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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, most recently, Los Angeles - shop!

xoxo, 

Lindsay

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Sunday
Feb012015

Miami/Coral Gables: Where to eat and drink

Below, you will find restaurants/specialty shops that have been categorized by their respective cuisines.  I have only included venues where I have personally either dined-in or ordered-out.  

~

American

Cuban

Italian

Friday
Jan302015

Help! I need to blow off some steam...

First of all, Thank Gawd It's (Fcuking) Friday! 

It's been one of those seemingly never-ending weeks where I've been in a horrible mood.  Nothing works - nothing is right - and the future looks bleeeeeeak.  This outlook, in turn, unleashes my inner beotch.  By Friday (today), I find myself apologizing to everyone for everything I've said/done since Monday.  "You need to blow off some steam," my mom quipped.  "Go to a spin class or something!  That'll make you feel better."

So, the thing about LA is, unless you're down with jogging or going for speed walks after work/in the dark, your only sweat-it-out option is to hit the gym.  Easy enough, right?  Well, throw in our infamous rush-hour traffic, and you can almost be certain that, unless you leave the office 45 minutes-1 hour in advance, your bike seat/yoga mat/barre space will be given away.  And you'll be charged with a big, fat late-fee.  Ask me again why you don't see me at Flywheel's West Hollywood location on a Wednesday evening...

For a hot minute, I was a member at Equinox.  While the facilities were immaculate, I found the studio classes to be pretty lame compared to, say, Flywheel or Physique 57.  Plus, to this day, I couldn't tell you the first thing about what to do on a gym floor (like with weights/machines), regardless of the "free personal trainer sessions when you join."  How in the hell can you take notes when someone is actively going through a workout with you?  And I'd rather be water-boarded than spend more than 5-minutes on a treadmill...

"Mom, I'm not taking a gawd damn spin class tonight.  I'm fcuking walking home from work as we speak.  Isn't that enough?!"  Clearly, from my amount of cussing, walking home from work is never the best solution for me to blow off steam...

When it's been "one of those days/weeks" here in LA, and I can't get to an exercise class after work, I either find myself drinking too much or mindlessly stuffing my face with food.  For fcuk's sake, I need some new ideas, folks.  Do I take up knitting?  Start smoking?  Kidding.  Kind of...   

How do you blow off steam in a healthy-ish manner?  I'd love to hear from you!

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Sunday
Jan252015

Reviewed: Wolfgang Puck at the Hotel Bel Air

  • Cuisine: American/Californian
  • Location: 701 Stone Canyon RdLos Angeles 90077 
  • Pricing: $$$
  • What's delicious: Seasonal pizza, Heirloom Tomato Salad
  • Perfect for: Al-fresco dining - ladies who lunch - business dining/meetings - those looking to "get away from it all," if even just for an hour or two
  • FYI: Al-fresco dining makes this stunner pet friendly-ish.  Just make sure to call and double confirm before bringing your pooch.  People watching here is DYNAMITE, so be prepared to stay long and linger.

One of the key reasons I moved to Los Angeles was to be closer to my family.  After having lived across the country for 10 years, I guess you could say that I've been making up for lost time.  Instead of seeing them 2-3 times per year, I've been racking in visits at least once/month.  Sometimes twice.

Last weekend, my mom came up from San Diego.  For a woman who used to panic about riding the "disgusting" NYC subway, it was quite surreal for me to fetch her at LA's Union Station, the local Amtrak destination.  "I don't want to deal with the traffic or driving, for that matter.  Plus, maybe I can finally delve in to this new book I started!"  

With an 11:20AM arrival, the first thing on our minds was lunch.  I wanted to treat Mom to something sophisticated, dog-friendly and, perhaps, a bit dainty; somewhere "the ladies who lunch" descend upon to catch up on gossip, have a glass of wine (or two), and people-watch.  So, what better than Wolfgang Puck at the Hotel Bel Air?

En-route to the restaurant via the hotel's gorgeous grounds, Mom and I spied a special events team prepping for a wedding that was to take place later that evening.  Apparently, it costs upwards of $115K to rent out one of the ballrooms at the Hotel Bel Air...And that's just for the space, alone!

...

Situated in a lush, almost tropical indoor/outdoor setting, the atmosphere at Wolfgang Puck is casually sophisticated.  

Photo credit: Haute Living dot com

With my dog, Lucy, in tow, we were promptly seated at an outdoor table.  Before I could properly situate myself, two employees approached and asked if Lucy would enjoy a water bowl and small sitting chair alongside mine.  "Why, of course!  Thank you!"  Within seconds, a folded tablecloth was laid on the ground (in the event that Lucy wanted to rest by my feet, instead) as was a sizable water bowl.  A small, folding stool was placed between Mom and my chairs, so that Lucy could relax, at my lap-level, in her doggie purse.  Mom and I felt like movie stars! 

I'd be a liar if I said that, after all of the royal treatment and attention that Lucy received, we weren't automatically sold on this place.  However, the food, wine, and service were dynamite, as well...

Moments after we placed our beverage orders - a pinot noir for me, a chardonnay for Mom - a basket filled with warm, crusty, and freshly-baked breads arrived.  A pat of spreadable, salted butter served as an accompaniment. 

In an effort to taste more items, Mom and I chose to split everything we ordered.  

Heirloom Tomato Salad Multi-colored heirloom tomatoes and bite-sized pieces of haricot verts and red onion were tossed with Tuscan olive oil and aged balsamic.  Microgreens and a sizable dollop of creamy burrata cheese crowned the colorful vegetables.

Just as we were taking our last bites of salad, our server arrived with three house-made doggie biscuits for Lucy. They certainly didn't want to leave her out of the meal! 

Summer Squash Pizza Aesthetically, this was one of, if not the most gorgeous pizzas I had ever seen.  And what's better?  It tasted just as lovely as it looked.  

Fragrant basil pesto laid the foundation for a slew of local and seasonal toppings, including: Zucchini, squash blossoms, sun-dried tomatoes, Nicoise olives, and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.  The crust was perfectly cooked, evoking hues of golden brown and melted cheese-crusted air pockets on nearly every slice.  This delightful pie encompassed summer's bounty in every unctuous bite.

Since we split all of the vegetable-heavy savories, Mom and I felt that we did, in fact, deserve a dessert.  In keeping with somewhat of a "produce" theme, we chose to share the "Stone Fruit Soup,"  Our selection was also an ode to one of my favorite childhood books, Stone Soup.  :-)  

Stone Fruit Soup Chunks of ripe nectarines and brown sugar/oat cookie crumbles were topped with an ice cream-scoop size of snow white meringue and a ladle of "stone fruit" soup (a puree of various pitted fruits).  An edible pansy finished this breathtaking culinary presentation.

A variety of playful textures and both sweet and tangy flavors made this dessert the perfect ending to an incredibly lovely and special meal. 

...

Until we eat again,  

The Lunch Belle

Sunday
Jan252015

In 2015, I resolve to...read nutritional labels more carefully.

If you're anything like me - and many other Americans - then you're roughly 1-10 pounds "fluffier" than you were 2 months ago.  Sigh.

Although it is, without a doubt, the most wonderful time of the year, November and December also happen to be the most gluttonous time of the year...

 

So, in keeping with all of this "New Year's resolutions" crap, I am happy to report that, as of January 2, I've been consciously trying to eat cleaner and more mindfully.  Has it been perfect?  Absolutely not.  Especially when it comes to my alcohol intake.  Here's a great example: For breakfast, I was recently on an oatmeal kick until, after reading the small, finer print on the nutrition label, I learned that my beloved, albeit gimmicky, mason jar filled with "Haulin' Oats" was a double serving.  That's right: Instead of consuming what I thought was just 300 calories, I was wolfing down 600!  Can you believe that?  What company makes a double serving of oatmeal in a single-serving container?  Like I'm going to share it with a coworker, or something?  WTF is that?  Seriously!?  Thanks guys.  Thanks for making me fat!  And not with something exciting, like pizza or Mexican food...but with oatmeal!  OATMEAL.  Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Alternatively, I've started eating Survival Bars for brekkie.  Besides the fact that each bar is a SINGLE SERVING, what I like about this particular brand is that, unlike most others on the market, Survival Bars have no salt, refined sugar, preservatives, artificial flavors/colors, trans fats, gluten, or soy.  Plus, they're 100% Vegan, organic/non GMO, and 90% of the ingredients are raw!  Stop.  I know what you're thinking, so I'm going to answer you right now: No, Survival Bars DO NOT taste like shit or dirt or some type of exotic grass.  They're delicious and filling, with most varieties boasting 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.  And 300 calories or less.    

So, happy 2015, dear readers!  And here's to hoping that substituting Survival Bars for Haulin' Oats, Honeycrisp apples for peanut butter M+Ms, and boring ass green tea for warm, sugary coffee drinks will soon pay off.

