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**Readers!  I recently moved to the City of Angels.  The good news is that I'm keeping this site alive while simultaneously working on something Los Angeles-centric, as well.**

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

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 - and, most recently, Los Angeles - shop!

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Tuesday
May062014

Cherry blossoms and beef jerky...some of my favorites of late

Damn, it's been a long winter.  And you know what's kind of insane?  The fact that I still rock a jacket every morning on my way to work.  It's May 6th, for the love of god!  I should stop complaining though, because the next two days are going to be...wait for it...70-degrees and sunny!  But don't ask what's in store for Thursday - Sunday; just know that it's going to be chilly, wet, and windy.  Typical NYC weather for ya...

On a lighter, more "springy" note, I wanted to share some of my favorite eats, drinks, events, and photos of late.  Because if you can't look forward to a kick ass plate of roasted beets and Lamb Frites on a cloudy Manhattan day, then what can you (look forward to)?

...

Cherry blossoms a'bloom in Madison Square Park

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...and, speaking of Madison Square Park, I'm totally loving that Spring Mad. Sq. Eats 2014 has commenced!  The lineup, as per usual, is great and I've already made my way over more than a handful of times (since opening day on May 2nd). #fatkidforever

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Kaffe 1668's Sweet Potato Kale Salad

Sitting prettily atop a bed of kale greens are pinto beans, garlic and rosemary-roasted sweet potatoes, chunks of ripe avocado, and dried cranberries.  Add to that your choice of maple-mustard or sesame-tamari dressing, and you've got yourself one helluva hearty - and healthy - lunch/dinner. 

For a $9.87 price tag, you receive the salad, plus a refreshing iced tea and crunchy, buttery crostini points.  Oh, and for all of you health freaks out there, did I mention that this salad is vegan, organic, and gluten-free?  Bam.

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Now, going in a whole different direction from "vegan and organic," I'd like to introduce you to my favorite guilty pleasure: Wild Bill's Beef Jerky.  Namely, the "jumbo size tender tips."  Sounds disgusting, I'm sure (I just reread that last sentence and gagged), but if you're a 'jerky aficionado like me and my sister, then you will LOVE THIS STUFF.  I repeat, LOVE!  Each bite is packed with intense flavor, spice, and a tenderness unlike any other jerky I've ever tried. 

Since Wild Bill's is located in Memphis, a handful of coworkers and I pool our money together and order a hefty supply for the office.  You seriously can't get a more delicious, high protein snack!

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General Assembly

I'm always suspicious of new restaurants that occupy HUMONGOUS spaces.  I mean, what's not to be weary of?  Having just moved in to the old Hurricane Club space, I entered General Assembly cautiously optimistic...

However, in terms of the newly-revamped space, the cocktails, and most of the food we ordered, I conclude that General Assembly has "staying power" potential for the long haul.  Dana and I thoroughly enjoyed our experience, and I cannot wait to return!

General Assembly: Lillet CupSearching for this summer's hottest thirst quencher?  Look no further than the "Lillet Cup," a gorgeous concoction of Lillet Blanc, muddled strawberries, and mint.  Menu standouts include: Gratis garlic pull-apart rolls and salted butter, Roasted Beets & Ginger-Citrus Yogurt, Colorado Lamb Frites (think traditional 'steak frites,' but substitute a charbroiled filet of lamb), and the Baked Brie Potato Gratin.

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Pre-packaged macaron sampler from Macaron Cafe available at Fairway Market locations citywide

Each box comes with a frozen assortment of nine macarons.  Because of the brilliant way in which they're packaged, each macaron remains perfectly intact - thus making this the ideal "from NYC with love" traveler's gift for friends and family.  

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Chalk Point Kitchen, The Handy Liquor Bar

With almost twenty minutes to spare before our reservation at Chalk Point Kitchen, I was told that I could wait in the bar downstairs because it was "much more comfortable."  Although I spied a few empty bar stools in my periphery, I chose, for once, to keep my mouth shut and head to the floor below.  After all, I had just arrived from a spin class looking less than fabulous.  Oh god, I said under my breath, hurriedly searching for my cashmere sweater.  I didn't even realize that I had walked in to the establishment in my sweaty, sleeveless workout tank and visible sports bra. 

