The first bagel was baked sometime during the 15-century, in either Poland or Germany. But despite their Old World origins, these fluffy halos of activated yeast, water, and salt have operated as a particular point of pride—dare we say, obsession—for New Yorkers, owed undoubtedly to the diverse communities of Jewish immigrants woven into the city’s history. And yet, in a city that hosts hot sauce, coffee and tea and hot dog expos, there were no mass celebrations of New Yorkers’ most popular morning fuel to be found. Enter: Bagelfest Brooklyn.
The festival, first hosted in 2019, features a curated selection of standout bagel spots from across the city. After taking a break last year, due to Covid-19, the festival will make its grand return on October 2 at BKLYN Studios City Point. With tickets starting at $35, attendees can relish two hours of chomping down on offerings from the holy grail of New York bagels, including Black Seed, Ess-a-Bagel, Utopia, Bantam, Tompkins Square and many more.
You can thank Sam Silverman for the gluten fest. “I’ve always had a passion for bagels since I was a kid, I’m not sure where it came from,” he admits. Silverman is not a bagel shop owner or chef—in fact, his day job involves working in “strategic operations” for a major nationwide retailer. But he’s passionate about bagels. Very passionate. He remembers moving to the city after college and trying out the Midtown staple Ess-a-Bagel, established in 1976, for the first time. “It was a mind-bending experience,” Silverman recalls. “That kind of sparked my love and I just started traveling all over trying to find the best bagels in the city.”
At Bagelfest, attendees will have the chance to compare and contrast the difference between, say, a New York-style bagel versus a Montreal-style one. As Silverman says, “Some vendors at the festival do the classic New York City-style bagel—like Ess-a-Bagel and Utopia, which are kind of bigger and fluffier. Black Seed Bagel does a New York-Montreal hybrid, so it’s a kind of cross between those two styles that are boiled in honey water. Bantam Bagels does bagel bites, so they’re like little bagel balls. Across all the different styles of bagels, there will be at least one vendor at the festival representing it.”
And if you’re worried about potential bloat from all the bread, don’t worry, there will be other offerings. Those aged 21 and over can enjoy unlimited Brooklyn Brewery beers, Truly Hard Seltzer and Angry Orchard Hard Cider with their ticket (alcohol-free tickets are available, too). Attendees will also receive one can of Chameleon Cold Brew and one bottle of Nesquik and can enjoy “bagel art,” musical guests, games, raffles, and more.
Silverman sounds animated when he speaks about organizing the slightly off-kilter event. “The beauty about bagels is that everyone loves them,” he says.
His go-to order? “Everything bagel, scallion cream cheese, not toasted,” he answers without hesitation. “I’m on a mission to try every bagel shop in New York — which is going to take me years to do — but that’s the same order everywhere I go. I judge them by the same standard.”
Bagelfest takes place October 2, 9:30am–3:30pm, at BKLYN Studios City Point. You can purchase tickets at Bagelfest.com