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

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Entries in Culinary event invitations & coverage (61)


Hey LA, what are you doing for lunch tomorrow? 

TAKE 2!!

Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water invites the people of Los Angeles to ditch their desks for a midday dance party with Flavorpill presents: Lunch Break, made extraordinary by Perrier!  This unique celebration will transform cubicle dwellers into partygoers at a special 1.5 hour event where guests can groove to the spinning soundtrack of DJ Nadastrom!

Lunch Break attendees will have the chance to:

  • Dance through their lunch hour – Escape the office grind at an extraordinary daytime dance party set to the tune of DJ Nadastrom's live playlist. 
  • Sip signature cocktails by PerrierRecharge and refresh the afternoon with thirst-quenching cocktails guaranteed to kick that end-of-week slump. 
  • Enjoy a classic bagged lunch to bring back to the office – When the power-hour ends, guests will receive a throwback lunch to-go, complete with a Perrier.

Following these complimentary Lunch Break session, guests will be encouraged to donate their unused lunch money to local nonprofits that are part of the Feeding America network.  Proceeds from this particular Los Angeles event will benefit the Westside Food Bank.

Schedule & details

Friday, August 21, 2015

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM

DJ: Nadastrom

Location: Lure 1439 Ivar Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028

**To RSVP for Lunch Break in Los Angeles, click here!**


Until we dance again,

The Lunch Belle



(NYC) Celebrating the holidays - in July - with Champagne Taittinger

*This event and article were attended/captured by Vanessa Shoman-Duell and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.*


Last Thursday, I attended Champagne Taittinger's exclusive The Art of Celebrating The Holidays event in downtown Manhattan.

Photo courtesy of TaittingerThe world-renowned Grand Marque French Champagne house hosted their very first "winter holiday" party of the year - ahem, in July - at the private townhouse of Pamela Bell (founder of Prinkshop and co-founder of Kate Spade).  To properly "tis the season," I made my way to the soiree in my most festive holiday attire: A sassy lil' red Christian Dior number and my favorite strappy Jimmy Choo's.

Over the course of a two hour "open (town)house," approximately 75 of us very lucky folks had the pleasure of experiencing new interpretations of holiday menus and decor concepts, mouth-watering cuisine courtesy of Chef Sarah Simmons from Birds & Bubbles, plus a selection of four Taittinger Champagnes:

Photo courtesy of TaittingerPhoto courtesy of Taittinger: Chef Sarah SimmonsTaittinger's selections were perfectly paired with the evening's three holiday themes: The Champagne Cocktail Party - The Holiday Dinner - New Year's Eve Moroccan Party.  As mentioned above, Chef Sarah Simons (of Birds & Bubbles) created an outstanding array of small bites for this incredibly special evening.

The Champagne Cocktail Party

My first tantalizing bite of the eve was a house-made black pepper cracker topped with creamy shrimp rillettes.  Paired with the Taittinger Prestige Rose NV

Photo courtesy of Taittinger: Shrimp RillettesThe second hors d' oeuvre was a NY cheddar puff pastry with castelvetrano olives + smoked almonds.  Paired with Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV

The third bite was a crispy potato latke that was topped with house-cured trout, horseradish, dill, and creme fraiche.  Paired with Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV

And as if the passed hors d'oeuvres weren't enough...we were presented with a bounty of plump oysters on ice.  Tres magnifique!

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

After the Champagne Party, we were escorted to a communal table where we were seated for The Holiday Dinner.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

To wrap up the festivities, we toasted in style at a New Year's Eve Moroccan Party.

Inspired by a classic riad, designer Sam Masters invented a Moroccan-themed lounge beneath a white muslin-draped tent.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

To end the evening on a sweet note, desserts were presented both passed and served at stations.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger: French macaronsPhoto courtesy of Taittinger: Champagne truffles

Oh what a night!  This was one of the most exclusive, whimsical, delicious, romantic, and fabulous events that I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing in recent memory.  I cannot wait to recreate all that I observed, learned, tasted, and sipped courtesy of Taittinger.  But one question remains: Do I have to wait until the holidays?


Until we eat again,

Vanessa Shoman-Duell for The Lunch Belle


A behind-the-scenes recap: Wine Enthusiast Magazine's 100 Best Wine Restaurants in America (2015)

*This event and article were attended/captured/photographed by Edgar Alonso Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle*


For American wine drinkers who want to take the "bucket list” approach to their favorite vino-laden eateries, behold the Wine Enthusiast 100 Best Restaurants...

Photo courtesy of: Edgar Alonso CastilloThe Wine Enthusiast 100 Best Restaurants list was celebrated last Tuesday at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. Our hosts treated us to an exclusive pre-press panel which highlighted the current and ever-changing world of wine, plus their thoughts on the focus and future of the industry. The once (and future) king of wine restaurants is, of course, according to our panel of distinguished experts -- New York. Sommeliers old and new are flocking (back) to the megapolis to showcase their knowledge and flex their palates. Hand written lists are ever-more present as the conversation continues to widen and allow for a two-way dialogue from those skilled in their tastes, to the newcomer.

Jeff Porter, Beverage Operations Director of Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, gave us a lot to contemplate with his thoughts on wine. At home on a casual weeknight, Jeff is drinking Chablis, though he never turns down a rosé. “My mom, who lives in Dallas and has big hair, gobbles down rosé by the case -- and so do all her friends.” Rosés are favored this season, and the sommeliers have carefully crafted their wine lists with due diligence. The result: a magnificent experience that will favor a conversation between those with a skilled palate and the newcomer bravely seeking something new, fun, and full.

