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Weekend round-up: Japanese food. A Texas chili cook off. The Travel Channel.  

An underground Japanese restaurant in the middle of Times Square

A Texas chili cook off attended by 1500 hungry guests

An interview with the Travel Channel (!!!!!!!!)

Sunday supper at a neighborhood favorite

Could my weekend have been any more random - delicious - or exciting?  Probably not.  And the kicker?  Both Saturday and Sunday yielded sunny, 70+ degree days...



I had date #3 with a gentleman who treated me to dinner at underground Japanese lair, Iroha.  "...I think it's somewhere around 51st and 7th," he responded, after I asked him where the restaurant was located.  "It's kind of like a Japanese tapas place."  Adding to the mystere, he could not recall its name for the life of him.  "Um, I'm not gonna lie," I said, "I'm a little scared."  And scared I was.  Not only does the neighborhood make me cringe, but "Japanese tapas?"  Come on.   

When I came out of the subway on 49th and Broadway, I received a text from my date saying that the restaurant was actually located on 49th Street.  Not 51st.  Literally right across the street from where I was standing.  "It's called Iroha," he said, "I'm in front."  When we met, he said that, due to the restaurant's popularity, he showed up 30 minutes prior to add our names to the wait list! 

Luckily, not 5 minutes later, we were led down a staircase and in to a bright, rather expansive dining room and seated at the bar.  After perusing the helpful picture menu, we ordered the following:  Sake (for him), plum wine (for me), Ume Boshi Onigiri (pickled sour plum rice ball), hamachi sashimi, pickled vegetables, octopus, uni, kimchi noodles, and shrimp tempura.

Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed my meal at Iroha and was very pleased that I did not leave with an overly-stuffed belly.  I would recommend this restaurant to anyone with a sense of adventure and a love for Japanese cuisine.


This marked the third year that I was invited to help judge the Lone Star Chili Cook Off, a fabulous outdoor bash hosted by the University of Texas and the Texas A&M alumnae associations.  And, due to this year's 1500-person attendee list, the Cook Off was moved from its prior venue, 230 Fifth, to the expansive Beekman Beer Garden.

From the moment that I arrived, I was blown away by the shear size (22,000 square feet!) - beauty - views - beach - of the Beekman Beer Garden.  It's not every day that I'm *this* impressed by a venue.  Especially not in space-deprived Manhattan.

Check out these killer views...and the Mike Myers wannabe (!!!!):

Does ANYONE who attended the Cook Off remember seeing this fellow? He kind of made my day.Besides yours truly, the impressive judge's panel included: 

We (the judges) each tasted 16 of the 32 chili entries!  Can you fathom?  After being broken up in to three teams, we sampled 10 bowls/piece.  From there, each team's top two highest ranked chilis were chosen for the final judging round.  Six more bowls of chili later, the winner, "Austin Chili Limits," was chosen!  Congratulations!!

As the day went on, I spied a camera crew who, eventually, approached the judge's table.  "Hi, we're here from the Travel Channel, and we're filming a new show about food festivals across the US.  Is it cool if we get some shots of you guys?"  We all looked at one another with wide, excited eyes and, almost unanimously, blurted, "Sure!"

The judge's ranking/notes sheet

After the judging had ended, a friend and I were chatting in the same general area when I observed an employee from the Travel Channel approaching.  As I saw her getting closer, our eyes met but, in order to make sure that she was, in fact, looking at me, I glanced over each shoulder to confirm that I wasn't delusional.  "Hi, I was wondering if we could interview you after the winner is announced," she asked.  Without hesitation, I enthusiastically accepted.  She handed me a waiver to fill out and sign, with some legal mumbo-jumbo and my personal information, etc.  "We'd love to hear how you got involved in judging the Cook Off, and your personal criteria for critiquing the chili."  Wow, OK!

And, just after 2pm, I was interviewed.  By the Travel ChannelHoly shit!!!!!  Although I was nervous, I think I did a decent job of answering the producer's questions and appearing lively, somewhat knowledgeable, and humorous.  Now, I just have to wait and see if my blurb makes it past the cutting-room floor!


After a rowdy afternoon spent day-drinking and sun-baking, I took it fairly easy on Saturday night and went to bed pretty damn early.  As in 9pm early.  And, since I wasn't my typical hungover hot mess, I was able to attend exercise class, do laundry, clean out my storage unit, and catch some rays.  See how much I can accomplish when I don't act like a lush the night before? 

For dinner, I met my dear friend, Ceci, at our favorite neighborhood sushi/Japanese joint, Momoya.  Now, this is my kind of Japanese restaurant:  Pretty, modern atmosphere and a delicious food menu with plenty of familiar items.  I mean, duh, we all know that, when it comes to fish, I don't venture too far in to the exotic.

Without fail, I can always count on having a perfect meal at Momoya, from start to finish.  Now, how many restaurants can you say that about?

Plum wine (That green blob is the actual plum!)Yellowtail JalapenoCrispy Rice with Spicy TunaPork Gyoza w/ chili soy sauceAmber jack sashimi, king crab sashimi, lobster sashimi, "Black Dynamite" roll (spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, cucumber & avocado)



Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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