Salt, onion, garlic, sesame seeds and poppy seeds: New Yorkers can agree these ingredients define an everything bagel.
Lately, however, the spice blend has been expanding its gastronomic horizons.
Chefs, bakers and home cooks are now using the seasoning mix to flavor all varieties of foods, from doughnuts to pizza to potato chips.
“It’s such a great flavor profile that it makes everything taste good — sweet, savory, spicy,” said Doughnut Project co-founder Leslie Polizzotto, 49, whose West Village shop sells a doughnut covered in a sweet cream cheese glaze and topped with a blend of sesame and poppy seeds, pepitas, garlic and sea salt. “You just throw it on anything and you get this instant pow of flavor.”
Polizzotto and her business partner, Troy Neal, never expected news of their Everything Doughnut to ignite the internet when they introduced it in February 2016. The makers of Those Beetz Are Dope (a beet-glazed doughnut filled with ricotta whip) and The Bronx (a glazed doughnut with a hint of olive oil and black pepper) specialized in experimental flavors, and their newest invention didn’t strike them as any more outlandish than the rest.
But the Everything Doughnut hit a chord with the public: “It stirred a lot of emotions in people,” Polizzotto said. “People either loved the idea of the Everything Doughnut or thought it was crazy.”
Some customers still won’t try it, she added, but the flavor remains among The Doughnut Project’s top five sellers (others include the Prosecco doughnut, with a sparkling wine glaze, and the bacon maple bar) and attracts tourists from around the world.
For New Yorkers, natives and transplants, the seed and spice mix that marks an everything doughnut or bagel nostalgically evokes morning rituals and one’s neighborhood bagel shop.
At Supermoon Bakehouse on the Lower East Side, Melbourne-born pastry chef Ry Stephen is selling a New York croissant modeled on the bagel he’d order at least four times a week at a deli near his last apartment, in Brooklyn.
“Everything spice bagel with lox cream cheese and red onions — that’s a go-to for probably 90 percent of people that live in New York,” said Stephen, 31, whose croissant homage to that stand-by breakfast sandwich is packed with cream cheese, lox, scallions and capers. He flavors the pastry with scallions, dill, lemon rind and a spice mix he prepares himself in the bakery’s basement.
“It absolutely stinks everything up,” said the inventor of the cruffin, a croissant-muffin hybrid dessert. “It’s very, very intense. The starter hits you right in the eyeball — the onion and the garlic.”
Small, avant-garde kitchens like Stephen’s aren’t the only ones exploiting the seasoning’s wide appeal. In February, every millennial’s favorite grocery store chain, Trader Joe’s, introduced an Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend that it advertised as “all you need for bringing that crunchy, roasted, savory flavor to grilled chicken, buttered popcorn, baked potatoes, creamy dips, pizza dough, salad dressings, pasta, mac & cheese, or panko-breaded anything.”
Five months later, in what Polizzotto described as a maneuver to stay relevant, Lay’s invited customers to vote for one of three new chip flavors based on “American’s favorite dishes” — including an everything bagel with cream cheese.
The everything bagel takeover of the American palate pleases Queens native David Gussin, its self-described creator.
“I get a kick out of it,” said Gussin, 52, whose claim to fame has been contested over the years by everyone from marketing guru Seth Godin to restaurateur Joe Bastianich to Steiner Sports Marketing founder Brandon Steiner. “To make something popular — it makes you feel good.”
As Gussin tells the story, the origin of the everything bagel dates back to either 1979 or 1980, when he was a teenager working in a Howard Beach bagel shop on Cross Bay Boulevard. There he was responsible for sweeping out the burnt seeds and other detritus from the oven and tossing them in the trash.
“One day I swept them into one of the bins that they put the seeds in,” Gussin recalled, “and the next day, I said [to the store’s owner,] ‘Charlie, make some bagels with these and call them everything bagels.’”
There may have been others who spiced up bagels with leftover toppings before him, Gussin acknowledged, but they didn’t — he insisted — coin the name: “If you think about it, it’s the only bagel that had to be named,” said the co-founder of 516Ads.com, an advertising, networking and web design company based on Long Island. “Sesame seeds, sesame bagel, poppy seeds, poppy seeds bagel. … For the everything bagel, someone had to freakin’ name it, as odd as it seems. I was that person.”
The label has taken on new significance as the bagel’s influence and boundaries expand: “everything” goes on a bagel, but “everything” also enhances the flavor of “everything” else. In Polizzotto’s words, the spice blend is “kind of universal.”
Take a look at our list of everything popping up with everything bagel seasoning below and you’ll be inclined to agree: