I’m working on another piece for a publication, ans I’d thought I’d share my notes here with y’all. Here’s what I look for in bagel and lox.
Bagel; The foundation of the dish. If you have a bad bagel, everything else falls apart, regardless of how good they are.
The bagel should be fresh. Any bagels older than a day are a tough sell. The bagel shouldn’t be gummy, nor so hard that they reform as caulk in your digestive system (Lender bagels, I’m looking at you).
The type of bagel is debatable, in my opinion, the plainer the better, although poppy seed bagels work very well.
Lox: Sweet, smooth, a bit salty and very silky in texture. Grainy lox should be avoided. Think “sushi-grade” salmon (at least in regards to looks) and you’ll have a good idea on what it should look like.
Do not skimp on the lox. 2 slices work well per side (unless you make this into a sandwich…more on that below).
Tomatoes: For the love of god, this is where most places fail in regard to making a good dish. If you haaave to have tomatoes, they should be fresh and flavorful. One slice is plenty. If you can taste more tomato than lox, then you have too much tomato.
However, it has been mentioned by some that tomatoes are a sin on bagels with lox. Proceed at your own speed.
Cream Cheese: Sadly, Philly Cream cheese is almost a standard for Bagel and Lox. There are so many other better tasting cream cheeses, even Neufchatel would work.
Regardless, the cream cheese should be enough to provide texture and a bit of the bitter, salty and even acrid taste that cream cheese is known for. However, cream cheese is not icing! Again, if I can taste more cream cheese than lox, then the bagel has problems.
Onions: Red onions only please. A bit sharper to the taste and it looks nice. Rings or chopped doesn’t matter. Fresh does. Pickled? Get in the back of the line.
Capers: Yes please, but not too many. Oh, and no brine from the capers.
Lettuce: No…don’t do it unless it’s a garnish. Iceberg lettuce will get you a special place in hell.
Sandwich Style: I do not discount those places who prefer to serve Lox and Bagels as a sandwich. However, serving each side individually is preferred.