I like bagels, perhaps more than the average person. But I love Black Seed bagels. These bagels are not going to be for everybody, and are quite different from nearby, iconic bagel purveyors. The major distinction comes from the fact that these are Montreal-style bagels. And perfect.
Now, I think there are roughly three types of bagels worth eating, and a fourth that comes from the likes of Sarah Lee via the supermarket. There are New York style bagels, Montreal, and West Coast bagels. It is important to remember that there is no “better” between the styles of New York, Montreal or the West Coast; they’re just different. Feel free to snub anything else though.
One can quickly ascertain if they are eating a Montreal bagel by observing two things:
- The bakery has a wood fired oven, often in easy view of the customer
- The bagel hole is pretty large, relative to the overall diameter of the bagel. This lines up perfectly with rule #3
There are some other differences that are much harder to see, but you can absolutely taste. Montreal bagels taste sweeter because honey is added to both the dough and to the poaching water. Now, that might seem on the face to be a contradiction of rule #2 “bagels are descendants of bread, not cake.” Perhaps, but that primarily concerns itself with the consistency of the item, not the sweetness. And while I don’t have any particular affection for the blueberry or sweet varietals, there is a large gulf between sugar blasted bagels and some additive honey.
I’ve been to Black Seed quite a few times, and have had to convince people to stay through the line. It goes quicker than you might think. Sometimes. But the eats there are outstanding. I’ve taken quite a liking to the horseradish schmear they have, as its a relatively rare but quite logical flavor. And though the bagels are a bit smaller than some might expect ordering a bagel in New York City, I have found that the size helps contribute to an excellent ratio of schmear to dough.
On this particular day, I ordered the saltiest bagel, toasted, with the horseradish. The pairing of sharp salt and nosey horseradish are among those most dear to my heart. As a nostalgic side note, my favorite part of the sedar meal was always maror and matzah (to which I would dutifully add large salt crystals). It is the flavor pairing that makes soy sauce and wasabe just so delectable. And now in a bagel; for breakfast.
The schmear could be more sinal, which is to say that it offers just a slight twinge of horseradish and is unlikely to be overwhelming. The sharpness provides a nice balance to the creamy cheese. Generally, bagels counter the rich creaminess with bagel toppings such as garlic or onion but by putting the horseradish in the cream cheese every bite is balanced.
Sometimes bagels are a snack, frequently a hangover antidote and when you’re lucky, you might find an exquisite one. If you’d like to ensure your next bagel is delectable, head down to SoHo at your earliest yearning. Give me a shout, I’ll go with you.