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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.

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Entries in Events that I've planned (5)

Tuesday
Jan152013

What happens in Vegas...

"What happens in Vegas" doesn't necessarily have to stay in Vegas.  In fact, I'm going to share my recent jaunt that included: An incredibly delicious brunch in Paris - a steal of a haute hotel room - a walk down the isle - and a couple of other shenanigans.

...

Did you know, if you go to Vegas around Christmas time, that hotel rooms are incredibly affordable and restaurant/lounge reservations are a breeze to snag?  It's the low season and, in laymen's terms, all that really means is that you can't swim outdoors.  Now, while that may be a total bust to you sun goddesses, I can't imagine a more miserable situation than roasting in 115-degree dry, summer heat.  I'll take the winter, thank you very much.

One of my best friends from college, Erin, decided that she wanted to get married on the weekend before Christmas.  In Vegas.  With scheduled plans to visit my family in California for the holidays, Vegas was all too conveniently on my way.  While most of the guests had plans to stay at the Wynn, I chose The Four Seasons.  Why?  Because I had Lucy, my lil' pup, in tow.  And the Wynn is not dog-friendly.   And neither are too many other properties.

Lucy gets some fresh air on our way to JFK...and passed out like a log in-flight.The Four Seasons is connected-ish to Mandalay Bay which, aside from being inconvenient to most of the other casinos, is located alllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the way at the beginning of the Strip.  However, if it's tranquility (there is not a casino in the hotel), outstanding service, updated guest rooms, and a pet-friendly environment you're after, look no further than The Four Seasons

Looking up from the pool at The Four SeasonsSince checkin wasn't until 3pm, I began to panic.  What would I do with Lucy while I hosted Erin's bridesmaid's bruncheon at 10:30am?  Luckily, the hotel's concierge was quick to reassure me and arranged for a pet sitter to watch my lil' girl while I was entertaining.

I hosted Erin's bridesmaid's bruncheon at Mon Ami Gabi, a French brasserie, in the Paris Hotel.  This particular venue was chosen because: 

  • French food is romantic.  So is getting married.
  • It received very high rankings on Zagat.
  • They offer a $25, 2-course, prix-fixe menu.
  • Working with onsite event planner, Rebecca, was seamless.

In order to sass things up a bit, I quickly decorated the table with plastic "gems" (from Party City) and placed a salted-caramel macaron at each lady's coffee saucer (I purchased a dozen from Macaron Parlour here in NYC.  Transporting them was simple, as Macaron Parlour has indestructible packaging!).

Erin and, on her left, the maid of honor and, to her right, the flower girl.

Le menu

First course:  Fruit salad and fresh croissant

Second course:  Entree.  I chose the traditional Eggs Benedict.

After brunch, I went back to The Four Seasons to fetch Lucy and check in.  

I scored a room with two double beds and a killer view for only $179/night.  Beat that, bitches! 

The hotel gifted Lucy with an adorable stuffed animal that looked just like her!

The Four Seasons provided a doggie bed, a place mat topped with a food and water bowl, and homemade doggie treats!  FYI:  Those two green cups in the center of the mat were ones that I brought from home.

After relaxing for a few hours, it was already time to head to the Wynn for Erin's ceremony.

My sweet friend made the most beautiful bride.

Post nuptials, we clinked glasses of bubbly and enjoyed some outstanding hors d'oeuvre at the property's stunning Lakeside Restaurant.  

...

On Sunday, Lucy and I spent the day shopping at The Forum Shoppes and Barney's, where I did some serious retail damage on the sale racks.  Ultimately, with the dough that I saved on marked-down items, I caved and bought this lil' number:

For dinner, I met Erin and her husband for a 'meat and potatoes' fix at Gallagher's Steakhouse in New York, New York (...obviously not my choice of venue, since I live in "New York, New York"). 

For a night cap, we decided to grab another round at Bar at Times Square, where we caught an unbelievably entertaining "dueling pianos" performance...

...and the fans go wild!

"Ooooooooooooooooooooooooh oh!"

"We're half way theeeeeeeeeeeeeeere!"

"Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooh oh!  Livin' on a praaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayer!" 

 

I don't know who that woman was, but what a total bad ass for rocking out like "no one was watching!" 

On Christmas Eve, Lucy and I bid Vegas adieu and caught a 1pm flight to San Diego. 

 

Do you have any favorite Las Vegas venues or money-saving tips? 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Jun222012

Notes on (hosting) a dinner party: Celebrating the season, entertaining tips

Last Tuesday evening, I hosted a small dinner party at my apartment.  To honor the fact that the next day was, at least according to the calendar, the official "first day of summer," I chose a menu that reflected the warm and bountiful season upon us:

**White winesArneis, Rioja

**Imported and domestic cheeses:  Dried pears, walnuts, sliced baguette and pecan/raisin bread

**SaladBlueberries, Feta, and Mint

**EntreeRick Bayless' Quick-Fried Shrimp with Sweet Toasty Garlic

**Sourdough bread (to dip and sop-up all of the garlicky goodness from the shrimp dish)

**Dessert:  Homemade key lime pie

...

After I play hostess, I always seem to have a plethora of tips/shortcuts in my head that I intend to write down.  For the next time I have people over.  But, more often than not, I don't actually take the time to sit down and jot notes.  Until today.

Here are some of my tried-and-true entertaining tips for all of you fabulous hosts/hostesses out there:

  • Prepare your menu:  If you don't have the budget to offer your guests a meat/poultry/fish/vegetarian option, then find out, ahead of time, if anyone has any allergies/dietary restrictions.  God forbid you serve shellfish to an allergic, or present pork to someone who's kosher/halal.
  • Fresh flowers:  I buy 2-bunches from Trader Joe's - divide them in to various smaller bunches - and place multi, colorful bouquets all over my apartment.  Flowers smell nice, brighten up your space, and last for about a week!
  • Tidy up!  If you don't have ample time to clean, I understand.  However, at least make your bathroom a priority:  Clean your toilet bowl and have an extra roll of toilet-paper handy/in a logical location.  Use a Windex-like spray to wipe your mirror clean of toothpaste and water stains.  And, if you're really type-A, provide paper hand-towels by your sink.  I hate having to wipe my just-washed hands on someone's gnarly shower towel!  Blech. 
  • For casual get-togethers:  Use paper/plastic plates, napkins, utensils, and cups.  Everything is disposable and makes cleanup *much* less of a nightmare. 
  • Do as much as you can ahead of time:  Block time out of your busy schedule to prepare/cook as many of the items on your menu as possible, within reason.  For this most recent gathering, I made the key lime pie on Sunday afternoon.  Thank goodness, because crushing graham crackers by hand took me a good 20-minutes! 
  • Write down what you're serving and what you're serving it in:  Jot down every appetizer, beverage, entree, and dessert.  Assign a serving dish and serving utensil to go with each.  You may realize that you do not, in fact, have a soup ladle or something as common as a bottle opener!  
  • Do not make plans the night before:  It was tough, but I managed to keep my Monday evening free so that I could attend to any last-minute cleaning - organizing - and prepping.  Since I get off of work at 5pm and my guests would arrive on Tuesday night between 7/7:30pm, I did not want to rush/stress any more than I had to day-of.
  • Clean as you go:  This is a priceless tip that I learned while interning at the Marriott WTC in college.  Especially when cooking, don't let dishes, utensils, cups, etc. pile up - clean them as you use them. 
  • Once all of your guests arrive:  Give them about 30-ish minutes to enjoy a beverage(s) and appetizers.  I like to serve the "main course" at the 30-minutes-post-everyone's-arrival mark.

Food tips:

  • Have fresh plates/bowls/utensils on-hand for each course:  I prefer plastic and paper products for entertaining, as most of my gatherings are on the casual-end of the spectrum.  Plus, I do not have enough dishes or glassware to serve more than 4-guests at one time.  Sigh.
  • Cheese plate:  An hour before your guests are scheduled to arrive, take your cheeses out of the fridge and arrange on a platter (I like to follow Artisanal's "Cheese Clock").  Accompany with proper knives/spreaders.   
  • Bread:  For a crispy crust and a warm interior, heat oven to 200-degrees F.  Place sliced and/or whole bread on a cookie sheet and allow to warm for approximately 12-minutes (for slices) and 15-20 minutes (whole), respectively.  If you have less time on your hands, raise the temperature to 300-degrees, and cut warming times in half.

OK, so now you've read mine; do you have any great entertaining tips to share?  I'd love to hear from you!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Dec292011

Ongoing: Events That I've Planned

Whether it be a weekend brunch with friends, an intimate dinner for two, a group event, or what restaurant serves the best "I just got dumped and want to pig out" food, I am at your service - free of charge - ready to lend my personal opinions, recommendations and industry-knowledge.  If I cannot point you in the right direction, I know plenty of great contacts who will be able to best advise.

No inquiry is too small!  Contact me at: Lindsay@TheLunchBelle.com.  I look forward to hearing from you!

~

Aside from the numerous birthday parties, meals, vacation itineraries and referrals that I plan on a daily basis, here's a short list of some of the specific events/gatherings/soirees that I've orchestrated (or helped to orchestrate):

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
Jul192011

Double whammy! Weekend recaps: Trump Soho - Rhode Island

When I look at a cup of water, it's half empty, not half full.  Do you have a problem with that?  I'm the girl who runs, not walks, away from situations where I *just may* get my feelings hurt or, worse, get my heart broken.  I expect the worst, to a fault; but somewhere, deep down, I hope for the best.  I find it rare to have two absolutely incredible days, much less two weekends, back-to-back. 

