The tasty bagels at Tavalin have inspired a resurrection of the Must Tries Series, where I ask people in the Beijing food and beverage business for picks from their own menus and from other places about town. Julian Tavalin, part of the team behind Tavalin Bagels, reveals his favorite bagel, his top spots for pork knuckles, pizza and steak, and why he’d like to have Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii as a customer.
You guys offer more than 10 kinds of bagels. What is the “must try” bagel on the menu?
Every bagel has at one point or another been my favorite, however the “everything bagel” has to be the one that I have loved the longest. Incidentally, this creates some confusion when people ask me “which is the best one” or “which one is the most popular” and I say “everything”—after which they usually roll their eyeballs in disgust thinking that I am taking the piss. I am not sure where the term “everything bagel” comes from, but when I was a kid it meant that the bagel had all the flavors they put on top. In our case it’s garlic, onion, sesame and sea salt. I enjoy it because I can never decide on one topping, so with this one you don’t miss out on any of them. The everything bagel is priced the same as the others at RMB10.
What is the “must try” topping?
Tavalin Bagels used to be in my tiny Sanlitun apartment when we first started. As silly as it might sound I hadn’t actually tried everything on the menu three weeks in. At the time we were only a three-day-a-week delivery service and one day very early on we ended up producing an extra rosemary and garlic cream cheese by accident. I remember discovering it in the fridge and feeling like I should eat some of it so it didn’t go and because I hadn’t tried it yet. I ate the entire 250-gram tub that evening on stale bagels. Since then it’s been my favorite. It’s rmb25 per tub or rmb10 to add it to a bagel.
What are three “must try” foods or drinks you’ve had at other places in Beijing?
Every so often I seek out the pork knuckle (schwinehaxe) at the Paulaner Brauhaus at the Kempinski. It was the first place I’d ever had the Bavarian dish, and it rarely disappoints.
To satisfy a pizza craving I’ll usually go to the Kro’s Nest. Their pizza reminds me most of the pizza that I grew up with, the toppings are generous and I feel like I’m getting what I paid for.
And recently I’ve been treating myself to steaks at O’Steak if I feel I deserve it. I can’t tell if their service is appalling or if I just happen to be in a lousy mood every time I go in there but either way I really enjoy their 220-gram steak with black pepper sauce and ANY other sauce on the menu. They also have rmb10 pastis there, which I know is not for everybody but I love the stuff and would pay double for it in a heartbeat.
Bonus question: If you could have anyone famous stop by the bagel shop, who would you choose and why?
If the person can be an historical figure it would have to be Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii at the moment. This guy was commissioned by Czar Nicholas II to take color photographs of imperial Russia in the early 1900s and I came across an article about the photos on www.smithsonianmag.com last week. I loved the photos so much I wanted to see more, and luckily the Library of Congress bought the entire collection in the 1940s and has it on their website for public viewing and use so you can see the entire 2000-plus photo collection (see this link).
Strangely enough I saw my mom had posted about the same guy on Facebook just today—neither of us knew the other had seen the same article. If you’d asked me two weeks ago which famous person I’d like to see at the bagel shop I’m sure it wouldn’t be so obscure, however I have some specific questions I’d like to ask the photographer as I’ve really enjoyed looking at his photos over the past week and can’t stop thinking about him—incidentally some of them I’d seen before and had no idea they were from the same photographer.
He invented a breakthrough way of photographing color, where he would take three photos of the same thing, while holding three color lenses (red, green, blue) in front of his camera. Then he’d take the black and white negatives and project them through the same colored filters. When the images were lined up they created a really amazing color effect (see here). Anyway, I’d like to ask him about the different kind of people he encountered in Imperial Russia and why he decided to leave for Western Europe after the Bolshevik Revolution even though they offered him a professorship, and a few more questions about his subject matter.
On a less pretentious note I’d also like to meet Leonardo DiCaprio for what it’s worth. I just saw The Wolf of Wall Street and I thought he was really good in it. I’ve been enjoying his movies recently, and it’s been a pleasure to literally watch him grow up on the screen. From my perspective he started as a cheesy teen heartthrob and has become a great actor. Little known fact: he moved out of his mom’s house just a couple months before Titanic was released. Crazy stuff.
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