With all the Northeastern transplants we have in South Florida, you'd think finding an authentic New York-style bagel with house-smoked salmon would be an easy task. But according to former New Yorker Steven Barrocas, the available options from West Palm Beach south to Miami are less-than-ideal.
Certainly nothing like Sadelle's in New York City, a modern-day temple to fresh-baked bagels and house-made smoked fish spreads, or Russ & Daughters, a Manhattan bagel mecca that recently opened a dining room to mark its 100th year of business.
Before you get all up in arms defending your favorite local bagel spot, know this: Barrocas has some street cred where food criticism is concerned. He just so happens to be the man behind SoFlaFoodie, a local food blog he launched in 2012 dedicated to covering the South Florida dining scene.
Born and raised in Great Neck, New York, Barrocas also says he grew up surrounded by great bagel bakeries. After graduating college, he moved to Miami, living up and down the South Florida coast for the past 20 years before settling in Boynton Beach. Today, a busy family man with a full-time career, Barrocas said he began cooking in his spare time. Eventually, he began experimenting with baking as well, inspired by a New York Times article that gave a recipe for a no-knead bread that was easy to make at home.
"After that, I began making bread nonstop," says Barrocas. "Two years later, I was bored of it and decided to try making bagels. Just like the bread, I went into a complete obsession to the point where I now consider myself an expert, and I've completely debunked the New York City water myth when it comes to making good bagels. It has nothing to do with the water. It's all about using the best ingredients possible — and a few secrets I can't divulge."
Barrocas approached his bagel-making with the same enthusiasm, perfecting his dough through trial and error. He used old-school cooking techniques like water-soaked, burlap-wrapped wooden bagel boards. His recipe uses just five ingredients: a high-gluten flour, malt flour, yeast, water, and salt. After a few months, he went from making just a few at a time to large batches on the weekends.
Soon, neighbors began placing orders. Friends and family requested dozens at a time. Eventually, Barrocas' bagel-making inspired the idea to start a food truck he's dubbed Evelyn's Bagels after his maternal grandmother — what he says will be the first of its kind in South Florida — a bakery on wheels dedicated to making fresh, handcrafted bagels and house-smoked salmon and white fish.
To get the concept up and running, Barrocas recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds and gauge public interest. As of February 10, the 1-week-old campaign had 22 backers — and 23 days to reach the $25,000 pledge goal.
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If you'd like to try one of Barrocas' bagels and lox before you donate to the campaign, you can do so this weekend when he hosts a pop-up for Evelyn's Bagels at Subculture Coffee in Delray Beach. The one-day event will start at 8 a.m. (and will end when he runs out of bagels) on Saturday, February 13, at 123 E. Atlantic Blvd. in downtown Delray Beach.
"Every bagel shop here in South Florida is stuck in the past, making food that is subpar, in my opinion," says Barrocas. "I want to show you what a good bagel with real, homemade smoked fish tastes like. I want to change the way you eat bagels."
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.