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What do you think of these Hamiltonians claiming to make better Montreal-style bagels than Montrealers?


The guy hasn't even eaten a St-Viateur bagel!


Bagel lovers, the abominable doughnut must not stand


Bill Brownstein

The Gazette


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Et tu, Hamilton? The gauntlet has been tossed - again.


The bagel battle rages on. In Hamilton, a city best known for its steel, a grocery store is selling a baked good that is ... ew ... reddish and overly coated in icing sugar and cinnamon, and it is billing this as a "Montreal-style bagel." Utter blasphemy!!


Not only that, but Bill Houston, bakery-department manager of Fortino's on Mall St. in Hamilton (where this alleged bagel was discovered), has the unmitigated chutzpah to declare his bagels are better than ours and has challenged us to a taste test. For the record, Houston has never actually chowed down on one of Montreal's prized bagels.


Pity this poor knave. Houston was unaware that in a blind taste test over a year ago, Montreal bagels handily beat the best Toronto could bake. In Hogtown, too, they called them Montreal-style bagels, but to the judges, they were nothing more than rolls with holes that had the consistency of hockey pucks.


If it comes down to another bout, my fear is that the Steeltown bagels may include that city's prized export among its ingredients and that judges could break much-needed molars.


Montrealers are fiercely proud of their bagels. So, there must be standards set for those who have the audacity to market bagel-like aberrations as Montreal-style.


"What if someone who never had a Montreal bagel ate one of those sugar-coated Hamilton bagels, didn't like it and refused to taste a real Montreal bagel on the basis of that experience?" asks Thomas Jelonek, a former Hamiltonian now living in Montreal. "That would be a travesty. The integrity of the Montreal bagel must be preserved."


It was Jelonek who, while visiting his mom in Hamilton, had spotted the offending bagels. He also photographed them and, at the urging of friends, posted it on the Chowhound website "as a warning" of what can go wrong in the world of baked goods.


"I suspect the reaction of many from Ontario would be to wonder what is the big deal," says Jelonek, who toils in the world of high tech when not defending the interests of Montreal. "Perhaps, one must go on the offensive to drive home the point. That is, to create a bastardization of something of which Ontarians are proud. I wonder what people from Ontario would think if they saw a sweet wine-cooler from here labeled 'Niagara-style ice wine?' "


Ryk Edelstein, a major Montreal food-booster, was horrified to find this bagel "abomination" on the Chowhound website. "Warm up the tar, I am collecting the feathers," he states. "They can call it a bagel if they wish, but they have absolutely no right to call it 'Montreal-style.'


"Montreal bagels are hand-made from a strip of dough that has been formed into a circle and rolled on the seam. Montreal bagels are never cut from a sheet of dough. These (Hamilton bagels) bear the distinct cutter marks that are present on doughnuts and bagel-shaped rolls that are marketed anywhere but Montreal. As such, these specimens are clearly not even a close cousin to our venerable bagel. They are closer to a doughnut than to a bagel."


And so Edelstein went on the offensive, firing off a letter to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce:


"We, the citizens of Montreal, are proud of our culture, our city and our food and take offence to those who choose to disrespect that in which we take pride. It has come to our attention that a Hamilton grocer has chosen to tread on some very sacred soil. They are selling a distinctly American/Ontario-style bagel covered in cinnamon and sugar and calling it a Montreal Bagel! This is nothing short of sacrilege. We would like to give Hamilton the chance to assuage the insult we have been served. I ask you to please address this issue, as I fear a war between Montreal and Hamilton might not be the best way to settle this."


To his surprise, Edelstein received an immediate reply from R. John Dolbec, CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce: "I do hope and trust that your email was tongue in cheek - anyway, I will presume so. As a Montreal native myself (I grew up in Rosemount, with some time in Park Ex), I have indeed a very intimate familiarity with (and am truly a tremendous fan of) 'Montreal-style' bagels. I do think it is somewhat unfair of you to penalize a whole city for the actions, appropriate or not, of just one merchant."


Edelstein has backed off from the war option for now. He has a new idea: Operation Bagel Drop! He plans to courier authentic Montreal bagels to Fortino's and the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. "Then they'll taste and realize that the only thing that should be Ontario-made on a real Montreal bagel is some fluffy cream cheese from Western Dairy," he says.


Houston, the Fortino's bakery manager, is undaunted. "I stand by our bagels. They are baked the Montreal way. We offer six varieties, but the cinnamon are among our most popular. No one has complained. We will still call them Montreal-style. I have no doubt they are better than yours. I look forward to a taste-test challenge to prove ours are best."


Fighting words.


Jelonek, the uncoverer of this atrocity, couldn't bring himself to eat one of these Hamilton oddities: "I was taken aback by the way they looked, so I just poked at them with the tongs - sort of like how one might poke a foreign object with a stick."


On the plus side, Jelonek is at least happy to report these alien bagels weren't breathing.



© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008


Article from the Montreal Gazette

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LOL, they won't back down.


Gloves are off in big bagel showdown: Hamilton shall eat its rolls with holes



The Gazette


Friday, January 18, 2008


Pass the cream cheese. Time to hit the mattresses again.


Hamilton won't back down. Steeltown's Chamber of Commerce has challenged Montreal to a bagel bout, a blind taste test pitting their best against ours.


Seems Hamilton's civic pride has been put to the test on the heels of my Wednesday column, wherein my civic pride was put to the test after learning that a Hamilton supermarket, Fortinos, was selling a reddish, sugar-coated cinnamon concoction and labelling it a "Montreal-style" bagel. The horror, the horror.


In a Page One story yesterday in the Hamilton Spectator, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce CEO John Dolbec set the stage for the battle: "As a matter of civic pride, I'm more than willing to stack our bagels against theirs."


Dolbec should know better. He is a former Montrealer.


He also should know Montreal beat back a similar challenge from Toronto over a year ago. Both the Hogtown and Montreal judges agreed our bagels were far and away superior and that theirs were essentially rolls with holes and no soul.


The point is that the integrity of the Montreal-style bagel must be preserved. We can't have upstarts from around the country claiming their bagels are Montreal-style when they are little more than sugared doughnuts - hard ones at that. Simply put, it's false advertising.


Joe Morena, co-owner of St. Viateur Bagel Bakery, is getting mighty peeved with people trying to cash in on the Montreal bagel with their bogus offerings. As he has oft explained, and repeated again to the Hamilton Spectator yesterday: "A true Montreal bagel has to be made by hand, then boiled in honey water and baked in a wood-burning oven. It can never be made by machine." Much less be suffocated in icing sugar.


Where does this all end?


In his email, Jim McDonagh, clearly a wise man from St. Catharines, Ont., echoed the sentiments of almost all who have responded to this story. "Bagels in Hamilton are no match for Montreal bagels. But I have found many types of food here in southern Ontario that are displayed with a sign stating 'Montreal-style,' especially foods like smoked meat, hot dogs, steaks, poutine, BBQ Chicken, Spruce Beer, souvlaki, cheese cake, bagels and the list goes on. ... The one sign I have not seen in this part of Ontario is a sign for Toronto Maple Leaf tickets stating 'Montreal-Style Hockey'."


Time has come to get tough, even if Montrealers have nothing against Hamiltonians. We should be comrades in arms since we share a common adversary: that community, far closer to them than us, which bills itself as the centre of the universe.


On the other hand, there may be a reason that Montreal Canadiens star-of-the-future Carey Price has been floundering since being shipped down to the Habs farm team, the Hamilton Bulldogs. I suspect he might have eaten one of those sugar-coated alleged bagels from Fortinos.


This controversy erupted after Thomas Jelonek photographed the offending Fortinos sugar-bagel and posted it on the Chowhound website. Jelonek, a former Hamiltonian now living in Montreal, felt that he owed it to his adopted city and to the planet to expose what can go wrong in the world of baked goods.


"Can you believe the chutzpah, trying to pass this off as 'Montreal-style?,' "said Ryk Edelstein, one of this city's biggest food-boosters. "My bile is rising."


Danny Krupp, an ex-Montrealer who has lived in Hamilton the last four years, is in excellent position to judge: "I once deigned to sample one of these offending Fortinos bagels. Let's be clear: I did not try any cinnamon/icing sugar/Italian dressing/marzipan bastardization, but the good, old-fashioned sesame-seed variety. I did so for two reasons. First, I was desperate. I hadn't had a proper bagel in months. Second, I am always tempted to see what others think our bagels are supposed to be like. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to know that they inevitably amount to 'rolls with holes in them' (for I describe them the same way as you). But back to my taste test: They were terrible. Nothing like a Montreal bagel."


Andrew Murray thinks a little payback is in order: "On the day of the taste test, our Montreal representatives should bring with them some aluminum foil labelled as 'Hamilton-style' steel. Hopefully that will help drive home the point as much as the resounding defeat in the test itself. If not, I say we sue for copyright infringement!!!"


Michael Ryshpan would like to go one step farther in having Fortinos cease and desist from calling its offending bagel "Montreal-style": a petition to be sent to Loblaws, which owns Fortinos as well as Provigo. "If that doesn't settle the issue, we can then escalate by calling for a boycott of Loblaws and Provigo stores on the island. That most certainly will resolve the issue." He did indicate, though, that he lived in the Hamilton area for 20 years, and that Fortinos is actually a "super" supermarket.


Dolbec stands by the Hamilton bagels: "As a Montreal native myself, and thus a truly big fan of the 'Montreal' bagel, I can easily reconcile my emotions here. While I recognize that to purists putting icing sugar and cinnamon on a bagel may sound akin to sacrilege, people should not judge by pictures alone. Trust me, Fortinos has done an excellent job in recreating the basic distinctive exquisite flavour and texture of a Montreal bagel. I ask that you just taste first, before you condemn. Overlook, and forgive, the 'icing sugared' version. Simply, taste and then decide. But I would say the Fortinos bagels are at the very least an equal product to those of Montreal."


We'll soon see. And taste. The plan is that, within the month, two panels of four tasters in Montreal and Hamilton will sample, simultaneously, in a blind taste test, poppy and sesame-seeded bagels from the Fairmount and St. Viateur bakeries, and from Fortinos and another Hamilton bagel-maker.


The losers will sport T-shirts emblazoned with something along the lines of: "We Hamiltonians Are Not Worthy. We Will Never Mess With Montreal Bagels Again." In the unlikely event Montreal loses, we would be required to don "I Love Hamilton (Even When I'm Sober)" T-shirts.


As a sidebar, we would all be forced to sample the alien red cinnamon dough... sorry, bagel coated in icing sugar as a sort of exercise in humility, not to mention one in tummy-retention.



© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008

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