Spread brings hand-rolled, Montreal-style bagels to Center City
If you are anything like me, you have no trouble admitting that, on most trips to New York City, you smuggle at least a dozen bagels across the border and into your freezer.
Larry Rosenblum, 52, did that for 15 years while commuting from Philadelphia to New York City to work in the publishing industry. "I would have 15 dozen in the backseat of my car for friends and family," he recalled. OK, maybe 180 bagels is an excessive number, but for Rosenblum, it foreshadowed his next career: owner of Spread Bagelry, a cozily charming spot tucked into the middle of 20th Street, just southwest of Rittenhouse Square.
I sat down with Rosenblum at one of his outside tables to chat — and chew on his bagel sandwich recommendation, a nova scramble (eggs, smoked nova salmon cream cheese, tomato and raw onion — Rosenblum's reinterpretation of the traditional lox, eggs and onion omelet). It was delicious!
Since opening in 2011, Spread has focused on using local ingredients when it can and making as much as possible — including all of its spreads — in-house. Why? “Quality — it’s really all about that,” said Rosenblum. Even his fish come from an Orthodox distributor in Coney Island. He adds only as much mayonnaise as is needed to bind his whitefish spread. (And while he was discussing the higher quality of local eggs, we came to the realization that both his Holocaust survivor grandparents and mine had chicken farms in Vineland, N.J. Jewish geography wins again!)
What makes Spread's bagels so special is that they are Montreal-style. Sweeter and denser than your average New York-style, these bagels are hand-rolled, boiled in honey water and then baked in a wood-fired oven. Rosenblum's ancestors were bakers in Europe, and their legacy served as an inspiration for his hand-made and artisanal aspirations. He chose to open a Montreal-style bagel shop because, he says, they are most similar to the European-style renditions. "It is a much harder process" to make bagels in this style as compared to the New York style, commented Rosemblum, who had his oven built from scratch, brick by brick.
Spread doesn't serve processed meats — quite the opposite. “We really strive for high quality," Rosenblum emphasized. "We roast turkeys, chickens and brisket every day in our oven. Every once in a while, we buy Carnegie Deli pastrami that’s already seasoned, and then cook it ourselves. When it is finished, it's literally like butter.”
Rosenblum celebrated his childhood weekends eating bagels with his family. "When I woke up in the morning, there would be a jar of pickled herring and some bagels waiting in the door from one of my parents' friends. In some ways, this business allows me to tell the story and keep the tradition of my Jewish heritage alive."
After tasting Spread's version of the Montreal-style bagel, Rosenblum may need to worry about interstate bagel trafficking going in the opposite direction!
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