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Nov 13, 2006 04:06 AM

ny style bagels/pizza

can someone help me settle a bet ? is there any place in the bay area that "imports" ny water in order to somehow "authenticate" or duplicate the so-called ny style bagels or bagels ? i know...strange question, but i am aware of some places in other areas of california that have done this and was wondering if this occurs in the bay area.

thanks !!

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    1. I read of a place in L.A. which does, (or did) this...I haven't heard about it in S.F....we do however have a couple of places which "import" the bagels themselves....

      2 Replies
      1. re: ChowFun_derek

        I think you are talking about Johnnie's New York Pizzeria, which has locations all over Los Angeles. They were featured on the food channel once and said that they "import" their water from NY to make the pizza right.

        1. re: lamster

          That's exactly where I saw it...thanks for jogging my memory!

      2. It would be a marketing scheme which would work on anyone with little understanding of food science (most people). There was a “NY Bagel Company in Florida” that did import the water from NY.

        Any way, bagels’ (and bread, for that matter) flavor and crumb has everything to do with the flour and other ingredients you use, and has relatively little/nothing to do with the minor discrepancies of the water from one municipality to another. Add to this that ALL bagel producers filter their water to get rid of chlorine and the whole water argument really goes out the window (turns out yeast will turn out really nasty flavors when chlorine is present).

        For example, one could make bagels with very hard (i.e. High gluten) flour and also with a lower gluten flour. You boil and use NY H2O in the lower gluten flour bagels and some other city’s water with the high gluten flour. You will love the non-NY bagels and hate the "NY" bagels.

        Also look for the presence of oil in the dough. Noah's and Einstein bagels put soy oil in the dough. This gives you softer bread and also keeps the bagel from drying out and acts as a preservative. But it lacks good bagel characteristics of crust and chewiness.

        If you feel the bagels you get from your local bagel maker outside of NY are too soft, and have no crust and aren’t chewy enough, they are probably using cheaper flour (or adding oil). If they were to move to a higher gluten flour they'd get a better product (higher gluten = higher cost, though). In any case, a lot of east coast bagels these days are no better than Noah's. Steam oven technology is widely used today on the east coast because it is cheap and you don't need very much skill to bake steam bagels off.

        SO HOW DID THE URBAN LEGEN OF THE NY BAGEL WATER START? The first bagels in California were made in LA. These were neither boiled nor steamed. They were truly rolls with holes inferior even to Noah's. People would say that "it is the water" that made the difference. AND THEY WERE RIGHT!!! Because at that time, they meant the difference being the time the bagel spent in the boiling water!

        It wasn’t until the 60's that bagel shops on the west coast started bringing over kettles to boil bagels. People would still (rightly or wrongly) ask why the bagel they remember in NY was better, and "it is the water" still is given as an explanation; only now it was misconstrued to mean some magical properties of NY water. A better explanation is basic psychology. We tend to idealize certain things from our past and put things on pedestals. When the atmosphere or the experience isn’t in accord to our idealized memory, we search for an explanation.

        The NY water makes a better bagel myth has been tested many times at peoples homes (bagel parties—guess the NY bagel?) and I have never heard any case EVER of people being able to tell a good NY bagel from a good non-NY bagel at a better than chance level. Don’t believe me? Try it your self!!

        4 Replies
        1. re: abbott

          Fascinating first post, abbott. I hope we hear more from you.

          1. re: abbott

            I don't know about that! Have you tasted the water in L.A.? ...vile stuff!!! LOL
            But you are certainly correct about the high gluten flour...also good NY bagels use malt syrup...

            1. re: ChowFun_derek

              Agreed. Water in NYC tastes different from water in LA and water in SF. NYC water has a crisper taste and feel on the tongue while LA water almost tastes basic and slippery.

              I'll give you the gluten arguement. Gluten content also has to do with the amount the dough is worked. Another argument is that perhaps west coast bagel makers don't work the dough enough.

              Finally, since baking is very precise and a baker has to adjust for humidity, water content of ingredients, etc, it's not too far fetched to think that mineral content does affect the way dough tastes. Like ChowFun said, you CAN tell the difference between LA, SF, and NY water and there is certainly a difference between H&H bagels, Ess-a-Bagel, and Noah's Bagels.

            2. re: abbott

              Interesting about the oil. I buy Noah's for my son but I can't stand them myself. Next time I go to Manhattan I'll ask about oil. I can't tell from their website if they use any.

            3. I had a supposedly "water boiled" bagel for the first time, this morning at Palo Alto's Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels (who coincidentally does NY style pizza as well at this kosher certfied bakery). I asked for my garlic bagel not to be toasted after reading up on a few bagel posts here recently, and while it was pretty good, I honestly couldn't say whether Noah's was many steps below or a notch or two below in terms of quality. All I can conclude is my jaw muscles were really sore after eating. :-)

              1. I vaguely remember reading that Escape From New York Pizza (Castro Street and other SF locations) used NYC water.

                4 Replies
                1. re: NoeMan

                  There's no such claim on their Web site, which there surely would be if they were going to such insane expense for bragging rights.

                  I've never heard anyone claim that New York water was a significant element of New York pizza.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    This is all very amusing to me, seeing as how NYers sometimes theorize that NY water is to blame for the absence of decent espresso in that city.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Here you go ...

                      This article says
                      "After meeting with several chefs, the consensus is the water. The mineral content of New York water, which comes from the Catskills has a unique effect on the rising and the flavor to the dough."

                      Hmmm ... should have put on the general board. Here's the continuation if anyone is interested.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I checked the website too before I posted. Strange thing is, I have a photographic memory and I was going from that. I moved to Noe Valley in 1991 and I'd be willing to bet a large sum that their old materials claimed they used Brooklyn (not just NYC) water. Walked inside the Castro location once very early on in those days (e.g., 91 or 92) and there was a sign about Brooklyn water as well.