Monday, May 26, 2008

For The Dodgers, The Clayton Kershaw Era Begins Today

20-year-old lefty phenom Clayton Kershaw holds the St. Louis Cardinals to 2 runs in 6 innings in his Major League debut at Dodger Stadium.

The future, as we know it, begins today.

Billed as the second coming of Sandy Koufax, the arrival of Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles has, for some, been more anticipated than this week's arrival of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And with Kershaw's near-dominating start against the National League leading St. Louis Cardinals, apparently all the pre-premier hype was right on the money.

The six-three Kershaw, the Dodgers' number one pick in the June amateur draft just two years ago, has been compared to Koufax so often that the expectation might be one of acceptance at being the next great lefty in Dodger history. So far, the Dallas native will have nothing of it.

"It just means somebody thinks highly of you. I put enough pressure on myself, I don't worry about what other people think or say or talk about."

Kershaw's new catcher, All-Star Russell Martin, has this to say about the rookie.

"He doesn't look scared, he's not tentative in any way." And, "[He throws] the best curveball I've ever caught."

For the record, Kershaw allowed two runs on five hits over six innings, walking one while striking out 7. Kershaw threw 102 pitches. He left the game with his team leading 3-2, and had no decision in the game won by the Dodgers in 10 innings 4-3. Kershaw struck out the side in the top of the 1st inning, allowing a run on an Albert Pujols double that was misplayed by Dodger left fielder Juan Pierre. Throwing 32 pitches in his first Major League inning, the pitcher, who only two years ago was still a senior at Highland Park High School in Dallas, settled down. He allowed just one more run, in the 6th inning, and worked out of a two on-two out jam, retiring catcher Jason LaRue on a fly ball to Pierre to end the inning.

And as for the next appearance for The Future of the Franchise? Manager Joe Torre has already said Kershaw will remain in the starting rotation, "as long as results justified it." Based on today, the next time will be this Friday night, in New York, against the Mets.

From now on, the spotlight on Kershaw only grows bigger and brighter.

In spring training, Torre has to stop himself, just short of comparing the then 19-year-old to the greatest left-handed pitcher in Dodger (if not all baseball) history. Reminded that Kershaw only has two pitches, a mid to upper 90's fastball and that nasty 12-6 curve, Torre, who faced Koufax often during his own big-league career, said:

"There was a left-handed pitcher in this organization with only a fastball and curve and he was pretty good," said Torre. "But I don't want to put that kind of pressure on him. He's not too far away from the changeup. He's got it; it's a matter of locating it."

Just ask the Cardinals if Kershaw's "got it". And in five more days, ask the Mets. You could ask Koufax, who spent this spring mentoring the composed-beyond-his-years kid, but Koufax doesn't do media.

Baseball gods aren't required to.

As for Clayton Kershaw's reservation in that place where the gods of baseball dwell...

C'mon! He's twenty!

But if it happens, you heard it here first.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Along The Java Trail: The Healthy Bean

"HEALTHY" COFFEE? Follow Bill Friday along the Java Trail. Next stop: THE HEALTHY BEAN.

Mmmm, coffee. It's good and good for you.

Right. And people believe everything politicians, televangelists and Art Bell tell them. But there are some things you'd like to believe. Ice flows aren't melting, smog in Beijing will be gone by August, and coffee is actually good for you.

I want to believe.

The Healthy Bean, The World's First Healthy Coffee , is a thoroughly new concept in the world of high-end, gourmet coffee. So new that the first HB location opened less than a year ago on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. Today, I dropped in on the second HB in Torrance on Hawthorne Blvd. just south of the Del Amo Mall. And since I've driven past the Torrance location maybe 300 times since it opened, I figured it was time to find out just what "healthy coffee" is all about.

Walking through the doors, the first thing I noticed was how the Feng Shui was flying: High walls painted bright red; other walls of green bamboo and black lacquer shelves filled with mugs and things for sale; a warm yellow ceiling above and big, comfy brown leather chairs throughout make the place look inviting without making you fell like you just stumbled into three rooms of moth-chewed furniture crammed into a Public Storage vault in Height-Ashbury. Not that I'm hatin' the Height, I just like a coffee house where there's a better chance of finding liquid soap in the restroom dispenser than there is finding one filled with patchouli oil.

But I wasn't there to review restrooms. I've learned that lesson.

The second thing I noticed was the incredibly friendly staff behind the counter at The Healthy Bean. Maybe they'd been drinking some "healthy coffee" in between customers before I got there.

And finally, what I noticed were the prices. A small cup of black coffee goes for a stiff $2.25! That's over 40% higher than the equivalent drink at Starbucks. Other items on the beverage menu are also kind of pricey. For example, all of The Healthy Bean's large (20 ounce), flavored hot beverages will run you $5.80. A similar drink at Starbucks still comes in at less than $5.00.

So if "healthy coffee" is worth the weight-in-gold price tag, I decided to find out why.

According to the literature, the idea behind The Healthy Bean came from co-founders Ray Basa and Violeta Cristobal in 2003. Basa spent 17 years in the nutritional supplements industry with companies such as GNC, Weider, Atkins and Bally's Total Fitness. Cristobal is a CPA and a long-time marathon runner. The two, both originally from the Philippines, took the idea of dietary supplementation plus the idea of the retail business model, and after several years of test marketing, opened The Healthy Bean.

So what makes 'healthy coffee" healthy?

According to The Healthy Bean, their coffee is "...infused with high levels of antioxidants and whey protein...".


As the story goes, "One 12-ounce serving of Healthy Bean coffee contains the combined antioxidant power of one cup of green tea, one cup of grape juice, one cup of pomegranate juice and 1/8 cup of wild blueberries, and as much protein as a [half] glass of milk."

Sounds like someone watched a lot of I Love Lucy re-runs in their formative years. Or like The Healthy Bean should be selling bottles of VitaMeataVegiMin on the shelves next to the French presses and coffee mugs.

So like any good secret shopper, I ordered "one 12-ounce cup" (Italian roast), sat down in a comfy, brown leather chair, and with no idea what to expect, I drank.

It was... good. I mean, really good.

Served to me in a to go cup with a chocolate covered coffee bean placed on the lid like a mint on a hotel pillow, I actually liked this "healthy coffee". Enough that after finishing the first cup, I ordered a refill, this time decaf French roast - just for research. Also good. Better than expected good.

And strong. Not strong as in harsh-bitter, party-of-two strong. I mean powerful strong.

I've been drinking coffee since I was 17-years-old. Lots of coffee. I'm nobody's coffee lightweight. Yet, after one cup of caffeinated and a half-cup of decaf from The Healthy Bean, I was buzzed. The kind of buzzed where your face tingles and you swear you've been playing drinking games with the staff of BrooWaha San Francisco. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I just didn't think a few antioxidants would give me the same feeling as a couple of cans of Red Bull.

But will anybody else join me in a "healthy", $2.25 cup of regular coffee when a gallon of regular gasoline now tops $4.00?

Well, I'm over the buzz now. It's been a few hours and I haven't felt the need for another cup of coffee since. Usually by now, I'll need to make myself at least one more cup just to make it to the end of the day. Today, not so much. Of course, at $18.00 a pound for a take home bag of beans, maybe I don't want to need another cup before the end of the day.

So should you try The Healthy Bean? I would recommend it. At least until the FDA finishes their report on the effects the antioxidant/caffeine speedball*.

The Healthy Bean is located at 23211 Hawthorne Blvd. in Torrance. Hours vary by day. For info call 310-373-5696. Visa /MC accepted.

*Bill Friday is not aware of any such FDA study. If you are, or would like to participate in one, please follow the link at the end of this article, where you can be helped by a cell/molecular biologist in your area.

Copyright © 2008 Bill Friday

Monday, May 19, 2008

Along The Java Trail: First Stop... Moon Donuts

Today, Bill Friday begins his Summer of Java tour of the South Bay (after all, he's still afraid of what the folks at Peet's might do to him). First stop... MOON DONUTS.

MOON DONUTS. I've been a semi-regular here for the last... jeez, fifteen... sixteen years. At the corner of Torrance Boulevard and Prospect Avenue, Moon Donuts remains the corner landmark in a half-sized strip-mall of broken dreams on the eastern edge of South Redondo.

