Welcome

Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a food website/blog that views the New York City dining scene through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated, critical, adorably quirky, and culinary-obsessed thirty-something year old.

For those of you who enjoy highly thorough and traditional restaurant reviews, you may find them located here.  Pressed for time?  Take a peek at The Weekly Eater, where I condense seven days in to one summarized post.

But that's not all!  Additionally, I...

  • ~ For tourists, I can help you create itineraries and answer any questions you may have/offer advice for your upcoming visit to NYC.
  • ~ I can consult and/or advise on all of your small and large events.
  • ~ I will assist you with restaurant recommendations.

 

Just consider me your one-stop NYC-shop!

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Need more streamlined advice?  Shoot me an email with your specific requests:  Lindsay@TheLunchBelle.com.

Sunday
Dec012013

Northern California: 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

Burmese

Italian

Where to find local products worth bringing home

Thursday
Nov282013

If you're going to San Francisco...

In the summer of 1999...

  • I was 18 years old.
  • I had just completed my freshman year of college.
  • I visited San Francisco/Napa for the first time.

That was fourteen years ago.  And, until recently, it had been that long since I last visited the Bay Area.  When my friend, Emily moved to SF (as the locals call it) a little over a year ago, I promised to come visit just as soon as time would allow.  And what better than a long holiday weekend in November?   

Being that all I had, in terms of days to take from work, was Veteran's Day (Monday), I wanted to maximize my time in California.  And, by that, I mean not spending a ridiculous amount of it in the air.  After all, the flight time from coast to coast is roughly 6-hours! 

JetBlue is so 5 years ago, by the way.  Virgin, my friends, is the only way to fly to San Francisco.  From the sexy mood lighting in the cabin - electrical outlets in every seat - and the ability to order food, drink, and retail products from your personal in-flight monitor to the awesome/hysterical pre-flight safety video, Virgin is the shit.  Period. 

After Emily picked me up from the airport, she drove me through a few of her favorite neighborhoods prior to our brunch reservations.  I made sure that we cruised through The Castro, a predominately gay/lesbian neighborhood, with which I became intimately familiar after having read And The Band Played On

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For brunch, Emily and I scored two seats at the chef's counter at Nopa, one of SF's most popular restaurants...

Autumn Cocktail: La Guita Manzanilla, pear liqueur, allspice dramCream biscuit with pear butterDate and crescenza cheese sconeKale salad: Asian pear, walnuts, oregano, pecorinoBrisket with roasted root veggies, toasted croutons, and horseradish cremeCustard French toast with caramelized apples and maple butterBefore you start judging, I will have you know that Emily and I *split* all of the above dishes.  And, yes, they were just as fcuking fantastic as they look! 

Nopa

560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

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After brunch, we drove by a few more sights before returning to Emily's apartment so that I could nap.  For dinner that evening, we enjoyed a pizza and pasta carb-fest at local Italian favorite, Flour + Water.  In fact, I'm *still* dreaming about the white pizza we shared that was topped with hen of the woods mushrooms, nettles, shallots, garlic, and fontina cheese.

Flour + Water

2401 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110

~

On Sunday, Emily, her friend, Katherine, and I headed to Napa via the Golden Gate Bridge!

Once in "wine country," our first stop was at Oakville Grocery, a fabulous gourmet market/cafe to pick up some snacks - my favorite being Tout Sweet Patisserie's incredibly delicious pates de fruits!

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Swanson Vineyards

Does it get any more charming than this?

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Cakebread Cellars

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Robert Sinskey Vineyards

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After a long day of wine tasting (I know, rough life!), we checked in to the Andaz Napa.  What a fabulous hotel!

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For dinner, we walked to The Thomas, a restaurant that was opened about a year ago by New York-based AvroKo.

Freshly-baked focaccia and olive oilRoasted beet saladArugula and fried goat cheeseKale and dried apricotsPork ribsBlue cheese-scalloped potatoesI really enjoyed my experience at The Thomas.  From the fantastic venue - first floor is the bar, second floor is the dining room - to the Sunday Supper deal, this place is a local winner!

The Thomas 

815 Main St, Napa, CA 94559

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For breakfast, we grabbed a bite at the hotel's restaurant, Andaz Farmers Table.

Freshly-squeezed juice for the takingGoat's milk yogurt with grapes and granola.

After checking out of the hotel, we drove to O'Brien Estate Winery for our first tasting of the day. 

 

Paradise!Between sips of wine, we nibbled on cheese, nuts, and grapes.

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For lunch, we drove to Sonoma and ate al-fresco at The Girl & The Fig.

