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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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Wednesday
Feb012017

Super Bowl LI: Why cook when someone else can do it for you?

Can y'all believe that Super Bowl is already here again?  By the way, does anyone else automatically think Super Bowl Long Island when you see "Super Bowl LI?"  Certainly, I cannot be the only one...
Now, let's skip over to the most important item on the game day agenda: What to eat?  Honestly, while the idea of spending all day in the kitchen whipping up a variety of both savory and sweet dishes sounds romantic and ideal, it's completely unrealistic!  At least it is for me.  So, in the essence of my precious time plus kitchen catastrophe/culinary disappointment prevention, I'm going to have someone else cook my 'wings and chili; and you should, too!  
Folks, from today through Sunday (game day), take this amazing opportunity to impress your game day guests with awesome food at a great price: Caviar, the absolute best restaurant delivery service (sorry Seamless) is offering $10 off orders $40 or more with code WINNING.  New customer?  You will will also receive free delivery!

Offer: Take $10 off orders $40+
Valid: 2/3 - 2/5
Code: WINNING
...
Until we eat again, 
The Lunch Belle
Tuesday
Jan312017

This just in from Emirates (Airlines)!

Photo credit: Emirates

Flying to/from Dubai on Emirates?  Awesome!  Not seated in Business or First Class?  Me neither.  Don't fret, because I have some super exciting, just-in news: If you're an airport lounge junkie (like myself) and an Emirates Skywards Blue member (you literally just sign up online - no purchase necessary), now you can pay $100 to access Emirates INSANE lounges at Dubai International Airport regardless of your class of travel!

This just in from the Emirates website

If you’re an Emirates Skywards Blue member, you can now pay US$100 to access Emirates lounges at Dubai International airport regardless of your class of travel, and so can your family and friends who are traveling on the same Emirates flight with you, for an additional charge.If you’re a Silver or Gold member who already enjoys complimentary lounge access, you can invite guests traveling on the same flight with you to join you for an additional charge,* even if they’re traveling in Economy Class. And to make your journey extra special, you can purchase an upgrade to the First Class Lounge in Dubai.

Photo credit: Emirates

Now, I don't know about you, but that just may be the best news I've heard since booking my flight to the UAE!

...

Until we eat - and fly - again, 

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Jan252017

From Tokyo to Naoshima, a first timer's guide to Japan

It wasn't until Jean mentioned visiting that Japan was on my travel radar.  However, within days of her bringing up a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, we found ourselves booking flights.  Initially, we scored a great deal/sale on Air China for round trip tickets (via Beijing) to Tokyo for $800/person.  All seemed well with the world until four months later (in June) when we received an email from the airline informing us that our outbound flights had changed.  Instead of landing in Beijing at 4:40PM with an hour to spare before our flight to Tokyo, we would now land in Beijing at 6:40PM, almost an hour after our flight to Tokyo would have departed.  Due to their error, we were able to get a full refund on our fully NON-refundable tickets.  Phew!  Ultimately, Jean and I found a similarly priced *non-stop* fare on American Airlines (via JAL).  *Bottom line: Time is money and, in most cases, you get what you pay for.  If at all possible, non-stop flights are your best option.*

Having enticed two more girlfriends to join, the four of us met in Tokyo and commenced our Japanese adventure.  

Our itinerary (November 2016):

11/18-11/21: Tokyo

11/21-11/22: Hakone

11/22-11/25: Kyoto

11/25-11/26: Naoshima

11/26-11/28: Tokyo

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If you're planning a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, have a look at some of my helpful tips and FYI's, in addition to my favorite experiences and restaurants, below.  Or, if you've already been, I'd love to hear what you think about my compilation!    

Japan is a gorgeous, clean, and incredibly efficient (The mass transit system, alone!) country with so much history, mystique, culture, and geographical diversity; I cannot believe that it wasn't on my radar prior to my visit!  I loved and cherished my experience so much, in fact, that I returned home with a new and invigorated outlook on life and travel.  

