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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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Thursday
Jan192017

Reviewed: An authentic Mexican brunch at Citrico

Restaurant: Citrico

  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Location: 681 Washington Avenue - (Prospect Heights) Brooklyn 11238   
  • Pricing: $-$$
  • What's delicious: Fresh margaritas (you can't go wrong with the traditional), handmade corn tortillas, authentic Mexican rice, chile de arbol salsa
  • Perfect for: Legit tequila/mezcal-based cocktails, happy hour, brunch, homesick Mexicans and Texans

...

For those of you who have been around here for a while, you're not only aware of my obsession with Mexican food, but are all too familiar with my arduous attempts at finding decent representations of the cuisine here in NYC...  

Last Sunday, my friend, Shelley, and I trotted over to Brooklyn to check out Citrico, a new-ish Mexican joint in Prospect Heights, for brunch.  Upon our 11AM arrival (What? We wanted to beat the crowds.), we had the entire intimate restaurant to ourselves (Come noon, that would soon change.).  Bright and inviting, the small, yet fully functional space was adorned with turquoise and pastel-colored wooden tables, black and white family(?) photos, Mexican tchotchkes, and an energetic open kitchen. 

We plopped down and immediately ordered a round of cocktails.  While Shelley opted for the traditional margarita, I chose the more exotic "Guavazcal," a mezcal concoction married with guava and lime juices, plus ginger beer and served on-the-rocks.  The mason jar in which it was poured was rimmed with spicy Tajin.  While my beverage may have been more appealing to the eye (Maybe it was the ginger beer that threw me off?), I much preferred Shelley's excellently-crafted authentic margarita.  

Citrico: The "Guavazcal" cocktail (mezcal, guava and lime juices, and ginger beer)Citrico: Traditional margarita

Between sips of our cocktails - and prior to placing our meal order - we noshed on a gratis bowl of what one of the owners coined as "chicharrones."  However, these crunchy rings had no trace of meat/poultry.  Addictive, crispy, and sprinkled with a zesty spice powder, Shelley and I managed to inhale our entire bowl within seconds.  

Citrico: Vegetarian chicharrones

Forgoing guacamole, which seems to be the quintessential 'first order' for every Yankee at a Mexican restaurant, we opted for the house-made chips and quartet of salsas, including pico de gallo, tomatillo, guajillo, and chile de arbol.  While I'm not a big tomatillo fan (it always seems to have a weird gelatinous consistency), the other three salsas were dynamite; my favorite being the chile de arbol with it's smooth, creamy texture and garlicky finish.  The chips were still warm from the fryer and seasoned with the perfect amount of salt.

Citrico: Homemade salsa trio + chips 

In a dual effort to sample as much of the menu as we could, Shelley and I chose to split three entrees: Panqueques, Huevos Divorciados, and the Huitlacoche Quesadilla.  Oh, and a bowl of Mexican rice.  God, what fatties!

Panqueques

When this plate of perfectly cooked (a fluffy interior with that crunchy, buttery exterior rim), golden brown pancakes arrived, I was a bit anxious.  Why?  Because, look at all of that fruit (see photo, below)!  There was so much of it, in fact, that we couldn't even see the top of the 'cakes.  "Oh, for crissakes," I exclaimed, "let me go ahead and scoot all of this crap off to the side."  Shelley giggled and watched as I moved the 'healthy bits' off to a lonely corner of the plate before dousing the real stuff in the accompanying tequila-infused cajeta sauce/syrup.  

Having grown up with cajeta in our kitchens, we both appreciated the Mexican influence on this traditionally American dish.  I will warn you, though, the tequila-infusion is NOT for the faint of heart or for the alcohol intolerant!

Citrico: Panqueques

Huevos Divorciados

To be fair to both sides, if you will, I played the role of hungry mediator and sampled both parties of the 'culinary divorce' at play on my plate: Bordered by a helping of black beans were two lightly-fried corn tortillas - arranged side-by-side - each respectively topped with a sunny side-up egg.  Salsa rojo crowned one of the eggs, while salsa verde smothered the other.

