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Black Seed vs. Baz - Bagel Wars

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New York City has never been short on bagels. At least not since the early 1900s, when the International Bagel Bakers Local 338 was formed. Hundreds of bagel bakeries existed - my paternal great-grandfather was a bagel baker in the Bronx - as a matter of fact, he and my great-grandmother are buried in the Bronx Baker's Mutual Aid Society plot at a cemetery in Springfield Gardens, Queens. (I also have a seltzer-man in my background, who sold seltzer off of a horse-drawn cart, but that's another story). Of course, hundreds of bagel bakers and bakeries meant that there eventually were competing unions, non-union shops, strikes, strife, walkouts, lockouts and all that good stuff that comes along with a good product, the labor that it takes to make a good product...and ownership. Socialism aside (and Socialism is what was behind those early labor unions and why they were important), along came Harry Lender, who basically screwed the pooch, by first mass-producing bagels (with a machine he bought, but didn't invent) and then by perfecting the slicing and freezing of his mass-produced bagel.

Eventually, all hell broke loose, bagels grew to ginormous size, and whoever first put a blueberry into a bagel should get 30 smacks with a stale bialy. When I moved to California (a long time ago), I was sad and missed bagels (and don't get me started on pizza); that is, until I found a bagel place where they actually made bagels the old-fashioned way - hand-rolled, boiled and baked - in San Jo freakin' se. I patronized them for years until I moved back to New York...the land of the giant bagel (I'm looking at you, you decrepit, old, morally, spiritually and physically bankrupt H&H) - the better to make a sandwich on - something a bagel was never meant to do, in my opinion; that's what sliced bread, baguettes, rolls, lettuce leaves (please) and god-knows-what are all for - NOT BAGELS!

Fast forward to 2014 and within the last three months, two brand-new bagel places have opened (and I think there's another on the way). Both claim to hand-roll, boil and then bake their bagels the old-fashioned way - even if one is Montreal style, and boils in honey water and bakes in a wood-fueled oven, and blah blah blah (I imagine old Harry is spinning in his grave about now). So, what better way to spend some time, with Significant Eater available as a taster, than by trying these two new offerings?

I detected some ginormity in the Baz bagel, as well as a rather generous hand with the toppings. When put on a scale, the Baz bagel weighed anywhere from 2 - 3 ounces more than the Black Seed bagel - which was right in the ballpark of what a real bagel should weigh (just under 3 ounces).

But really, it's all about taste, isn't it? And to be honest, to really taste-test a bagel, they should be eaten fresh - not the next day, not frozen, not whatever, but because of time constraints, I had to use the toaster. One half of each bagel was cream cheesed, and one half was buttered.

The far-from-final analysis gave us a clear-cut favorite. The density, the weight, the crustiness and the taste of the Black Seed bagel did it for us...though Sig Eater did note that they were a bit sweet from their honey-water dip. The wood-burning smoke is evident while the bagels are still in their bag, but not really so much in the finished product. And the Baz bagel, which had a nice flavor, just did not have enough crust-to-crumb ratio for us...it's sandwich sized. Additionally, and don't tell Sig Eater, I tasted the bagels before they were toasted - and liked Black Seed's more that way as well.

Oh - one little thing - I still prefer the minis that Russ & Daughters sells - they're specially made for R & D by the Bagel Hole in Park Slope, and they're my favorite. You can't make a sandwich on them, and why would you? Bagels were always meant to be enjoyed, a half at a time, with a schmear and a bit of lox.

So don't worry, great-grandpa Harry. Someone will get it right one of these days.

Full blog post with pix on my blog at:

http://tastytravails.blogspot.com/201...

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  1. Actually tried black seed today (coincidentally). Went in asking for a plain onion bagel (I figured that would be a good test) but they had none (not sure if that is always the case). Anyway, opted for the everything bagel and really enjoyed. It was crusty, chewy, and not over-sized. $1.69. I would buy again. Best bagel I've had in quite some time. Not sure though I would spring the $$ for the accoutrements.

    1. I love bagels. I tried Black Seed last week and was impressed. No garlic. I like garlic but I got an everything. It was excellent. Had it with cream cheese and beet cured lox also tasty. I will be back.
      I'll have to try Baz Bagels the next time I'm at Kossar's for some bialys,
      I am a big fan of Ess-A-Bagel. They are a bit big so they make for two meals.
      Zucker's is in my hood. Very good but too expensive once you add the cream cheese and lox.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Motosport

        Baz is not that close to Kossar's. It's close to DiPalo's though (about a block west), so grab some prosciutto and make a bagel sandwich!

