Friday, August 3, 2012

Bread Talk - Part 6: Bagels

Before Baker Mar left for Dubai late last year, he surprised me with a mini bagel and bialy that he made (above photo).  You see, Baker Mar used to work as chief baker at New York Bagel Shop at Ayala Alabang (now closed), and when I met him in Panglao, we talked a lot about my favorite New York City bread – bagels, as well as the New York Bagel Shop where he used to work and where I used to buy some bagels.

Hence, this surprise gift from Baker Mar was the last time I enjoyed this iconic bread.  As Time once quipped, “There are few foods that are truly unique to New York, and the bagel is one of them. Pizza belongs to America now, but the bagel was always the undisputed property of New York.”

Mimi Sheraton, food critic for The New York Times, in her recent article, “Lost, Then Found: New York Classics,” said about bagels,” I remember them well. Say, about three and a half inches across with a good wide center hole; a crisp, shiny, golden crust; and chewy, dense, gray interiors that turned to stone if not eaten within three hours of being baked. (A few words about the hole: It is essential first because it ensures a crisp crust at the center, and because the cream cheese and smoked salmon, when properly laid across that empty expanse, afford a luscious mouthful uncompromised by bread.) Their like will not come this way again, given shortages of skilled workers and the modern taste for softness and eternal shelf life, plus the need for a gigantic size to justify a retail price that covers the high cost of labor.”

Bagels never really caught on here in Panglao even with its numerous foreign residents.  Neither did it become popular in the rest of the country.  And the ones I once bought at the French Baker shop in Manila, were way too mushy and soft, no trace whatsoever of the authentic New York City bagels like those sold at H&H Bagels at Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

In Jakarta, however, three bagel stores have opened in the past 12 months, all led by young entrepreneurs.. The bagels themselves are classic New York-style – evaluated by Jewish friends from the Big Apple, the owners say – and come in 10 flavors.  Indeed, bagels are here to stay the capital of the world’s most Muslim-populous nation.

One group of bagel shop owners are also planning a MoBagel, a customized Isuzu minivan that will serve as a rolling bagel factory to expand the store’s party catering and perhaps even allow the owners to test markets in other cities like Bandung and Surabaya.

Incidentally, if you’re a bagel enthusiast like I am, you might find this article on Dan Graf, a Californian chef who has been scientifically engineering the “perfect bagel” quite interesting.

According to the article, Graf's boss and Waters's former cook Peter Levitt, made a pilgrimage to the iconic delis of New York before taking over Saul's, a delicatessen a few doors down from Chez Panisse. After working as a cook and deli manager at Saul's, Graf was likewise encouraged by Levitt to "stage" with a longtime New York bagel producer and learn the old methods of poached bread.

Graf had other ideas. Rather than bowing to tradition, the 27-year-old former genetics major dove into online forums, scoured research, and embraced analytical lab techniques, emerging from his basement-apartment kitchen with a bagel that combines a uniquely crisp and blistered crust with a rich and chewy interior redolent of the best bagels in and around Graf's native New Jersey. Less than a month from launch, Graf's one-man company Baron Baking is selling to three different San Francisco Bay Area restaurants, building buzz in the local press, and pleasing a fan base of local gourmands and restaurant owners. Lower East Side bagel elders be damned.

As for Baker Mar, hopefully, sometime in the near future, he will come back home a rich man and open an authentic bagel shop in Manila and Bohol.

Is there a good bagel shop in your area?

Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!


  1. interesting story about bagels:) It's what I missed in Philippines...we have great-tasting breads!

    visiting you from FTF

  2. I think the best bagel I ever had was in Montreal Canada it was delicious I have never had anything compare to it. Thanks for the info. B

  3. The bagels look so yummy. Haven't eaten one in a long time.

  4. Sadly there are horrible bagels out here. Wish I was back on the east coast where I could get a decent on. There is a fancy shop that just opened close to downtown. Bagels are OK, but nothing like NYC.

  5. I used to get these amazing bialys every morning when I was working in the Scottsdale (AZ) Airpark... 15 years ago. I haven't had one since. I haven't seen many bagel shops around Texas and even fewer that sell bialys. Now you've got me thinking about memorable foods... like that Pizza place in VT that had the best (huge!) Italian subs and the wild mushroom enchiladas at ZTejas.... must go there soon!

  6. So this is a great read...(I had to google Panglao Island) and I love, and want, some of that bread you describe. I can bake...I avoid it..hahahahha. Love it toooooo much.

  7. there was a bagel shop in Megamall that I tried once. the nearest bagel is from Country Style--they have a store in my former office building.:p

    i wish i had the chance to try a New York bagel when i visited NYC.:p

  8. That rich ...! I like! Excellent

  9. A good bagel with cream cheese is a delight.

    Thanks for sharing at Rural Thursdays this week. xo

  10.'s just coming up on 8 a.m. Friday morning in Texas USA....and those bagels look mighty delicious to me!!! Care to share?

  11. So yum! I want that for my breakfast. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your lovely comment!

  12. I am not really a fan of bagels but my son is :-) Loves 'em together with a cup of good hot chocolate.

  13. I love bagels but haven't seen any for years. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places.

  14. Thank you so much for linking up to Tasty Thursdays last week. Hope to see you again this week!! The party is live at

    Nichi – The Mandatory Mooch

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