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 Los Angeles - shop!



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  • 12/24-1/2: California
  • 4/25-5/7: Middle East
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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.

Recipe: Summertime Burgers & Fixin's


Happy summer, Bellies! Can you believe it’s June already? I hope that all of you are enjoying the warm weather.
Last week, I promised to post my “Memorial Day Burgers” recipe. Well, it’s been over a week since the holiday, so I’m going to rename the title to “Recipe: Summertime Burgers & Fixin's.”
If kettle-cooked potato chips sound too greasy as a burger accompaniment, check out my simple and healthy “Emeralds & Rubies” recipe (inspired by Allie’s), which can be found further below.


Recipe: Fancy-pants burgers (variation on the original that I posted in July 2008)

Ingredients (makes 6 large burgers):

  • 2 lbs fresh/thawed ground beef: I prefer 80/20 meat-to-fat ratio, though 85/15 is also OK.
  • 5.2 ounces Boursin Fine Herbs and Garlic Cheese
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 4 slices of raw or cooked bacon, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Using your *clean* hands, thoroughly mix everything together.
Evenly form six 1-inch thick patties and place on a large plate. When finished, cover plate with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to grill (at least 1-hour).
Cook to desired interior temperature.


May I suggest the following?
Serve burger on a warm, buttered high-quality bun/roll (not the crap that comes 6-per-bag that you buy at the supermarket)
Optional burger toppings (my personal favorites):

  • Fried egg
  • Bacon
  • Tomato slice
  • Mayonnaise or homemade aioli
  • Sautéed onions (recipe below)
  • Sliced avocado
  • Comte cheese (vaguely similar to gruyere)


Recipe: Silky sautéed onions

Ingredients (makes enough to evenly top 4-6 burgers):

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 thinly sliced (or chopped, if you’re lazy) medium-sized white onion
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large saucepan over medium heat, add butter. When melted, add onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir frequently and sauté until onions become nearly translucent (approximately 10 minutes). Serve as a topping for burgers.


Recipe: Emeralds & Rubies (avocado & tomato "salad")

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 3 firm and ripe avocados, sliced (The easiest way to cut an avocado is as follows: Lengthwise, slice cut the avocado in half by circling the perimeter and not cutting in to the pit. Delicately place one hand on each sliced half, and move hands in opposite directions with the same motion used to open a jar. To remove pit, use moderate force and stab sharp knife, blade-side down, horizontally in to pit. Using the handle of the knife, turn utensil counter clockwise until pit loosens. Once pit has been discarded, peel and remove avocado rind. Cut flesh in to ¼-inch slices.)
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil (small amount needed for a drizzle)
  • ½ cup-ish fresh cilantro leaves (no stems)
On a large plate, arrange avocado and tomato slices. Top with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

CLOSED: Dinner at Philippe Chow Express


  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Scene: Casual, small outdoor seating area, chic space
  • Occasion: 1x1/small group dining, families, lite bites and drinks (pre party), delivery/take-out
  • Price: Wok-fried beef dumplings: $8; Green Prawns: $18
  • Reservations: Via phone
  • Phone: (212) 929-8949
  • Website: http://www.philippechow.com/
  • Location: 469 6th Ave, (Btwn 11th & 12th St)


The Friday evening before Memorial Day was slightly eerie for those of us left in the city. It reminded me of the scene from the movie "Vanilla Sky" when Tom Cruise walks through Times Square sans traffic and people. Luckily, my friend Phil was also in town, so we decided to grab a bite in what would surely be a quiet night for restaurants. Philippe Chow had recently opened a small satellite of his haute and swanky 60th Street eatery, "Philippe," in our Chelsea neighborhood. Aptly named "Philippe Chow Express," Phil and I were anxious to dine in a more casual setting for a fraction of the price tag at the Upper Eastside's flagship location.

We arrived at the restaurant just shy of what would normally be considered "prime time" on a Friday evening, 7:45pm. As anticipated, Phil and I were the only patrons, minus the outdoor cafe table occupied by a couple of gents smoking cigarettes and sipping espresso.

We were greeted by a friendly hostess who informed us of the restaurant's ordering process: Read the overhead board or leather-bound menu, place your order (with the hostess), take a seat, and pay at the end of your meal. After I decided on a glass of Riesling, wok-fried beef dumplings and green prawns, Phil and I made our way to a table. "This is a nice space, don't you agree?" Phil asked after we received our wine (once seated, a waiter brings food/drink/refills). Adorned with a color palate of onyx, cherry red and gray, with textures of exposed brick and hardwood flooring, the interior was nothing short of clean and sleek; not something I would have expected from a quick-service joint.

Within 15-minutes of being seated, we received our appetizers. I eagerly took my first bite of the wok-fried beef dumplings (5/order): The skin was buttery and thin with the perfect ratio of crispy to doughy. The beef, however, was overcooked and the dipping sauce that accompanied the dumplings was offensively sour.

Shortly after our appetizer plates were cleared, Phil and I received our entrees. "These aren't prawns! They look more like jumbo shrimp to me. Weird." I said as I observed the green morsel on my fork. "Ew, why are the prawns green?" Phil asked. "Because of the green curry," I said, before taking my first bite, "which clearly does nothing flavor-wise for the dish." While the carrots, water chestnuts, morels and peppers were fresh and crisp, I found the "prawns" fishy and the sauce bland.*Note* Rice comes free with entrees.

Phil and I finished our dinner with an order of red velvet cake, which happened to be the evening's special. "Red velvet cake at an Asian restaurant? Wow. This is going to be interesting," I said. Though my expectations were low, I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious and moist the cake was. But even more shocking was the mild cocoa flavor, which is exactly how this Southern treat is supposed to taste.

Do I see myself returning to Philippe Chow Express in the future? Probably not, as I found the food to be quite bland. However, if you're looking for a Chinese delivery restaurant with healthier and higher quality ingredients, this may be a great option. Though Philippe Chow Express is not a destination restaurant, I found the concept to be innovative for NYC.


Famed FroYo makes its UES debut!

Grace Notes NYC's Fro-Yolympics  
As if we needed another reason to love 10021?
If the name “40 Carrots” doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps the word “Bloomingdales” will: The “exclusive” frozen yogurt made famous at Bloomingdales’ 40 Carrots Restaurant is now available at the Upper Eastside’s fabulous Butterfield Market. Lookout, Pinkberry!

And the winner is...?


Are you curious to learn more about the winners of NYC's annual Lonestar Chili Cook-off? Look no further; The Lunch Belle has all of the juicy details! Below, please find my interview with Kimberly Hayes, of the five-time-award-winning chili team, “The Monkey Punch.”


Including yourself, how many people were on your team?

  • We were a team of 4.

Are all team mates from Texas? If not, where?

  • I'm from Austin, Texas; my husband, Gerard Hayes is from Galway, Ireland; Nicole Pelengaris is from Liberty, MI, and Abhay Patel is from Forest, MI (Nicole and Abhay went to LSU together).

You call yourselves "The Monkey Punch." What is the story behind the name? Have you used that name for the past five wins?

  • We change our team name every year. My husband and I were at dinner last week and just came up with the name (I wish there was a funny story but there isn't). Some of our past team names have been: The Magic Animal, Chili-licous and The Extinguishers (I can't remember the 4th - it was way out there!).

Who created the chili recipe?

  • In 2003, I asked a friend to enter this competition with me. I did some research on chili and came up with bits and pieces from different recipes I've used and come across. Truth is, we change it up a little each time. One year we didn't have beans in our chili, but all other years we have had beans. We've been criticized for having beans, as some don't believe true TX chili has beans in it. I believe true TX chili is one in which you throw together what you have in the kitchen; whatever tastes good with the essentials.

Did you taste all/most of your competition's chili? Which was your favorite (besides your own, of course)?

  • I did not get a chance to taste any of the competition this year.

Why do you think you all won again?

  • I think our chili is amazing and we keep our meat very tender and don't overdo the spice factor. Some people tend to over spice their chili with heat thinking that the spicier the better. We like to layer the flavors so you can taste the spice, the sweet, and the kick all in one bite!

Will you enter the Cook-off next year?

  • Yes, as long as we are in town. Last year was the only year we haven't participated since 2003 (my husband was at a bachelor party in Canada and I was in Dallas for the bachelorette weekend).

Ever thought about competing in a national cook-off?

  • I've thought about it and think it would be a lot of fun!

OK, I have to ask: UT or A&M?

  • UT, of course!

Brunch at Marseille, 5/17/09

  • Cuisine: French
  • Atmosphere: bustling, grand bistro-chic, spacious
  • Attire: smart-casual
  • Ideal for: outdoor dining, bar scene, pre/post theater, burger, children welcomed, group dining
  • Must try: Marseille Burger
  • Price: Burger: $13.75
  • Reservations: Via phone or opentable.com
  • Phone: (212) 333-2323
  • Website: http://www.marseillenyc.com/
  • Location: 630 9th Avenue, (at 44th St)

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

“This will be your first visit to NYC? How exciting! Where are you all staying, and most importantly, would you like to meet for Sunday brunch?” I said. “I think we’re at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. Brunch sounds great!” Lillie replied.

**A note of courtesy for the local Manhattanite: Don’t make a first-time visitor meet you at the venue/restaurant/landmark of choice.**

In following my rule, I told Lillie that that I’d pick her up at the Marquis and we could go to the restaurant together. Now for the hard part: Where is a decent place to eat brunch within walking distance of Times Square? Having lived in Hell’s Kitchen (Times Square’s neighbor) for two years upon my arrival to NYC, I was fairly familiar with the hood’s culinary landscape: Nizza’s great, but I just had brunch there two weeks ago; 44&X was a favorite, but I didn’t see them listed on opentable.com (to procure on online reservation); Eatery was cute to look at, but I was under whelmed by the food.
So after too much time spent scouring the opinionated boards of my favorite interactive food blog, chow.com, I decided to make our Sunday brunch reservations at Marseille.

Lillie and I arrived at the restaurant just minutes shy of our 12pm reservation, and were seated immediately. Looking around the space, Marseille vaguely resembled many of the brasseries I dined in during my trip to the French Riviera: Tarnished mirrors, large vases of fragrant flowers, intricately tiled floors and walls painted with bright Nicoise colors.

Shortly after we settled in to our seats, a server approached with a basket of breads and a small saucer with butter and orange marmalade. “We don’t serve cocktails until noon, but if you ladies want to place an order for one, I can take it now. You only have to wait for about three more minutes.” Lillie requested a mimosa and I ordered a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (which, by the way, was among the best I’ve ever had, with the exception of Norma’s).

While I found the halved slices of rye bread to be dry (and random), the basket’s assortment of freshly-baked mini berry muffins were addicting. Lightly spread with butter and a dollop of orange marmalade, I could have made a meal out those alone.

“Which would you recommend: Merguez Sausage and Egg Scramble or the Marseille Burger?” I asked the server. “Oh,” she gushed, “Our burger is outstanding. Definitely one of the city’s best! That’s what I recommend!” Lillie perked up from reading her menu, and (almost in unison) we both exclaimed, “I’ll have the burger!”

Approaching the table with a plate in each hand, our server seemed to be coming toward us in slow motion with the sounds of a church choir singing in the background. My pulse rose as I was presented with my entrée. A large oval plate arrived with: A split hamburger bun with ingredients placed on each half (meat patty topped with Comte cheese, aioli and sautéed onions on one half, and the other half topped with crisp lettuce and a tomato slice), alongside a bowl filled with homemade frites. After seasoning the burger with a dash of salt and pepper, I united the two halves and took my first bite.

Each of my five senses went in to a euphoric stimulation-overdrive; the Marseille Burger was exceptional: The soft brioche bun proved to be durable enough to house the thick beef patty without getting soggy or falling apart. The meat was cooked until precisely “medium” in the center (as requested), allowing its natural juices to be successfully married with the homemade aioli. The buttery sautéed onions, fresh tomato slice, and mound of melted Comte cheese added textural decadence to the already-perfect sandwich. And the homemade frites? Among the best I’ve had in NYC! I finished my entire (ample) portion of the golden, crispy and perfectly salted spuds.

Besides a couple of service hiccups and some dry rye bread, I was extremely pleased with my meal at Marseille. While I do plan to return in the near future, I don’t think I can bring myself to order anything besides their outstanding burger. And to Lillie: Thank you for treating me to one of the best brunches I’ve had in recent memory. I hope you enjoyed your time in our amazing city!