The State of the Bagel

The different day, hours after I’d hung up the cellphone with the chef Mark Strausman, he unintentionally known as me again. “Oops!” he mentioned. “That’s what happens when your fingers are covered in olive oil.” Strausman was at his new restaurant, Mark’s Off Madison (41 Madison Avenue), which débuted final month close to Madison Square Park. His fingers have been lined in olive oil for many of his sixty-odd years. In the early nineties, the Queens native opened a collection of Italian eating places, together with Campagna and the authentic Coco Pazzo. In 1996, he created Freds at Barneys, turning it into an establishment with satellites in Beverly Hills and Chicago.

The bagels are topped with poppy seeds; a play on all the pieces seasoning known as Chicago, which incorporates hot-pepper flakes; salt; or sesame seeds.Photograph by Cassidy Turner for The New Yorker

Last yr, Barneys went bankrupt, and Strausman was let go. Never thoughts: he was already exhausting at work on Mark’s Off Madison, which he abbreviates as M.O.M., to emphasise the Jewish-mother theme. Devotees of Freds will likely be delighted to search out many of its signature dishes resurrected right here, together with the chopped hen salad (with avocado, string beans, and pears), Estelle’s hen soup, and bolognese lasagna. But hand-painted letters on a glass wall in the eating room promote what’s, in my view, M.O.M.’s greatest draw. “Not Your Grandfather’s Bagels,” they learn, with “Not” crossed out. In the August of his profession, Strausman is chasing his youth, making an attempt to re-create the bagels (plus bialys) that he remembers consuming as a child.

One of the menu’s bagel sandwiches options house-smoked salmon, house-cultured cream cheese, lettuce, and shallots pickled in amba, a mango-based Iraqi-Jewish condiment.Photograph by Cassidy Turner for The New Yorker

He began this quest at Freds “because I was having a midlife crisis and wanting to get rid of my motorcycle,” he advised me. “Bread-making became a passion because there’s an insanity about it.” At M.O.M., he has a correct wood-fired bagel oven, which helps attain a distinctly crunchy exterior—coated in toppings solely calmly, and on only one aspect, in order to not compete with the taste of the malt-infused dough. Straussie’s bagels, as he calls them (out there solely on weekends), are each denser and smaller than most of their latter-day equivalents. The elevated puffiness of bagels shouldn’t be, Strausman defined, a end result of the broader supersize phenomenon however, slightly, of technological development; to make bagels robotically, you want a wetter dough or else the machine will jam. More water means extra gas for yeast, which suggests extra rising and increasing. Strausman is preserving the dying artwork of hand-rolling.

After they’re boiled in honey water, the bagels are baked in the wood-fired oven at the Greenpoint pizzeria Paulie Gee’s.Photograph by Cassidy Turner for The New Yorker

So, too, is a younger girl named Elyssa Heller, throughout the river, at her indefinitely operating pop-up, Edith’s (60 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, in the pizzeria Paulie Gee’s), which gives what you would possibly name your great-great-grandmother’s bagels—hand-rolled but in addition twisted, as in Old World Poland. They’re as private to Heller as Strausman’s are to him: boiled in water flavored with honey as an alternative of malt, they refer additionally to Montreal bagels (Heller went to varsity in Canada), and are made with flour milled from heirloom grains grown in Illinois, her house state.

Edith was Heller’s great-aunt, who as soon as ran a deli in Brooklyn, and whose archive of recipes, many scrawled on paper plates or napkins, impressed some of the pop-up’s dishes, together with the smoked-trout salad, served on a bagel with house-cultured cream cheese, sliced radish, and trout roe. Otherwise, Heller goals to discover the Jewish diaspora. She hesitated earlier than providing schnecken, conventional German-Jewish candy buns whose title (German for “snails”) doesn’t precisely roll off the tongue. “I was a little nervous that people wouldn’t get it and they couldn’t pronounce it,” Heller advised me the different day. But, she mentioned, “we want to tell stories with our food.”

In addition to bagels, Edith’s gives pastries resembling schnecken, a standard German-Jewish morning bun, whose title interprets to “snails.”Photograph by Cassidy Turner for The New Yorker

Edith’s schnecken encase bitter cherries and Turkish pistachios, or honey seasoned with the paprika-forward Middle Eastern spice combine baharat. But maybe the greatest represented of the planet’s scattered populations of Jews is the one proper right here in New York, in the type of a bagel sandwich known as the BEC&L. That’s “B” for bacon (with apologies to the rebbes), paired with egg, Cheddar cheese, and a gloriously crispy, thick golden latke. (Mark’s Off Madison bagel platters $22-$38. Edith’s bagel sandwiches $10.50-$12.50.) ♦


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