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Montreal style bagels, anyone?

I don't know if this is the appropriate place to post this, but I don't know any other place quite like Chowhound.

A few weeks ago, I read from one of the threads here that it is possible to buy St-Viateur (in Montreal) bagels online, but that you'd have to buy *at least* 6 dozen at a go. Is there is anyone (or two, or three) out there who's wild enough about Montreal-style bagels to be willing to split the order with me? I did the math; with Xpresspost, each bagel will cost 78 cents (including taxes).

I live downtown, within walking distance of UofT. Email me at meclone2(at)mailup.net. Thanks!

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  1. Meclone: You may or may not be interested, but there is a bakery on Bathurst just north of Steeles that sells Montreal bagels called 'St. Urbain Bagel'. I'm from Montreal, I've tried bagels all over Toronto, most "Montreal Bagels" are pretty close to the real deal (some aren't even close), but St. Urbain Bagel is IDENTICAL to Fairmount or St. Viator.

    I used to bring dozens back with me to Toronto to put in my freezer, then I went to St. Urbain Bagel in Toronto and I realized I was shlepping Fairmount bagels from Montreal for nothing. They're freaking identical. When the bagels come out of the wood-burned oven, they're toasty, sweet, chewy on the inside and loaded with seeds. It's the only place in the GTA where I would give my seal to call their bagels "Montreal Bagels".

    33 Replies
    1. re: montrealer70

      Since I'm going to be in Toronto in a couple of weeks, I mapped this on Google. Way too far from downtown, but I noticed there's another branch of St. Urbain on 93 Front St. E., that's only 5 blocks from where I'm staying. So thanks for the tip, Montrealer70 -- even though I won't make it to Montreal, I'll get to try Montreal bagels!

      1. re: Steve Green

        The downtown St Urbain is in the St Lawrence Market. You can also try Bagel House on Bayview Av near Millwood. That's very close to downtown by car, but not so easy on the TTC.

        1. re: embee

          i tried st urbain only once and it really just didn't do it for me. mostly because they felt it was alright to give me something stale.

          now bagel house does deserve a trip of its own and the neighbourhood is great for french pastries too... so it's a carb loaded trip that's well worth it. this lovely little transit map will show you that a subway ride up to davisville and the 28 or 11 bus east will treat you well! http://crazedmonkey.com/toronto-trans...

          1. re: pinstripeprincess

            I bought some today, asked if they had wheat with sesame seeds so she went to the side and got me some, she put them right in the bag.. I asked her if they were fresh, and she said "yes" .. when I checked on them later they didn't seem "fresh" so I don't know..

            I decided to try it today because of the rave reviews, but at least I'm not hte only one who doesn't think they're that great.. they seem ok, I'm eating it now, it's just a little too sweet for my taste and not really "chewy" like I expected.

            Does anyone know if they're boiled or not? I think bagels are supposed to be boiled but after watching a show they said toronto bagles usually aren't so now I'm not sure.

            1. re: BamiaWruz

              http://www.thebagelhouse.ca/theclassi...

              cant beat bagel house when u go in the mourning and randomly catch a fresh bagel just out and still hot from the oven :D

      2. re: montrealer70

        Montrealer70, have you tried Bagel House yet? St. Urbain, in my humble opinion at least, is really not that great a bagel. Actually, I think it’s kind of crappy. I guess judged on its own, not comparing it to Montreal bagels, it’s not bad. But man, I don’t think it has any resemblance to Montreal bagels. But hey, that’s just me.

        To me, Bagel House is much MUCH closer to a Montreal bagel. Even Bagel House, if eaten alongside a true Montreal bagel would be spotted immediately as the one in baked in Toronto. I don’t think it has that true, pure Montreal bagel taste and texture. But it is Toronto’s best shot at one, and they are damn good.

        If you haven’t tried Bagel House yet I suggest you do. I must say though, I’d stick with the bagels. I know a lot of people like their other prepared and baked goods, but I’ve tried a lot of them and everything I’ve tried has been pretty bad (at least at the Avenue Rd. location, which is the only one I’ve ever been to). Stick with bagels there.

        Apologies for shifting the thread's focus. Good luck in your bagel hunt, meclone2.

        1. re: magic

          I'm surprised at the replies on this post. Then again, I'm starting to get used to the fact that either people have diferent tastes or Toronto is infamous for being inconsistent.

          I went to Bagel House (on Avenue Rd.) a few days ago for the first time. On their website, they say "Montrealers swear it's identical to a Montreal Bagel" and they go on to put their special recipe on the website. When I arrived, I saw a few dozen bagels on the "chute" (you know, the ones that were just taken out of the oven). I pointed to those ones and said "a dozen fresh please". I tasted one before I got back into my car. It tasted stale. It wasn't even hot - it was room temperature. It should have been bagged hours ago to preserve freshness. I don't want to exaggerate, it tasted like I bought a Fairmount bagel, brought it home, left it on the counter for 24 hours then took a bite. Either their recipe is 'off' or they left bagels on the chute for decoration to give the impression that they make fresh bagels.

          I haven't been to St. Urbain Bagel (Bathurst location) in a few years but when I used to go there, I would do the same thing. I would point to the fresh-out-of-the-oven bagels and order a dozen. They were always piping hot and toasty on the outside. The taste was fresh and delicious.

          In Montreal, I was a regular at Fairmount Bagel Bakery. I would order one or two dozen and usually eat at least two bagels (plain) on my way home. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and no matter what time of day you walk in, you get a piping hot, fresh toasted bagel right out of the oven. I used to burn my fingers eating the first bagel from the bag.

          The only time that I eat a plain bagel is if it's straight out of the oven. That's the test. The bagels at 'Bagel House' needed slathering of cream cheese to mask the lack of freshness. I won't be back to Bagel House.

          Another thing about Bagel House: When I was in there, I shot off my big mouth again (which I vow to never do again in Toronto), I was telling the two shopkeeps that I was from Montreal and I love fresh bagels etc... Both of them couldn't give a rat's ass about it. They may as well be working at McDonald's or the Gap. They take absolutely no pride in what they are making. Their dis-interest showed up in the taste of the bagels.

          The owners may have had good intentions opening their bakeries, but unlike Zane Caplansky, instead of actually making the bagels and taking pride, they leave it up to minimum wage employees who don't give a sh*t, while they lie at home on their lazy-boys.

          1. re: montrealer70

            Sounds like supply may be exceeding demand.

            1. re: mrbozo

              No question about it. That's the exact impression that I had. The shop had the ambiance of a 'ghost-town'. It was as if I was the only customer for the past 24 hours. Even their other baked goods under the counter looked dingy and stale.

              1. re: montrealer70

                Well, this probably has something to do with the fact that Bagel House is now, for some insane reason, 24 hours. Like people in the Avenue Rd./Yonge area will be getting their bagel cravings at 2 am., or rushing to pick them up fresh at 5 in the morning. Let’s face it, this isn’t Montreal. There isn’t the cultural demand or interest in having fresh bagels 24 hours a day here. I have no idea why they are now open 24 hours. I think the only thing that will come of this, from a customer’s perspective, are bagels that have been sitting for hours. Sounds to me like you got the short end of that 24-hour stick. Pitty. Again, I won’t bother defending Bagel House as I think what they are doing is stupid and ultimately a disservice to those that really like bagels. But again, when fresh, they are as close to a Montreal bagel you are getting in this city. No contest. Stay away from their other products.

                1. re: magic

                  You hit it the nail right on the head. They should actually be open 5 hours per day and promise fresh bagles, instead of being open 24-hours and selling seemingly "day-old" bagels (during off-hours). Plus I would like to see a bustle rather than a ghost-town. Just for reference, I was there Sunday night at around 6 p.m. when most bakeries were closed in the city.

