Sometimes I receive comments that make me shake my head in a “what was that” kind of movement. Sometime you say things that make me say “yay” or actually snicker out loud. And sometimes I get a bit of a challenge.
The other day, I wrote about bagels in Santiago. And Dorothee, one of the smiliest Germans I had never met wrote a comment saying (roughly) “hey, we make bagels, too.” And the gauntlet was thrown.
I had this vague idea when the year started that I should leave Santiago every month, if only for a day or two. I have lost track of whether or not I’ve done that (I think maybe yes?), but am mostly game for trips out of my favorite South American metropolis. So I hopped the bus to Viña, still so cold-addled as to enjoy the window-staring and sprite zero drinking more than is probably normal. And my friend Cari met me at the bus station, and we ambled over to 9 Norte, 1 Poniente, in Viña (above the Santa Isabel), to check out BagelManía (launches music, turn down volume if you’re at work!), from which the smiley Dorothee had written me.
“Does it smell like bagels?” I had to ask, as I was smell-impaired. I smelled nothing, but could hardly be expected to trust my schnoz. It did not smell like bagels, Cari informed me. All that meant was that they were not currently bageling, but there was a plentiful supply in the baskets under the counter. Some traditional, like sesame, everything (my favorite), and poppyseed, some surely only Chilean, like merquén (smoked hot pepper), which Dorothee later told me are most popular among the gringos, though BagelManía attracts Chileans and foreigners alike.
We ordered the lunch special, a bagel sandwich and a hearty portion (500 ml cup) of fruit salad, with a drink, 2,000 pesos. The cream cheese is home-made, tasty, but not Philadelphia, if that’s what you were expecting. With chives. I had mine with salmon, which was not quite lox, but we are not quite in Nova Scotia, so I wasn’t precisely expecting that.
So, you’re here for the bagel report. The bagels are. Bagely. Chewy, not cakey. Not sweet. Bagels. I had to get some to take home. The bagels are normally 300 CLP apiece, but if you buy a sleeve of 6, it’s only 1500 CLP.
Somewhere between the bagel and fruit salad escapade, we strongarmed Dorothee into sitting down and talking to us. I had to get nosy and ask about the flour. I know that everything we bake in Chile comes out kind of softer and different than when I bake in the states, so I asked if they had to order special flour. It was like asking a painter how he came up with a fabulous new canvas prep technique that changed the face of visual art. In a word, yes. There is not enough gluten content in the flour in Chile to make a good bagel. Research, trial and error and well-traveled wheat (imported from the US and Canada), later, they’ve got their patented flour mix with the right amount of gluten, and the bagels to prove it.
There’s way more to the story, including a flight school in North Carolina and a fateful meeting between Dorothee and her Chilean partner in Toronto (seems to be something in the Canadian water re: bagels), and the baby born two months ago who doesn’t get to eat bagels yet, but surely will as soon as age-appropriate.
They’re several months in, selling well, and with good reason. Verdict: these are very close to the bagels of my youth. The hyper-elasticity of the dough means they don’t roll out as prettily as some, but they refrigerate and toast later like a dream.
My only problem is that I’m going to the states in a couple of weeks and by the time I get there, I will have eaten a baker’s dozen (13) of bagels in the month preceding the trip, and my mom usually waits for me at the airport with a bagel. Maybe I could ask for a bowl of grapenuts instead.
Where to get your own: 9 Norte, 1 Poniente, in Viña (above the Santa Isabel)
When: 8 AM to 8 PM, Monday to Friday, and 9AM to 2 PM on Saturdays, closed Sundays.