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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!

xoxo, 

Lindsay

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  • 5/2: Paul's 1st birthday party
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Tuesday
Apr072015

Recipe: Salted Caramel Matzo Brittle

"You should sell this stuff at the farmer's market!" 

"I don't even like sweets, and this shit is amazing!" 

"You're my hero!" 

"I cannot stop thinking about that Matzo Brittle!"

"It's a Passover miracle!"

"You're a mensch!"

I've heard it all, folks: From every compliment in the book - to more Matzo Brittle bribes than you can imagine.  I'm here to tell you that this recipe will make you a hero amongst anyone lucky enough to sample this magical, deliciously life-altering, Passover-friendly treat.

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Recipe inspired by my dear friend, Meghan Coyne, and based on my amended version of Christine Gallary's.

Ingredients

Makes 8-10 servings

  • 4-5 sheets salted matzo
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) salted butter, cut in to large chunks
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
  • Fleur de sel

Method

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a rimmed, full-sized cookie sheet with enough foil that it overlaps and you have to fold it under the edges.  Arrange the matzo in a single layer on the baking sheet, breaking pieces as needed to fill any empty spaces.  Set aside.

Place butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil.   Continue to boil for 3 minutes, stirring occassionally.  Remove from heat and add vanilla (pour slowly, as it may bubble up).  Stir to combine.

This is my favorite salted butter

The toffee should look like this when it's boilingPour caramel over matzo and spread it evenly using a rubber spatula or culinary brush.  Make sure to coat each piece with caramel. 

Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 7-10 minutes, until small bubbles cover the entire surface of the matzo and the caramel is fragrant.

Remove from the oven.  In a small bowl, combine both dark and milk chocolate chips and toss together.  Sprinkle each piece of matzo with chocolate chips and set aside for 3-5 minutes to allow chocolate to soften. 

Using a rubber spatula or culinary brush, delicately spread the melting chocolate chips over the caramel.  Sprinkle each piece of matzo with fleur de sel and refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes. 

Use care when removing the brittle from the foiled pan to ensure that no foil sticks to the bottom of the brittle.  Break in to pieces and serve and/or freeze for later use.

Enjoy!

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Apr032015

March: The best things I ate last month

With March having quickly come and gone, I wanted to do a wrap-up of the best, most noteworthy things that I ate.  And drank.

Enjoy!

...

Milton's Craft Bakers Gluten Free Baked Crackers

Crunchy and thin, salty, light, guilt-free (they're gluten free AND non-GMO), and absolutely delicious - my coworkers and I have been going BANANAS over these crackers!  After having tried four varieties, including Crispy Sea Salt - Multi-Grain - and Cheddar Cheese, my favorite would have to be Everything.  Similar to the namesake bagel, the Everything cracker is chock-full of sesame seeds, caraway, poppy and, in an extra-healthy twist, quinoa seeds!

Note: I do not have Celiac Disease or follow a gluten-free diet.  I begrudgingly tried these crackers assuming that, because they are "gluten free," they'd taste like cardboard.  Boy, was I wrong!!

Milton's Gluten Free "Everything" Baked Crackers.

The Kimchi Quesadilla, Kogi BBQ Truck

This is the food truck of all food trucks, isn't it?  To be honest, I don't think I had ever heard of anything other than a "taco truck" prior to Kogi.  Had you? 

Being that Kogi started right here in LA, I had to pay tribute to the "OG of street food" by paying it an inaugural visit. 

...With none other than The Kimchi Quesadilla: Two perfectly blistered, buttery flour tortillas were "filled to the gills with melting jack and cheddar cheeses and caramelized kimchi" before being slapped together and topped with classic salsa roja and sesame seed crush. 

What, hater, does the melding of Mexican and Korean cuisines not sound appealing?  Well, you couldn't be more wrong.  Because this seemingly crazy concoction of flavors and textures is sheer fcuking DYNAMITE!

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Banana cream pie, The Apple Pan

It's not that I dislike bananas, but they're not my "go to" fruit.  I'd say I'm much more of a pineapple or other type of tropical fruit kind of gal.  However, when it comes to the Banana Cream Pie at The Apple Pan, I am a born-again believer.  The buttery, slightly-sweet crust is lathered with a thin layer of banana pudding, piled high with *fresh* banana slices, crowned with another layer of pudding, then finished with homemade whipped cream.  Absolutely delicious!

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Pork & Chicken Meatballs, Shophouse Southeast Asian Kitchen

For those of you who don't know, Shophouse is like an Asian version of Chipotle.  So instead of filling a flour tortilla with Mexican ingredients, you're filling a rice bowl with pan-Asian vegetables and protein.  And the winner on the menu?  The pork + chicken meatballs.   

I'd be a liar if I said that I wasn't terrified about ordering meatballs containing chicken (upon my first visit to Shophouse).  I mean, it's just. Such. A. Boring. Protein.  Why wouldn't they make the 'balls with beef?  Whatever.  The takeaway is that they're shockingly moist, juicy and, as odd as it is to say, velvety.  These morsels are bursting with so much flavor that I find myself curiously craving them on a weekly basis.

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A tall glass of doogh, Shamshiri Grill

There's nothing sexier than hearing your beau speak his native language - especially when he's ordering food and drink on your behalf.

Farsi menu at Shamshiri GrillIn an effort to try something new, I ordered a glass of "doogh" to go alongside my meal.  Doogh, a savory yogurt beverage that tastes very similar to buttermilk, is served over ice and finished with mint.  It's tangy, slightly salty, filling, and quite delicious.  

 

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Mar202015

Reviewed: Date night at Project Taco

Restaurant: Project Taco

  • Cuisine: "Industry" friendly quick-Mex that won't make you fat
  • Location: 6325 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90048
  • Pricing: $
  • What's delicious: Edamame, Wilshire Pot Roast (taco), Green Chili Pork (taco)
  • Perfect for: Al-fresco dining - food/drink specials - healthy, vegetarian friendly - quick bites - craft beer aficionados

Come for the tacos.  Stay for the craft beers.  And "Jenga night" every Wednesday.  And the *life changing* Chilli Garlic Aioli that, no joke, could be spread atop pavement and I'd still eat it!

...

Last Wednesday, K and I made a quick pit-stop at Project Taco's Wilshire location to deliciously coat our stomachs before heading to an event.  After ordering nearly everything on the menu, we snagged a highly coveted outdoor table, clinked our glasses (his filled with beer, mine with wine), and watched on as our neighbors engaged in a pretty serious game of Jenga.   

The first items to arrive at the table were the tortilla chips and salsa sampler, which included: Cilantro Lime Crema, Chili Garlic Aioli, Blueberry Sriracha BBQ sauce, Habanero Pineapple, and Pico De Gallo.  As I mentioned further above, the clear winner was the Chili Garlic Aioli.  Followed very closely by the Cilantro Lime Crema.  K, on the other hand, favored the Blueberry Sriracha BBQ sauce.

Chips and a salsa/dip samplerOf the tacos that I ordered, the Blueberry BBQ (pork) and the Wilshire Pot Roast (beef), I preferred the latter.  Although both meats were tender, juicy, and perfectly smoked, I found the Blueberry BBQ sauce to be slightly overpowering and sweet.  Plus, the apple-kale slaw was too crunchy and dry.  The Pot Roast, on the other hand, was married with some of my most favorite ingredients: Cilantro, onions, cheese, and that outrageously mouth-watering Chili Garlic Aioli. 

Tacos: Wilshire Pot Roast (beef), Blueberry BBQ (pork)First bite in: Blueberry BBQ tacoJust as we were finishing our tacos, K and I were presented with a gorgeous bowl of edamame.  Topped with a curiously delicious sauce/gravy.

EdamameAnd, for dessert...a duo of Strawberry Buttermilk Fonuts!