A trio of cheese and accoutrementsSeared scallopsBrie-cheeseburger and friesCroque monsieurThe Girl & The Fig

110 W. Spain St, Sonoma, CA  

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After visiting two more wineries, including Ram's Gate, which was my overall favorite, the three of us drove back to San Francisco.  On our way, I learned that the infamous maximum-security prison, San Quentin, is located in ritzy Marin County!  Random.

For my last handful of hours in San Fran, Emily and I decided to do what we do best...eat!  We were able to score a two-top at local favorite, Burma Superstar.  

Le menuRainbow saladTea leaf saladCoconut riceSpicy garlic shrimpBurma Superstar

309 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

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I really enjoyed my visit to San Francisco and Napa.  As a total NYC food snob, I was very pleasantly surprised by the abundance of outstanding local producers, gourmet shops, restaurants, and cocktail venues.  I think I've met my West Coast match.

~~~

Until we eat again, 

The Lunch Belle

Saturday
Nov092013

The Weekly Eater: Fabulous finds and revelations

Happy weekend, y'all! 

Well, if I've done anything right this week, it was playing the role of "fat girl."  Instead of waking up each morning at 5am for my routine 6am workouts, I decided to set my alarm for 6:30am.  I've been feeling guilty about not being able to walk my pup, Lucy, as often as I'd like, so I figured that I'd take the week to treat her to some pre-breakfast strolls.  After all, with school two nights/week, and most of the other evenings dedicated to catching up with friends, Lucy and I haven't had as much 1x1 time.  That's a good justification for not exercising, right?  Add to that a couple of emotional eating binges, and here I sit about to burst out of my pants.  Sigh...   

What's on deck for your weekend?  As for me, I'm headed to San Francisco - like, as we speak (greetings from 30,000 feet above you, thanks to my new favorite way to fly, Virgin America) - to visit one of my besties.  I haven't been since I was a naive, uncultured 18 year old, so I'm really looking forward to my vacay.  And, tomorrow, we're heading to wine country!  But, before I land in California, I wanted to leave you with some of my favorite finds and revelations from this past week.   

Enjoy! 

~~~

Giovanni Rana's Artichoke Ravioli and Basil Pesto

Last weekend, we threw a belated Halloween bash at Jeremy's new apartment.  I arrived at his place on the early side to help decorate and make sure that we had our playlist in check.  Because he was generous enough to host our buddies at his new abode, I cooked him dinner as a "thank you."   

The name Giovanni Rana was already familiar to me since I had seen his restaurant, Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina, multiple times on Opentable searches.  So, while shopping at my local grocer, I did a double take when I spotted an assortment of his namesake pasta and sauces.  Feeling hurried and spontaneous, I decided to grab a bag of Artichoke Ravioli and a container of Basil Pesto.  

I'm not going to lie, I was completely floored upon opening the incredibly aromatic, bright green pesto... 

After boiling for 3-minutes, the ravioli was ready to be plated.  In following the instructions, there was no need to pre-heat the sauce since the just-cooked pasta was so hot.  Seriously, could this entree be any easier to prepare? 

Looks pretty mouth-watering, doesn't it?  After each taking our first bite, Jeremy and I just looked at each other, mouths agape.  "Damn, this is really good," he exclaimed.  "And I don't even like pesto sauce!"  He was right.  The ravioli pillows, stuffed with *real* chunks of artichoke, were perfectly al-dente.  Salty and robust with fragrant basil, the pesto was, quite possibly, the best I've ever tasted.  Seriously, there is no way in hell that anyone, save for the cook, would have an inkling that this pasta/sauce was store bought.  

What a winning combo! 

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Jello shot-mold

One of our guests brought a ginormous, brain-shaped, vodka-infused, lime flavored-Jello mold for last weekend's Halloween party.  Cute, right?  I'm telling you, it must have been five - possibly ten - years since I'd slurped down a Jello shot.  I almost forgot how delicious and horrifyingly *easy* it was to get bombed!  Good, albeit foggy, times...

I may look sober, but...

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Brunch at Park Avenue Autumn

This is home to one of my favorite - albeit expensive - prix-fixe brunches in the city.  Aside from the lovely and sophisticated atmosphere, the service is always on point.  And the food/beverage?  Dynamite. 

Honey + truffle prosecco cocktailFreshly-baked pastries, fruit buttersCocktail #2: Tumeric + lime with proseccoScallops with honeycrisp applesOmelet with butternut squash, gouda, and mushrooms~

Rachel Ray

My friend, Nicole, and I bought tickets from the Hudson Union Socieity to hear Rachel speak at The Cornell Club.  To be frank, I was pretty ambivalent about the event.  On one hand, my culinary/journalist hero, Anthony Bourdain, hates and pokes fun at her.  And I worship everything he says.  So much so, that I take his every word and opinion at face value and could care less about the "other side of the story."  On the other hand, however, Rachel is an accomplished star in the realm in which I live and breathe:  The world of food.  

From the moment the q&a session began, I found myself really taken by Rachel.  She is the product of working her ass off and falling in to fame by accident.  She's held every position from dishwasher to gourmet store manager to Food Network star.  And then some.  No, she's not a French-trained chef, but who cares?  Seriously, how many Americans legitimately eat - or prepare - fancy, French cuisine on a regular basis?  Most of us are home cooks who follow relatively uncomplicated, time-conscious recipes.  If that!  And Rachel represents the modern, everyday American.  That is why people take to her.  There is a commonality.  Plus, she's not intimidating.  And neither are her recipes.  Call me crazy, but isn't that a breath of fresh air?  

The bottom line is this:  I respect people who have had to pull themselves up by their own "boot straps" (as my Southern mother would say).  You know, those of us who have had to experience some good old fashioned character-building at the hands of suffering and penny-pinching.  Not Daddy's little princes/princesses who get "bailed out" each time they get canned/laid off/land on their asses.   

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Tres Leches donut, Doughnut Plant

If you didn't know, tres leches cake is one of my top three favorite desserts of all time.  There's just something so deliriously sexy about iced white cake that becomes moist from soaking in three different *sweetened* varieties of milk.

Now, imagine all of that formed into the shape of a traditional cake donut - enveloped in a simple, powdered sugar-based icing.  First bite reveals a delicate, cakey interior that's dotted with globs of, what tasted like, condensed milk pudding.  Yes, really.  

This, my friends, is worth fcuking up your diet for.

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Alta

Aside from our shady ass waiter, Jeremy, who demanded more than an $18 tip - and lied about the location of the cash register (he claimed that he had to "walk down three flights of stairs to run the credit cards") - our experience at Alta was fantastic.  

Looking for a charming, romantic spot for date night?  Check.  Do you expect more, in terms of caliber and quality, from your tapas joint?  Check.  Craving something other than sangria - hello cocktails! - to whet your appetite?  Check.  

From the food menu, might I recommend:

  • Fried Goat Cheese with lavender-infused honey
  • Lamb Meatballs charred red pepper sauce, soft cooked egg yolk, toasted sesame seeds, lebne
  • Crispy Brussels Sprouts fuji apples, creme fraiche, pistachio nuts
  • Pulled Pork Empanadas sweet & spicy cilantro dipping sauce
  • ...and one more thing:  Make sure to ask for a side of bread.  It's really delish and *necessary* for sopping up all of the yummy sauce from the lamb meatballs!

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Hot guys at work

...because God knows I need a reason to put on makeup - and do my hair - in the mornings.  And cut back on my afternoon candy/sugar binges.  And apply lip gloss throughout the day.  

It's because of you, my dear man stallions, that I look forward to going in to the office each and every day.  Thank you!

.

~~~

Until we eat again, 

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Nov012013

The Weekly Eater: Halloween edition

Happy belated Halloween, y'all!  I hope this post finds you well.  What did I do for the holiday, you ask?  Well, Lucy, my pup, and I handed out candy in our apartment building before I hit the town and went to a few parties.  As Scarlett O'hara.

Lucy, the ballerinaScarlett O'haraBut if I had more time, some good ol' fashioned creativity, and actually gave a chit about *not* recycling Halloween costumes, I would have taken a lesson from this young lady and rocked a Chanel purse!

Source: NY PostPretty fantastic, right?  On a more somber note, I cannot even begin to tell you how many obese pleasantly plump "slutty nurses" and scantily-clad "Wonder Women" I saw last night.  While I found them to be a sight for sore eyes, you've really got to hand it to these ample duds, because they have a hell of a lot more body confidence than I do.  Oh, and speaking of sluts, one of my favorite things to do on the morning after Halloween is to laugh at all of the festive "aftermath" from the night before...

Black bra laying on the floor at the Franklin Street subway stop. Someone had some fun while waiting for the train! Changing subjects, I've happened upon quite a few delicious finds - and revelations - this week.  And one of the best blog posts I've read, to date.  Check them out: 

Lotus Root

When sliced, this root vegetable reveals a white, starchy interior that's dotted with holes.  The texture is crunchy (think jicama) and the flavor, if any at all, is subtle enough that you can pair it with almost anything, sauce or protein-wise! 

Lotus root is common in various Asian cuisines, namely Chinese. 

Source: Joy HarariHan Dynasty

Beyond the friendly and knowledgeable staff, the evenly-paced service, the affordable prices, and the warm atmosphere, the food was damn near perfect.  At 6:30pm on a Monday night, the three of us only waited about seven minutes for a table which, considering Han Dynasty is one of the city's current hot spots, is pretty awesome. 

For appetizers, the three of us split wontons in chili oil, spicy crispy cucumbers, Dan Dan noodles, and scallion pancakes.

Wontons in chili oilSpicy crispy cucumbersDan Dan noodlesWe chose to split two entrees among the three of us:  Cumin lamb and "crispy rice shrimp."  While I enjoyed the lamb, I found the shrimp dish to be extremely underwhelming.  It was as if someone accidentally dumped the entire box of corn starch in to the sauce because it was so gelatinous and gloppy.  Blech!!

Cumin lambCrispy rice shrimpVandalism

What?  Sometimes vandalism is cool.  Or funny.  And in this case, it's both!

Spotted at the 8th Street subway stationMaoz Vegetarian

Do NOT let the word "vegetarian" scare you, because this place is a falafel whore's dream come true.  Imagine, if you will, homemade pita bread (your choice of wheat or white) filled with the most crispy, delicious falafel balls you've ever tasted.  And instead of your pita pocket being topped with boring iceberg lettuce and mealy tomatoes, there's a "do it yourself" filler bar just to your right.  Yep, a plethora of both fresh and pickled vegetables and house-made sauces.  Dynamite!

Shanghai Sogo

With both of my grad school classes starting at 6:45pm on week nights, I'm always on the prowl for a relatively portable, quick bite.  Luckily, there are a slew of food trucks lined up in front of NYU's business school, so there's actually plenty to choose from.  This week, I happened upon the Shanghai Sogo truck, as I could not help but turn in the direction of Akon blasting through its speakers.  Random.  "Ma'am, would you like to sample something?"  The friendly chef offered me a handmade pork/chive dumpling.  Unlike most versions that skimp, this particular dumpling was stuffed to the brim with the juicy, pork/chive filling.  "I'll take an order of six!"  I exclaimed.  Secretly, I wanted to order a dozen.  They were THAT GOOD - perhaps some of the best in the city!

This blog post about staying in NYC

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Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Oct252013

Grand Tasting: NYC Wine & Food Festival

It was that time of year again.  When the falling leaves and the chill in the air marked Autumn's arrival.  And the annual NYC Wine & Food Festival.  This year, I attended the Grand Tasting, a proverbial "one stop shop" that was chock full of cookbook signings, celebrity culinary demonstrations, tasty bites from some of NYC's top restaurants, and a seemingly endless array of wine and spirits samplings.

I was a bit suprised by my favorite bites, as I wouldn't have expected to be blown away by Molyvos' "Yiayia's Meatballs" (pictured further below).  Not that the restaurant is bad, by any means, but I do not remember my meals there being particularly life-altering.  The establishments that I have not yet been to who really made an impression were Manon (unfortunately, I did not get the exact names of the dishes, but the savory was a prawn dumpling in coconut broth and the dessert was a pecan/pear cake bite with cream cheese frosting.  Pictures of both are located further below.) and ReBar (Smoked Gouda Macaroni & Cheese.  A pcture is located further below.).  Dynamite!  

Culinary demonstrations!Esca: Bass crudoLugo Caffe: MeatballThe Fourth: Pear, manchego, hazelnuts, and balsamicReBar: Smoked Gouda Macaroni & CheeseSuite 36: Ahi poke Manon: Prawn dumpling with coconut broth; pecan/pear cake bite with cream cheese frostingMolyvos: Greek meatball

What a delicious, unforgettable day!  I'm already looking forward to next year's events!  

~~~

Until we eat again, 

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Oct172013

My Masters program is cooler than yours

Yep.  It's true.  My Masters program IS cooler than your Masters program.  Reason #286:  For last night's "Comparative Cuisine" session, our professor took us out of the classroom and in to the kitchen.  We broke up in to five teams of approximately five/six, and prepared two-three dishes based on traditional Israeli and Palestinian recipes.   My team was assigned to make cheese bourekas and kanafeh.

Cheese bourekas topped with sesame seeds: We even made the dough from scratch!After everyone finished preparing their respective dishes, we sat down and "broke bread" together.  And toasted with Israeli and Lebanese wines. 

Tabbouleh: Chopped red onion, tomato, cucumber, and bulgur saladLabneh: Strained yogurt dip/accompaniment drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with za'atarHummus: Dip/accompaniment made from chickpeas, tahini, oilive oil, and spicesIsraeli chopped salad and fried eggplant slicesChicken schnitzel and Israeli couscousDeconstructed kibbeh: Bulgur, minced onion, and ground lamb Shakshuka: Eggs poached in a robust tomato sauce...and those are just a handful of the dishes from last night.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to snap photos of the gorgeous kanafeh dessert we made - or the other half of the appetizers and entrees!

Considering that we are still early in the semester and many of us are new to the program (we do not know each other yet), I thought that last night's "kitchen class" was a brilliant way for us to interact and bond.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle