Is Bagel a Better Bet Than 'Bublik'?

The stars-and-stripes banner above a cafe at 24/1 Ulitsa Petrovka reads "Bubliks American style." Bagels, that is.

"We are among the first who offer fresh baked bagels, not the frozen ones," said Dmitry Yeryomenko, director of the new Bagels Cafe in downtown Moscow.

The cafe, housed in the basement of a grand-scale postwar building and opened about three weeks ago, is aimed primarily at Westerners, whom Yeryomenko sees as gaga for bagels.

"We targeting Americans, Canadians and Western Europeans, who can't live without a bagel for breakfast and lunch," Yeryomenko said. "But, we also wanted to introduce a new product for the new Russians."

Yeryomenko said the Russian-British-American joint venture's name "Bagel's Plus" had to be translated into Russian as "Bubliki Plus," because there is no concept of a bagel in Russian.

A bublik could perhaps be described as a sort of anorexic bagel; it is a thin, crispy bread with a large hole in the center, traditionally sprinkled with poppy seeds.

For Yeryomenko, the bagel is the better bet: "A bagel is a dietary, fat-free product," he said. "Besides, it keeps longer."

Because it is a new food item, the bagel is still in the process of being certified by Russian authorities.

It may also have an uphill battle gaining recognition from Russian consumers. "I don't see any difference between bagels and Russian bubliki," said a customer, Andrei, 33, who refused to give his last name. "And I could get more to eat in McDonald's for the same price."

The cafe's bagels cost between 45 cents for the plain variety to $1.50 for a toasted one with jam.

The cafe sells eight types of bagels, including plain, garlic, poppy seed and sea salt bagels. But sorry, no raisin and cinnamon. For sweet lovers, the cafe also features toasted bagels with raspberry and cowberry jam.

"My favorite one is a poppy and sesame seed bagel," said one of the bakers, Sergei Mezin, 39, who used to bake Georgian and Russian breads. "My whole family now lives on them, though they sometimes miss traditional brown bread."

Mezin said the bagels are made according to U.S. bagel-production procedures. He said it was still difficult to remember the recipe by heart, so the bakers follow the written instructions affixed to the baking machines.

The wheat that goes into the bagels is Russian, while the yeast and other ingredients are imported from Belgium.

Yeryomenko said the cafe has the capability to produce about 15,000 bagels per day; currently, it produces some 2,000 bagels a day.

It takes no less than 12 hours to produce one bagel, because the dough, already bagel-shaped, must be kept for a long period at a temperature of 4 to 5 degrees Celsius.

The cafe also sells sandwiches and offers catering services.

Yeryomenko said the joint venture plans to open several other bagel cafes around Moscow, as well as a restaurant.

The Bagel Cafe is not the first outlet for bagels in Moscow.

The TrenMos restaurant opened a sideline in bagels, even inviting a bagel specialist to Moscow last October as a consultant. With TrenMos now closed, the new cafeon Petrovka has taken up the bagel challenge.

Bagels Cafe, which can accommodate 50 people, is designed in a style that bridges east and west -- a samovar at the window and watercolors of the English countryside on the walls.

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