            2. re: montrealer70

              It sucks that the bagels weren’t fresh. There's no call for that. I'm no Bagel House apologist. If they were stale then shame on them. My support for Bagel House over St. Urbain is conditional on them being fresh of course. Stale, I wouldn't touch, I don't care where they're from. Serving customers stale bagels would probably never happen in Montreal. One of the differences separating Bagel House from true Montreal bagels perhaps...... in other words -- the details.

              1. re: magic

                i'm inline with magic.... i've actually never had a stale bagel from them and tend to only go sat or sun when the place is overflowing with people and bagels. they're always super warm and wonderfully chewy that i'll eat 3 before i've walked a block. never tried to talk to them about their product and to be honest no one in there really looks like they care... but each time i've gone it's been great. a serious shame that you haven't had those experiences.

              2. re: montrealer70

                Interesting! I've had the St. Urbain bagels at the SLM location and I don't think they are anything like the bagels in Montreal. On the other hand, I think the Bagel House bagels are the closest thing we've got in Toronto. And I've never gotten them stale, so it's really unfortunate you had that experience. Go first thing in the morning on a weekend and they will definitely be hot out of the oven. I usually have to take the paper bag out of the plastic bag as soon as I get into the car and then rip the paper bag open to let all the steam out.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  Jo, that's the exact experience that I was hoping for and I was gravely dissapointed. I want steam coming out of the paper bag when I leave a bagel bakery. You guys have experience at Bagel House so the next time I'm around the area on a weekend morning, I'll try it again.

                  I haven't been to St. Urbain Bagel on Bathurst in years, so I have to go back to check it out. When I was a regular, every time I went there was a huge success. The other baked goods also were fresh and looked very appetizing.

                  Last thing about St. Urbain: Every time I was there, I was pushed and shoved from all directions from Jewish women frantically getting their baked goods for the house. Now that's the way it should be!!!

                  1. re: montrealer70

                    If it’s been years since you’ve been to the Bathurst location I’d say you should go back and see what you think now. To me, there is just no comparison between BH and SU when fresh. Not that BH is in league with something outta Montreal mind you, but (when fresh) it’s the closest we’ve got, and certainly better than St. Urbain.

                    Even then, with BH, the chances of you getting them steaming in a bag are 3/10 I’d say. Which just ain’t right. And one of the things that separate it from bagels found in Montreal.

                    1. re: magic

                      I'm going to chime in with another vote in favour of BH over SU. Years ago, SU was the closest thing we had to Montreal bagels but I found their quality to have deteriorated over the years. In fairness, I haven't been back since I switched over to BH. I almost always go to the Bayview location of BH and often receive a bag that is hot out of the oven. Maybe try the Bayview location next time. And NEVER buy BH bagels from shops like Pusateri's or All the Best - they'll say that they had them delivered that morning but they always feel and taste a day old. And one more thing montrealer70 - and I ask this only because I'm full of admiration and envy for your seemingly idyllic lifestyle but I gotta ask...do you have anything as mundane as a job or a need for sleep or any other commitments in your life or are you able to literally spend your days and nights in search of the perfect smoked meat/knish/bagel/steak sandwich??????????? Tell me your secret!!!!!

                      1. re: peppermint pate

                        Yeah, maybe I should give the Bayview location a try too. Avenue is fine when fresh, but like I said, chances are you ain't getting them fresh. Hmm, perhaps Bayview...

                        1. re: peppermint pate

                          Pate, to explain my determination on chowhound - I've been here for a number of years and went through countless dissapointments with the food in Toronto, leading to much frustration.

                          I discovered Chowhound and it serves two purposes for me. It gives me an outlet to voice my frustration and secondly, with the help of fellow Hounds, I found many hidden gems that I wouldn't have known about.

                          Some people go to the movies, go bowling, paint or watch hockey. My hobby is food and discussing food. Everyone needs a hobby, and everyone needs to eat. For me, it's a hobby that fits in well with my fast-paced lifestyle.

                          If I had my druthers, I would be a professional food critic. If I was handed a contract, I would do it in a heartbeat.

