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Brunch and Bagels

September 25, 2011

Sunday is inextricably linked to brunch for many people. So I’m going to try and switch things up a bit on the FLB and see what happens when I write about some classic brunch foods and related topics on Sunday.

I’ll find some other spot for wine in the weekly rotation. There is one wine post coming up that I’m very excited to write, but before I do I need to actually taste the wine that recently arrived from California. Despite my enthusiasm, I’ve been uncharacteristically restrained, since my stuffed nose would befoul the tasting.

Speaking of brunch, just yesterday Alan Ilagan posted a picture of a bagel he was about to enjoy in Boston. Now, I’m only singling him out because ordinarily he has good taste, and I know he can take a little constructive criticism.

But this bagel is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

And if you are going to consider eating bagels for brunch either today or anytime in the future, it’s important that you understand exactly what is wrong with this picture.

It’s been a long time since I published my initial bagel tirade. So perhaps Mr. Ilagan had not read it. You may not have either. I encourage you to give it a read.

There are two ways to eat bagels:
1)    Whole and intact, as one might a pretzel
2)    Like a sandwich, except served open faced

A good bagel has a thick exterior crust and a dense chewy center, by definition. If you doubt this, then go back to my original post on what makes a good bagel.

Good bagels make for lousy sandwiches. First, they give the sandwich too much height. Then, thanks to the one two punch of its thick crust and dense interior, each and every bite has the unfortunate result of squeezing the filling out the sides of the “sandwich.” Finally the infernal thing will be impossibly chewy.

If this were a good bagel, Alan’s egg patty would be in danger of being crushed and sent over the edge. But if it were a bad bagel, it’s no different from just having a donut-shaped bun for your breakfast sandwich.

It’s hard to tell from just a picture…
Oh wait, is that dried fruit? Please, God, tell me it’s not a blueberry.

I realize this is probably from some fast-food bagel place, and the pre-cooked egg puck can’t be tampered with. But putting a slice of cheese to not quite melt, but kind of soften and get oily on top of the hot egg, is also upsetting.

You want cheesy eggs on a good open-faced bagel, be my guest. But the cheese gets cooked in the eggs. And really there should be onions—deeply caramelized onions—in there as well.

But I digress.

My uncle just recently visited from New York City and he brought with him some good bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon. I happened to have some tomatoes which I sliced more thinly than usual (given the lateness of the season) and some red onion that I sliced even thinner. Both came from the CSA.

We actually didn’t have this for brunch, but for dinner. And it reminded me once again that this classic combination is one of life’s great pleasures. Even with a slightly stuffed nose, it’s a powerhouse of textures and flavors.

The only thing that could make it better would be a glass of sparkling wine.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    September 25, 2011 10:12 am

    If you scoop out some of the crumb with your finger, you can then lay toppings in the channels, and thus make a sandwich without the filling squeezing out. Of course, you can’t do this with old-school (1960s-70s) real chewy bagels, only the modern ubiquitous “Californized” bagels.

  2. Whitefish salad with red onions permalink
    September 25, 2011 10:23 am

    Bagels are not a “brunch”; they are a staple. Or am I too ethnocentric?

  3. September 25, 2011 12:02 pm

    Consult this comic in regards to strange fruit/sweet bagels. It makes me laugh every time I think of it.

    On another note, I used to have a friend that loved everything bagels with strawberry cream cheese. Takes all kinds, takes all kinds…

  4. Cindy permalink
    September 25, 2011 3:19 pm

    The universe is in sync today. I had exactly this brunch today, at Parents’ Weekend at St. Lawrence University, hosted by the Jewish Student Union. Perfect-quality bagels with a complete, fresh assortment of fixin’s. OK, I’m not Jewish, and I know you don’t call them “fixin’s,” but it’s too long to type out lox, cream cheese, finely chopped red onion & hard-boiled egg yolks & whites & scallions & capers, pickled herring in cream sauce, hummus, pastries… oh wait… never mind. Anyway, bagel brunch done right is fantastically savory and satisfying.

  5. Cindy permalink
    September 25, 2011 3:25 pm

    Oh, and thinly sliced tomatoes & red onions. Sorry, I finished it all more than 2 hours ago but still relishing the memory!

  6. September 25, 2011 9:04 pm

    No offense taken – I didn’t make it – I just barely ate it! I will say, in that bagel’s defense, it was a jalapeno bagel (no blueberries – I would know enough to put that down). I also agree with your assessment of a bagel sandwich – it should not, by rights, work. Somehow the folks at Finagle-A-Bagel manage to do a decent job, especially when you’re hungover with that semi-hungry feeling and you don’t want to waste a really good meal in the event that it comes back up…

  7. September 25, 2011 9:21 pm

    PS – What would you have done if I had ordered it with bacon? [ducks]

  8. September 26, 2011 8:43 am

    If I want a breakfast sandwich with eggs and cheese and bacon (or sausage, or onions, or whatever your fancy is), I get it with an English muffin – fewer carbs, same protein. If I get a bagel, and I’m going to consume that many carbs, I want a real bagel. Which, as you know, are very difficult to find outside the NYC metro area. Not impossible – just difficult.

    A couple of years ago I had to travel down to Staten Island for work, on a Friday, and it happened to coincide with a trip to my in-laws (they weren’t my in-laws yet), so I was traveling solo from Long Island (which, via public transit, is not an easy commute, but it is no longer than a round trip from Albany, either). I made it a point to stop at a bagel shop in the village (I looked for the highest Yelp rating on/near the subway line from Penn Station to the ferry – this one was a solid 5 stars). I can’t remember the name of the shop off hand, but I went with just the classic with cream cheese. I enjoyed my bagel sitting on the deck of the ferry, which made for a far more pleasant commute than my coworkers, who no doubt stopped at Dunkin at a rest stop on the way down.

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  1. Busting My Bagel | Alan Ilagan

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