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bagels and lox


lullyloo
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Have out-of-town guests coming who want to eat good NY bagels and lox while they're here.  Bagels and lox is not something I usually order in a restaurant.  In my family we usually buy a nice assortment of smoked fish, good bagels and make our own spread at home with a big relish tray of sliced red onion, tomato, cucumber, olives, and capers (at my grandmother's).  But wondering if anyone has any recommendations for their favorite deli/restaurant to order bagels and lox.  

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If you want to shop for your own spread, you can't go wrong with Russ & Daughters on Houston.  Long established family business, huge selection of fish (they usually have six or seven different kinds of smoked salmon alone), fresh bagels and other breads.  They also have a big selection of Middle Eastern (I suppose?) candies, and some nice cheese.

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Though it's not what it used to be, Barney Greengrass really is the place for this sort of thing.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Sounds to me like your out-of-town guests want to experience a New York vibe so here's my suggestions:

When I'm on the Upper West Side, I like Barney Greengrass, Amsterdam Avenue bet. 86th & 87th Street (724-4707). The oldtime atmosphere adds to a bygone New York vibe. Check out the original refrigeration units. Very 1930s. Try to go on a weekday cause the place gets jammed but that's part of the fun for some people.

On the Lower East Side, Katz's (254-2246) on East Houston and Ludlow Street is another wonderful New York institution. They also have bagels & lox and lots of great meaty deli sandwiches. After that, you can walk around and pick up some delicious foods to bring home.

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Such a difficult call. And SO personal. For light bagels, to be served underneath a strong flavor, such as sable or salmon, I like the light textured ones from Night Bagel at the Chelsea Market at 75 Ninth Ave. @ 16th. Course you can't beat Murray's on 13th and 6th....or their new location on 8th? 9th? Best sable: Fairway uptown. Moist and cheap. And really paprika-y. Closer to home without breaking the budget:you know the turnover at Zabars means the smoked fish etc. is going to be good. Plus, they carry the smoked salmon from Clarke's fishery in County Mayo, Ireland (husband's home town) and a lovely double smoked Scottish that can do in a pinch. I really like their sable - it's exceptionally moist, in comparison to other sables out there. And if you're at Zabar's, you can pick up some exceptional rye from the Tribakery or dash across 80th for h&h bagels. Enjoy you options!

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Russ & Daughter is a great store.  If you want to go to Lower East side restaurant, you might want to think about Ratners.  It is not as good as it once was, but still a NY tradition...imho.

If you are on the lower east side, you have to go to Guss's pickles.  

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  • 1 month later...

Murray's Sturgeon Shop on Broadway and 89th street is hands down the best place for smoked salmon, pickled herring in cream sauce, white fish and all the other stuff.  Barney Greengrass has some wonderful dishes in the restaurant:  the nova, eggs and onions is one of the best things to eat in the world.  Contrary to Fat Guys review, they do serve one of the best corned beef sandwiches I've had in a deli, their chicken soup ranks #1, with the best matzo balls, the cheese blinzes are great and their smoked fish is good, if not sublime (as it is at Murrays).  Barney Greengrass' chopped liver, is to my taste, a top rater as is their borscht with cream.  Arties, unfortunately, has gone way downhill since its opening.  They do serve a very good matzo brei, which is almost non-existent on any restaurant menu.  I went beyong bagels and lox, but then, I always overeat when the food is good.  Zabars, for take out, rarely disappoints on anything.

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Dont's foget the bialys at Kossar's on Grand Street.  Many people prefer them to any bagel available since, say, 1960 or thereabouts, when bagels doubled in size and lost their chewiness.  Even Kossar's has compromised in recent years under new owndership, with a slightly increased size to make the bialy more suitable as a sandwich roll, I guess, and a tendency to underbake, knowing that most people will end up toasting them.  Bialys should be eaten, ideally, while they are still warm from the oven.

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H & H bagels are better than most of the others, but nothing made today compares with those made years ago.  Not that I ever loved bagels all that much -- but they were much smaller, harder, chewier and less sweet than bagels today.  Thirty years ago, bagels were quirky and ethnic when most other  bread aspired to be soft, sweet and puffy.   Now, with so many excellent bakeries and breads available, at least in NY, it is surprising that someone hasn't tried to revive the authentic bagel.   Hmmm.

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All those who imply that bagels in NYC are not what they used to be, are, if anything, understating the case in my opinion. Bialy's have fared much better at least in the ovens of Kossars. I don't know if they're better toasted or just hot from the shop. I do know that when I buy them, I need to estimate how many I will eat on the way home. Does anyone else like them with fresh goat cheese as much as, or more than, cream cheese?

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Well, as long as we're talking about stuff going downhill, cream cheese deserves a thread of its own, as do many other dairy products (ricotta comes to mind, as does sour cream). You probably like goat cheese better because you're comparing it to the plastic-tasting cream cheese sold almost everywhere today. Real cream cheese, on the occasion that you can find it, is a pleasure to eat and is in my opinion the most fitting thing to put on a bagel or bialy.

You can ask for your bialys well done if you arrive at Kossar's when they're baking (most of the early part of the day). Just ask the guy to leave a dozen in the oven a couple of minutes longer. He'll usually accommodate you.

I keep saying it: The bagels at Vinegar Factory (and Eli's) are dense and chewy. I've made a really careful study of this, including every comparative test one can do without the benefit of a time machine. If you're religiously devoted to bagels ala 1970, and you understand that bagels shouldn't be hot, Vinegar Factory should satisfy you.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Bux, fresh Goat cheese is it for me (on a toasted bagel - you can't eat them any other way here in Maine), but then I top that off with a smearing of good Florida Jalapeno Pepper Jelly.

Anyone: how do I get NY Bagels to Maine?

Steven, where does one  "find the real" Cream Cheese in NY. I remember seeing something about that a while back on your "Fat Guy" website!!??

Peter
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To get New York bagels to Maine, have a friend in New York buy them in the afternoon, FedEx them to you for early AM delivery, then slice and freeze in individual Zip-Loc bags. Restore in the microwave, or if you like them toasted, you can of course use the toaster. It's really the only way to do it. The mail-order services available from H&H and such are both overpriced and not the best bagels.

Freshly cultured cream cheese. Is Ben's Cheese Shop still around on Houston? I think it could be had there (I know the place was/is famous for fresh farmer's cheese). I think I saw some at the M&I supermarket in Little Odessa (definitely saw fresh sour cream there). I may have seen it around at some of the fancy gourmet markets too. It's also not that hard to make if you get the kit from New England Cheesemaking Supply, but that's for the die-hards.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I remember the Ben's cream cheese. I seem to recall it not having the gumminess of most commercial foil wrapped cream cheese, but it didn't have the tang that a good goat cheese does. I find that very nice with a bialy. With a bagel I might prefer the old fashioned cream cheese. I'm much closer to Kossar's then the Vinegar Factory and too spoiled by bread available much closer to make a frequent trip to Kossar's.

On the subject of ricotta, I don't know how much it's gone downhill, but I know there's a world of difference between the major brands available in supermarkets and the home grown variety as exemplified by DiPalo's and a few others in town. Ditto mozzarella, or more so mozzarella.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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