The aftermath of a yummy dinner?  I think so...

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Feb252015

Reviewed: Brunch at Terrine

Restaurant: Terrine

  • Cuisine: France meets California (New American with a French accent)
  • Location: 8265 Beverly Blvd.Los Angeles 90048
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Hand-crafted cocktails, Avocado Toast
  • Perfect for: Al-fresco dining - dine at the bar - group dining - brunch - cocktails

...

Having not been in Los Angeles over the span of a weekend in almost two months, there was no better way to celebrate my return than with a hearty Sunday brunch.  After going back and forth about where we should dine, Carmen suggested Terrine.  "My friends raved about it!  I'll see you there at noon, okay?"  Okay.

In typical fashion, I arrived at Terrine about 15-minutes prior to our noon reservation, as I like to take that slice of "me time" to pony up to the bar and order a drink, study the menu(s), chat with the bartender, and absorb the restaurant's atmosphere, vibe, and design... 

With an impressive space large enough to boast a full bar - plus a sizable outdoor patio - Terrine offers a dining enclave for everyone.  Exposed brick, an expansive copper-topped bar, high ceilings giving way to two walls of windows, plus shabby-chic mismatched silver and tableware truly evoke the feeling and aesthetic of a France-by-way-of-California "brasserie." 

With 10-minutes to spare, I snagged a highly-coveted bar stool and ordered a Winter Champagne Cocktail.  Crafted with hand-chipped ice, bubbly, and a "winter fruit" liquor, the beverage was crowned with a fragrant slice of orange rind prior to presentation.  

Carmen arrived promptly at noon and we were immediately whisked to a table.

To begin, we chose to split an order of the Avocado Toast.  Heavily-buttered, grilled country bread was liberally topped with chopped avocado, briny capers, tarragon "salsa verde," crunchy Maldon sea salt, olive oil and Meyer lemon, and paper-thin radish slices.  The potpourri of contrasting flavors and textures was absolutely incredible!   

Terrine: Avocado ToastWhile awaiting the arrival of our entrees, my second cocktail arrived.  The Lime Daiquiri's famous trinity of fresh ingredients - sugar, rum, lime juice - melded together in perfect harmony.  

Terrine: Lime DaiquiriWith so many delicious-sounding entrees on the menu, I was completely overwhelmed and asked that our server "surprise me" with one of her favorites.  She presented me with the Spicy Fried Chicken + Grits.  

Encircled by a sweet and savory moat filled with butter-thinned maple syrup and coarsely-ground grits were two pieces of "spicy" fried chicken.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the accoutrement, I did not find the batter on the fried chicken to be spicy in the least and, to add further disappointment, there was barely any edible meat/flesh.      

Terrine: Spicy Fried Chicken + GritsFrom their cocktail program, knowledgeable and friendly staff, great indoor/outdoor atmosphere, and food, I was very impressed with Terrine...and I say that aside from the disappointing fried chicken and the fact that I walked away from our meal slightly hungry!  In all seriousness, though, I have not experienced such intense flavors (fried chicken aside) since dining in San Francisco and NYC! 

Get. Here. Now. 

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Feb132015

My first visit back to NYC…as a tourist: Homecoming 2015

Sometimes, you have to leave to come back...


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Friday, February 6th

How fitting: My NYC-bound flight number was "212."  It absolutely had to be a sign, right? 

Upon checking in for my crappy row 30/middle seat at the United Airlines kiosk, a prompt asked me if I would be interested in upgrading to First Class for $250.   Since I was flying on "miles," all I paid for my round trip ticket was $11.20, a tax fee of some sort.  $250 for a First Class upgrade on a 6-hour flight meant: Free access to the airport lounge, a humongous seat that doubled as a "flat bed," a warm meal, extra space, comfort, and free flowing champagne.  Sounds kind of like a rap video, right?   I couldn't click "yes" to the cabin upgrade quickly enough...

