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A Bissela Tsuris for H&H Bagels

November 21, 2009

credit: Monika Graff, New York Times

New York bagel peddler Helmer Toro, owner of H&H Bagels was arrested earlier this week for cheating the state on over $400,000 he collected but failed to pay from his employee’s withholding and unemployment taxes. In what the Daily News suggests may be “a schmear campaign,” authorities allege Toro, self-proclaimed as the world’s largest distributor of bagels, is nothing but a gonif who created an elaborate scheme of shell companies in order to evade paying taxes.

Earlier this year, state tax authorities shut the bakery’s Upper West Side Manhattan outlet for a few hours for sales and withholding tax debts of over $100,000. At the time, the H&H office staff told the New York Times that the charges were bubkes, just “a misunderstanding that has been cleared up.” But it appears that Toro’s chutzpah caught up with him, as Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau (a real mensch who has served in that position since I was a little pischer) continued to smell that something wasn’t Kosher at H&H.

While H&H bagels are esteemed by many, some find their version overly Americanized dreck. In a roundup of the best New York bagels, food writer Ed Levine describes the H&H product as oversized and “baked with so much sugar that they almost qualify as a dessert.” Indeed, many consider anything like the H&H blueberry variety to be nothing more than chazerie. Feeding a Yen, food maven Calvin Trillin’s essay collection includes the story, “The Magic Bagel”, in which he describes his daughter’s fruitless quest for a good bagel in San Francisco. In California, he writes, “if you buy a dozen wheat germ bagels you get your choice of a bee pollen bagel or a ginseng  bagel free.”

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