The Tribute to St. Viateur's Bagels
St. Viateur - the benchmark of all bagels. My first experience with a Montreal bagel was one from (much documented) St. Viateur's. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I loved the texture, taste, aroma of those hearty handheld carb rings that I only requested for St. Viateur's bagels whenever a kind food friend offered to bring back something from Montreal for me. The deliciousness starts with a rustic shaped ring (never a perfect doughnut) coated with slightly toasted sesame seeds, blistered semi-glossy skin from smokey wood fire oven finish, a crisp shattering thin crust that hides a chewy golden and slightly sweetened tight and al dente crumb. This bagel has a perfect balance and complexity of taste and texture - so much character that can be held in one's hand. Alone it is satisfying and hearty, toasted, it has an almost melba toast finish that hides a chewy moist interior that tugs back a little, coated with cream cheese it still stands out against the thick blanket that normally smothers the inadequacies of all other inferior bagels.
A recent exchange with ML - another disclosure: ML is also another individual who doesn't stop short of finding "the best of" either (however he's not into science the way I am) - remedied this issue. Both bagels, both in the classic sesame variety (it doesn't matter if everyone loves Fairmount's all dressed vs. St. Viateur's carrying only basic flavours), were purchased and consumed side by side: untoasted, toasted, un-schmeared and schmeared (rigor I tell you, in the name of science or because I'm anal about these things).
Verdict: Fairmount's bagel is moist, easy to cut into, and remains somewhat spongy even after toasting. It has decent structure, holding up after toasting and when topped with creamy dairy. There is a faint sweetness, a hint of smokiness that's good, BUT it doesn't have the thin crisp lacquered crust of St. Viateur, the dense and fulfilling crumb/body, the al dente like texture that just tugs a little back at you when you sink your teeth into a St. Viateur's bagel. Still, it is better than the buns with holes we have around Toronto or in grocery stores, but it doesn't win this bread lover's heart (and I'd like to think that I've admired my fair share of carbs over the years).
In the end it was ML who made it possible that I could settle the huge debate myself. Thanks ML - one of the best food friends who knew that one can't rely on opinions alone but has to do it the "right way."
263 St-Viateur West
Montreal, Quebec H2V 1Y1
T: (514) 276-8044
St-Viateur Bagel & Café Mont-Royal
1127 Mont-Royal Est
Montreal, Quebec H2J 1X9
T : (514) 528-6361
St-Viateur Bagel & Café – Monkland
5629 Monkland ave.
Montreal, Quebec H4A 1E2
Also seen on: capitolhillseattle.com/2010/08/04/italian-bar-and-a-bagel..., blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/2010/07/29/les-bagels-de-mo... and www.thedailymeal.com/where-eat-during-montreal-s-32nd-jaz...