Kaufman’s Coffee And Bagels

Kaufman’s Coffee & Bagels on Route 66

Seinfeld: “What is that smell?” Kramer: “That’s East River.” Seinfeld: “You’re swimming in the East River? The most heavily trafficked, overly contaminated waterway on the eastern seaboard?” Kramer: “Technically Norfolk has more gross tonnage.”

When I lived in the Boston area for two years immediately following high school, those of us in the Bay State (even temporary residents) refused to acknowledge New York City was better than Boston at anything. We were devastated when the hated Yankees bested our beloved Red Sox in the 1978 American League East tie-breaker. For that we’ll never forgive Bucky Dent. Before my first visit to the dreaded Big Big Apple (Bucky Dent is the worm in that apple), friends told me in private and in hushed tones not to miss either a slice of pizza or a bagel. Both, they acquiesced, were better than what we had in Boston. Publicly-unlike this guy-they would have denounced anything from New York having even a modicum of merit.

Naturally upon my return to Boston, I badmouthed the New York City pizza and bagels in public while privately thanking the brave dissenting voices who encouraged me to try them. Several lifetimes later, I still remember the aromas, textures and flavors of my meals in New York City. The bagels, in particular, captured my heart and taste buds. They were even better than the Boston bagels with which I was besotted. I can say that now because I’m no longer in touch with most of my Boston area friends and colleagues (save for BOTVOLR).

Service with Personality

What is it about New York bagels that make it superior to all others? Many would say it’s the water. Indeed, New Yorkers hold their drinking water with such reverence that you’d think it originates in the headwaters of the Fountain of Youth, the mythical spring which allegedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks or bathes in its waters. New York water, they’ll argue, is the reason New York City’s pizza is the very best in the world. Similarly, they’ll attribute the uniquely superb texture of the New York bagel to that life-giving water. Indeed, that water is imbued with low concentrations of calcium and magnesium, which make it softer. Throughout the Fruited Plain, you’ll find pizzerias and bagelries that purchase very expensive water filtration systems designed to mimic the naturally occurring properties of New York City water. It may not be money well-spent.

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In a video released in 2015, the American Chemical Society (ACS) broke down the chemistry of what makes New York bagels superior to bagels anywhere else-the “disappointing “bagels” you often encounter outside of New York that merely taste like bread with a hole in it.” The ACS video reveals that while New York’s water does play a role in influencing the texture of bagels, that role is actually pretty minor. Harder water toughens the gluten in the dough, while New York’s super soft water can make it goopy. More critical than the water is the boiling. Yes, boiling (like me when thinking of Bucky Dent’s home run to beat my Red Sox).

Get There Early or You Might Not Find The Bagels You Want

In Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, he explains that traditional bagels introduced to New York by Eastern European immigrants in the early 20th Century were always boiled. Contemporary automation has dispensed with this crucial step. As a result, tradition, texture and flavor are sacrificed for speed and ease. Damn automation…and Bucky Dent! In modern methods, shaped bagels are baked in a hot oven that is injected with steam. Steam gelatinizes only the surface of the bagel, giving it more shine and color, but it doesn’t promote the unique chewiness that’s the hallmark of boiled bagels. Bagels baked using this industrial process are lighter and puffier with a thinner crust. If you judge your bagels by their puffiness and size, you’re not experiencing true New York style bagels.

Chef Richard Coppedge of the Culinary Institute of America (the real CIA) explains “superior bagels are made from shaped dough that’s first left to sit in a refrigerator for a couple of days.” This process is called retarding because the cooler temperatures slow down the activity of yeast in the dough as it rises. This longer, slower fermentation gives the microbes more time to generate tasty flavor compounds. Then comes the key step to making what Coppedge calls a “true bagel” — boiling. Traditionally, Coppedge explains “the chilled dough rings are poached or boiled in a solution of water and malt barley for anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. This pre-gelatinizes the starch in the dough, locking the liquid inside of it and expanding the interior.” As the ACS video puts it, it’s like flash-frying a steak before grilling it to seal in the juices. The boiling also thickens the crust — Coppedge says it “is essential to produce a more ‘chewy’ bagel.”