        1. re: mitchleeny

          For a NYC walker it is very close.

        2. re: Motosport

          "They are a bit big so they make for two meals."

          you sure about that???

          1. re: Monica

            My usual garlic bagel with scallion cream cheese, sable and a little bit of onion will set me up for breakfast and lunch.

            1. re: Motosport

              Brunch! Bagels are my favorite brunching food group :)

              1. re: Motosport

                Garlic , scallion, sable and onion breath...I think I want to skip lunch too please. Hehe

          2. What a fun review. I love this kind of research - thanks. I particularly liked the numerous photos at various angles, showing the ginormity in the Baz bagel.

            Both of these were on my list for our most recent trip last month, and oddly enough we didn't get to either. But we ended up with some from R & D for the trip home, so hardly a consolation prize. Looking forward to checking them out next time, although that tiny bit of sweetness is what I didn't like about Montreal bagels. But they look so good...

            1 Reply
            1. re: VaPaula

              Thanks! R&D sources decent bagels.

            2. Where was this bagel place in San Jose?

              3 Replies
              1. re: Humbucker

                Yes, would love. To know!

                1. re: FattyDumplin

                  This is a tough one, as I haven't lived in San Jose for 20 years. It was in a shopping center (I believe the center had a Safeway) that was around Saratoga Avenue and Hamilton Avenue.

                  1. re: mitchleeny

                    Here?

                    http://www.yelp.com/biz/noahs-new-yor...

              2. Thanks for this! l miss living near Bagel Hole SO FRICKIN MUCH. l haven't had a better bagel in NYC.

                1. curious as to what the expected shelf life of a Blackseed Bagel is said to be. my wife secured a couple of everythings the other morning at Hudson Eats and we had them as an after-work snack around 6pm. They were almost inedible and definitely not hype worthy.

                  I accept that bagels should be eaten fresh so I'm not denouncing Blackseed. If anything, I'm more anxious to try a proper one, but I was a bit surprised at how quickly it became stale.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: coasts

                    Excellent bagels do not have a long shelf life. I buy mine a dozen at a time and freeze them in a paper bag inside a freezer zip lock bag to avoid freezer burn.
                    I'll take one (or more) out the night before and put them in another zip lock bag and into the fridge to defrost.
                    In the morning I split them and toast for about 5 minutes to bring them back to life. Almost as good as fresh.

                    1. re: Motosport

                      Agreed, but a bagel bought in the morning is still pretty good at night.

                      1. re: coasts

                        "Agreed, but a bagel bought in the morning is still pretty good at night." ....but only if toasted a little.

                        1. re: Motosport

                          l agree with this. The window for Peak Bagel ends maybe two hours after it leaves the oven; after that point, it needs a toastin'.

                          1. re: howdini

                            The Serious Eats crew did a taste test a few years back, rounding up freshly made bagels from around town that were no more than 3 hours old. They got some confounding results—pedigreed favorites that bombed, dark horses that showed like champions—and eventually determined that freshness trumped all other factors and that bagels suffer a steep decline within minutes out of the oven.

                            Their conclusion: "A bagel's half-life, untoasted and unadorned, is no more than half an hour. It was far less than any of us had thought, but after more than thirty minutes, we saw a rapid decline in texture, crust, and even taste."

                            http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2009/1...

                            1. re: squid kun

                              Ha! l remember reading that article a while back and thinking, before l reached its conclusion, that those bagels, when they finally got to their offices, were already too old to be considered fresh.

                              When l get a bagel to eat on my own, l always ask which was the last batch out of the oven: those are ones l go for [with the exception of salt bagels and cinnamon raisin, neither of which l like that much]. l like it to cool down just enough to where it doesn't melt the cream cheese.

                        2. re: coasts

                          Hhhmmm. I would not have been happy about that either. Bagels should have at least a 12-24hr after baked window of good eating! It shouldn't be as lackluster as a 12hr old doughnut....

                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                            I think 24 is pushing it.

                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                              Perhaps they will start putting loads of chemicals in their bagels so they will last as long as a Twinkie!!! NOT!!

                          2. re: Motosport

                            And I split them before freezing. And toast directly from the freezer. Saves a step, no?

                          3. re: coasts

                            Any bagel with salt on it generally doesn't last as long as a non-salt bagel. YMMV.

                          4. Great post! I live near both and have gotten fresh bagels from Baz a couple times since they've opened. They are delicious, especially when still warm and fresh.

                            But man are they bad at counting bagels. I've probably gotten the wrong number of bagels every time I've been (both in my favor and against me!).