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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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Sunday
Oct132013

A 6-week's sabbatical worth of my favorite finds!

Dear readers,

My poor, neglected, disappointed, bored readers.  I cannot tell you how sorry I am for having gone M.I.A. on y'all for the past *gasp* six weeks.  I've had - and will continue to have - a lot on my proverbial plate.  Aside from my 9-5, I've also began attending part-time graduate school classes at NYU.  For my Masters in Food Studies/Culture.  And as much as this particular program puts the "cool" in "school," it's a lot of work.  And reading.  And time.   My point is this:  Blog posts will not be as frequent as they once were - I'm hoping for a handful/week - but I'm not going anywhere.

In the meantime, I'm going to share some of my favorite finds over the past 6-weeks:

  • Healing Home Foods' products sold at Hu Kitchen
    • I am particularly obsessed with this artisan snack company's gluten free/dairy free/vegan Raw Graham Bites and Baked Granola Crumbles
  • PB&J Cookies at The Smile to-go
    • This outpost, located within the Shinola store in Tribeca, is so new that The Smile doesn't even have it listed on their website!  Anyhoo, aside from their delicious coffees and other baked goods, this PB&J cookie - composed of peanut butter, jelly, nut flour (to bind everything together), and crack - will change your life.  Mark my words.  It's *that* good. 
  • Tutto Il Giorno (Italian - Southampton)
    • Great restaurants in the Hamptons are a dime a dozen.  But fabulous restaurants?  Now, those are more rare.  Tutto Il Giorno, the Southampton outpost of the Sag Harbor original, happens to be one of those prized gems.    
  • Stew Leonard's faux "Cronut"
    • Granted, I've never had a *real* Cronut, but if it tastes anything nearly as delicious as Stew's version, then I 100% get why all of those suckers folks continue to wait hours on that laughable line.
  • Trattoria Il Mulino
    • What initially attracted me to this concept was the fact that it was the "casual" trattoria of the Il Mulino family.  What nearly drove me away were the outrageous, not-very-casual prices.  But what kept me was the excellent food.  And cocktails.  Highlights included:  Beet salad, Spaghettini with meatballs.
  • Il Pesce at Eataly
    • I guess I've always been too hurried and frantic (to get the hell out of there) to even look twice at this "restaurant" within Eataly.  Big mistake!  I had the pleasure of sitting down to my first meal at Il Pesce just weeks ago.  It was fantastic!  To start, I enjoyed a platter of fresh, briny oysters and for my entree, the seared scallops.    
  • Maison Premier  (Brooklyn)
    • If you love a wide variety of the freshest oysters - delicious handcrafted cocktails - excellent and knowledgeable service - absinthe - a romantic atmosphere that's illuminated by candlelight...then you will LOVE Maison Premier
  • Southern hospitality
    • ...As in the way that folks treat one another in Texas.  Passersby smile and say hello - men hold doors open for women - people say "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me."  
  • Drybar
    • OK, so I'm totally late to this whole "blow dry only" concept namely because I find it RIDICULOUS to pay somebody else to dry your damn hair.  But a few weeks ago, I was treated to this amazing service in Dallas (for my BFFs wedding) and, quite frankly, I cannot wait to schedule an appointment at one of the locations here in NYC!  So, it goes like this:  You walk in to Drybar - point to a hair style that you want yours to emulate - get your coiffe washed and conditioned - sip on a fizzy cocktail - skim through an array of magazines or watch a movie - all while letting someone else gussie you up.  Magical!
  • Katy Trail Ice House  (Dallas, TX)
    • Why wasn't this place around when I lived here?  I kept thinking to myself, upon my recent visit to Dallas.  Located just steps off of the famous Katy Trail, this watering hole/restaurant boasts indoor/outdoor seating, sports on the tube and, most importantly for a Texas expat, frozen margaritas and chile con queso! 
  • Street meat
    • This semester, I'm taking a super interesting class called "Comparative Cuisine," where we study the history/ingredients/recipes/politics/gender roles surrounding Israel and Palestine.  So you can only imagine how often I fantisize about hummus, falafel, freshly-baked pita bread sprinkled with za'atar, lamb, chopped salads, labneh, etc.  My Middle Eastern food kick led me to give my local Halal cart, HM Halal, a whirl.  For $6, I get a styrofoam container filled to the brim with yellow rice, salad, hummus, a falafel ball, lamb gyro meat, and stewed vegetables.  And a soda/bottled water of my choice!   

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Oct112013

Belize: 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.  

~

Belizean / seafood-centric

Frozen custard

Local products worth bringing home

Friday
Oct112013

Singapore: 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.  

~

Chinese

Cocktails

Continental

Singaporean

Turkish

Friday
Oct112013

Hong Kong: 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.  

~

Airport dining

British-style afternoon tea service

Chinese

Cocktails

Continental

Gelato

Portuguese

Friday
Aug162013

Eats, drinks, and mi vida loca

I know.  I've been the worst food blogger on the planet.  It's been like three weeks since my last post and, trust me, I'm feeling the guilt.  But, you know me, when I get stressed or down-in-the-dumps, I refrain from writing.  And a lot of crap has happened over the past few weeks.  Nothing unbelievably crazy or negative, but just enough shiz to make me take a step back and hibernate, if you will. 

But I hate drama and petty personal rants - especially on blogs - so I'm going to stop bitching.  And, instead, start writing about some awesome discoveries I've experienced - and tasted - recently.  Because they're just too delicious and worthwhile not to share!  So, without further ado, enjoy and have a fantastic weekend!

~~~

Brooklyn Kolache Co.

Back in college, a frienemy of mine used to make a homemade savory version with jalapeno, cheese, and sausage.  And, while I had never seen or heard of a kolache prior to my time as a co-ed, I quickly fell hard for these historically Czechoslovakian treats.  Suffice to say, it was "love at first bite."

In paying tribute to the many Texas expats in my Mexican food Meetup group, I decided to host July's monthly get-together at Brooklyn Kolache Co

Flavors range from from the savory, such as bacon, egg, and cheese, to sweet, like lemon curd

Of those that I sampled, my favorite kolache was, without a doubt, the pimento cheese.  Its warm and squishy exterior reminded me of a crazy cross-breed of a brioche bun and a potato roll.  With density.  This gave way to a creamy interior that was laced with cheddar cheese nibs and the slightest hint of spice.  Dynamite!

Although it's a bit of a hike from Manhattan, I would definitely consider Brooklyn Kolache Co. to be "destination worthy."  As an added bonus, the venue boasts an intimate outdoor space for al-fresco dining.  NYC weather permitting, of course.  :)

~~~

Courtney Paul, my favorite instructor at Barry's Bootcamp

"Girl, I will fcuk you up!"  That's just one of my favorite Courtney-isms that is yelled out in class.  Directly in to his microphone for the rest of the students to hear.  As he simultaneously stares you down.  Yep, Mr. Paul is my kind of instructor.  He's ruthless and feisty.  He challenges you until you think you cannot be challenged anymore.  And, for god's sake, he's intimidating as hell.  I mean, look at him!

Photo found at "Well + Good"Aside from being easy on the eyes, Mr. Paul is one of the funniest people I know.  And, between you and me, I'm convinced that, deep down, he's a squishy marshmallow that wouldn't harm a fly.  But, when it comes fitness, he certainly doesn't fcuk around.

Whether you're a Barry's regular that's never had a class with Courtney - or a Barry's virgin who has no idea what you're in for - I highly recommend snagging a coveted spot in one of Mr. Paul's classes.  "Work!"

~~~

Sophie's Cuban Cuisine

Of all of the places I could have gone for lunch on my birthday last week, I chose to have Sophie's deliver platters of their Spicy Grilled Chicken with yellow rice and black beans, Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with yellow rice and black beans, the 'Pernil with a Twist' sandwich, and the warm Guava and Cheese empanadas.  Split amongst three of us, of course.

Sophie's Spicy Grilled Chicken platter with yellow rice and black beansI'm obsessed with this place.  Even my Cuban coworker, Iris, considers Sophie's to be "muy authentico."  Now that's saying a lot. 

