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Lindsay

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Entries in Guest bloggers (24)

Wednesday
Sep022015

(NYC) Reviewed: A fall media supper at 'Thelma on Clinton'

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

This post was written by The Style Gourmande and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.

Restaurant: Thelma on Clinton

  • Cuisine: New American
  • Location: 29A Clinton Street - NYC 10002  
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Chicken liver mousse, Braised Short Ribs & Bone Marrow, house-made chocolate truffles
  • Perfect for: Neighborhood gems, solo dining, tasting menu, cocktails/craft beer

...

As soon as I entered Thelma on Clinton (let’s proceed by calling it “Thelma,” for short), I already felt at home.  The interior décor is casually sophisticated, with hardwood flooring throughout, a communal chef's table and banquette seating, white-washed exposed brick walls that are lined with wine (bottle) storage, and overhead lighting that won’t put you to sleep.  Honestly, if I were living in the vicinity, I would make a daily pilgrimage.  Thelma is one of those special boutique restaurants where you can enjoy a solo dinner – likely surrounded by your neighbors - at the fabulous bar that centers the dining room. 

Photo by The Style Gourmande

Photo found on Zagat dot comUpon my arrival, I was warmly greeted by Chef Melissa O’Donnell (I’m mildly obsessed with her, by the way), who offered me a beverage of my choice.  When I explained that I don’t drink alcohol, she suggested one of her signature mocktails: Strawberry Basil (a.k.a. the Stanton Street Spritzer) or Blueberry Ginger (a.k.a. the Clinton Street Cooler), each concocted with Chef’s handmade fruit jams.  “Actually,” Chef playfully prompted, “why not try both?”  Sweet (but certainly not cloying) with a righteous tang at the end, both mocktails were refreshing and delicious. 

Strawberry Basil mocktail: Photo by The Style GourmandePost my mocktail sampling, I had a couple of minutes to chat 1x1 with Chef.  I was super curious about the story behind the restaurant's name and what her inspired her culinarily/in the kitchen.  "Thelma is the name of my grandmother," she said.  "New York City inspires me in the kitchen, and the restaurant draws from the cultural diversity of the Lower East Side without straying from a classic approach to cuisine."  And just like the city in which we live, her offerings are simple (but exceptionally well-executed) and straightforward. 

Of everything our intimate group of eight savored, my three favorite dishes of the evening were as follows:

Chicken Liver Mousse

Chicken Liver Mousse: Photo by The Style GourmandeButtery, rich, and gamey, the chicken liver mousse was the perfect compliment to the salty, crunchy crostini.  This appetizer was so delicious, in fact, that I wanted to grab the whole damn platter and hide in a corner somewhere!

Caramelized Onion Risotto

Caramelized Onion Risotto: Photo by The Style GourmandeI love anything risotto.  Thelma's version was super creamy and cheesy, and the caramelized onions added a fabulous jolt of color, flavor, and texture.  What more could I have asked for? 

Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow

Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow: Photo by The Style GourmandeDuring our 1x1 chat, Chef mentioned that she changes her menu on a seasonal basis.  So when she recently removed the Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow entree from the summer menu, the restaurant patrons revolted!  Literally.  There were so many complaints, in fact, that she had no choice but to re-add this wildly popular dish!  And after relishing in my first bite, I understood why the clientele went bananas!  The beef was so tender that it virtually melted in my mouth.  The rich broth that served as a pseudo moat around the meat was so outstanding - even on its own - that I almost asked for bread to sop up all of it's savory glory.  Wow!

Perhaps the best surprise of the evening was post the entree course, when Chef treated us to a bowl of her transcendent, homemade chocolate truffles.  And Champagne!  Talk about ending the night on a sweet note...

House-made chocolate truffles: Photo by The Style Gourmande...

Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle

Friday
Aug072015

(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

Wednesday
Jul292015

(NYC) Reviewed: Ornella Trattoria Italiana

*This event and article were attended/captured by The Style Gourmande and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  All photos, unless otherwise noted, were snapped by The Style Gourmande.*

  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Location: 29-17 23rd Ave. - Astoria, NY 11105
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: House-cured prosciutto, Duck Meatballs, Pasta Di Castagna
  • Perfect for: Something different in Greek Astoria - destination-worthy dining - date night - comfort food cravings

...

An Italian trattoria in Astoria?

For the most authentic culinary experiences, it’s often best to leave the isle of Manhattan and venture east.  To Brooklyn or Queens...

