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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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Friday
Apr302010

Damn you, Haagen Dazs! 

R.I.P.

Dear Haagen Dazs,

I was horrified upon receiving the following email from one of my readers:

  • "Hi Lunch Belle: please, can you rally the troops to send emails to Haagen Dazs asking them to bring back the "Fleur de Sel Caramel Ice Cream?"  I live in Westchester County, NY (can't find it anywhere for the last several months).  The guys over at the Fairway Market informed me it is unavailable."  Thanks, Chowdom

Could it be true?  Did Haagen Dazs discontinue their Reserve line of ice creams?  I couldn't stop wondering.  After the initial shock turned in to panic, I immediately went to your website.  Using the "flavor finder" field, I scrolled through the list of ice creams, and was horrified to see that, not only were the words "fleur de sel caramel" absent, but the entire Reserve line was no where in sight.  Seriously, Haagen Dazs?  Do you really think something that sounds as heinous as Amaretto Almond Crunch could ever live up to Fleur de Sel Caramel?  And what about Pineapple-Coconut, or Mango?  I can't even fathom those flavors in ice-cream form; seems like a waste of milk, egg yolks, and cream, to me.  When I think of tropical fruits, the word "sorbet" comes to mind; definitely not "ice cream."  And no offense, but if you had to remove any of your lines, the first on the chopping-block should have been "Five."  I get the whole mantra about using less ingredients (hence the name, each of the "five" flavors only have, you guessed it, five ingredients), but the consistency of the "Five" product is more along the lines of flavored ice, not ice cream.  It's just wrong.  Who cares if it has less fat?  It tastes like crap.

If I closed my eyes after a bite of Fleur de Sel Caramel, I felt instantly transported to Paris' Ile St. Louis.  The only company that makes a better version of salted caramel ice cream is Berthillon.  Do you realize what a tremendous compliment that is?  How could you take this flavor away from us?

I know I'm not alone when I beg you to consider re-launching Fleur de Sel Caramel Ice Cream.  Our hearts, and grocer's freezer shelves, are utterly broken.  Until that day, I shed a salty fleur-de-sel tear on behalf of myself and fellow "flavor graveyard" mourners.

Sincerely,

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Apr292010

Round-up: Four days of gluttony, bubbly, and adventure with Mom & Pop

Dear Readers,

From an elegant Spring gala, to lunch on the farm at Blue Hill Stone Barns, I had quite a delicious and adventurous long-weekend. 

Thanks, in advance, to my dear folks, who deserve a round of applause for being so energetic and enthusiastic about running all over the city - and state.  You definitely have enviable amounts of stamina and great attitudes, to boot.

So without further ado, please enjoy my summary of photos and blurbs.  Read it and eat!

x,

The Lunch Belle

A week ago today, my folks and I enjoyed 3-hours' worth of strolling-and eating our way-through Hell's Kitchen, via Rum and Blackbird's Tasting Tour, led by my dear friend, and fellow foodie, Moira Campbell.

Rum and Blackbird Tasting ToursRum and Blackbird Tasting Tours: first stop on the tour? Empanada Mama!Rum and Blackbird Tasting Tours: Island Burgers & Shakes' black & white milkshakeRum and Blackbird Tasting Tours: Gazala Place's handmade boureka...and The Lunch Belle's favorite savory pastryAs if it were humanly possible to further expand our stomachs in a 9-hour time frame, we enjoyed a protein-packed dinner at Wolfgang's Steakhouse (Park Avenue location), a restaurant started by a former headwaiter at Peter Luger Steakhouse.  Aside from the space's deafening acoustics, a basket of cold bread + nearly-frozen butter, and a Caprese salad composed of the most mealy "beefsteak tomatoes," I will give Wolfgang's credit for having, quite possibly, the best cuts of beef this side of the Texas border.  Let's face it, no one comes to a steakhouse for the salad or bread basket; although having stellar versions of each would, in fact, be the "icing on the cake." 

While my father and cousin shared a porterhouse, my mother and I split the filet mignon.  Served with a side of Hollandaise-like sauce, which had an overwhelming coconut-oil aftertaste, the beef proved more delicious in its naked state.  Encrusted with a smoky char, the filet's interior was fork-tender.  Our house-made side orders of French fries and onion rings were hot, crispy, perfectly salted and virtually greaseless.

Wolfgang's Steakhouse (Park Avenue): le menuWolfgang's Steakhouse (Park Avenue): bread basketWolfgang's Steakhouse (Park Avenue): Caprese saladWolfgang's Steakhouse (Park Avenue): filet mignon & house-made onion ringsOn Friday morning, we noshed on a larger-than-life breakfast at Shopsin's.  While Pop feasted on some sort of pastrami/egg scramble, Mom and I split the Mac & Cheese Pancakes and the Bobcater Sliders (mini-burgers topped with fiery Hatch green chile - inspired by the famous burgers served at the Bobcat Bite Restaurant in Santa Fe, NM).

Forgoing lunch, our meal at Shopsin's kept us satiated until dusk.  Friday evening was spent raising vital funds for the NY Junior League's "Playground Improvement Project," via the eleventh-annual Spring Auction gala.  Held at Capitale, one of Manhattan's most breathtaking venues, 460 guests nibbled on heavy hors d'oeuvre, sipped cocktails, bid on a fabulous array of both live and silent auction items, and danced the night away...all in the name of charity.  While our VIP guests enjoyed an exclusive after party at The Eldridge, the rest of our patrons celebrated at Levanteast (a very special "thank you" to nightlife genius, Matt Levine; and Brandsway Creative/ML Creative Group's Event Director, and dear friend, Michelle Jimenez.  You are stars!).

NYJL's Spring Auction 2010: Capitale (venue)NYJL's Spring Auction 2010: table scapesNYJL's Spring Auction 2010: "step and repeat"NYJL's Spring Auction 2010: group shotNYJL's Spring Auction 2010: my mother, me, and dear friend (and author of www.jgiwc.com), Teddi GinsbergUpon waking up on Saturday morning with pounding champagne-induced headaches, my parents and I cured our hangovers with a hearty lunch at the Brooklyn Diner, followed by a stellar 2pm performance of "The Jersey Boys."  For a late dinner, we found ourselves at Luna Piena, a delicious, no-frills Italian restaurant near my parent's hotel.

Aside from the 30-days leading up to my reservation, I had been looking forward to Sunday for years.  I wanted my first lunch experience at Dan Barber's Blue Hill Stone Barns to be accompanied by none other than my parents and dear childhood friend, Shelley.  Having been upstate a handful of times, I've always found myself mesmerized by its natural beauty and serenity.  Since Mom and Dad were such urban haters, I figured that a trip to a rural farm-located only 35 miles outside of Manhattan-just may change their jaded assumption that NYC is NY State.

From the minute our train sprung above ground in Harlem, my parents were fixated on all of the sights beyond their window.  As our journey brought us closer to Tarrytown and further from NYC-revealing more trees and less buildings-I couldn't help but grin as I heard my mom telling my dad "how beautiful the scenery is."  When we arrived at the Tarrytown stop, we hopped in to a cab for the 10-15 minute drive to Blue Hill Stone Barns.  Our driver, Nacho, could not have been more helpful or courteous.  He handed us his card and offered to pick us up after our meal, so long as we gave him a 15-minute head's up.  (Readers: take this gentleman's information.  The next time you find yourself en-route to/from Blue Hill Stone Barns, "Nacho" is the best-and inexpensive, to boot-ride in town: 914-227-5580)

With 20-minutes to spare upon arrival, the four of us walked through the property's expansive, emerald-green gardens and farmland.  We visited the gift shop and the small cafe, where I purchased two jars of homemade jam and a fresh cheddar-chive scone.  Finally, at 11:30am, we made our way towards the restaurant for our lunch reservation.

Before I proceed with my photo documentary of this meal, I must say that my lunch at Blue Hill Stone Barns was, without a doubt in my mind, the best restaurant-dining experience of my entire life.  From the breathable/non-stuffy space (informally-sophisticated - tall, vaulted ceilings with exposed steel beams - white-washed walls - dark-wood paned windows which allowed for breathtaking farm views - fresh flowers throughout - a market table in the center of the dining room - and lots of, well, space!), outstanding service performed by knowledgeable and attentive staff, and the exquisite, simple food (only a genius can make vegetables taste this good!), I left my heart at Blue Hill.

I don't say this often-perhaps I've never even uttered these words on my website-but Blue Hill Stone Barns is an absolute "must."

Blue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): Shelley and I Blue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): one of the buildings on propertyBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): garden in front of the gift shopBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): close-up garden shotBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): chicken coopBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): lambs...boy, these guys make some funny noises!Blue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): pig penBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): interior restaurant space, market table and magenta flowersBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): warm, freshly-baked potato-onion bread, served with a side of farm butterBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): citrus palate cleanserBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): freshly-picked, mini root-vegetable sampler, including lightly-salted carrots and radishesBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): asparagus spear wrapped with cured ham and rolled in sesame seedsBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): chopped asparagus "burger"Blue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): toast-point topped with goat cheese, fiddlehead ferns, and edible flowersBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): a play on "ham and eggs" - a slice of house-cured ham envelopes a rectangular cut of egg souffleBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): goat cheese rollupsBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): asparagus salad topped with preserved egg yolk & edible flowersBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): soft-boiled farm egg topped with an egg-white shellBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): sliced Berkshire pork medallions atop grainsBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): a play on bread pudding - airy fromage blanc rolled in buttery bread crumbs, served with fruit compote and yogurt sorbet

Thursday
Apr292010

A quickie (review, that is): lunch at Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Aside from the 30-days leading up to my reservation, I had been looking forward to Sunday for years.  I wanted my first lunch experience at Dan Barber's Blue Hill Stone Barns to be accompanied by none other than my parents and dear childhood friend, Shelley.  Having been upstate a handful of times, I've always found myself mesmerized by its natural beauty and serenity.  Since Mom and Dad were such urban haters, I figured that a trip to a rural farm-located only 35 miles outside of Manhattan-just may change their jaded assumption that NYC is NY State.

From the minute our train sprung above ground in Harlem, my parents were fixated on all of the sights beyond their window.  As our journey brought us closer to Tarrytown and further from NYC-revealing more trees and less buildings-I couldn't help but grin as I heard my mom telling my dad "how beautiful the scenery is."  When we arrived at the Tarrytown stop, we hopped in to a cab for the 10-15 minute drive to Blue Hill Stone Barns.  Our driver, Nacho, could not have been more helpful or courteous.  He handed us his card and offered to pick us up after our meal, so long as we gave him a 15-minute head's up.  (Readers: take this gentleman's information.  The next time you find yourself en-route to/from Blue Hill Stone Barns, "Nacho" is the best-and inexpensive, to boot-ride in town: 914-227-5580)

With 20-minutes to spare upon arrival, the four of us walked through the property's expansive, emerald-green gardens and farmland.  We visited the gift shop and the small cafe, where I purchased two jars of homemade jam and a fresh cheddar-chive scone.  Finally, at 11:30am, we made our way towards the restaurant for our lunch reservation.

Before I proceed with my photo documentary of this meal, I must say that my lunch at Blue Hill Stone Barns was, without a doubt in my mind, the best restaurant-dining experience of my entire life.  From the breathable/non-stuffy space (informally-sophisticated - tall, vaulted ceilings with exposed steel beams - white-washed walls - dark-wood paned windows which allowed for breathtaking farm views - fresh flowers throughout - a market table in the center of the dining room - and lots of, well, space!), outstanding service performed by knowledgeable and attentive staff, and the exquisite, simple food (only a genius can make vegetables taste this good!), I left my heart at Blue Hill.

I don't say this often-perhaps I've never even uttered these words on my website-but Blue Hill Stone Barns is an absolute "must."

Blue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): Shelley and I Blue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): one of the buildings on propertyBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): garden in front of the gift shopBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): close-up garden shotBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): chicken coopBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): lambs...boy, these guys make some funny noises!Blue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): pig penBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): interior restaurant space, market table and magenta flowersBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): warm, freshly-baked potato-onion bread, served with a side of farm butterBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): citrus palate cleanserBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): freshly-picked, mini root-vegetable sampler, including lightly-salted carrots and radishesBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): asparagus spear wrapped with cured ham and rolled in sesame seedsBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): chopped asparagus "burger"Blue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): toast-point topped with goat cheese, fiddlehead ferns, and edible flowersBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): a play on "ham and eggs" - a slice of house-cured ham envelopes a rectangular cut of egg souffleBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): goat cheese rollupsBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): asparagus salad topped with preserved egg yolk & edible flowersBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): soft-boiled farm egg topped with an egg-white shellBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): sliced Berkshire pork medallions atop grainsBlue Hill Stone Barns (upstate NY): a play on bread pudding - airy fromage blanc rolled in buttery bread crumbs, served with fruit compote and yogurt sorbet

Thursday
Apr292010

A quickie (review, that is): Wolfgang's Steakhouse

My family and I enjoyed a protein-packed dinner at Wolfgang's Steakhouse (Park Avenue location), a restaurant started by a former headwaiter at Peter Luger Steakhouse.  Aside from the space's deafening acoustics, a basket of cold bread + nearly-frozen butter, and a Caprese salad composed of the most mealy "beefsteak tomatoes," I will give Wolfgang's credit for having, quite possibly, the best cuts of beef this side of the Texas border.  Let's face it, no one comes to a steakhouse for the salad or bread basket; although having stellar versions of each would, in fact, be the "icing on the cake." 

While my father and cousin shared a porterhouse, my mother and I split the filet mignon.  Served with a side of Hollandaise-like sauce, which had an overwhelming coconut-oil aftertaste, the beef proved more delicious in its naked state.  Encrusted with a smoky char, the filet's interior was fork-tender.  Our house-made side orders of French fries and onion rings were hot, crispy, perfectly salted and virtually greaseless.

Wolfgang's Steakhouse (Park Avenue): le menuWolfgang's Steakhouse (Park Avenue): bread basketWolfgang's Steakhouse (Park Avenue): Caprese saladWolfgang's Steakhouse (Park Avenue): filet mignon & house-made onion rings