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The Montreal bagel, (sometimes beigel; Yiddish בײגל beygl), is a distinctive variety of handmade and wood-fired baked bagel. In contrast to the New York-style bagel,1 the Montreal bagel is smaller, sweeter and denser, with a larger hole, and is always baked in a wood-fired oven. It contains malt, egg, and no salt and is boiled in honey-sweetened water before being baked in a wood-fired oven, whose irregular flames give it a dappled light-and-dark surface colour.
In many Montreal establishments, bagels are still produced by hand and baked in wood-fired ovens, often in full view of the patrons.2 There are two predominant varieties: black-seed (poppy seed), or white-seed (sesame seed).
Montreal bagels, like the similarly shaped New York bagel, were brought to North America by Jewish immigrants from Poland and other Eastern European countries; the differences in texture and taste reflect the style of the particular area in Poland in which the immigrant bakers learned their trade. Minor controversy surrounds the question of who first brought the bagel to Montreal. They were (reportedly) first baked in Montreal by Chaim (Hyman) Seligman,when? as verified by Montreal historian Joe King,3 a historian of Montreal Jewry. Seligman first worked in the neighbourhood community of Lachine and later moved his bakery to the lane next door to Schwartz's Delicatessen on Boulevard St. Laurent in central Montreal. Seligman would string his bagels into dozens and patrol Jewish Main purveying his wares, originally with a pushcart, then a horse and wagon and still later from a converted taxi. Seligman went into partnership with Myer Lewkowicz and with Jack Shlafman but fell out with both of them. Seligman and Lewkowicz founded the St. Viateur Bagel Shop in 1957 and Shlafman established Fairmount Bagel in 1919,4 which both still exist in the present day.
A substantial proportion of Montreal's English-speaking Jewish community gradually left for other locales. Catering to this population, Montreal-style bagel shops have opened in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton,5 Calgary, and other Canadian, and even US cities, such as Burlington, Seattle, Houston, Los Angeles & Oakland, CA and Portland, Oregon. For a time this style of bagel was almost completely unknown in the northeastern U.S. despite its proximity to Montreal, mainly due to the proximity of the rival New York City bagel.67 (with one exception having been in Burlington, Vermont, where Myer's Bagels boasts both a Montreal-style wood oven and Lloyd Squires, a former St-Viateur Bagel Shop baker).8 However at present in New York City, there are two Montreal-style bagel locations in the borough of Brooklyn within four blocks of each other.
Montreal-style bagels are currently the only style of bagel to have ventured into space. Gregory Chamitoff, who grew up in Montreal, took three bags of sesame bagels with him on his assignments to STS-124 as passenger and ISS Expedition 17 as crewmember.910
Montreal-style bagels are, for the most part, manufactured by the same method used to produce a generic bagel. The Montreal-style method of making bagels builds on the basic traditional method in the following ways:
- The bagel dough includes egg and honey.
- Honey is also added to the water used for poaching the bagels before baking.
- The bagels are baked in a wood-fired oven.
Several Montreal bagel factories are famous for their authentic Montreal-style bagels. St-Viateur Bagel, at 263 av. St-Viateur West, Fairmount Bagel, at 74 av. Fairmont West are the most well-known and popular bagel shops in Montreal.1112 Mount Royal Bagel Bakery, at 709 Lucerne, which is the only traditionally made wood fired MK Kosher Bagel in the world and Cote-Saint-Luc Bagel is also well known. Bagel De L'Ouest located in the West Island of Montreal (Dollard-Des-Ormeaux) at 4404 Blvd Des Source was been voted # 1 in the West Island of Montreal by the Suburban.citation needed R.E.A.L. Bagel, Cantor's and Kosher Quality also sell Montreal-style bagels.citation needed Beaubien Bagel, on Beaubien just east of St-Hubert, is another traditional bagel bakery serving Montreal's east side.
In New York City, there are two Montreal-style bagel locations in Brooklyn within four blocks of each other:
Montreal-style bagels have traveled to the West Coast. The Eltana Café, in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, makes the wood-fired, hand-rolled, honey water boiled bagels. Its lead baker interned at St. Viateur’s to learn from the master creators.16
There is a new Bagel shop located in the old Jewish area of Kensington Market in Downtown Toronto. It is called NU Bügel. A 20,000 pounds wood fired oven was built in.
- "Crusty Bran Bagels are an Ethnic Treat". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg Times. November 21, 1974. Retrieved February 6, 2009.
- Mennie, James (August 3, 2006). "If you can't stand the heat, get into the kitchen". The Montreal Gazette. Canwest News. Retrieved February 6, 2009.
- Joe King. Baron Byng to Bagels: Tales of Jewish Montreal. Montreal. 2006 Pp. 42–43
- Fairmount Bagel, History (accessdate 2012-09-21)
- Bagel lovers, the Abominable Doughnut Must Not Stand.
- Bushnell, David (September 27, 2007). "Where 1 million bagels is just another day at office". The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 6, 2009.
- Hewitt, Jean (April 24, 1969). "Business Better". New York Times. The St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved February 6, 2009.
- Horowitz, Ruth (October 17, 2006). "The Hole Truth: Vermont's bagel bakers answer the roll call". Seven Days. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
- CTV.ca Montreal-born astronaut brings bagels into space Sun. Jun. 1 2008 7:29 pm ET ; CTV National News – June 1, 2008 – 11pm TV newscast
- The Gazette (Montreal), Here's proof: Montreal bagels are out of this world, IRWIN BLOCK, Tuesday June 3, 2008, Section A, Page A2
- "Montreal: Introduction: Best Dining Bets". Frommer's Montreal and Quebec City 2009. 2009.
- Beck, Katie (June 22, 2010). "The bagel war of Montreal". BBC News. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
- "Montreal-Style Bagels Coming to the Heights". Brownstoner. Retrieved March 29, 2011.
- "Rebecca Marx, Brooklyn Heights to Receive Montreal-Style Bagels". The Village Voice Blogs. Retrieved March 28, 2011.
- newman, andy (February 24, 2010). "Montreal Bagels, Now South of the Border". The Montreal Gazette. Canwest News. Retrieved October 12, 2010.
- Eltana, Seattle, Washington PI blog, retrieved February 2, 2012.
- Albernaz, Ami (November 5, 2008). "Battle of the bagels". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved November 9, 2008.
- "No shocker that Montreal bagels won...." Montreal Gazette.
- "Montreal Bagels – are they the Best in the World?" Bootsnall Travel.
- A documentary film on the battle between St. Viateur and Fairmount Montreal bagel bakeries