The Handy Liquor Bar is a romantic and hip juxtaposition that takes "subterranean" to a whole new level: Approachable.  From the plethora of intimate seating options and a cozy fireplace, to the friendly staff, this is a bar that I am confident I will return to time and time again.  Plus, it doesn't hurt that the drinks are handmade, reasonably priced, and delicious.  

While we enjoyed every aspect of our meal at Chalk Point Kitchen, down to the hand-written chalk table card with our names on it, my favorites included: Garden Beet Root Salad with salty blue and crunchy pistachios, Maine Uni Crudo with sea salt and salsa verde, Dayboat Chatham Codfish with a "livornese" sauce, Roasted Heirloom Carrots, and the Butter Whipped Potatoes.

Get. Here. Now.

Chalk Point Kitchen: Garden Beet Root Salad

Mad. Sq Eats (#MadSqEats), now in its sixth year, will return to Worth Square on Friday, May 2nd. The popular pop-up market is a collaboration between UrbanSpace and the Madison Square Park Conservancy; together, we’ve curated one of our best lineups yet.

100 Sardines by George Mendes
100 sardines will be a “sister” pop-up restaurant to ALDEA located off Union Square. They will serve hot and cold soups, sandwiches and rice dishes (both seafood and meat based) as well as Portuguese influenced salads. The rice preparations will be based on the success of ALDEA’s signature “Arroz de Pato ” and will be available to eat on site or taken to go.

Arancini Bros.
Arancini is authentic sicilian street food – fried rice balls made with arborio rice and filled with creative meats, cheeses and seasonal ingredients.

Bar Suzette
Bar Suzette, run by Peter Tondreau and Troi Lughod, offers savory or sweet delectable crepes with a continuously changing menu. At Mad. Sq. Eats, they also offer an expanded menu that includes burgers, truffle fries and other classic fare.

Calexico
Calexico serves fresh, flavorful Cal-Mex food in New York City and Brooklyn. They have several locations and carts, and have won many accolades for their food, including a Vendy Award for Best Street Food.

Charlito’s Cocina
Charlito’s Cocina offers fantastic meat and vegetarian sausages, paninis and sides; everything is made scratch.

Doughnuttery
Doughnuttery offers hot, fresh, and uniquely sugared donuts.

Hong Kong Street Cart
Hong Kong Street Cart serves delicious Asian street food, including pork buns, dumplings, ramen and more.

ilili
Contemporary Lebanese and Mediterranean cuisine. Consistently voted NYC’s #1 Mediterranean restaurant by OpenTable diners!

Kicky’s Kitchen
Caketails by Kicky’s Kitchen are sweets inspired by cocktails. They have year-round caketails as well as seasonal cupcakes.

L&W Oyster Co.
L&W Oyster Co. features an array of the finest East and West coast oysters, as well as classic clam shack fare — like Lobster BLTs, Oyster Po’ Boys — and beautiful fish entrees that showcase sustainable seafood and local produce.

La Sonrisa Empanadas
La Sonrisa Empanadas offers vegetarian, beef, roasted or coconut curry chicken and pulled pork empanadas.

Macaron Parlour
Founded in 2010 by Christina Ha and Simon Tung, Macaron Parlour offers a wide array of delicious macarons. Their flavor offerings range from the traditional (Red Velvet) to the crazy and creative (Cheetos).

Mayhem & Stout
Founded by childhood friends, Steve Applegate and Jay Brown, Mayhem & Stout specializes in flavorful, fall-off-the-bone braised meats and creative, seasonally inspired house made condiments, relishes and spreads served on locally made bread. They also offer salads and vegetarian options.

Melt Bakery
Melt Bakery is a sustainable ice cream sandwich company focused on locally sourced ingredients with seasonal flavor combinations.

