The essay "Real New Yorkers Don't Toast Their Bagels" tackles the question of bagel-toasting with eight prominent bagelers and critics. Read the full interviews for more on bagels, cream cheese, and who has better bagels, New York or Montreal.
Joel Tietolman is the founder and managing partner of Mile End Montreal Bagel (not to be confused with his partner Noah Bernamoff, head chef of Mile End Brooklyn). Joel's mission is to share "the greatest Montreal bagel with Americans who cannot get this old-fashioned, traditional, artisan bagel."
Joel drives bagels fresh from the oven at St-Viateur in Montreal to New York City. In this interview this bagel devotee talks about what New York bagels have over the ones in Montreal, what toasting does to Montreal-style bagels, and more.
New York or Montreal?
If you are asking me which city I prefer? Being born in Montreal, I will have to admit that in the summer, Montreal is one of the greatest places in the world! New York City has become a second home to me though, and I'm having a love affair with Brooklyn.
What about the bagels? Which city makes them better?
Montreal bagels are the most authentic in comparison with the original bagels that came over with Polish immigrants. In fact, they very much resemble the way bagels were made in New York City 100 years ago. Montreal has stayed true to the original recipe, and the New York City bagel has very much been a victim of modernization.
What's your favorite kind of bagel: everything, sesame, pumpernickel, poppy, plain, etc.?
A classic St-Viateur Poppy Seed Bagel.
Bialy or Flagle?
Can I choose none-of-the-above?
Nova or lox?
Lox. It's more of an art, and anyone can make it in their own home.
Sable or whitefish?
No preference. Depends how it’s prepared.
Favorite place for a bagel other than your own?
If I'm in New York City, any good pumpernickel New York City style, it’s the one style that you don't really find a good Montreal version of.
Is there someone you consider to be a competitor?
Not really for now, I'm not trying to compete with New York City bagels, or to even win over converts, plenty of people all over the world love Montreal Bagels and there happen to be a ton of them living in New York City. My biggest challenge has been trying to lower my prices, and find more efficient ways of getting my/our customers their bagels. At first, our clients had to pick up their orders at Mile End Deli in Brooklyn. I am now able to ship directly to our clients anywhere in New York City, and soon will start shipping as far south as Virginia, and as West as Michigan.
Some people swear by toasting. Others claim it destroys the integrity of the bagel. To toast or not to toast? Why?
I won't speak concerning New York-style bagels, but 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.
Favorite type of cream cheese
This green onion blend by Western – it’s a small Canadian dairy company.
What should never be a cream cheese flavor?
Straight up — the Nova/Lox flavor... eww. That’s not something I want sitting on a shelf for a month before I eat it.
Anything you notice differently about bagels now from those of your youth?
The St-Viateur Bagels I export to New York City are the exact same ones, made the same way, for over 50 years. Handrolled, par-boiled in a honey-infused water, and baked in wood burning ovens that are also over 50 years old. This is why Montreal bagel and deli culture is so well known — very little has changed over the years. A hundred years ago, this was how all New York City bagels were made, but now the closest place to find them is up in Montreal.
If there's one question you wish you were asked more about bagels, what would it be?
What makes the Montreal Bagel different from all others. They are smaller with a larger hole, crunchier on the outside, denser and sweeter on the inside. Unlike other bagels, if not hot out of the oven, they must be toasted to bring them back to that 'hot out of the oven taste.'
a) A fan of the L.E.O.?
b) Leo who?
Lox, egg, and onion on a bagel.
Sounds tasty. Can I have mine with tomato?