Stop.  Put away your tissue boxes.  Because this isn't going to be one of those "woe is me" posts - quite the opposite, in fact.  Believe it or not, I'm here to tell you all about my past two weekends that, just so happened to be fun, fabulous, and exciting. 

The first of the two back-to-back weekend "honeymoons" was kicked off with the celebration of my friend, Theresa's, 30th re-do birthday extravaganza.  She literally handed me the event-planning reigns and, armed with only a couple of her personal non-negotiables, I got to spearhead her 48-hour birthday extravaganza.

Saturday, July 9th, was the celebratory pinnacle of the weekend: cocktails and heavy hors d'oeuvres, at the Trump Soho's Duplex Penthouse Suite's grand indoor/outdoor space, were served from 7:30pm - 10:30pm.  Menu highlights included: a serviced ceviche bar (red snapper, lobster, ahi tuna), and the signature cocktail of the evening, white sangria. 

From there, the party continued at The Box until the wee hours of Sunday morning. 

Trump Soho's Duplex Penthouse Suite: living room outfitted with Fendi furnitureTrump Soho's Duplex Penthouse Suite: check out the view from the living room!Trump Soho's Duplex Penthouse Suite: a view from the bathtubTrump Soho's Duplex Penthouse Suite: bar setupTrump Soho's Duplex Penthouse Suite: a selection of our passed and stationary hors d'oeuvres

Trump Soho's Duplex Penthouse Suite: party favors! Chanel nailpolishesTrump Soho's Duplex Penthouse Suite: a view from our 43rd-floor terrace!Trump Soho's Duplex Penthouse Suite: terrace view!               Trump Soho's Duplex Penthouse Suite: terrace view!

Trust me when I say that it took me a couple of days to recover from Theresa's birthday party.  Ugh, I'm not 21 anymore!  And, just when I thought that I had finally regained my stamina, it was Friday again.  "Round 2" was a bachelorette weekend in Portsmouth, RI, celebrating the upcoming nuptials of my dear friend, Tara.  The bride-to-be's aunt and uncle graciously "ghost hosted" Tara, plus seven of her friends, at their sprawling beach house.  And where were they during the 48-hour-long bachelorette debauchery?  At their primary residence in Boston.  Smart couple!  :) 

Since I had to put in a full day at the office on Friday, I was the last of Tara's friends to arrive in Rhode Island.  The nearly 3-hour Boston-bound train from NYC to Providence, RI was, single-handedly, the most breathtaking and picturesque that I have ever experienced within the US.  The vivid, moving scenery just beyond my window looked almost as if it were fake: rolling green hills were dotted with colonial-style homes and red barns - sea grass swayed to the music of the wind - navy blue ponds and pools were sprinkled with pale-green lily pads - wooden docks, reaching as far as the eye could see, were tied with small, colorful rowboats, that floated atop water as smooth as glass.

The weekend, itself, was mainly spent relaxing, bonding with old and new girlfriends, eating and drinking, laying by the pool, and celebrating Tara, at the beach house.  But, between all of this, we did find time to head in to Newport on Saturday evening for dinner and drinks.  And, speaking of dinner, if you happen to find yourself in Newport, RI, then I highly recommend checking out Cafe Zelda to sample their famous "chicken-fried lobster."  It was, truly, unforgettable and delicious.

*A big "thank you" to Cousin Kerry for planning this incredible girl's weekend!

  Dinner at Cafe Zelda, Newport, RI: chicken-fried lobster    

Good stuff, right?  Trust me, I was pinching myself the whole time!  Glitz and glam aside, here's to many more incredible back-to-back weekends!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Friday
Jul082011

T's turning 30, again! Plus, NYC's UNhospitality Industry

So, one of my most fabulous and dear friends from out-of-state is having her 30th birthday "re-do" party this weekend in NYC.  And, having enlisted the event-planning help of yours truly, the birthday girl & I have been carefully orchestrating the details of this 48-hour-long soiree for the better part of the past 6-weeks. 

T's first inquiry was in regards to finding the perfect place for her and her out-of-town guests to rest their well-coiffed heads.  She was lusting after a hotel that, aside from a "hip" factor, also listed "outdoor pool" on its menu of amenities.  I returned with the following options:

Her choice?  Gansevoort Park Avenue.

With dates chosen and shelter settled, the next task was to plan T's birthday party.  "I don't want to do a sit-down dinner," she said.  "My group of friends are eclectic and most people are coming in from out of town.  I don't want anybody to be forced to sit next to someone and make awkward small talk."  OK, easy enough. 

