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

Thursday
Feb132014

Recipe: Handmade "Take 5, Chubby Hubby!" Truffles (...just in time for Valentine's Day)

 

Hello, gorgeous!

Chocolate?  Check.  Peanut butter?  Check.  A cross somewhere between a Hershey's Take 5 candy bar and Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream?  Check. 

If you live for 'sweet and salty' desserts, then I think you will love this recipe for "Take 5, Chubby Hubby!" Truffles.  Imagine, if you will, a small peanut butter-ball packed with salty pretzels, then doused in a blend of milk and dark chocolate.  Is your mouth watering yet?  I figured as much...

Just promise me one thing:  Don't let the word "truffle" intimidate you.  This is one of the EASIEST dessert recipes to make.  Ever.  But don't tell that to your main squeeze!  Let him continue to think that you spent all day in the kitchen making your "handmade truffles."  Because, trust me, he will!  ;)

And, on that note, happy Valentine's Day!

...

*This recipe was adapted from Brown Eyed Baker's version

Ingredients (makes 18-25 truffles, depending on the size of your balls)

  • 1 1/4 cups pretzel pieces
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 3.5-4 ounces milk chocolate (I broke up a 3.5 ounce bar of Cadbury's Milk Chocolate)
  • 3.5-4 ounces dark chocolate (I broke up a 3.5 ounce bar of Cadbury's Dark Chocolate)
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable shortening (I used Crisco)

Method

1. Put pretzels into a resealable plastic bag and crush into very small bits (a rolling pin works great for this).

2. In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, salt, and powdered sugar. Stir until all of the ingredients are completely blended and smooth. Add the pretzel bits to the peanut butter mixture and mix thoroughly - I use my hands!

3. Line a small baking sheet with wax paper. Using a small cookie scoop, or about 2 teaspoons worth of peanut butter mixture, gently shape into a ball with your fingertips. Place the ball on the wax paper-lined cookie sheet and repeat with the remaining peanut butter mixture. Place the baking sheet into the freezer to chill for 30 minutes (if your freezer is too small, refrigerate for 1 hour).

4. When ready to dip the truffles, microwave the chocolate and vegetable shortening together in a small bowl in 15-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth.

5. Working one at a time, dip one peanut butter-pretzel ball into the melted chocolate and use a fork to roll it around, ensuring that it is completely coated with chocolate. Let any extra chocolate drip off and place back on the wax paper-lined sheet. Repeat with all of the peanut butter-pretzel balls.

6. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and again chill for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with crushed pretzels, if desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

~~~

Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Feb072014

Recipe: Umami-roasted Sweet Potatoes

Every Sunday for the past few months, I've religiously roasted a heaping of root vegetables.  Upon completion and cool-down, I leave half of the amount in the fridge for weeknight dinners, and bring the other half to the office to be added to salads or eaten alongside roasted chicken. 

I have experimented with everything from beets and turnips, to kabocha squash and multi-colored baby carrots.  Be it maple syrup, honey, pomegranate molasses, or balsamic vinegar, I've also dressed my veggies in just about everything under the sun.  What has wowed me time and time again is the yam/sweet potato.  And, after much trial and very little error, I think I've figured out the best recipe for roasted sweet 'taters.  Ever.  I call them "Umami-roasted Sweet Potatoes" because there is a magical and mysterious 'fifth taste' element of salt/savory that marries beautifully with sweet.

I have a good feeling that you, too, will fall in love with this simple, healthy, and delicious recipe that will delightfully perfume your kitchen and lovingly kiss your taste buds. 

Enjoy!

...

Recipe:  Umami-roasted Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients (approximately 4-servings)

  • 2 large yams or sweet potatoes - washed, peeled, and cut in to 1/2"x1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 bulb of peeled black garlic cloves (if you cannot find black garlic at your local grocer/specialty food store/Asian market, you can use regular "white" garlic cloves)
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to "bake" at 425 degrees F.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and, using clean hands, toss to evenly saturate.  Line a 13x9 glass/metal pan or walled/protected cookie sheet with foil.  Pour ingredients on to foil and disperse evenly.  Bake for 35-minutes. 

Remove from oven and toss potatoes in pan/cookie sheet (...for even-roasting.  No side should be discriminated!).  Bake for another 35-minutes.

Serve immediately, or allow to cool to room temperature before storing in refrigerator.  Enjoy for days; stays fresh up to 1-week.

 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Sunday
Feb022014

Eat this NOW: Ken & Cook's Fried Chicken platter

I couldn't let another nanosecond go by without telling y'all about Ken & Cook's Fried Chicken platter.

Ken & Cook: Breasts, thighs, and a honey-buttered biscuitI seriously don't know what's sexier about the picture above - those butter "bubbles" atop the right biscuit half, or the outstanding color of the crust that's enveloping the chicken.

When it comes to poultry, I'm a breast gal.  Unlike my men, the dark meat just doesn't do it for me.  Luckily, it doesn't matter if you're a devotee of dark meat or white; you can rest assured knowing that there will be a hot, juicy, fresh-out-of-the-fryer chicken segment of your preference.  After all, this platter comes with both.

The reason that I don't eat fried chicken more often is because, believe it or not, the skin totally grosses me out.  And what's the point of all of that delicious fried crust if it's stuck to an enormous glob of skin?  Blech.  "I'll just take the nachos.  With an extra side of cheese.  Thanks."  But, for some reason, I couldn't stop staring at the words "Fried Chicken" on the menu that night...

On this particular occasion, I chose to delve in to my platter the polite way:  With a fork and knife.  I know, it's about as lame as eating pizza with utensils, but I wanted to properly observe the crust-to-skin-to-meat ratio.  Upon cutting my first piece from the breast, I was impressed by how little skin there was on the bird.  Why do some pieces seem to have such a thick lining?  Does skin elasticity range from body part to body part?  Don't I have better things to think about?  Sigh.  The crust had that beautiful, deep molasses color not unlike KFC's Original Recipe.  Before topping one of the biscuit halves with the piece of chicken I had just cut, I wanted to taste it.  Naked.  Finished with a dash of spicy black pepper, a puddle of warm butter, and sweet honey, the flaky biscuit literally melted in my mouth.  It's one of those unique, transcendent foods where, upon first bite, your body has a physical reaction.  Like the somersault your stomach does upon hearing amazing news.  And the chicken?  The meat, itself, was moist and juicy.  I was able to eat a perfectly intact bite (meat, skin, fried crust) without the slightest hint of skin "flavor" or gristle.  And the crust was perfectly seasoned with interlacing textures of savory crunch and gently-cooked, soft "batter."

While the other dishes that we ordered at Ken & Cook ranged from mediocre to good, the Fried Chicken platter is, without a doubt, worth going out of your way/neighborhood for.  And returning time and time again.

 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Jan292014

The Weekly Eater: Dining adventures in the Polar Vortex

