There was a period in my life when I had unlimited access to wonderful bagels and I did not appreciate it. I was living in Brookline, Massachusetts, and within a stone's throw of my apartment were at least three top-notch bagel bakeries, including one that offered the best dill cream cheese I've ever had as well as some damn good whitefish salad. If I'd known what I know now, I would have eaten there daily instead of just biweekly.
And, BTW, what I know now is that really good bagels are hard to find outside bagel-obsessed metropolises like New York, Philly and Boston. Not impossible, just hard. Such has been my experience in Houston, where unfortunately there are more bland branches of Einstein Bros than interesting independent/family-run joints.
But as long as The Hot Bagel Shop stays in business, I shouldn't really complain. (FYI, I also adore New York Bagel Shop, but it's a bit far for me for impromptu Sunday morning runs. One more reason to move to the Hillcroft area.)
My favorite thing to order at The Hot Bagel Shop is a warm, squishy sesame bagel speckled with crisp seeds, not toasted, with a generous schmear of lox cream cheese. And please don't tell me that lox and regular cream cheese would taste even better; no, they would taste different, not better, and I actually prefer a uniformly smooth spread on my bagels.
As a creature of habit, I'm ashamed to say I have not had many other of their different bagel varieties, but based on my experiences with sesame (as well as everything, salt, whole wheat and cinnamon), I'm pretty confident they're good, too. This fall I plan to test my theory by starting my own personal rewards program to incentivize myself to try every possible cream cheese and bagel combination. I'm no stats genius, but I believe that with 22 types of bagels and nine types of cream cheese, there will be many delicious possibilities.
P.S. If you are a stats genius, please hit me up in the comments and instruct me on how to do a combination formula with two sets of variables!
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