- See more at: http://www.madisonsquarepark.org/things-to-do/calendar/mad-sq-eats-2014#sthash.M6eDYs7q.dpuf

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Saturday
May032014

Holey Donuts: One Donut You Won't Want to Glaze Over

Low-cal is not in my vocabulary. Diet ice cream? Portion control potato chips? Sorry, but you have no my place in my life. Let me be clear: I don't judge pastries based on how good they taste relative to their nutritional value. Sure, if I can avoid clogging my arteries, that's great. But when all is said and done, I want my pastries to taste good because that is their sole purpose.

So, you can imagine my skepticism when I was invited to try Holey Donuts!, a brand of low-calorie, low-fat donuts inhabiting their first retail store this week. Would they taste like the fake bread I eat on Passover? Would they be really good donuts that were just incredibly small? Would they be alien donuts with side effects of blue skin?

Well, first thing's first, I was taken aback to discover that the donuts were big. Aha, I thought, so portion control isn't the secret. This is going to taste like the pastries they served in synagogue growing up. Right? Wrong. A Holey Donut tastes like a donut because it is a donut. I kept chewing, waiting for a catch. Zilch. These were definitely donuts: sweet, sticky, chewy, and round. 

A Bay Ridge native and self-declared "Brooklyn boy", Frank Dilullo comes by his donut entrepreneurship honestly. He's no stranger to the world of the fried: Frank's father was one of the original Dunkin' Donuts franchisees back in 1958. Growing up sneaking clandestine bites of freshly-made donut "with the icing on top still wet," Frank owned several Dunkin' Donuts stores before selling them to start Holey Donuts!. "It was an accident, really. I was by the fryer, and I made the donut a different way than we usually did. I tasted it, and I was like, 'holy shit!' That's where Holey Donuts! comes from. 'Holy cow' will also work," he says, his eyes lighting up with that Brooklyn boy mischief. "Well, how do you make them?" I pressed. "That I can't tell you, but it's a twenty-two step process. Half of the work is done at our factory in Brooklyn, the other half here in the store." He wasn't lying. Every donut is customized on the spot, and goes from being dough to art. Already a successful online brand, the Holey Donuts! retail store looks like a day spa for donuts with jars full of fresh filling ready to be pumped into the fritters. It's like reverse liposuction for donuts. 

"I once had a baked donut," I confessed. "It didn't taste very good." "People tell me stuff like that all the time, and I'm like, if a donut is baked, it's a bagel. A lot of the time with low-cal foods, brands try to disguise it. Of course our donuts are going to have carbs and sugar. They're donuts! We just don't prepare them quite the same way."

I'm dying to reveal my donut-making conspiracy theories here, but I digress... In addition to donuts, Holey Donuts! has cinnamon buns, coffee, and juice. The store plans on staying open fairly late; think 10PM on the weekdays, and midnight on the weekends. "Or," Frank says, "until we're out of donuts." The store doesn't accept cash in an effort to keep things as germ-free as possible (my kind of place, hey there Jewish neuroses), and has a good amount of seating. Located in in a pink-splattered, spacious store in the West Village, Holey has a good shot of wracking up success.

Frank and his crew sent me home with several boxes of goodies, making me queen for a day in the office. To be on Holey Donuts! grand opening guest list, email info@holeydonuts.net, with 'guest list' in the subject line. Word on the street is that there will be goodies a' plenty.

 

Until we eat again, 

Aliza Kellerman for The Lunch Belle

Aliza Kellerman is an NYC based booze & food writer, an employed twenty-something, and an avid kvetcher. She sips and noshes her way through misadventures while befriending strangers and discovering new interests. Check out her blog at here, follow her here, and browse her portfolio here.

Friday
Apr252014

So, a New Yorker walks in to a bar in L.A...

I consider myself fairly laid back/accepting/open when it comes to many things.  For example:

  • If a friend is acting like a total byotch, I'll chock it up to PMS or something else that really has nothing to do with me. 
  • I try to break down racial and cultural stereotypes and judge a person based on their attitude/personality - or lack thereof - not by their religion or skin color. 
  • I'm generally not the type of person to tell my employer that I "can't" perform a certain job function.  I have a "can do" attitude/work ethic on the job.

