Thinking woman’s bagel: Christopher Walken or Bill Nighy

Owner Arielle Skye preps bagels at Courage Bagels
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)

Is Bill Nighy the thinking woman’s crumpet or bagel? Plus more Oscars food talk, Daniel Boulud’s L.A. plans, museum food you want to eat and dry-aged fish handrolls from the Joint. I’m Laurie Ochoa, general manager of L.A. Times Food, with this week’s Tasting Notes.

Everything bagels, $12 caviar and a thinking woman’s crumpet

On Sunday, for the first time in many years, I will be watching the Oscars without constantly monitoring Slack on my laptop. But even though I’ve moved from Entertainment to Food, I’ll still be paying close attention to the action — which will be documented in real time by Mary McNamara and Glenn Whipp, two quick wits who are the most knowledgeable Oscars experts I’ve ever encountered. I’ll also be waiting for film critic Justin Chang‘s analysis of the winners — who could forget his 2019 post-Oscars night essay, “Green Book’ is the worst best picture winner since ‘Crash’”?

But we don’t have to wait for one of my favorite of Justin’s annual Oscars pieces — his pun-packed party menu featuring shout-outs to many of the nominees. Ramen Talking? Michelle Will Yams? The Bahn Mi of Inisherin? Guillermo del Toro’s Radicchio? There was talk of trying to develop recipes to go with Justin’s menu, but I think of Mr. Chang as a free-range punster, someone who can’t be pinned down to reality. After all, Tuna Tár Tár may not belong on the same plate as All the Beauty and the Blood Sausage — unless, perhaps, you’re on the “Triangle of Sadness” super yacht — but they definitely make Oscar weekend a lot more fun.

Of course, if you are having an Oscars party, you may have a craving for caviar. Assistant editor Danielle Dorsey with a big assist from restaurant critic Bill Addison and L.A. Times Food writers Stephanie Breijo and Cindy Carcamo, put together a guide to some of the best places to splurge on caviar, starting at $12 for a “bump” of royal ossetra caviar at Grandmaster Recorders.

For me, however, the food of this year’s Oscars is not caviar but bagels. If you’ve seen best picture favorite “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” you know that an everything bagel is at the heart of the story. As Stephanie Hsu’s character Jobu Tupaki explains, “I got bored one day and put everything on a bagel. Everything. All my hopes and dreams. My old report cards, every breed of dog, every last personal ad on Craigslist, sesame, poppy seed, salt ... .”


Partly in honor of the “Everything Everywhere All at Once” everything bagel — and because bagels really do seem to be everywhere in Los Angeles — Danielle Dorsey recruited Bill Addison, Betty Hallock, Jenn Harris, Lucas Kwan Peterson and Stephanie Breijo to put together a guide to the city’s best bagels.

One last Oscars bagel note: The week before Bill Nighy learned he was a lead actor Oscar contender for his role in “Living,” he was presented with the lead performance award by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. Former L.A. Weekly and current Criterion film critic Ella Taylor introduced Nighy by saying that a friend in London described the actor as “the thinking woman’s crumpet.” The description isn’t new but it was a good excuse for Nighy to pull out a great bit about Christopher Walken, crumpets and, yes, bagels. Here’s a 2006 version of the story he told after the U.K.’s Independent asked how he felt about being “the sort of chap guaranteed to make women of a certain age blush in a fashion rarely seen outside the pages of Jane Austen.”

“The only way I can respond with dignity is to say that Christopher Walken was once asked by a British woman journalist how he felt about being seen as the thinking woman’s crumpet. There was a lengthy pause, after which he replied, ‘Is that some kind of bagel?’”

The story’s headline: “Bill Nighy: The thinking woman’s bagel.”

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Museum food worth eating

A gif of chef John Cleveland preparing dishes, plus a few of his items, such as a flatbread

More and more, we’re seeing museums offer choices that go beyond fries, burgers and lunchroom salads. A pioneering spot was Cindy Pawlcyn‘s excellent but now-closed seafood restaurant, Cindy’s Waterfront, at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which managed to appeal to sophisticated diners as well as kids. Now the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is about to open a new restaurant, Neighborhood Grill, by Post & Beam’s John and Roni Cleveland, whose Baldwin Hills restaurant was No. 60 on Bill Addison‘s 101 Best Restaurants in L.A. list and 2020’s L.A. Times Gold Award winner. L.A. Times Food writer Stephanie Breijo talked with John Cleveland about his plans, which include collaborating with local favorites Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, Prins Wellness, Hotville Chicken, Southern Girls Desserts and more in a grab-and-go section within the restaurant for those who don’t have time for a sit-down meal. He’s also bringing in local producers like South L.A.’s Black-owned craft beer company Crowns & Hops for the beer and wine menu. “We wanted to double down on our of-for-and-with-Los Angeles approach and community partnerships,” Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, president and director of the museum, told Breijo, “and make the food-service program speak to our hyperlocal community in a way that we haven’t in the past.”

Daniel Boulud’s westward expansion

Chef Daniel Boulud, right, with Dinex Group CEO and business partner Sebastien Silvestri
Chef Daniel Boulud, right, with Dinex Group CEO and business partner Sebastien Silvestri, will open the French chef’s first West Coast restaurant within the next year.
(Cafe Boulud)

Stephanie Breijo has more restaurant news: She talks with two-star Michelin chef Daniel Boulud, whose Daniel in Manhattan is one of the best splurges and who — thanks in part to Wolfgang Puck — is coming to Los Angeles. Café Boulud will open in Beverly Hills inside the Mandarin Oriental Residences either later this year or next year. “L.A. is a big food town,” Boulud told Breijo. “Nobody is deprived of anything good, but I think L.A. always embraces something new, and we hope to be embraced by L.A. I told Wolfgang [Puck] that if he opened in New York, I’ll open in L.A., and of course Wolfgang opened in New York [in 2016]; I said, ‘Well, maybe I’m keeping my promises to Wolfgang.’”

Breijo also got an early look at the new handroll and chirashi bar, Uoichiba, at Culver City’s Citizen Public Market food hall. Sushi lovers are excited about the opening because the Joint’s dry-aged fish guru Liwei Liao is behind the venture. She also reports on Din Tai Fung coming to Santa Monica, the new smashburger specialist Love Hour Bar in Koreatown and the new Highland Park branch of Burritos La Palma (a big favorite in my family).

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