Save the Deli

The Montreal Food Chronicles: Jennifer 8 Lee tackles bagels and smoked meat


A smoked meat sandwich at Boerum Hill deli Mile End. by Jennifer 8. Lee for the NYT

Inspired perhaps by Save the Deli (we’re friends), New York Times writer, and Fortune Cookie Chronicles author Jennifer 8 Lee is in Montreal and showing off its bagels and smoked meat against New York’s.

First, the bagels:

Are Montreal bagels really better than New York bagels?

City Room had been hearing about these legendary Montreal bagels from our readers. They were sweeter and less bloated. Since they were baked in a wood-burning oven, they had crisper crusts.

So we decided to pay a visit to Montreal’s bagel world to understand the rival to our native bagels. Montreal, which saw an influx of Jewish immigrants both before and after World War II, had become one of the main world centers of distinctive Jewish cuisine. Two Montreal bakeries stand out above all the others: Fairmount Bagel and St-Viateur’s Bagel, both in the Mile End neighborhood.

What we found: Montreal bagel makers had no problem trash-talking New York bagels, which they found to be too gargantuan and too salty. “Why do they even call it a bagel?” asked Andrew Gryn, a long-time employee of St-Viateur’s. “It’s like having bread.” READ THE REST HERE

Then, Lee gets even more controversial by stacking up pastrami against smoked meat:

Will the pastrami sandwich have to defend its turf?

Pastrami may have its roots in Turkish cuisine, but the ultimate pastrami today is found in New York, in part because those staples were developed here into high art by Jewish restaurateurs beginning in the 1930s.

But now it may have to watch out for a rival from the north: smoked meat on rye.

Smoked what, you ask?

Exactly. Why use a suspicion-raising name like “meat,” when its actually beef brisket? But Canadians identify fiercely with their viande fumée, as it is known in the French-speaking parts.

Developed by Jewish delis in Montreal, smoked meat is a cross between corned beef and pastrami.

Now a Montreal native who lives in New York, Noah Bernamoff, is opening up a restaurant called Mile End in Boerum Hill to serve smoked meat. The 27-year-old sometimes Brooklyn Law School student is sinking his savings into the 25-by-25-foot store, where he will serve the sandwiches himself. Mr. Bernamoff, who has no experience in professional cooking or running a restaurant, said: “I feel very passionate toward smoking and very passionate toward the food of Montreal.” READ THE REST HERE

The rest of the article discusses the feelings of New Yorkers and Montrealers about their meats, and what they think of this new deli. I’m a bit discouraged to hear the smack talk from Frank Silva about Noah’s Mile End creation. Save that for private Frank! Don’t judge until you taste it.

And now we’ll cue the unpredictable NYTimes commenter. Here’s my favorite:

1) I can’t wait to try it.
2) The Pastrami at Katz Deli is sublime.
3) The Carnegie Deli is not worth the wait, head downtown to Katz.
4) Sarge’s deli on Third Ave. is under-rated.
5) Sarah Palin is a dangerous lunatic.
— Ronny

I don’t necessarily agree with #3 or #4, but you have the love the sheer chutzpah of #5.

4 Responses to “The Montreal Food Chronicles: Jennifer 8 Lee tackles bagels and smoked meat”

  1. julia s Says:

    It seems to me that comparing bagels that have travelled for hours and are no longer fresh out of the oven will never lead to a balanced comparison. Montreal bagels have a short, albeit absolutely wonderful shelf life, and bringing them to NYC for a taste test takes away from their ideal environment – being eaten fresh out of the oven, or not long after. They are hands-down the best bagels anywhere!

  2. Casey Gifford Says:

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  3. Auksenty Says:

    How much of an fascinating article, keep publishing lover

  4. Nostrian Says:

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