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The bakers — benchmen who rolled dough, kettlers who boiled and ovenmen who executed the final step — protected the secrets of their craft. It took years to develop a proper bagel muscle on the outside of the elbow. In consequence, the bagel strike was a national event, which hit the front pages of the newspapers. After all, most readers outside New York had never seen a bagel, much less tasted one. By the late s, the company produced thousands a day to be sold across the nation. Bagels became a reality in corners of the country where they had previously been a rumor, a whisper in the wind off New York Harbor.

The union tried to fight back, but it was too late. Americans of all stripes knew and loved bagels.

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At first the bagel machine had an unintended consequence: The dough gummed up the works, so it was changed to be less sticky. Then it turned out that, to sell bagels to people around the country, it helped to make them taste like white bread. His frozen toroids opened the door for the proliferation of bagel shops. New Yorkers can be proud of their bagel heritage and still recognize that Lender was a bagel big shot. It was a simple idea but was also full of chutzpah, an innovation that would forever change the history of noshing. The bagel sold at the excellent Ess-a-Bagel on First Avenue is a whopping seven ounces now, or more than twice the size of the traditional union bagel of yore.

It's a pretty good bagel, truth to tell, though sweetened with honey. Bagel cafes, she explained, were a trendy, quick-service franchise concept that spread the gospel of fresh bagels across the country. The bagels served by chains like Bagel Nosh, Einstein Brothers and Bruegger's gradually became bigger and bigger as the notion of supersizing spread, and as the businesses morphed from breakfast and coffee operations into full-fledged sandwich-making restaurants.

The bagels needed to be bigger to hold the fillings. New York's independent bagelries soon followed suit.

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Edelstein of Bagel Oasis said that when he began baking bagels, there were only plain, salt, poppy and sesame bagels, and that he made 10 plain bagels for every salted, poppy or sesame bagel. Now, there are bagels flavored with blueberry, cranberry-orange and pesto, even curry. I'm begrudgingly willing to let cinnamon-raisin into the bagel pantheon, and certainly pumpernickel, even ''everything. I visited more than 50 establishments.

I ate more than three times that number of bagels. In the process, I both horrified practitioners of the carbohydrate-phobic Atkins diet and discovered no less than half a dozen varieties of bagel so good they need no cheese, butter or smoked fish to accompany them. Terrace Bagels, in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, huzzah!

Hot Bialys in Jamaica, Queens? Bagelry in Murray Hill? They are all superb. But I also had bagels so despicably bad the people responsible for baking them should be incarcerated. New York may be the nation's bagel capital, but street vendors selling rubbery steamed bagels abound, not to mention local McDonald's franchises selling bagels topped with egg, cheese and bacon. Even such Midwestern depredations as blueberry bagels have gained a stronghold in certain precincts of New York City. The bagel as concept is ubiquitous in New York. But not all bagels are the same. Some are to be derided.

Thongkrieng came to New York in via Bangkok and college in London, and immediately, he said, started working in bagel shops. If you ask for a dark, well-baked bagel there, you'll taste something near perfection: a bagel that is crunchy, not too dense or sweet, and just chewy enough. But still quite large. For a real retro taste, it is necessary to order Mr. Thongkrieng's minibagel -- a perfect simulacrum of the 's New York bagel. Pomerantz left a successful career on Wall Street to open Murray's, but he surely has his dad's soul.

His hand-rolled bagels are crisp and chewy and dark, with a terrific shine. They would be even better, I think, if he used malt to sweeten them, not sugar. The younger Mr. Madorski seems to be a bit of a gambler himself. He is the first serious bagel baker in New York to make his regular-size bagels exclusively by machine he still hand rolls his minibagels, which must be special ordered. The gamble has paid off. Madorski's bagels are about the smallest regular-size bagels available in New York, and they are absolutely delicious; crusty, chewy and just salty enough.

Not to speak heresy, but his flat bagels, perfect for vertical toasting, are also fantastic, crunchy and just barely pliant. The bagel bins are small. There is no evidence anywhere that bagels have been boiled, much less baked. Most of the other food on display is Italian, rather than Jewish. But the bagels that miraculously materialize from Louis Thompson's hidden ovens are extremely flavorful; yeasty, with just a hint of sourness. Thompson's principal bagel roller is Vicharn Tangchitsumran also known as Boone , who has been hand rolling bagels for more than 30 years.

As the Michelin guides put it, he is worth a detour. Edelstein and Mr. Moskowitz are former members of Local , and together they have more than years of experience baking bagels. The result is a bagel that is fairly petite by today's standards, that has decent chew, excellent flavor, and manages to be dense without being leaden.

They also make a fine bagel twist and a terrific pretzel made of bagel dough. If you like that sort of thing, that is. Phongtankuel, another alumnus of Bagel Nosh, bought the place in from Nettie Berkowitz -- and promptly set about making fabulous bagels, including a newfangled flat bagel he calls a Bagel Delite. Some malt in the recipe would improve things, but these are still terrific bagels, far superior to the large doughy orbs that many New Yorkers have come to think of, incorrectly, as ''good bagels.

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Six Worth Their Salt. As for when the happy couple met the bagel, well, who knows? Somebody probably wanted a lox sandwich, and was told there wasn't any bread, but there were bagels. Lox is a fillet of brined salmon. Traditionally, lox is served on a bagel with cream cheese, and is usually garnished with tomato, sliced red onion, cucumbers and sometimes capers.

The word lox is derived from the Yiddish word for salmon laks , which is ultimately derived from the Indo-European word for salmon laks. The word lox has cognates in numerous Indo-European languages. For example, cured salmon in Scotland and Scandinavian countries is known by different versions of the name Gravlax or gravad laks. A "lox and a schmear" refers to a bagel and cream cheese with lox. Lox and smoked salmon are sometimes used interchangeably and are regarded as the same thing. But technically they are not.

Lox refers to salmon cured in a salt-sugar rub or brine like gravlax. Nova is cured and then cold-smoked unlike lox or gravlax. Real, authentic lox is made from only the belly portion of the salmon. Yup, like pork, the belly of the fish is typically the richest, fattiest and most succulent portion. On what is required for first rate smoked salmon, Avi Attias, the proprietor of Banner Smoked Fish in Brooklyn, one of the oldest fish smokehouses in the country, told the Washington Post "The reality is that salmon are like people -- all different," he says.

Different styles. You have to taste it. If it looks good, you buy it the first time. If it tastes good, you buy it the second time. He buys salmon from many parts of the world and then cures, smokes, slices and packages them in whatever ways his steady clients want. After 10 years, you may know a good fish from a bad fish.

It takes that long to have a palate and get that sense of feel and touch for the salmon. Judith Weinraub wrote in the Washington Post, Listening to the two professionals reveals some useful guidelines for buying high-quality smoked salmon -- especially if the salmon is sliced in front of the consumer. Presliced, packaged salmon ranges from that secondary market referred to by Attias to high-end "designer" salmon, where the labels provide useful information about where the fish come from and how they've been handled.

However, refrigerated, smoked salmon will be fine for a week.

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If you're in doubt, ask. Farmed salmon and most of the smoked salmon in this country is farmed are more likely to be fat because their food -- proteins, oils, fats -- are provided to them; they don't have to fend for themselves in the wild. Moist fish is preferred by most people. No bruises either. A wet cure means the fish have been submerged in a salty brine before being smoked.

A dry cure indicates that salt has been rubbed directly into the flesh of the fish. In each case, the fish is rinsed before smoking. A wet cure often yields a better looking salmon and is the predominant curing method today. A dry cure, however, is often used for high-end smoked salmon, especially those that emphasize particular spicing.

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