From security, I was ushered to United Airlines' airport lounge.  Spacious, clean, and comfortable, the only thing missing was bar service.  But, then again, it was only 6 AM...

United Airlines' Lounge at LAXAnd once onboard, breakfast was served...

United Airlines' First Class breakfast service: Sausage links, steamed spinach, broccoli + cheese souffle, scrambled eggs with red pepper sauceWhat's a long journey without some shut-eye?  I slept like a baby atop my "flat bed!"  It was more comfortable than I could have ever hoped for or imagined!  After all, I wouldn't be getting much sleep in the city that never sleeps...

Can you spot my toes?View of the Atlantic, about 5-minutes from landing in NYC...

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I feel like the cab drivers in NYC are either silent/have the personality of a fruit fly - or they're exceptionally talkative, engaging, and funny.  From JFK to Manhattan, my cabbie was the latter.  "(In his heavy Urdu accent) I live in a Jamaican neighborhood.  That is such sexy English, Mon.  Sexy!  Sometimes, I try to talk like them.  They call all of the ladies 'Ma,' you know?  I've said that to a couple of my customers.  Like, 'hey Ma!'"  What an entertaining - and totally 'New York' - way to re-enter New York!

In a twist of fate, or just sheer convenience to the wedding venue, one of the reserved room blocks for Yan's nuptials was at a Hilton located on my old block.  I couldn't not stay there!

The tall, reddish building in the background was where I hung my hat for 7 years!.

En-route to my "makeup-over" at the Caravan Style Studio, I popped by Maysville for a quick glass of vino.  Just like old times...

Wineo'clock with an urban landscape.

After my drink-and-dash, I proceeded to The Carlton Hotel, where Caravan has a fabulous, hidden "stylist studio."    

Caravan Stylist Studio, is an innovative wardrobe and beauty studio that pairs actresses, tastemakers and media influencers with top fashion designers and beauty experts located at the Carlton Hotel in New York City.

Each week, Claudine DeSola, owner of Caravan, partners with hundreds of fashion designers to select clothing and accessories for Caravan’s guests. In addition, a full-time beauty expert provides clients with a host of other complimentary services, including hair styling, makeup application, mini skincare-spa treatments and nail design.

Upon my visit, I had beauty expert, Valerie Star, give me a "makeup-over."

She did an incredibly amazing job, if I do say so myself!  For a lazy gal who only wears "full makeup" on special occasions, this was the ultimate in pampering.  I wish Valerie could work her magic on me everyday!

.

For dinner, I met up with two of my girlfriends for some delicious Greek fare at Ethos Galleria.

Greek salad

Caravan Stylist Studio, is an innovative wardrobe and beauty studio that pairs actresses, tastemakers and media influencers with top fashion designers and beauty experts located at the Carlton Hotel in New York City.

Each week, Claudine DeSola, owner of Caravan, partners with hundreds of fashion designers to select clothing and accessories for Caravan’s guests. In addition, a full-time beauty expert provides clients with a host of other complimentary services, including hair styling, makeup application, mini skincare-spa treatments and nail design.

- See more at: http://www.caravanstyliststudio.com/#sthash.RQJjQSSh.dpuf

Caravan Stylist Studio, is an innovative wardrobe and beauty studio that pairs actresses, tastemakers and media influencers with top fashion designers and beauty experts located at the Carlton Hotel in New York City.

Each week, Claudine DeSola, owner of Caravan, partners with hundreds of fashion designers to select clothing and accessories for Caravan’s guests. In addition, a full-time beauty expert provides clients with a host of other complimentary services, including hair styling, makeup application, mini skincare-spa treatments and nail design.

- See more at: http://www.caravanstyliststudio.com/#sthash.RQJjQSSh.dpuf

Caravan Stylist Studio, is an innovative wardrobe and beauty studio that pairs actresses, tastemakers and media influencers with top fashion designers and beauty experts located at the Carlton Hotel in New York City.

