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List: My Top 10 Favorite Dishes of 2018

In no particular order, I'd like to present you with ten of the absolute BEST new dishes/items that I had the pleasure of eating in 2018. So come and see what made my list!

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Recipe: Naturally Sweet Overnight Oats

Growing tired of hard boiled eggs for breakfast, I decided to start looking around to observe what some of my healthier colleagues were noshing in the mornings.  Save for the rail-thin dude who breaks his daily fast with a Maison Kayser chocolate croissant, oatmeal - or some sort of porridge - seemed to be the overwhelming item of choice.  OK, so oatmeal is healthy enough, right?  Sure, when it's in its simplest form - plain and made with water.  Yawn.  But when you add Craisins, chocolate chips, sliced almonds, milk, butter, honey, banana slices, granola (I always found this to be a strange addition), and brown sugar, this hearty cereal becomes as calorically dense as an ice cream sundae! 

For the new year, I made two goals: 1) Attempt Dry January again (this would be my second year), and 2) cook more of my meals at home.  Hell, I have a freaking CULINARY SCHOOL DEGREE - it's about damn time that I put it to use!  Plus, making my own food gives me the peace of mind in knowing every single ingredient that goes in to what I'm eating.  And that helps to put my rampant mind a bit more at ease.

Speaking of, I've been trying to pick apart my favorite recipes and make them a bit more healthy (cutting the oil in half, using less sugar, playing around with different spices, etc.).  With that, I have created the easiest, tastiest, waistline-friendly overnight oats recipe using coconut water (because plain water is so boring and I think that almond milk sucks) and dates (which add natural sweetness and texture), a fruit that I fell in love with during my trip to the Middle East last year. 



1 packet of Quaker Instant Oatmeal Original    

1/3 cup coconut water

3 pitted dates, chopped

Optional: a pinch of salt, dash of cinnamon, and a splash of vanilla extract



Combine all three ingredients.  Stir to combine.  Refrigerate overnight.  Enjoy!


Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle


Reviewed: Zavo

Restaurant: Zavo

  • Cuisine: Continental
  • Location: 1011 Third Avenue - Manhattan 10065
  • Pricing: $$$
  • Reservations? Yes, click here
  • Why go? For some savory before your sweet (Dylan's Candy Bar is next door)


Conveniently housed *next door* to Dylan's Candy Bar (plus dangerously close to Bloomingdales' Third Avenue entrance), Zavo makes for an ideal pre or post-shopping destination with a vibe that's more serene than Patsy's but not quite as buttoned up as Club A Steakhouse.

A bright, white-washed space is elegantly appointed with modern furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook bustling Third Avenue.  While you wait for your party to arrive, grab a glass of champagne at the sexy marble-topped bar that traverses the dining room. 

Photo credit: Zavo's website

There are plenty of crappy bread baskets to be had across the city, but Zavo's is not one of them.  Filled to the brim with a fresh and flavorful assortment that goes beyond sliced, dried-out baguette, this carb-laden masterpiece is accompanied by 1) a small bowl of briny olives and pickled onions, and 2) fragrant pesto for dipping purposes.  As tempting as it is to scarf it down in its entirety, save room for two things on the menu: Char-grilled Octopus and a homemade dessert.  

Beneath the smoky and perfectly char-grilled exterior crust was impossibly tender flesh.  The generous portion of octopus was perched atop a melange of warm chickpeas and fresh mango bits, plus chunky hummus that had the consistency of nutty peanut butter (vs. smooth).  The presentation was completed with microgreens and spheres of crunchy, paper-thin radish.

Char-grilled Octopus

My commitment issues in the relationship arena spillover to my plate when, among other things, I have to choose ONE dessert to split amongst the table.  "No!  No, you choose," is what you'll typically hear me say in an attempt to coerce my fellow diners.  What?  I don't want to take the heat for picking the wrong thing!  Luckily, our waiter at Zavo felt my pain and offered to present us with a sweets sampler...      

DessertFrom the honey cake, assorted ice creams, and gorgeous chocolate mousse/fondant work of art (pictured above), my favorite dessert of the assortment was the pistachio baklava.  Made in-house, it had that ooey-gooey, cloyingly sweet consistency that I love, with much less of that 'phyllo dough crunch.'  In other words, I take my baklava like I take my oatmeal: Overly-saturated with honey.  My mouth is watering as I'm writing this!   


Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle


The Best Menu Items At: Lagman House

Restaurant: Lagman House

  • Cuisine: Dungan
  • Location: 2612 E. 14th St. - Brooklyn 11235  
  • Pricing: $
  • Reservations? Yes, click here
  • Why go? Off-the-beaten path/transporting culinary experience
  • Good to know: BYOB - Halal-friendly  


One of the top five reasons I love living in NYC is that, within minutes, I can literally be transported to another part of the world via the cuisine of a respective neighborhood.  Case in point, Lagman House, a cozy Central Asian gem located in Sheepshead Bay (Brooklyn), which specializes in the food of the Dungans, Chinese Muslims who fled China in the late 19th century and settled in what is today Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (and, most recently, Brooklyn).  Located merely steps from the Q train stop, Lagman House is a sizable establishment featuring a casual atmosphere and knowledgeable table/waiter service. 

Because of Central Asia's unique juxtaposition of cultures and geography, the Lagman House's tri-folded paper menu reads in both English and Russian, with the following FYI for its Muslim/practicing patrons, "We only use Halal meat."  It took me a while to decide what I wanted to sample, for the menu is generous, very well proportioned by course, and filled with an abundance of intrigue-provoking options.  I decided that, since it took me a little over an hour to get from my apartment to the restaurant, I would take my time and enjoy the entire experience (which also included making my holiday cards list for my annual distribution via Paperless Post), begining with a glass of kompot (Slavic fruit punch).  

While everything that I tasted at Lagman House was flavorful and visibly handmade with love and care, I had two undeniable favorites:

Dungan Style Samsa

Most of us have had our fair share of empanadas and samosas, but I'm willing to bet that almost none of you have ever had a samsa (unless you're in/traveled extensively thgough China, where Dungan cuisine is quite popular)! 

Sauteed white onions and strips of beef - plus the savory gravy in which they bathe - are enveloped by the most buttery of pastry doughs and deep fried.  A single order comes with two samsas and is accompanied by a very secondary (read unnecessary) tomato sauce for dipping. 

I have never tasted a more flaky, mulit-layered dough that wasn't made with lard (Muslims do not eat pork products).  Unlike its distant cousins (empanadas, samosas), the samsa is almost a meal in itself!


Thon Lamian

Nothing suits this blustery time of year in NYC better than a warm bowl of soup.  With a perfectly seasoned and mildly-spicy homemade beef + vegetable broth.  And a mound of thick, hand-pulled noodles, strips of beef, and a melange of vegetables. 

What I particularly enjoyed and found unique about this famous Dungan soup, aside from those homemade noodles, was the fact that the vegetables included bell peppers, onions, garlic bulbs, and green beans; not the typical assortment you see in a ramen or a stew.


I know what you're thinking: Is Lagman House destination-worthy from the outer boroughs?  Yes, absolutely.  If not for the samsa, alone, this is the only restaurant in the entire country that serves Dungan cuisine.  The chef is the owner's wife and mother of five (four of whom work in the restaurant, as needed) who, by the way, does not look a day over twenty-five. 

Come out and support this beautiful and delicious success story of the quintessential American dream!  


Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle