Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Tag Archives: cream cheese

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/

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New York City 2012: Absolute Bagels

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I hadn’t physically spoken to anyone in two days. Not even after settling into Morningside Heights. In fact, especially after settling into Morningside Heights. It’s quiet here in the evenings. I also have a bad throat. On a normal day – when the stars are aligned – I’m a sociable, chatty person with a wicked sense of humour (pfft), that hopefully translates into my writing.

Anyway, this morning, I popped into Absolute Bagels, joined the snaking queue that went out the door, and uttered my first words of the day: “Everything bagel, toasted, smoked salmon and cream cheese. Oh, and coffee please. With milk. No sugar.” I happened to forget that if what you’re ordering isn’t listed on the menu, it’ll probably bump up the price, and it did. Mine was apparently a Nova Bagel (price listed beside the cash register, only when you’re about to pay up), and as with all cosmic, cataclysmic explosions, my wallet got nuked with $8.50 thereabouts. I did see some stars in my vision.

Absolute Bagels is probably the cheapest and best bagel joint in the Morningside Heights borough – if you stick to the cream cheeses and tofu spreads. Those go for around $3.80. Coffee is $1.00 or so.

Most people do a quick grab and go, some buying as many as a dozen bagels at a time with a tub of cream cheese spread. Bagels over the Christmas lull perhaps? I was settled into my corner table, facing the kitchen, noticing only vaguely that the line that had spilled outside had started twisting around the store.  It moves fast, even if it never really shortens. The kitchen is a well-oiled production line, with batches of fresh bagels being hauled out of a steaming metal cauldron and into the oven every fifteen minutes or so. The total time it takes for a kitchen staff to deftly slice a bagel in two quick cuts, schlop a dollop of cream cheese on, and wrap it all up averages at one minute. I would know. I was seated there pretty long in my early morning haze.

My bagel itself was perfect, lighter and smaller than the mammoth ones at Brooklyn Bagels, crisp on the outside with a slight chew. This is, on a very fundamental level, an awesome bagel. The fillings, on the other hand, were sparse to say the least. I’ll probably get a cheaper cinnamon raisin bagel with strawberry cream cheese next time. Nova Bagel aside, the length and persistance of Absolute Bagel’s queue speaks for itself.

For now, all I can say is that the stars are aligning, and if my throat is willing, I’ll be speaking more too.

Absolute Bagels 

Address: 2788 Broadway, New York NY 10025

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pizza

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pizza

Hi.

No, this isn’t me doing wacky stuff in the kitchen as a result of horrible jet lag.

In fact, you know what? I haven’t even been in the kitchen at all ever since I came back from tripping all over Europe. Why? Because I’ve been running myself against the wall, pulling the split-ends in my hair out and threatening my computer with a jack hammer because it refuses to detect over a hundred pictures that I took during my trip. No, they turn up perfectly fine on my camera but vanish in Windows. If you don’t pull your act together you stupid computer, I’m buying a Mac!

So, till I figure out where them pictures are hiding in my CPU or when my computer finally succumbs to my desperate wailing and sobbing, here’s a dessert pizza from a while back – before I went off and got myself deathly afraid of bread from eating it every single day.

This is but the first to come of a slew of dessert pizzas that I’ll churn out once I overcome my temporary aversion to flour and sweet things. That’s weird, you say? The Italians will strangle me with to death with spaghetti for butchering a pizza? Well I’m sure they’ll be welcoming me with open arms once I throw together Nutella and banana. Or baked apples, cinnamon and custard. Or dark chocolate and candied oranges.

Everyone else makes blueberry cheesecakes.

I make pizza.

How about that eh?

So go on, give your favourite dessert a twist. Anything on a crisp, thin crust is fantastic.

Although I should give due warning that not everyone cozies up to the notion of sweet pizza. Like how some people hate tamagoyaki (japanese sweet omelette). Shrugs. Weirdos.

Well less for them and more for you.

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