                          1. re: montrealer70

                            Montrealer70 -- I'm going to inform you of another hidden gem.
                            It's called: Lenchner's Bakery
                            50 Drumlin Circle
                            Concord, Ontario
                            Phone 905-738-8811
                            Their web-site has a map.

                            Go to the intersection of Dufferin St. and Steeles Ave. West. Go west on Steeles approximately 1 kilometer until you go under a railway overpass. At the first traffic light past the overpass make a right turn and go north one block. Then turn left and you're on Drumlin Circle. In a small nondescript plaza on the north side of the street, is Lenchner's.

                            Now, Lenchner's is not a bakery in the usual sense of the word. They make challahs, rolls, buns, knishes, bourekas,cheese buns, mini fruit danishes, poppy seed and cinnamon rolls, etc. all in the form of frozen unbaked dough. Very reasonably priced. Actually wholesale prices. They sell to the public.

                            You make your selection, take it home and place in your freezer. When you wish to bake a challah for example, remove the challah dough from the freezer the night before, and leave in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. In the morning remove from the fridge, remove he saran wrap, put on a baking sheet, and let it rise for about six hours. Beat an egg to make an egg wash, and brush on top ofthe challah, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and you have a delicious, fresh, hot challah.

                            All products have baking instructions in the package of dough. It's literally fool-proof.

                            The priceless extra bonus that you get is the heavenly aroma that pervades your home for the next several hours. Try it , you'll love it.

                            1. re: Doctormhl1

                              Thanks Doc - I'll check it out and let you know how it goes.

                            2. re: montrealer70

                              I endorse the doc's recommendation. You seem to have unlimited time in your life to make these fun voyages - of that I am jealous. However, I'll make your life a bit easier if you aren't doing the drive arounds just for fun.

                              Many Loblaw's store sell Lenchner's products. They are in a freezer located within the bakery section. They have a good selection at Gerrard and Vic Park and at Bayview Village. They are likely to be at any big Loblaws in a somewhat Jewish area. Gerrard isn't even a Jewish area. It's a bit random, though, since my horrible huge neighbourhood Loblaws on Leslie St doesn't have them.

                              I've never seen the sweet stuff, but the savoury puff dough pastries (e.g., the bourekas) are very good. The challas are excellent. I confess to having several in the freezer and I no longer bother baking my own. No wholesale prices at Loblaws, though :-(

                          2. re: magic

                            Ok Magic. This weekend, I'm making a run. Bagel House then St. Urbain. I'll post my findings.

                            I have to mention one major aspect of Montreal Bagels. From the time they come out of the oven (toasted on the outside, chewy on the inside), the enjoyment of the bagel diminishes every hour. When fresh, they're so good, I eat them plain. Within 12 hours, they're perfect with cream cheese. After 24 hours, they need to be toasted in a toaster to resemble fresh bagels and are still edible from your counter. After 48 hours, the toaster is needed otherwise they're inedible. After 36 hours = breadcrumbs. After 48 hours - straight into the garbage.

                            The BH bagels that I got tasted in between the 12-hour and 24-hour bagel that needs a toaster. One of the cache's of going to to a bagel bakery is that you can get them piping hot fresh. I'm hoping to get them fresh on my next visit. With respect, if I don't get steaming bagels from BH this weekend, I can't go back.

                            In Montreal, there's hundreds of restaurants and bakeries around the city that sell Fairmount or St. Viator Bagels and they are automatically "toaster required" bagels. When I used to go to Fairmount, it was such a treat to get them out of the oven.

                            1. re: montrealer70

                              Do yourself a favour next time you're home and check out Super Bagel in the little strip mall just south of Cote-St-Luc Rd on Westminster (if you're in the 'hood). Just as good as the two classic joints.

                              1. re: montrealer70

                                Haha, well I sure hope you do get them fresh. But if you don’t and decide not to return who would blame you. Not me. I admire your firmness on the matter. Who knows, maybe you'll (we'll) have better luck at the Bayview location.

                                I enjoyed your bagel freshness timeline very much.