Now, here were some traits that she was looking for:  

  • Evening, preferably from 7-10pm
  • Cocktails and heavy hors d'oeuvres
  • Outdoor option
  • Semi-private

I returned with the following ideas/venues (make sure to read my notes after each colon):

  • Veranda Suite at the Eventi Hotel: gorgeous space, reasonably priced, incredibly prompt response from knowledgeable and warm event planner
  • Gansevoort Park Avenue's rooftop bar: urban "rooftop" view, appx. 2000 sq. feet, took multiple emails to receive a response from outsourced events department - not impressed in that aspect
  • Gramercy Park Hotel's rooftop garden: lovely venue, but the $7500 food/bevg minimum was too $$$ - took two emails to receive a response from the events department - not impressed in that aspect
  • Above 6, at 6 Columbus: received an initial response from the hotel, who cc'd Blue Ribbon Sushi, the restaurant who runs Above 6, but never heard from Blue Ribbon Sushi - extremely unimpressed in that aspect
  • Soho House: perennially cool venue, but no public non-member outdoor rental spaces - events department returned my email inquiry immediately, leaving me impressed
  • The Studio & Garden Terrace at The James Hotel: fabulous indoor/outdoor event space, but non-compliant for our particular needs after 8pm - events department was beyond responsive, knowledgeable, patient, and helpful, leaving me very impressed
  • Salon de Ning, The Peninsula Hotel: NO RESPONSE.  Are you kidding me?  Really??
  • Various options, Trump Soho: lovely indoor/outdoor option on pool level - events department was responsive, though there was a small lag time between emails, coupled with a slight language barrier - I was impressed initially.

Her choice?  Trump Soho

Prior to planning this particular event, the only experience that I'd had with Trump Soho was a fabulous dinner that I enjoyed at onsite restaurant, Quattro Gastronomia Italiana, last summer.  Unfortunately, my opinion of the hotel diminished when a not very "events knowledgeable" employee was assigned to our case, if you will - thus, making the initial planning, communication, and details very challenging.  Come Monday, however, I am confident that I'll be able to report that T's birthday (happening tomorrow night!) was the most knock-out, over-the-top, and fabulous soiree.  Ever.  

With her birthday bash in place, the next item on the agenda was to organize a small, intimate dinner for Friday evening.  "I want something hip, downtown, new.  Fresh, delicious food that isn't over-complicated.  How about The Fat Radish?"  To be honest, we were 1.5 weeks out when T sent me the email with this particular request.  "No offense, T, but I don't think that 1.5 weeks is enough lead time to secure a reservation at a highly coveted restaurant.  On a Friday night.  At 8pm.  For 5-6 people."  After opentable.com spit back a 5pm or an 11pm available seating, I decided to give The Fat Radish a call.  What do I have to lose?  Expecting more heat and disappointment from the hospitality industry, my tensions were already high.  To speak to someone in the office, press #1.  "Hi, how can I help you?"  Shocker.  There was a real person on the other end of the line!  And, from the sounds of it, a nice one, at that!  I explained that it was my friend's birthday next Friday and that she "wasn't from around here," hence the 1.5 week's notice (for a potential dinner reservation).  "I realize that I should have made this reservation a month ago," I said.  The woman must have felt for me - and T - because she was able to squeeze us in for a 5-top table at The Fat Radish at 8pm. 

Now that, my friends, is what you call "hospitality." 

~

Restaurant, Hotel, & Institutional Management is what I studied in college.  I did my internship at a hotel in NYC, where I rotated within all of the in-house food/beverage departments.  And, after graduating with a Bachelor of Science, I worked for ARAMARK - a global outsourcing company - for three years.  My point is this: I know the ins and outs of this field and, with a few exceptions mentioned above, I am pretty horrified by the hospitality (or lack thereof) industry in NYC. 

Case in point: I find it absolutely despicable that I never received a response from The Peninsula Hotel or Above 6.  I sent each venue an inquiry for a semi-private party - NOT a sales pitch!  Blech.

Overall, I found the lack of knowledge - service - courtesy, and slow response-times that I recently encountered to be extremely shocking and disappointing.  I mean, this IS Manhattan, after all - the cream of the crop - the capital of the world.  Shouldn't everyone in this town be on the tip-top of their game?  Seriously, what in the hell is going on here?

OK, enough ranting.  But before I end this post, I want to give a shout-out to a handful of venues that did go above and beyond the call of hospitality.  These places knew their stuff, were courteous, extremely responsive, and were all very willing to help/go the extra mile:

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for not contributing to ripping yet another 10-years from my life.  I'm serious.

~~~

Wishing all of you a beautiful, safe, and sunny weekend!  Be on the lookout for my follow-up to "T's 48-hour birthday extravaganza" coming next week...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle