Hurricane Sandy was a doozy! Seeing the shocking damage in Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens (as well as other parts of the Tri-State area) devastates me. I was incredibly fortunate throughout the storm-- I prepared pretty well and my neighborhood endured minimal flooding, no power loss, and just a few fallen trees. But I think that most New Yorkers can agree: in the midst of the heartbreaking damage, I'm also glowing with immense pride for my city. I love New York! And I hope we can continue to recover with grace. So I thought I'd put together a little ode to my city and its foods. There are a few iconic New York foods-- thin crust pizza, pastrami sandwiches, black and white cookies, hot dogs, cheesecake, Waldorf salads, hot pretzels-- but I would argue that none are quite as quintessentially New York as a bagel. A warm, toasted everything bagel, smeared with scallion cream cheese and topped with some smoky lox.
I've lived in the New York area my whole life and I consider myself exorbitantly blessed. Even with a somewhat modest upbringing, my mother indulged my love for the pricey addition of salmon to my bagel as often as she could. The longest I've gone in my adult life without eating this, my favorite breakfast, was during my eleven-day trip to Europe in 2011. By day nine, I was whining to my sister and her Parisian friend about how much I missed bagels, to which the French friend replied, "what is a bagel?"
Thrilled at the opportunity to answer "what is a bagel" as philosophically as possible via my limited French, I swiftly grabbed the nearest laptop and pulled up a Google image search. We scrolled through photos of lone bagels,bagel platters, some sliced, some whole, some with toppings.
"Ah, it izz like eh round baguette, non?"
My favorite bagel, to me, wraps up New York in one bite. A tough, toasted, and bitterly seasoned outside lends way to a chewy inside, messily stuffed with overflowing, silky cream cheese and finished with an almost overpowering, yet delicate smoked piece of fish. No nonsense. Complex. Somehow exactly what you expect but never, ever boring.
My favorite bagel shop in New York is not in Brooklyn or on the Upper West Side. And it's not H&H... stores that won't make me bagel sandwiches are not worth my time, thankyouverymuch.
My favorite bagels shop sits smack dab in the middle of Times Square. Tourists stumble upon Times Square Hot Bagels, dilly-dallying with their orders, while bros in suits and stagehands roll their eyes. The many men behind the counter weave in and out of each other's way, producing orders and flirting with the pretty girls when they can. Does it get more authentic than that?
Hurricane Sandy has affected New York in so many awful ways, but as we dry off, dust off, and turn the lights back on, I hope we can all take a moment to savor the things that make this city great!
If you're able, consider donating to the New York Food Bank's emergency fund to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy.