A surprising juxtaposition of the seventeenth century with classical times.
I've been on a quest to find out as much as I can about bagels and bialys since I read about Montreal bagels in a notice about the new Black Seed Bagels in the paper last week. Grub Street has published a photo essay about the New York bakery; here's a video from Montreal.
I was heartened to discover in short order some local restaurants known for Montreal-style bagels—2Amys, NoPa, Palena (though Palena has since closed), and maybe Wagshal's; and I was pleased to learn that Breadfurst, which open yesterday, plans to include bagels and bialys among its offerings. (Here's a radio feature about NoPa, and here's what I wrote about Mark Furstenberg when I first heard of him.)
This old video from Brooklyn shows how little the process has changed over the years.
There's an aura of mystery around what makes a great bagel. Brooklyn Bagel Bakery, my favorite local bagel maker nods to the belief that it's the water that makes New York bagels so distinctive on its web site—Aiming to bring a bit of New York to Virginia, we searched for authentic recipes and even considered bottling the water and shipping it down to Arlington-haven't you heard the secret is the water?—and will repeat a version of the story if you ask. I was amused to see the myth repeated in Northern Virginia magazine's recent notice of Chutzpah in its review of the best brunch in the region—Chutzpah imports...its bagels from Davidovich Bakery; also a New York company. (Roller doesn't make bagels in-house because he is of the belief that New York water makes for a better bagel—though some disclaim this popular theory.
And here's a video about bialys—