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Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a NYC based food and travel website that views various dining scenes and destinations through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated thirty-something.

xoxo, 

Lindsay

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My delicious calendar
  • 4/28: dinner at Flex Mussels
  • 4/29: brunch at Atla
  • 4/30: NYMFLMG brunch at Rachel's Taqueria
  • 5/6: P&J's Derby party
  • 5/6: Derby Day at the Union League Club
  • 5/7: Liz's baby shower
  • 5/7: Adela's birthday at Roberta's
  • 5/26-5/29: Newport, RI
  • 6/23-6/25: Lissa's bachelorette
  • 6/29-7/4: Maine
  • 7/14-7/19: London
  • 8/31-9/5: Lissa's wedding in Hawaii
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Need more streamlined advice?  Shoot me an email with your specific requests:  Lindsay@TheLunchBelle.com.

Saturday
Jun272009

What's the big deal?

While walking home (via 6th Avenue) from dinner at Matsugen on Thursday evening, I noticed a gargantuan crowd as I approached Houston Street. “What the hell is going on? Pre-concert ticket sale? Is Madonna or Britney coming to town?” I wondered as I got closer to the excitement. Then it hit me: I was at the corner of Trendy and Da Silvano/Bar Pitti.

Bah! “Are these fools insane?” I asked myself. “Why in the world would anyone wait around like this for a table?” As a Da Silvano/Bar Pitti virgin myself, I’ve always written these restaurants off to be over hyped/trendy with presumably crappy food. Am I wrong? Is one or the other (or both) worth trying?

Monday
Jun222009

CLOSED: Brunch at Mesa Grill, 6/20/09

  • Cuisine: American, Southwestern
  • Atmosphere: spacious and grand, bi-level, booth and table seating, theatrical
  • Attire: smart-casual
  • Ideal for: groups, brunch
  • Must try: I enjoyed the Blue Corn Buttermilk Waffle(sans vanilla creme fraiche; I subbed maple syrup for blackberry bourbon syrup)
  • Price: Blue Corn Buttermilk Waffle , $13
  • Reservations: Via phone or opentable.com
  • Phone: (212) 807-7400
  • Website: http://www.mesagrill.com
  • Location: 102 5th Ave., (Btwn 15th & 16th St)

*All of my photos from this meal can be viewed on Flickr

Nearly the entire month of June has been cloudy, dark and wet. The gloomy forecast certainly has had a negative effect on both my mood and my diet. Perhaps it was the fact that instead of being able to enjoy the warm weather outdoors; I chose to watch the rain fall from my window while I downing pints of Haagen Dazs and other crap that makes one look less-than-stellar in a bathing suit. Thank goodness Teddi suggested that we get together for Saturday brunch, because it had honestly felt like an eternity since I’d stepped out of my apartment during the day (except to go to work, of course). “So after my trip to Vegas, I’m just dying to try the Mesa Grill in NYC! I think Bobby Flay is the man! Whatta you say?” Teddi sent via text. “Sure Teds, sounds like a plan.” I typed back.

Unbeknownst to me, Mesa Grill technically didn’t open for brunch until 11:30am. Having arrived fifteen minutes early, the staff was kind enough to allow eager patrons to wait for their 11:30am reservations indoors and/or at the bar. I chose the latter and decided that a glass of bubbly prosecco would surely help pass the time.

Having a moment to peruse, I noted that the restaurant’s space was large, open and industrial loft-like. While these are positive traits for the typical closet-sized spaces of Manhattan, I found the mustard-yellow color scheme to be unattractive and slightly dated.

Teddi arrived promptly at 11:30 and we were seated immediately. Prior to placing our brunch orders, we received a gorgeous bread basket filled with freshly-baked goodies including: Cherry coffee cake, blue corn muffins dotted with yellow and red peppers, jalapeno/cheddar biscuits and fruit muffins. Accompanying the treats was a small dish of red jalapeno jelly. The only addition that would have made this tantalizing assortment better would have been a side of butter.

Mesa Grill: bountiful bread basketI was quite impressed with Mesa Grill’s brunch menu and had a difficult time narrowing down what I was going to order. In the end, I chose the Blue Corn Buttermilk Waffle and Teddi went with the same egg dish that had captured her heart (and stomach) in Vegas.

Taking up nearly the entire circumference of my entree plate was the indigo-colored Belgian-style waffle I ordered. I poured nearly all of the warm maple syrup over my breakfast and took my first bite. Crisp and buttery on the outside and delicate and warm on the inside, my waffle didn’t taste that much different than your average buttermilk version, with the exception of the subtle gritty texture of the blue cornmeal. I found the unique and creative use of this ingredient to be a welcome addition to what is typically a rather plain breakfast dish.

Mesa Grill: blue-corn waffleIf it weren’t for Teddi’s suggestion, I honestly would have never thought to go to Mesa Grill for brunch, or any other meal for that matter. I guess I wasn’t sure what to expect regarding the food, but I must say that I walked away from the restaurant a very happy, and full, customer. I look forward to returning to brunch at Mesa Grill in the future.

Thursday
Jun182009

Dinner at Novita, 6/17/09

  • Cuisine: Italian 
  • Atmosphere: intimate, modern, clean, fresh flowers, formal
  • Attire: business/smart-casual
  • Ideal for: business meals, 1x1/small groups, foodies, received Sam Sifton's approval
  • Must try: Insalata di Pesce, any of the homemade pastas
  • Price: Starters, all under $15.50; Pastas, all under $22.50; Protein-based entrees served, as well
  • Reservations: Via phone or opentable.com
  • Phone: (212) 677-2222
  • Website: www.novitanyc.com
  • Location: 102 E. 22nd St, (Btwn Park & Lexington Ave)

*All of my photos from this meal can be viewed on Flickr

For someone who’s lived in NYC for over 5 years, one would assume that I’ve:

  • Experienced true dim sum (with the cart, etc.)
  • Eaten at every restaurant within a two-minute radius (in every direction) of my apartment
  • Been to the observation deck of the World Trade Center (Hey, I was a summer intern there, for God’s sake.)

Sadly, I can’t cross any of these off of my “NYC to-do” list (the saddest being the fact that I never made it up to the top of the WTC…Out of shear laziness and the assumption that, “Oh, I’ll go the next time I’m in town”).

Novita was one of the two restaurants that I never got around to experiencing during my one-year stint on E. 22nd Street. So when my cousin Barbara wanted to grab dinner last night (and told me to pick the spot), I suggested “this lovely Italian spot on my old street.” After perusing the menu online and fantasizing about “homemade white tagliolini (pasta) with lobster ragú, asparagus and tomato cream,” the work day could.not.have.possibly.moved.slower. From my desk at 10:08am, our 7pm reservation seemed like an eternity.

I arrived at the restaurant about five-minutes prior to Barb, and was glad to see three outdoor tables set. Since the weather was cooperating sans precipitation, I made the executive decision of dining alfresco. *Note: The restaurant’s interior space is located just steps below street level. Though I didn’t get a good enough look, the dining rooms (there appeared to be two) seemed lovely. Think: Fresh orchids, large double-paned windows staring at 22nd Street, walls the color of fresh cream, and the overall feeling of intimacy/warmth.

Once Barb arrived, we were presented with menus and a basket of the freshest homemade bread and crunchy bread-sticks. Upon receiving our glasses of wine, the waiter returned to take our food orders. To start, we chose to share the Insalata di Pesce (seafood salad). “You know, the kitchen can split the salad in half for you ladies. Just thought that you may want separate plates,” the waiter said. “Yes, that would be lovely,” Barb and I exclaimed simultaneously. Though I mentioned the “homemade white tagliolini (pasta) with lobster ragú, asparagus and tomato cream,” I ended up ordering the “homemade buckwheat tagliatelle pasta with shrimp, tomato and artichokes” for my entrée.

Despite the gloomy 60 degree weather, summer arrived as I took my first bite of the insalata di pesce. Bite-size baby lettuce and radicchio were topped with snow-white lump crab meat, chopped grilled shrimp, and chunks of ripe avocado and tomato finished with a drizzle of thick, tangy vinaigrette. The vibrant mélange of colors, flavors and textures were so positively overwhelming, that I almost forgot I was dining at a sidewalk table in the concrete jungle.

After our salad plates were cleared, our entrees arrived roughly fifteen-minutes later. Tangled ribbons of buckwheat speckled pasta came tossed in a delicate tomato sauce and was finished with plump shrimp, sliced artichokes and chopped fresh basil. Simple and relatively light, this dish evoked the best flavors of land and sea.

Though rarely ordering dessert after a large meal, Barb and I simply couldn't resist. We opted for the baked peach (which was halved and pitted), topped with what tasted like amaretto-soaked brioche crumbles. The fruit lay underneath a scoop of homemade vanilla gelato, a mint sprig, and a small handful of fresh blueberries and blackberries.

Novita just may reign supreme as my pick for NYC's best Italian. From the beginning of our meal (bread and olive oil) to the dessert, our experience was flawless. I can't wait to return!

Friday
Jun122009

CLOSED: Dinner at Table 8, 6/6/09


  • Cuisine: New American
  • Scene: Smart casual, see-and-be-seen, small outdoor seating area, chic space
  • Occasion: 1x1/small group dining, lite bites and drinks (pre party)
  • Must try: Scallop crudo from the "salt bar"
  • Price: Starters, all under $12; Entrees, all under $29
  • Reservations: Via phone or opentable.com
  • Phone: (212) 475-5700
  • Website: http://www.thecoopersquarehotel.com/
  • Location: 25 Cooper Sq, (at 5th St)

Chef Govind Armstrong’s “Table 8” recently opened in the brand new, ultra modern/hip Cooper Square Hotel. New York City serves as the restaurant’s third location behind Miami’s South Beach and Los Angeles. So I’d be a liar if I told you that Em, Nora and I didn’t feel pretty damn cool to have scored a 9:30pm reservation at one of NYC’s hottest new dining establishments. It was a Saturday night, after all...

In order to access Table 8 from the street, one must walk through the restaurant’s modern library-themed bar en route to the hostess stand. Though different, the aesthetics of both the bar and the restaurant seemed to flow together like honey. Outfitted with massive floor to ceiling windows, gun-metal colored slate, splashes of onyx-shaded granite, and caramel wood accents, the space evoked a smart and refreshing sense of interior design.

Although arriving minutes shy of our 9:30pm reservation, our table was ready and we were seated immediately (there’s nothing worse than having to wait an additional 15-30 min’s for your reservation). I was pleased to note that the restaurant’s acoustics were forgiving, allowing for conversation; and that the service moved at a steady (neither hurried nor slow) pace. *Note that there is the option to dine alfresco on a beautiful patio.*

After having perused the menu, our waitress returned to take our orders. I chose to begin my meal with the scallop crudo, followed by the halibut. Within moments, our small bread plates were topped with a freshly baked and perfectly salted pretzel roll, which was almost the size of a tennis ball. Just as I began to spread butter on each half, our appetizers arrived. Served in a small black dish were three horizontally sliced pieces of raw scallop, swimming in a shallow milky broth topped with chopped kumquat and a light dusting of greens (forgive me, I’m guessing the “greens” were either cilantro or basil). When the delicate (and exquisitely fresh and firm) shellfish kissed the perky citrus (kumquat), a positively memorable flavor combination was born where no ingredient overpowered the other...Truly symphonic.
From appearances alone, my entrée was the most attractive plate in the room, consisting of an artistic display of the following: Thick halibut filet pan seared until golden brown, and topped with toasted bread; a side of green pureed ____ ; micro greens; stewed cherry and yellow tomatoes. While the fish was excellent (fresh, firm, seared to a buttery perfection), I couldn’t figure out why the hell it was topped with a thin slice of toasted bread, which had a thick spread of what I assumed to be some sort of chopped halibut schmear. To this minute, I’m still uncertain as to what the pureed mystery-side was. Green-dyed mashed potatoes/cauliflower, perhaps? All I do know is that it did not appeal to me whatsoever.

Overall, I found my experience at Table 8 to be very mediocre, as I felt that the kitchen was trying too hard to be innovative and eclectic. I whole heartedly welcome new ingredients and love trying different foods, but I just cannot get over the randomness of the menu. Besides my toast and green puree issue, Emily’s order of Grilled Baby Chicken was plated with beef short-rib hash. How do those two items even remotely go together?
Do I see myself returning to Table 8? Sure, but I'll give the restaurant a couple of months to work out its kinks and *hopefully* revamp some menu items.
Thursday
Jun112009

This week in NYC dining news...

A finger lickin' good weekend, the city's best spots to get fresh, and a fab list of celebratory tables...All this week in NYC dining news.

  • Big Apple BBQ Block Party (one of yours truly's most favorite outdoor events) is THIS weekend! For more information, click *here*
  • Wanna know the top 10 spots for an easy tryst in NYC? Blackbook's got the steamy list! Click *here*
  • Planning a large birthday dinner and have no clue where to go? Tasting Table did the homework for you (and scored an A+, if I do say so myself)! Check it out by clicking *here*
Friday
Jun052009

Recipe: Croissant Pain Perdu with Brown-Sugar Butter

 

The ULTIMATE French twist on French toast! Easy to make and decadent to eat, this recipe is sure to impress!

Recipe: Croissant Pain Perdu with Brown-Sugar Butter

Ingredients (makes 2-4 servings):

  • 1 5-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 3 ounces buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 croissants (day-old is best), sliced in half lengthwise
  • Butter (to grease pan)
  • Brown-sugar butter (recipe further below)
  • 100% pure maple syrup
  • Powdered sugar

In a shallow bowl (I use a square dish that’s about 6’ in diameter on each side), combine the first 7 ingredients and whisk until evenly blended. Place halved croissant slice directly in to bowl with wet ingredients, allowing it to soak up liquid. Flip to other side and repeat, allowing each side to soak for approximately 30 seconds. Place moistened croissant slice on a separate dry plate, and repeat steps above.
Grease griddle with butter and allow warming for approximately 2 minutes on medium heat. Delicately place croissant halves on to griddle and cook each side for approximately 3 minutes (or until golden brown). Remove from heat and plate for service. Top each half with a dollop of brown-sugar butter (recipe below), a dusting of powdered sugar, and maple syrup.

Recipe: Brown-sugar butter

Ingredients (makes 2-4 servings):

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Place both ingredients in a small, shallow, microwave-safe bowl. Cover loosely with a paper napkin/towel and microwave for 20-30 seconds, or until butter appears spreadable (NOT melted). The consistency should resemble cake icing.
Remove from microwave and stir until smooth and blended. Great for topping on biscuits, muffins, French toast, pancakes, toast, etc.