                                1. re: montrealer70

                                  I've only been to the Bagel House on Bayview. They do not bake continuously. You should be able to phone them and find out when a batch is coming out of the oven.

                                  You can't get there any time and expect fresh, hot bagels. That's just the way it is. The bagels are real bagels, so they do, indeed, go stale. They are, to my palate, real Montreal style bagels. I found them better than St Urbain's and, as such, haven't tasted a St Urbain bagel in a long time since Leaside is more convenient.

                          3. re: montrealer70

                            Saddle up, drift up north on the 404 until you reach Major Mackenzie, and head west to Yonge, and then go south to the bottom of the hill. On the left, you'll see "Whattabagel".

                            Now, I understand there are several locations in Toronto, but this is the only one I've ever visited, and if you get there in the morning (i.e. before noon), you'll get bagels coming down the "chute" so hot, you need tongs to handle them. Poppy, sesame, plain, and a bunch of other, less authentic (cinnamon raisin? chocolate chip? OK, but not real bagels, IMHO) varieties. We love 'em when they're hot - chewy, sweet, and dressed up with either a bit of butter or one of their many cream cheeses, they make a great lunch/brunch treat. Not as sublime when they cool off, but still a step up from anything you'll find at Tim's or the local grocery.

                            They also offer fine breads, from baguettes to challah, and I for one very much enjoy their mini-danish pastries. It's worth the trip!

                        2. re: montrealer70

                          Some day I should give the Bathurst/Steeles St Urbain a try, ditto for Bagel House (if/when I gain access to a car). I'm not sure if it's the baking or what, but I find the bagels from SLM St Urbain, while not bad, just wasn't St Viator.

                          1. re: meclone2

                            So is St. Urbain (whatever its shortcomings) still the best bagel downtown, or are there other options? I'll be staying at the Intercontinental and won't have a car.

                            1. re: Steve Green

                              The only Intercontinental I know is on Bloor - but you mention that the Front Street St. Urbain location is only 5 blocks from your hotel (oh, maybe near the Skydome?). So anyway, yes, if you're right downtown by the lake, then your bagel options would be limited and the St. Lawrence Market location of St. Urbain would be your best option (and a lovely place to stroll around and sample other tasty treats).

                          2. re: montrealer70

                            I feel that some of the arguments comparing the "Montreal" bagel to the "Toronto" bagel is somewhat off-kilter, as the Fairmount and the St. Viateur are not the same thing, so it's hard to say that a certain bagel is identical as both. From my experience, a fresh Fairmount is much softer and chewier than the St.V version, which has a denser quality about it. Both highly enjoyable in their own right. It is only when they both cool that they resemble each other more.

                            To that end, the Bathurst/Steeles St. Urbain (which was better in years past, though it remains superior to the St. Lawrence version) is made in the fashion of the Fairmount. With its wood-burning oven, the constant morning turnover, the proper method, the honeyed-water, etc., it does a good impression, I'm not going to complain.

                            The Bayview Bagel House, when fresh, mimics the St. Viateur in texture and crumb. Good, but not good enough!

                            1. re: Chester Eleganté

                              Chester, that's an excellent point. You're 100% right. When fresh, Fairmount has a chewy (even gummy) center that I'm addicted to. St. Viator is tougher when fresh. After the 6-hour mark, they both become the same bagel.

                              In Montreal, you're either a Fairmount or St. Viator fan (just like you're either a sesame or poppy fan). That's why I was so impressed with St Urbain on Bathurst. I haven't been there in years, but they were able to duplicate the chewy center and that's what impressed me.

                              It's impossible to try a fresh Fairmount side-by-side a fresh St. Urbain, however, in my opinion (and I'm a stickler), the St. Urbain bagel did it for me. Suffice it to say that I was much keener on having fresh St. Urbain over "day-old travelled" Fairmount bagels.

                              It's possible that Bagel House resembles St. Viator when fresh, and if that's the case than both Bagel House and St. Urbain are Montreal Bagels, just two different types. There's no need to have a "Bud vs. Bud-light" feud over it between chowhounders.

                              I agree with embee that Bagel House serves a Montreal Bagel and that they will grow stale, however, they should still bag the bagels to preserve the freshness. Leaving them exposed to the air triples the aging process.

                              One last note: We're all in agreement that Bagel House rarely offers fresh out of the oven (I am willing to concede that I would enjoy the Bagel House Bagel if it was fresh) - On the other hand, I've been to St. Urbain approximately 20 times and EVERY time, I left with fresh hot bagels.

                          3. Everytime I've been to the Bayview location there is zero fresh baking going on

                            All of the bagels have been sitting in big plastic see-through bins as if they were sitting in a supermarket, exposed to the air, and they go stale very quickly

                            I wish I could have one when they are fresh from the oven.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: duckdown

                              They really are lovely when fresh from the oven. My husband (Montreal born and raised) will inhale two of them in the car before we get home. We have sesame seeds permanently imbedded into the nooks and crannies of our car.

                              It's worth a call to see when they're baking that day.

                              1. re: TorontoJo

                                Jo, I also have a fully sesame seeded car !!

                                1. re: montrealer70

                                  Yes, its so hard to refrained from eating a bagel out of the fresh brick oven when you go out and buy it from St-Viateur Bagel. I always say I'm not gonna eat any until I get home. Wrong.

                                  There is a bagel shop in the St-Lawrence Market that is supposed St-Viateur or Fairmount Bagel way in the back of the bldg.

                                  It's not really that close to the taste of the ones frpm Montreal... but just wanted to let you posters know.

                                  Me too .. I buy 1/2 dozen and put it in my freezer when I got back to Montreal sometimes. I still have a few left.

                                  A few months back, Costco at Marche Central location which had bagels from St-Viateur or Fairmount, can't remember..you get 18 bagels for almost the price of 12 from the bakery..of course not fresh out of the oven. But if you are gonna freeze it, it doesn't really matter.

                                  1. re: Chocaholic

                                    That's a good point Choco. On one trip to Montreal, I brought back 3 dozen from Faimount and put them all in the freezer (except for the 6 fresh sesame bagels that I ate on the drive back) (resulting in a further sesame seeded car). I was toasting frozen bagels for almost a year !!! The last dozen had a layer of frost over each bagel (I assumed they would have gone bad but toasted them anyway) - Believe it or not, they still tasted like day-old toasted Fairmount bagels. Bottom line: a good quality Montreal bagel is always delicious toasted with a thin layer of margarine, and a scoop of cream cheese as long as you get it into the toaster before moss appears. The only way to beat that taste is to eat it fresh out of the oven, and there's a 3-5 hour window to enjoy them at their freshest.

                            2. ok, I went back to St. Urbain Bagel (Bathurst) today. They had hundreds of bagels on the chute (probably 30 minutes out of the oven). I ordered a dozen sesame. You are all 100% correct. It's not the same bagel as they served 8 years ago. These that I got today taste like imposters of Montreal Bagels. They used to be more toasted on the outside, more chewy on the inside and sweeter. At this point, they taste somewhere in between a "good" fresh Toronto Bagel and a Fairmount Bagel.

                              Luckily, I can go months without having a bagel, so I'm cool with it. At least I know now to stop recommending St. Urbain Bagels to Montrealers who want Montreal Bagels. Meclone, you may just have to order from St. Viator if you want the real deal. You can't get it here.

                              The Bagel House Bagel and the St. Urbain bagel were both good with cream cheese and would probably be even better if I toasted them. They just can't be compared to Montreal bagels.

                              I'll mention two positives for St. Urbain: I got 6 free bagels with my dozen that I ordered, making it 18 bagels for around $6. I found that to be a good price. Also, I completely forgot about their heavenly home-made cream cheese. I used to buy a container regularly. Today I bought their home-made garlic cream cheese. I put a scoop on a bagel - delicious!!!

