Thursday, September 24, 2015

Montreal Bagels: Two Grand Old Names

 Something I would't know where to find even in New York . . . a 24 hour bagel shop. Could I be dreaming?
Arriving into Montreal late on a rainy night I headed right for Fairmount Bagels as the sesame seed rings were coming out of the wood burning oven. These are not the giant doughy delicious New York variety I grew up with but something altogether different. First off Montreal bagels are small, or a reasonable serving size compared to their Southern cousins. As my friend Marc described, there is a greater crust to dough ratio making them almost more like a soft pretzel or a bialy. And they are sweet. Fairmount's have a faint taste of honey which made the sesame seeds literally sing in every bite.
 Fairmount is the oldest bagel shop in Montreal and there was a line at their flagship shop close to midnight when I came by.
 St Viateur is the youngster by comparison, baking and boiling in Montreal since the 1950s. In addition to their 24 hour a day bakery (about a block from Fairmount) St Viateur has four cafes across the city. So I was able to try their sesame bagel (Montreal's favorite) with lox and a mountain of cream cheese. St Viateur's bagels are just a tiny bit dryer and slightly less sweet than Fairmont's. Delicious toasted.
Across Montreal the best bagel is debated in endless blogs and articles and breakfast tables. Though there are other bakers the serious food city seems to split between Fairmount and St Viateur.
Fairmount's garlic bagel was not for me and their pumpernickel lacked the dark flavor I come to expect in New York but their sesame hot from the oven barely made it to the car.
The bagel debate may rage on in Montreal, but I've picked a side.