This nicely browned one cradled garlic and a pinch of poppy seeds. At 90 cents, today it costs half again as much as when I last took note, but that's hardly worth a thought for something so hard to come by.
Wall Street Journal - January 11, 2012
Peter Shelsky of Shelsky's Smoked Fish in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, said , "I'm a firm believer that Kossar's are the best bagels and bialys that I've ever had." (PDF)
Kossar's Frequently Gets Reviewed by food critics and food-oriented publications. These pages highlight some of the accolades we have received.
Each time we learn of more, we will publish them here. Check back often.
November, 1998 -- Saveur picked up our bagels just as we were getting into the bagel-making business. They thought our's were the best then. Now - two years later - we have received accolades and honors from everywhere. Radio host Arthur Schwartsburg asked Mimi Sheraton where the best bagels were made. She unequivocally said that Kossar's made them.
ZAGAT RATES WHICH SHOPS ARE TOPS
From the NY Post, May 26, 1999
By CYNTHIA KILIAN (New York Post writer)
EVERY diner worth his salt knows a little burgundy paperback called the Zagat Survey of New York Restaurants. But if you're eating in, or throwing a party, it's the slim blue book that's the ticket. The new 1999/2000 Zagat New York City Marketplace Survey, which costs $10.95, is making its way into bookstores this week, updating ratings for everything from bagel shops to wine stores. Costs are included, too - estimates ranging from an 'I'' for inexpensive to 'VE'' meaning very expensive.
Almost 8,000 surveyors summed up 1,360 purveyors in this third edition of the Marketplace Survey.
Robert Isabell, the West Village florist, was voted No. 1 overall of the food and entertainment lot, tallying in at 29, 28 and 26 for quality, variety and service, respectively. With a 'VE'' for cost, it helps if you have a 'bottomless pocketbook'' when you visit the designer, say surveyors.
Here are the top-rated New York shops in other categories.
Bagels and Bialys: Kossar's Bialys, at 367 Grand St.
A neighborhood landmark in New York City’s Lower East Side since 1935, Kossar’s Bialys is the nation’s oldest bialy maker. Bialys – a lighter cousin to the bagel – are tremendously popular in and around New York. After being featured in many area publications including, The New York Times, The New York Post, Newsday, The Jewish Week and Time Out New York, Kossar’s developed an out-of-state tourist following.
Business owner Juda Engelmayer – who purchased the business in 1998 – then saw a demand for selling his baked goods to a larger market. Since he doesn’t accept credit cards in his store, Engelmayer was reluctant to set up a merchant account with a bank, due to the setup charges and transaction fees that went along with it.
Wednesday, September 6, 2000
For Many, A Bialy Is The Bread Of a Lifetime
BY: SYLVIA CARTER
LONG BEFORE I got to know Mimi Sheraton's feisty restaurant reviews in The New York Times in the '70s and early '80s,
I remember reading her paean to New York street hot dogs in Family Circle. She introduced all of America to her favorite Cypriot hot dog vendor at 12th Street and Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village.
Sheraton told of hot dogs she had eaten all over the world, and even wheedled out of the hot dog man the secret of an onion sauce that put Sabrett's to shame. You go, girl!
So it is no surprise that the intrepid Sheraton, now in her early 70s, spent more than seven years, on and off, in hot pursuit of the lineage of bialys, those crisp, indented, oniony yeasted rolls that have survived in a few places, most notably Kossar's Bialystoker Kuchen Bakery, started by natives of Bialystok, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
On Long Island, my personal favorite bialys are baked at Bagels & Bialys, which has stores in Albertson and Roslyn Heights. (I am not saying for sure that these are the best bialys on Long Island, just that I like them the best. Besides, owner Danny Savary uses real onions.)
Bialys are everything a bagel is not. Most of today's bagels are fat, puffy and overblown. Let's not even start with weird, unbagel- like flavors.
