December 13, 2013
Bagels. Everyone knows that New York bagels are no longer what they used to be. Victims of inflation, they’ve gotten bigger, softer, sweeter over time. While you can occasionally find a decent New York bagel (I appreciate the mini bagels at Russ and Daughters), most of them are pretty sad.
Montreal bagels, on the other hand, cleave to tradition. Their own tradition. Originally brought to Canada by Polish immigrants, they’re bagels of a different sort. Smaller and sweeter than New York bagels, they’re always rolled by hand, boiled in a honey-sweetened water bath and then, more importantly, baked in a wood-fired oven which gives them their character and unusual appearance. The bagels lack uniformity; each one is individual. Some are larger, some darker – but all are delicious.
The two classic Montreal bagel bakeries each have their fans (including an impressive roster of celebrities). Fairmount is the older of the two (it opened in 1919), but it doesn’t mail-order its bagels. St. Viatur, opened by Myer Lewkowicz, a Buchenwald survivor, in 1957 does. The last day to order for Christmas is December 17th, so you still have a little time.
Bagels are shipped in 4 or 6 dozen units, but you might as well go large since shipping charges are the same. (4 dozen bagels are $30; 6 dozen bagels are $45. Shipping charges are $29.) The bagels keep well – a couple of months in the freezer - and any bagel fan would be thrilled with this gift. It's even worth negotiating the extremely annoying web site; perseverance pays off.
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