Welcome

**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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Wednesday
Oct012008

Since when...? (on-going)

Since when

...Were us ladies unable to purchase a designer bag or pair of shoes (exclusive of the Birkin) for under $1000?
...Did Mexican restaurants start charging patrons for chips and salsa?
...Did unisex restrooms become the "norm?" Ew.
...Are women too damn lazy to get their worn-out high heels capped? I hate the clicking noise it makes. Take care of yourselves, ladies! Jeez.
Thursday
Sep252008

Burgers & Beers at the Corner Bistro

Amidst the chaos of last week's historical Wall Street meltdown, I found myself wondering what, if any, coping mechanisms people used to get them through this tough time. Would bars be getting more business? What about casinos? And how about drug dealers? I would assume so, but maybe not. This was a financial crisis, after all.
In what has become all too habitual, I decided to numb my pain with a good, inexpensive meal. Noshing on a cheeseburger, fries and a beer (or three) sounded like the perfect dose of medicine for me. My friend Susan and I made our way to the charming West Village neighborhood and found ourselves at the Corner Bistro. Before we walked in, I was imagining us having to wait in a long, winding line for a table. The Corner Bistro is an infamous institution in New York known for their burgers, bar scene and painfully cramped quarters. Luckily, Susan and I arrived around 6:30 p.m., which is considered "meal time for Seniors" by Manhattan standards. We scored a fantastic corner booth in the bar room without having to wait a second.

I wasn't sure whether it was the jazz music singing to me in the background, the old fashioned tin ceilings and the chocolate brown hardwood floors, or observing all of the names and initials etched in our butcher block table; but this restaurant felt very comforting, uplifting and "old New York" to me. Corner Bistro's food menu is simple: Burger, cheeseburger, grilled chicken sandwich, BLT, chili, and French fries. The full bar menu, on the other hand, is much more extensive.

Susan and I each started with a cider beer and split a custom order of chili-cheese fries (I say "custom" because chili, cheese, and French fries are all on the menu, but they aren't offered as the combined greasy masterpiece which I ordered) as an appetizer to our Bistro Burgers ("Bistro" is the addition of cheese and bacon). The cider beer was cold and the chili cheese fries were a hot mess (in a good way). Thin, McDonald's size French fries, were piled on a plate and topped with American cheese slices and doused with homemade beef chili. Pasteurized-processed cheese is normally something that grosses me out to the point of avoidance (except when used in grilled cheese sandwiches), but it worked well with this dish because this type of cheese is creamier than other varieties, such as cheddar. Plus, the chili was piping hot, allowing the processed product to melt seamlessly over the fries. (Oh, who knows, maybe I'm just trying to console my inner "white trash!") Our Bistro Burgers arrived on small, 6" diameter paper plates similar to those that cake used to be served on at childhood birthday parties. Fresh iceberg lettuce, a thick tomato slice and white onion graced one half of the bun, while the thick beef burger patty topped with melted American cheese and bacon graced the other. After a sprinkle of salt and a lather of ketchup, I united the sandwich together and took my first bite. Fitting my mouth around the burger wasn't easy, but I was determined to taste every element, from the bottom bun to the top bun.

Susan and I must have been silent throughout our entire meal. I was so entranced by my Bistro Burger, that I was speechless. The fresh hamburger buns must have been buttered and grilled prior to the addition of ingredients, because they held their shape beautifully. The beef patty had a crusty, perfectly seasoned and salty exterior giving way to a velvety medium cooked interior. The crunch from the lettuce, onion and bacon was a welcome textural and flavorful contrast to the soft bread, meat and melted American cheese. All in all, a perfect cheeseburger.
 
When I came home from work today to edit this review prior to publishing, I reread the first paragraph a couple of times. How ironic was it that just a week ago I had somewhat of a sense of job security, and today, I now find myself in the same situation as so many others on Wall Street? On Tuesday of this week, I received the grim news that the hedge fund that I've worked for the past three years has decided to shut its doors. Needless to say, I'm heartbroken, disappointed, scared and angry. So now I ask myself the same question I hypothetically asked others in my first paragraph, "What coping mechanisms, if any, will I use to get me through this tough time?"

*Something to note when dining at Corner Bistro: it's CASH ONLY
Friday
Sep192008

Anthony Bourdain sighting, 9/19/08

 

 

Spotted: Anthony Bourdain was filming at Katz's Deli before today's lunch rush. One of my viewer's father was lucky enough to have "been dining at the right place at the right time," and got to chat 1x1 with Mr. Bourdain and score an autographed Katz's Deli menu!

Sunday
Sep142008

Dinner at Crema Restaurante, 9/11/08

Dear Crema,

I was really looking forward to dining with you last Thursday evening, especially after reading that your chef/owner, Julieta Ballesteros, hails from Monterrey, Mexico. As a native Texan who was raised on menudo and chilaquiles, I constantly find myself on a quest for authentic Mexican restaurants worthy of nostalgic childhood memories here in Yankee territory.

When I arrived at Crema for my 7 p.m. reservation, I was pleasantly surprised to find that your host allowed me to be seated before Megan, my dinner date, arrived (as this is so uncommon in New York).

Not a moment after I placed my napkin in my lap, the server arrived and took my drink order. "Listen, I had a rough night and have been nursing an evil hangover all day. Can you recommend a beverage sans alcohol? Do you have homemade lemonade, perhaps?" I asked. To my delight, the server not only said that your restaurant did have homemade lemonade, but she asked me if I'd like it customized with a blended fruit of my choice!

As my homemade raspberry-lemonade arrived, so did my fellow dining companion, Megan. Before catching up on our adventurous summers, Megan and I discussed how lovely your restaurant's interior space is. Unlike most Mexican spots in the city, Crema felt much softer, warmer and sophisticated.

When our server returned with Megan's glass of red sangria, we proceeded to order our entrees, both choosing the Tacos de Carne Asada Clasica. I also had to ask our server for chips and salsa (which is something that should never have to be questioned at a Mexican restaurant), where she then asked whether we preferred our salsa "medium" or "spicy."

Megan and I loved how your homemade tortilla chips arrived in an oversize wrought-iron "frites" (French fries) cone, and that the "medium" spiced salsa we ordered had clearly just been pureed prior to table service. I don't think I've had a better "chips and salsa" combo in New York! The Tacos de Carne Asada Clasica looked vaguely authentic, arriving on 3" diameter corn tortillas, topped with perfectly cooked (though slightly gristly) steak, sliced avocado and garnished with a lime wedge, a spoonful of pico de gallo and Mexican rice (Megan and I both subbed the "cowboy beans" for rice). Unfortunately, my meal was interrupted when the table next to ours was seated. Every time the robust gentleman to my left opened his mouth to speak, I was nearly overcome by whiffs of a severely buzz-killing case of halitosis (clinical bad breath). Thankfully, I was able to eat half of my dinner prior to his arrival.

Megan and I had a lovely experience at your restaurant until our bill arrived. Was this man's halitosis so heinous that I was beginning to hallucinate, or was there really an $8 charge on our tab for chips and salsa? After I flagged our server down in horror, I was shocked when she confirmed that this was not a mistake. How in the hell can you, a Mexican restaurant, charge your customers for this item...Let alone $8? I'm truly baffled, disappointed, yet sadly, not surprised. I must remember that this is New York City, after all, but that still doesn't stop me from getting pissed off. God knows you'd be the laughing stock if you ever tried to charge folks in Texas for chips and salsa!


Broke and homesick,
The Lunch Belle

Monday
Sep082008

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 chow.com (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.

Thursday
Sep042008

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.