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Two Jews and a Goy Eat Five Kinds of Bagels and “Roll” Home

8 September 2009 4,201 views 8 Comments

In early June, after my first post about Joe Humel, Jeff Salamon, an acquantance and writer for the Statesman, picked up a bagel at Wheatsville and posted on his Twitter account, “OMG, Jodi Bart is right: Austin finally has a good bagel.”

jeffbagel

A month later, Facebook reminded me that it was Jeff’s birthday. I posted, “Happy Birthday! Did you kick off the day with a rockstar bagel?”

His response: “Two! A poppyseed and a garlic. Even though you don’t really know me at all, Jodi, you know me all too well.”

A happy birthday, indeed. The Jewish people and those that love our food can now enjoy a real New York bagel deep in the heart of Texas.

The story of our blind tasting (facilitated by Goy Mike Sutter) is below. Be sure to also read Jeff’s profile of Joe Humel after spending an entire night observing the bagel-making process in Joe’s tiny kitchen.

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Mike Sutter AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Tasty Touring blogger Jodi Bart, left, with reporter Jeff Salamon, sampled plain and flavored bagels

FOOD & LIFE

Just a roll with a hole? Our tasters beg to differ

By Jeff Salamon
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Wednesday, September 09, 2009

On a recent Wednesday morning, Statesman restaurant critic Mike Sutter, local Tasty Touring blogger Jodi Bart and Statesman features reporter Jeff Salamon performed a semi-blind tasting of five varieties of bagels: the locally produced Rockstar Bagels and Hot Jumbo Bagel, the national chain Einstein Bros. Bagels, New York’s famed H&H Bagels (which are partially baked, frozen and mailed to local deli Manny Hattan’s, where they are defrosted and baked to a finish) and Manhattan’s renowned Ess-a-Bagel, which overnighted us a baker’s dozen.

These were five very different bagels, in size, taste, texture and, to our surprise, shape. (The swollen Ess-a-Bagel, amazingly, had no hole at all.) Disappointingly, none of these bagels truly wowed us, which says something sad about the state of modern bagel-making. As Bart said, “It was hard to pick the worst, because some of these are worse for different reasons.” (One of us, a near-daily consumer of Rockstar Bagels, felt compelled to note that this was a subpar batch.)

That said, there was a clear winner and a clear loser. Interestingly, they were the two locally produced bagels.

A note on our methodology, which was organized by flavor. Each of us took a bite or two out of five different brands of plain bagels, untoasted and ungarnished, and noted a favorite and a least favorite. We then did the same with poppy-seed, sesame and onion bagels. (Because not every brand offered an onion bagel, in a couple of cases we resorted to an “everything” bagel.) Then, we topped each plain bagel with cream cheese and Nova Scotia lox and tasted.

The tasting was done “blindly,” with a few caveats: Sutter, who organized the tasting, knew which bagels were which; he was, in essence, a fair-minded taster rather than a blind one. And Bart and Salamon, though technically “blind,” recognized by sight and touch the Rockstar and Einstein Bros. bagels.

Below are the results, accompanied by a few excerpts from the tasters’ discussions of each brand.

The winner: Rockstar Bagels

(10 ‘best’ votes, 1 ‘worst’ vote)

‘It’s really chewy; your jaw works out with this.’

‘This is very pure.’

‘It’s really hard to cut into.’

‘That one has some density to it, but not in a complimentary way.’

‘This crust is so chewy it’s almost a parody of a bagel; this is maybe even a little chewier than I want.’

‘It’s got a nice sheen; you can see the joint; you can tell how these are rolled.’

‘It’s got a really nice smell.’

H&H Bagels

(2 ‘best’ votes, 1 ‘worst’ vote)

‘I bit into it and I wanted it out of my mouth as quickly as possible.’

‘There’s no distinction between crust and bread.’

‘I find the shininess suspicious.’

‘It smells like the yeast sat to rise for a long time.’

‘As a dinner roll, this would be really good.’

‘It’s like it’s already gone stale.’

‘If it was stale it would be better, because then the crust would have some character to it.’

Einstein Bros. Bagels

(2 ‘best’ votes, 2 ‘worst’ votes)

‘This isn’t a bagel; this is a hot dog bun that swallowed its own tail.’

