Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.
I’ve written before that the foods of just about every nation are found within the borders of Sheepshead Bay. Little did I know that I was eating Polish food just about every other morning. Did you know that the bagel is a Polish invention dating back to at least 1610? Documents from that time suggest that bagels were given as gifts to women in child birth. It’s believed that the term “bagel” is derived from “beugal” which is the Polish word for stirrup, which a hand made bagel resembles.
A bagel with a schmear is, I assume, a Brooklyn tradition. According to the Urban Dictionary, a schmear is “NYC Deli slang for the act of coating a bagel with a small amount of cream cheese,” but it also has another meaning. A schmear is “a strategy used in the card game Sheepshead, wherein a person will play a high point value card in a situation where his or her partner is likely to take the trick.” Let’s face it folks, there’s no escaping the Sheepshead — Sheepshead Bay, that is.
There’s another definition of schmear available, but it’s not suitable for a family-oriented website. I don’t know about you, but I find all of these images a bit disturbing when linking bagels, schmears, childbirth and stirrups together. However, it may explain why I’ve enjoyed bagels with a schmear all these years.
Coney Island Bagels (2829 Coney Island Avenue) offers up 13 different varieties of hand-rolled, in-house baked bagels and they’re all available with a schmear. The schmear cold be plain cream cheese or one of many of the flavored cream cheeses they offer. Flavored cream cheese has become somewhat of a Brooklyn tradition too. Most bagel stores offer at least scallion, vegetable, and chopped lox flavored cream cheese. Coney Island Bagels kicks it up a notch with offerings such as multi-berry, sun-dried tomato, olive, jalapeno and bacon cheddar.
I purchased a toasted onion bagel with a schmear of bacon cheddar cream cheese for $3.50. The bagel was nicely flavored with toasted onion and a sprinkling of salt on its exterior. The inside, dense and slightly chewy, but not tough or dry and slightly sweet. This is a good bagel that is slightly smaller than the bagels offered by the other bagel shops in the bay. That’s a good thing to me as I often find the larger bagels overwhelming for a single meal.
On first bite, the first thing I tasted was the toasted onion of the bagel followed by a quick snap of salt. The first salt taste was clearly a bite through of a grain of salt, pure salt assaulted my mouth. It was followed and mellowed by the cool cream cheese. The salty-ness of the bacon began to assert itself, which was then engulfed in its smokey flavor. Eating this bagel was like a little train ride in my mouth. The flavor express was going to town.
The complexity of flavors and the way they emerged makes this toasted onion bagel with bacon and cheddar cream cheese an excellent choice for any time of day.
Coney Island Bagels, 2829 Coney Island Avenue, (718) 332-1906.