We took a trip out to Fernie BC after Christmas so Ben could do some skiing and the rest of us could give it a try, or otherwise play in the snow. One of the biggest surprises of the trip was how cool the town of Fernie is. The main street was full of old brick buildings packed full of shops, artisans and restaurants that catered to locals as well as the huge influx of tourists over Christmas.
Our Favourite Place in Fernie BC
Our favourite place, bar none, in downtown Fernie is Big Bang Bagels. This tiny corner bagelry and coffee shop had everything we need to christen it “our place in Fernie
First off, it’s cozy. A small counter with coffee, till, grill for egg bagels, a sandwich station and mountain of bagels. Bakers in behind but in view. Six or seven tables.
Next, it’s warm. Old wood floors. Wood panelling on the walls. A hint of brick. Low ceilings, so everything remains human scale. Pictures on the wall of customers, staff ski trips and famous bagel loving skiers. Local art on the walls as well – nature photographs, as you might expect in such a beautiful locale. A baby moose beside the creek. A black bear cub in a tree.
The shop is also humming. We went three times and there was a line to the door every time. Seekers start coming at 7AM and keep coming in well into the afternoon.
The staff, all young and good looking and with accents from all corners of the world (as you’d expect in a Canadian ski town), were working hard, fast but always cheerfully and with a focus on the people they were serving. Always time for ‘where are you from?’ or ‘have you been on the mountain today?’.
The menu is simple but awesome. Various hot beverages (they even ask how many shots of espresso you want in your latte!), two breakfast bagels and five or six bagel sandwiches written up on a wall sized blackboard. Each sandwich lovingly described. Avocado. Chicken. BLT. Smoked salmon. Smoked meat. I wanted every single sandwich on the menu!
And the bagels are fresh too. Another big signboard lists the available flavours. When the Whole Wheat Everything bagel sells out, the sign comes down. As more White Cheese bagels come out of the oven the sign goes back up. All day long.
Soak Up The Friendly Vibe
Needless to say, Big Bang Bagels was my stay and linger location every time we came into town. I nursed my coffee as long as I dared and just let the warm, friendly vibe soak into me.
I’d watch the young mom feed bagel pieces to a toddler.
I’d watch the old guy with a pony tail dive deep into his novel.
The well dressed Albertans drinking their morning coffee before heading to the hill.
The hungover kiwi couple on New Year’s Day.
Then we picked up our two dozen bagels to take back to Regina. We pre-ordered, of course – we’re bakers too!
The Fernie Bagel
Now here’s the thing: if you’re looking for an authentic, jewish, New York bagel, these are not the bagels for you. They’re too big, too soft, too pale, too squishy. And that’s OK.
The folks at Big Bang admit it. Embrace it even. They say it loud and proud: they make Fernie Bagels. The perfect bagel for a quick, delicious sandwich. The perfect breakfast on your way to the hill or that awesome lunch when you finally take a break from the slopes. Or that perfect accompaniment to a strong coffee when you feel like hanging out and absorbing the atmosphere in town for an afternoon.
So What’s Authentic Anyway?
Big Bang Bagels is a great reminder that, as we travel along in our bread journey, it’s not about finding the One Perfect and True Loaf. It’s about the right thing for right here. I suspect the sesame bagel I’ve got in the toaster at home won’t taste the same as the one I had at my corner table at Big Bang. But it will sure bring me right back to Fernie.
“Authentic” isn’t about making that great thing from another place at home. It’s about making the perfect thing for where you are, right here, right now.
Photo by Mike Mozart