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.



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My delicious calendar
  • 8/18-8/20: Maine
  • 8/25: dinner at Quality Eats
  • 8/26: brunch at Nur
  • 10/25-10/28: El Paso
  • 11/1-11/4: Aruba
  • 11/21-11/25: Houston
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Recipe: "Cool Ranch" Saltine Crackers

Are you a fan of Cool Ranch Doritos?

My friend, Paige, made these devilishly-addictive crackers in anticipation of our 6-hour drive from Lubbock, Texas to Austin, Texas.  The ingredient list may sound a bit frightening and incompatible, but trust me when I say that "you won't be able to eat just one." 


*This recipe is easy to cut down by 1/2.  I made these crackers over the weekend, and half (of the recipe) was more than enough for less than four people.

  • 1 1/2 boxes of Multigrain Saltine Crackers (6 sleeves, total)
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 2 1-ounce packages of Ranch dressing mix
  • 1/4 cup crushed red pepper

In a small bowl, combine canola oil, Ranch dressing mix, and crushed red pepper.  Whisk until blended and set aside.  Gently empty cracker sleeves in to a 1-gallon plastic bag, such as Ziploc.  Pour wet mixture over the crackers - seal bag - then gently shake to distribute ingredients.  For even distribution, lightly toss cracker bag (no need to open the bag) every 15-minutes, for approximately 1 hour. 

Set bag aside, and allow to sit overnight.   

*We found that the longer the crackers remained untouched, the better they tasted.  If you're able, try to wait 24-hours before digging in to the batch.  

Optional Accompaniments (you don't even need one, but if you must)

  • Sliced Monterrey-Jack cheese (at room-temperature)
  • Jalapeno jelly    
  • Sour cream blended with olive tapenade, to dip
  • Sour cream blended with marinara sauce, to dip   
  • Sliced avocado

South-bound & out of commish

Dearest Belle's Angels (that's you, reader!),

For those of you in the US, Happy (early) Memorial Day!  Here's to wishing you a much-deserved 3-day weekend filled with friends/family, après beach parties, and gorgeous weather. 

In my neck of the woods, Memorial Day serves as the marker for the inaugural weekend in the Hamptons.  Since the island of Manhattan will be virtually empty, this makes for the perfect opportunity to take advantage of otherwise crowded restaurants and bars, parks, museums, etc. for those of you staying local.  However, should you find yourself on the Northeast's own "Gold Coast," I highly recommend checking out some of my favorite eateries, in addition to East Hampton's newest hot spot, The Boathouse, brought to you by my friend and night life guru, Matt Levine.  

As for me?  Well, I'm headed to my home state of Texas.  First stop on the itinerary?  Lubbock, home to my alma mater, Texas Tech University, and my adorable god-daughter, Miss Blair.  The second leg of my trip will take me to Austin, where I will reunite with two of my very best friends-my sister-a cousin-and tag along at, what I'm certain will be, a very wild bachelorette party.  Aside from all of that, what I'm really looking forward to is eating and drinking my way from the Texas panhandle to the green and tranquil Hill Country.  Some places that I hope to visit are:

  • Whataburger: no one is capable of making a better breakfast taquito than this famous mini-chain.  I take mine with hash-browns, eggs, and American cheese
  • Guero's Taco Bar: delicious Mexican food & strong 'ritas, complete with a ginormous salsa/fixin's bar
  • Saltlick OR Lambert's OR The County Line OR Cooper's for some good ol' Texas BBQ
  • Taco Cabana: there's nothin', I mean nothin', like a bowl of warm queso dip and handmade flour tortillas to cure late-night hunger pangs

What better way to end a girl's weekend than by going to see the ultimate chick flick, Sex and The City 2?  In anticipation of the movie, I told Jessica, the buddy of mine whose house we're staying at in Austin, that she had better have the following ingredients on-hand to make Alize's "Hello, Lover!" cocktail:

Hello, Lover!  Cocktail recipe:

  • 2 parts Alize Red Passion
  • 2 parts Champagne
  • Serve chilled in a Champagne flute and garnish with fresh fruit

Seriously, how delicious does that sound?

And with that, dear readers, I bid you "adieu" until next week.  Enjoy your holiday weekend and stay tuned for a full round-up from my "Tour de Texas."

Read it & eat!


The Lunch Belle


Dinner at Corsino

  • Cuisine: Italian, small plates
  • Atmosphere: rustic, open/airy, lively and crowded
  • Attire: smart-casual
  • Ideal for: trendy, small groups/1x1, date night, fair prices, meatballs 
  • Price: affordable/all menu items under $19
  • Phone: 212-242-3093
  • Reservations: via opentable.com
  • Location: 637 Hudson St. (at Horatio St.)
  • Website: click *here*
  • Directionswww.hopstop.com/?city=newyork

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

In honor of her first return-visit to the Tri State area-since moving to Houston in June 2009-Allie and I invited Miss Susanna to join us for dinner at Corsino.

Despite being an incomplete party (ahem, Susanna was 45-minutes late!), the staff informed us that, since three out of the four of us were present, we could be seated.  In anticipation of Susanna's late arrival, Allie, her boyfriend, and I spent our time perusing and discussing both the restaurant's space and its food/cocktail menu.

Corsino: floor-to-ceiling doors open on to the sidewalk, allowing guests to dine semi-al-frescoCorsino: exposed wine storage, rustic wood-paneled accent walls, warm lighting, and large windows that allow for constant illuminationCorsino: le menu By the time that our guest-of-honor finally arrived, the three of us were already sipping our second round of cocktails.  I chose the "Giardino," which is Italian for "garden," to quench my thirst.  Served in a highball glass over a mound of crushed ice was a refreshing and delicate (in the sense of alcohol aftertaste/burn) blend of balsamic vinegar, basil, and lemon-among other ingredients.  While the ingredients seemed more akin to a salad dressing, they proved to be a compatible match with the herbal Amaro.

Corsino: the "Giardino," or "garden," cocktail After Susanna ordered a glass of wine, I asked our server if we could have a basket of bread.  "Oh, ya, we don't do that here," she replied, "but we do offer crostinis at $2.50/piece."  Interesting.  I always put "bread basket + olive oil" with Italian restaurants-"sliced baguette & butter" with French restaurants-and "chips & salsa" with Mexican restaurants (...even if you have to pay for the damn things here in NYC). 

I've got to hand it to Corsino, because their "no bread basket" tactic worked.  I ordered two crostinis: olive tapenade, and ricotta with orange honey.  While the latter was my favorite, both versions sat atop a thin, perfectly crisped, and buttery toast point.    

Corsino's olive tapenade crostini: too-salty olive tapenade had a delicate anchovy-essence and arrived atop a thin, buttered toast pointCorsino's ricotta + orange honey crostini: creamy ricotta cheese drizzled with sweet and fragrant orange-honey arrived atop a thin, buttered toast pointAfter our waitress took everyone else's entree orders, it was my turn.  "I'd like the Heritage Brisket Meatballs, please.  Do they come with anything, say, like a side of bread?"  I asked.  The waitress looked at me like I had three heads.  "Fine then, can you bring me a side of crostini bread?  Feel free to charge me extra,  thanks."

Aside from their drop-dead-gorgeous physique, I knew, before I even tasted them, that these meatballs would be special.  Three golf ball-sized mounds, having simmered in a robust marinara for god knows how long, formed a virtual triangle at the bottom of my shallow, white bowl.  The shredded pecorino cheese that topped the meatballs had morphed in to a crusty, golden brown, after spending a moment in the oven.  Using the crostini toast points to sop-up all of the hearty marinara sauce, I couldn't help but wonder, "What kind of meat blend does Corsino use to make their 'balls?"  Pork + beef + veal?  Or, pork + brisket + veal?  Could lamb have been involved in the mix?  Whatever the meat trinity was made for an unbelievably moist and fluffy (I hate to use that word) 'ball; and the addition of the marinara sauce and gooey, melted pecorino served as the "cherry on top." 

For the love of god, I cannot stop thinking about Corsino's Heritage Brisket Meatballs.  They were, truly, that outstanding.   

Corsino's Heritage Brisket MeatballsAside from the fact that Corsino did not have a traditional gratis bread basket, I was thoroughly pleased with my meal (so sue me, I'm a carboholic).  Each item that I ordered, from the refreshing Giardino, to the crostinis and orgasmic-meatballs, was excellent.


