Real New Yorkers Don't Toast Bagels
An essay on bagel toasting and interviews with prominent bagelers about bagels, bialys, best bagel flavors, and the answer to the eternal question: to toast?
"Integrity? It's preference," noted Juda Engelmayer, president of Kossar's Bialys. Even so, his first response was telling, "A fresh hot bagel needs no toasting, but a bagel stored in your freezer and thawed could use a toasting to get it going."
Another bageler, Arye Lewkovitz, the owner of Daniel's Bagels was more declarative: "Not to toast. First of all, when you bake the bagels, and they’re coming very fresh, they’re already crispy outside and soft inside. People that come from out of town, or another state, their bakeries bake them and make them once or twice a day, so, often when they get them they’re very hard. So they like to toast them to make them as if they’re fresh. We keep our ovens on all day. So we’re constantly making fresh bagels that are crispy outside and soft inside. So there’s no need to toast them."
Hear that? Real New Yorkers don't toast. What about a more recent addition to New York City's bagel scene? Call it "The Mile End Effect," a growing number of Montreal bagels making inroads in Gotham. Joel Tietolman, the founder and managing partner of Mile End Montreal Bagel wouldn't speak about New York bagels, but noted, "A Montreal bagel goes back to its original-hot-out-of-the-oven gooeyness after a light toasting. It’s a known trick that if sliced as soon as possible and frozen, that a quick toast brings them back to an incredible fresh-tasting bagel."
And where would say Vince Morena, the president of the storied St-Viateur Bagel in Montreal, Canada, weigh in on this? "Given the choice, hot and fresh out of the oven," Vince agreed. "But toasting for me is all right. And believe it or not, I keep bagels in my fridge. I tend to toast them whole to give them that crispy oven effect."
All this having been said, I admit, when I asked my hometown bageler his preference my heart fell. "It may not be correct, but I’m a Jew at heart, and Jews love toast!" admitted Bagel Boss's founder Adam Rosner, laughing. "I do! I love toast, man. A toasted bialy is the Jewish English Muffin." But he was talking about regular toast, right? How about bagels? "A plain bagel, would I toast a bagel? I do."
Even so, you have to concede, he knows it's not right. Which brings this random sampling of experts on the toast matter to six out of nine (seven out of ten counting Sheraton). So, you. Yeah, you. Stop toasting. Go find a good bagel. And don't even get me started on the right amount of cream cheese.
Click here for full interviews with the eight bagel experts above as they discuss toasting, cream cheese, and their biggest competitors.