The Purple House- North Yarmouth, Maine
The Traditional $11
A Za’atar Bagel with smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, red onion, caper & dill.
The Breakfast Special $9
A Montreal spiced bagel with egg, cream cheese, avocado & spinach.
A charred onion bagel with gravalax, horseradish dill cream cheese, cucumber & red onion.
For those of you that read my previous post “Portland & The Lobster Roll Quest”, The Purple House was briefly mentioned and as promised, I am here to introduce the next member of the bagel family. We’ve already acquainted ourselves with cousin Bialy, but now it’s time to make way for the smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser little sister. The Montreal Bagel.
As with the North Eastern bagel, we can thank Jewish Immigrants leaving Poland for this other delightful style. The distinct taste and texture difference point to the fact that the bakers would have learnt their craft elsewhere in the Motherland. We can only be thankful that the migrants ended up in a completely different country and this variety was not lost under the popularity of what we have come to think of as a bagel.
Lets talk differences.
Ingredients: No or little salt is used, there are eggs in the dough and honey is added to the water where the bagels are boiled.
Baking: The wood fire oven gives them a crunchier, almost caramelized texture on the outside.
Appearance: Thinner but much dense in texture, with a larger hole in the middle and a little char on top from the open flames.
Taste: Sweeter and more complex with less toppings on offer.
In Montreal there are two famous bagel shops. Choosing which one is better, splits family’s down the middle and makes the weekend bagel run a little awkward. Fairmount Bagel was established in 1919 and St.Viateur Bagel shop opened in 1957, both of them are still trading and are open selling bagels 24 hours a day. I can feel the jealously radiating from the New Yorkers from here.. After baking, the bagels travel down a sloped conveyor belt which ends with a basket where the bagels wait to be ‘dressed’. Hardcore traditionalist bagel shops won’t allow you to toast their bagels and it will be a strike of luck if you come across an everything bagel in Montreal. Canadians prefer to keep it simple with sesame and poppy seed bagels being the hard favourite.
Walking into The Purple House was an experience in itself. Inside, the place was tiny and every time the door swung open to reveal a new customer, an awkward sort of shuffle began to try to accommodate them. The aroma of freshly baked goods hung in the air and it didn’t take long to find the piles of enticing pastries cleverly placed next to the cash register. Orders whizzed overhead to the kitchen on a rigged up mini zip-line and the wood fire oven sat centre stage for all to see.
As we carried our freshly squeezed juices outside, the smell of wood smoke was replaced by recently bloomed lilacs. The personality of The Purple House had spilled out into the garden, which was a slice of heaven and was one of those places you could loose track of time in. Even though I hadn’t taken one bite out of my bagel yet, I had ordered half a dozen to take home with us. I just had an inkling they were going to be excellent and luckily we had our friend Edie with us, who lives very close to Montreal and knows what she’s talking about.
I don’t know why The Purple House took it upon themselves to offer up Montreal style bagels but I’m sure glad they did! For my first Montreal bagel, it was all I could of hoped for. The bagel was easy to eat due to it’s shape and size, the contrasting sweetness from the dough and the slight bitterness from the char was magic and the fillings themselves were superb. The fresh flavours of the cream cheese and the salty smoked salmon all balanced out by the piercing taste of the red onion and the spice from the za’atar. INCROYABLE (Incredible in French).
You cannot compare the two bagels in any way, shape or form. However, it was so delicious that a trip to Canada just to try the two originators would not be totally out of the question in the future!
378 Walnut Hill Rd, North Yarmouth, ME 04097