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Know Your Bagels: The Difference Between New York City and Montreal-Style

April 4, 2014 at 2:44 PM | by | ()

In this week's Street Food Friday, we took a look at the mouth-watering smoked-meat sandwiches that are a staple of Montreal. It's a hell of a lunch or dinner, but let's not forget about breakfast. Like New York City, Montreal is big on its bagels, and the debate rages on about who bakes the better product.

NYC bagels are made from malt and salt, boiled in regular water, and then baked in a standard oven. Montreal bagels contain malt but sugar instead of salt, and are boiled in honey-water before being cooked in a wood-fired oven. As you can see from the photo, the bagels coming out of Montreal are significantly smaller in size. Advocates of Montreal-style say they like the thin stature and sweet taste, and believe the wood-fire oven gives the exterior a crisp crust. Those in camp NYC prefer salt to sugar in their bagel batter.

In Montreal, two companies compete to be considered the head honcho in town: Fairmount Bagel and St. Viateur Bagel (shown above), both named after the streets on which they reside in the Mile End neighborhood. We tried both while in town, and our verdict is that they really only have the shape and style in common.

When compared, St. Viateur had a crispier crust, fluffier middle, and was noticeably sweeter, while the Fairmount bagel was more dense and hearty. Both were tasty in their own way, and our advice would be to try both when you’re in town with some smoked salmon and cream cheese on top. As for the NYC controversy, our approach has always been to let two different things be different. When you look at how they are made, they might as well be two completely different foods, so why play favorites? Each satisfies a different craving, and you should indulge in both accordingly.

While you're out bagel tasting in Montreal, be sure to poke around the Mile End neighborhood. It turned out to be one of our favorite areas of town with an artsy vibe that is known for its Anglophone culture, independent music scene (the band Arcade Fire started there), restaurants, and cafes. The past few years have seen an influx of wealth to the neighborhood, and it now combines high-end houses with large lawns with a tightly packed “downtown” area. When you visit Montreal, consider heading over for breakfast (bagels), a coffee (try Cafe Olimpico), and a French pastry from Première Moisson.

[Photos: Daily Eater/Kettlemans Bagels]

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