~~~

Gilligan's

"I cannot believe that I've lived here for 9.5 years and have never been here!  This place is fantastic!" I exclaimed to one of the hostesses.  With nearly 3/4 of the venue boasting outdoor space, Gilligan's is the ultimate summer drinking destination.  Aside from its perfect Soho location, Gilligan's is situated on street level, meaning no elevator lines.  Plus, they have a classy food menu with dishes that actually sound - and appear - appetizing.  Not your typical greasy array of crap.  Think more along the lines of Yellowfin Tuna Crudo and grilled thin-crust pizzas.  Oh, and they also serve frozen *watermelon* margaritas that are quite addictive...

~~~

Sushi Dojo

Look, I'll be honest, when I learned that the chef was a gringo, I had my doubts.  I mean, what the heck could he possibly know about Japanese technique, in terms of, well, anything?  Granted, Chef David Bouhadana did have ten years of culinary experience - and three of those spent training in Japan.  But still...

With a beverage menu chock-full of sake, wine, and beer, I chose - believe it or not - a glass of Merlot that was recommended to me by the 'house expert.'

Although our appetizers were tasty - lightly-fried eggplant marinated with dashi, deep fried soft shell shrimp, lightly-blanched greens and mushrooms in a light soy dashi broth - it wasn't until I sampled the sushi that I realized just how incredibly talented the Chef was. 

"May I have some more wasabi?" Kate asked our server.  The employee explained that it was already atop the rice - as was the soy sauce.  The only item that accompanied the sushi was tendrils of ginger. 

Not a single piece of fish in our sushi assortment tasted more than a handful of hours' old.  Each pristine slice was delicately painted with salty soy sauce and freshly-grated wasabi.  The sticky rice, perfectly-cooked and served just above room temperature, evoked a subtle hint of vinegar.

But my most favorite aspect of the entire meal was the fatty tuna with scallions roll.  Never in my entire life have I tasted minced tuna that was more buttery or fresh.  This roll, quite literally, took my breath away.  In fact, I just may have to return this weekend for another fix.  Heck, Sushi Dojo could become part of my weekly repertoire!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle     

Friday
Jul262013

Aroma Espresso Bar: Way beyond coffee

Look, if anyone "gets" routine, it's me.  But if you're as sick of the same old deli meat and Swiss sandwich or make-your-own-salad as I am, consider shaking up your lunch rotation. 

On Wednesday night, about ten food bloggers/press and I were invited to a media tasting at Aroma Espresso Bar.  And believe you me, there was much more to be sampled than day-old pastries and pre-packaged sandwiches.  Started in Israel in the late 90's, Aroma quickly spread throughout the small country before opening its first US location in 2006.  Right here in NYC's Soho neighborhood!  And, since then, the small chainlet has launched stores in New Jersey, Miami, and Maryland. 

Aroma Espresso Bar: Getting the party started with homemade lemonadeAroma Espresso Bar: Garbanzo Salad - garbanzo beans, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, homemade garlic croutons, tahini sauce, parsley, and lemon-olive oil dressingAroma Espresso Bar: Bourekas! These delightful savory pastries are Bulgarian in decsent and filled with potato, feta, or spinach. Dynamite!Aroma Espresso Bar: California Chicken Sandwich - chicken breast, avocado, fresh mozzarella cheese, fried egg, Aroma sauce, house-baked breadAroma Espresso Bar: Halumi Sandwich - grilled Halumi cheese, cream cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, and house-baked breadAroma Espresso Bar: Rich, decadent, warm, and oh so ooey-gooey chocolate chip/walnut and double chocolate cookiesAroma Espresso Bar: Alfajores - a soft Latin American cookie that sandwiches a thick layer of dulce de lecheAroma Espresso Bar: Traditional brownies - served warm and laced with walnut nibsThe jury is still out on which item I liked best - the bourekas - the halumi sandwich - or the halvah pastries (not pictured).  Luckily, I don't have to choose just one! 

I'm thrilled to know that there is an Aroma Espresso Bar located so close to my office.  Well, it's kind of scary, actually.  My girlish figure!  Anyhoo, I foresee many future lunches - and snack breaks - filled with decadent cups of hot chocolate, frozen mint lemonade, spinach bourekas, halumi sandwiches, halvah pastries, and those warm, gooey chocolate-chocolate chip cookies.  Drool.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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