Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a food website/blog that views the New York City + Los Angeles dining scenes through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated, critical, adorably quirky, and culinary-obsessed thirty-something year old.

Just consider me your one-stop NYC - and, most recently, Los Angeles - shop!



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(NYC) From where to sip cider to the best bars to catch the football game: Fall for Fall with Foursquare's "Ultimate NY Fall Guide"

In anticipation of my upcoming trip to NYC (ahem, tomorrow!), I couldn't wait a second longer to post this outstanding NY-centric Fall guide!  It's got everything, from the top orchards for apple picking to the city's best bars to watch the football game! 

Per the list, below, I've highlighted some of my favorite tidbits...but please find the full lineup *here.*  Enjoy!

Photo found on: offmetro.com.

Where to Watch FOOTBALL

There are 248 Sports Bars in NYC:

  • 54: # of flat screens at The Grayson, the East Village’s new football-watching spot
  • 23: # of stops on the 1 train from Times Square to Bronx Alehouse, the no. 1  sports bar in NYC overall (on 238th Street, in the Bronx)


The Resurgence of CIDER

When American settlers came to the New World, they found barley hard to grow, so they turned to apples for cider. By the 18th century, New England was producing over 300,000 gallons of cider a year. A lot of the apple trees planted by “Johnny Appleseed” didn’t survive prohibition however, and Americans later started planting and eating apples as snacks.  Hard cider didn’t regain popularity, until... NOW!

Union Square Greenmarket

“Sweet cider still out-sells hard cider but hard cider is on the rise.” -Samascott Orchards, Kinderhook, NY

    6 vendors sell sweet cider
  • 2 vendors sell hard cider

Wassail: NYC's 1st cider bar (12 ciders on tap, 100+ by the bottle)

*Wassail (def): The traditional practice, dating back to Medieval England, of singing to the trees to foster a bountiful harvest.



Forget Sleepy Hollow! These are three spooky spots right in NYC:



*As picked by the Foursquare community:



Best apple picking locations by state:

*Did you know that New York is the second-largest apple producing state in the country, next to Washington State?  Peak season for picking: September 1 - October 25



BEGINNER Peebles Island State Park, Waterford, NY

    Perimeter Trail, 1.8 miles
    • FOURSQUARE TIP: “Do the hiking trail around  the island. The walk along the water is beautiful.”
    • POPULAR NEXT STOP: The Snowman, Troy


    Blue Trail, approx. 2 miles, Inwood, NY
    • FOURSQUARE TIP: “Witness the changing colors of the leaves while trailing through the last remaining, naturally occurring, native hardwood forest on the Manhattan Island.”
    • POPULAR NEXT STOP: Indian Road Café, Inwood

ADVANCED Bear Mountain State Park

    Appalachian Trail, 6 miles, Bear Mountain, NY
    • FOURSQUARE TIP: “Beautiful when the leaves change color during the fall. Great Oktoberfest event but don't go during the last two weeks. Mad packed.”
    • POPULAR NEXT STOP: Woodbury Commons, Central Valley

OVERNIGHT Mohonk Preserve

  • High Peters Kill Hike, 7.5 miles, New Paltz, NY
    • FOURSQUARE TIP: “The most beautiful, if not most intense, hiking in Ulster County.”
    • POPULAR NEXT STOP: Mohonk Mountain House New Paltz



Sakuro Martini

‘Nduja Pizza

Pesto Meatball Sandwich

Orange Wine

Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich

  • Fuku, East Village

Jams Chicken

  • Jams, Midtown East

Wasabi Guacamole and Japanese Pancakes



B & H Dairy, East Village (Now reopened)

  • WHAT TO ORDER: Vegetarian matzo-ball soup

Black Seed Bagels, NoLita

  • WHAT TO ORDER: Bagel sandwich with tobiko spread

Russ & Daughters Cafe, Lower East Side

  • WHAT TO ORDER: Super Heebster: bagel toast, whitefish & baked salmon salad, wasabi-infused fish roe, horseradish dill cream cheese

Sadelle’s, SoHo

  • WHAT TO ORDER: Everything 2.0 bagel with Nova lox

*An outpost of H&H Midtown Bagels is scheduled to open on the UWS this winter



“Comfort Food” is a trending taste in the Fall.  And, speaking of this season...

  • In the Fall, people search more for pumpkins than they search for ice cream in summer - but beer beats both tastes all year long!  Here are some of our favorite haunts:



  • Corn vs Corn Dogs vs Sweet Corn
    • Of the three tastes, corn is the most popular with a rise from mid-September to early November; corn dogs spike in late October; sweet corn is small and steady.
  • Funnel Cake vs Caramel Apples
    • Funnel cake fervor starts to rise in early July and peters off; caramel apples take off in Fall.
  • Chicken Noodle Soup vs Fried Chicken
    • Chicken noodle soup may be food for the soul—and especially desirable in Fall—but of all soul food, fried chicken is by far the most popular year-round.


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


(NYC) Fighting cancer with music...and mezcal

*This post was written by The Style Gourmande and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by The Style Gourmande.*


Yellowchair - a free, membership-based social media network for foodies - collaborates with chefs, restaurants, interesting venues and brands to create one-of-a-kind culinary experiences.  Members have access to curated dinners, tastings, private events and culinary adventures making it the perfect backdrop for “Dinner with NEW friends.”  And the ideal sponsor for last week's agave-infused dinner at Casa Mezcal, hosted by Corey Wade (third place finisher and first homosexual male contestant on America's Next Top Model, musician, TV personality, and LGBT spokesperson) and Sound Affect, a platform that partners with celebrity musical artists to promote their appraoch to revolutionizing the war on cancer.  Pretty cool, eh?

Our famous - and gorgeous - musical entertainment for the eve: Corey Wade (Photo courtesy of Yellowchair)Casa Mezcal is a modern and eclectic Mexican restaurant located in Manhattan's super hip Lower East Side neighborhood.  And, given its name, the perfect venue for a mezcal-fueled dinner!

We were given 2 types of mezcal to sample: Los Amantes (thrice distilled) and Santa Pedrera (twice distilled).  While each version of the spirit delivered the traditional smoky flavor and aroma, the Santa Pedrera‘s notes were much heavier - or shall I say fuerte!

Aside from the chips and salsa/guacamole, the first dish to be presented was the "Chapulines estilo Oaxaca"  (Translation: Toasted grasshoppers seasoned with salt and lime).  I could only bring myself to eat one.  It wasn't that the insect tasted bad...I just couldn't get over what I was eating!!  And that crunch!  (Squirm!)

Grasshoppers!!! The second dish we were served was the Queso con Yerbasanta (Translation: pan fried cheese wrapped in santa herb and served atop tomatillo sauce with tortilla on the side).  As a self-professed cheese'oholic, I could not have been happier. 

Post dinner, Cory Wade was our entertainment for the night!  He sang tons of awesome cover songs and had the most sultry voice.  After his performance, he sat down with us and had a few shots of mezcal!



Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle


(NYC) I got crabs...and I loved it!

*This post was written by Eric V. and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Eric V.*

In honor of Singapore Restaurant Week in the Big Apple, yours truly was invited to attend the Singapore Crab Throwdown at The Daily Meal Kitchen & Bar!

Hosted by The Daily Meal and the Singapore Tourism Board, this exclusive cooking class was led by influential Singaporean chefs, Justin Quek and Wayne Liew, who flew in especially for the celebration!

Check out the drool-worthy menu lineup, below:

After a quick introduction of the program - plus an overview of Singaporean cuisine (and its pan-Asian Chinese-Malay-Indian fusion) - by the staff at The Daily Meal, the first live demonstration commenced. 

Singapore Chili Crab

Chef Wayne Liew, of Keng Eng Kee Seafood (plus his brother and sister who also work at the family-run restaurant,) explained that Chili Crab is a traditional Singaporean dish and a favorite in the city-state.  Although the team wasn't using Sri Lankan mud crabs in this particular preparation, which are preferred and used at Keng Eng Kee, local crabs made for a sufficient substitution, especially when dressed with a mélange of flavorful ingredients, including: Sambal, chili, sweet and sour sauce, and a pinch of sugar.


Chef Wayne Liew's Singapore Chili CrabSalted Egg Yolk Crab

Chef Liew and the Keng Eng Kee team also prepared a twist on the traditional Singaporean entree, Salted Egg Yolk Crab.  This salty egg yolk "powder" is a Chinese ingredient that's actually used on many dishes in Singapore, including onion rings, French fries, and calamari!  Some have even gone as far as to call it the nouveau truffle...

Mmmmm, salted egg yolk!Salted Egg Yolk Crab Chef Wayne Liew + the team from Keng Eng Kee Seafood and me!.

Justin Quek, one of the best-known Singaporean chefs in the world, was next to demonstrate his cooking for the group. 

When I used to live in Singapore a few years ago, I visited his fabulous restaurant, Sky on 57, and had a lovely Franco-Asian meal.  I was so excited to get to meet Chef in person!  And it was totally surreal to re-experience his cuisine in NYC!

Chef Justin Quek and me!Crab Vermicelli in Light Ginger Broth

As an Asian chef who trained in France, many of Justin's unique culinary creations could best be described as "Asian food with French thinking or (vice versa) French food with Asian thinking."  In keeping with the shellfish theme, Chef prepared crab vermicelli in a light ginger broth.  Inspired by Singaporean hawker-stall food, he explained that this particular dish could be enjoyed at any time of the day - served as a representation of Singaporean comfort food or made more upscale by pairing it with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Chef Justin Quek's Crab Vermicelli in Light Ginger BrothWok Fried Black Pepper Crab and Maine Lobster

Chef Justin Quek's Wok Fried Black Pepper Crab & Maine Lobster


Until we eat again,

Eric V. for The Lunch Belle


(NYC) On a budget/new to the city? You cannot go a second longer without THIS LIST!

Photo courtesy of Michelin MediaThis just in from Michelin: Today, the highly anticipated Bib Gourmand list was published for 2016!  For those of you who aren't familiar:

"The Bib Gourmand represents restaurants where diners can enjoy quality food at attractive prices.  These "trophies," if you will, are awarded by Michelin’s anonymous inspectors to restaurants that serve two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included).  This year’s Bib Gourmand list welcomes 27 new restaurants and features 18 different types of cuisine.  Significantly, many newly recognized restaurants are located in Brooklyn and Queens, highlighting this year again the continuing trend of quality dining emerging throughout all of New York’s boroughs."

Regardless of the depth of your pockets or your NYC status (tourist vs. newbie vs. lifer), you cannot go a second longer without this list in your arsenal!!  Take a peak at my poor attempt at a spreadsheet, below, or view it on the web here.  You're welcome in advance!


Borough District Establishment
Brooklyn Williamsburg Baci & Abbracci
Brooklyn Downtown Buttermilk Channel
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Chavela's
Brooklyn Williamsburg Diner
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Do or Dine (closed)
Brooklyn Sunset Park & Brighton Beach East Harbor Seafood Palace
Brooklyn Williamsburg Egg
Brooklyn Park Slope  Elberta
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Falansai
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Faro
Brooklyn Downtown Frankies 457 Spuntino
Brooklyn Downtown Ganso Ramen
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick General Greene (The)
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Gladys
Brooklyn Sunset Park & Brighton Beach Good Fork (The)
Brooklyn Downtown Gran Eléctrica
Brooklyn Sunset Park & Brighton Beach Hometown Bar-B-Que
Brooklyn Park Slope  Lea
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Lulu & Po
Brooklyn Williamsburg Marlow & Sons
Brooklyn Downtown Mile End
Brooklyn Williamsburg Paulie Gee's
Brooklyn Downtown Prime Meats
Brooklyn Park Slope  Purple Yam
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Roberta's
Brooklyn Sunset Park & Brighton Beach Runner & Stone
Brooklyn Williamsburg Rye
Brooklyn Williamsburg Shalom Japan
Brooklyn Downtown Sottocasa
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Speedy Romeo
Brooklyn Sunset Park & Brighton Beach Tanoreen
Brooklyn Williamsburg Traif
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Umi NOM
Brooklyn Downtown Vinegar Hill House
Brooklyn Williamsburg Xixa
Brooklyn Williamsburg Zizi Limona
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square ABC Cocina
Manhattan Midtown East al Bustan
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Baker & Co.
Manhattan East Village Bar Primi
Manhattan Upper East Side Beyoglu
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Bianca
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Boqueria
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Bread & Tulips
Manhattan Midtown West Cho Dang Gol
Manhattan SoHo & Nolita Ciccio
Manhattan Lower East Side Congee Village
Manhattan Chelsea Coppelia
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Crispo
Manhattan East Village DBGB Kitchen & Bar  
Manhattan Chinatown & Little Italy Dim Sum Go Go
Manhattan Midtown West Don Antonio by Starita
Manhattan East Village Donostia
Manhattan SoHo & Nolita Ed's Lobster Bar
Manhattan Midtown East El Parador
Manhattan Midtown East HanGawi
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Hecho en Dumbo
Manhattan Midtown East Hide-Chan Ramen
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Hill Country Chicken
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria
Manhattan Harlem, Morningside & Washington Heights J. Restaurant Chez Asta
Manhattan Upper East Side J.G. Melon
Manhattan Harlem, Morningside & Washington Heights Jin Ramen
Manhattan Lower East Side Katz's
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Kesté Pizza & Vino
Manhattan TriBeCa Khe-Yo
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Kiin Thai
Manhattan Midtown West Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen
Manhattan Midtown East Land of Plenty
Manhattan Midtown West Larb Ubol
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Laut
Manhattan East Village Lil' Frankie's
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Lupa
Manhattan Midtown East Mapo Tofu
Manhattan Upper West Side Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too
Manhattan East Village Momofuku Noodle Bar
Manhattan East Village Momofuku Ssäm Bar
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Momokawa
Manhattan Chinatown & Little Italy New Malaysia
Manhattan Chinatown & Little Italy Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Manhattan Chinatown & Little Italy Nyonya
Manhattan East Village Oiji
Manhattan SoHo & Nolita Pearl & Ash
Manhattan Midtown East Phoenix Garden
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Pippali
Manhattan East Village Porsena
Manhattan Chelsea Prova
Manhattan East Village Prune
Manhattan SoHo & Nolita Rubirosa
Manhattan Lower East Side Russ & Daughters Cafe
Manhattan Upper East Side San Matteo
Manhattan Chinatown & Little Italy Shanghai Café
Manhattan SoHo & Nolita Snack
Manhattan East Village Soba-Ya
Manhattan Harlem, Morningside & Washington Heights Streetbird Rotisserie
Manhattan East Village Supper
Manhattan Midtown West Szechuan Gourmet
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Tertulia
Manhattan Lower East Side Thelma on Clinton
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Turkish Kitchen
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Untitled
Manhattan Upper East Side Uva
Manhattan Midtown East Wild Edibles
Manhattan Lower East Side Yunnan Kitchen
Manhattan Harlem, Morningside & Washington Heights Zoma
Queens   Basil Brick Oven Pizza
Queens   Biáng!
Queens   bún-ker
Queens   Casa del Chef Bistro
Queens   Gregory's 26 Corner Taverna
Queens   Hahm Ji Bach
Queens   HinoMaru Ramen
Queens   Hunan House
Queens   Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan
Queens   Il Poeta
Queens   John Brown Smokehouse
Queens   Little Pepper
Queens   Mu Ramen
Queens   Paet Rio
Queens   Salt & Fat
Queens   Sweet Yummy House
Queens   Tong Sam Gyup Goo Yi
Queens   Uncle Zhou
Queens   Venturo Osteria & Wine Bar
Queens   Zabb Elee
Staten Island   Enoteca Maria
Staten Island   San Rasa
Staten Island   Vida
The Bronx   Havana Café
The Bronx   Mexicosina
The Bronx   Tra Di Noi
The Bronx  

zero otto nove



(NYC) BBQ'ing in Brooklyn with Questlove, George Takei, and friends

*This post was written by Edgar A. Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Edgar A. Castillo.*


Hosted and curated by QUESTLOVE, the Taste Talks All-Star BBQ brought world-renowned chefs together in Brooklyn to whip up their signature dishes al-fresco!  Check out the incredibly brag-worthy lineup, description of offerings, and my thoughts, below.

Photo courtesy of Taste Talks.


Michael Psilakis (MP Taverna, Kefi, Fishtag) // Jarobi White (Musician; Eats, Rhymes & Life)

The chefs paired up with Los Angeles’ famed La Brea Bakery and created a pulled-lamb slider that made for an awesome start to the day!  This early favorite wowed me with a plethora of kick and an amazing range of flavor. 

Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour) // Dan Santoro & Bert Krak (Smith Street Tattoo)
RAW LAMB LARD & BBQ YUZU CABBAGE | With fish sauce, brown butter, mint, and thai basil

Certainly an interesting interpretation for a BBQ festival, this dish stood out for its lack of cooking (read: BBQ’ing) and its awkward (tang from the bitter yuzu) and inedible (charred cabbage) flavors.  Another time/another place, perhaps.  But here?  At a BBQ festival?  No.  Just no.

Alex Stupak (Empellón) // Damian Higgins AKA Dieselboy (DJ/Producer)
LA HAMBURGUESA CAMPEÓNA | Grilled short rib patty on a potato roll, Tex Mex style queso, red pepper-chorizo relish, crispy gaufrettes, smoked mayonnaise

What a remarkable slider!  Cooked to a perfect ‘medium rare,’ short rib beef patties were topped with smoked mayo, crinkle-cut potato chips, and – my favorite - Texas queso before being sandwiched within a soft and squishy potato bun.

Daniel Eddy (Rebelle)

Although I found this portion to be on the smaller side, the sausage managed to fully deliver thanks to the inherent richness of the duck.  The plum jam proved to be a fantastic companion, to boot!

Rob Newton (Wilma Jean, Nightingale 9, Smith Canteen) // Lee Gregory & Joe Sparatta (Southbound)
GRILLED PORK SHOULDER | With rice noodles, Virginia peanuts, cucumbers and herbs

The succulent, savory pork melted in my mouth.  I was so taken by this dish, I had to sit down!  The rice noodle-salad had a very familiar flavor, although it wasn’t listed - chicharrones, perhaps?


Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was the large presence of seafood dishes - from mussels and crab to lobster tails!

Hugue DuFour (M. Wells) // Mark Hegedus (Blue Point Brewing)

This was the longest line at the BBQ, and rightfully so: Hugue Dufour’s platter was so ample that it required me finding a seat to navigate through the plate of crab, summer corn, and Parker House rolls.

Ben Conniff (Luke's Lobster) // Matt Timms (The Takedowns)
CHILI-BUTTER LOBSTER TAILS | With grilled cabbage and corn slaw

These ‘tails were a surprise treat and very-well received amongst the heavier, "land" proteins.  Buttery and light with a nice amount of char, the lobster tails were served alongside a colorful purple cabbage and corn salad.

Russell Jackson (SubCulture Dining) // Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black)
GRILLED MUSSELS | with Korean gujoung pork fat butter and fermented cornbread peptia crumble

After an unforgiving rainstorm, this was the final savory booth that I visited.  And although my plate was a bit wet from the elements, the vibrancy of the flavors remained intact and the mussels, themselves, were delicious.


Dessert: What a welcome addition to a BBQ festival!

Laura O'Neill & Ben Van Leeuwen (Van Leeuwen Ice Cream// Sharon Van Etten (Musician)
TRIPLE PEANUT | Peanut butter ice cream with a peanut butter swirl and crunchy peanut brittle
BUTTERMILK JAM | Buttermilk ice cream swirled with house made raspberry jam

This creative ice cream-version of a PB&J sandwich was chock-full of natural ingredients which helped me chase away any lingering feelings of guilt.

Allison & Matt Robicelli (Robicelli's Bakery) // George Takei & Telly Leung (Actors, Allegiance A New Musical)
FUJI APPLE PIE | With miso caramel and vanilla bean tofu cream

A unique take on the American staple (apple pie), this slice of heaven was made even sweeter by the fact that it was served by none other than George Takei (modern celebrity hero) and Telly Leung (actor, equal rights activist).


While I made it a point to sample everything, there was only so much time and room in my stomach!  The following are the four booths that, unfortunately, I did not get to experience:

Justin Smillie (Upland) // Heems (Musician)
GRILLED VEAL RIBS | With charred cherry tomato salsa

Pierre Thiam (Pierre Thiam Catering) // Island Creek Oysters
GRILLED OYSTERS | With Spicy Smoked Crayfish Mignonette and Cassava Leaves with Peanuts

Roblé Ali (Roblé & Co. & Streets BK)

Shannon Shaffer (Design Cuisine) // Lauren Wagner (Street Art Throwdown) & Jenna Morello (Street Artist)
KOREAN BBQ BEEF BRISKET | Asian pear and fennel slaw, wasabi pearls, puffed rice cracker


Thank you, chefs!Not even scattered thunderstorms could keep the crowds away!  Despite the passing showers, Questlove kept the mood upbeat by spinning for the crowd throughout the entire day.  And what a day it was!



Until we eat again,

Edgar Castillo for The Lunch Belle 


So, the Food Network called...

No, really.  They did! 

I was just contacted by a casting director for the Food Network who wanted me to let y'all know that she and her team are scouring the nation looking for the best home cooks!  Why?  Because they're casting for "All-Star Academy!"  

Ten home cooks from across the country are paired up with some of Food Network's biggest names — Bobby Flay, Alex Guarnaschelli, Curtis Stone and Michael Symon — in the new culinary competition All-Star Academy, hosted by Ted Allen. Each home cook, with the guidance and support from his or her Food Network mentor, competes in intense culinary challenges; each mentor's reputation is on the line during the eight episodes, as each mentor hopes his or her pupil will make it to the finish line. One by one, the home cooks are eliminated by special guest judges who determine which dishes are not up to par. One home cook will be left standing, winning bragging rights and a $50,000 grand prize.

OK, so if you consider yourself to be a Food Network fanatic and truly skilled home cook who prepares elevated dishes completely from scratch, then read the flier, below, and apply!  What are you waiting for?


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle