Eating Bagels and Crow

Illustration by Eloi Champagne
Thursday morning was particularly disastrous. In addition to stopping twice to pick up bagels, a key mix-up and two return trips home to fetch forgotten items, I arrived late for work. The bagel taste-test, however, was still on. Lucie had stopped in at Faubourg Ste-Catherine and Real Bagels to pick up her prize possessions at roughly the same time I did so that freshness would not be an issue.

There was one slight difference between our bagels. Lucie's had poppy seeds and sesame seeds respectively. As a purist, I opted for plain, or "naked" bagels as Lucie referred to them. Apparently, Montreal bagels always come with either poppy or sesame seeds, in case you didn't know. We also decided that smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers might interfere with the actual bagel testing, so we settled on serving them with just butter.

We cut our bagels into quarters and passed them around the lunchroom table to roughly 15 people. The first round was St-Viateur, second Fairmount, third Faubourg Ste-Catherine and finally Real Bagels, the one Lucie raved about, or was it the scent and aesthetically pleasing counter assistance? Can't really recall now...

As we all sat around the lunchroom table, we discussed prices. A half-dozen of Fairmount bagels was $3.10. While the Faubourg and Real Bagels were more expensive, they were also larger. St-Viateur was by far the cheapest because when I explained the taste-test to the smirking manager, he handed me a half-dozen free of charge. I explained this random act of generosity to the Fairmount manager to see if some publicity was worth $3.10, hoping for similar consideration. He shook his head and said, "Nope. That's them," referring to his closest competitors. I was halfway through this story when Lucie interrupted me. She thought it might sway the opinion of our testers. "Remember," she said. "This is strictly about the bagel." Fair enough, I thought. They could always read about it on my blog.

The Results

I was surprised by the results, as was everyone else. We found that Fairmount bagels were chewier than the other bagels. They were also more savoury than the St-Viateur bagels. I have to admit I wasn't expecting to notice such a difference. The Faubourg and Real competitors were breadier and a touch drier. I preferred the sweeter St-Viateur bagels, and I wasn't alone. Twelve of the fifteen testers preferred St-Viateur, while three preferred Fairmount. The Faubourg and Real Bagels didn't get a single vote. Lucie conceded defeat.

If you're a diehard Fairmount fan, you still have 4 days to vote. In addition, if you click on my Facebook icon and "like" my blog, you'll have a chance to win a fabulous St-Viateur Bagel Shopping Bag, whether you vote or not.

More Food for Thought

I've always been leery of taste-tests. I suspect that the order of samples can influence your choice. I've also heard that sweeter things tend to fare better over their savoury competitors. It's a little bit like books. Whether you like one or not often depends on when you read it and other myriad factors.... like if the counter assistance had gorgeous dreadlocks.

Further Reading on Bagels in the Press
The Bagel House

Other related posts:
Bagel Conundrum
Mile End's Ring of Fame



Anonymous | February 10, 2011 at 11:42 PM

I LOVE St. Viateur bagels! So much so that I had them shipped to my house in Nova Scotia a while back. Decadent yes, but totally worth it. Can't get a good bagel in NS.

Heather | February 11, 2011 at 8:22 AM

I love St. Viateur too, but all the bagels we tested were good. As I've stated above, the St. Viateur bagels were the first ones we tested. Ergo we compared everything we tasted against those, and the sweet apparently always wins over the savoury. H

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