...

Until we eat again, 

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Sep192014

LOS ANGELES / Review-on-the-quick: Tacos Por Favor

Restaurant: Tacos Por Favor

  • Cuisine: Mexican (fast casual)
  • Location: 1408 Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles
  • Pricing: $
  • What's delicious: Eh...
  • FYI: Small salsa bar stocked with some of the most delicious Mexican "jardinere" in town

After enjoying one too many cocktails at The Bungalow, I was craving some sober-me-up fare.  As Mexican is my go-to comfort cuisine, I headed to the closest "hole in the wall" spot that I could find.  With the positive reviews I had read on Yelp and Menupages (What?  I haven't found my favorite local blog, yet!), I figured that I was in good hands...

Service aside - because everyone who was working there last night was lovely - I was pretty disappointed with my meal.  Granted, the hard-taco shell was homemade, but the beef that it enveloped was cubed; not shredded, like the employee who took my order had promised.  The red sauce on my cheese enchiladas tasted like ketchup, and the jamoncillo was dry, as was the cinnamon/sugar cookie.  Sigh, at least the Mexican Coke was satisfying.

Do you have any favorite fast-casual Mexican go-to's?  I'm in dire need!

Thursday
Sep182014

LOS ANGELES / Reviewed: Terroni (downtown location)

Restaurant: Terroni

  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Location: 802 S Spring St, Los Angeles 90015
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Pizza; Aperol Spritz cocktail; make sure to ask for a side of the red chiles for your pasta and pizza (game changer!)
  • FYI: Unless the public lot across Spring Street is full, don't overpay for valet.

You know you truly adore someone when you drive downtown - during rush hour - for a dinner date...

Terroni resides within a historic bank building, so you can only imagine the ceiling heights that reach to the heavens, the oversized windows, and the interior detailing that seems to have gone away eons before any of us took our first breath.  Rounding out the space is a fully-stocked bar that hugs the center of the dining room like a coiled snake.

Having become slightly obsessed with California wines, I was taken aback when trying to decipher which Italian red would be most similar to my beloved Napa cabernet.  Our hurried server promised to send over one of the expert wine staff to aid me in my decision.  Ten minutes and no sommelier later, I marched up to the bar, myself, and ordered a glass of Brunello.  By the time I returned to our table, I was greeted by a new server and much happier fellow diners.

After placing our food order, we were gifted with gratis sliced bread and a dish of fragrant olive oil.  Shortly thereafter, our shared appetizers arrived.

Fiori di Zucchine Stuffed with parmesan and house made ricotta cheese, four squash blossoms were deep fried to a perfect golden brown and crowned with flash-fried zucchini slices and fresh basil leaves. 

While I love the concept of cheese-stuffed fritters, I am confident that these would be much more unctuous and moist if, instead, they were stuffed with marscapone cheese or a blend of ricotta and marscapone.

Funghi Assoluti Tossed with parmesan cheese, sweet balsamic, extra virgin olive oil, and garlic, baked oyster mushrooms were served warm over a cool bed of spicy arugula greens. 

Our table devoured this salad within what seemed like seconds!  I highly recommend this dish for a group of folks with mixed dietary restrictions; the mushrooms are rich and meaty (although, obviously, meatless) and the savory flavors are exciting and bold.

Spaghetti al Limone Handmade spaghetti noodles were enveloped in a rich sauce composed of lemon and olive oil, before being tossed with spinach, onions, and briny capers.  Salty ribbons of parmesan cheese topped this mound of beautifully tangled pasta.

We thoroughly enjoyed this tangy, zesty "primi" that surprised us with exciting textures and an array of savory flavors with every bite.

"San Giorgio" pizza Oh, the beautiful things that an oven capable of reaching 900-degrees can do for a pizza!  Sadly, I do not have a picture of this masterpiece, but trust me when I say that this was the best pie I've had in recent memory.  Or yet, in my LA culinary adventures, for that matter!  Terroni's philosophy is NOT to pre-slice their pizzas, because "...in Italy pizza is served uncut to preserve its integrity and keep it hot."

A pillowy, charred crust gave way to robust tomato sauce, stringy mozzarella cheese, spicy Calabrese salame, and quartered mushrooms.  It was nothing short of dynamite!

 

As a newcomer to LA, my goal is to not repeat the same restaurant twice.  However, I can not stop thinking about this meal; there is just no way that I will only eat here once!!