fire up a brick-oven “Everything Brooklyn Bagel” pie at their upmarket Chelsea pizzeria, Heartwood (184 Eighth Ave between 19th and 20th Sts, 646-476-5458), topped with crème fraîche, scallions and Brooklyn Gin–cured salmon ($16). At neo-Israeli kitchen Bar Bolonat (611 Hudson St at W 12th Sts; 212-390-1545, barbolonatny.com), Einat Admony reps her heritage with an airy, sesame-seeded Jerusalem bagel ($6), served with earthy olive oil and house-made za’atar (thyme, sumac and herbs).
And Food Network celebutoque Amanda Freitag rolls out two quirky takes at Empire Diner (210 Tenth Ave at 22nd St; 212-596-7523, empire-diner.com): the bagel-deconstructed lox and burrata ($12), cheekily studded with everything-bagel spice (salt, garlic, poppy and sesame seeds); and French onion soup bobbing with bagel-bread-pudding croutons ($9). With these right-out-of-the-oven creations, a New York tradition just got a hole lot better.
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