However, when it comes to places/locations/cities/towns, I am a seething critic and snob.  As a New Yorker, I think that pretty much everywhere else in the world sucks.  Hard.  Except for Paris.  Small towns freak me the fcuk out, as do strip malls.  Falling asleep - or, shall I say, attempting to fall asleep - in silence makes my skin crawl.  Businesses that close before 9pm are straight-up lazy.  What's up with that, by the way?  The most fearful I've ever been was on a trip to a sleepy New Mexico ski town during the summer before my 7th grade year.  My family and I spent 4-5 days in Ruidoso, which felt more like a multi-year prison sentence.  There was absolutely nothing to do but stare at pine trees and pretend that I enjoyed nature. 

So, where am I going with all of this?  I wanted to give you a quirky prelude to my recent visit to Los Angeles, a city chock-full of stereotypes.  Below, I will break each one of them down, from my point of view:

  1. "Driving is a nightmare."  Traffic is traffic is traffic, people.  Seriously!  Whether you're in Dallas, Houston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, or LA, it's just a fact of daily life.  Be it you behind the wheel or a cabbie/driver.  And, to all of you a-holes who scared the crap out of me prior to my trip, I did not let the gridlock get the best of me.  Thank you very much.  Actually, it was way less intense/dramatic than what you idiots made it out to be.   
  2. "Everyone is blonde and has fake boobs."  Wrong.  Actually, to be honest, I didn't even see that many blondes.  And, aside from my instructor at barre class, I didn't spy any fake racks.
  3. "All of the chicks are rail thin and gorgeous."  Wrong again.  In fact, there was only one gal who was so good looking that she took my breath away.  And the thin thing?  Not so much.
  4. "LA sucks."  No, LA does not suck.  You suck!  People are intimidated of LA because of its size, the necessary driving, the wealth, the smog, and the "fake people."  But you know what?  I really liked LA.  I look at all of those "grievances" as a challenge.  Bring it on!

And here are some generalizations that I made on my own (sans stereotypes):

  1. There are taco trucks EVERYWHERE.  Dream. Come. True.
  2. People are not any nicer/nastier than they are in NYC. 
  3. The hipster population in Brooklyn pales in comparison to the City of Angels.  They're fcuking EVERYWHERE!
  4. ...with that being said, where all my yuppies at?  Anyone?
  5. Rodeo Drive is merely a stretch of a few blocks.  Yep, that's it. 
  6. Perhaps I was just famished, but I found the pizza in LA to be quite delicious.  Shout out to LA Pizza Company and Bottega Louie!Bottega Louie's wood fired savory pie
  7. There's just something incredibly special and magical about those super tall palm trees.
  8. The fact that you can eat or drink in surroundings as lush as Hawaii is priceless.FIG at The Fairmont Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica
  9. It isn't all Porsche's and perfectly manicured lawns and landscape; there are some downright fugly parts of LA.
  10. Valet parking is expensive as chit, man!
  11. For an airport in such a huge city, LAX is a total dump.  
  12. Were most of the apartment/duplex complexes built in 1975?  WTF?  Ew.
  13. Tricked-out low riders are everything. 
  14. ...I forgot how sexy I find cholos.  No joke.

That just about wraps up my recent visit to El Lay.  What are your thoughts/opinions on the City of Angels?

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Monday
Apr142014

Cheese Louise! Aliza's recap from this weekend's "The Big Cheesy"

SAYING CHEESE: My 60 minutes exploring artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches at OPENHOUSE's Big Cheesy Festival

Written by Aliza Kellerman

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One of my least favorite childhood memories is the summer I spent at sleep away camp in Wild Rose, Wisconsin. Clad in conservative, religious dress, my chubby twelve year-old body was constantly seeping out sweat, trying to avoid the sly frogs that were somehow everywhere (even the showers, those scaly pervs). Nope. I was never cut out for The Nature. However, the one saving grace of Unnamed Religious Camp in The Midwest was the bi-weekly meal of grilled cheese sandwiches. They were single-handedly responsible for preventing me from drowning myself in the shallow pond. Frogs and all.

