The Thing About Bagels

A bagel and cold sweet tea: Breakfast of Urban Champions

I am a big fan of bagels, those thick, chewy-textured, shiny-skinned rolls that seem to make an appearance in Lord-only-knows how many flicks set in the Big Apple.  They’re a great way to start the day; seriously, all you need is a tub of cream cheese (or, failing that, a good-sized pat of butter), a warm bagel, and a cup of creamy coffee and you’re all set.

However, I should state quite clearly at this point that not all bagels are made equal.  Here in the Philippines, getting a good bagel is pretty much akin to looking for a needle in a haystack as not many local bakeries make or sell the stuff. 

French Baker makes and sells bagels, but that particular shop’s rolls aren’t my cup of tea: too soft, truth be told.  More like rolls with holes rather than the properly thick, stodgy buns they’re supposed to be.  The ones at Mister Donut aren’t that much better, alas: these are just too hard and too tough and – disturbingly – too sweet.

All things considered, I have two picks for the best local bagels.  Bistro Deli by Country Style  Donuts gets my nod for the best everyday breakfast bagel.  The buns are properly shiny and chewy, not too sweet; this makes them perfect when split, toasted, and slathered generously with either salty butter or a thick schmear of cream cheese.  A full bagel meal – a filled bagel plus an 8 oz. drink (either hot coffee, iced tea, or iced strawberry-kiwi) – is quite affordable: P 50.00 gets you one with butter, P 75.00 is what you pay for cream cheese, and P 90.00 gets you one stuffed with bacon and scrambled eggs.  Not a bad deal, huh?

As for artisanal bagels, my best bet is New York Bagel Company.  Some years ago, they were a regular offering at Greenbelt’s Tuesday / Friday Organic Market.  I was a sucker for the multi-grain bagels and the cinnamon-raisin ones.  Later on, when they became a fixture at Salcedo Village’s weekend market, their bialys grabbed my attention.  Made with the same dough as a bagel but not boiled before baking, these bad boys have a dimple rather than a hole in the middle.  The dimple is stuffed with caramelized onions, nuts, parsley, and poppy seeds.  Split and filled with liver spread (or NY-Jewish chopped liver), it’s just plain super.