Meet the Bagel Lady of Vail Village

Photography by Rebecca Stumpf | Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2017 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

For native New Yorkers, few delicacies evoke more passion—and devotion—than an authentic, hot-out-of-the-brown-bag morning bagel. Adversely, the horror aroused in this same demographic by circular bread posing as a bagel is a familiar disappointment. Especially when said demographic vacations in a world-savvy ski town like Vail.

This isn’t news to Connie Leaf. As a native New Yorker, Leaf spent her childhood coming to Vail. The skiing, she recalls, was great. The bagels? Not so much.

“Ask any New Yorker who lives in Colorado: the majority of bagels you find in this state are just doughnut-shaped rolls and simply NWTC.”

“Not Worth The Calories.”

Relocating to Vail full-time six years ago, Leaf found a job bartending at Sweet Basil, but despaired about ever finding a reasonable approximation of the morning bagel she started every day with back home. Until finally she took things into her own hands—literally—and quit her job to pursue her passion.

“I have so many memories around a real, authentic bagel shop with the smell, and the brown paper bag,” she explains. “It’s something I grew up with.”

Like most labors of love, establishing the business that would become Village Bagel took time. For a year, Leaf dabbled in small-scale production, making bagels for friends, tweaking the recipe, adjusting for altitude, until ultimately, trial and error yielded perfection. How long does it take to make that perfect bagel? Leaf insists no fewer than 24 hours, an interval that allows eight key ingredients—including organic, unbleached, high-protein bread flour and Colorado honey—to meld and acquire the malty undertone she desires. Once that happens, the bagels must be boiled then baked for that quintessential, chewy New York texture.

Connie Leaf at work in the kitchen at Mirabelle, where she sells her bagels by the bag at the back door. IMAGE: Rebecca Stumpf

Selling (and selling out of) small batches at pop-up locations around Vail Village earlier this year led to a delivery service and retail locations around the valley. Bagels are made to order and packaged in brown paper bags, for a look, smell, and taste Leaf hopes will leave local New York transplants reminiscing of—and accented visitors looking for a bagel to pair with their cawfee never pining for—home.

“I traded late nights at the bar for early mornings behind a kettle,” laughs Leaf, who hopes to open a local store soon but for now works her magic out of a rented commercial kitchen in Beaver Creek, where mornings begin exactly as they did in New York: with the aroma of hot-out-of-the-oven bagels. Village Bagel, 914-886-8851


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