Sadly, bialys had not, at the time of Sheraton's 1994 trip to Bialystok, Poland, survived there. Their city of origin had belonged to Russia until 1918. It was, at the time of Sheraton's visit, a place of utter desolation, in ways culinary and otherwise.
That journey led to Sheraton's book "The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World" (Broadway Books, $19.95), for which the official pub date is Tuesday.
Now, Sheraton said in a recent telephone interview, Bialystok is reviving a bit and even has some bialys, courtesy of a bagel shop from-where else?-New York. For much of the past century, however, Bialystok was bereft of bialys and hometown bakers.
Elsewhere, too, the beloved bread was little-known.
"Bialystoker kuchen fressers," German words that have come to stand for the Yiddish expression meaning prodigious eaters of bialys, had only the memory of the bread of their homeland. And that is a poor substitute for the taste of a fresh, hot bialy in the mouth. (Kuchen is a broad term for many small breads and cakes.)
The foods of childhood inspire nostalgia, writes Sheraton, because they are "reminders of the joyful security of home and family." For Bialystokers, that security was shattered.
"In June, 1941, the Nazis came to us and since then there are no more bialystoker kuchen and no more kuchen bakeries and no more of our Bialystok Jews," wrote Pesach Szmusz, a Bialystoker, in a letter to Sheraton.
"Kuchen were always warm from the oven" in Bialystok, reminisced Felix Flicker, who lives in Melbourne, Australia. "Any time of the day was right for them-breakfast, lunch, and dinner, even with meat. We did not believe in eating meat without bread."
Slim Schwartzberg-nobody knows him by his real name, Hyman-of Pembroke Pines, Fla., started working at Kossar's, New York's original bialy bakery, then at 22 Ridge St., when he was 11 or 12. He is 82 now, and he still would find a day without bialys incomplete. He goes to breakfast, lunch and dinner at stores that belong to his family in Florida. He eats bialys, of course.
Schwartzberg, whose family came from Bialystok and lived across the street from Kossar's, asked if he could sleep near the oven at the bakery, where it was warm. "They let me sleep on the flour sacks," said Schwartzberg, whose family owned a bagel store in Bayside until a few months ago and used to also own some Long Island stores called Slim's.
The boy carried 140-pound flour bags, tended the coal and wood fires ("not like today, where they press a button" to start the oven), fetched coffee for the bakers, and, before long, started learning to make bialys. Schwartzberg, who used to live in Woodbury, could turn out 1,080 an hour, all the same size, without weighing or measuring.
As a boy, Schwartzberg was happiest when he used to make a "5- pounder," for his mother and "I would walk through the streets holding it. I was proud, holding it. It wouldn't fit in a bag." To this day, he goes now and then to one of the Florida bakeries run by Gary, one of his three sons, and turns out a dozen garlic bialys for his wife, Bea.
Sheraton, who now feels a distinct kinship with Schwartzberg and all bialy eaters, writes a hymn of praise to the bialys' "mouthwatering scent of onions and yeast," and its "affinity for sweet butter and fluffy cream cheese."
The Bialystokers she encountered, Sheraton writes, were "a tough, resilient, streetwise bunch, cynical for the best of reasons yet full of broad humor, the very qualities one might expect of those whose palates are strong enough to tolerate a tough, charred roll topped with browned onions first thing in the morning."
The search for Bialystokers took Sheraton to Israel, Paris, Buenos Aires, Houston and other cities in the United States. She waited until she had freelance assignments in Bialystoker "outposts," which is why the 160-page book took as long as it did.
Evidently, others have found the search as absorbing as she did; Sheraton is booked at Jewish book fairs in 25 cities in November and December. (On Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m., she will speak and sign books at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan.)
Sheraton had me from the time I read of her preparations for the trip to Bialystok.
