We’re Looking for a Few Good Bagels
Announcing the 2011 Best Bagel of the Caldwells contest.
A definition of a bagel: a hunk of round boiled and baked bread that is one of our morning musts.
There's a lot of ritual attached to them; during the week, for many time-constricted folks they are half of the one-two punch (the other: coffee) of ingestion they inflict upon themselves to get going. On weekends, dads take the kids along on a lazy drive through town to get a bag and belly full.
And like java, if we don't get them the exact way we want them, look out.
In the coming weeks, the Caldwells Patch is going to visit every bagel business in the area, and see who comes out on top. Included will be additional information about the stores themselves, the varieties offered, stuff they put inside them, and other (hopefully) fun and informative observations and facts.
Background: Putting You in the Dough
Until the 1990s, the Caldwells were basically one big bagel shop town. There was Bagel Inn in Essex Mall (it changed names later on) and bagels moved at an alarming rate.
In 1991, Bagels for You opened next door to where Cohen's (today Russillo). And before you ask, yes Dunkin' Donuts was in Caldwell (and West Caldwell later), but the chain did not start selling their "bagels" in earnest until the mid-'90s. That's when many bagel shops popped up — Sam's, Panera, then Manhattan Bagel, and most recently, Bagel Loft.
Meanwhile, bagels themselves have evolved; they've become bigger, smaller (minis), and even smooshed (flagels, which are basically bialys). Prices have gone up naturally, and sometimes shockingly: upward fluctuations in the flour market made prices jump threefold a few years ago.
Then there's variety. In the 1970s, salt bagels were about as exotic as it would get, and let's face it, they're pretzels without the knot. Poppy (these seeds stick in your teeth), egg, onion (carry breath mints if ordering these), and plain (boring) were also around, as was pumpernickel — really, does anyone really ever eat these? Sometimes after that chocolate chip bagels joined the fray, then the smash-hit, market-dominating everything bagel, wheat, garlic, cheese, jalapeno, cheese and jalapeno, and then niche-market, healthy-minded infusion numbers: multi-grain, fruits, nuts, and so on.
In spite of their significant fat, salt and calorie content — no matter what kind — as evidenced above, bagels are more popular than ever — and we're not even going to cite nutrition facts about cream cheese or butter.
Based on empiricism (aka bagel fanship), and after speaking informally with Patch perusers, a good bagel is:
1) Fresh — that may sound silly, but until you have the experience of biting into one baked the day before, you'll have take our word for it, and be thankful it hasn't happened to you.
2) A nice size — a bagel should be "bagel size," and never any smaller — that's "donut size."
3) Consistently good quality — again, bagel buying is ritualistic — consistent quality is a must. This ties into not only freshness, but who at a bagel shop is actually making the bagels — do they all make them the same?
Let's Bring This to A Boil
Readers, please join us by evaluating and sharing your opinions and experiences using the comments section. We're counting on you!
The following is a list of places we'll be visiting:
Bagels for You (Bagelwich)
Dunkin' Donuts (Caldwell)
Dunkin' Donuts (West Caldwell)
Hot Bagels and Deli
Sam's Bagel and Deli
The Bagel Loft