A tribute: to a stranger who helped raise me

Harry Lewis died last week and I want to note it.  He created a successful string of restaurants called Hamburger Hamlet in Los Angeles. I wrote about the closing of the final Hamlet a while back.  I wanted to note his passing because without knowing it he helped raise me.  

Growing up in LA Hamburger Hamlet, or “Hamlets”, as we called them for short, loomed large. They were a great medium restaurant.  Not fast food, but not fancy.  You could dress casual, or a great to place to go after you’d been to a movie.  I am a child of the ’70’s.  The political aware, ERA T-shirt wearing kids, mom wearing Dr Scholls with her long straight hair, dad with side burns with big lapels. When I was 8 my mom started her business.  An alternative school.   She was busy and my dad was not Mr. Co-parent.  Domestic duties still fell on to my mother totally.

It was around this time that my mom announced she was not cooking anymore. Once in a while?  No, Thanksgiving was pretty much it.  She meant it. She had her own health food, but if I didn’t want salt less turkey soup,( and who does?) lentils, rice cakes  we were on our own.   My sisters and I would cobble something together.  Our go toos: Fettucine Alfredo, fried Chicken, quiche makes me wonder why we weren’t obese.  
The other way I ate was when my sister Carole got her drivers license my mom would hand her $20 and say “Take Daphne to the Hamlet”.  We would sit in the red vinyl booths on National Blvd, or Westwood or for the fancy Hamlet on Sunset Blvd where it was usual to see Dean Martin at the bar. There were many things we loved on the menu:  the French Onion soup, “Those Potatoes” , which was hash browns with sour cream ( what’s NOT to like about that!).  But, the dish that really took root in my heart, mind and soul was the #11 hamburger.  This burger had crisp bacon, and Russian dressing.  The ratio of meat to bread, to yummy extras was all perfect.  

Harry Lewis started out as an actor.

young Harry Lewis with Claire Trevor in "Key Largo". "Let me go, Claire, I got a burger to make!"

He had a vision of an upscale hamburger place that was still easy, accesible. He and his wife Marilyn sold the collection of restaurants in the ’80’s for $30 million and it was never the same.

Cut to 2000, I was guest on a show in SF and waiting in the green room with me was Marilyn and her son, who was running their remaining restaurant.  She was delightful and gave me her memoir which I read dreaming of a #11.  It had great stories like Sammy Davis Jr. and Jeff Chandler filling in for the Lewis’s so they could elope.

My other mother

Years later I’m very pregnant with Vivien and my doctor was in Westwood near Hamlet Gardens.  One of the few places they still ran.  You know how as the pregnancy wears on the doctors visits become more frequent.  Mark often came with me.  Since I was pregnant I was alway hungry.  Mark knew not to come between a snarling pregnant woman and her appetite so he always let me pick.  More often than not I’d say “Hamlet Gardens”.  Was it as good as the old Hamlet, no.  Partly because it seemed more fancy, ladies who lunch.  Even though I was a lady lunching I longed for the straight ahead wonder that was red vinyl and perfectly proportioned cooked meat.  Nevertheless, during this pregnancy I had little interest in spice, veggies, off beat.  I wanted WHAT I KNEW and hearty.

The Hamlet Garden’s had a hamburger, but not the #11.  I would ask the waiter if they could make it.  They would say, “Let me check.  Sometimes some of the old timers are in the kitchen and they can make it for you.”  One day I noticed that Harry Lewis was there.

he was older than this, but same twinkle in the eye

He was still a handsome man, lined, grey, but distinguished and well dressed.  He was looking over the dining room still very interested in the running of his business and that people were being taken care of.  We caught eyes and smiled.  He said,

“Did I hear you ask for a #11?” said the man who helped raise me, but I had never met. Did I!   So I gushed about how I grew up in the Hamlet’s  and how much I loved them and my baby ( gesturing to large belly) NEEDED a #11 to insure her strength and vitality.  Well, Mr. Lewis was charmed and charming and I GOT MY #11.  I got quite a few during my last trimester.  When he walked away from our table I sat back relieved.  “Mark, our baby is going to be ok.”