Another hot topic -- Vineyards are mixing red grapes and white grapes to make a less heavy red wine, says Lee Campbell, Wine Director of Reynard (at the Wythe Hotel). She also feels strongly about the new California movement. Campbell, who grew up in the Hudson Valley, wishes she could find more to be excited about in NY state, but she’s not. Other regions hot on her radar -- “Recently, everyone was talking about Georgia (the country).” She also recently went to Moravia, Czech Republic to experience the beginning of a new tradition, a thing of beauty. “Our job in terms of editing, is HUGE," she claims. The wine list that is too heavily populated is like the last lifeboat on the Titanic. It is the job of the sommelier to prevent the inundation that will cause certain failure.

“Show me something delicious…ask the right questions. Increase the flow of information that the consumer is getting, and get them engaged. As the sommelier: be comfortable. We want you to feel confidence, let's tell a story, and let the consumer be a part of it.” Adds Jeff Porter, "Chefs are more in-tune to wine than ever before -- having chefs who are engaged is key.”

From the Lone Star State to Brooklyn and back to the California coast, there is a desire to expand beyond the traditional. The ability for the consumer to learn and join the conversation has allowed for an increase of the number of skilled sommeliers. For chefs, being in the front of house is unique; the synergy between this area and the kitchen is being recognized and respected by all involved. 


After the presentation by our esteemed panel, we were treated to a reception fit for a king-- If a king likes hand-shaken - and stirred - signature cocktails (courtesy of Meletti and Brinley Gold Shipwreck Rum), lobster sliders, cured meats, and especially carefully-selected cheeses that paired ever so harmoniously with the wines being served. While mingling, guests were also provided with passed hors d'oeuvres - from foie gras to chicken kebabs - all while following the room down to the courtyard that featured the awards.

Photo courtesy of: Edgar Alonso Castillo

Photo courtesy of: Edgar Alonso CastilloPhoto courtesy of: Edgar Alonso CastilloWhile browsing between the tables of awards, I observed the wide array of contenders who have persevered and stand out among their peers nationwide. The up-and-coming cities that Lee Campbell is really interested in: Durham, Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, Austin, Minneapolis.

The future of wine is fruitful, bountiful, and bold. The American palate is quickly changing, thankfully, in large part, to the ever-expanding social media centered around the industry. By following five to ten sommeliers such as these on the panel, you can quickly pick up the guidelines and structure that will allow you to begin the conversation with the correct and appropriate vocabulary.

Till your next pour, Cheers!


Until we eat again,

Edgar Alonso Castillo for The Lunch Belle


Reviewed: The Sea View Inn, Carmel (CA)

Having only been to the South Beach (Miami) and NYC 'Festivals, Pebble Beach Food and Wine was Emily's and my first on the West Coast.  It only seemed fitting that we attend; after all, Emily now resides in San Francisco, and I'm in LA.

With hotel options being slim because of the popularity of the Festival, I felt incredibly fortunate that Emily was able to secure a room for us at the Sea View Inn, a bed and breakfast located in Carmel.  Have you ever stayed in a b+b (bed and breakfast)?  Technically, this would be my first time.  And, to be honest, I was a bit nervous; hell, you would be, too, if this is what you were envisioning: A rickety double bed appointed with an ugly floral comforter, powder blue carpeting throughout (dotted with questionable rust-colored stains), lace curtains with sun burns, cheesy knick-knacks laden with dust bunnies, and a dirty bathroom. 

..................Well, I'm proud to report that I could not have been more wrong about my b+b pre-conceptions.  Phew!


Situated on a quiet residential street, merely blocks from the ocean and the heart of town, stands Carmel's most charming b+b: The Sea View Inn.

The Sea View Inn: Carmel, CAHoused within a remodeled, turn-of-the-century home are eight beautifully-decorated guestrooms (six of which contain private modern bathrooms) appointed with all of the comforts of home...sans televisions.  Hello, ever heard of relaxing?  Don't worry, I hadn't either.  On the ground level, a spacious French-country inspired parlor/sitting room is centered around an active brick hearth that overlooks both a beautifully landscaped back garden and an expansive front porch beckoning New Orleans (or somewhere else very picturesque in the South).  

GuestroomCommon area (ground floor)Staying true to its b+b classification, breakfast is served every morning on the ground floor.  Specialties include organic yogurt and fruit, cereals, locally-sourced baked goods (from a French patisserie in town), soft-boiled eggs, orange juice, and some of the best coffee this side of Brooklyn.

Breakfast is served: Soft-boiled eggs, coffee cake, individual spinach quiche After a day spent boutique'ing or beaching, guests of-age are invited to enjoy a gratis glass of wine - ideally to be savored on the front porch or in the back garden - and unwind as the afternoon slowly turns to dusk.

If you have future plans to visit the area and want to experience gorgeous Carmel/Pebble Beach as a local (or as much of one as possible), then I highly recommend that you consider the Sea View Inn.  From the lovely accommodations, great location, and warm, hospitable staff - to the delicious breakfasts (that we legit looked forward to every morning) - our experience could not have been more positively unforgettable. 


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


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


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.




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...



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.



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...


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. 


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!



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


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