Over the years, this corner has seen it's share of food and retail come and go: a dry cleaner, an ice cream shop, a multi-station, Internet gaming center for Halo-obsessed, forty-year-old virgins, a French pastry shop where, in the afternoons, the owner's dog was allowed the run of the kitchen (I kid you not!), a very cool, under-capitalized, used book store, another dry cleaner, a discount cigarette and bong emporium, and a Pizza Hut. Yet through it all, Moon Donuts has remained, dealing out a fantastic array of glazed, chocolate raised and jelly filled pieces of nirvana one - or one dozen - at a time.

Owner Steve still remembers the names of the regulars who sit at his counter, unhurriedly enjoying their daily fill, washing down these highly-risen beauties with only the purest form of "donut coffee", Torrance's own roast, Farmer Bros. coffee.

Now officially, I don't count Farmer Bros. as coffee, but as this is the first in a series of Java Trail reports, Moon Donuts gets a pass on the coffee rating based solely on the good will built up by Steve and his family for almost two decades of serving the best round mounds of acid rebound in the South Bay.

And the fact that their are at least twenty coffee houses within a 10 minute drive of Moon, non of which can touch the pastry perfection of just one of Steve's plain cake .

Moon Donuts is located at 1000 Torrance Boulevard, Redondo Beach. Open Monday through Friday 4am to 6 pm; Saturday 4 to 7, and Sunday 4 to1. And if you need special quantities, call them at 310-543-1867.

Copyright © 2008 Bill Friday

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bill Friday And Fat Bastard Eat A Dutch Baby At The Original Pancake House

Bill Friday and a special guest taste for themselves the specialty of the house at the legendary Redondo Beach eatery The Original Pancake House.
"A restaurant review in three-and-a-half acts."
9:58 a.m.
I stood waiting in the parking lot, the heat rising in waves from the black asphalt. My guest had two minutes before I tossed my melting flip-flops into the trash and headed to the nearest Peet’s Coffee for a sourdough hockey puck and an iced coffee to go.
It was two minutes to ten and already so hot my lungs were starting to sweat.
I turned to head for my car.
“Bill Friday, ye dead sexy man!”
The voice thundered through the gray, humid air. I thought I felt the first drop of rain.
“Hey Friday! Ye promised me a BABY and I’m here to…
Behind me in the parking lot, I heard a small child scream. I turned to see her mother scoop her up and hold her tight. Mom looked like she didn’t know to run or ask my guest for an autograph.
“I want my baby-back-baby-back-baby-back, I want my baby-back-baby-back-baby-back…”
He wore a kimono, and his hair was swept up on top of his head, held there by a leather thong. He wore wooden slippers on his stocking feet.
“Oooh, what a beautiful BABY! Hey Mommy! Bring me that BABY! Hey BABY! Get in my BELLLEEE!”
Baby screamed.
Mommy ran.
Well at least he was on time.

10:03 a.m.
Inside The Original Pancake House, a Redondo Beach legend since the 1960’s, my guest and I seated ourselves at a table in the center of the restaurant. The place was packed. It’s always packed. I slipped the manager a five-spot and he showed us to a table.
I took the chair. He took the bench… and the bench at the next table, too. The air conditioning began to take effect. My lungs felt drier and my guest’s skin looked a little less waxy.
Our waitress came to us, pad in hand. She was young and thin and looked like Carrie Ann Inaba. She looked unsure, like a schoolgirl trapped in a locker room full of varsity wrestlers late on a Friday afternoon. From three-arms-length she asked us if we knew what we wanted.
“Fook ME!”
“No! Fook Yu you Fat Bastard!” she shouted back.
A lot like Carrie Ann Inaba.
“I came for The BABY!”
She didn’t bat an eye.
“And coffee… black. I’m watchin’ me girlish figure.”
She giggled like a school girl too. She looked at me and smiled.
“Make it two.”
She started to leave.
“Oh, and a side of ham… and another side of ham… and… let’s just make it two babies, three sides of ham, and… well if I need something else I know where to find ye, eh?”
He looked at me, at the waitress, and back at me. Loud enough for the whole place to hear he said,
“I love it when a woman will still talk dirty to ya’ over breakfast!”
Still giggling, she left our table. As she went, my guest leaned in close, as if to whisper something to me.
“I wonder if she has a sister.”
10:26 a.m.
My guest and I made small talk while we waited. I asked him if he still kept in touch with any of the old gang. He said little Scott e-mails him from prison now and again. I told him I still see Foxy when she’s in town. And that news woman keeps calling… what was her name…? Oh yeah, Leyna Nguyen.
Our waitress was back, trays of food on each arm. None of it for me. She off-loaded the two babies.
My guest looked confused. It was the look of a starving man when you hand him a fishing pole instead of a fish.
“What in the name of all that’s EVIL is this?”
“It’s your order you Fat Bastard!”
“But I ordered BABIES! I’m here to eat BABIES!” The waitress giggled. She set the “Babies” down gently in front of my guest.
These BABIES you order! No other BABIES on menu!” She looked at me and giggled.
“You that writer guy… Friday?”
Tentatively, I nodded.
“I like writers. Sister like writers too.”
She leaned in, close.
“I give you baby soon.” She smiled. “Maybe sister give you baby too.”
Giggling again, she hurried to the kitchen.
“This is some full-service joint! And I LOVE these BABIES too!”
And who wouldn’t? The “Dutch Baby”, an Original Pancake House creation, is like a cross between a soufflĂ©, an omlette, and a stack of pancakes, all in a one-foot-in-diameter-sized pastry. A special, tropical syrup is optional, but recommended. Combined with any of the available sides, just one baby is enough to make anybody full for the rest of the morning.
Anybody except the Fat Bastard sitting across the table from me.
“Now if I could just get the number of that waitress and her sister…”
My guest finished his sides of sausage using only his plate as a utensil. He knocked off the last of the babies, then delicately sipped his black coffee.
He looked sad, like the experience of eating two Dutch Babies somehow wasn’t enough.
“Friday, d’ya know why I eat?”
I shook my head.
“I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat. It’s a vicious cycle. I once lost a lot of weight on the Subway diet but now… I’ve got more chins than a Chinese phonebook!”
His whole body seemed to shake with the effort truth. One of his chins smacked into the cup in his hand, spilling the coffee onto the enormous plate. Looking down at once was two babies, he spoke softly.
“I do still seem to have a bit of excess skin though, don’t I?”
He looked me in the eyes.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s someone I need to get in touch with and forgive… ME-SELF!”
His cell phone rang. He looked to see who it was.
“I have to take this… It’s Goldmember. HALLOO? Johan, y’dead sexy man ye, how’s…”
After what seemed like nine months, the waitress finally delivered my baby. I told her I didn’t want it anymore. This seemed to bother her, but I had no idea why.
“After all I do for you, now you no want BABY! All writers alike… BASTARD!”
“I’m not The Bastard, HE’S The Bastard!” I struggled for words. “Maybe he wants the baby!”
“Not his baby!”
“Are you sure about that?”
She burst into tears, held the baby to her chest, and ran for the kitchen.
“Come back! Fook Me!...”
“No Fook Me! Fook Yu!”
And she was gone.
11:01 a.m.
Back in the parking lot, my guest was still on the phone.
“Absolutely Johan! I’ll be right there!”
He closed the phone and tucked it somewhere inside his kimono. God only knows where.
“Friday, I’m off to meet an old friend for coffee. He says there’s this great place on Avenue G… looks like a colostomy bag exploded in the bathroom, but the House blend is to die for…LITTERALLY! AHH, HA-HA-HA!”
I asked him if he needed a ride. He told me no, that the walk might do him good.
“Y’know Friday, life’s short. Too short to hold a grudge. And it’s a long road ahead and… ahh, who am I kidding, I’m gonna kill him anyway!”
Sweating again, he turned to go up PCH. I thought about going with him for coffee, but I burned that bridge a long time ago. My phone rang. I answered.
“Friday organization... Number Two...? No , more like forever!... Starbucks in the Village...? Oh, and give my love to Leyna!”
I hung up and started walking toward Riviera Village.
The Original Pancake House is locataed at 1756 S. Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach. You can call them at 310-543-9875 for hours, directions and other questions about the "Dutch Baby". They will, however, deny all knowledge of the writer known as Bill Friday.