Monday, June 22, 2015

Where I Went Today: Bagelsaurus and Union Square Donuts

After a crazy week at work preparing for the annual block party, I planned for myself a crazy weekend filled with travel and activities. First on the list was a trip to Cambridge to visit the highly-recommended Bagelsaurus.

My former roommate Holly joined me for breakfast at the only shop on Massachusetts Avenue with a line out the door in the pouring rain. I had intended to bypass this obstacle by partaking of Bagelsaurus’s “grab bag” offer, but it turned out to be a cash-only shortcut, so I wound up back where I began—which was fine, because even though it killed my hair for the day, I got to catch up with Holly while we waited.

As it was Fathers’ Day weekend, I went ahead and bought the bakers’ dozen, knowing I would be sharing with the family later on. I don’t know why I expected the “grab bag” to come in a box. It came in an old-school brown paper bag tucked inside a larger handle bag where I found the spreads I’d picked out: mustard butter (for the pretzel bagel), honey rosemary cream cheese (my mother loves rosemary), and cream cheese with scallions (a classic).

Holly and I stuck around to get the vibe of the place while we enjoyed our breakfasts. She went for the cheddar-garlic bagel toasted with veggie cream cheese while I went for an untoasted pretzel bagel dusted with the lightest salt I’ve ever tasted. Having viewed Bagelsaurus’s segment on the Phantom Gourmet, I looked for all the tell-tale signs the my bagel was expertly crafted—a thin, bubbly, crust, and “irregular holes” on the inside. It made the process more educational and enjoyable. I tried to identify the malt syrup that owner Mary Ting Hyatt describes as the ingredient responsible for “that bagely flavor,” but I wasn’t sure that I could.

From Bagelsaurus I headed on over to Union Square Donuts, another business recommended by my friend Andrew McCook (you met him here). Both businesses were located on pleasant, shoppable strips in the Harvard district, but I thought that Union Square Donuts’s spot in Somerville was a bit cozier. 

This was another shop with a long line, which curved around the interior. The atmosphere was more intentional in this location—pink and gray were the theme colors, trendy fonts and graphics decorated the merchandise available, and two accent walls, one of customer feedback on Post-Its and one of wood with hanging art, gave customers something to look at while they waited out the line—but the energy overall was very similar. Customers were excited about a specific product, and many of them were looking forward to sharing with families for Fathers’ Day.

While waiting, I looked over not only the menu, but the donuts themselves, which were out for everyone to see on rows of bakers’ racks. Since I run a cafe known for its crullers, I was interested in the competing market. Although larger, these donuts had the same color and (by appearance) general texture of a brand of mass-produced donuts that I have come to view as average or below, but because donuts had generated a long line, came recommended by a friend, and cost three bucks or more a pop, I took my chances.

I lugged my haul back up to Maine without dipping into the stash. I had an appointment I wound up canceling in part because I was excited to get to my dad’s house to unveil my treasure, and in part because I was just running late. I arrived in New Hampshire just in time for lunch, which meant donuts could be dessert.

We cut into the selection and sampled bites of each: a brown-butter hazelnut crunch, a strawberry glazed (with real strawberries), a maple bacon (as a vegetarian, I let someone else have my piece), a blueberry jam-filled, a creamsicle, and a sea salt caramel bourbon. The blueberry jam-filled, infused with cinnamon, knocked our socks off (most of us; I do have a brother who avoids berries like the plague), and we all agreed the sea salt caramel bourbon was not our favorite. The creamsicle genuinely tasted like a creamsicle, which was a unique experience. The hazelnut donut was topped with real hazelnuts and was quite decadent.

In the end, I was more excited about the bagels. I may not have a culinary degree, but I do know what I like, and I love good bread. Bagelsaurus’s bagels are hearty and large, and even though I do agree with Mary Ting Hyatt that the bagels could stand fine on their own, I did enjoy my pretzel bagel with mustard butter enough that I might make an excuse to visit Cambridge against very soon just to load up on both. 

If I decide to reach out to one of the business owners between these two locations, it will be Mary Ting Hyatt of Bagelsaurus. I am hugely impressed with her product. The bits and pieces I know of her story are fascinating, too. I think I would enjoy a weekday spent taking photos around her shop, talking about the means behind the end, and of course, sampling bagels and spreads.

1 comment :

  1. Even though you preferred Bagelsaurus, the doughnuts sound so delicious that I might have to make a special trip to visit Union Square Donuts.