Monday, August 12, 2013

The bagel and the bialy

Posted By on Mon, Aug 12, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Boulevards bialy
  • Boulevard's bialy

When the weekend arrives and I’m rolling out of bed on a lazy Saturday morning, before my feet even hit the floor, I’m already thinking about breakfast. I’ve already expressed my devotion to a variety of breakfast pastries and we’ve got some pristine options in the Little Rock area. But a discussion we had recently, as I shared with you all my list of the best donuts around town, brought to mind an underrepresented entity in central Arkansas, the lox and bagel. Fish for breakfast? If you have not sampled this ingenious, glorious creation, you’ve not yet experienced life to its fullest. While I’m not advocating anyone go spreading catfish on their cornflakes anytime soon, the subtle flavors of a good lox and bagel makes for a morning masterpiece. But in this landlocked state, does such an creature exist? Are there any such creations worth sampling? Why yes, my fish loving friends, there are…but not many.

We begin with a bialy. What’s a bialy? It’s a small yeast roll, very similar to a bagel, hailing from the frigid air of Poland. Unlike a bagel, however, which is boiled before baking, the bialy is simply baked. This changes the texture a bit; it’s a bit less chewy compared to its cousin the bagel. They’re also hole-less, instead only given a small impression on top that’s often filled with all sorts of herbs, spices, onions, etc. before it’s baked off. Boulevard Bread, a place which quite possibly has never and will never make a single culinary mistake in its entire existence, has decided to take this slightly unconventional route with its version of the classic lox and bagel. Traditional or not, the results are marvelous. If you haven’t had this fine breakfast sandwich before in your life, you’d be hard pressed to find a better version anywhere in this state. The sandwich starts with a very generous portion of sliced pink salmon, layered between the sliced bread. The salmon is tender, soft, and chewy, and for a city so far from the sea, it’s surprisingly fresh. The magic continues with a sizable spread of pure white cream cheese. I’m happy that Boulevard provides such a hearty layer of cool, creamy spread, for in this instance I don’t feel a miserly, thin spread would suit the sandwich. Instead the eater gets a lovely mouthful of cream cheese with every bite. Capers really make the sandwich sing. Salty, briny, a touch of bitter—capers are one of nature’s little nuggets of joy and almost always play well with salmon. A juicy red tomato, lettuce, and sharp red onion complete this winning formula. All in all, it’s a breakfast sandwich worthy of big props from the Big Apple.

Morningsides lox and bagel
  • Morningside's lox and bagel

On the other hand, if you find yourself north of the river, you may want to wend your way over to North Little Rock, where Morningside Bagels is offering their rendition of the classic lox and bagel. Here, Morningside excels where it matters most—the bagel. They boil and bake their bagels to the perfect consistency—coming out dense, chewy, but soft. Order the New Yorker way and get the “everything” bagel as the base for your breakfast sandwich. Here, “everything” means toasted garlic, poppy seed, and sesame. The garlic is a particularly wonderful addition and adds an aromatic, salty note to every bite. The remaining players in this sandwich mirror those in the Boulevard version: tomato, cream cheese, capers, onion, and smoked salmon. They could probably be a bit more generous with their smoked salmon, but overall, it’s a solid version of the classic lox and bagel.

Visit either Boulevard or Morningside (or both) for breakfast to see for yourself why salmon makes a suitable morning sandwich. Of course, it need not only be enjoyed in the A.M., but it’s certainly a fine thing to wake up to.

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