“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged
to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” ~ Nelson Mandela
How do we come to know a person or a place, or associate a taste with a place, or a place with a person? Or a person with a taste, a scent, a memory? In the end it’s all one big web of connections. When I said a very last minute yes to my friend Azadeh, to go to food writer and blogger David Lebovitz’s book launch at Camino in Oakland (to take the place of Trini Campbell of Riverdog Farms), I had all of these visual and visceral flashbacks to Paris 14 years ago; of Camino the first time I had been there on a double date, the last time I had been there also for a book party, with a few flashes of moments in-between ~ both of Paris, and of Camino. I also had visions of PARIS, almost yearnings, since I had thought we’d make it there this summer as a family; but a family of four to fly there was ridiculously expensive last minute… So I thought this was a cheaper plan ~ to go to a book party for a Chez Panisse alum who is known for his conjuring of living in Paris.
But I’ll confess. I hadn’t heard of David Lebovitz until a couple months ago, and can’t quite remember who it was who first said his name. When I asked my husband Lloyd if he knew who he was, as if I were filling him in on a big secret, he looked at me and was surprised that I didn’t already own his books, read his blog or asked him to a salon dinner. Sometimes I come (very) late to things; and when I thought I had “discovered” this insightful and humorous blogger, whose “national platform” ~ very new words to the latecomer me ~ was something to emulate, I finally dug in. I bought his first and most recent books, have made a bunch of his recipes, even subscribed to his blog; and I’ll admit I’m hooked, especially since there will be no Paris for us this year. His bi-weekly posts about food, his recent book tour through the United States, or more recent travels through Sicily, fill in for me that desire to travel and be elsewhere, because at this moment in my life, as a mother of an 8 and 11 yr old, I need to be very much here.
PARIS. For me it encompasses it all. It is FASHION ~ the first time I was introduced to Yohji Yamamoto (a specific coat, which I still own and love; and his boutique) was in Paris 13 years ago, by film-maker Jean-Pierre Gorin. It is FILM ~ during that same trip, I got to hand deliver to the the master of visual language Chris Marker (La Jetee, Sans Soleil, Koumiko Mystery) Ken Burns’ jazz documentary series, on VHS. Over the years it has also come to mean Ratatouille, the Pixar film my husband Lloyd worked on for a couple of years, and just finished the ride that is opening in Disney Paris this summer. It is Funny Face, one of my kid’s favorite films because of its style and believe it or not, dance scene which Royal and August love to “interpret.” It is the finale of Sex and the City, when Carrie’s tulle skirt in front of the Eiffel Tower became the impetus for a collection of tulle that we eventually shot in Cuba for my Summer 2005 Collection…It is THEATER and OPERA. I remember traveling 16 years ago on the RER to my friend Peter Sellar’s re-working of a Kurt Weill piece with Bach and Brecht at Bobigny outside Paris. It’s strangely even MUSIC ~ it’s how I think of MC Solaar, Bach, Serge Gainsbourg, and also Ricky Lee Jones, in concert. Closer to home it is one of my favorite stores Maison d’Etre and all of the tangible things I’ve collected over the years that come from or remind me of Paris. Paris is also Cuba, Rick Owens, Italy ~ time spent with my friend Franckie Diago (who I met at the Havana Film Festival) who directed me to the Palais Royal for another object of inspiration in the form of a Rick Owens harness coat I still wear and has inspired numerous interpretations for collections. And with Franckie we had one of the most memorable Italian meals in a tiny living room of a space, eating white truffles on egg parpardelle.
However, it is most evocatively for me, WINE ~ my first transformative moment of truly understanding wine’s appeal happened at Willi’s Wine Bar with Lloyd, when I first drank a glass of an Henri Germaine Meursault. I’ve been in love ever since. Paris is also a way of LIFE and LIVING.. encompassed in the Baudelarian FLANEUR and for me in the idea of the social cafe and wine bar, interwoven into peoples’ lives, as they move through their day. It is wandering the city with Oliver, Ethan, Camille, Ramona who have lived there, written about it, know its landscape… And it is Les Deux Magots, La Cremerie, Cafe de Flore ~ three very special places, and three distinctly different times in my life.
Above ~ Drinking Roulot Meursault with Raj Parr at Zuni; Many Meursault, including an Henri Germaine at Salon Dinner #38; my co-host Chad Arnold with Ridge’s Paul Draper, and wine exporter Drake McCarthy (who was the distributor of the Henri Germaine to Willi’s Wine Bar, Paris).
I admit though, that for me FOOD is always directly linked to Italy (along with coffee) and so as I was leaving to go to Camino for “research” ~ on Wednesday, May 7th ~ I posted a memory image of my first porcini hunt last Labor Day during Telluride Film Festival’s 40th Anniversary with my good friends Angelo Garro and Charlie Hallowell. I see Angelo every couple of months, and the next time that I saw him after our Telluride adventure (where he raised over 100K for his Omnivore Salt) was at David Tanis’s book party at Camino. It was the last time I had been there…And for me both Angelo’s dinners at his forge, and David’s dinners at his apartment in Paris were my two inspirations and visuals I had for my salon dinners. I was so amazed by what both of these very different types of cooks could do in their respective kitchens, that I thought why not try it in my own atelier.
Above ~ at David Tanis’s book party at Camino, with Davia Nelson, David and Angelo Garro last fall; our table at Camino; Charlie Hallowell, Angelo and I with our 60 pounds of foraged porcini at Telluride Film Festival, during its 40th anniversary, 2013.
Above: Dinner #43, April 19th 2014, (menu inspired by David Tanis, Cal Peternell, Erin Scott, and Bon Appetit) co-hosted with Melanie Abrams and with guests (starting from left) Ilisa Barbash, Noah Cowan, Marilyn Rabinow, DJ Gugenheim, Danya Devorah, Hannah Eaves, Joyce Maynard, Xandra Castleton, Yiyun Li, Dapeng, Kate Sofis, Jonathan Marlow, Caitlin Sherman, Robin McCroskey, Vikram Chandra, Paul Rabinow, Meredith Brody, Joe Orrach, Liz Hasse, Tom Barbash, Julia Scheeres and Jim Barringer.
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man,
then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you,
for Paris is a moveable feast. “
~ Ernest Hemingway
And that was what I was thinking whilst driving to David Lebovitz’s book party. And here is what I saw, ate, and delighted in and in the end discovered how Camino fits into my life. For me the tables are for gatherings, first and foremost, particularly for that fine balance of knowing a handful of people but also meeting lots of new people, who are all coming together to celebrate a common cause, person, philosophy. It’s a space that brings together a feeling of celebration. Its interior is an evocation of different places at different times, but simultaneously situates you amidst amazing food, a beautiful atmosphere and a sense of joy in living and communing with friends.
Above ~ a collage of images from David Lebovitz’s book party at Camino: our table with Azadeh Fakouri, Annabelle Lenderink aka Annabelle’s chicories of Star Route Farms, with friends; Azadeh and I; Collin-Peter Casey and Tess Bryant; Camino Chef Russell Moore, Rockridge’s Maison d’Etre’s Fred Womack and Patty Brunn, and Allison Hopelain with David Lebovitz and Omnivore Books’ Celia Sack.
Those evenings at Camino for both David Tanis and Lebovitz’s book parties also made me think about how we juxtapose our experiences, transform them from another person’s metier into one’s own, and how one’s own creative work can then inspire another’s. It all becomes wonderfully interchangeable and evocative as one aspect of culture metamorphoses into another…and it’s through memory ~ sometimes faded and slipping away, at other moments as crisp as it was happening only moments ago ~ whether an image from childhood (the opening passage of La Jetee), a Proustian madeleine that comes through remembering a specific taste, a smell ~ or recollections from the past, triggered by a suggestion. I love that memory is unpredictable and spontaneous, sporadic, at times false. As frightening as the idea of forgetting is, we constantly create new memories. After having David Lebovitz’s delicious dinner, interpreted through the hands of Russ (the chef at Camino), I thought about how one ingredient can continually be interpreted as food, as fashion, as text…
On BEETS and CARROTS ~
“The beet is the most intense of vegetables…Beets are deadly serious. Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets. The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip… The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies. The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”
~ Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
“If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth
and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. If we chew every morsel of our food in that way
we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Above ~ “Carrots” in the foyer of Chez Panisse. “Carrots” from my Chez Panisse Collection. Daniel Patterson’s dish with fermented carrots at COI.
“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”
~ Pablo Picasso
Above ~ Ben and Chris Ospital of Modern Apparel Clothing in SF, from whom I first bought Parisian-based Japanese designer Tsumori Chisato; Creative Growth pieces on display at MAC in Hayes Valley from the Berkeley Art Museum runway show; Ben with Dirk Van Saene of the Antwerp 6 at my Chez Panisse collection/installation at The Gardener August 2011; Installation from my Chez Panisse wine collection; Lloyd and I eating in the kitchen at Chez Panisse, with Chef Jerome Waag. David Lebovitz with wine distributor Michael Sullivan.
Above ~ last image in Le Jetee; my 4th street studio cutting/dinner table; the same La Jetee finale image in La Jetee Bar in Tokyo, Japan (from fall 2014)
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“I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering,
which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember,
we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten.
How can one remember thirst?”
~ Chris Marker, Sans Soleil