At the risk of starting the next great Santa Fe food-based flame wars, let’s talk about the best bagels in town.
I know, I know—it’s a big deal and a sore subject amongst the *shudder* foodies, but I found them. I tell you now in hopes of ending the ancient local bagel arguments. We get it, man, you’ve found better bagels in the world; no one understands it like you; it’s gonna be OK.
“It’s the way they boil the bagels that make ‘em! It’s the lye!” some will shout. “It’s the New York water!”
“It’s not the water,” says Ouroboros Bagels founder and baker Adam Stone confidently, “it’s the altitude. It also has to do with the ambient humidity, and that changes no matter where you live. Really, what it is is the feel—a particular combination of firmness in the dough, the density, the moistness, the stickiness.”
From a tiny live/work space hidden behind Back Road Pizza in the Second Street Studios, Stone has hit upon that same old thing that has vexed bakers in Santa Fe for eons—adjusting for altitude. His deep dough thoughts aren’t the kind of thing you’ll often hear from folks who talk shit about local bagels. Stone has been building upon well over a decade of his own personal bagel experience in that space; he’s been hosting bi-weekly pop-ups from 9 am-2 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays (which you can double-check via his Instagram, @ouroboros_bagles). He’s quietly cracked the secrets of producing a consistently excellent bagel in Santa Fe.
Don’t get it twisted, though, because we do have some good options in Santa Fe. I’ll die on a hill defending Boultawn’s green chile and cheese bagel, and Thomas Kamholz of Plantita Vegan Bakery churns out some of the most delicious bagels in all the land. Still, though, and with respect, they can’t hold a candle to Stone’s product. An Ouroboros bagel is just crispy enough on the outside and just chewy enough on the inside, and they come consistent in terms of size, taste, texture and quality. You can get ‘em plain, you can get ‘em in poppyseed or sesame seed form ($1.75); you can get a Chimayó red chile bagel, an everything bagel, an olive and rosemary bagel ($2); or you can get the crown jewel biyali with onion and special seasoning ($5)—so why isn’t this dude blowing up yet?
There are a couple of reasons, but mainly that he’s not in a hurry. Yes, Stone would like to take his product to the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market; he’d like to find some commercial kitchen space; he’d ultimately like to create his own space from which he might bake bagels for resale in stores and restaurants. But he’s taking things one step at a time just now.
Stone came up in Montana, moved to Maryland for a couple years and then spent the bulk of his life in Portland, Oregon during a time when, he says, “it was still the place where everybody was moving every other week—as well as a place that was getting hit hard by the housing crisis in 2009.” That’s how he wound up sleeping on his brother’s couch in Albuquerque circa 2011. He chased a relationship to Santa Fe the next year. While that didn’t work out, he was here to stay.
“Gone are the days of ‘my car broke down and I never left,’” he says jokingly of a certain cross-section of Santa Fe’s populace. “I did not expect I’d move to Santa Fe, especially with the cultural overlap of the Portland I was fleeing, but it’s surprisingly international in Santa Fe. That’s one of the reasons I stayed.”
He had worked at a bagel-based bakery in Portland called Bagel Land, though it wasn’t a burning passion for baking that led him there so much as it was a want ad.
“My entire interview consisted of [an owner] asking if I could bake,” he tells SFR. “When I said no, he asked ‘Can you show up tomorrow at 3 am, and we’ll try you out for a week and see if you’re not doing well?’ I said I could, and we never revisited my not doing well.”
He went on to also put in a stint at Einstein Bros. in Albuquerque, but it was the Bagel Land experience that taught him best. Einstein Bros. are fine, Stone notes, but they’re made by injecting steam during the baking process rather than with that all-important boiling step.
“I was definitely aware I was doing it improperly every day,” he says.
Which kind of makes his fledgling business all the more important. In reality, Stone says, bagels aren’t a passion through which he’s baring his artistic soul. Rather, baking them is something he realizes he’s good at doing, and it’s inoffensive work. Frankly, it’s kind of refreshing to hear that take—a man who knows how to make a hell of a bagel and does so without pretense. So what happens next?
“My end goal would be to have a place where I can do large production,” Stone says. “There are so many re-sale options, and that’s what I’d rather be doing. I want to make bagels for other businesses.”
For now, Stone hosts the aforementioned pop-ups twice a week, and he’ll accept special orders (no delivery, though) and commissions. The special bagels like the red chile might not be available otherwise, at least until business picks up.