"To get clear water, one must go to the source." French Proverb
If you ever want to pick a fight with someone who lives or has resided in New York City, all you have to say to them is that the bagels or the pizza is better elsewhere. Be prepared for an intense argument.
Last week, the Sun Sentinel ran a story about a $2 million lawsuit being filed against a local bagel franchise, Brooklyn Bagels, alleging that its "patented" process in making the local H2O taste like "Brooklyn" water was tainted with fraud.
I was immediately intrigued by the story. I love a good garlic bagel with a smear of butter -- and have continuously scoured South Florida for the 11 years I have lived here in a hallowed culinary mission similar to King Arthur's quest for the Holy Grail to find one.
Anyone from NYC that I have talked to who has eaten at a Brooklyn Bagel in South Florida has spoken very highly about their bagels and said that they were the closest to the real thing you can get here in New York City South. I even heard unverified rumors that they actually boiled their bagels first before baking them like in the old days of bagel making. I ate at one of their stores once, and while very good for Florida, the quest continued unabated for me
I have to confess that since moving from the Catskills, where I grew up living near one of the many New York reservoirs that supplies Brooklyn and the rest of NYC with its water, I often longed for the great bagels, pizza, and yes, hard rolls that I used to be able to buy back home.
I have shlepped dozens of hard rolls from my hometown of Monticello on airplanes to freeze and eat with relish, one at a time, on Sundays and at special breakfasts. In terms of pizza, I have found maybe one or two restaurants that live up to what is my pizza standard -- a great Italian restaurant named Michaelangelos in Jeffersonville, NY that I would pit against any of the best NYC pizza establishments.
I often thought that the putrid-tasting water in Florida was the main cause of the bread and pizza here having almost a synthetic taste. I was straightened out last week when I did a closing with a very proud Italian pizza-maker who owns a pizzeria in Broward County. He is originally from, where else, New York City. He informed me that making a great piece of pizza has nothing to do with the water. To bake a great pizza, you have to use very good, sometimes expensive ingredients; you have to make the dough and then nurture it for a few days before baking it; and most importantly, you have to be strictly an Italian baker, with the special innate skill, heritage and years of knowledge obtained in working in Italian pizzerias.
He emphasized the last point in that very funny, animated New York kind of manner by stating that he has no business making a Cuban sandwich and a Cuban has no business making a pizza.
Now back to the subject of water and bagels.
There is a solution to the Brooklyn water problem. While there has been such a bitter debate about Keystone pipeline and its need to bring oil to an energy thirsty nation, I guarantee you that such acrimony would not exist if they proposed a water pipeline from the Catskills to New York South. There's something special about that Catskills, oops, I mean Brooklyn, water that makes bread and, yes, maybe still pizza, something special to eat -- and even sue for, in South Florida.