Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Tag Archives: brooklyn

New York City 2012: Four & Twenty Blackbirds

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I was just talking to a friend about pies the other day, about how there seems to be a dearth in places selling traditional hand-made pies – pies the kind your grandmother would make (if she was American). Good ol’ crusty, buttery, rustic pies, crimped unevenly at the edges with quick fingers and filled to the brim with filling. Grandma would roll out supple pastry sheets speckled with butter, tuck the edges into a snug pie pan, layer yet another sheet on top to sandwich it all, and then slip everything into a toasty oven to brown and to perfume the home with the heady scent of Pie.

I think it’s about time we all got American grandmothers of our own.

DSC_0558Of course, I thought of Four & Twenty Blackbirds, a cafe in the Gowanus neighbourhood of Brooklyn that specialises in double-crusted, wholesome pies that I popped into during one of my rare Me-times. I’d heard about it, and about the two-sister team that courageously decided to move their tiny pie-baking business out of their apartment and into a proper bustling cafe. They have been selling out their pies faster than they could make them ever since.

I remember taking a step inside the cafe and getting cocooned by a gentle commingling of warm aromas. It smelt like home.

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New York City 2012: Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company

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Since I started on bagels, I might as well go the whole nine yards.  I’m aware that my less-than-qualified commentary on New York’s bagels is like dancing across a field of land-mines. Naked.

But in my defense, I’m a bread-snob, so it follows that I should know a thing or two about bagels. I have tried making bagels a couple of times since I got back. Let’s just say that I will try again.

Bagels may or may not have salt and malt added into the dough, but they are almost always boiled in water (sometimes containing baking soda, the science of which I will leave for another time) before baking. The New York bagel is almost always salted and malted, giving it its characteristic chew.

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My first and proper New York bagel was at Brooklyn Bagel. To be precise, my first half bagel was at Brooklyn Bagel. I had to share. A bagel here is the diameter of a three-month old child’s head. If I threw a bagel at you (I’ve got a sexy right lob), it would at least stun you, if it didn’t bruise. These are traditionally dense New York bagels, and –  just to put things into perspective – the equivalent of six bowls of rice, or so the rumour goes. That said, I’ve been to a number of bagel shops and can assure you that the Bagel of Massive Proportions is only found here, at Brooklyn Bagel. They sell mini bagels too, which I assume are regular-sized ones, and still about two bowls of rice I’m sure.

But these bagels pack a crunch and chew that blew my mind, and the maddeningly generous fillings almost landed me in a near-catatonic state.

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They have some of the freshest and most flavourful cream cheese spreads around – sweet, savoury, tofu spreads, flavoured butters, low-fat cream cheese, hummus, peanut butter…

Go wild. But don’t hold up the line. I don’t have any particular bagel and cream cheese combinations to recommend, but sweet bagels go with sweet cream cheese, and so on. This above is a Wholewheat Bagel with White Fish spread and Sun-dried Tomato cream cheese.

Personally, toasted bagels are the way to go, but some purists insist that if you’re in a bagel shop early enough, the freshest bagels needn’t ever be toasted. The buns stay warm enough to still give the cream cheese that semi-melty gorgeous texture.

Speaking of going early, I’ll be forthright and say that no one should ever have a bagel past noon. I’m not saying this for puritanical reasons, but for practical and scientific ones.

DSC_9829Studies have shown (actually, just one, and not even rigidly scientific at that), that a bagel’s half-life is no more than half an hour. The freshness of a bagel deteriorates exponentially from the moment it leaves the warm embrace of the oven. It is aptly coined the Heisen-Bagel Uncertainty Principle by the Serious Eats team in their search for New York’s best bagel, in which “The act of transporting a bagel to a second location produces fundamental uncertainties in its inherent qualities, such that determining a true “best bagel,” in a head-to-head face-off, becomes impossible.”

Or, in simple English, that merely means that the best tasting bagel is one in which you get up early for. I can vouch for it.

Pseudo-scientific principles aside, oddly enough, this doesn’t apply as strictly to other bread products, but I’ll hypothesize outside of this post.

Oh, and one last word of warning: Stick to two filling combinations at the very most, unless you’re willing to fork out more than USD$10 for breakfast. These are delicious, but pricey, bagels.


Address: 

286 8th Ave
(between 24th St & 25th St)
New York, NY 10001
Neighborhood: Chelsea

Hours:

Mon-Sun 7 am – 10 pm

Website: http://bkbagel.com/