So, you can imagine that I was overjoyed when the most beautiful day of NYC Spring, thus far, and The Big Cheesy festival coincided. I was even more excited to announce PRESS, PRESS I'M WITH THE LUNCH BELLE, I'M WITH THE LUNCH BELLE!! instead of showing a ticket. The world has gone to hell and I am the media…     

I'm elated that grilled cheeses have become so trendy, that they now get their own annual loft-like space in SoHo. Hosted by OPENHOUSE, The Big Cheesy squares off sandwich makers against each other while serving shmancy brews and making you feel like you're attending a gallery opening instead of stuffing artery-clogging grub into your mouth. I love deception.

From the get-go, I knew I was gonna have to try every single grilled cheese offered. Stamina over stomach, right? Riiiiiight? Yes. I was given an orange ping-pong ball to bequeath to the stand whose sandwich won my heart, and a drink ticket. With a cup full of Goose Island and steely determination, here's my play-by-play of my hour in dairy heaven.

...  

LA MAISON DU CROQUE MONSIEUR

 

THE DISH: A modified Croque Monsieur with mushroom ragout, bechamel, provolone cheese & truffle oil. They also had the classic: jambon de paris, bechamel & raclette cheese.

 

THE THOUGHTS: This sandwich was certainly good start to the day. Bechamel is the LBD of sauces, it works with pretty much everything and if you're as gross as me, you might even want to taste it on its own. Still, while it was a good first act, the Croque Monsieur was nothing spectacular. I didn't even realize there was truffle oil in it until I looked back at my notes. A little-known fact about truffle oil is that it's often not made with truffles, but sunflower seeds. A cheaper fix, but doubtlessly less sassy than the real thing. So I moved on to...

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THE ALL AMERICAN DINER

THE DISH: Challah Atcha Boy (garlic buttered challah with Nueske's bacon, navel pastrami, aged cheddar, fontina, chipotle apple aioli and deli-style potato chips)

THE THOUGHTS: Can I just say that, no matter how many times I see the challah at me pun on JDate, I never get sick of it. Challah is the only time in human history God has proven his love to the Jews, and it still never fails to disappoint. I couldn't help but see the irony in putting bacon on challah (“I'm New York's worst Jew,” professed the sandwicher), but I guess the pastrami provided the semetic compensation. While doubtlessly a tasty sandwich, The CAB was culinary hedonism…the grilled cheese equivalent to a cocaine fueled night at a strip club. Too much.

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VAN HORN 

THE DISH: Pimento cheese & smoked mushrooms on sourdough

THE THOUGHTS: The folks at Van Horn were,by far, the most adorable (as you can glean from the photo below). The sandwich was spicy and smoky, a very specific flavor not everyone would enjoy, though I did. Still, big props for bringing pimento back. I regularly pull that stuff out of olives. It's my martini vice. Shhh...

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MELT KRAFT (My favorite!)

THE DISH: Melter Skelter-VSC 'Melter Skelter' raclette style cheese, pickled green tomatoes, jalapeno, BBQ potato chips and watercress

THE THOUGHTS: If Justin Timberlake and a giant hunk of cheese got together and made a baby, The Melter Skelter would be that prized offspring. What I mean is that the sandwich was perfect in all regards (as is JT). Is it possible for a sandwich to be talented? I'd believe it with the Melter Skelter. I think it has the potential to run a goddamn country. There were just enough textures to make it interesting (but not balut weird), and the perfect amount of flavors without there be too much of any one thing. In my experience, when people put jalapeno in stuff that isn't Mexican food, they tend to go haywire. But Melt Kraft got it right. Chelsea Wajswol explained that all the cheese is made from animals raised on Valley Shepherd Creamery, a 200 acre farm owned by her family in Long Valley, New Jersey. They offer tours and have four Melt Kraft venues: two in Brooklyn, one in Philly, and one in New Jersey. They also produce gelato, craft beer, and pairings. Not only were the Wajswols clearly bred for cheese making, but Chelsea's boyfriend, Matthew Delinsky, works with Valley Shepherd Creamery and Melt Kraft as well. Coolest. In-laws. Ever. 