Damn, the winter sucks.  And it's not like it only lasts for a month or two in NYC.  No, the bone-chilling temps hang around well in to April.  And the attire?  Don't even get me started on the unsexiness of it all.  With my floor-length black puffer jacket and furry ear muffs, I look like the Michelin Man directing air traffic.    

...and the air in my apartment is so dry that my poor dog has constant static-cling.

To further darken an already dark season, I took a bad spill a few weeks ago and fractured my hip.  "I've never heard of anybody under the age of 90 with a broken hip!  Hahhahhah!"  Said the resident office clown.  He does have a point though!  Doctor's orders are for me to modify my exercise routine so as not to further break the break.  Otherwise, I'm looking at surgery.  So, as you can imagine, I've been spending even more time doing what I do best:  Eating.  I've *tried* to cut back on my drinking to ward off extra non-exercisable calories. 

Without further ado, here's where and what I've been eating as of late... 

.

El Maguey y La Tuna  Mexican food, Lower East Side

Verdict:  A little rough around the edges and the restroom gave me vivid flashbacks of Mexico (...you cannot flush paper down the toilet) but, all in all, I enjoyed a tasty meal paired with warm service. 

If you do find yourself at El Maguey y La Tuna, famous for their handmade mole sauces, make sure to try their phenomenal Chilaquiles Verdes.  Imagine, if you will, a mound of mild green mole sauce-saturated corn tortilla chips finished with melted white cheese and paired alongside eggs (cooked to your liking) and black beans  This is a truly transcendent dish that is destination-worthy in every sense of the word. 

Chilaquiles verdes con juevosTo help weather the frigid temperatures outside, might I suggest the sweet and comforting Mexican Fruit Hot Cider? 

Mexican Fruit Hot Cider.

La Cenita  Mexican food, Meatpacking District

Verdict:  Hated it, hated it, HATED IT!

What are the ingredients for a shitty restaurant?  1) 9 times out of 10, a location in the Meatpacking District 2) Wait staff that doesn't communicate with the busser staff 3) A manager that scans the room constantly for famous folks and only approaching tables that appear to be occupied by Greek shipping magnates 4) Charging $9 for a double espresso.  Yes, I said $9 5) A waiter that exclaims, immediately upon being seated, "Hayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy girls!  What kind of water are we going to have tonight?  Still?  Sparkling?  You'll want to make sure to hydrate yourselves in preparation for drinking!"  To his unfortunate surprise, neither Jean, Ceci, nor I was imbibing that night.  And to our unfortunate surprise, that's when service took a somber turn for the worse.  6) Must I go on?

Get here NEVER!

.

Oreo's newest flavors!

VerdictOreo sent me a brought a box of each, Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Crispy,so I brought them to work.  The winning flavor amongst my coworkers was...a tie!  I told folks to take one of each and then let me know which was their favorite.  There was no middle ground; my colleagues either loved one flavor and hated the other. 

Personally, I did not have a favorite.  I enjoyed both of the new flavors, though found their respective fillings to be too oily/greasy.  I also noticed that the actual cookie portions didn't stick to the filling/icing very well.  I will say that I did enjoy the generous filling-to-cookie ratio...

*These two new flavors hit the shelves on Monday, 2/3.*  If you happen to buy a box of each, let me know what you think, overall, and which flavor you enjoyed more.  Personally, I cannot wait until Birthday Cake, Lemon, and Peanut Butter flavors are debuted!! 

.

Hu chocolate bars

Verdict:  Never was I EVER even remotely in to dark chocolate.  I passed it off as bitter crap that only snobby, skeletal wannabes and the men who love them ate.  That was until, out of sheer desperation, I succumbed to a Hershey's Special Dark mini.  And loved it!  Slowly, I began sampling various brands of dark chocolate and cacao percentages ranging from 40 to the mid 70s.  And then I stumbled upon Hu bars... 

Of the flavors I've sampled thus far, I'd have to say that my favorite is the Almond Butter & Puffed Quinoa.  I totally get that it sounds too healthy and too hipster, but it's fcuking delicious.  Imagine the crunch of a Nestle Crunch bar married with the sweet/salty/textural appeal of a Reese's PB Cup.  Bam! 

 

~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Jan242014

The Lunch Belle interviews RHOA's infamous Mama Joyce!

Love her or love to hate her, Mama Joyce is the unofficial matriarch of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.  Personally, while I've always remained neutral in tiffs between her and famous daughter, Kandi Burruss, it wasn't until I actually got to speak with Mama Joyce, one on one, that I absolutely fell in love with her. 

Photo credit: Jessica from Reality Wanted dot Com Southern women, especially of the older school, are tough cookies.  They don't put up with a bunch of crap and are more than happy to gingerly put you in your place.  By the same token, you will never meet a more outwardly warm, gracious, polite, or welcoming woman than a Southern dame.  And Mama Joyce is no exception.   While she may come off as a fire cracker on television, she could not have been more lovely over the phone.  If I could describe my interaction with MJ (Mama Joyce) in one sentence, I'd say that she is like the grandmother you never had.  But always wanted.  Sweet and loving...with a dash of Southern sass.