‘You can press it and hear and feel air coming out of it; my kid would love this.’

‘My dog would use it as a squeeze toy.’

‘Whee! Whee! Whee!’

‘The sweetness is appealing, because we like sweet things.’

‘If there was some cinnamon in there, this would just be a cinnamon roll.’

‘This is a doughnut for someone whose doctor told them they had to stop eating doughnuts.’

Ess-a-Bagel

(1 ‘best’ vote, 3 ‘worst’ votes)

‘I was astonished at the size and the fact that the hole has completely baked shut.’

‘You couldn’t get dental floss through this hole; it’s ridiculous.’

‘Looking at it, I thought it was going to be terrible, but it’s good.’

‘The crust isn’t terrible — it’s got a little bit of a sheen and a little bit of chewiness — but this thing just dies in my mouth.’

‘I felt defeated even before I’d taken my first bite; it’s huge. It’s like starting an 800-page novel.’

‘I’m getting a little bit of a fishy back taste on it.’

Commenting on the excessive number of poppy seeds: ‘I don’t need a knife, I need a needle and spoon.’

The loser: Hot Jumbo Bagel

(0 ‘best’ votes, 8 ‘worst’ votes)

‘Too stiff and chalky.’

‘The crust just collapses in your mouth; there’s no resistance whatsoever.’

‘It needs to get out in the sun.’

‘It’s really heavy and gummy.’

‘Its all yeast.’

‘The taste is gross.’

‘It’s got an aftertaste.’

‘I spit it out too quickly to experience the aftertaste.’

bagel stacks

Photo taken with iPhone 3GS by Jodi Bart

UPDATE (9/9 at 12 pm CT):

I just saw Mike Sutter’s blog post with photos of each of the brands we tasted. Which look yummiest to you?

Bagels2

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  • http://Marcos.Kirsch.com.mx/ Marcos

    So Whatsville is where you buy them? They don't have their own place?

  • jodibart

    Here's where you can get 'em (cut and paste from Joe's MySpace page): SUMMER MOON, CAFE MUNDI, QUACKS, MOZART'S, LITTLE CITY, PACHA, THUNDERBIRD, CLEMENTINE, BLUE DAHLIA, CHERRYWOOD, GREEN MUSE, GARDEN DISTRICT, DOMINICAN JOE, ST DAVIDS COFFEE SHOP, FARM TO MARKET, ROYAL BLUE I AND ROYAL BLUE II, SPIDER HOUSE, WHEATSVILLE,

    He also does personal orders of a minimum of 6. You can reach Joe to order at rockstarbagels@yahoo.com. There is more information about how to order on MySpace as well.

  • http://Marcos.Kirsch.com.mx/ Marcos

    So Whatsville is where you buy them? They don't have their own place?

  • jodibart

    Here's where you can get 'em (cut and paste from Joe's MySpace page): SUMMER MOON, CAFE MUNDI, QUACKS, MOZART'S, LITTLE CITY, PACHA, THUNDERBIRD, CLEMENTINE, BLUE DAHLIA, CHERRYWOOD, GREEN MUSE, GARDEN DISTRICT, DOMINICAN JOE, ST DAVIDS COFFEE SHOP, FARM TO MARKET, ROYAL BLUE I AND ROYAL BLUE II, SPIDER HOUSE, WHEATSVILLE,

    He also does personal orders of a minimum of 6. You can reach Joe to order at rockstarbagels@yahoo.com. There is more information about how to order on MySpace as well.

  • http://Marcos.Kirsch.com.mx/ Marcos

    So Whatsville is where you buy them? They don't have their own place?

  • jodibart

    Here's where you can get 'em (cut and paste from Joe's MySpace page): SUMMER MOON, CAFE MUNDI, QUACKS, MOZART'S, LITTLE CITY, PACHA, THUNDERBIRD, CLEMENTINE, BLUE DAHLIA, CHERRYWOOD, GREEN MUSE, GARDEN DISTRICT, DOMINICAN JOE, ST DAVIDS COFFEE SHOP, FARM TO MARKET, ROYAL BLUE I AND ROYAL BLUE II, SPIDER HOUSE, WHEATSVILLE,

    He also does personal orders of a minimum of 6. You can reach Joe to order at rockstarbagels@yahoo.com. There is more information about how to order on MySpace as well.

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