Having brunch with friends or hosting a meal the Sunday after a simcha (celebration) should be a simple and yummy affair. Yet it is surprising how many people commit bagel blunders. Here are some tips that will keep your gathering from becoming a bagel balagan (mess).
1. When choosing your assortment of flavors, please remember that NOBODY LIKES EGG BAGELS. If people claim they like them, they’re actually confused and forget they really just like egg challah.
2. While we’re talking about assortments, don’t send your spouse to pick out the ratio of bagel flavors, unless you always want most of the bag to be full of “everything” and “raisin” bagels.
I was once at an event when, amongst the dozens of flavors, the single bag of plain bagels (that kids actually would eat) was accidentally spilled onto the ground. Oy. Chaos ensued and “baby bagels,” aka Cheerios, had to come to the rescue.
3. For your own family, you can use frozen bagels or buy cheaper, day old bagels—but please, please don’t serve them to others, especially if your visitors are expecting an authentically delicious NY/NJ/CT/Philly water bagel experience. The difference in price is not worth the disappointed expressions after visitors take a bite.
4. Get to know your bagel guy or gal. You never know how much you’ll need them. For our first child, we were new-ish in a Midwestern town and needed a last minute replacement Cohen for our pidyon haben (ritual redeeming of the firstborn). Bagel guy himself fit the bill and came to the rescue along with his lavish brunch spread.
5. Don’t wait until guests arrive to slice the bagels. You will either have a long line while people slowly cut through the bread, or have bloody fingers from individuals trying to speed things along. You can’t pretend the red is just tomato juice every time.
6. But also don’t slice them too early, because they will dry out quickly and then taste like day old bagels (see #3). Bagel freshness will rule your life that day.
7. While we’re on the subject of slicing, invest in a Bagel Guillotine. My hand surgeon husband does not want to see you as yet another bagel slicing victim patient. You would think that we, of all cultures, would have perfected this slicing skill by now.
8. Some stores sell mini bagels. Managers are smart to offer this convenient option, but it’s usually much cheaper to cut your regularly sized bagel into halves or quarters. Still, if minimizing slicing is your goal, minis may work for you.
9. Yes, you should slice tomatoes and onions for people to layer onto their bagels but no, most people won’t use them. So slice less than you think you need, which will also help prevent a visit to the ER (see #6).
10. Whipped cream cheese is ridiculously pricey per unit amount, but infinitely easier to spread and will save you from many a broken plastic knife. If you use metal knives, go for the cheaper, solid cream cheese, but let the blocks warm to room temperature so you don’t have trouble cutting off pieces (again with the slicing risk!).
11. If you serve poppy seed bagels, put out toothpicks as well—or everyone in the room will look like they are missing teeth from all the black dots stuck in them.
12. If your guests ask where the “Bagel Holes or Munchkins” are, send them to Dunkin Donuts and consider re-evaluating your friendship level with them.
13. Some stores sell bagel-blobs-of-dough-without-the-hole of sorts. You should avoid those stores and the owners should be punished for such a travesty. (Perhaps the owners are friends with people from #12?). Without the hole, it’s not a bagel. And speaking of variations on this baked option…
14. Bialy or Flagel? Some people love the inside of a bagel. Some people love the outside of a bagel. These two options feature more of one or the other. People are as loyal to one version as sports fans are to their teams. If you don’t like arguments analogous to Yankees vs. Mets, then it would be best to offer neither of these kinds of bagels
So there you have it. All the rules to help you have a bagel-icious event.