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Menu Board-One of Three

New Yorkers David Kaufman and Peter Falk (not that slovenly Colombo guy) probably had more to whine and moan about than most of us who have tried bagels in New York. Thankfully they were in a position to do something about it. In late Spring, 2021 while discussing a career change, they lamented the difficulty of finding in Albuquerque, a good New York style bagel boiled in the traditional way. They decided they would open a coffee and New York-style bagel shop. Their dreams reached fruition a year later with the launch of Kaufman’s Coffee & Bagels.

You’ve got to love their New York attitude, some of which is on display in the “About Us” section of their website: “Want soup or a breakfast burrito, don’t come here. We brew coffee and serve up fresh bagels. We have a cool patio with a dog bowl so bring your dog. There is a bike rack too, so hang out, drink a nice latte and I would suggest a bagel with cream cheese, lox (also sometimes called smoked salmon) slice of tomato, red onion and sprinkled with capers (Kaufman Special)- its the bomb!”

A Half-Dozen Authentic New York Bagels

Kaufman’s Coffee & Bagels is located at 2500 Central, S.W. If you’re headed east on Central, you’ll spy it as you make that confusing U-turn to get into the El Vado parking lot (make sure to look out for Mayor Keller’s buses) In keeping with the zeitgeist of the area, Kaufman’s lives in a “pod”-sized space, not a restaurant. That makes it so much more personal. So does interacting with the great staff who fill your order. The mustachioed fellow behind the counter took great care of us and even posed for a photo (above). His hand gesture is undoubtedly a covert salute to the Red Sox given in duress (his boss was sporting a cap with the hated New York Giants colors).

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The menu is brimming with options. Sadly, the metal baskets behind the glass counters were not. By the time we got to Kaufman’s at 1PM, there wasn’t much left. Thankfully, there was still enough for a half-dozen bagels-two of each of green chile Cheddar, plain and New York rye. I nearly cried at having missed out on other classics such as sesame seed and poppy seed, black pepper Parmesan and especially pretzel. That’ll teach us that the early bird gets the pretzel bagel. We heated and buttered four of the six bagels for a hearty breakfast of bagels that did indeed transport me to New York City, when as a bumpkinly 19-year-old I first experienced New York bagels.

Pastrami on New York Rye Bagel

You can have buttered bagels anywhere at any time. Kaufman’s offers bagels with peanut butter, Nutella, smoked salmon and plain cream schmear as well an array of other schmear flavors: green chile, veggie, sun-dried tomato basil, rosemary olive, butter and honey butter. Better still, make it a bagel meal. Maybe something like a pastrami on New York rye. Wow! With the closure of California Pastrami, you’re undoubtedly jonesing for a great pastrami sandwich. Kaufman’s is already the best in town. Bursting with thinly sliced, peppery pastrami nestled between slices of American and Provolone cheeses and topped with a healthy schmear of cream cheese, it’s pastrami as good as you’ll find in New Mexico. It’s pastrami sliced in-house and sourced locally. You’ll have a hard time holding all those ingredients between the bagels, but when you’ve got pastrami this good, no one will complain.

Kaufman’s is eying expansion in the future (we pitched Rio Rancho) where plans are to cure and smoke their own pastrami and salmon. You don’t have to be a New Yorker (or even like New York) to love New York bagels like these. They’re the real thing and it’s not certainly about the water.

Kaufman’s Coffee & Bagels 2500 Central Avenue, S.W. Albuquerque, New Mexico (505) 361-1734 Website | Facebook Page LATEST VISIT: 14 January 2023 # OF VISITS: 1 RATING: N/R COST: $$ BEST BET: Pastrami on New York Rye Bagel, Green Chile Cheddar Bagel, Plain Bagel, New York Rye Bagel REVIEW #1314