Food Diary, Vol. 2: Day Three.

10.08 am: Warm milk with honey.

12.21 – 12.29 pm: Split half an apple with Keith while watching the Battle at the Berrics semifinals.  I spread mine with peanut butter, which I then get all over my fingers.  I’m messy.

1.30 – 3.30 pm: This is technically supposed to be brunch at Craigie on Main with Keith, Kelly, Nancy and Jonah, but since it’s after noon I say it counts as lunch.  I have something like three cups of coffee, all with cream and whatever sugar cubes Jonah doesn’t eat, as well as a yogurt-drenched fruit cup with some amazing figs, grass-fed and house-brined corned beef and tongue hash with a slow-poached egg and crispy onion rings and chocolate-smothered profiteroles with what is supposed to be mint-chocolate ice cream but really is just overwhelmingly minty.

6.35 pm: Coke Zero and half an order of large fries from McDonald’s while  we drive to New York. Keith eats the other half while I lick the salt from my fingers.  I know fries aren’t the healthiest choice in the world, but I love them so.

8.11 pm: A bite of Keith’s banana-walnut bread from Starbucks.  I’m the one driving at this point, so I pretty much cram the bread into my mouth in a very unladylike fashion.  My mother would be so ashamed.

10.06 – 10.46 pm: At my parents’ house, where I drink one of my dad’s Beck’s and share two and a half lamejun with the dog. He doesn’t mind that I’ve sprinkled my food liberally with fresh lemon juice.

11.15 pm: Two glasses Torii Mor Late Harvest Gewurztraminer with Keith and my parents while we discuss dogs, nightmares and Thursday’s Thanksgiving menu.

Ben/Franzen Update.

Things are still going well for my friend Ben, who has been likened to Jonathan Franzen by his local Starbucks barista since JulyThe last I heard, she was reading The Corrections and loving it; now it appears she has gone straight to the phase in the coffee-maker/coffee-drinker relationship where nicknames are given and endearments are exchanged.  Here’s the latest text from Ben:

I am now officially known as Franzen at Starbucks.  As in, “Hey Franzen, how’s your morning?”

As someone who has never had an easy sort of grace with strangers, I’m incredibly jealous of Ben’s rapport with this mysterious and literary caffeine peddler.  Then again, I don’t look like Mr. Franzen — which, as a woman, I think is a good problem to have.

More On My Friend Ben + Jonathan Franzen.

A while ago, my pal Ben sent me a hilarious email; in it, he described an interaction between him and a Starbucks barista who was convinced that Ben was Jonathan Franzen‘s doppelgänger. Apparently the resemblance holds, since Ben recently texted me the following:

Same barista. I still look like Franzen. She’s reading The Corrections. It’s living up to the hype.

I think this story will always make me laugh and, regardless, it’s as good a way as any to link to an essay penned by Franzen for MIT‘s Technology Review about “cell phones, sentimentality, and the decline of public space.” For those of you who haven’t read any Franzen, it’s a great introduction: funny, honest and thoughtful. Come to think of it, the same words could be used to describe Ben. Maybe they are the same person…?

Starbucks Employees Are Literary Like Me!

Here’s the thing about my friend Ben: he’s an avid reader, a voracious film-goer and a lover of music. He also, in my opinion, happens to look a great deal like Jonathan Franzen, but blonder. I’ve never ever informed Ben of this, for no particular reason, so imagine my delight when I received the following email from him:

from: Ben
to: Nayiri
subject: My afternoon conversation with a Starbucks barista.

Barista: Grande iced soy latte for Ben.
Me: Thanks.
B: Do you know who you look like?
M: No. Who do I look like?
B: Do you know the writer Jonathan Franzen?
M: I do.
B: That’s who you look like.
M: Oh. Well… thanks… I guess…?
B: [shrugs] He’s a good writer.


Breakfast at the North End Café.

I was so excited that my friend Ben was free to meet up for an impromptu breakfast this past Saturday. The only thing hampering our plans was the fact that none of us were remotely familiar with Manhattan Beach. Keith and I hadn’t the time to explore; all we had seen was a very unscenic stretch of Sepulveda dotted with P.F. Chang’s, California Pizza Kitchen, IHOP and Jack in the Box. Determined not to end up at Starbucks, we settled on North End Café on Highland, which we discovered simply by Googling.

The café is quite easy to find; there’s not way anyone could possibly miss its chartreuse-colored building, let alone the line wrapped around the front. The key is most certainly in arriving early, something Ben, Keith and I lucked upon.

Aesthetically, North End Café leans toward industrial chic, with concrete slab floors, stainless counters on casters and fans from the Modern Fan Company. The clear showpiece of the space, though, is the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking 35th Street. Not only do they let in massive amounts of light, but they also open up the café, which is actually very small.

The menu is completely egg-centric; I think there are only a few choices that don’t rely on eggs at all, but avoiding North End’s eggs is just plain silly. Even Keith, who’s not a huge egg-eater, cleared his plate.

I chose the Neapolitan Toast — grilled bread filled with fresh aged mozzarella and checca, with a side of Italian eggs ($8.75). As far as coffee went, I had been engaged in my regular hemming and hawing (Did I want a latte? A cappuccino? An Americano?) when Ben pointed at what is destined to become my caffeinated version of a soulmate: the Medici — a mix of espresso, chocolate, orange zest and milk ($4.75 for a generous medium). Trust me when I say it tasted as amazing as it sounds.

You may not be able to tell from the photograph, but it’s not one, but two sandwiches stacked next to the pile of cheesy, herby, tomato-y eggs. While the flavors were all bright and fresh, I had the following three small issues:

  1. the eggs, though delicious, left vaguely unsavory tracings of oil all over my plate;
  2. the sandwiches would have been leagues more enjoyable had they been toasted just a smidge longer, fully melting the cheese within; and
  3. I wish the bread used had been something heartier, something with greater depth, for these slices made me think a little bit of Wonder Bread.

You know what though? None of that matters; I’m being needlessly nit-picky because, truly, I had a really great time at the café. It was a sunny morning, one of the firsts I had been able to appreciate for a while, and I was eating a tasty breakfast with two people whose company I love. What could possibly make a meal better than that?

North End Café
3421 Highland Avenue
Manhattan Beach, California 90266

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