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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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Monday
Feb022015

January: The best things I ate last month

Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class food + beverage services

My first meal of this "New Year" was kicked off in London.  Technically, I was returning to the US on January 1st but, still, I woke up in the UK.  So that counts! 

Save for that one time in 9th grade when my friend and I flew "First Class" with her father to Orlando, I have never experienced anything fancier than "Economy Plus."  So, as you can only imagine, I had no idea what I was in for when I snagged a last-minute upgrade to Virgin Atlantic's "Upper Class" cabin...

Pre-wheel's up, I enjoyed a delicious full-service English breakfast at Virgin Atlantic's The Clubhouse at London Heathrow:

English breakfast at Heathrow's Virgin Atlantic lounge: Toast, a poached egg, baked beans, grilled tomato half, bacon, and sausage

And once onboard, lunch went a little something like this:

Gnocchi to start...

For my entree, I chose the Indian meal: Yellow curry with paneer, saag with mushrooms and corn, basmati rice.

And for dessert, the Sticky Toffee Cake...

After taking a 2-hour nap on my fabulous "lie flat" bed, I was pleasantly awakened by the clinking sounds from the mugs and saucers during afternoon English tea service.  And you know I wasn't about to go back to sleep and miss out!

English tea, assorted finger sandwiches and sweet bites, jam and clotted creamCall me a yokel, but I was very impressed with the food and beverage services that I enjoyed in Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class cabins and lounges.  Well done, Mr. Branson!  Well done! 

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Capo's Rigatoni with Truffle Meat Sauce

OMFG.  This was, without a doubt, one of the best pasta dishes I've eaten.  Ever.  From those toothsome, perfectly al-dente rigatoni noodles, to that rich and creamy tomato gravy specked with salty pork nibs, this pasta makes Capo "destination worthy" in and of itself.

The only thing not sexy about this dish?  Its $26 price tag.  Le sigh...

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Dinner at Pago

Despite Utah's liquor laws, I really enjoyed my quick jaunt to Salt Lake City.  The scenery was gorgeous (snow-capped mountains), the locals were incredibly friendly and helpful, and the food was fantastic. 

On our last night in town, we dined at local favorite, Pago.  While everything we ordered was delicious, I particularly enjoyed:

Braised pork shoulder cake Served atop a bed of sauteed and fried Brussels sprouts were two deep-fried cakes/patties filled with tender braised pork shoulder.  Think along the lines of a crab cake.

Pago Burger Locally-raised beef, cooked to a perfect medium-rare, was topped with thick-cut bacon, Gouda, pickled onion, and black garlic aioli.  Truffle frites served as an accompaniment.

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Mexican combination plate, Gilbert's El Indio

Rice, beans, a cheese enchilada, and the most perfect shredded-beef taco.  Gilbert's kills it. 

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Spicy ahi poke (via the poke/ceviche bar), Bristol Farms

As if a raw bar featuring ceviche and ahi poke wasn't awesome enough, Bristol Farms offers all of the accoutrement to make your own chirashi bowl: White AND brown sushi rice, seaweed salad, chunks of fresh mango, soy sauce, etc.

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Almond croissant, Belwood Bakery

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"Lake Tahoe" sandwich (with a pork link instead of chicken), LINK

Looking back on my trip to Berlin, I realized that, not once did I indulge in Germany's most famous edible: Sausage!  Having made up for my international faux-pas last Friday night, I would be willing to bet that LINK's "Lake Tahoe" sandwich could easily hold its own against any Deutschland rival. 

Since I'm not a big poultry fan, I subbed the chicken link with pork (...good Jewish girl that I am).  Enveloped within a freshly-baked roll, the juicy wiener was topped with applewood-smoked bacon, crispy onion rings, and a ridiculously delicious apricot mustard.

Photo courtesy of LINK...

Homemade horchata finished with a shot of Stumptown's cold brew (coffee), Guisados

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My winning Super Bowl submission: Dump Cake (a.k.a. Cherry + Pineapple Cobbler)

 

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Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Sunday
Feb012015

Salt Lake City: Where to eat/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.  

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American

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!

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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!

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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. 

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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.

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Until we eat again, 

The Lunch Belle