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Helpful travel tips & FYI's:

  • Depending on the carrier, Premium Economy seating is only a few hundred dollars more than Economy.  What you'll get is more legroom/space - a better cabin - and closer proximity to Upper Class.
  • Flying in or out of Tokyo?  Do yourself a favor: If at all possible, book a flight that departs/arrives via Haneda Airport.  It's much, much, much closer to the heart of the city.
  • DO NOT TAKE A TAXI TO/FROM THE TOKYO AIRPORTS!  Fares can be upwards of $350 if you're flying in/out of Narita.  Upon arrival, look for the Airport Limo kiosk and purchase a ticket for drop-off at/very near your hotel - it's about $30/person.
  • Upon arrival, pull local currency out of an ATM before you leave the airport (located in the baggage claim area).
  • About six weeks (a month is probably fine, too) prior to your departure, make sure to purchase the following:
    • Pocket WIFI: This was a LIFE SAVER to have when we were outside of our hotel room (which was literally 16 hours/day) or in smaller towns.
    • Japan Rail Pass: The transportation gateway/lifeline that will connect you from town to town via rail.  Save money by purchasing your ticket prior to your trip!
  • To navigate your way around the subway/bus/rail systems, make sure to download the HYPERDIA app to your smartphone.
  • Language barrier FYI: I would say that, for the most part, people don't speak English.  Like, at all.  
  • Always have some form of local currency on you; in our experience, the best and most reliable ATM's that will accept international debit cards were found at the airports or 7-Eleven/Circle K convenience stores.
  • Do not insert your chopsticks upright in to a bowl of rice (as a place holder between bites); it is considered bad luck and very rude.Photo credit: Just Hungry

My favorite sites & experiences:

  • Tokyo
    • The magestic gardens at tranquil, non-tourist trap/destination, Happo-En
    • Lunch at tempura shrine, Tenmasa 
    • Lunch at Jiro's son's restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro 
    • Playing with hedgehogs at Harry Hedghog Cafe 
    • Tsukiji Market: While my travel mates attended the 3AM tuna auction, I stayed in bed and met them for a sushi breakfast around 7AM.  Bottom line: The auction lasts for 15-minutes and, at that time in the morning, are you really going to remember seeing it, anyways?  Methinks not.   
    • The basement food hall at Mitsukoshi Department Store 
    • Spying spectacular Mt. Fuji just beyond my window on the bullet train
  • Hakone
    • Yama No Chaya Ryokan and everything that staying at this traditional Japanese "bed and breakfast" encompassed, from bathing in a private tub filled with naturally-sourced hot mineral water on our balcony, to the multi-course kaiseki dinner and traditional Japanese breakfast served in our room
    • Lunch in the clouds (literally at the top of a mountain) at Itoh Dining by Nobu, where we first experienced Kobe beef
  • Kyoto
    • Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavillion)
    • Walking through thousands of vermilion-hued torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine 
    • Catching a glimpse of a *real* geisha being escorted to an evening appointment 
    • Arashiyama Moneky Park 
    • Fancy cocktails at the stunning Ritz Carlton, where I was introduced to Japanese whiskey
    • Spectacular Kyoto Station (if you're a transporation geek like me, it's a must see)
    • Riding the bullet train from Kyoto to Uno Port and back to Tokyo (ditto on the 'transporation geek' reference, above)

My favorite food experiences:

  • The sushi-counter experience was an education in and of itself; I actually preferred observing the symphonic precision at which pieces of fish were sliced and delicately molded over luke-warm rice to actually eating the sushi (I know I'm going to get railed for this one, but it's true!  I didn't find the sushi in Japan to be all that different from an authentic omakase joint in LA or NYC.  FYI, I hope you know that by "sushi," I'm not talking about the 'dynamite spider roll with eel sauce and avocado,' for god's sake).
  • Kobe beef can be found outside of its namesake city.  And it's fcuking delicious and worth every penny.   
  • KatsudonJapanese curry, and curry pan have forever changed my life.  For the better.   
  • Eating a private 14+ course kaiseki dinner together at our ryokan in Hakone 

My favorite restaurants in Japan:

Hotel experiences worth writing home about:

Observations:

  • There are French-style patisseries everywhere.  
  • There are barely any trash cans.  Anywhere.
  • Sushi at the Tsukiji Market was wildly overrated and I felt like a fool for having stood in line for something so mediocre.

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Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle

*Huge shoutout to Adela, Patrick, and Liz for all of your amazing recommendations.  And to Jean, thank you for all of your incredible planning and logistical expertise!  You organized an unbelievable journey for us!*

Monday
Jan232017

The best menu items at: Freds Downtown (at Barney's NY)

In my newest series, "The Best Menu Items At...," I cut the fluff and get straight down to business: Which food/drink items are so stand-out that I'd order them time and time again?

Restaurant: Freds Downtown (at Barney's NY)

  • Cuisine: American
  • Location: 101 7th Avenue, 3rd floor - Manhattan 10036  
  • Pricing: $$-$$$
  • Reservations?  Yes, click here
  • Why go?  To see-and-be seen, especially during weekday lunch service / Mid/post shopping cocktails, bubbles, or a glass of wine / Brunch 

...

Why do I love Freds?  Let me count the ways.  Aside from the fact that it resides within my - and every other fashionable New Yorker's - favorite department store, it still feels somewhat hidden and undiscovered.  Everyone knows the restaurant's older, genteel Madison Avenue sister, but Freds' newest location positively oozes downtown chic: Clean lines and sophisticated modernity evoke a mysterious serenity amongst bustling 7th Avenue.

Photo credit: Urban DaddyBeyond that, I find the clientele, especially during weekday lunch service, to be outrageously intriguing.  While I couldn't tell you their names, I will say that I'd put money down that many of them are "someone" in the fashion industry (...or some other super cool, hip line of work that has nothing to do with Wall Street).  It truly feels like the ultimate NYC "cool kids" power lunch.  So then where does someone like me fit in to all of this, you ask?  Good question.  I'm a die-hard sucker for Freds brunch, which offers a generous variety of both sweet and savory.  

The best menu items:

Chelsea Breakfast Sandwich:

Unfortunately, this gem is only available on weekends at brunch service.  However, just the thought of sinking my teeth in to its multiple savory layers certainly gives me something to look forward to during the doldrums of 'Monday through Friday.'  I'm serious, I think about this sandwich way more often than the dude I have a crush on...

Picture it (Sorry, I actually don't have a picture of the sandwich, so you're going to have to use your imagination and just trust me.):  Perfectly scrambled eggs, sauteed onions and peppers, Hudson Valley Harvest hot and sweet sausage, and cheese fondue (!!!!) are sandwiched on a sesame seed bun and accompanied by sriracha mayo and a generous portion of crispy home fries.  

Freds Chopped Chicken Salad:

For those days when you want to feel a bit better about yourself and eat something healthy, you cannot beat this mean bowl of greens - unless, of course, the $30 price tag stops you dead in your tracks.  Bibb lettuce, avocado, onions, tomatoes, string beans and pears come tossed with a Dijon mustard and balsamic dressing.  The salad is crowned with roasted, hand-pulled all-natural chicken.

Margherita Pizza:

There are thousands of fabulous pizzerias and by-the-slice joints all over the five boroughs, but not many who serve you your pie atop a crisp white tablecloth.  And make no mistake, folks, Freds makes a damn good pizza.  Whether you opt for the simple Margherita, or the Emilia Romagna (white pizza with mozzarella, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses drizzled with a 12-year-old Aceto Balsamico), you will not be disappointed.  Time and time again, I am consistently pleased by the perfect ratio of chewy crust to sauce and cheese.  

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle