The Great Gluten Free Bagelman Taste Off!
Brighton + Food + Gluten Free + Photos + Reviews May 27, 2016
One of Brighton’s greatest institutions is Bagelman. Everyone loves picking from an array of delicious freshly baked bagels and have them stuffed with some yummy fillings. But did you know that they also do gluten free?
If you’re a serious gluten avoider like I am, the alarm bells might already be ringing. How could a place that specializes in bread products be safe for coeliacs and the like?
Well, recently I approached Bagelman to find out more about their processes for keeping their gluten free sandwiches safe for their customers.
I spent the morning with Leo, store manager at the Duke Street branch, and– SURPRISE!– fellow coeliac. I certainly did not expect to find someone with coeliac disease working in such a place, but if that doesn’t put your mind at ease when ordering, I don’t know what will.
Still, we went through the entire process.
Leo showed me how staff are taught to ask if the sandwich needs to be prepared on a separate board. If it does, it’s placed on a designated cutting board on the opposite surface from the main ingredients area. This means it is far away from any crumbs that may be flying around from the bagels.
To prevent the brioche rolls (provided by the Sussex Bread Company) from coming in contact with the bagels, they are wrapped in clear plastic. As for the fillings, for gluten free orders, they never use products from the main preparation counter. Instead Leo showed me how the ingredients are kept below the counter in refrigerators and each metal container is marked with a large GF.
If you look at the board in any Bagelman shop you will see how many options there are. And so many of them are open to gluten free foodies. The only non-safe items are: the pastrami, which has a coating that contains gluten on its rind; the sausage on breakfast rolls; and the mayonnaise and mustard which both have “may contain” warnings on them (so if you’re not that sensitive, feel free to indulge!).
Gluten free rolls are cut with a designated gluten free knife. They are toasted on a designated gluten free tray. Staff are even warned to be mindful when opening and closing the oven door to ensure their hands are not contaminated. The oven itself has a dedicated gluten free setting, as the brioches need to be toasted a bit longer to help their structural integrity.
Watching all of this happen, I definitely felt safe eating Leo’s creations. I daresay it may have had less of a chance of cross contamination than eating in my own kitchen!
Time for the taste off!
While I was at Bagelman, I decided I wanted to try a few different options. See, I usually order the same thing – a chicken, bacon, avocado on gluten free. If it’s earlier in the day I might have a bacon omelette, but overall the chicken, bacon, avocado is my holy grail Bagelman purchase.
But there are so many different combinations of fillings. This is amazing for gluten free customers, who are often restricted to one or two dietary friendly options. You can pick something new every day to suit whichever kind of craving you might have!
In the interest of not allowing any bias to ruin the scientific nature of my taste off, I asked Leo to choose the sorts of gluten free bagels I should try. We decided that I would try two of the most popular sandwiches and three of the more obscure ones.
ATM on Gluten Free
The ATM is sort of the sister to my favourite. With avocado, tomato and mozzarella, it’s bound to be a people pleaser. I’m not sure if it comes standard, but Leo added a bit of basil as well. The result was quite melty and gooey. The basil definitely brought out a freshness when combined with the tomato.
However I would say it lacked what I love about the chicken, bacon, avocado, which has a bit more flavour from the saltiness of the bacon. It didn’t feel quite as substantial as the chicken, bacon, avocado. Of course, it’s a brilliant option for vegetarians. And if worse came to worst, you could always customize it with one of Bagelman’s many meat offerings.
Mighty Aphrodite on Gluten Free
I’ve never really been a fan of olives. When I worked in a grocery store way back when, I used to need to walk near big vats of them and the smell would make me gag. However when I was in Morocco over Christmas, I discovered that I sort of like green olives. I wasn’t too impressed with darker olives.
Then I tried the Mighty Aphrodite, which obviously borrows its name from the Greek goddess. Which means you can probably guess what is in it.
This bagel is stuffed with feta cheese, fresh tomato and, yes, olives. It’s quite salty, which makes it a lot more interesting than the ATM. But it still tasted nice and fresh – a bit like eating a Greek salad; perfect for a summer picnic. And I loved the olives. I’ve been on a feta and olive rampage ever since trying this bagel. I cannot get enough.
Leo told me that the Bagelman owners have recently been looking into providing more exotic and interesting flavours alongside their lunchtime staples, and one of those endeavours has been inspired by a recent trip to New York. Enter the New York Tribute bagels. There are four available in the range, and I tried the three gluten free ones.
Black Seed on Gluten Free
The first flavour had me feeling a little bit apprehensive when Leo presented it to me. Called the Black Seed, it is a sandwich with smoked trout, boiled egg and rocket. Now, I don’t know about you, but one of the last foods I think of when looking for something for lunch is smoked trout! But, of course, boiled egg and rocket is a lunchtime staple, so what could a little fish hurt?
It did not hurt at all. The smoked trout mainly brought its smoked flavour to the mix, balancing out with the egg in a way that was extremely delicious. The rocket added a bit of a peppery taste and overall the whole experience was lovely. And I think the real lesson here is: don’t be afraid of trout! Be different! Be adventurous! Kick the lunchtime blues where it hurts!
Yes, I really liked the smoked trout.
Rivington St on Gluten Free
Another one that doesn’t really give away any clues in the name. Rivington St is like a really posh, delicious smoked salmon and soft cheese sandwich. In addition to the aforementioned fish and cheese, it contains red onion, tomato and rocket.
I love salmon and cream cheese on basically anything, but even I must admit that sometimes in a sandwich it can feel a little mushy and lacklustre. This problem is definitely solved in the Rivington St with the addition of the vegetables which give it a lot more texture and flavour.
This was Leo’s favourite, and I think it might be mine too. It just seems like such a big upgrade from salmon and lox. It feels so much more substantial.
Hester St on Gluten Free
Our final sandwich of the morning was the Hester St which contains ham, pulled pork, double Swiss and pickles. My first thought upon trying this one was “hamburger.” Obviously pulled pork is not a burger, but for many gluten free people, quick burgers are not really an option. I could definitely see this sandwich filling that void when I had a craving for something meaty.
With the addition of cheese and pickles, it just feels so much like a high quality hamburger experience. I know I’ve explained this sandwich to a few people who have responded by saying “I don’t really feel like pulled pork,” so I think I should clarify that while it is pulled pork, it’s not soaked in barbecue sauce or anything. It’s just good, flavourful meat.
Having tried all of those types of offerings at Bagelman, how would I rank these bad boys alongside my long established favourite? Well, I am glad that you asked:
- Rivington St
- Black Seed
- Hester St
- Chicken Bacon Avocado
- Mighty Aphrodite
Yes, my precious Chicken Bacon Avocado has actually moved quite far down the list, with all of the New York Tributes taking the top spots. For me, they just feel that much more substantial and almost luxe. They feel like a treat and not like something I could duplicate at home. Now the challenge is to get everyone else in Brighton out of their comfort zone to give these great new flavours a try!
Thanks to Bagelman for a fantastic morning!
Disclaimer: I invited myself over to Bagelman and they decided to humour me and go along with my little experiment and provide me with a few samples and a closer look at the specifics of their gluten free preparation methods.
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