Bantam Bagels: Changing The Face Of A Bagel Nosh
Many people dream of opening their own business one day. For Nick and Elyse Oleksak, both Columbia grads and employed at major Wall Street firms, it wasn't exactly on the bucket list. Then one night Nick had a dream. When he woke up he thought "This is going to be the next big thing." Normally Elyse would say "No, it's not," and life would go on. This time she thought it really was a good idea. The idea? If you can sell donut holes why not sell bagel holes?
Half awake, Nick grabbed his phone and typed a note to himself so that it wouldn't be lost the way so many dreams are by waking in the morning. Oh, it wasn't just an idea for little bites of bagels in the manner of standard bagels. Oh, no. It was much more than that. These little bites of bagel heaven would come with the schmear already on the inside. Quick, easy, and oh, so tasty!
A day later the first experimental batch was baked by the amateur chef and his wife -- and they were amazing. Friends and family were nuts about them. Suddenly Nick and Elyse were nurturing dreams of their own business. It is one that draws heavily on their family roots. Elyse is descended from a long line of Jewish bakers and Nick learned his love of cooking from his Italian grandmother. It seemed to be kismet.
They decided that the best way to introduce their new concept was in a brick-and-mortar venue close to home and in the center of the bagel universe -- New York City. Brooklyn to be exact. Bantam Bagels will open later this month to the public. They should have a great opening -- they are getting a lot of press about their tiny invention (hence the name Bantam).
Some of the 15 flavors they will be serving include cinnamon raisin bagel filled with sweet walnut cream cheese, the pizza bagel filled with tomato mozzarella cream cheese topped with a slice of pepperoni, and the pretzel bagel is salt-topped with a filling of mustard and cheddar cream cheese. If you are more of a purist you can also get a plain Bantam Bagel filled with plain cream cheese. For me it would be the Veggiesaurus Rex -- an everything bagel filled with chopped veggies in cream cheese.
Elyse's favorite is called the Boxed Lunch -- a bagel filled with PB and J. For Nick it is the Weekend Brunch -- a more traditional blend of cream cheese, lox, red onion and tomato. Staffers at the Wall Street Journal doing an informal taste test chose the onion bagel filled with chive garlic butter and the Summerberry Shortcake, a blueberry bagel hole filled with strawberry cream cheese.
Bagels have been around for somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 years and little has changed about them in that time -- except for the expansion of flavor varieties for both bagel and schmear. It does seem that a sort of bagel revolution has begun. People have begun to rethink their bagel in light of how large they are in an already calorie-laden world. It takes four Bantams to equal a whole bagel, making it easier for people to downsize one of their favorite foods.
What? Jewish food without guilt? Oy! What is the world coming to? It's like lutefisk without the awful stench!
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Laurie Kay Olson
Clever Problem Solvers