We are closed

Saturday night we closed The Tar Pit.

The restaurant we (largely) own.  Long story short, the landlady wants to raise the rent, we thought it should be less as the lease was negotiated pre recession. This has been VERY emotional.  We have a lot invested in it. Other people invested in it.  We have employees.  There was going to be no point in staying open with high rent. None.
We just had a triumphant night with Mark cooking with Roy Choi. ( watch that here) Best to leave while we are ahead.
When we made the decision I was sick to my stomach.  I said, “I think I’m going to shit in my pants.”

We had to leave to go to a food event Mark was working on.  Our manager would notify our employees.  Mark started calling the investors while I drove and the kids watched “Home Alone” and “The Wizard of Oz” in the back seat.  We didn’t want to be defeated, but in this economy we can’t be squeezed anymore.  We had made cuts were we could.  We had the best manager and the best chef we have had since we opened. Our staff was the kindest, least drama mama’s we had had thus far.  The drinks were the best.
But, the roof was leaking ( literally and metaphorically) and it was time to act.
I was glad we were away while the news sunk in.  Back at Dolphin Bay with the sun shining, a big suite. It forestalled reality.  People who fail don’t live here.  It was also good to be in close quarters with my kids. we are closed

On Thursday I picked Vivien up from school and when I said, “Vivien we are closing The Tar Pit.”  She started to cry.
“why mommy?”
“The rent is going to be too high.”

“This is bad mommy.  This is a lot of money.”  I cringed.  Had I said that to her?  I don’t want her to have money anxieties like I remember having.  It’s a fine line though, you don’t want your kids to be spoiled, but she is so little.
“We are okay Vivien.  We still have savings, we have our home.  Nothing is going to change.”  Then I took her for a cookie.

As we drove back to LA Saturday for the final night I was starting to feel better.  At least we aren’t living in indecision.  “have you talked to her Mark?  Did she change her mind?”  Even if it blew we knew were we stood. Poor Mark was miserable about calling his investors.
“Tell them we lost more than anyone.” I would say.  He would ignore me.  He actually sounded like a sound business person when he spoke to them not like a girl who feels bad about forgetting a lunch date like I would have, “well, I overslept and the cat coughed up a hair ball, and…”

As we drove down an idea started to form…this was not it.  We had spoken of this, but it started to really sharpen in my own mind.  We would take our barstools and shakers and go where we were wanted.  Where the rent was a reasonable percentage of the sales. Maybe, it would be better.

We got home and Oliver kindly watched the kids as I changed to go out for the final night and to thank our staff.  I will say this, we did create a lot of work the last couple of years.  With our own money we  were the job creators.  I have learned a TON the past couple of years.  It’s been like a really expensive Learning Annex course, “How to run a small business”, but with drinks.

“I know what to wear to an opening, but what do I wear to a closing?”
“Something with color” said Chef Peel, the eternal optimist.
When I got to The Tar Pit I had to wait 15 minutes to park.  That was a first.  The place was not only crowded, usual for a Saturday night, but it never waned.  I sat with an investor.  He was down, but hoped we would go on.  I saw some friends who had heard through the grapevine who came in.
we are closed we are closed

There were tons of people I didn’t know.  Old employees came in by the bucket.  It’s the transitory nature of hospitality that people come and go, but we have one server, Natalie who opened with us. She is so sweet and always wears a flower in her hair.
we are closed
Tonight she had a really big flower.  She got up and sang. We all cheered for her.

I was most touched by the chef friends who showed up for my husband.  Roy Choi walked in.  We can find a place for some people at Campanile, but most of our staff had just lost their jobs.  Roy gave his card to the kitchen staff and told them to call them.  He had ideas of where we could go.  He has a great appreciate for Mark.  I love that guy.
Govind Armstrong walked in.  We hadn’t told him. He just heard about it. He started working for Mark when he was a teenager and now he is a major chef in his own right ( just opened Post and Beam, which we will be going to later this week)  He was at our wedding.  I was glad he was there.
we are closed
Person after person told us where we should move, that’s a hot area, think that developer would love a Mark Peel restaurant.
I had to go and let Oliver go to sleep, but it was hard to leave.  We had all been up beat and I went around a few times to hug the staff.  I was in the bar well telling three of them, “thank you so much for all of your hard work,” and my voice cracked.  I had to get out. They didn’t need me getting soppy on them.
People had to be thrown out after closing.  Fingers crossed we will be able to welcome them back one day.
we are closed

My husband knows his meat

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAKzxDxzj9s]

In the ramp up to our one night only event at The Tar Pit Mark and chef Roy Choi visited the best butcher in Los Angeles.  Harvey Gussman is a legend to chefs in LA.  In France their is a great appreciation for a good butcher.  In our jumbo corporate food world this art gets lost.  But, you can taste the difference between a good steak and a lousy one.  It’s not just the chef, he needs the right tools. on Flickr”>meat
I learned a lot watching this video.  I also know that if I became a vegan my marriage would be in jeopardy.  Well, Mark says we’d have to go to counselling.

Check out two food legends discuss their knowledge of meat.  Food lovers, like moi, love this stuff.

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.

Diner home cooking and Roy Choi, Mark Peel Mashup

I get asked a lot “why do you ever cook? Your husband must do all the cooking.”
My standard answer is “if I am at his restaurant he does.” Even when Mark is home at night ( at most two nights a week) I am the executive chef and he is my sou chef.   I tell him what we have and what I was thinking, then he takes and comes up with something.  Is that something that would be featured on a special tasting menu at Campanile?  Not usually.   The kind of food a great restaurant makes is a little too involved for a family of five when small kids and one grown lady will get really cranky if they don’t eat on time.
Also, I have to remind Chef Peel about what the kids will really eat.  I use to say, “okay, we have sausages, broccoli, grape tomatoes and various pasta.”  Mark would cook it all, and spice it well, then he would put it ALL TOGETHER.  For a my little kids that was a big yuck.
“No, the sausage, must stand alone, the broccoli, must stand alone, and so on.”
I will never be a chef like my husband.  Not even close.  But, I have realized I am a diner cook.  If you walked into a NY diner and looked at the menu, that’s the kind of stuff I can do pretty well.  Chicken Milanese, fettucine alfredo.  My vegis are way better than a diner, though. When I want exciting food, I can go out.
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Speaking of going out. I’m very proud of putting together a special culinary event. Even people out of LA have heard of the Kogi truck.  Chef Roy Choi put delish Korean meats in a taco and a cult following was born.  He is a very creative chef who has branched out into restaurants without wheels as well.  I went to his latest restaurant, The Sunny Shack and loved it.  I knew Mark would love the adventurous spices, the stewed goat.  Mark kept back with me one night and they chefs were pleased to talk about their shared passion.  Roy had been a fan of Marks.  I said, “Hey, would you do a special night at the Tar Pit?”
Several weeks and our team and Roy’s great team meeting and such and an exciting night is born.  Here is the flyer the Kogi gang put together that I love.
choi peel

The event is almost sold out.  I don’t even have a seat.  I’m meeting with our managers today about the event and one thing on my agenda is, “can you guys set aside some food for me?”