When I checked into the Sheraton in Montreal on Tuesday, the small travel guide in my room bragged about the international and get this, the galactic, superiority of the Montreal bagel. According to the trusty guide, this small bready delicacy from the north launched to historic proportions when American astronaut Gregory Chamitoff took 3 dozen Montreal bagels with him to the International Space Station.
You read it right! One of our own AMERICAN astronauts, when faced with the historic opportunity to bring the first bagel into space, chose a Montreal bagel over the many earthbound bagel wonders of New York City!
As a New Yorker who grew up eating bagels, I felt cheated. I've tried many bagels outside the New York Metro Area and not one was ever as tasty as a warm, fresh, fluffy bagel from NYC.
After reading the guide, my Never B4 for this week was clear. I needed to taste one of these bagels and judge for myself whether it deserved such acclaim. The challenge was not as easy as it sounds because: a) I was only in town for 24 hours and was needed at the office at 9am, b) a big snowstorm was predicted for prime bagel time in the morning, and c) I didn't have any snow boots with me.
My first instinct was to go straight Chamitoff's favorite and the city's most famous bagelry - the Fairmount Bagel shop.With one look at my leather boots, my wimpy coat and the weather forecast for the next morning, the concierge quickly talked me out of that because it was clear across town. Instead, he gave me a map and walking directions to Bagel du Faubourg which was just 5 blocks from the hotel and where, he assured me, I would find freshly baked, authentic Montreal bagels first thing in the morning.
I was on the street before 8am on Wednesday with a growling stomach, an open mind and a growing amount of snow.
That was one point in favor of NY because I've never once had to wait for a fresh bagel. I did have to give a point to Montreal though because the aroma of the baking bagels smelled wonderfully sweet and definitely more intoxicating than the aroma of NY bagelries.
The 30 minutes turned into 50 (another point for NY) but I refused to leave without a taste. Finally, I was handed a warm, delicate bagel with a thin spread of butter on the inside and a sprinkling of sesame seeds baked onto the crust.
With bagel finally in hand, I could see the Montreal bagel was what New Yorkers would call a mini-bagel. It was about half the size of what I was used to but I must admit that I liked the smaller size. Too often, the NY bagel would leave me feeling stuffed.
The taste was also different, slightly sweet but not sugary sweet. It also had a more dense consistency than its puffy NY counterpart but the butter still melted and was absorbed perfectly. I bought 6 more as souvenirs and as I carefully treaded back to the hotel along the snowy streets, I could see why Mr. Chamitoff was attracted to the Montreal bagel. It left your taste buds satisfied, your belly full but not stuffed and they are the perfect travel size. So, I guess if I knew I had to pack for 6 months on a space station AND fit into a snug space suit every day, I'd opt for the smaller Montreal bagel too.
But for those staying right her on Terra firma, the New York bagel still wins my recommendation!
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