My brother and I were avid bike riders growing up. After the training wheels came off, we went from our sporty models with the gold metallic-colored banana seats and “sissy-bar” attachments to the sleeker 10-speed Schwinns and really bicycled all over the place. Perhaps that’s what made me so reflective about taking my own kids out for maiden spins on their respective Spiderman, Disney Princess and Thomas the Train bikes. T, A and X definitely looked ready for some serious riding in their helmets and pads.
But it’s a real double-edge sword: there’s that obvious sense of fatherly pride seeing the two little ones cruising side-by-side and T riding a two-wheeler without any assistance for the first time (interestingly enough, this all took place in the presence of my parents who happened to be visiting from Florida), and then in the very same moment that feeling of, “Uh, I’m getting old.” Wasn’t it just yesterday that I myself was pedaling away, not a care in the world except for the omnipresent anxiety of falling if my dad let go of my seat and “sissy-bar”?
Sentimentality aside, packing the kiddies’ bikes into the back of the minivan and heading to an empty parking lot is without question one of my favorite family activities. Like any all-American kid, they all love bike-riding, and living in L.A., perhaps there’s an X Games in one of their futures? (someone certainly has the appropriate first initial for it!)
Surrounded by the Pink Taco, the recently opened The Counter and Gulfstream in the northwest corner of Westfield Century City, the beautifully-appointed RockSugar was Irene’s choice to celebrate her day-before-Mother’s-Day lunch with our clan. You can sense you’re in for a special dining experience from the moment you walk through the cavernous entry hall and approach the hostess stand.
“What’s that big cabinet for?” Athena asked pointing at an oversized armoire adjacent to the reception area. The answer to that question would be revealed later when we received a “claim check” from the server and instructed to pick up our leftovers (neatly packed in a retail store-like bag with a number tied to the handle) that were waiting behind the armoire’s doors.
Once inside RockSugar, we were seated at a circular table on a 1,850-square-foot outside patio, where the kiddies were immediately taken with the waterwall screen directly behind us (the 7,500 square feet of indoor space has an equally cool vibe with its booths, bench-seating, Burmese Buddha statues and gold leaf-overlaid columns).
Complimentary rice crackers with toasted sesame seeds were set down on the table as we perused the menu. It didn’t take long for an appetizing Pan Asian selection to catch our eyes: Irene went for the Green Curry Chicken ($13) served in a cast iron pot complete with handle that included a stew of eggplant, chayote, sugar snap peas, Thai basil and Jasmine rice, and to drink: a Mojito-like Lime-Mint Squash ($4.50) to drink; I had the Vietnamese Short Rib Sandwich with Seasoned Fries ($13.50); the boys shared the Thai Glaze Sliders ($14) and fries; and Miss A dug into a noodle offering of rice vermicelli on a bed of chopped lettuce, cucumbers, julienned pickled carrots topped with thin slices of short rib meat, egg roll-style pieces of Imperial Roll and roasted peanuts ($12). And the Yuzu Lemon Crush beverages were right up their lemonade-loving alleys.
RockSugar was definitely the perfect special occasion setting.
*SIDE NOTE: RockSugar gets its name from small rectangular sugar rocks — a milder version of sugar cubes that impart a slightly sweet flavor into the glazes on many of the restaurant’s dishes.
“That was the best lunch EVER!” Okay so those may not have been T, A or X’s exact words complimenting my (overly?) customized Bento Box lunch prep on a recent school day but they have been known to make such enthusiastic declarations in the past (for example, just after tucking in Xander one night, he said to me, “I love you more than God and Santa”. Wow I thought, that’s pretty high praise there).
But I digress, so back to my Super Amazing Fun Time Bento Box lunches. If there’s one thing I’ve learned serving the kiddies any kind of food, it’s all in the presentation. If it looks fun, it’ll taste fun. Plate it up on a skewer, for example, proceed to play it up and you’re good to go.
Digression No.2: I’m the savory guy and Irene is dessert queen, which does not go unnoticed by the kiddies; as Troy will regularly pronounce, “Papa is the chef and Mama is the baker. He makes really good dinners and she makes great cupcakes.” Athena nods her head in agreement while licking the homemade cream cheese frosting off her pumpkin muffin.
Final thought on the merits of the compartmentalized lunch: a trio of little things tends to go over much better than a larger sandwich that can come back to you nibbled at and/or balled up — not to mention the hassle-free clean-up when their respective Bento containers have been licked clean.
They know the morning routine on school days: get dressed, breakfast, brush teeth, shoes, jackets, out the door by 7:50. Yet they have to be repeatedly told to stay on course from the aimless wandering and other assorted distractions (the one that tends to rattle me is the bellowing conversations over their Cheerios while I’m busy making three lunches). I understand they’re 4, 5 & 8 and need regular “reminders” to FO-CUS but, man, how and when will the concept sink in to their little brains? In the interest of keeping things constructive, I’ll add an analytical takeaway: it’s pretty amazing a kid’s ability to shift gears from the seriousness of being disciplined to a minute later playing happily with a sibling. As adults, we could take a cue from this adolescent “ability” instead of dwelling or brooding over a disciplinary action and move on in a more rational manner (but I guess if we were capable of having the requisite patience, we’d all be teachers)…….