Cyberdov Life in Riverdale, NY

March 15, 2011

New Acappella Sensation!

Filed under: Family,McGill University,Montreal,Music — cyberdov @ 2:34 pm

“Ghettopella” in its first Youtube appearance – at McGill’s Cafe Campus! With Elan as lead Bass.

The first clip has much better audio but gets cut off during the 3rd number.

The second clip has poor audio for the first number but that improves for the third and fourth songs (start at about the 2:50 mark).

December 2, 2009

Religious Wars

Filed under: Montreal — cyberdov @ 2:29 pm

From yesterday’s NY Times comes the tale of an epic battle between Montreal bagels and New York bagels.

Montreal’s Bagels Square Off Against New York’s

Montreal-style bagels, which are baked in wood-burning ovens, are generally sweeter and less plump than their New York cousins. Jennifer 8. Lee/The New York TimesMontreal-style bagels, which are baked in wood-burning ovens, are generally sweeter and less plump than their New York cousins.

Are Montreal bagels really better than New York bagels?

City Room had been hearing about these legendary Montreal bagels from our readers. They were sweeter and less bloated. Since they were baked in a wood-burning oven, they had crisper crusts.

So we decided to pay a visit to Montreal’s bagel world to understand the rival to our native bagels. Montreal, which saw an influx of Jewish immigrants both before and after World War II, had become one of the main world centers of distinctive Jewish cuisine. Two Montreal bakeries stand out above all the others: Fairmount Bagel and St.-Viateur’s Bagel, both in the Mile End neighborhood.

What we found: Montreal bagel makers had no problem trash-talking New York bagels, which they found to be too gargantuan and too salty. “Why do they even call it a bagel?” asked Andrew Gryn, a long-time employee of St.-Viateur’s. “It’s like having bread.”

He was speaking of H&H bagels, which he had tried when he was in New York. “It’s grossly oversized for no reason,” he sniffed. “You can’t even have your mouth around it.” (In fact, a comparison done in 2000 found that H&H bagels were about twice the weight of a St.-Viateur bagel.)

City Room had to give it to the artisanal quality of the bagels being made at St.-Viateur. They are hand-rolled and baked in wood-burning ovens, something that current New York City regulations would no longer allow. The process gives them a crisp and smoky crust on the outside. The bakers slip tidy lines of bagels in and out on long wooden slats, before flipping them into a bin. Their recipe was slightly different, using malt flour, and they are boiled in water with honey. And since they are skinnier, the hole is more pronounced.

And for some reason City Room could not understand, the preferred flavor of Montreal bagels is sesame. Bagel purveyors estimated that 70 to 90 percent of the bagels they sell are sesame flavored.

Those at St.-Viateur said that their recipe was more pure to the Jewish version from Poland.

“This recipe came right from Poland with the owner,” said Gail Squires, a 25-year employee of St.-Viateur. “You go back to the original bagel from Poland. There’s no salt. They’re rolled by hand. Wood-burning oven. They weren’t baking in the conventional ovens. They didn’t have them.”

At St-Viateur’s Bagel in Montreal, the bagels are baked in a wood-burning oven, then taken out out on narrow wooden slats.Andrew GrynAt St.-Viateur’s Bagel in Montreal, the bagels are baked in a wood-burning oven, then taken out out on narrow wooden slats.

Montreal adherents proselytize the slight sweetness of their carbohydrate creation. “Our bagel is a cross between a pastry and a bread: sweet enough to have by itself, and close enough with bread to have with something on it,” Mr. Gryn said.

But the lack of savory flavor is offensive to others. Mimi Sheraton, a former food writer and restaurant critic for The Times who also wrote a book tracingthe history of the bialy, staunchly defended the New York bagel. She tried Montreal bagels last year when friends brought them back from Canada. “I thought they were horrible,” she said, because they “had absolutely no salt but contained sugar.”

Her conclusion: “They could not even be called bagels.”

Of course, not all New Yorkers fell into the pro-New York bagel camp. Steven A. Shaw, a New York City food writer, did a comparison for the Montreal Gazette in 2000, which involved purchasing bagels in New York and Montreal at the same exact minute and then flying the Montreal bagels to New York for a side-by-side taste test. The Montreal bagels won hands down, he said.

“New York bagels have declined so much in my lifetime that it’s hard to take them seriously anymore,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “New York bagels used to be artisanal, too, as in made mostly by hand by people who knew what they were doing.”

And Maria Balinska, who wrote a history of bagels published by Yale University Press last year called “The Bagel,” has a much more even-handed judgment on City Room’s blog. “The Montreal bagel isn’t better than the well-made New York bagel — it’s just different,” she wrote. (Another City, London, is also known for its beigels.)

So City Room brought a few dozen Montreal bagels back to share with co-workers to gauge their reactions, wondering if our co-workers would swoon over the Montreal newcomer or stay loyal to their native bagel.

Perhaps it was a home-court advantage, but the New York bagel clearly won out among those who had an opinion to offer. The assessments of the Montreal bagel: “like New York pretzels without salt,” “completely flavorless” and “dense, a little tough, and totally bland.”

Of course, Montreal bagels do have one claim to fame over the New York bagel. They have been to space. A Canadian astronaut took 18 Fairmount bagels up in a space shuttle last year.

St-Viateur Bagel in Montreal still uses wood-burning ovens to bake their bagels, which gives them somewhat of a smoked flavor.Jennifer 8. Lee/The New York TimesSt.-Viateur Bagel in Montreal still uses wood-burning ovens to bake its bagels, which gives them a somewhat smoked flavor.

November 30, 2009

Filed under: Family,Ghetto Shul,McGill University,Montreal — cyberdov @ 2:44 pm

Elan’s shul in Montreal continues to get some great media coverage – this time from the Montreal Gazette!

Ghetto Shul is about the kids, Hasidic reggae star says


A bar in a synagogue? It makes perfect sense, says world-renowned Hasidic reggae and hip-hop artist Matisyahu. “Drinking is a very big part of Hasidic culture – in Russia, it was the equivalent of smoking weed in Jamaica,” said Matisyahu, 30, who is giving a concert at the Olympia Theatre tomorrow with proceeds going to the Ghetto Shul. Matisyahu – born Matthew Miller in West Chester, Pa. – is himself a mix of old and new Though he has been affiliated with Hasidic culture since 2001, he still counts Bob Marley and Phish among his musical inspirations, as well as the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, known as the “Singing Rabbi.” Matisyahu’s rap lyrics stand out in the industry for their lack of profanity. Matisyahu said he met a kindred spirit in the Ghetto Shul’s Rabbi Leibish Hundert back in 2004. The musician was giving a concert in Montreal around the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which he spent with Hundert and his wife and about 100 McGill students crammed into a tiny space. “It was quite an experience. That’s the gist of the Ghetto Shul. It’s the type of place people enjoy being, not a big empty room with only a few people in it because no one wants to show up to Shul.” Matisyahu – whose Grammy-nominated 2006 album, Youth, took the top spot on Billboard’s reggae chart – agreed to do a benefit concert for the Ghetto Shul because, he said, it’s a good cause. “To have a centre where Jewish kids can connect with their identity on their own terms without anyone pushing it on you and it being inspirational – it’s about the kids there and what they make it.”

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