She bought bialys at Kossar's on Grand Street so that she could show them instead of trying to describe them, hoping to jog a few memories. To preserve the rolls, which would act as translators of a sort, she dried them in a low oven for about half an hour and then set them on a rack to let moisture evaporate. She packed them loosely in paper towels and slid them into a brown paper bag that went into her suitcase, worried, she writes, "that the onions would act like a perverse sachet." During 10 days of traveling before arriving in Bialystok, she unwrapped the bialys and "aired them on the dressers of hotel rooms each night, probably puzzling the cleaning staff." Richard Falcone, Sheraton's husband, was unperturbed by this activity, however.
By the time the couple arrived in Warsaw, the bialys had been to Moravia and Prague, and also to Cracow in Poland. In Warsaw she aired them a last time.
Sheraton did find people in Bialystok who recognized bialys when they saw them, though they remembered them as being larger and having "lots of mohn," or poppy seeds, which are seldom found on bialys here and now. Still, Sheraton was off and running.
Accounts of her trip in the Jewish Forward and the small newspaper, Bialystoker Shtimme, brought helpful letters filled with sweet and sad recollections. Danny Scheinin, the son-in-law of Morris Kossar who was a partner in Mirsky & Kossar, the original Bialystok bakery, and who took over the business in 1956, sent Sheraton to the Bialystoker Center and Home for the Aged nearby. There, the now- deceased Izaak Rybal, then executive director and a Bialystok emigre, was perplexed when Sheraton told him she was going to Bialystok.
"Why go so far?" he asked. "Kossar's is only two blocks away. Delicious kuchen!"
Sheraton recommends baking bialys a little bit extra at home just before serving, to get them to the desired degree of brown.
Bialys may be ordered by mail from the epicenter of bialy culture, the aforementioned Kossar's, now owned by Judah Engelmayer and Danny Cohen, 212-473-4810, or via the Web site www.kossarsbialys.com, or by e-mail:
Gloria Kossar Scheinin, daughter of Morris Kossar and wife of Danny Scheinin, told Sheraton: "Who slices a bialy?" This is how true Bialystokers eat them.
The Correct Way To Eat a Bialy
1 bialy; Butter or cream cheese
Do not slice bialy, bagel-style. Spread a fresh, hot bialy with either butter or cream cheese, either on the bottom or over the top of the roll. If underneath, take care not to shake loose the onions and, if there are some, poppy seeds. If spreading butter or cheese over the top, stuff a little extra spread into the well to form an especially luscious mouthful. Makes 1 serving.
Wednesday, January 21, 1998
Whatever Happened to Toast?
BY: SYLVIA CARTER
`WE DON'T toast." These are words that can make me turn on my heel and walk out of the deli where they are spoken.
You don't toast?!
You expect me to eat a bialy that's not toasted? Not on your life, not unless it's a hot, fresh bialy from bialy heaven, which everyone knows is Kossar's Bialystoker Kuchen Bakery on Grand Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side. All other bialys, not so fresh, take supremely well to toasting.
Toasting should be an option, as well, for bagels, muffins and . . . well, for toast. You remember, toast. That's a slice of bread, toasted.
The first time someone told me "We don't toast" was, as I recall, in a bagelry on Willis Avenue. (Roslyn? Mineola? Should I protect the guilty?) I was incredulous; I tried to argue.
The person behind the counter attempted to jolly me along, telling me that bialys actually tasted better without toasting. Toasting ruins a bialy, this individual told me.
Years ago, when I came here from the heart of the Midwest, it's possible I might have believed this line of reasoning.
After all, what did I know from bialys?
Since then, however, I have eaten many a toasted bialy with a shmeer. And I want mine toasted.
That was the first time I encountered a refusal to toast, but by no means the last.
In fact, insult was to be added to injury.
In a Syosset shop (I could find it and name it), when I asked for a toasted bagel (because they had no bialys), the woman behind the counter offered to microwave it.
Now, microwaving is not toasting, not by a long shot. Microwaves are infamous for making things hot without getting them crisp; ever try to bake cookies in a microwave?
In or around Patchogue, too, I heard the refrain, "We don't toast."
Readers, it is time to demand the right to toasted bread (and bialys and bagels).
