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Entries in Guest bloggers (24)


(NYC) Fighting cancer with music...and mezcal

*This post was written by The Style Gourmande and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by The Style Gourmande.*


Yellowchair - a free, membership-based social media network for foodies - collaborates with chefs, restaurants, interesting venues and brands to create one-of-a-kind culinary experiences.  Members have access to curated dinners, tastings, private events and culinary adventures making it the perfect backdrop for “Dinner with NEW friends.”  And the ideal sponsor for last week's agave-infused dinner at Casa Mezcal, hosted by Corey Wade (third place finisher and first homosexual male contestant on America's Next Top Model, musician, TV personality, and LGBT spokesperson) and Sound Affect, a platform that partners with celebrity musical artists to promote their appraoch to revolutionizing the war on cancer.  Pretty cool, eh?

Our famous - and gorgeous - musical entertainment for the eve: Corey Wade (Photo courtesy of Yellowchair)Casa Mezcal is a modern and eclectic Mexican restaurant located in Manhattan's super hip Lower East Side neighborhood.  And, given its name, the perfect venue for a mezcal-fueled dinner!

We were given 2 types of mezcal to sample: Los Amantes (thrice distilled) and Santa Pedrera (twice distilled).  While each version of the spirit delivered the traditional smoky flavor and aroma, the Santa Pedrera‘s notes were much heavier - or shall I say fuerte!

Aside from the chips and salsa/guacamole, the first dish to be presented was the "Chapulines estilo Oaxaca"  (Translation: Toasted grasshoppers seasoned with salt and lime).  I could only bring myself to eat one.  It wasn't that the insect tasted bad...I just couldn't get over what I was eating!!  And that crunch!  (Squirm!)

Grasshoppers!!! The second dish we were served was the Queso con Yerbasanta (Translation: pan fried cheese wrapped in santa herb and served atop tomatillo sauce with tortilla on the side).  As a self-professed cheese'oholic, I could not have been happier. 

Post dinner, Cory Wade was our entertainment for the night!  He sang tons of awesome cover songs and had the most sultry voice.  After his performance, he sat down with us and had a few shots of mezcal!



Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle


(NYC) I got crabs...and I loved it!

*This post was written by Eric V. and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Eric V.*

In honor of Singapore Restaurant Week in the Big Apple, yours truly was invited to attend the Singapore Crab Throwdown at The Daily Meal Kitchen & Bar!

Hosted by The Daily Meal and the Singapore Tourism Board, this exclusive cooking class was led by influential Singaporean chefs, Justin Quek and Wayne Liew, who flew in especially for the celebration!

Check out the drool-worthy menu lineup, below:

After a quick introduction of the program - plus an overview of Singaporean cuisine (and its pan-Asian Chinese-Malay-Indian fusion) - by the staff at The Daily Meal, the first live demonstration commenced. 

Singapore Chili Crab

Chef Wayne Liew, of Keng Eng Kee Seafood (plus his brother and sister who also work at the family-run restaurant,) explained that Chili Crab is a traditional Singaporean dish and a favorite in the city-state.  Although the team wasn't using Sri Lankan mud crabs in this particular preparation, which are preferred and used at Keng Eng Kee, local crabs made for a sufficient substitution, especially when dressed with a mélange of flavorful ingredients, including: Sambal, chili, sweet and sour sauce, and a pinch of sugar.


Chef Wayne Liew's Singapore Chili CrabSalted Egg Yolk Crab

Chef Liew and the Keng Eng Kee team also prepared a twist on the traditional Singaporean entree, Salted Egg Yolk Crab.  This salty egg yolk "powder" is a Chinese ingredient that's actually used on many dishes in Singapore, including onion rings, French fries, and calamari!  Some have even gone as far as to call it the nouveau truffle...

Mmmmm, salted egg yolk!Salted Egg Yolk Crab Chef Wayne Liew + the team from Keng Eng Kee Seafood and me!.

Justin Quek, one of the best-known Singaporean chefs in the world, was next to demonstrate his cooking for the group. 

When I used to live in Singapore a few years ago, I visited his fabulous restaurant, Sky on 57, and had a lovely Franco-Asian meal.  I was so excited to get to meet Chef in person!  And it was totally surreal to re-experience his cuisine in NYC!

Chef Justin Quek and me!Crab Vermicelli in Light Ginger Broth

As an Asian chef who trained in France, many of Justin's unique culinary creations could best be described as "Asian food with French thinking or (vice versa) French food with Asian thinking."  In keeping with the shellfish theme, Chef prepared crab vermicelli in a light ginger broth.  Inspired by Singaporean hawker-stall food, he explained that this particular dish could be enjoyed at any time of the day - served as a representation of Singaporean comfort food or made more upscale by pairing it with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Chef Justin Quek's Crab Vermicelli in Light Ginger BrothWok Fried Black Pepper Crab and Maine Lobster

Chef Justin Quek's Wok Fried Black Pepper Crab & Maine Lobster


Until we eat again,

Eric V. for The Lunch Belle


(NYC) BBQ'ing in Brooklyn with Questlove, George Takei, and friends

*This post was written by Edgar A. Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Edgar A. Castillo.*


Hosted and curated by QUESTLOVE, the Taste Talks All-Star BBQ brought world-renowned chefs together in Brooklyn to whip up their signature dishes al-fresco!  Check out the incredibly brag-worthy lineup, description of offerings, and my thoughts, below.

Photo courtesy of Taste Talks.


Michael Psilakis (MP Taverna, Kefi, Fishtag) // Jarobi White (Musician; Eats, Rhymes & Life)

The chefs paired up with Los Angeles’ famed La Brea Bakery and created a pulled-lamb slider that made for an awesome start to the day!  This early favorite wowed me with a plethora of kick and an amazing range of flavor. 

Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour) // Dan Santoro & Bert Krak (Smith Street Tattoo)
RAW LAMB LARD & BBQ YUZU CABBAGE | With fish sauce, brown butter, mint, and thai basil

Certainly an interesting interpretation for a BBQ festival, this dish stood out for its lack of cooking (read: BBQ’ing) and its awkward (tang from the bitter yuzu) and inedible (charred cabbage) flavors.  Another time/another place, perhaps.  But here?  At a BBQ festival?  No.  Just no.

Alex Stupak (Empellón) // Damian Higgins AKA Dieselboy (DJ/Producer)
LA HAMBURGUESA CAMPEÓNA | Grilled short rib patty on a potato roll, Tex Mex style queso, red pepper-chorizo relish, crispy gaufrettes, smoked mayonnaise

What a remarkable slider!  Cooked to a perfect ‘medium rare,’ short rib beef patties were topped with smoked mayo, crinkle-cut potato chips, and – my favorite - Texas queso before being sandwiched within a soft and squishy potato bun.

Daniel Eddy (Rebelle)

Although I found this portion to be on the smaller side, the sausage managed to fully deliver thanks to the inherent richness of the duck.  The plum jam proved to be a fantastic companion, to boot!

Rob Newton (Wilma Jean, Nightingale 9, Smith Canteen) // Lee Gregory & Joe Sparatta (Southbound)
GRILLED PORK SHOULDER | With rice noodles, Virginia peanuts, cucumbers and herbs

The succulent, savory pork melted in my mouth.  I was so taken by this dish, I had to sit down!  The rice noodle-salad had a very familiar flavor, although it wasn’t listed - chicharrones, perhaps?


Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was the large presence of seafood dishes - from mussels and crab to lobster tails!

Hugue DuFour (M. Wells) // Mark Hegedus (Blue Point Brewing)

This was the longest line at the BBQ, and rightfully so: Hugue Dufour’s platter was so ample that it required me finding a seat to navigate through the plate of crab, summer corn, and Parker House rolls.

