Ladies Who Wine :: The Social List

Ladies Who Wine :: The Social List

It’s been a while since we’ve had one of our Ladies Who Wine outings, so there was a big turnout for our visit to The Social List on Long Beach’s Retro Row, those attending ready to be social, and to make lists (of all the food and drink they planned to suck down).

The Social List easily gets your attention if you’re driving by. It begs you to stop in with its pale yellow façade, its bold lettering letting you know you’ve arrived; its patio seating and windowed doors summoning Long Beach inside while the aroma of their perky food, their hearty brews floats out onto 4th Street. Settled on a corner near the Arts Theater and The Center LB, The Social List holds its own with other culinary favorites in the area, like Lola’s and Number Nine.

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This outing’s beverage lesson, provided by Nora, educated the table on beers. Sour beers, which until last night I’d never heard of. They’re made tart from a careful balance of bacteria added during brewing, a risky trick though an oft-practice one in Belgium. The art of developing a pleasingly soured brew has spread to the US in recent years, Nora informing us that sour beers are what all the cool kids are drinking. We followed up our lesson with a practical application, ordering a couple bottles of Silly Sour to share. I adopted one of the bottles as my own once the table had a try at it, the taste reminding me of a cool summer shandy, though not as sweet.

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In addition to beers, we munched on small plates and a couple of entrees. I quite enjoyed my chicken apple cinnamon (!) sausage, a different choice than my usual type of go-to fare. I’d get it again, along with the patatas bravas and the butternut squash and onion jam toast.

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We had a special guest in the form of Kristina’s cousin from Paris, so in addition to sour beer, I got a quick schooling in European geography. And with French, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin, and Portuguese speakers around the table, I was able to practice many a foreign language – and to give my not so pleasant British accent another try. They say it tends to drift toward Jamaican. Despite my likely offense of certain groups, it was another fabulous time indeed with the Ladies, our lesson, and our love of food. The Social List is certainly a place we’ll have to check twice and then some.

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The Social List
2105 E. 4th Street on Long Beach’s Retro Row

Tasty Places :: Number Nine

Tasty Places :: Number Nine

My fro-worker Kristina sits just beyond my office door. If I need her attention, I can hypothetically toss a stress ball in her direction with a good chance of nailing her in the back of the head, even with my bad aim. Behavior like this is generally frowned upon, especially since I’m her boss.

This past Tuesday, I didn’t throw anything her way or yell out her name but instead loudly drummed my nails on my desk until she finally turned around (I can be annoying like that). I asked her if she’d even been to Number Nine on Fourth Street, as I’d unwittingly come across their website – their tagline: noodles + beer. She told me that yes, she’d been to Number Nine and added that she’d once offered me an invitation to join her there – didn’t I remember? – for bún, for phở, for bánh mì, to which I’d emphatically said no. But that was Diane of a year and a half ago. Ethnically unadventurous Diane. Bland-palated Diane. These days, I’m new and different. Okay, slightly so.

But Number Nine intrigued me. So the idea soon came for a visit the next day; a treat for those of us unfortunate enough to have to come in to work on Christmas Eve. We labeled it Lunchmas, seven of us taking the ride to Retro Row during our lunch hour – the first to arrive as we were anxious to get away from the office in an effort to speed the day along.

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The simple starkness of Number Nine hits you right away when you walk in. Clean and bright and quaint. I love spaces such as theirs, although I commented that it’s really suited for dainty folks. Looking at the benches, I couldn’t imagine bringing my six-six husband there, especially if we couldn’t get a seat along the boothed wall. My husband sitting in the little chairs would be a similar experience to him trying to get comfortable at back-to-school nights in my kids’ early elementary school days when he had to fold himself into the desk chairs meant for 7-year-olds.

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Didn’t matter for us. We’re a small bunch so we fit fine – disaster averted. And anyway, we were there to feast, though we couldn’t help but wonder how much better our meal would be if we joined it with a cold beer or glass of wine. Perhaps it was the anger talking, a few of us puffed up with envy at those who had the day off when some of us talked of just ordering a drink anyway – who would find out (I was warned not to take any pictures)? What was the big deal? It was lunch! But when our waitress came to take orders, the most salacious beverage ordered turned out to be the lemonade, noted as pleasingly sour by its taker.

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Water it was. We were big talkers. What we lacked in alcoholic beverages, however, we made up for in our dishes, with a full round of appetizers brought in. And I got two entrees just because I was feeling a tad crazed (I didn’t make it halfway through either one).

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My take home lesson here was that I need to open myself up to new dishes. This was my first bún endeavor – cold vermicelli rice noodles served with vegetables and a choice of protein (I did five spice chicken and crispy shrimp). As happy as I was for this discovery, I’m bummed that it took me so long to try it – their chicken was beautifully grilled, both sweet and succulent; the crispy shrimp delightful little nuggets that soaked up the juices, the sauces from the noodles; the noodles themselves firm and flavorful. And with bún, you get egg roll! – a crispy, finely fried delight – I might order a dozen or so of these on my next visit. And while the seats might be dainty, their portions were not. My leftover game was on point from this meal. I even held back while enjoying Christmas Eve dinner so that I could return to my remaining noodles in the fridge later in the night.

So who knows what new find I’ll fall in love with in 2015. I’ve yet to go for it fully with Korean or Indian or sushi spots. But I know there is surely another bowl or two or 12 of Number Nine’s bún in my future.

Number Nine
2118 E. 4th Street in Long Beach
(and one other location in Hermosa Beach)

Tasty Places :: Berlin Bistro

Tasty Places :: Berlin Bistro

It might be a habit now since I’ve gone twice in the last three days. But Long Beach East Village’s Berlin Bistro easily got to me. For months, I’ve been wanting to try this spot on a purely superficial basis – it was cute. Glass and wood and retro fluorescent lights. Then, I checked out the menu and was even more intrigued, deciding I had to get over there – for their coffee, for their sangria, for their reasonably priced lunches, for their $20 brunch selections with endless mimosa.
So I did it. I went there to eat – alone. Was off of work but needing to go downtown to pick up my kid and my mom from Denny’s (yes – Denny’s; that’s where the Amtrak “bus” drops off riders in Long Beach, and my mommy will ONLY do Amtrak). So I figured, why not? Even by myself, because I wanted the experience so badly.

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A Succulent View of the Coffee Bar
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Cappuccino
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Caprese Sandwich and Pomme Frites

Though crunched for time, I was thoroughly impressed with it all. The food, the ambience, the service, and the staff’s ability to help me forget how not hip I was. I was definitely left wanting a Cheers moment, hoping to be called out by name the next time I visited.

Which would be two days later. However, those working on my second visit included a brand new cast. Still friendly, however. This time, I didn’t eat solo, my street food dog Kristina literally eating on the street, Berlin having its own “parklet” patio, taking up the equivalent of two parking spaces in front of the restaurant.

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Me, parked

The only downside to my Berlin experiences was that the second time around, I chose the sunny spot and got a little heated. Still, the food, the street, the slight adrenaline rush at the risk of being sideswiped by a Long Beach garbage truck – it was all good. All great, really – their fries especially. I’ll return one weekend for brunch, and one evening for sangria. And again and again and again until finally those people know my name and scream it out as soon as I walk in the door.

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Kristina’s Burger
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Bistro’s version of fish & chips
The most AMAZING garlic fries on the continent
The most AMAZING garlic fries on the continent
Margherita flatbread
Margherita flatbread

Berlin Bistro
420 E. 4th Street (at Elm)
Long Beach. CA 90802