If minuscule Mike's, a cubbyhole of a breakfast-and-sandwich place I used to frequent on 33rd Street in Manhattan, could make room for a toaster, so can most delis on Long Island and in Queens, with their more spacious quarters. (Don't get me started. In Queens, lured by a sign along the service road, I went into a place that had a gigantic bialy sign. No toast, no sale.)
Privately - well, semiprivately, to friends - I railed against places that didn't toast. But I thought it was only a localized trend. Or maybe I was just unlucky to happen into so many places where the people declared proudly, "We don't toast." (I'd feel a little better if they acted ashamed to say it.)
Then last summer a colleague sent me a small item from the wires:
"There's been a lot of fuss over the growth of bagel shops, but the big story may be: Whatever happened to toast?
"Ten years ago 25 percent of all breakfasts included it, according to Harry Balzer, vice president of the NPD Group, a market-research firm. Today it's only 16 percent - a 36 percent drop."
The story continued, "Balzer says he's baffled by the toast tumble, since it's just as easy to toast bread as it is to pop a Pop Tart or bagel into the toaster. Perhaps it has to do with the simultaneous drop in egg consumption (people don't know how to eat toast without eggs?)."
Or, Balzer opined, perhaps the problem is that "toast is just not sexy."
Reams could be written on that subject. One reason is that toasting rejuvenates stale bread. With certain wimpy or moist breads, it also adds character.
Without a toasted surface, the cream cheese just sits there in a clump on the bialy, not melding into the crusty surface in the enticing and delightful way it could have if only the bialy had been toasted. (The reason I dwell on the problem of bialy-toasting is that it's increasingly difficult to find a bagel worth toasting, or worth eating. But that's another story.)
Think of pound cake, toasted and topped with vanilla ice cream, toasted coconut and hot fudge sauce, as it used to be served at Oscar's, the one-time coffee shop of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Think of a thick hunk of Sicilian bread, toasted under the broiler and spread with fresh ricotta and a sprinkle of sugar, the way my friend Ida Cerbone, chef of the restaurant Manducatis in Long Island City, makes it for herself (and me). Think of cinnamon toast, and toasted cheese.
Now, think of all those without the toast. It's unthinkable.
Without toast, they're nothing.
Toast is the most, as a friend of mine once opined. (This person is now an editor at an important, glossy food magazine, so I won't name names.)
Here, in its entirety, is a ditty he wrote:
I really like toast,
It's the most,
I'm talkin' 'bout toast...
September 8, 2000
Taking Stock Of Bialys
By: Sandee Brawarsky
Proust had his
madeleines, Mimi Sheraton her bialys.
In a new book, the former New York Times food critic reports on a seven-year odyssey to trace the origins of the soft yeasty roll with its crisp, onion-topped center back to Bialystok, Poland. Her culinary adventures evoke a Jewish world that is no more.
Reading “The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World” (Broadway), written with passion, results in a powerful craving for a warm bialy. The Jewish Week catches up with Sheraton at Kossar’s Bialys, on Grand Street on the Lower East Side — for her, these set the standard — and indulges in a baker’s dozen. Sheraton, the award-winning author of 14 cookbooks, apprenticed in bialy making at the bakery, and explains the steps from balling the dough (by machine) to making the distinctive well in the center (by hand).
Although she doesn’t remember her first bialy, Sheraton says she’s been eating them since her Brooklyn childhood. When asked why a journalist who’s written about the world’s finest restaurants and most elegant foods would be interested in a crusty roll, she says she’s drawn to “simple things and complicated things, finding the authentic thing and the good thing and the thing I like.”
She has traveled to Denmark in search of Danish pastries, to Turkey to track down the sweet delicacy Turkish delight, so it seemed natural when on assignment in Warsaw in 1992 to take a detour to Bialystok to look for bialys.
She notes that there’s some dispute as to whether bialys indeed come from Bialystok, as several people who grew up there say they’ve never heard of them. But she points out that in Poland these small cousins of the bagel were known as Bialystoker kuchen; in America the name was shortened to bialys. In fact, the original name of Kossar’s was Kossar’s Bialystoker Kuchen.
Before setting off for Poland, she met with Izaak Rybal, the late Bialystok-born director of the Bialystok Center and Home for the Aged on the Lower East Side. When she told him of her interest, he first replied, “Why go so far? Kossar’s is only two blocks away. Delicious kuchen!”
In Bialystok, she found a handful of Jews and no signs of bialys, which had been made by Jewish bakers. Most of her information about bialys and Jewish Bialystok came later from the worldwide network of Bialystokers she developed after writing an article for the center’s magazine. International lawyer Samuel Pisar said that when he was “hallucinating from hunger” in Auschwitz, he’d often “try to recall the shape and savory aroma of the kuchen we used to eat at home.” Another Bialystoker mentioned that in the 1920s and 30s, there were small kuchen bakeries on every street.
The engaging book includes a bialy recipe Sheraton adapted from Kossar’s. Now in Bialystok — and perhaps as a result of an article that ran in the local paper about Sheraton’s visit — a shop called New York Bagels sells bialys; a contemporary Polish twist is a variety of toppings.
At the 64-year-old Kossar’s, where they now turn out 2,400 dozen bialys a day, the bakers are Italian and Jewish; when The Jewish Week visits the clerks are from the Philippines and Thailand, the customers Chinese and West Indian. Saturday nights, chasidim wait alongside young people with spiky hair on a line stretching out the door. Far from Bialystok.
For Sheraton, the bialy adventure goes on. “This is going to be the thread of my life.”
LOWER EAST SIDE - Issue No. 196 June 24-July 1, 1999
The former stamping grounds of Eddie Cantor, Irving Berlin and Meyer Lansky, the Lower East Side has recently experienced an influx of hipster inhabitants, but it still bears signs of its Eastern European Jewish heritage. To get a proper taste of the neighborhood, start your tour at its lowest reaches and stop by Kossar's Bialystoker Kuchen Bakery (367 Grand St between Essex and Norfolk Sts, 473-4810), where the underappreciated bialy (basically a Jewish English muffin) gets its day in the sun. You can pick up one of the plump, oniony breads, still warm from the oven, for a mere 45 cents, or go instead for a bagel that's as good as, if not better than, any in the city.
EAST SIDE'S SPECIALTY FOOD SHOPS - Issue
No. 164 November 12-19, 1998
There's not much left of the old Lower East Side, but a few small, old-fashioned specialty-food shops continue to operate in this still-Jewish enclave. Stop by Guss's Pickles, a storefront on Essex that sells three varieties of pickles from enormous barrels, as well as pickled mushrooms and other mouth-puckering brined items. Just around the corner sits Kossar's Bialys, a 50-year-old bialy factory that sells wholesale and retail—you can actually watch the bakers work the dough as you wait to place your order. Head to the nearby Kadouri & Sons, a 30-year-old shop specializing in nuts, dried fruits, spices and Israeli groceries. Thankfully, there's more to see, but we'll leave the rest of the exploring to you.—Milena Damjanov
Bialys - From TONY Web Site
The great bagel boom has littered the Western world with little rings of boiled dough, but New York has managed to retain at least one of its doughy secrets—the bialy. Hailing from Bialystock, Poland, bialys are made of dough that's smeared with an onion-garlic paste and baked for a precise seven minutes. The undisputed best bialy in New York comes from the ovens of Kossar's Bialystoker Kuchen, where you can buy an oven-hot bialy for a mere 50¢. Don't expect to see these bialys in Midwestern supermarkets any time soon. Thanks to their short, six-hour shelf life, our authentic bialys, the gypsy moths of the baked world, won't likely make it past the New York border.—Benjamin Chertoff
367 Grand St at Essex St (473-4810). Subway: F to Delancey St.
367 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002