The Divorciados reminded me a lot of huevos rancheros, save for the fact that this version was finished with two salsas, not just one.   

Citrico: Huevos Divorciados

Huitlacoche Quesadillas

Homemade corn tortillas were lathered with queso blanco, freshly-shucked corn kernels, and a generous amount of huitlacoche before being griddled to perfection.  Drizzled crema, altocumulus-like clouds of queso fresco, and a nest of bright green shredded iceberg completed the dish.  

Citrico: Huitlacoche Quesadilla

Arroz Mexicano

It's rare to find an authentic version of Mexican rice in NYC.  Most often, I'm either served plain white or some deplorable attempt where the kernels are too long, the color is baby chick-yellow, and the seasoning is either nonexistent or way off.  Citrico, however, nails it: The kernels are short, the broth has notes of tomato, garlic, and chicken stock, the color is spot-on, and there are proper "clumps" dispersed throughout (my favorite).  

Citrico: Arroz Mexicano

Dessert?  Not after all of that comida!  We did, however, save room for one last tequila cocktail.  

*While it's not on the drink menu, if you're craving something that's both sweet and savory with a fiery finish, just ask for the spicy margarita.  It may have been our favorite beverage of the three that we enjoyed!

Citrico: Spicy margarita...

Shelley and I could not have been more pleased with our brunch, notably in terms of its authenticity (from the handmade corn tortillas and salsas to the cajeta, Mexican rice, and legit tequila/mezcal cocktails).  So much so, that I am co-hosting a brunch there in a few weekends for my Mexican Food Lovers' Meetup Group!

 

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

Tuesday
Jan172017

A trip up, down, and back up the California coast

Prior to moving back to NYC to begin culinary school (February 2016), I wanted to leave California with a bang.  Mom and I decided to plan a girl's coastal road trip from Monterey to Pismo Beach, and back again.  Having completed my last day of work on January 15th, I had merely days to pack up my apartment and head south to San Diego, where I'd meet my folks.

On Tuesday, January 26th, Mom, Lucy (my pup) and I flew an Alaskan Airlines "puddle jumper" from San Diego to Monterey.  *Did you know? Alaskan/Horizon Airlines serves free regional beer and wine (from the Pacific Northwest) on some flights.  Once we arrived, we rented a car and drove to Carmel - a mere 10 minutes from the Monterey airport - and checked in to the Carmel Country Inn, a charming bed and breakfast where we would stay for the night.      

Mom and Lucy at the Carmel Country Inn

After unpacking a few essentials, we decided to walk to town and shop.  And, because Carmel is incredibly dog-friendly, Lucy was welcomed in to every store; not to mention restaurants with outdoor seating AND our hotel.

Among other baubles, Mom fell in love with this 5-carat sparkler.  Luckily, we were running late for our dinner reservation, so she couldn't pull the proverbial trigger...

Dinner at Il Tegamino (my favorite restaurant in Carmel):

Because of Carmel's proximity to the water, I ordered the fresh swordfish for my entree, while Mom went the "carb route" and chose the house-made lasagna.  

Dinner at Il Tegamino: Grilled swordfish  

Dinner at Il Tegamino: LasagnaAfter a fabulous meal, Mom and I walked back to our room and went to bed in anticipation of an early morning drive. 

We meandered our way from Carmel via the coast/Big Sur en route to Pismo Beach.  This incredibly scenic and breathtaking journey took approximately 3.5 hours (roughly 200 miles).  Upon arrival, we checked in to our hotel, the outstanding Dolphin Bay Resort and Spa, where our "room" featured a kitchen, dining area, living space, not one - but two - bedrooms, and a sizeable balcony overlooking the grounds and the marvelous Pacific.  Wow! 

Gorgeous Big Sur! 

Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa: The facade

Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa: What a view (from our balcony)!!!

Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa: Cheers!

The next morning, we woke up late and decided to get spa treatments.  After all, we weren't leaving Pismo Beach until the following day.  Post our rejuvenating hour plus-long massages, we spent the remainder of the afternoon strolling the beach walk, sipping cocktails and noshing on fresh seafood, and admiring the gorgeous views of the Pacific.  

Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa: Enjoying the briny jewels of the Pacific!

Heading northbound up the coast, we drove to Cambria in anticipation of visiting the Hearst Castle.  (<--- If you click on the link, you will find a picture of the famous Neptune Pool with the following caption, "Visitors have a rare opportunity to see the white marble floor of the empty Neptune Pool while it undergoes restoration. The pool was initially drained because of leaks, but the action was also part of a larger water conservation effort at Hearst Castle during the current severe drought."  Sucks, right?  Right.  And that was the exact same dismal view that Mom and I saw.  Now I don't know about you, but isn't the only reason that people visit the damn Castle to see the Neptune Pool??)

Hearst Castle: The depressing, empty Neptune Pool 

Hearst Castle

So, while the outdoor pool was an atrocious disappointment, the indoor pool pretty much made up for our buzz kill...

Hearst Castle: Indoor pool 

With all of the land in which the Castle is comprised, there is a ranch and a winery bearing its name.  So, when our tour ended, Mom and I couldn't help but stop at the tasting room to sample some of Hearst's namesake wines.  We both fell in love with the 2014 Petite Sirah, and left with a few bottles to enjoy for the remainder of our trip!

After a short drive to Cambria (just 15 minutes from the Castle), Mom and I checked in to our home for the night, the quaint Blue Dolphin Inn.  

For dinner, we went to the Black Cat Bistro, where we enjoyed local wine from Paso Robles, handmade bread with rosemary butter, cheese-stuffed fried olives, and locally-caught seafood.

Black Cat Bistro: Handmade bread & rosemary butterBlack Cat Bistro: Cheese-stuffed fried olivesBlack Cat Bistro: Local fish

The next morning, we woke up early, grabbed coffee, and strolled along the vast beach path.  It was absolutely breathtaking!

Cambria: Mom standing on the beach path near a tree that had been hollowed for pedestriansCambria beach pathWe took to the road mid morning and headed back towards Carmel; only this time, via the highway, which made for a quicker journey (2.5 hours).  We arrived at our next "home" just in time for lunch, the grand Carmel Valley Ranch!  It was immediately clear why Conde Naste Traveler chose this as their #1 resort in Northern California!  

Famished from our journey, Mom, Lucy, and I were seated at a prime two-top at the resort's Valley Kitchen Restaurant overlooking the heated outdoor pool and sprawling grounds.  With bubbles in her hand and a glass of red in mine, Mom and I toasted to our amazing California adventure and to the fact that there was even a food menu for dogs!

Valley Kitchen

Valley Kitchen: A menu for your best friend :-)

Lunch began with house-made Kennebec (potato) chips and caramelized onion dip...  

Valley Kitchen: House-made potato chips & onion dipFor my entree, I chose the Monterey Bay Salmon Salad.  It was delightful!  

Valley Kitchen: Monterey Bay Salmon SaladAfter two glorious nights at the Ranch, Mom and I really didn't think it could get any better.  For our final night in the area, we headed to nearby Holman Ranch, where we - and few other folks in media - were treated to an afternoon and evening of wine tastings and pairings, a tour of the ranch and property (including an olive grove, organic vineyard, plus horse stables and boarding facilities), and elaborate meals and snacks.  

Although the guest rooms are not available to the public, per se, you can rent them for your party if you host an event on the property.  I can only imagine how fabulous and special it would be to get married at the Ranch and have all of your friends and family be able to stay onsite.  

 

Holman Ranch

Holman Ranch: Sitting area outside of our guest room

Holman Ranch

Holman Ranch: Dusk ...

Have you been thinking about making a trip up/down the California coast?  If you've already been, did you go to any of the towns or sites that visited?  I'd love to hear from you!

 

Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle 

Tuesday
Feb022016

The buzz: NYC lounges, bars, dives, and rooftops (ongoing)

The Lunch Belle's guide to boozing in NYC: here, you will find a category for your every whim, taste, and situation.  Enjoy!

Beer venues with impressive and/or local lists

Club, dancing

Decent food, too beyond 'wings and fried calamari

Dog-friendly

Happy hour

Hookah lounge

Hotel bars worth checking out even if you're not checking in

"If you've got the money, honey, I've got the timeposh, expensive cocktail menus

Live Entertainment

(Straight) Male-centric

Margaritas that don't suck

Mixology

Outdoor patios/gardens 

*Jonesing for the outdoors?  NY Magazines guide for alfresco drinking & snacking

Post-work pickup joint

Restaurants w/ exceedingly delicious cocktails

Specialty venues which focus on one particular subject/theme

Sports on the tube / where to watch the game (sports bars that even chicks will dig)

Staple  a good neighborhood bar w/ strong cocktails and a relaxed scene

Tres romantique/zexy  spots to take her/him that promise a prolonged evening

Wine centric

Wednesday
Jan132016

I joined the MILE HIGH (in the sky) CLUB...at Bar 54

*This post was written by Jean Hsu and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photos were captured by Jean Hsu.*

The weather in New York has finally turned and the seasonal imbiber within each of us (toasting to the glory of global warming, no doubt) is putting our pitchers of sangria aside, eager to make way for soul-warming cocktails.

Enter scene: Bar 54, the tallest rooftop lounge in NYC (at the Hyatt Times Square).  Boasting floor-to-ceiling glass windows that give way to focus on the back-lit, fully-stocked bar, you can only imagine the Instagram-worthy potential of the incredible 360-degree views (Did I mention outdoor terraces to enjoy, weather permitting?!).  Also to note, Bar 54 recently teamed up with master cocktelier, Julie Reiner (YES, of Flatiron Lounge and author of The Craft Cocktail Party), to create a brand new fall/winter line of of seasonally-inspired bevvies. 

The drinks are STRONG (Did I not use the term "soul-warming"?) and unique.  My favorite of the trio that we sampled was the "Doctor's Note," a visually triumphant cocktail.  Fruit-forward, courtesy of the notes of citrus and apple, this elixir pays homage to the wintry flavors of cider and spices while still being light and bright.

Doctor's Note: Applejack, lemon juice, ginger syrup, cinnabark syrup, bitters, and cider over crushed ice served with an apple slice and powdered cinnamon

"The Brighton Beets" is the perfect aperitif for all of your SoulCycle/juice cleanse/vegan/LA wannabe cronies.  Made with beet-infused vodka, this stiff cocktail is a force to be reckoned with!  But hey, at least its chock-full of antioxidants, right?

Brighton Beets: Beet-infused vodka, Tanqurey gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, Fonsecca ruby port, simple syrup, and muddled mint over crushed ice

Everyone needs a little bubbly in their life!  The "Colletti Royale" features a lethal blend of tequila, St. Germain (elderflower liqueur), blood orange, and rose champagne; a winning combo of citrus and, what tasted like, ONE MILLION PROOF ALCOHOL. 

Colletti Royale: Partida Reposada tequila, Cointreau, St. Germain, blood orange juice, lime juice, orange bitters, and rose champagne garnished with a blood orange wheel

And if that didn't leave you twisted enough, why not take it up a notch...or three?  WARNING: order your Uber ride - with destination input - BEFORE downing this drink)!  Enter the "Rhapsody in Rye," a sophisticated, dignified blend of rye, vermouth, amaro, and a few other liqueurs for good measure.  Whew!

Rhapsody in Rye: Bulleit rye, Dolin Dry vermouth, Ramazotti amaro, benedictine, and angostura and orange bitters garnished with an orange twist

Do not miss out on your chance to imbibe these gorgeous concoctions courtesy of the talented Ms. Reiner!  Set your next Tinder date, girls' night, or work outing at Bar 54 and prepare your shoulders for getting brushed off when everyone be like, "ERMAGERD, THIS VIEW IS LIFEEEEE!!!!!!!!"

...

Until we eat again,

Jean Hsu for The Lunch Belle

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