If a number of weeks in the past you observed that Bushwick, of all locations, had appeared to have turn into only a shade extra Ashkenazi – and, simply possibly, French-Canadian – know that your thoughts is sound, that there was a very good motive for that impression: simply half a block from Maria Hernandez Park, a department of the well-regarded citywide bagel chain Black Seed had opened its doorways. Recognized primarily for a flagship product that splices collectively the disparate – and infrequently mutually antagonistic – baking types of Montreal and New York, the enterprise is helmed by chef and accomplice Dianna Daoheung, who has been nominated twice for a James Beard “Greatest Baker” award due to her work directing what at the moment are seven Black Seed outlets scattered round Manhattan and Brooklyn.
As standard knowledge would have it, few issues are as quintessentially New York Metropolis as a heat, toasted bagel, generously paddled with clean, chilly cream cheese. Besides, right here’s the factor: that little bit of Jewish culinary patrimony is simply as carefully related to Montreal. Six years in the past, Black Seed descended on this tangled cultural/gastronomic briar patch with schmear-flecked machete in hand, able to to slash a path in direction of reconciling two Balkanized varieties, hitherto regarded as irreconcilable.
As an idea, Black Seed began life within the fast aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when Noah Bernamoff and Matt Kliegman, mates and seasoned restaurateurs, would commiserate over beers about, amongst different issues, the demise met by Bernamoff’s Pink Hook commissary kitchen by the hands of the 2012 pure catastrophe, and what they noticed because the sorry state of the artisanal bagel trade in New York. The 2 males share a Jewish cultural id, however Bernamoff is from Montreal, Kliegman from Lengthy Island; therein, it appears secure to imagine, lies the genesis of the chain’s splicing collectively New York and Montreal bagel genes to create a contemporary hybrid, one which may be to bagel aficionados what the liger or tigon as soon as had been to zoologists, i.e., freakish and unholy. To these of us not within the behavior of grinding that specific ax, nevertheless, the mixture appears completely cheap.
Earlier than Hurricane Sandy, Bernamoff’s Pink Hook commissary had helped provide his Boerum Hill deli, Mile Finish. Among the many deli’s staff was chef Daoheung, a Thai American raised in central Florida.
Following her stint at Mile Finish, Daoheung spent a 12 months in San Francisco after which returned to New York, the place she additional sharpened her talent set at bygone Williamsburg restaurant Isa. Then, her outdated boss Bernamoff acquired in contact.
“Noah mentioned, ‘I feel Matt and I are opening a bagel store,’” recalled Daoheung. “‘We want a baker,’ they mentioned, ‘however one which’s good on the enterprise finish.’”
The invoice of fare subsequently put collectively by Daoheung and firm speaks as a lot, to my inexpert eye at the least, of New York State’s bountiful pantry because it does of the baking and curing and smoking traditions introduced by Jews fleeing the poverty and pogroms of late nineteenth and early twentieth Century Japanese Europe.
A signature merchandise, for example, the straightforwardly named “Salmon Basic,” combines the signature unfold from Ben’s Cream Cheese in Spring Valley (a favourite of, amongst others, famed meals author and humorist Calvin Trillin) and smoked salmon from Catsmo Artisanal Smokehouse, and is accomplished by capers, onions and tomato. Catsmo, a Catskill-based agency, additionally contributes pastrami’d salmon to the likewise intuitively dubbed “Pastrami Salmon,” which incorporates Ben’s scallion cream cheese. In the meantime, that icon of on-the-go New York breakfast meals, the bacon-egg-and-cheese, options pork from Pat LaFrieda, a Bergen, New Jersey, meat purveyor with a 3 era historical past.
Chilly brew and drip espresso come from – who else? – Stumptown, a Pink Hook-based roaster. Lacroix, Coke, Weight loss program Coke, Sprite and Natalie’s Recent Squeezed OJ full the drink menu.
So what are the important thing variations between a New York and Montreal bagel?
“One massive distinction,” defined Daoheung, “is that Montreal bakers use a wooden fired oven. It’s form of like pizza with the little burn marks. Most bagel locations [in New York] use one thing known as a fish oven, the place you simply pop it in on a rotating belt. The Montreal oven simply has one chamber, and the baker is de facto working his ass off to get every bagel excellent. It’s like a dance.”
“Moreover, Montreal bagels are boiled in honey water; New York bagels are boiled in water containing malt or brown sugar. Because of this, sadly, most vegans can’t eat our bagels.”
What then, are the traits of a New York bagel?
“The New York half is within the dough itself, which is salted. In Montreal, they don’t use salt within the dough. Additionally, Montreal dough is denser, New York’s is lighter.”
However New Yorkers will primarily take be aware, based on Daoheung, of the scale of a Black Seed bagel; hers, in true Montreal vogue, is nearly half that of one among New York’s husky specimens, which in a pinch may save a person from drowning.
I commented that it appeared she, Bernamoff and Kliegman had efficiently – and, maybe, even intentionally – Trojan Horse’d a Montreal-style bagel right into a New York meals scene bristling with the hostile Spartan spears of bagel partisanship. Chuckling, she deflected the accusation by, as an alternative, discussing how Black Seed was initially obtained by New York’s old style bagel cognoscenti.
“There’ll all the time be haters,” mentioned Daoheung, smiling. “Particularly if you’re the brand new child on the block. Once we first opened, these 80-year-old bagel bakers would are available in and grumble about what we had been doing.”
“However there have been additionally loads of outdated guys who thought [Black Seed bagels] had been wonderful – and, really, nearer to what they was.”
Daoheung’s ethnicity and gender appear to have been further components in how the shop was initially perceived by the outdated guard.
“They’d ask for the baker and I’d come up they usually’d be like, “YOU’RE the baker?!” remembered Daoheung, bemused. “However most individuals appreciated our work, as a result of, like I mentioned, we had been nearer to what bagels had been as soon as upon a time, moderately than the massive bloated factor it’s now, with means an excessive amount of cream cheese.”
The chain’s success on New York’s mercilessly robust meals scene has allowed for, together with an astonishing fee of growth (including one retailer a 12 months, on common, since opening in 2014), political engagement and group outreach. Black Seed donates, for example, to the Black Feminist Venture, a Bronx-based social justice group that emphasises well being and vitamin, and chef Daoheung is hoping that pandemic-related restrictions will ease sufficient to permit for a partnership program with ex-inmates excited about studying easy methods to bake. COVID-19 has additionally resulted within the suspension of very long time Black Seed initiatives, together with collaborations with outdoors cooks and bagel-making workshops.
However Daoheung doesn’t appear to be dwelling on the distressing results of the well being disaster (she is a chef, in spite of everything, a stoic breed not usually given to the unconstructive gnashing of molars, except or not it’s at an under-performing line cook dinner). Slightly, she’s charging forward with the Judaic culinary horde presently at her disposal, captained by seasoned outdated troopers like Ben’s Cream Cheese and Catsmo Artisanal Smokehouse. Born out of the ashes of 1 (watery) disaster, chez Bernamoff-Daoheung-Kliegman appears constructed to climate our present one.
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Native New Yorker. Travel addict. Hardcore thinker. Analyst. Pop culture fanatic. I live in Queens with my wife Linda and our dog Clemenza.