.

TLB = The Lunch Belle

MJ = Mama Joyce

TLB:  "Hi MJ!  Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me!"

MJ:  "Hi!  You are welcome."

TLB:  "So I heard that you've lost quite a bit of weight.  Congratulations!  40 pounds, to be exact!  Can you divulge how you did it?"

MJ:  "Thank you!  I started a program called Dramatic Weight Loss about 2-years ago.  Actually, it was Kandi who first told me about it.  And, yes, I've lost 40 pounds!"

TLB:  "Well, congratulations again!  But I want all of the dirty details.  What did the diet entail?"

MJ:  "For the first 3-days, I had to drink a protein shake every 3-hours to prevent hunger.  Once I went in to ketosis, I was able to add food back to my diet like salads and fish."

TLB:  "Shakes, eh?  Were they gross?" 

MJ:  "Girl, no!  I still drink them - by choice - to this day!  I love the chocolate or vanilla flavor that I make extra sweet with Sweet 'N Low."

TLB:  "Interesting.  That really says a lot about the company's products if you drink the shakes now, in your maintenance phase, by choice!   Speaking of maintenance, don't you find it to be harder than the actual diet, itself?"

MJ:  "You know what's funny?  I hadn't had fried chicken in months until the other day and, wouldn't you know, it upset my stomach!  Also, I can now be around sweets without having to indulge in a piece of cake or candy.  I don't crave those things anymore.  It's crazy!"

TLB:  "That is crazy, because no matter how far in to a diet I am, I still crave donuts/cake/gummy candy/ice cream, etc. on a daily basis.  God bless you, MJ!  So, I have to ask, do you cook at home?  If so, how often per week?"

MJ:  "(Chuckles) Thank you, baby.  Yes, I do cook at home.  About two times/week."

TLB:  "On the off times when you aren't cooking, do you go out to eat?  If so, what do you order at, say, an American restaurant?"

MJ:  Girl, I love Red Lobster.  I usually order some kind of baked fish, salad, and either a baked potato or rice."

TLB:  "...and I love Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits!  Do you let yourself indulge in those?"

MJ:  "(Chuckles) Me too!  Well, mayyyyyyyyyyybe just one."

TLB:  "Switching gears now.  How's your granddaughter, Miss Riley, doing?  I haven't seen her on the show all season!"

MJ:  "Oh, she's wonderful, thank you.  She is doing great."

TLB:  "I loved seeing your sisters with you a few episodes back.  You can see the resemblence!"

MJ:  "Thank you.  Did you know that I am the baby of fourteen?"

TLB:  "No!  That is amazing.  And so interesting!  I love it.  Now, MJ, in closing, is there anything that you'd like for me to share with my readers?"

MJ:  "Just let everyone know that I am self-sufficient.  Kandi and I have rekindled our relationship and we're stronger and better than ever.  I love my daughter."

.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Jan152014

Recipe: Parfait Parfait (macerated fruit + yogurt)

So I hate it when these byotches are like, "...since I think I look hot, here's a healthy recipe - that actually tastes worse than cardboard - I make sometimes.  Because, obviously, you want to look like me.  Oh, and please make sure to comment on my newest full-body selfie." 

Kim K. Sigh.Right?  I mean, shut the fcuk up.  And while you're at it, gag me with a dumbbell...

Seriously though, if you're trying to start your day off sans that tempting breakfast burrito - pancake stack and hash browns - bagel & schmear - etc., consider my "Parfait Parfait."  Not because you want to look like me, but because this delightful yogurt cup actually tastes good.  And it's way better for you than that sausage/egg/cheese biscuit thing you've been munching on.  Plus, you'll feel like a bad ass knowing that you "cooked" your own breakfast!   

.

Recipe:  Parfait Parfait (Did you know that the word "parfait" means "perfect" in French?)

The secret that makes this recipe so delicious is the macerated fruit.  And what's best is the fact that you can make this fruit medley last for 5-days/a work week!  

Step 1:  Macerated fruit

  • 2 apples, chopped in to bite-size cubes (If you don't like apples, sub pears, persimmons, 2 cups of fresh berries.  Need more ideas?  Just ask.)
  • 1/2 cup of dried fruit (I like dried cherries, raisins, figs, peaches)
  • 1 tablespoon jam/preserves of your choice

Combine fruit and jam in a tupperware container (or any container with a lid).  Shake or stir to combine.  Keep refrigerated and allow to macerate for 24-hours prior to initial serving.

Trader Joe's has a great selection of dried fruit.Step 2:  Greek yogurt

Why Greek?  Because it has almost triple the amount of protein as non-Greek yogurt.  My brand of choice is Fage.

Step 3 (optional):  Granola

I love granola in my yogurt, but you certainly don't have to add it if you're opposed.  I appreciate the added fiber and texture from the crunchy oats and nuts.  I also believe that it makes this recipe perfectly balanced.

Step 4:  Combine and enjoy!

Using about 1/5 of your macerated fruit, combine it with 1/2 cup of yogurt and a handful of granola (optional).  Enjoy this breakfast - or snack - daily for the entire work-week!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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