My co-worker Mark C. and his husband – who is also named Mark – live in a hidden oasis of just west of Atlantic Avenue in Bixby Knolls. Their neighborhood, which is known as the Virginia Country Club, is made up of wide, old-fashioned streets from the days when Long Beach was known as “Iowa by the Sea.” A few blocks away are mansion-esque homes that have been used extensively in films to stand in for places like suburban Chicago in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and the fictional town of Middlesex, Virginia in “Donnie Darko.” Even their house - which Mark C. jokes is on the lower end of the country club food chain - was used for a Domino’s Pizza commercial once.
On our way to the First Friday artwalk on Atlantic, we stopped at The Factory, a family-friendly gastropub that opened in 2009. Ordinarily, you would not expect to find tempranillo and temper tantrums – thankfully, we did not witness any of these – under the same roof. But The Factory beckons to one and all and to bring the kids for mini Happy Cow burgers and grilled cheese.
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a fig lollipop?
Perhaps it is this playful spirit that inspired the fig lollipop tapas, which were hands-down our favorite appetizer that night. Organic dried figs that are stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon and drizzled with a fig balsamic reduction are probably not for the Tootsie Pop set, but their parents, aunts, uncles, and babysitters will love them. They taste like the holidays: sweet, spicy, and porky, all at once.
The world may never know.
Mark B. and I had Bixby Blue Burgers made with 10 oz. grass-fed beef patties and Mark C. had the Drunken Seafood Noodles, a global wonder made with Japanese udon noodles and smoked Spanish pimenton . We didn’t have room for dessert, but really, we had already had it with our inventive appetizer.
Tangled up in blue: More of the odiferous queso on the Bixby Blue burger.
Ironically, “The Factory” was also the name of Andy Warhol’s original studio throughout the 1960s, and was the legendary site of wild parties whose guest lists – and probably crashers – included the likes of Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, Truman Capote, Martha Graham, and Mick Jagger. Definitely no kids allowed.
Spicy udon noodles with shrimp and calamari in a mini-paella pan... It's a small world, after all.
Long Beach’s First Friday doesn’t boast a lot of celebrities, unless you count the denizens of Gallery Expo, which include David Rodriguez and Douglas Orr, the former owners of Atlantic's dearly departed Four Olives Café. The pair has turned their talents to curating shows of Long Beach’s best and brightest at Expo. The cornucopia of painting, sculpture, photography, and found object art – we really liked the “robots” made from a variety of vintage electronic parts and tools – was a great ending to an eclectic evening with great food and new friends.
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