I live in a great neighborhood. Westfield Century City Mall and Westwood Village are both walking distance. Walgreen’s and Coffee Bean and Tealeaf are too. There’s even a stellar newsstand adjacent to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. That being said I could count the times I’ve actually walked there on both hands and I’ve lived there for 27 years. Ahem.
The thing is, when it’s a neighborhood business, you’re liable to stumble upon it and think you discovered it. But no, I just happened to live up the street from the best caviar store in town.
The Bel Air Caviar Merchant’s storefront looks more like a Psychic Reading parlor than the premier caviar supplier for the Westside. I’d say it’s a well kept secret, but its really not. People stake out their orders and wait patiently on folded chairs in a makeshift lobby. Business is done behind a screen.
Alex Golehar taught me how to REALLY eat caviar. None of that flotsam and jetsam they serve on the side. The egg, onion, sour cream, lemon or capers have always perplexed me. I felt obligated to use ALL of them on my tiny cracker, thinking, I might not get the full effect if I didn’t. The ‘real’ caviar experience. Invariably I ended up with this tower that looked like something out of Dr. Seuss and it never made it to my mouth intact. At parties, when I was still single and this happened, I felt like a real tool.
Alex taught me that simplicity and flavors that support, compliment and take a back seat to the caviar is the only way to go. White bread, preferably thin slices like Pepperidge Farm. Unsalted butter. Caviar. That’s it!
Our family saves this treat for New Years Eve. We break out a nicely chilled bottle of Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider (Served in plastic flutes of course). I lightly toast the bread, slather it with the butter with great care, and distribute the caviar in an even blanket. It’s usually gone in 30 seconds. Savages.
Laraine Newman is a founding member of The Groundlings Theatre Company and an original cast member of Saturday Night Live. She lives in her hometown of Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.