This is the first post in the Oh Canada series, summarizing some of the great eats I had when visiting various Canadian cities this past year
There's truly something irresistible about a fresh, piping hot bagel.
When my Canadian-Boston transplant friend found out I was going to Montreal, the first thing she requested was that I bring back some sesame bagels. For her, the memories from college (when she was at McGill) were priceless.
"It's super fun to go in the middle of the night and grab a fresh piping hot bagel as it rolls down the wooden chute."
Yes, exact words from her email. She really wanted these bagels.
What could I do? I had to make the special trip.
In Montreal, you typically hear about two bagel places: St. Viateur and Fairmont. The two are only a few blocks from each other (one on St. Viateur Street, the other on Fairmont Street), so you could really visit both if you wanted. I had a tight schedule (a flight to catch!), so I could only choose one.
I hailed a cab and told the driver my plans. I only had about 15 minutes to head to a bagel place before I had to rush over to Schwartz's to beat the lines.
The driver assured me that St. Viateur was the better place. He thought the bagels were different at the two places, and he much preferred St. Viateur.
"Everybody who is visiting Montreal always wants to go to St. Viateur. Trust me, that's where you want to go."
I guess I decided to trust him. He seemed to be telling the truth. In fact, he even stopped and picked up some bagels himself when he took me there.
St. Viateur is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. You can really stop by at any time and "grab a fresh piping hot bagel as it rolls down the wooden chute."
It was quite clear that sesame was the most popular flavor. They were making HUGE batches of sesame bagels compared to all the rest. It just so happens that sesame bagels are amongst my favorite as well, so I ended up ordering eighteen (!) sesame bagels, and 6 others (assorted flavors).
It's also fun to visit St. Viateur because you get to watch all the bagel making action.
Check out that huge slab of dough, ready to be cut into bagel sized strips.
Montreal bagels are a little smaller than American bagels. The hole is bigger and the overall bagel is "thinner."
It's really cool to see the rows of bagels going into the huge wood-fired oven.
Though there's no way you can eat them all, I would highly recommend eating one bagel fresh on the spot. They are definitely hot when you get them, and that's by far the best time to enjoy them. The exterior is crispy (I love how the sesame seeds toast a bit and become super fragrant), and the inside is just a hair sweet and chewy.
Once you take them home, try to freeze them as soon as possible. According to my Canadian friend (who apparently has some experience doing this), if you freeze it the day you buy it, it tastes almost as good as fresh when you re-toast it.
If you have a vacuum sealer, you can vacuum seal them, which will keep them from drying out. Any remaining bagels that you don't finish within a day or two can be sliced up, toasted, and made into fantastic bagel chips.
I ended up liking all the other flavors I bought as well. The 9-grain and flaxseed were both nutty, fragrant, and sweet. I had really wanted the "All-dressed" (everything), but it was still baking in the oven when I arrived. Because I was short on time, I had to forego it this time around.
Are they as good as New York bagels?
Oooh, hard to say - they are different, and I think it's a matter of preference. Any fresh bagel out of the oven beats a non-fresh one, so in that sense they are both fantastic. If I had to compare them, I would say that Montreal bagels are smaller, less dense, and are just a tad sweet (which I like). Both are delicious, especially if eaten fresh. Gosh, I really can't choose between them.
In any event, all I'm saying is that St. Viateur is most definitely worth a visit.
West Montreal, QC
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