Ben Conniff (Luke's Lobster) // Matt Timms (The Takedowns)
CHILI-BUTTER LOBSTER TAILS | With grilled cabbage and corn slaw

These ‘tails were a surprise treat and very-well received amongst the heavier, "land" proteins.  Buttery and light with a nice amount of char, the lobster tails were served alongside a colorful purple cabbage and corn salad.

Russell Jackson (SubCulture Dining) // Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black)
GRILLED MUSSELS | with Korean gujoung pork fat butter and fermented cornbread peptia crumble

After an unforgiving rainstorm, this was the final savory booth that I visited.  And although my plate was a bit wet from the elements, the vibrancy of the flavors remained intact and the mussels, themselves, were delicious.


Dessert: What a welcome addition to a BBQ festival!

Laura O'Neill & Ben Van Leeuwen (Van Leeuwen Ice Cream// Sharon Van Etten (Musician)
TRIPLE PEANUT | Peanut butter ice cream with a peanut butter swirl and crunchy peanut brittle
BUTTERMILK JAM | Buttermilk ice cream swirled with house made raspberry jam

This creative ice cream-version of a PB&J sandwich was chock-full of natural ingredients which helped me chase away any lingering feelings of guilt.

Allison & Matt Robicelli (Robicelli's Bakery) // George Takei & Telly Leung (Actors, Allegiance A New Musical)
FUJI APPLE PIE | With miso caramel and vanilla bean tofu cream

A unique take on the American staple (apple pie), this slice of heaven was made even sweeter by the fact that it was served by none other than George Takei (modern celebrity hero) and Telly Leung (actor, equal rights activist).


While I made it a point to sample everything, there was only so much time and room in my stomach!  The following are the four booths that, unfortunately, I did not get to experience:

Justin Smillie (Upland) // Heems (Musician)
GRILLED VEAL RIBS | With charred cherry tomato salsa

Pierre Thiam (Pierre Thiam Catering) // Island Creek Oysters
GRILLED OYSTERS | With Spicy Smoked Crayfish Mignonette and Cassava Leaves with Peanuts

Roblé Ali (Roblé & Co. & Streets BK)

Shannon Shaffer (Design Cuisine) // Lauren Wagner (Street Art Throwdown) & Jenna Morello (Street Artist)
KOREAN BBQ BEEF BRISKET | Asian pear and fennel slaw, wasabi pearls, puffed rice cracker


Thank you, chefs!Not even scattered thunderstorms could keep the crowds away!  Despite the passing showers, Questlove kept the mood upbeat by spinning for the crowd throughout the entire day.  And what a day it was!



Until we eat again,

Edgar Castillo for The Lunch Belle 


(NYC) Reviewed: Dinner at Fushimi

*This post was written by Edgar A. Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Edgar A. Castillo.*

Restaurant: Fushimi

  • Cuisine: Modern Japanese
  • Location: 475 Driggs Avenue - Brooklyn 11211  
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Sake, tuna appetizers (gyoza, tartar), Chef's sashimi, "New Style" Sushi
  • Perfect for: Happy hour, date night, corporate events


For my review of Fushimi, I brought along one of my best friends, Glen, who, aside from being a big fan of Japanese food, had previously hosted his birthday dinner at the restaurant!  Let's just put it this way: Glen loves sushi as much as I love tacos.  Now that's love! 

Glen and I arrived early and were met with great joy by Sunny, General Manager of Fushimi's 8,750 square foot third location.  He quickly ushered us to a spacious booth, which was adorned by ornate silkscreen designs.

Kicking off our VIP dining experience, our server presented us with warm, moist hand towelettes before suggesting that we inaugurate our “friend date” with an ice-cold glass of Ty Ku Cucumber Sake.  We certainly were not disappointed with this incredibly refreshing and light adult beverage, which proved picture-perfect for that sweltering summer eve.



Spicy Tuna Gyoza (served atop guacamole!)

Surely, they must have put this amazing morsel of Japanese + Mexican fusion on the menu just for me, right?  I was not expecting to find my favorite Mexican condiment at a Japanese restaurant – of all places - but even more surprising was the fact that Fushimi’s version of guacamole was some of the best I’ve sampled of late…and that’s not excluding Mexican cafes and taquerias!

The plump gyoza was stuffed with cabbage, ginger, garlic, carrots, parsley, sake, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and fresh tuna before being lightly battered and fried.  Absolutely delicious!!

Tuna Tartare

The presentation of this dish was fantastic!  Crowned with minced chives, a dollop of caviar and avocado, the tartare had a je nais sais quoi smoky flavor that, while mysteriously familiar, was also incredibly sexy and new.

Upon inquiring, I was informed that the smokiness came courtesy of furikake, a popular Japanese condiment mainly used as a seasoning for rice.  It is composed of toasted sesame, bits of nori, bonito flakes, dried vegetables, dried egg, puffed and toasted rice, salt and spices.


We took a quick TV-style timeout from all of the delicious eats to re-up on our cocktails.  Glen chose a frozen beer (half a pint glass of Sapporo served chilled, topped with frozen/Slushee-style Sapporo).  I, on the other hand, went with peppy and sweet Coconut Saketini (coconut rum, Ty-Ku Coconut Sake, coconut flakes).

This was followed by a prompt pit stop to the coolest bathroom ever...possibly even rivaling the stalls at now shuttered Bar 89!

Photo found on Yelp

Chef’s Signature Roll (king crab & king salmon)

Note: As this particular roll is part of a rotating/seasonal menu, please check your with your specific location for the most up-to-date latest specials.

Seared king salmon crowned each piece of the generously-sliced roll, which contained Alaskan king crab, inari (seasoned deep fried tofu), mango, cucumber, and avocado.


Main course(s)

Chef’s sashimi

Note: Selection changes daily

This “omakase” style portion of our meal was a total education for me!  Each piece of fish had different toppings/pairings and was served as a pair; perfect for sharing!

Having never tasted uni (sea urchin), I chose it as my first selection from Chef’s platter.  The creamy flesh had a delightfully buttery texture and, quite literally, melted in my mouth.

The other samplings included:

  • Tuna (guacamole, Maui onion, and peach salsa)
  • King Salmon (topped with yuzu jelly, scallion)
  • Hamachi (dressed with yuzu soy vinaigrette, slice of jalapeno)
  • Tonburi (mountain caviar)
  • Ikura (cucumber stuffed with crab tartar)

New Style Sushi: Today’s seasonal sushi selection with “new style” toppings

  • Sweet raw shrimp (mango cucumber salsa)
  • Eel (avocado and arima sansho -- I can’t get enough avocado, and am pleasantly surprised at the inversed relationship of the edible vs. garnish. This particular selection was my personal favorite!)
  • Uni (“match stick” cuts of mountain yam)
  • King Salmon (creme fraiche and yuzu gelee)
  • Yellowtail (chopped jalapeño and yuzu soy vinaigrette)

Every intricate cut had its significance, and the flavors resonated with the love of the craft as intended by Chef.  Each unique piece was truly marvelous!




You wouldn’t think that I’d have to travel to a Japanese restaurant in Brooklyn to enjoy one of the best versions of tiramisu that I’ve ever had – and that includes Italian cafes in/around NYC and a recent trip to Italy!  I’m telling you, this tiramisu is worth the trek over the bridge/under the tunnel/via the airplane.  It was *that* delicious!


The various cultural integrations, as well as modernizations of traditional cuisine on Fushimi’s menu, are some of the many characteristics that allow the restaurant to stand out among so many other Japanese/fusion/sushi competitors.  

With a rotating menu boasting the freshest seafood – a keen attention to culinary detail – plus amazing service and a warm ambience, Fushimi is a strong winner.


Until we eat again,

Edgar for The Lunch Belle