Readers, it's been a bagel battle for the ages. The official 2011 Best Bagels of The Caldwells event has been a taste test with clear, marked distinctions between entries (and yet a virtual dead heat in who will emerge the winner), but also some interesting corollaries. Before we crown a winner next time, let's look at some.
In The Dough: Observations
1) The bagel business in the Caldwells has expanded – in two opposite directions. That's right – it all started with Bagel Inn, but now bagels are out, and about, in no less than 9 major places where bagels are sold "fresh," every day. Four are mom and pop businesses, one is a chain where the bagel is touted as a main product, and the rest market them in a "thrust business" fashion. In addition to supermarkets, there are places like Rockin' Joe, the soon-to-return-Caldwell Diner, 7-Eleven, and Nicco's Deli that sell them. They are bagels, hear them roar.
2) Is the general accepted taste of a bagel in evolution? As touched upon here and there, it seems that the accepted bagel flavor, texture, and even size in some cases is not exactly what has been historically. All this practically in the shadow of New York City, which is arguably bagel central. What are the reasons? Price may be a culprit – flour fluctuates, and causes shrinkage, but more than likely it's the chains. What with their frozen, only-baked-not-boiled bagels and the like, the basic bagel flavor is on the move. This is bad news, folks. Make sure to cleanse the palette with a real bagel from next week's winner!
3) There is still a major bagel passion out there, but is it along generational lines? Based on informal but nerdy research, no one under 35 at the earliest cares about bagels more than wanting to eat something called "bagel." These darn kids are directly contributing to the evident condition described in #2, and have inadvertently outed this writer's age.
4) Bagels are still cheap. A bagel is a great buy. From plain to everything, to the "exotic" up-charge ones like French Toast (they're awesome), a bagel is basically a meal at a steal.
5) No one really buys black Russian, or pumpernickel. Every store that offered them seemed to just offer them for display purposes. They add to the decor in office trays, but almost always end up just sitting there after everyone helps themselves. Out of pumpernickel pity, once or twice a year this writer tries to chew his way through one, slathered in butter. The black Russian is just too much, though – the dough has sort of a medieval taste.
Come back next week to see who wins!