5 OZ FACTORY

THE DISH: The Meltdown-emmi roth smoked provolone, brie, horseradish & chive havarti roasted pencil asparagus, mushrooms, basil, and horseradish pesto

THE THOUGHTS: Pesto is tricky. On one hand, it's delicious; on the other, it's overwhelming. Same goes for asparagus. If you love garlic and don't mind the mess, this is a no-brainer-eat-me-now gig. Still, I wasn't sold on the asparagus. I didn't actually taste it, which begged the question: why? Nine times out of ten, asparagus is a bad idea. Too stringy, too bitter. I get the need to distinguish the sandwich from a typical caprese panini, but I don't think the asparagus was the right route. Still, what a pretty sandwich!

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MURRAY'S (CHEESE) MELTS

THE DISH: 1) The Peppa Jack - pepper jack and peppadews 2) The Piccante Pig-pulled pork, pepper jack, black beans and salsa verde

THE THOUGHTS: By this point into the tasting, my stomach was distended and I was losing motivation. Murray's Melts came closest to the feel of a classic grilled cheese. Nothing too salty, spicy, or tangy. Salsa verde was tasty, but it didn't provide me with too much of a kick in the pants. Former pastry chef turned cheese-ager extraordinaire, Nicole Nash, gave me the lowdown on Murray's Cheese. New York's oldest cheese store, Murray's swiped Nash through their affinage program, where she dealt with aging young wheels of cheese at a very tender age herself: twenty-three. Nash explained that she loved her time at Aldea, the posh Iberian restaurant she used to work at under the tutelage of Chef George Mendes. “George was fantastic,” Nicole explained. “He pushed me into all sorts of experiences.” However, after leaving Aldea, Nash was unimpressed with how things went down at other glam restaurants. Four years later, she's as happy at Murray's as I was after leaving The Big Cheesy.

 

I toddled out of the event, thanking the greeters and mumbling that I'd died and to please invite me back next year. Luckily, The All American Diner is opening up a pop-up shop soon. More to come...

~~~

Until we eat again,

Aliza Kellerman for The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Apr092014

New Orleans in my words and pictures

Just like Hong Kong, Lyon, and Paris, I had an inkling that I would fall in love with New Orleans.  And that was before I had even stepped foot in the city!  Sometimes, as they say, you just know...

From the moment I landed at Louis Armstrong, I was captivated by the mid seventy-degree spring weather, the warm local hospitality, and the spattering of palm trees.  After all, it made for quite the welcome change from frigid NYC. 

Because of the St. Patrick’s Day parades that Saturday, I was bummed to have to cancel my 1PM brunch reservation at Commander’s Palace, as the concierge informed me that, due to street car-closings, getting to/from could be quite unpredictable for a new visitor to the city.  This deviation in plans actually led me to Luke, a John Besh restaurant, located much closer to the Hotel Monteleone (my residence for the week).  I mention this particular meal because of the friendly local folks that I met while dining solo at the bar.  From this early first impression, the residents of New Orleans seemed incredibly welcoming and genuinely enthusiastic to have me in their town. 

Luke: A welcome toast to myself, from myselfLuke: My first bowl of gumbo!Luke: "Eggs in a Jar" - jalapeno cheese grits, fried Gulf shrimp, pooached eggsPost-lunch, I must have meandered down every street in the charming French Quarter.  Although I knew about the city’s open-container “leniency,” I still did a double take every time I passed someone sucking down their ‘Bloody in a plastic cup while strolling down Royal Street.  When it was my turn to grab a cocktail, I was tickled to note a stack of plastic “to go” cups located at a table near The Carousel Bar’s exit.  That wouldn’t be the last display I observed during my trip, either...

Being a self-proclaimed Francophile, staying in the French Quarter transported me back to the cobblestone streets of Lyon and Paris.  On a daily – and nightly – basis.  Beyond this famed neighborhood, however, the French influence was also present in the names of streets, parishes, food items, and cocktails.  And, speaking of food, I made the following observations: 

  • It seemed like most seafood dishes were composed of local Gulf treasures, from fish to shellfish.
  • French bread is standard/default at nearly every restaurant's table. 
  • For tourists who wish to immerse themselves in local cuisine, it is not hard to go a full week without eating a raw vegetable or fruit. 
  • Everyone has their own rendition of gumbo. 
  • Turtle soup is a delicacy that can be found on most “high end” restaurant menus.   And, despite the fact that I adore sea turtles, I was informed that the meat used in the famous soup is from that of the "mean, snapping turtle" variety.  "Honey, these are the kinds of turtles that will gladly bite your finger off."  It was this tidbit of information that finally convinced me to order a bowl during my brunch at Restaurant Revolution.

Restaurant Revolution: I ate turtle soup...and loved it! Sorry PETA...There were only a handful of nights when I didn’t go to sleep to some sort of pulsing car bass or the music from a jazz instrument.  New Orleanians will find any excuse to party, even when celebrating the lives of the deceased.  In fact, on our walk to Dooky Chase’s, I was warmly taken aback by the large group of family and friends eating, toasting, dancing, and reminiscing over the life of a fellow father/brother/friend/husband (I know that is was a male because his picture was prominently displayed on a tripod). 

In terms of race and culture, I found New Orleans to be just as segregated as any other city in the US.  From observation, alone, it appeared as though most races/cultures stuck together, both socially and residentially.   However, where poor neighborhoods remained heavily ravaged by infamous natural disasters (with the exception of the houses built by Brad Pitt’s organization in the Lower Ninth Ward), wealthier areas were thriving.  The racial divide and disparity between rich and poor could not have been more blatant and, quite honestly, it made me very uncomfortable.  During any given day, there were moments where I felt like I was in Detroit.  Then, not more than a few miles later, I was transported to ritzy Charleston proper. 

Some interesting factoids I learned during my trip:

  • “Dixie” comes from the French word “dix,” which means “ten.” 
  • The meaning behind each quadrant of a FEMA markingPhoto found on Wikipedia

My favorite experiences during the trip were:

  • Shopping, strolling, people watching, and architecture-awing in the French Quarter
  • Street musicians/talent
  • Driving through vacant, hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods
  • Daily praline sampling
  • Southern Candy Makers  It's true.  They really do have the best pralines in Nawlins.  My favorite being the peanut butter variety.
  • Gazing at the Natchez river boat on the murky Mississippi
  • Southern breakfasts, in general, namely from the daily buffet at Criollo: Sausage gravy-drenched biscuits, grits, bacon, roasted potatoes, and scrambled eggs
  • The best damn airport grub I've EVER eaten - in the form of shrimp 'n grits - courtesy of Ye Olde College Inn

The Big Easy is an incredibly special and complicated place that is chock-full of beauty, tragedy, sweet and sour history, and a “gumbo” of cultures and races.  Having had the privilege of seeing New Orleans through the lense of many resident experts (thanks to my very well-connected Master's program at NYU), I can honestly say that this trip was positively life altering. 

I left a piece of my heart in New Orleans.

~~~

Laissez les bons temps rouler, y'all!

The Lunch Belle       

Thursday
Mar062014

Eat this NOW: Sugar cookies from...

If you're looking for the biggest, most buttery, crisp around the edges yet moist in the center-sugar cookie, look no further than...Are you ready for it?...POTBELLY SANDWICH SHOP.  "I just took these out of the oven at 5," the cashier exclaimed at a quarter past six PM.  While the website boasts that they bake their cookies each morning, that's obviously not happening.  At least not at their Union Square location.  Potbelly is cranking out cookies around the clock, folks.  Not just in the AM!  Otherwise, how could they stay on the shelves?

Look, just do yourself a favor and try one.  You're welcome in advance!

Photo: Potbelly dot com

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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