Brunch at Diner

  • Cuisine: American
  • Atmosphere: shabby-chic, laid back  
  • Attire: casual
  • Ideal for: brunch, informal gathering
  • Price: moderate/most menu items under $22
  • Phone: 718-486-3077
  • Reservations: not accepted
  • Location: 85 Broadway
  • Website: click *here*
  • Directionswww.hopstop.com/?city=newyork

*All photos from my meal can be found on Flickr

Deep down, I was less than thrilled when Linda recommended "Marlow and Sons" for our brunch date on Sunday.  The restaurant's name definitely rang a bell, but it wasn't until I conducted further research-via menupages.com-that I put "two and two" together.  Hadn't I seen this joint featured on the Travel Channel?  Aside from not wanting to make the trek over to M&S (Marlow & Sons) home in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) because I'm intimidated by the neighborhood's "cooler-than-I'll-ever-be" hipsters, the menu was chock full of items that, frankly, did not tickle my culinary libido (pork belly, chicken liver pate).

Obviously, in the end, I surrendered and agreed to brunch at M&S.

With Miss Emily in tow, the three of us (Linda being the 3rd) made our way to Williamsburg.  After a 15-minute walk from the Bedford Avenue subway station, we arrived at M&S.  We followed the rest of the hungry hipsters towards what appeared to be a "take-away" counter, of sorts.  "I didn't come all the way to Brooklyn to eat a damn grab-n-go bagel," barked Emily.  Luckily for us snobby-Manhattanites, we quickly realized that there was, in fact, a full-service restaurant just steps away. 

From the outside, M&S looks like one large space but, in actuality, it is divided in two.  Towards the back of the building lies the smaller take-away shop/counter, serving baked goods at breakfast and sandwiches at lunch.  A full-service restaurant, which goes by the name, "Diner," encompasses the front (of the building). 

Despite the fact that we arrived at Diner at 11am-which is early for brunch anywhere, but especially in Williamsburg-we still were quoted a "45-minute to 1-hour wait" to be seated at a table.  Luckily, there were three free bar stools at the counter, located smack-dab in the middle of the restaurant-the perfect spot for priceless people-watching from an elevated, bird's eye view.  Within a matter of minutes of sitting down, the three of us commented on how lucky we felt to have arrived when we did, for the restaurant was now at capacity.

Diner: from the inside (of the restaurant), the space mimics the interior of a train carDiner's menus were hand-written on, what appeared to be, cash-register paper.

Diner: hand-written menuAfter Emily and our waitress/bar tender realized that they knew each other from childhood-and played a 10-minute version of the"Did you know that so-and-so is knocked-up?" game-we finally placed our food orders.  For an appetizer, the three of us chose to split Sunday's special baked-good of the day: a homemade oatmeal scone, cut in half like a sandwich, and filled with a spoonful of strawberry-rhubarb jam and a dollop of Devonshire/clotted cream.  The scone's crispy, caramelized outer crust gave way to a warm and moist interior that, while dense, still felt as light as air on my tongue.  The rich clotted cream aided in cutting through some of the rhubarb's naturally tart flavor.  

Diner: oatmeal scone filled with Devonshire cream and strawberry-rhubarb jamThough it took an unforeseen amount of time, our entrees finally arrived.  My order, the Country Breakfast, was a plate composed of: scrambled eggs, lightly-dressed greens, and a homemade biscuit smothered with pork-sausage gravy.  While not traditional by my standards, I did enjoy the scratch-made biscuit halves topped with the thin, dull-white, creamed gravy, liberally dotted with chunks of pork-sausage.  Knowing full well that the kitchen's ration simply would not be enough for this Southern girl, I ordered an extra side of the gravy mid-way through my meal. 

I couldn't help but notice that the color of the scrambled eggs were a vibrant shade of yellow, which was a pleasant reminder of my breakfasts in France (I assume that a stronger colored yolk means, like many countries in Europe, M&S sources their eggs locally and not from factory farms).  The daintily-dressed salad greens offered a nice, "healthy" diversion from the buttery eggs and heavy biscuits'n gravy.    

Diner: biscuits'n gravy, scrambled eggs, salad greensDiner: biscuits'n gravy, scrambled eggs, salad greensConclusion: I need to get over my fear of hipster territories, swallow my pride, and practice saying the following in the mirror on repeat, "Girl, you may not have much fashion sense-keep up with the latest music-or wear black Coke bottle glasses-but damn it, take pride in your awkward self!  Don't let the cool folk intimidate."  All jokes aside, some of the best restaurants in NYC are located in further-than-your-comfort-zone (read 5 blocks in each direction) neighborhoods where, it's quite possible that, you may stick out like a local-yokel.  But who cares?  It's worth it. 

Moral of the story: pound the pavement and get yourself out there; great food is just too important to miss!