                              1. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Gryfe's Bagels http://www.thejewelsoffood.com/index....
                                When I lived in the area they had line ups and sold out by noon. It is a soft, chewy bagel, with a crispy crust.
                                I'll visit if they are still there.

                                7 Replies
                                  1. re: magic

                                    Can you explain the difference?
                                    To me, it is valuable to have a source producing fresh every morning.

                                    1. re: jayt90

                                      Well, Gryfe's just aren’t Montreal bagels. They don't resemble Montreal bagels, don’t taste like them, are made differently with different equipment, different ingredients, using different techniques....they just aren’t Montreal bagels. That's likely why no one has mentioned them. Cuz they are really Toronto bagels, and this is a thread about Montreal bagels in Toronto, not Toronto bagels in Toronto. Don't get me wrong, I love a Gryfe's bagel. Especially when fresh. Oh my word they are tasty. But to bring them up on a thread about Montreal bagels would be off topic I'd think. Even though they are available fresh at some places… no?

                                      1. re: magic

                                        A bagel is just flour, water, sugar, salt and yeast, according to the baker Anna, at Gryfe's. I am trying to understand how a bagel with these ingredients could be dramatically different, in Toronto, Miami, New York, or Montreal. What secret, if any, does Bagel House have, when they are able to produce fresh ones?

                                        1. re: jayt90

                                          I'll answer that, based upon what I know about the Noah's/Einstein's chain: They produce poofy, breadlike bagels that sound like the Gryfe's bagels as described below by embee. Noah's/Einstein's bagels are steamed prior to baking; Traditional bagels are instead boiled before baking. Very different end result, using the same ingredients. The steam process produces a soulless bagel with a longer shelf life.

                                          1. re: jayt90

                                            Baking is an almost profound combination of real art and precise science. (That sounds pretentious, doesn't it, but there it is.) Minuscule differences in both ingredients and processing can result in a drastically different product.

                                            If you can stand reading Cook's Illustrated, they demonstrate this again and again, even with (non-baking) recipes that aren't extremely temperamental.

                                            I used to think that the oven was the major consideration, but have concluded that, while the oven matters, it plays only a supporting role.

                                            The wood oven used for Montreal bagels has an impact on flavour and texture. Yet Kettleman's on Danforth used a wood oven, but I never tasted any wood smoke in their bagels.

                                            The best pizza of my childhood, Frank Pepe in New Haven, was baked in a coal fired oven. So was the best pizza in Brooklyn, where I grew up, at Tottono's. But one of the most famous pizzerias in Brooklyn uses a gas oven to get a similar result.

                                            The conveyor driven ovens at What a Bagel - I laughed when I first saw one - bake a damn good bagel.

                                            When the best bread bakery in my Brooklyn neighbourhood (Dubin's) switched from an open hearth heated by flames that scared me, to a stainless steel gas fired oven with doors, nobody realized anything had changed until the owner proudly showed off his new toy.

                                            My conclusion is that while a wood fired oven is a requirement for the Montreal bagel taste, using a wood oven doesn't guarantee that taste will ever materialize.

                                            Ingredients? Gryfe's, you note, uses sugar. Some bagels contain malt syrup. Many bagels do not use any sweetener. Some contain only a tiny amount of salt in the dough. Others contain much more - to the point of being salty. Both sugar and salt have a major impact on flavour and texture (especially softness vs chewiness), even in small amounts.

                                            Some bagels are boiled in plain water, some in sugared water, some in honeyed water. Some are steamed. Some are just baked (which would never have happened a couple of decades ago).

                                            Different flours have different levels of protein content, which impacts gluten development. Some are rolled very skinny. Some are fat. Some are hand made and some are made by machine.

                                            Some bagels are allowed to rise for a long time. Some even spend time in retarders. Some get very little rise at all.

                                            Then there's the water itself. Mass made factory bagels are undoubtedly made with filtered water, if only to protect the machinery. The bagels of my childhood (NY) and young adulthood (Montreal) were made with local water. The nature of the water supply has a major influence on flavour and texture.

                                            A few decades ago, bagels were something truly local. They were made, by hand, in Brooklyn and - to a lesser extent - in Manhattan (you literally had to be born into the union), in Montreal, and in Toronto (Gryfe's and Bagel King).

                                            Frozen Bagels were invented, more or less simultaneously, in Buffalo (Abel's) and New Haven (Lender's). They eventually merged and are now made by a mega corporation, I think somewhere around Iowa. These frozen bagels are, IMHO, better than some of the fresh ones.

                                            My biggest giggle is what we call "Anglican bagels" - we first encountered them in a Toronto church basement following a friend's kids' Xmas show. The minister announced that as a special treat, instead of the traditional hot dogs, they would be serving ...bagels. The kids cheered (as my jaw dropped). This day I never contemplated seeing.

                                            The breads that so excited these kids looked like bagels - at least from a distance. Up close, they were something else. They were a pale beige fading to almost white. They had no smell. They were hard outside, fluffy and cottony soft inside, and unbearably dry. They contained lard. Oy.

                                            I recall reading (not verified) that one of the most common causes of serious household injury these days is bagel slicing.

                                    2. re: jayt90

                                      They are still there.

                                      There are two ways in which to look at Gryfe's. One would be to call it the genuine, unique, Toronto bagel. This is absolutely true. (A twister is something different). The other would be say that a Gryfe's bagel is a breadstuff shaped like a bagel, but is not really a bagel. This is also true. Either position, though conflicting, is essentially unarguable.

                                      The official history of Gryfe's says, in essence, that he developed a soft bagel for people who didn't like bagels.

                                      Unless things have changed, which is always possible, the bagels baked at Gryfe's store and the bagels sold with the Gryfe's label may not be the same. The stuff distributed elsewhere is factory made. OTOH, the factory Gryfe's bagels are kosher, while the store is not.

                                    3. Meclone, I just finished a 12-hour, Toasted Fairmount Sesame Bagel. Forget about it. The Fairmount bagel has 4 to 5 times the amount of seeds on it, it's sweeter, the inside is markedly chewier and the outside was cooked to the point of "just before burnt". The St. Urbain appeared to be taken out of the oven "medium done". St. Urbain is no-where near a Montreal bagel !!!! It's a "bad imposter".

                                      As for Bagel House, I think I agree it's closer to a Montreal Bagel than Fairmount. I would have liked it to have more seeds and have the inside being a hint sweeter. It's probably better toasted as well.

                                      When you first asked us to import bagels I thought you maybe had a screw loose. Now, I don't think so anymore. I'm not in because I have friends who bring me a dozen Fairmount with 2 Lbs. of Schwartz every couple of months and I'm not a bagel-per-day type of guy anyway. I'm sure someone will go in with you.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: montrealer70

                                        Tried the Fairmount bagels last week in Montreal. Sesame, poppy and garlic fresh out of the oven. The best bagels we ever tasted. 'Crispy' on the outside and chewy on the inside. Lots of sesame seeds. And I don't even like carbs.

                                        Tried St Urbain at St Lawrence Mkt today - fresh out of oven. Very disappointed. Not even close. Liked others said, tasted like it was undercooked. I did like the fact they had cinnamon raisin, blueberry and that you can mix and match whereas at Fairmount, I am not sure if you could or not.

                                        1. re: caitlink

                                          Exactly. The St. Urbain and Bagel House Bagels came out of the oven white - yet the one at Fairmount has home-made-looking char on the outside.

                                          My Fairmount bagels are now 17 hours out of the oven and now taste similar to the 2-4 hour Bagel House Bagel that I had last week.

                                          Definitely in Toronto, the closest is Bagel House.

                                          As for Fairmount mixing and matching, in 50+ years of business, I think you're the first to ever ask that question. I always just bought a dozen of each if I wanted to mix. They're so good, there's no such thing as over-buying (I used to give away some to neighbors or relatives if need be). Plus as they are a wholesaler, their prices are so low anyway.