Each week, Claudine DeSola, owner of Caravan, partners with hundreds of fashion designers to select clothing and accessories for Caravan’s guests. In addition, a full-time beauty expert provides clients with a host of other complimentary services, including hair styling, makeup application, mini skincare-spa treatments and nail design.

- See more at: http://www.caravanstyliststudio.com/#sthash.RQJjQSSh.dpuf..

Good night, NYC!

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Saturday, February 7th

Saturday morning came much quicker than I could have anticipated.  I met my cousin, Larry, and friend, Jeremy, for a quick bite before spinning off the carb-calories at SoulCycle.

Good Stuff Diner: Breakfast bagel'wich.

For brunch, I headed uptown to meet some girlfriends at one of my favorites, The Smith.  

We raised a toast and clinked our glasses...

The Smith: Blood Orange MargaritaAnd I made sure to indulge in two of the Atlantic's greatest gifts to humans: "Montauk Pearl" oysters and lobster (in the form of a traditional lobster roll).

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After visiting with two more friends and sneaking in a quick post-brunch snooze, I made my way over to Little Sal's for an informal tasting. 

Situated in the former Chat 'N' Chew space, Little Sal's takes full advantage of the interior's low ceilings, checkered floors, shiny red banquettes, and sizeable bar - thus creating the perfect atmosphere/back drop for a traditional "red sauce" Italian joint. 

Little Sal's: A look insideAfter ponying up to the bar, I asked the staff a roster of questions.  One of the most important being, "Do you have a happy hour?"  I learned that, although having only been open for a few weeks, Little Sal's did, in fact, have happy hour (menu coming soon!):

  • 4-6 PM
  • $20 bottles of wine
  • Food and drink specials

While awaiting the arrival of my entree, I noshed on buttery, grilled toast points that were accompanied by Sicilian-fig caponata and basil pesto (for dipping and dunking).  

Little Sal's: Grilled and buttered toast points with Sicilian-fig caponata, basil pestoI chose the Linguine alle Vongole (pasta with clams) for my main course.  In addition to being topped with manila clams, the noodles were intertwined with a generous amount of briny bits!

There were so many items I didn't get to sample on Little Sal's dinner menu that stood out, namely the Branzino Oreganata with Pickled Grapes & Fennel and the Meatballs with Red Sauce. Looks like I'll just have to return upon my next visit NYC! 

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As if one Italian dinner wasn't enough, I met ten of my girlfriends for 'round two' just 45-minutes post my tasting at Little Sal's!  We enjoyed a bountiful, family-style supper at newish downtown favorite, Bar Primi, followed by cocktails at Saxon + Parole.

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Sunday, February 8th

On Sunday night, I was thrilled to get to celebrate the wedding of a dear friend of mine and his beautiful bride.  The ceremony and reception took place at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers, which is a fantastic venue overlooking the glacial Hudson River.  And the icing on the cake?  Famed caterer, Abigail Kirsch, handles the food/beverage for the event space!  Win win.

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Monday, February 9th

Monday was busy; I spent the first half catching up with friends and colleagues, and the second half with the NYPD.  That's right, my ATM card was stolen and I had to file a police report per my bank's request.  I was shuffled between two precincts in completely different parts of town and, because of this, was not able to visit my old coworkers/office.  Thankfully, dinner at Root & Bone with two of my besties helped brighten up my crappy day.

Just like any other Southern supper, we kicked off our meal with scratch-made biscuits.  This version was served with delectable, warm honey-roasted chicken jus for dipping, plus sesame seeds and Maldon salt to taste/season.

Root & Bone: Biscuits + chicken jusDeviled Eggs and Grilled Butternut Squash promptly followed...

We split our three entrees, which included: Shrimp & Grits, Fried Chicken & Waffles, and the most amazing mussels I've had, to date.

This meal was, without a doubt, one of the best that I've had in recent memory.  Everything, from start to finish, was outstanding.  What a delicious way to end a vacation!

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Tuesday, February 10th

And just as quickly as my weekend jaunt flew by, it abruply came to an end.  

Before I left for the airport, I made a pitstop at my favorite bagel spot, The Corner Cafe, to grab my final breakfast and snag 2-dozen for my coworkers in LA.  What a treat that would be!

It was really hard to get in to my JFK-bound cab and watch NYC get smaller and smaller as we drove further away, not knowing the next time I'd be back...   

My homecoming was as amazing, scary, sad, exilerating, and torturing as I had imagined.  It proved to me that I love NYC more than ever and, whenever that time may be, I cannot wait to come back for more!

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

Thursday
Feb052015

From here to there: Homecoming 2015

Sometimes, I feel like my decision to leave NYC was the result of a handful of temporary grievances and circumstances that I allowed to build up in to a huge black-and-white mountain.  In hindsight - as I sit here typing this in Los Angeles - were those "things" intense enough to prompt an out-of-state move?  No way!  But...here I am.

It's taken me almost 9-months to finally be able to talk to you about leaving Manhattan.  Hell, I am barely able to watch NYC-based TV shows and movies!  The subject is bittersweet and strewn with confusion and self doubt.  Aside from 10 years' worth of friendships, priceless experiences, adventures, heart breaks, invaluable life lessons...I walked away from this blog (temporarily, as I thought that starting a brand new, California-centric website would be a brilliant idea) and my grad school program at NYU.  That's a lot.  

I moved to Los Angeles with three notions, give or take: A) My sister and I would finally live within a 45-minute drive of each other.  B) I would be working within a fascinating sector of an incredibly amazing company.  C) A romance would continue to bloom with a local fellow whom I met in December 2013.  Drum roll please...Exhibit "B" is the only notion of the three that has truly worked out.  Things with "Mr. Local" fizzled at the end of August and, just last month, my brother-in-law accepted a fabulous job in Florida that will commence in July.  Whew

Although there have been a lot of hard and jagged pills to swallow, life in Los Angeles has been unexpectedly great.  I've met amazing new pals and rekindled old friendships - I get to spend much more time with my beloved family - I regularly indulge in Mexican food and sushi that would put anywhere in NYC to shame - I've traded my indoor spin classes for outdoor hikes (OK, I've actually only done that once, but it was super pretty and I should totally hike more often.) - and, twice/day, I get to revel in that priceless expression on my pup's face when I tell her that we're going for a "walk."  Outdoors.  Surrounded by warmth and sunshine, grass, squirrels, and more smells than she could ever ask for.

~

This post is titled "Homecoming 2015" because, last Friday, I went back home (NYC) for the first time since I moved out west.  Originally, I was supposed to celebrate my homecoming last November, but I had to cancel last-minute; in hindsight, going back so soon after my move would have probably been too new and raw.  Plus, with the February 8th nuptials of a dear friend, this month's visit made much more sense. 

I was in NYC from February 6th - February 10th (last weekend).  The range of emotions that I experienced from the time I landed until the moment I departed - happy, sad, nostalgic, scared, ecstatic, angry, heart broken - were almost too overwhelming.  Aside from a noticeably huge increase in graffiti and the typical restaurant openings/closures, it was as if time had stood still.  NYC was still its fabulous, dirty, cold, mysterious, unforgiving, sexy, and dangerous self.  My friends looked even more beautiful than I had remembered - the food tasted so much more flavorful, pungent, and delicious - walking from one place to the next, even taking the subway, felt thrilling and riveting.  I had butterflies in my stomach!  For the first time in so many months, I felt alive.  Amidst all of this, reality set in and my proverbial bubble burst when my ATM card was stolen and I had to spend Monday afternoon filing a police report at the 1st precinct instead of visiting my old colleagues in Tribeca.  But it wouldn't be NYC without a little drama, now would it?

Stay tuned for my "homecoming roundup" which will include, among other things, a photo collage of all that I ate, drank, celebrated, the streetart that I captured, and my makeover!

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle