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.

Campanile is closing: Roller coaster

I have felt like a jet pilot having to keep focus on the task at hand as missles are coming at me.  Steady.  I had to get some work that was on deadline as my sister Carole called, “Is it true?”  She said with pain in her voice.

“yes, it is”.  I had to hang up.

Word was leaked to the press that my husband’s famed restaurant is closing.  ( Just today a wonderful look at Campanile by Jonathan Gold and it’s impact was published in the LA Times)  It didn’t come out of the blue as he has been unable to secure a lease in years.

My stepson called from college that he heard about it from a text from a friend who had read about it.

Mark and his former wife Nancy Silverton started Campanile and La Brea Bakery more than 23 years ago.  They were a smash hit.  They had met at Spago and brought their collective talent to this project (after their divorce he bought her out and she went on to do other successful restaurants).   La Bakery was sold in 2001. They also must leave the space.

I feel like I have been on a roller coaster of feelings.  I’m trying to enjoy the place while it is here and express appreciation to the people who make it work.  But, one day soon when I drive by it’s shuttered doors it’s going to be like looking at a corpse.

Saving for college (sponsored)

As frequent coolmom readers may know my family had our savings stolen from us thanks to Madoff, Stanley Chais and other cronies.  My entire retirement, forced to sell our home and Vivien’s and my step kids college fund vanished.  Nothing like having your future put in jeopardy to focus the mind.  After that disaster I have become far more active and alert to the issue of building a nest egg.  As we all know, in the economy that might mean putting change in your kids piggy bank. And as you may have heard college costs are akin to the space program, so some planning is in order

Recently, a bunch of So. Cal bloggers converged in my favorite restaurant, Campanile, natch, to discuss saving for college.  As the wine flowed ( wine, it should be the official drink of motherhood) we discovered that the mom bloggers went from “What is a 529?” to a the super savvy “why is California one of only 13 states in the union that doesn’t give a tax incentive for 529’s?”

MY POV at dinner, lady on the right is the smarty pants who runs Scholarshare, far left always fun Sarah from MomsLA, and my new fave Kristen from Rage against the mini van. My wine glass at bottom of frame.  Dry, white, with minerality.

The dinner was sponsored by Scholarshare.  This is the State of California’s 529.  Each state has them, but only one per state.  If you are in the “what’s a 529” camp think of it as a 401k for children.  The money grows tax free until your child goes to college, or a trade school, not for a motor cycle.  Anyone can contribute at anytime… so if you would rather grandma not buy another Barbie for your daughter, ask her to put that money in the fund.  The reason Scholarshare took us out to dinner so we ( the various bloggers) would write about it is this:

1) they just started with a new fund. , TIAA-CREF which they are fired up about.

2) they have lowered their limit for entry.  To start get into their fund one only has to start with $25.

3) Contest!  Scholarshare is having a contest on Facebook till Sept 26th.  They want people to “tell their story” about saving for college.  Winners are chosen at random so if you don’t have a super sad sack story, it’s cool, you still have a chance. Two winners will get $1,529 ( get it, 529, get it?) for their kids, you guessed it, 529.

4) They have lowered their fees.  Since we have been rebuilding our financial selves Mark and I have been automatically deducting money from our account for our little kids into a 529 from a different state.  Thumbs up for that plan as I don’t count that money in my monthly budget, so I don’t miss it.  However, after this dinner I did think …hmmm I need to check my fees on our 529. (according to Scholarshare The annual asset based management fees now range from 0.18 percent to 0.62 percent, vs. 0.25 percent to 1.06 percent with old plan).   A child can have more than one 529 so theoretically I could open one with Scholarshare with the State of California and even keep the one in the other state.  I won’t say which one it is, but it rhymes with Ball Sacka.

Here is when I put the wine glass down and really started paying attention: I asked the well spoken rep from Sacramento what is in it for the State of California to get the word out about a fund that they don’t make money on? She said… wait for it… because they know that if people have 529’s they will cost the State less money. If people don’t save they are shelling out for more grants and loans.  Now, we know how bankrupt frugal this and other states are, and if their pencil pushers have crunched the numbers and figured 529’s offset their load they are probably right ( then I picked up the glass again)

Here I am listening, being interested and calculating in my head.

On that last shoot I did with my kids ( previous post) I tried to buck my kids up by telling them they were putting money towards college.  That does help Vivien hit her mark, but Rex countered in a sing song voice, “mommy, I’m not going to college.”  As he shoved red vines in his mouth taken from the craft services table (craft service is Hollywood for junk food) I’m going to chalk up his negative attitude about college to him missing Oliver.  However, if my 3 and half year old still feels like that in 14 and 1/2 years  ( oh, that is going to go fast) he can take the dough and go to junior college, carpenter school or I can give it to Vivien for her education.  No buying tattoos with this money.

No, not a motorcycle.

So, check out the plan, the contest also HERE.. sidebar… Scholarshare is sponsoring a talk October 17th that I am very interested in.  UCLA’s Dr. Dan Siegel will speak on “12 strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind”. I’ve read one of his books and got a lot out of it.

Chick-a-wrong-side-of-history

Here is my take on the Chick-a-fil-a CEO’s anti gay marriage stance.

Left or right when there is a dust up in the media like the Chick-fil-a controversy I usually tune it out.  Blah, blah.  But, between Sarah Palin and Pat Boone proudly buying their over salted chicken and me still looking at my watch waiting for Prop 8 to be overturned in California I snapped like a wishbone.

Before prop 8 was passed in California we had meetings at Campanile to discuss how we would revamp our wedding website to make sure it looked representative of all who could marry.  We talked about putting ads in gay publications.  No one cared who was coming to be joined at my husband’s restaurant, only ,”how can we cater to this customer?”  A Korean wedding is a little different than a Jewish wedding or a Catholic wedding.  Hospitality, our belief, is unjudgemental.  Open bar, great, Seafood raw bar, ok. Whatever. It was not lost on us that gay weddings could help our business.  Not transformative, but booking a one a month helps pay the rent.  So, we were all shocked when Prop 8 passed. I still believe some people voted accidentally.  They thought they were voting for tolerance, not against.  Yes on 8 was really a No vote.  Confusing.  Florist, caters, paper companies, a lot of small businesses lost when Prop 8 passed.  It’s one of the reasons I believe it will be overturned.  Gay weddings are a job creator!

My husband, Mark Peel, loves hospitality because he believes that his job “is to create magic moments for people.”  When he received a restaurateur award 7 years ago he gave a lovely speech where he said “People come to us ( hospitality biz) for the special times in their life.  We are a part of that.” I thought it was very dear.

Everyone should have their magic moments.  Bar Mitzvah, romantic dinners, baptism, weddings.  So, I was thrilled when Campanile put this on their Twitter and FB

“F-ck Chick-a-fil -a. Come have our Camp-a-nil-e Fried Chicken this Friday. Taste much better and we can’t wait to cater a gay wedding.”

Mark does make the best fried chicken.  He rarely serves it, but it was on the schedule for Friday. Why not eat really tasty chicken and tasty politics?

Most people cheered it, a few people did not like it and say things along the lines, of stick to your cooking.  These people remind me of those who told Martin Luther King Jr “can’t you just wait?”

I don’t get why people would work to block equal rights to gays.  Doesn’t everyone have someone in their family who is gay?  Okay, that’s my soap box.  Here is the funny.  Not my video, but cracked me up.

John Goodman as Colonel Sanders. Let me know your take on all this and watch this vid for a chuckle.

 

Memorializing and a quiz

Memorial day is a funny day to celebrate.  People died, that sucked.  But, nonetheless Vivien greeted us in the morning, “Happy Memorial day!”  It was a day off for her and the opening of her cousin’s pool for the season, so it was a happy day.

Later a big table of family and friends went to Campanile for it’s annual Memorial Day BBQ insert shot of me shoving pork ribs in my mouth, had I thought to take a picture).  We had three departed dads between us.  We toasted them.  My father was in the service during the Korean War.  He never left Virginia, but knowing my dad I bet he saw action!  ( ba- dum)

Sometimes there is almost a moment where you forget your loved one is dead.  The  next moment you think it can’t be true.

The food of course was great and I’m picking the rib meat out of my teeth still ( well, I ate leftovers for lunch).  My contribution to the dinner was making a Quiz for the diners.  I love games and I thought I would share it with you.  It’s from a variety of sources.  Answers below.

Have a good week.

1)These three holidays are tops in BBQing.  Please rank from 1 to 3

Memorial Day
Labor Day
4th of July

2) Decorating soliders graves took off during which war?

3) Memorial Day was declared a Federal Holiday under which President?

Grant
Wilson
Roosevelt
Nixon

4) The United States Naval Academy is located in what state?

Maine

New York

Maryland

Virginia

5)Their motto, “Semper Paratus,” means “always ready.”

Marines

Coast Guard

Army

Air Force

6) In which war did Deborah Sampson disguise herself as a man so that she could go to battle as a solider?

 

7) What is the Maximum Number of Dependents (under the age of
18) that one is allowed to have in order to enlist in the U.S.
Armed Forces?

8) Whose picture is on the Purple Heart medal?

A) President Lincoln   B) An unidentified soldier   C)President Washington
D) The First Secretary of Defense
a) One    b) Two    c) Five     d) No Maximum

9) In which war were tanks introduced?

10)
Which Country introduced them?

11)
What was the nickname of the B-17 in WWII ?

 

Answers below

////////////////////////////////////////////////////

1) 4th of july is number one, then Memorial, then Labor

2) civil war

3) Nixon… 1971 it became a federal holiday

4) Maryland

5) coast guard

6) Revolutionary War.  I was fascinated with her as a kid.  My mom use to take us to the Sisterhood bookstore in Westwood.  I bought a book called “The Secret Solider“.  How Debra Sampson disguised as a man fought the British.  She was found out when she was shot and they ripped off her pants to give her medical treatment.  She was cool.

7) 2

8)  Washington

9) WW1

10) Britain,  most people guess Germany, but there tanks were not great

11) The Flying Fortress

 

What a week

Oscars,

a death,

a stomach bug,

a big food event.

This has been the last few days.  Sunday morning I was at cheap hair salon in a rundown mini mall getting a blow out in preparation for Oscar night.  I went there because there is not a lot open in the way of hair on Sundays and it’s cheap.

My friends Heather and Nina, with her darling little girl Ruby, had road tripped down from San Francisco for the fun times.  Feeling good.

Then my sister Cecily called and told me her father in law Louis Mitchell had just died. Ugh.  My tummy started to hurt. Hurt for his family and recalled for me my own father’s passing.  So sad for my brother in law.  I knew he would feel the pain in his head, stomach, neck.  His father had been sick for a while, but it’s always a blow no matter how prepared you think you are. Now my brother in law was “in the club” as my friend Nina puts it. That means someone who has lost a parent.
“I can drop everything, do you need me?”  Cecily said no.  The Oscars didn’t seem quite so important anymore. Nevertheless, that hard lesson when someone you love passes is life does go on.  Although what was to be a total fun day had a tinge of darkness on it. It was also a tad annoying to have the guy who was doing my hair, “What happened?”

I told him.

“Oh, God bless, light some candles.  Light some candles.”  He repeated this so many times I was tempted to say “why is there a power outage?”  I wanted to be sad for the moment, but didn’t want to mourn next to this guy who reeked of tobacco who believed candles held the key to grieving.
I raced home to take Rex to a kiddie party, but he was asleep.  So, Heather and I decided to go and see if the Oscar attendees needed our help.  The show starts at 5:30 so Carole’s hair and make up lady arrived at 11:30.  Kevin got tickets to the big show for his brother and his wife, Meaghan and my nephew.  I was glad I showed up because I helped Meaghan with her hair.
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It was fun to see Carole getting all dolled up.  The nominee was relaxed.  He was jotting down a few things to say in case he won, but he wouldn’t share them with us.  The car arrived at 2, though they didn’t get in the car till about 2:45.
Heather said, “We have to get ready!”  So, back home we went.
Seeing Carole’s pro make up made me spend a bit more time on my own.  I was walking the red carpet , but was presiding over an Oscar watch party and Campanile and then Heather and I were going to the Fox Searchlight post Oscar party.
Rex said, “I want to wear something handsome.”  So, we put on his vest and good pants.  Vivien loves to get dressed up.  My mom had arrived at our home at 3pm and settled into watch the red carpet hoping for a glimpse of Carole and Kevin. We figured they wouldn’t do an interview with him on the big stations, but we might see him. She kept moving the channel around from E! to TV Guide ( oh people still work there?), to the our local coverage.  She didn’t see here.  Meanwhile I was getting texts from my cousin Mary and another friend, “I just saw her.”  “She is by Octavia Spencer.”
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Me, my friends, kids, mom, Mark and Oliver and Dolly our baby sitter went of to Campanile.  It was so cool.
The catering director had set it up perfectly.  He had a big TV set up on one wall and rows of tables in C shapes fanned to the back.  Friends of ours trooped in.  I ordered everyone to fill out their ballot. The winning one would win a $50 gift card to Campanile.
As the show began we were all craning to see if we could spot them.
“They are in Row k”  My mom started counting back from the stage, “a, b, c”  Then our friend yelled, “there she is.”
They were towards the back, but visible and Kevin was on the aisle.  My mom was chuffed.  We all knew what it meant.  Winners are sat on the aisle. Time seem to fly ( not something I usually say watching the Oscars.) The Oscars are more fun to watch with 42 of your friends and family while you served the best food in LA. I didn’t have a seat for awhile.  Rex had kicked me out of our shared seat, “mommy, go get your own chair.”  But, he got tired so Dolly took him home and I got to sit down in front next to my mom.  Vivien was happy hanging with her cousin and grandma’s.

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Cecily and Lily had shown up.  She had been tending to her grieving in laws, but said, “not to be insensitive, but I’ve got an Oscar party to go to.” They all understood, “Good Luck to Kevin.”.
All of a sudden it was the editing award. What?? Everyone figured his competition was from “the Artist”, as they were favored to win best picture. The day before the editor of “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” ( who had won last year for “Social Network” told Kevin, “I”m rooting for you.”) They showed quick clips of all the editors talking.  When Kevin’s face came up we don’t know what he said because we were all screaming.
“and the Oscar goes to…”Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
huh?
We all slumped our shoulders a bit as we saw my sister Carole in the audience mouth “Wow.”  The winners were behind them and she said they were surprised as well.
After a few minutes I got up in front of the crowd and said, “Okay, let’s all do this together, AHHHHH.”
Many of us were saying, “hey he was nominated!” or “he will be back”.  Cecily said, “I’m taking this harder than everyone else, I just wanted some good news today.”
We did get one thing to cheer about Alexander Payne, and his co writers took the gold for adapted Screenplay for “The Desendants”. He is one of Kevin’s best friends and good person.  It would be the pictures only win, I’m glad they got something.
We also whooped it up when we got some more good shots of Carole and Kevin.

Particularly when they gave an ovation to Oprah, James Earl Jones and the other special award winners there was a shot primarly of them clapping and smiling.
“>oscar
I got texts from my cousin “great shot of Carole”.  People were cheering for Kevin all across the country.  His family who live outside of Buffalo even had a story about their watch party.  With a world full of cynics it’s sweet when people root for each other.
Party was done and all departed.  Heather and I drove up to the after party.  Some of the stars of “The Desendants” were there.  My nephew and his aunt and uncle.  We heard about their time at the Oscars.
After a while Carole and Kevin showed up.
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The were in a great mood, it was all exciting even without the win.   Then a big cheer went up.  Alexander had walked in holding his gold.  It took him a while to get to us and when he did I asked if I could take a picture with he and his Oscar.
“Only if you hold it” say things that make me love you more.  Heather snapped the picture.  But the flash didn’t go off.  I turned and Carole, Kevin and Alexander had walked out the door.  I went after them.  “What’s going on ?”

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“We are going to the Governer’s ball”  Carole said.  It was perfect timing because I was exhausted, but I was gouch enough to want my picture.  So I asked Alexander fro a retake. In reality he obliged kindly, but this picture makes me look like a crazy stalker and he like he just had root canal or perhaps fears the crazy stalker.
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I’m not going to kid you.  I was trashed the next day.  Trashed.  I can’t stay up till 12:45, and not be.  Plus there was so much emotion in the day.  I cancelled everything on Monday to spend time with Cecily.
Tuesday I woke up sick, sick, sick.  I’m just coming out of it now. But, since I’ve only eaten jell-o and tea I’m almost at my ideal weight!
Tonight is the big Mark Peel Roy Choi mashup that I came up with ( yeah me!).  I’m telling my tummy to get it together because I want to eat the great food.  The event is sold out.
Ah, La Vida.

Teaching Kids About the Farmers Market

Hey, I posted this vid via a blog post awhile back; it was connected to a deal with Hillshire Farms. I felt it was good enough to tweak and run here as a feature. (Sidebar: we do buy Hillshire Farms deli meats and love the reusable containers.) I am hopeful my kids get a sense of what REAL food looks like. The bumps, the imperfections, the sweetness and full flavor.

How do you get your kids to connect with plant life? Nature? Or do you?

Moving, yes, again

This is the third time in the three years of doing cool mom that I tell you about my move.  This is much happier than the last move though.  We have been looking for a long time.  I have spent many, many nights after the kids are asleep surfing the real estate sites.  It’s in a different area (cheaper) than were we live now, but still close enough to Campanile and Vivien’s best friend.  That was important.

We, like many of you, are not out of the woods of this deep morass called the Great Recession.  Last week we closed The Point, Mark’s cafe in Culver City.  We had to stop the bleeding.

As always, my little ones are my sunshine.  I am excited for them…and for me too.  I really hope I get to keep this house.

Kids on the Floor

Eating in restaurants with children is a subject that is near and dear to my heart; obviously because my husband (www.chefmarkpeel.com) is a chef and restaurant owner.  This means that my kids and step kids have spent, and will spend, a lot of time in restaurants.  I see it as a great Eloise-like upbringing, but I know my stepsons don’t always think so.  Often when the cupboards are bare at dinnertime, I have said to Oliver, “We can go to Campanile for dinner or I can heat up this bagel for you.”  Nine times out of 10 he would take the bagel. Restaurants aren’t a treat when you’ve been in them your whole life, I guess.  My little ones are happy to go with dad to work.  In fact, they are a little bent when we don’t take them.  “Mommy is meeting a friend for a cocktail” doesn’t seem to work so well.  I usually say something like, “It’s going to be so boring. We are going to talk and talk and I won’t let you run up the stairs (as they do when the restaurant is closed).”

If I am taking my kids out for a dinner I would rather give my husband’s place the business.  Also, we get a discount (not 100% as my husband says that wouldn’t be right. Of course not! Who said ‘comped’?  I didn’t!). Most of the staff knows my kids by name so if I have to go to the bathroom I don’t worry about Vivien sitting by herself as every server and hostess knows her.  If I have Rex with me (aka More of a Handful) then I can say, “Can you put me in the back where there are fewer or no diners?”

Which leads me to this vlog:  My other strategy for restaurant eating (see here for tips from my life pre-Rex) is to get a corner table. Recently, though, I have found other parents I dine with aren’t in total agreement with this policy.  It even greatly upsets some.  What do you think?