Not too long ago I met up with my friend Mike for brunch at Boatyard. (Be forewarned: their website has very annoying music that plays automatically; add that to the pet peeve list.) I had not had that particular bartender before but he executed my favorite Stoli O Mimosa perfectly (think four parts Stoli O, two parts champagne, and one part pulp-free orange juice). Mike had a Bloody Mary. Life was good.
I usually struggle with whether to have breakfast or lunch when out for brunch because breakfast usually leaves me hungry an hour later. But I think that morning it was early enough that lunch was not an option and I sort of felt like having an omelet; I went with a delicious combination of smoked turkey, avocado, and feta. The omelets come with breakfast potatoes and toast, but one can upgrade to a bagel. I checked with the bartender that they had everything bagels. And then came the all-important conversation...about schmear. This whole thing kind of cracks Mike up, though I think he has become a true believer.
The bottom line is this: I'm paying the restaurant to schmear the bagel for me. Period. I can go to the grocery store and buy a bagel and cream cheese; I'm paying for the service of the restaurant toasting and schmearing it. Why some restaurants and coffee shops fail to understand this, I simply cannot comprehend. The bagel needs to be schmeared in the kitchen, while it is hot, with ample cream cheese. (It's the same with buttering toast. Cold, dry toast with a couple of frozen butter pats; yeah, thanks for nothing.) The places that force me to schmear my own bagel are also chintzy...they never, ever give you enough cream cheese for even half the bagel. Bagel schmearing fails include virtually any cafe chain (like StarFucks, Au Bon Pain, etc), Main Ingredient (a surprising disappointment since otherwise good food), cafes at airports, and other places I have blocked from memory due to the mental trauma of the whole thing. Places that schmear like they mean it: Naval Bagels, Bagels and..., and virtually any place in New York or Boston.
So, back at Boatyard... I had this come-to-Jesus talk about the importance of pre-schmearing the bagel and the bartender assured me they do. My bagel came out schmeared with ample cream cheese, I think I managed to avoid walking around all day with poppy seeds in my grill, and life was good.
The next morning Mike, his mom and aunt, our friend Dave, and I met up for brunch and found ourselves back at Boatyard. Sunday mornings are extra-busy there and no seats were available at the bar. When I arrived I found the group at a table. I ordered my favorite Stoli O Mimosa but what arrived seemed to be nothing but an extra-pulpy glass of orange juice; yuck! It didn't seem like a bottle of vodka or champagne had even been near that drink. I've spent a good amount of time in hospitality so I am loathe to send something back, but that mimosa was an abomination. Rather than risk another failed mimosa I opted for a Fordham Helles (a/k/a Boatyard Lager). I decided on a repeat performance of the prior day's breakfast, ordering my omelet with smoked turkey, avocado, and feta, and upgrading to an everything bagel with cream cheese. Unfortunately, what I got was this:
Yeah, as you may have noticed, there was no schmear. A couple sad butter pats and jellies accompanied the bagel. Let's just say I was apoplectic about the whole thing. And it took so long to get the waitress' attention and then get the most miniscule amount of cream cheese, which I had to schmear myself, that the bagel was completely cold by the time I could eat it. When Mike saw me snap the photo of my naked bagel he said "Oh, no; this is going to be on the blog, isn't it?" Umm... yep. I'll certainly be back and ordering my favorite mimosa and everything bagel, but I'll be at the bar, never a table, so I can make sure my mimosa has liquor and my bagel is schmeared. Is that really so much to ask?
Since I'm on a food rant, I'll just add this: if you aren't already following Thug Kitchen, do it post-haste.
Want to call out schmearing fails or give some props to the folks who do it right? Drop a comment so readers know who's a hit and who's a miss.