So I need to tell you about bialys.  For years I’ve been wondering just what a bialy is.  I’d seen them in bagel shops here and there, and they looked to me like a bagel without a hole punched through the center.  They looked like they might be tasty, but I mostly just stuck with toasted sesame bagels with butter whenever I visited one of these shops.

Recently I decided to find out the truth about the bialy.

I admit I did a little research on bialys before ever trying one, since I wanted to see how I might get the best one I could without driving into downtown Los Angeles.  *shiver*  Theoretically, it’s a half hour drive.  In reality?

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I make that drive for food I know is good, but I wasn’t about to make it just for a bialy, which I’d never even tried before.

From my research, I found out that the bialy originated in Bialystock, Poland and that in the early 1900s Eastern European Jewish immigrants brought the recipes for them to the United States.  The bialy is a chewy roll similar to bagels, but one major difference between the two is that bagels must be boiled before baking, while a bialy is just baked.  Also, bagels have holes in their centers, while a bialy instead has a depression in its middle, which is filled with diced onions and (depending on the recipe) ingredients like garlic, poppy seeds, and breadcrumbs.  I even read about bialys with cheese (um…YUM), spinach, and tomatoes.  It all depends on who’s making them.

One major bummer: the bialy is not well known outside New York City.  And my Yelp searches did not yield a nearby location for me to try a bialy.  I did know that Dink’s Deli, my favorite place for bagels in my neighborhood, served bialys as well.  Finally one morning I decided to try my first there.  I just had to!

I’d had a crappy previous day because of some unfortunate dating drama—naturally I felt in desperate need of carbohydrates.  That particular morning I didn’t want anything sweet (the night before I’d gorged on a fudge brownie, a caramel Dutch apple cupcake, and a cookie-dough flavored cupcake from a cookie shop called Lady Di’s).  A toasted, buttery bagel sounded perfect.

I drove to Dink’s Deli.  I’d like to say I arrived looking, at the very least, like a hot mess, but I probably looked more like this.

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(I’m not much of a morning person.)

I trudged over to the display case to pick out that morning’s victim—err—victual.  And there were the bialys.

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Poppy seeds, diced onions, chopped garlic—I could see definite possibilities there (beyond the possibility of horribly offensive breath).  So I ordered my first bialy, toasted with butter.

Oh man.  The dough was dense and chewy, yet soft, as though the qualities I love about bagels had been amplified tenfold.  Toasting brought out the flavors of the poppy seeds, onions, and garlic, and those combining with each other and the melted butter’s salty moisture made every bite heavenly.  Every bite.  And as I chewed, I smiled to myself and thought, Life is good.

To me, that is the food pinnacle.  When you’re eating something so good that you simply feel better about LIFE.  That’s what good food can do for you.  The same kind of feeling can come from taking a walk through your favorite place or listening to your favorite song.  Honestly, I think the most important thing missing from Louis Armstrong’s  “What a Wonderful World” is a toasted bialy with butter.

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(Tips for those of you who want to try a bialy: the bialy’s shelf life is only about 6 hours long!  Get yours while they’re fresh.  If you want to bring one to someone for them to eat at a later point in the day, it probably won’t be nearly as good!  A lot of people suggest having your bialy toasted with butter, rather than cream cheese, so give it a shot!)

(That pic of the bialy above is an actual Dink’s Deli bialy I photographed on my iPhone–before devouring the heck out of it.  God, looking at it gives me cravings…)

References/Sources:

http://whatscookingamerica.net/Bread/Bialy.htm (bialy info)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bialy (more bialy info)

http://www.grumpycats.com/ (unimaginable hilarity)

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