ST. ALBANS — A bagel, when properly deployed, is sort of like the pizza of breakfast food.
A proper bagel is a Proper Water Bagel. A real bagel only has five ingredients.
These are some of the bagel facts bandied around at Feldman’s Bagels in St Albans. Ryan Canfield, regional manager for Feldman’s, is happy to share them when asked.
“Seriously, I could spend all day long talking about bagels,” Canfield says.
He can also talk about bialys, which are Polish rolls that resemble bagels with a flat finish and a nice little center of garlic and herb.
“I tell everybody the best way to eat a bialy is to cut it in half and put butter on it,” Canfield says. “I don’t think anyone else does bialys in Vermont.”
Feldman’s Bagels, which opened here just this last August, may be new to the Rail City, but the shops have been in Vermont since Jimmy Carter was in the White House.
Roy Feldman brought the authentic New York bagels to Vermont in 1979, making sure to bring the bialys as well.
Feldman built his business over the years, finally selling the whole deal to Bob Leonard, a hockey tournament coordinator on Jay Peak with zero baking or restaurant experience, in 2016.
“Roy taught him everything,” said Canfield. In fact, Canfield was not always the bagelologist he is today; he was a kitchen manager at a now defunct Mexican restaurant when Leonard – his father-in-law-to-be – asked if he would like to come to work as a mixer (that’s mixing the five ingredients that make a real bagel). He’d never worked in any kind of baking capacity, but he took the job and worked his way up. Today he manages all three Feldman’s locations; the other two are in Burlington and Shelburne.
So about that idea that bagels are the pizza of breakfast food: Canfield says it’s because there are so many different things that can be done with a bagel. Just like the toppings on a pie, bagels become carriers for essentially any meat, veggie or herb.
Such toppings are applied to 16 varieties of bagel at Feldman’s, which include garlic and herb, cinnamon and sugar, the ubiquitous everything, and pumpernickel.
Which brings us back around to the Proper Water Bagel: that means the bagels are “kettled,” or boiled for less than a minute in nothing but water. Most shops add molasses and salt or even honey to their water, creating a barm.
The Proper Water method, as Canfield explains, neutralizes the yeast, which stops the rise and also creates the classic firm and shiny crust that gives way to a pillow of airy but chewy interior indicative of a genuine bagel. Canfield doesn’t mention shop names, but he says many chain stores use frozen bagels that they zap with air and then bake in a rack oven.
“We kettle all our bagels,” he says. The St. Albans location makes just around 750 of them daily.
Ashley Benson, the store manager, oversees the daily production. She started as counter help and became shift leader two weeks later, and now, according to Canfield, she’s on track to move up again.
Along with the bagels, the bialys, the house-made cream cheese and pretzels, Feldman’s also rotates work from local art galleries on the walls of their shop in the St Albans Plaza.
The combination of bagels, art, and bialys, mixed with fresh coffee, makes Feldman’s a unique spot. And if you catch Canfield there, you’ll be able to learn all you want to know about bagels.
Seriously, he could spend all day long talking about bagels.
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