A bagel back story:
When I was growing up in Westchester, the majority of my family’s friends were Jewish. I remember going to Seder dinners, desperately trying to avoid being forced to dance at Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and eating Jewish delicacies like latkes, knishes, brisket, matzo ball soup and gefilte fish (didn’t love that one).
We also ate lots and lots of bagels; almost every weekend mom would come home with a bag of onion bagels for us to enjoy. Bagel life was good.
Then we moved to Boston.
And so began what I like to call “The Great Bagel Famine” — fifteen years of lousy Bruegger’s rocks, er, bagels, and Finagle A Bagel crapola. Really, just bad.
Now I’m back in New York and bagel life is good once again (my family’s still suffering in Boston). Are Westchester bagels as good as those in NYC? I don’t know. But for someone who suffered through years of the bad stuff, Westchester bagels do just fine, thank you.
Recently I’d settled into a comfortable pattern of getting my bagels at Lenny’s in Rye Brook. But on the suggestions of a few readers, I decided to expand my horizons and test the bagel waters. First up — Hand Rolled Bagels in Rye.
Can you believe I live two minutes from this place and haven’t been in years? It’s on Purdy Ave., and I don’t usually walk down Purdy, so I completely forget it’s there. Sorry Hand Rolled! Now I feel really stupid about not visiting — your bagels are great!
Isn’t that a beautiful golden color? I like how it’s misshapen too — fat on one side, thin on the other. Gives the bagel character. I wish the outside was crispier, but the soft chewiness of the inside was spot on. And the bagel had a good strong onion flavor. Thumbs up.
Then I was off to try H&R Bialy in New Rochelle.
This was my second try at H&R; last weekend I arrived after it had closed for the day. I wasn’t even sure I was at the right place. There’s no sign with the name. Anywhere. It says “Bagels and Deli”, but I didn’t see anything with “H&R”, so I ended up peering through the window for five minutes like an idiot. I’m sure people who saw me were thinking, “Boy, that guy really wants a bagel.”
This time it was open and I went right in.
“Is this H&R?” I asked.
“Yeah,” the woman said, shooting me a look that conveyed, “Um, duh!!”
“Oh, okay, just checking. I’ll take one onion bagel.”
Another beauty. And oh, what a wonderful crunch — just the way a bagel should be. The inside was nice and chewy — maybe a smidge too chewy. This bagel was also denser than the one from Hand Rolled.
If I could create the ideal bagel, I’d combine the crunchy outside of H&R and the just-chewy-enough inside of Hand Rolled. But taken separately, I enjoyed each one immensely.
You know what I’d love to do: Drive a batch up to Boston, stand inside a Finagle A Bagel and proclaim loudly, “You make dough with holes in them. These are bagels!”
Hand Rolled Bagels
17 Purdy Ave.
Rye, NY 10580
41 Quaker Ridge Rd.
New Rochelle, NY 10804