Mama Bross tells Peter Ranscombe to fill his hole as they pair bagels with beers.
FOR some, she’s a social media star whose irreverent videos brightened up lockdown.
For others, she’s a visionary who’s bringing together like-minded businesses in Edinburgh.
For me, she’s the maker of some damn tasty bagels.
Larah Bross launched Bross Bagels in 2017 and has grown her chain to include five shops across Edinburgh, including her new bakery in Portobello.
Soon, she’ll add a sixth outlet to her empire when a branch opens in the new St James Quarter this summer.
Bross combines bagels made in the style of her native Montreal with fillings inspired by her time in New York.
It’s a winning combination – but it just got a “hole” lot better after she was granted a licence to serve alcohol at her Portobello bakery.
She’s preparing to install a white marble bar in the former bank building on Porty’s high street, from which she’ll serve a range of canned drinks.
The bakery is stocking cans from Pilot Beer along the road in Leith, as well as wine, rum, and gin, all also in cans.
Coming soon will be “The Bloody Bross”, the chain’s take on the classic Bloody Mary cocktail.
As well as supporting local drinks brands, the Porty bakery has begun to host a series of pop-up events, with chefs taking over the kitchen to serve their take on Bross’ bagels.
First up was James Murray, former head chef at Edinburgh Food Studio, who set up Jimmy’s Fried Chicken (JFC) after the studio closed at the start of the pandemic.
After a series of successful weekend pop-ups – which saw queues 100-deep snaking along the street – Murray plans to carry on collaborating with Bross as he prepares to launch a new project in September and a restaurant next year.
Beer and bagels
In the meantime, Murray joined us yesterday for a spot of beer and bagel matching, whipping up a minced chicken burger made from the belly and other dark meat of the bird coated in panko breadcrumbs.
It was possibly the juiciest chicken burger I’ve ever tried and tasted alive with black pepper, sage, and other herbs.
Murray explained the juiciness came from his use of the dark meats, which epitomises his ethos of using the whole animal in his cooking.
Sam from Pilot Beer was on hand with the brewery’s excellent An India Pale Ale (6%) to pair with the JFC bagel.
The body of An IPA – with its lemon, mandarin, and yeasty notes – was the ideal foil to the juicy chicken.
Not to be outdone, Bross also serves its own range of hot dogs and pizza bagels at the bakery.
Pairing the pastrami pizza bagel with the new Leith Lager (4.1%) – which has a different print of the Leith skyline on each can – was a revelation
The freshness of the lager cut through the fattiness of the pastrami and the gooeyness of the cheese.
Tasting it again on its own later, there’s a real roundness to the lager’s body to balance its lemon rind and mandarin flavours – not quite a helles style, but getting close.
One of Pilot’s most popular beers since hospitality reopened has been its Peach Melba Sour (4.3%), which Sam described as a “gateway sour” for drinkers new to the category.
Sour isn’t the first style for which I’d reach, but its freshness makes it an ideal beer-and-food matching candidate and Pilot’s version might just win me over – it had the freshness to cut through the cheese on the marinara pizza bagel, with a good balance between the peach, raspberry, and light vanilla flavours.
Although we didn’t put it through its paces yesterday, also worth a look is Pilot’s Vienna Pale, which was on fine form on draught last month at the reopened Holyrood Distillery courtyard bar, where it had the freshness to stand up to the delicious burgers and fries being served by catering outfit Hickory.
Don’t take my word for it though – carry out your own beer and bagel experiments at Bross in Portobello or soon at the St James Quarter.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s beer, wine, and whisky reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain