Sunday, November 25, 2007

Here a Bagel, There a Bagel

Montreal is famous for it's bagels (sorry New York) and St. Viateur is one of the oldest bagelmakers (along with Fairmont Bagels just a couple of blocks away which is said to have been the "first" bagel shop in Montreal ). Montreal bagels are chewier and a little sweeter than a typical "manhattan" bagel. The bagels are "poached" in simmering honey water for about 4 minutes (hence the sweetness). The bagels are then placed on two long, wooden boards that are slid into the wood-burning oven, which reaches temperatures exceeding 700 ÂșC. After about 4 minutes, the bagels are flipped onto the oven's brick floor. Because of the oven's heat fluctuations, the bagels must be skillfully shifted by using a long, narrow wooden board with beveled edges, called a "sheeba". Mastering a "sheeba" requires years of training. The bagels are baked for approximately 20 minutes before the baker artfully tosses them into a large wooden bin. At both St. Viateur and Fairmont you can stand and watch the "sheeba master" at his work. On a cold day the smell of the baking bagels and the warmth of the ovens is seductive.

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