“Of course she is” Mark said.

“No, now she has been blessed.”  Because in my agnostic, alternative, always searching for our next meal upbringing the creator of the Hamlet was  the equivalent of a patron saint and he had just laid on hands.( so to speak)

It worked. Look at Vivien! She was a big, healthy baby.

built by love and #11's

I know what it is like to be the loyal customer who misses their favorite restaurant and to be part of the favorite restaurant who closes and misses its loyal customers.  It is a strangely superficial, yet enduring relationship.

My gratitude to Harry and Marilyn Lewis and their restaurants.  Without them I might have starved.





I always feel like I need to be doing when my kids are in school.  Advancing work stuff, or exercising.  Writing.

Not today.  I’m embracing my inner hausfrau.  I’m working on cripsy kale.  Some with red pepper spice for me, some without for me kids.  While I watch the Season Finale of Dallas. I went through 45 minutes of self loathing while I formulated this plan.  Then decided to go for it.

Here is what I have learned in the last 90 minutes.

1) who killed JR

2) TNT has really annoying repititve commericals when you watch their shows on their site.

3) pre cut kale doesn’t work well for kale chips because the stems are too pronounced.  Better to buy whole, tear.  Thus even though it’s a pain to dry greens, better not to get the pre washed type.

cut kale not as good

4) the salt ratio is best attained on kale when I mix the salt and kale and olive oil in a bowl as opposed to sprinkling on the pan

5) I have a little cougar crush on Josh Henderson

from perezhilton.com

6) with Kale, more oil is helpful

Let’s be honest.  In about 2 hours I pick up my kids, start on the homework, after school enrichment wheel.  It’s okay to test a recipe and watch one of my favorite shows.  Even if I have to write a blog to justify it.

My boobs stopped watching the Oscars and went to dinner

Weird show.  The start of the Oscars was choppy.  That Boob song was not right for a show at 5:30pm that the entire family is watching, but moreover it wasn’t funny.  I liked seeing stars perform instead of sitting in their seats.  I could watch Channing Tatum do…absolutely…any…thing.  But, the “let’s make it about me” Seth Mcfarlane thing was cringy.

Last year my brother in law Kevin Tent was nominated for best editing for “The Descendants”.  NOW that was exciting.  For four years I had to watch the show with an eagle eye on fashion as the co host of the now defunct “The Fashion Team” on TV Guide Channel.  With no dog in the fight I was inclined to be less interested.  Although, I like a lot of the films this year.  “Silver Linings Playbook” was my big favorite.  Watching this year with my sisters  and their families I got antsy.  I wanted to go see my husband.  This past weekend Mark did his first ever pop up.

A pop up is a temporary restaurant.  A chef will take over an empty restaurant space, or one that closes at night, make a limited menu for a limited number of days.  I arranged for Mark to do this with a group called This is not a pop up.  It was the first time he would be cooking for the public since Campanile closed.  I know he misses the interaction he had with his customers.  Unlike when he had the full staff of Campanile he and his chef de cuisine Chris Eddy made everything.  The cookies, ice cream, cheese grits, broth, everything from scratch, themselves.

Mark with line cook Jay, chef de cuisine Chris. Together again. Campanile in Exile

The weekend had gone well, but Oscars would take customers.  So I thought, “Why am I watching a bunch of millionaires win trophies when I could be supporting my hard working, talented husband?”  Carole came with me and we had Mark’s Oscar special “Argo fuck yourself lamb with mint yogurt.”  ( it’s a line in the film, takes place in Middle East)

Mark and my sister Carole at the pop up

Delish.  It’s a small place so we talked to the people next to us and convinced them to vote for Eric Garcetti for mayor.  We had the homemade creme fraiche ice cream with prunes marinated in brandy and shortbread cookies.

When we got back Cecily rewound the DVR for us so we could see Striesand sing “The way we were”  dang, that was good.  The Michele Obama thing looked odd.  If Ang Lee hadn’t won I would have won the Oscar pool.  Instead, my nephew won. Rex was asleep on the couch, Viv was exhausted.  Packed them up and went home with extra shortbread cookies in my bag for the morning.

Next year, unless someone I know is nominated, I think I will DVR the whole thing and sit out the live telecast.  I like to see the big numbers, the tribute to dead people, but the cringy, inappropriate stuff, I will pass on.

Speaking of pass…honey, pass me more of that mint yogurt you made.



Getting a mouth ready for Valentine’s day

I’ve put those trays on my teeth some evenings to brighten my smile.  Discolored teeth are so unattractive, but tough when you like coffee, tea and red wine like I do.


I got a pitch in the mail bag from www.ManhattanDentalArts.com . listing food that dirty your teeth and those that clean them up.  So, getting ready for kisses on Valentine’s day by drinking pineapple juice and carrying a straw to a wine bar.

1.     Black Coffee and Black Tea—The darker the beverage, the more staining that can occur. So try adding a little extra milk to lighten the color and reduce the staining effect.

2.     Wine—Both red and white wines if taken in excess will stain your teeth.   Although red stains, white wine’s acidic composition actually etches tiny grooves in your teeth making them more porous and more easily stained.

3.     Colas and Sports Drinks—Because they are so highly acidic, they help promote staining by other foods.

4.     Berries– Blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, cherries and other berries, although excellent for your overall health, can stain your teeth. So, if you’re crazy for berries, be sure to rinse out your mouth thoroughly with water after each indulgence.

5.     Beets—Now here’s a vegetable that could put a powerful stain in your t-shirt, so, like all foods that stain, moderation is called for with this one.

6.     Sauces—Soy sauce and tomato sauce, as well as other deeply colored sauces, are believed to have significant staining potential.

7.     Juice—Grape, pomegranate and cranberry are highly pigmented and can cause staining.  So, if you must imbibe, try rinsing your mouth out with water or drinking juices through a straw, thereby bypassing the fronts of your teeth

8.     Pickles and ketchup—These acidic foods are good at opening up the pores of your tooth enamel allowing for easy staining.

9.     Balsamic Vinegar—While great on a salad, causes havoc to your teeth.  If you must, try it on lettuce, which has a natural ability to provide a protective film over your teeth.

10.  Candy–Sweets contain teeth-staining coloring agents. If your tongue turns a funny color, there’s a good chance that your teeth will too.

11.  Curry—Although great on Indian food, this yellow-staining food flavoring can be harsh on teeth. So make sure to rinse thoroughly after indulging.

12.  Popsicles—Did you ever look at your tongue after you’ve finished your fruity, sugary pop? Not only does it color your tongue, but also your teeth.  Plus, it has added double whammy negative effect produced by all of that sugar. So, limit your intake and rinse with water after finishing.

12 Tooth-Whitening Foods 

1.     Apples and pears increase salivary production which flushes away stains over time.

2.     Pineapple acts as a natural stain remover.

3.     Carrots contain vitamin A which is needed for healthy tooth enamel.

4.     Cauliflower and cucumbers also help to increase salivary production the natural way to flush away stains.

5.     Green vegetables like broccoli, lettuce and spinach contains iron which helps form an acid-resistant film or barrier that can protect the enamel on your teeth.

6.     Shitake mushrooms help inhibit bacteria from growing in your mouth.

7.     Onions help reduce bacteria that cause tooth decay.

8.     Cheese is rich in protein, calcium and phosphorus, all of which can help safeguard the acids in your mouth.

9.     Salmon provides calcium and vitamin D, nutrients needed for healthy bones and teeth.

10.  Poppy and sesame seeds help scrub away plaque.

11.  Ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory to support healthy mouth tissue.

12.  Basil is a natural antibiotic that reduces bacteria in the mouth.

This is why you should cook for people

So few people cook that if you do they will think you are a rock star.

They will talk about how good your cooking is.

Especially if it’s a pot luck.

Rex’s school said they were doing a community night. Now, none of us parents really understood what that was.  I had been cajoling the room parent ( a dad, thankfully who gets acerbic humor) that we needed  a wine night for the parents to bond.  I’ve been down this road and after pre school the parents aren’t as much fun.  Let’s hang out while we still like each other.  But, this community night threw off our planned wine-o night.  Well, that’s okay, I’m sure it’s a chance for them to tell us how genius our kids are when they finger paint or some profound reflection about blocks.  Don’t we all want to hear that stuff? So we all trekked into the teeny, tiny classroom per instructed and brought something to eat or drink, per instructions.  I made a savory tart.

However, it was really a wine-o night in a teeny, tiny preschool room with teeny tiny seats.  One of the teachers was there, but there was no slide show about development or where they were going to go to college.  The parents are a great bunch and we did all enjoy the gab, but it would have BETTER to have been in full sized chairs. Also, there were only a few bottles of red wine brought ( my kingdom for a dry white) and when one latecomer brought in a  bottle after all the others had been drained, the opener had vanished.  I snuck into another group of captive parents to grab theirs. 

I hurt for them.  They were in the teeny tiny chairs IN A CIRCLE. No chance for sex jokes in that set up. They looked glum.  I ran back to my room.  “Ha, ha, the Dolphin room ( names changed to protect the innocent) is in a circle”

“suckers”  jeered one dad. As I tore into the last remaining bottle.  Back off I yelled, in my head, it’s all for me!

So, the other issue is the FOOD.  One other mom made meatballs, good choice.  There was a cheese plate on a dish that wasn’t level, so when you went to the cut the cheese (no fart joke intended) it kept flopping over.  There was a couple of other things in PACKAGES.  In some cases, not out of their packages. How appetizing. No one touched them.

I made an inadequate savory tart.  Ricotta cheese, some spices, carmelized onions on puff pastry.  I had high hopes for it, but it was a bit on the dry side.  I have done better in the past.  But, people like it, because so few people cook.  People don’t even know what home made food looks like anymore.

I could get evangelical, but instead I’m going back to the drawing board for my savory tart.

The morale of the story is: cook for people, they appreciate it and drinking is more fun in an area where your kids don’t nap.

Mean lunch lady needs a break

Inauguration! ( don’t like Michele’s new hair do)

MLK jr day!

No school!

I watched the first episode of Season 3 of Downton Abbey.  Disappointed.  Not as gripping and Lady Mary is becoming unlikable again.  Poor Mr. Bates.  When I told Mark season 3 is not as good.  He replied, “Does that mean we can have sex again?”

I’m so happy not to have the morning school rush.  I’m taking the kids to a friends pool.  The other day I was volunteering at Vivien’s school for lunch duty.  I put that fish net cap on and the power goes to my head.  I became the mean lunch lady.

kid “I don’t want salad”

me “You take the salad, you need to eat vegetables.”

After I had foisted salad on kids who no doubt chucked into the trash I was told if they take the fruit we don’t have to make them take the salad. But, I was mad to make some mark on these kids

kid “no salad, fruit”

me “Please?  Say thank you.”

The other moms looked scared of me.  Not sure.  We all had different native tongues so hard  to bond.

This recent mail I got didn’t improve my mood.

Are 40’s the new senior? Or is it the hair net?



don’t chase the party

My motto for New Year’s.  Granted it’s harder to chase a party with a 3 and a 7 year old in tow, but I wish I had figured this out when I was like, um 24.  It’s so magical when everything comes together.  Everyone is on the same wavelength.

For several years I had lovely dinners at Campanile on New Years with friends. But, the last few years I didn’t go as baby sitting is difficult and I was tired.  I started doing East Coast New Years.  Countdown at 9pm with a few friends at home and then lights out.

This year was the first in over 30 years that Mark didn’t work New Year’s Eve.  I’ve always had to share him with others.  So, Mark, Viv, Rex and I went down to Palm Springs and spent a couple of nights in a condo.   It was pretty cold down there, but we hiked one day.

We went to a kid’s museum where it’s a treat to pretend to be grocery shoppers. As opposed to when are an adult and it’s the dullest, most repetitive chore this side of unloading a dishwasher.

We went to the snow via the tram another day. It’s pretty fab that you can go from desert to snow in ten minutes.  We learned that our kids are as snow adverse as we are.  Two hours were more than enough for all.  Phew, was afraid I’d have to pay for skiing one day.  Let some other white mom do that.

Sure, first it’s fun.

Then that fluffy white stuff gets cold.  I think this is the moment when the Vivster turned on the winter wonderland.

So, that brings us to New Years.   No planning= magic.  Or at least managed expectations.  Otherwise New Years can be as bleak as Valentine’s day after a break up.

It’s easy to stay at home (or temporary, rented condo home) on New Years when we travel with one of the best chefs.  While Rex napped, Mark made a great dinner, anchored by his roast chicken.  Vivien and I watched “Empire Strikes Back”.  I felt like I was giving her a hit of the pop cultural crack pipe.  “THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE!” I gushed like a pusher.

Viv, “Why is that man in that black case?”  Since Star Wars runs through my brain as if it’s my own life it was odd to have to explain Darth Vader.

“Okay, I’m going to pause it.  Yoda just said to Obie Wan, ‘there is another’, Bookmark that.”

We had a our dinner.  Popped New years crackers with funny hats and toys. We were all chatting and laughing.  Toasting MP for his great dinner.

I asked everyone to say what were the best things about 2012.

“Okay!” everyone went along with me.  Mind you, had the kids not been there Mark and I would have been howling “WHAT a F–ing awful year!  We closed two businesses.  UGH”  But, instead I concentrated on the positive, “Kevin being nominated for an Oscar and Leslie’s wedding“.

Then I asked everyone to write down something they wanted to leave behind in ’12.   I asked that they stay private and that then we burn them.  Everyone was game.  I told Rex he could just scribble his down and think it. But, he said he wanted to share.

” I don’t like being in the car on the freeway.” I was sorry he mentioned it because there is scant chance we can go through 2013 without driving on a freeway.  If so, what does that do to the pain I want to leave behind in ’12? Maybe I can take more surface streets.  My belief in New Years Magic might be challenged.

We went out to the patio and watched the dregs of 2012 quickly burn.  I wanted to have a moment to mediate on us  leaving our hardships behind.  I wanted to allow our collective ritual to digest in our mind.

But, it was really cold and Mark spied the TV,

“Return of the Jedi’ is starting.”  They all ran toward the door.  As Jabba the hut spoke I interjected, “Hey, didn’t everyone feel good about that leaving behind, burning thing? ”  Silence. “That was good, huh?”

Silence as they were focused on trying to get Hans Solo unfrozen.

Princess Leia was in her bikini chained up.  “You know”, I said to no on in particular, use to being ignored at this point. “Carrie Fisher was starving herself and doing drugs to get that thin for this movie.” 6 eyeballs stayed focused on the screen.

The party had peaked.  It’s best to know when to wrap it up.

Happy New Year


it’s getting real

We are now 36 hours from the close of Campanile.  It’s been a month long wake.  Great to see people, lots of drinking, yet tinge of sadness.  It’s hard to write about as I’m going through.  I did finally cry yesterday.  I was talking to a total stranger. A friend of a waiter who had a kind face and without expecting I blubbered for a few seconds.

My sister’s said “we want to be there for you for the last night, to support you.”  Really, why?  I thought at first, so deep is my survival denial.  But, now it’s sinking in.  The epicenter of my husband’s professional life and that which we schedule most of our family life around is closing it’s doors.  Forever.


Will there be other projects, jobs?  Sure, but the place where my husband cemented his reputation, where I accidentally walked in one day and met the man I would marry and have babies with is closing.  Forever.

I saw the chef and restaurateur who are taking over the building in there the other day looking at the space with their architect.  Sizing up their remodel.  I said nothing.  I turned away.  LIke seeing a body measured for a coffin before it’s cold. That chef blabbed to a food blogger before Mark could speak to his staff.  I have nothing to say to him.

This reminds me of when I had to sell my house years ago post Madoff.  One more fucking loss.

I am an optimist and I always try to keep it together for my kids and show them that no matter what the core is our family.  But, I have to find a way to process this, feel it so I can move on.  I think that’s often the hard part for parents. How do you go through your own emotional crap without inflicting it on your kids?

I’m going to shoot “Vivien’s Campanile” today.

campanile kid

My support, sisters, mom, niece

A video of how she has seen it. Per her request I cannot share it outside of our family.  I want to record her memories, her special hiding places.  My dear step daughter Vanessa has come out from NYC for the close ( and happily missing Sandy).


It’s great to have her here.

our friend Jack
My sister Cecily and Mark

Hugs from friends and regulars

I still am not clear how I feel… maybe next week I’ll know.

Fine Dining Tramp

The announcement of Mark’s iconic LA restaurant, Campanile, closing has met with many stunned expressions.  Regular folk commenting on their Facebook page or in person how sad they are, how much they will miss it.  I love the respect and attention Mark and his staff are getting.

My sister and I couldn’t help injecting some humor into the final days. We created “Occupy Campanile” shirts.  The slogan, “So, we can still eat like the 1%”.  

I have had a lot of insomnia trying to conceive how it will feel on November first when we can no longer go there.  How will Mark feel?  I can’t wrap my brain around it.  They are doing a final blow bash on Oct. 31, all you can eat and drink for $89 ( the year they opened).  Black and White masked ball.  I’m taking the kids trick or treating, then deposit them with a sitter and go to the final soiree.

What time should the drunken crying start?

Lot’s of taxis will be called and I’m having the sitter spend the night and take the kids to school the next morning. I’m fully expecting Mark and I to be wiped out. I’ll be hung over, but I think we will both be emotionally exhausted.

However.. I’m enjoying every last minute of Campanile.  Vivien looks at me after we have done her homework, “Are you going out tonight, AGAIN?”

“Yes, I told you I’m going out a lot to the restaurant.  I’ll be home in November rocking back and forth in a dark room.”

Every night, it’s with someone different.  I’m a fine dining slut.  One night with my sisters and mom.  The next night with my friend Inge Lise, the other day I had a lunch date and a dinner date in the same day.  I walked to dinner to work off lunch. Two in a day. Such a fine dining hussy.

Then the kids and I got dressed up and met up with my “school husband” my co room parent Jasen and his son.  We also brought Flat Holden, a representative of our friend in Nashville, and enjoyed the last ever fried chicken night at Campanile.The next night I went there with a couple. Such a harlot.

Then I went with my entire dinner club, past and present, and a couple of babies.  It was my dinner club that lead me to meet Mark and then get asked out by Mark.

Magic moments have occurred here for me, and many others.  I’ve been so fortunate to have this dining salon to meet old friends and make new ones.  I’m not taking this lying down.  I’m sitting up, chatting and eating.

What a way to go.

Better start cooking: crispy eggs

Since Campanile is closing at the end of the month I’m going to have to step up my game.  Granted, Chef Peel will be home more so I might get some home cooked meals, but I am usually the cooker or at least the Executive Chef.  So, While I’m running to feast at my husband’s fantastic restaurant for dinner as much as I can I thought I’d start on breakfast.  When Vivien was little we went out to breakfast a lot, but Rex doesn’t have her ability to sit still so I’ve been working on creative breakfast for longer. This recipe came about the other weekend after I had made bacon for Rex. I cooked this in bacon fat with a small pat of butter for flavor.

1 corn tortilla, 2 eggs, ( you could use olive oil instead of bacon fat), butter, salt and pepper, boring taco cheese. When I do it again I will also add a little diced onion in the saute.

Cut up the tortilla in small strips. Put in iron pan with olive oil, don’t be stingy

I’m trying to make a crust.  Cook till you see it brown on the edges, about 5 min.

crack in two eggs and pierce the yolks to spread around.

throw on the pre grated taco cheese.  Could I use better cheese? yeah, but I always have this stuff on hand because the kids like it on their tacos and I’m in a hurry and don’t want to chop or grate anything in the morning.

then, flip it over

There it is.  It looks like fried potatoes.   I meant to eat half and give the other half to Mark, but I inhaled the whole thing.  I was full till 3pm!


I need a better name then “crispy eggs”.  Any ideas?