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**Readers!  I recently moved to the City of Angels.  The good news is that I'm keeping this site alive while simultaneously working on something Los Angeles-centric, as well.**

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

For those of you who enjoy highly thorough and traditional restaurant reviews, you may find them located here

But that's not all!  Additionally, I...

  • ~ For tourists, I can help you create itineraries and answer any questions you may have/offer advice for your upcoming visit to NYC.
  • ~ I can consult and/or advise on all of your small and large events.
  • ~ I will assist you with restaurant recommendations.

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

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Dinner at Marc Forgione, 9/04/08

July and August were quite the busy and stressful months for The Lunch Belle...So much so, that I wasn't able to keep up with my fellow bloggers on (regarding what's new in the NYC dining scene), or even get out on the town and try my city's latest and greatest restaurants. Thankfully, all-things-hectic have slowed a bit, and I'm feeling much more grounded and calm.

In a zen-like celebration of less stress, my friend Meghan made reservations for us at Marc Forgione, a new restaurant in Tribeca that, admittedly, I was sadly unfamiliar with. We arrived a couple of minutes early for our 6:30 p.m. table and were seated immediately. As Meghan excused herself to wash her hands, I took note of the lovely atmosphere surrounding me. Approaching Marc Forgione's stoop, I noticed that the restaurant's exterior is floor to ceiling windows that serve as a back drop to a spacious outdoor seating area. Unpolished wood planked floors, exposed brick walls, tall ceilings with tract lighting, wrought iron candelabras and oversize mirrors decorate Marc Forgione's grand interior. Amongst a sea of two and four-top's, I was very pleased to find a communal table that could seat up to twelve, making Marc Forgione a contender for future holiday and birthday dinners.

As soon as Meghan returned to the table, our fabulous server approached us with food and drink menus and two amuse bouche, which we split. Staying true to my Russian roots, I chose to kick off the night with a vodka that was blended with homemade lemonade, muddled raspberries and sparkling wine. After one sip, I was certain that this was the best cocktail I've ever tasted in my adult life. What are my criteria? For one, I prefer NOT to, or very subtly, taste the alcohol in mixed drinks. Secondly, I'm a sucker for anything blended with berries and homemade lemonade. This beverage hit the spot in every way.

With a couple pointers from our server, Meghan and I finally chose our appetizers and entrees. To start, we decided to split: Prosciutto wrapped figs with Marcelli's soft pecorino, a rosemary-ginger reduction and micro salad; and the heirloom tomato salad with Midnight Moon goat cheese and applewood smoked bacon. Simultaneously, two warm homemade potato rolls with garlic butter arrived alongside. Both dishes were unique, artistically presented and prepared with the highest quality ingredients; however, I felt that with a little pinch of salt here and some more cheese there, they could have been much better.

As an entree, Meghan ordered the prime hanger steak with Yukon potato gratin, Pierre poivre sauce and crispy shallots, and I chose the marinated diver sea scallops with sweet corn risotto, baby sorrel and chorizo emulsion. Our waitress helped us pair a wine with our meal, which was an excellent Sancerre rouge (I'm familiar with Sancerre whites, but had never seen a rouge blend). Both of us were equally impressed with our meals and wine. When I return to Marc Forgione, however, I will forgo the scallops and order the steak, which was absolutely magnificent.

As an end to our wonderful evening, Meghan and I each ordered a glass of Moscato d'Asti and split the cocoa crepe with Nutella, caramelized banana and coffee ice cream. Our steep bill arrived with a delicious gratis homemade chocolate that tasted like an Almond Joy candy bar bite.

I look forward to returning to Marc Forgione. Our server advised us that the restaurant will soon be serving brunch, which I suspect will be just as, or even more, excellent! Though a bit overpriced, the service, food, cocktails and atmosphere at Marc Forgione is top notch.


Alternatives to Haagen Daaz...That actually taste just (almost) as good!

Recently, there was a blurb in US Weekly that polled celebrities, who had to gain weight for movie roles, about what they ate to pack on the pounds. Jared Leto said that he gained eighty pounds from buying pints of Haagen Daaz ice cream, allowing the frozen product to melt, and drinking the rich, creamy goodness up with a straw...Multiple times per day!

That article made me start thinking about my severe junk food habit, Haagen Daaz addiction, and the 15 pounds that I wanted to lose before my dreaded high school reunion in October. For my lifestyle, it's not logical that I completely cut out sweets or go on a "carbohydrate sabbatical" diet. So with a little help from living where I do, meaning having access to amazing markets and grocery stores, and the recent frozen yogurt craze that has taken America by storm (ahem, Pinkberry), I don't feel as restricted from my favorite unhealthy indulgences, leading me to binge on cupcakes and Haagen Daaz's Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream.

Without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to two of my favorite diet lifesavers that have helped satisfy my sweet tooth during this extremely rough time (Wait a minute, who am I kidding? I'm always dieting!):

1) Fage Total 2% Yogurt with Honey: There's just something creamier, richer and thicker about Greek yogurt, especially when paired with honey. You can't beat the flavor combination. Fage's conveniently packaged product comes in a single cup, yet divided in two parts, separating the honey from the yogurt. There's nothing I'd rather eat for breakfast!

2) Red Mango frozen yogurt: On those long, lonely nights when my hands start shaking and I begin going in to "junk food withdrawls," I grab my keys and slip on my flip flops and run out the door. Instead of turning left en route to the deli to grab a pint of Haagen Daaz, I head right and walk straight to my favorite new frozen yogurt spot, Red Mango. The yogurt itself is 100% all-natural, fat-free, gluten-free and certified Kosher. Plus, all of their toppings are semi guilt-free. Think along the lines of fresh fruit, nuts, granola (my personal favorite), mochi and dry cereal.


While visions of Fried Green Tomatoes danced in their heads...

After having read the NY Post's "Top 20 NYC Brunches" article that I co-wrote with Andrea Strong, I knew that I had to run, not walk, back to Hundred Acres and try their fried green tomatoes...And an indulgent post-birthday-party brunch.  Located on a quiet side street in SoHo, Hundred Acres is housed in a charming pre-war building whose interior has been transformed to resemble an upscale urban farmhouse. Natural light floods the restaurant's space from an enclosed patio room, and floor-to-ceiling paned windows that are left open during the warmer months. Narrow tables displaying loaves of bread, bowls of fresh vegetables, bottles of wine and homemade cakes/pies create the perfect dining room dividers.

My brunch date, Em, and I arrived at Hundred Acres around noon and were seated immediately. The restaurant was quiet, but patrons slowly began trickling in. For some reason, I feel that the further south I travel for brunch, people seem to eat much later, which is great for an early bird like myself.

Fresh bread and and an herbed butter mixed with tomato and what tasted like a hint of feta cheese arrived simultaneously with Em's coffee and my fresh squeezed orange juice. As an entree, I ordered the fried eggs with bi-colored corn, roasted cubanelle chilies, cilantro and Yukon Gold potato hash. Knowing I couldn't leave Hundred Acres without trying the Fried Green Tomatoes, I ordered them as an accompaniment to my eggs. Encrusted in lightly herbed golden panko bread crumbs, were six 1/4-inch-thick slices of firm green tomatoes, sitting atop a mild paprika aioli. The contrasting textures of the fried crust, soft tomato flesh, and creamy aioli created a trinity of truly authentic Southern comfort. Not since Memphis have I had such delicious fried green tomatoes.

I highly recommend brunching at Hundred Acres. It's the perfect splurge after a long night on the town, that isn't as hard on your wallet.


A Sweet Tin-of-Sin

How about a little game of charades, my dear readers? Are you ready?

  • I stand 2 inches tall and am about 1 inch wide. I am housed within a recycled tin that has been beautifully decorated with sketched artwork that supports new artists. I am all-natural, dairy and gluten free and I will only cost you 140 calories.
  • So, what am I?

If "gum" was your first thought, that's a clever guess, but you're wrong. Folks, I'd like to introduce you to my latest "sweet indulgence," aptly named "Sweet Riot." Housed within a gorgeously decorated tin pod that I described above are 100% cacao nibs (roughly the size of a chocolate chip) that are dunked in dark chocolate. Sweet Riot makes three different dark chocolate flavors (ranging mild to strong) numbered 50, 65 and 70, which constitute their chocolate percentage.

After eagerly tasting one too many of each flavor, my favorite of the Sweet Riot trio was #50 (the mildest), which I found to be sweet, nutty, rich and very satisfying.

Not only is this treat all-natural, but this tin-of-sin fits perfectly in your Chanel pochette and will only cost your booty a mere 140 calories!


Jeanie's FAMOUS Rum Cake Recipe!

I don't know about you, but my favorite time of year begins on Thanksgiving Day and ends on Christmas Eve. There's just something so special and magical about that month. I love the magnificent decorations, twinkling lights, holiday-themed drink concoctions at Starbuck's, and the general warmer mood of my fellow New Yorkers. And when I stop to reminisce about my childhood, the first thing that comes to mind are family friends exchanging edible holiday treats. One, in particular, is my best friend's mother's outrageously delicious rum cake. I've had plenty of rum cakes in my time (sorry Grandma, even yours wasn't this good), but not one has ever wowed or stood out like Mrs. Jeanie Johns' did.

I wasn't sure if Jeanie would give me the recipe, but instead of assuming she wouldn't, I mustered up the courage and picked up the phone. Without an ounce of hesitation, Jeanie happily gave me her infamous rum cake recipe! And with that, my dear readers, I present you with the secret ingredients and instructions to the best damn cake you will ever make...And taste.

Jeanie’s Rum Cake


  • 1 pkg. Golden Butter Cake Mix
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 pkg. vanilla instant pudding
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup rum
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Sprinkle chopped pecans in bottom of bundt pan. Mix ingredients in order given; beat 2 minutes with mixer. Pour batter into bundt pan over pecans. Bake about 40-minutes. When the cake is done remove from oven and DO NOT remove from pan. Use an ice pick to poke holes in cake while in the pan. Add glaze immediately.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup rum
  • 1 stick butter
  • ¼ cup water

Melt butter in sauce pan. Add sugar, rum and water; bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes. Remove glaze from heat and pour over cake IN bundt pan. Retain about 3 tablespoons of glaze. Let cool in pan about 20 minutes before removing.

Slightly warm remaining glaze and pour over cake after removing from pan.


The Lunch Belle in the NY POST!

With much excitement, I'm pleased to announce that I was published in today's NY POSTClick here!