Like a dying swan, I came to L.A. and watched as, feather-by-feather, all of my bagel-eating genes fell to the ground. I tried, I really did. I made bagel bombs, which were a nice alternative, but not the real thing. I stood and ate a bagel at Brooklyn Bagel and thought, “Oh man: this doesn’t feel right at all.” I basically gave up. And then, very gradually, a new idea began to hatch in my brain: what if I made my own everything bagels? How hard could that be? On Friday afternoon, I bought bread flour and malt powder and cream cheese and nova and red onions; on Saturday morning, I woke up all set to make Peter Reinhart’s famous recipe.
The journey to the best bagel of my life was a journey of precisely three miles. It started on the Upper East Side, near 2nd Avenue in the 70s, and ended close to Columbia University, on Broadway near 108th Street. I told myself that I could treat myself to a decked-out bagel if I walked all the way to Absolute Bagels, home of what Ed Levine once called “the best bagel in New York.”
As many of you know, since moving to L.A. I’ve been coping with a loss of decent bagels. My coping led me to Everything Bagel Bombs (which were an enjoyable but unrealistic substitute) and to frozen Murray’s bagels, over-toasted in my toaster to compensate for their cross-country staleness.
Commenters in both posts asked if I’d been, yet, to Brooklyn Bagel here in L.A. I hadn’t. I realized I was being unfair to my new home city, criticizing its bagel culture without really exploring it. So off to Brooklyn Bagels I went.
Our friends Patty and Lauren, who visited us recently from New York, did us the huge service–a mitzvah, as the Jews might say–of bringing along bagels from Murray’s Bagels. We’ve been experiencing something of a bagel blight here on the west coast (remember those Bagel Bombs I made?) and these bagels came as a great relief. We put them in our freezer and decided to break them open only in the case of severe bagel emergencies; one such emergency arose last weekend.
On Passover Saturday, I Tweeted that I was making Everything Bagel Bombs from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook and moments later I received this text from my mom: “Do you not know bagels are taboo on Passover or are you just stirring the pot? Most bagel stores in New York are closed.” I called my mom to talk it out—she wasn’t mad, but thought I’d offended my Twitter followers (I didn’t)—and then I set about making the dough and watching it rise.
If you live in a great bagel city–and by that, I mean New York–this post will not be important to you. Feel free to skip it.
Everyone else: this is the most important post on a food blog you will ever read. In fact, if I were you, I’d stop whatever you’re doing, shut the door, and power off your phone. Even if you’re a brain surgeon in the middle of surgery, or a diplomat negotiating peace in the Middle East, this takes precedent. Please sit down.
The Jewish diaspora is the kind of phrase you only use in college, and even then you’re not sure what it means. But I know this much: Jews in Boca Raton, Florida make good bagels. I’ve long sung the praises of Bagelworks on Glades Road near the Turnpike–my favorite bagel destination when I visit home (I always get “the works” with two scoops of white fish and one scoop of nova spread)–but, traditionally, my mom always buys bagels for the house from Way Beyond Bagels on Jog Road, next to the Starbucks.