Bagel fans have long schmeared the options available in D.C. Thankfully, that's changing. Three baking crews are turning out praise-worthy rounds that are everything an aficionado desires.
“We’re the kings of –ish,” says owner Andrew Dana. “We’re not a classic bagel.”
They’re a little New York-ish, a little Montreal-ish. The saltiness, chewiness, and the fluffier interior are a nod to the former, while the slight sweetness and the wood-fired baking process nods to the latter. Dana calls them D.C.-style bagels.
To come up with the recipe, Dana and chef Daniela Moreira flew in bagels from Montreal, and took a pair of R&D trips to Manhattan and another to Philadelphia. “We ate more bagels than anyone should ever eat,” says Dana.
In the wee hours of the weekends for the past 14 months, the duo has been baking off test batches in the oven of their sister spot, Timber Pizza. Currently, they make sesame, plain and everything, though their repertoire will ultimately expand to include pumpernickel, salt and something sweet, such as cinnamon raisin or blueberry. “There will be no rainbow bagels,” says Dana. “Nothing gimmicky.”
The bagel making operation will have a permanent home later this summer or fall, when Call Your Mother opens in the former Alfie’s space in the Park View neighborhood. Because there will be pork on the menu, Dana says the deli will be Jew-ish, emphasis on the -ish.
Score these bagels: Available on Fridays at the USDA Farmers Market, Saturdays at Freshfarm Downtown Silver Spring Market, Sundays at Freshfarm Dupont Circle Market. Warning: they sell out quick!
The couple that makes bagels together stays together. That really isn’t a proverb, but it should be when it comes to Oliver and Allee Cox. They met eight years ago, and soon discovered they shared a passion for cooking. Oliver had fond memories of visiting bagel shops in Princeton, New Jersey as a kid, so they began making the rounds for the weekend brunch parties they hosted.
They tried more than a hundred versions as they worked to nail down the method and recipe. The couple, who was married nearly two years ago, bought every bread cookbook they could find and attended an intensive bread making class at King Arthur Flour’s Baking School. Their current version borrows the sweetness inherent in Montreal-style bagels, while possessing the saltiness and chewy dough of New York bagels. They’re currently focused on perfecting their everything, sesame, poppy and plain iterations, though they have plans to make cinnamon raisin, onion, salt and garlic.
Currently, the budding bagelers bake in the kitchen of their 11-foot-wide row house in Shaw, while they search for a bakery space. Ideally, they will open in their neighborhood, but they are also considering Mt. Vernon Triangle, Logan Circle and 14th Street.
Score these bagels: The couple is currently offering free catered bagels in exchange for honest feedback. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’m a food critic when it comes to New York City bagels,” admits Executive Pastry Chef Alex Levin, a Manhattan native. “I have a strong immediate love or hate of a bagel depending on where it’s from and how it’s made.”
So when it came time to develop a bagel with his team, he was their toughest reviewer. Ultimately, they devised a recipe featuring a little malt syrup in the water the bagels are boiled in – which adds sweetness and aids the fermentation process – and high-gluten flour in the dough to amp up their chewiness. Currently, they make everything, sesame and plain options, though they are testing out an egg bagel.
Diners can order them toasted or untoasted (and then debate the merits of both preparations) with accouterments, such as smoked salmon from Ivy City Smokehouse and housemade smoked whitefish salad. Non-purists can opt to order a pizza bagel topped with anything the kitchen normally puts on a pizza, though pepperoni and sausage remain the favorites. These nostalgic rounds have already earned a hardcore following. Recently, a customer ordered three-dozen to go.
Score these bagels: Available at brunch and by special order.