Forgoing the obvious (Greek cuisine) during my recent jaunt to Astoria, my friend and I opted instead for Italian.  In the form of a charming trattoria named Ornella.    

Upon arrival, we were greeted by eccentric executive chef and owner, Giuseppe Viterale who, come to find out, named the restaurant after his beloved wife, Ornella.  And if that wasn't cute enough, we also learned that Giuseppe's four sons work by his side.  A true family affair!  Awwwwe. 

Ornella + Guiseppe (photo courtesy of Ornella)"To me," Giuseppe said (in his thick Italian accent) as he sat me and my guest, "the art of food lies more in the ingredients than in the presentation."  Given this prerogative, we were quite excited for our meal. 

In an effort to sample as many dishes on the menu as possible, we decided to share nine plates - under the guidance of Giuseppe, of course!  The stand outs included:

Prosciutto

Unlike this particular version that he aged himself for a mere five months, Giuseppe noted that, typically, the thinly-sliced ham should continue to ripen for three months.  However, I appreciated its smooth, moist, and much less salty flavor (than, perhaps, one aged for the full eight months).

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Duck Meatballs Filled with cheese in a brandy-orange reduction sauce with raisins

Stuffed with three different cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella and fontina) - which, aside from aiding to create a moister 'ball also helped cut the duck's traditional "gamey" flavor - these meatballs were nothing short of outstanding.  Trust me when I say that these are an absolute MUST when visiting Ornella

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Pasta Di Castagna Chestnut flour pasta in a cream and pistachio sauce with truffle oil

Made with chestnut flour, this pasta revealed a more "well done" as opposed to "al dente" texture.  Rich and unctuous, there was a mysterious je ne sais quoi that made this dish luxuriously rich.  Hell, I would return to Ornella for this pasta, alone! 

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Pizzoccheri Buckwheat pasta with cabbage, potatoes, and fontina cheese

Did you know that this dish is listed in Mimi Sheraton's 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover's Life List?  'Nuff said.

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Stuffed Pork Chop With mushrooms, prosciutto, fontina cheese, and Madeira wine sauce (served with pasta)

With barely any room left in my stomach, I was only able to take two bites of this glorious stuffed chop.  However, those two forkfuls just may have been the best of the entire meal!  Surrendering myself, Giuseppe gladly packed the remainder of the dish in a doggie-bag and, hours later, I devoured it for dinner. 

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Living in NYC and having been to plenty of Italian restaurants - everything from casual to fancy-pants - Ornella has shot to the top of my "favorites" list.  It is, without a doubt, an incredibly special and destination-worthy venue for even the snobbiest of foodies. 

Next time you find yourself in Astoria, do what we did: Forgo Greek and make an Italian detour at Ornella.  You'll be glad you did!

...

Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle

Friday
Jul242015

(NYC) Reviewed: Industry Kitchen

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

...

Restaurant: Industry Kitchen

  • Cuisine: Modern American
  • Location: 70 South Street, New York, NY 10038
  • Pricing: All menu items under $30
  • What's delicious: Cocktails
  • Perfect for: After-hours drinks, corporate events, scenic dining/waterfront views

...

The entertainment-packed grand opening of Industry Kitchen, South Street Seaport’s newest waterfront restaurant + bar, proved a feast for the eyes.  Albeit a mixed bag for the palate...

Photo courtesy of Industry Kitchen: In terms of seating, the venue’s options were great - al-fresco vs. a generous interior area adjacent to the lively bar/open kitchen.

Veering away from the restaurant's daily menu, this special evening called for a festive assortment of passed hors d'oeuvres.  From sweet and savory - spicy and smoky - tangy and tart, every realm of the senses was provoked.  

An early stand out was the Spanish Artichoke Dip, which was gifted with just the right amount of texture, seasoning, and tang to compliment the delicious artisanal flatbread.

Photo captured by EAC: Spanish Artichoke DipAnother favorite of mine and Alyson's (my guest) was the marinated rock shrimp with creamy polenta.

Photo captured by EAC: Marinated rock shrimp + polentaThe brilliant marriage of savory and sweet was found in the stone fruit topped with salty ham ribbons and burrata.  However, it was the roasted tomatoes crowned with herbed goat cheese that stole our hearts.

Photo captured by EAC: Roasted tomato halves + goat cheeseHaving fantasized about the restaurant's house-made pie since I had initially read the menu, the evening was without pizza due to an issue with the wood-burning oven.  We were so bummed!

Just as we were noshing on our third second helpings of hors d’oeuvres, the entertainment began!  With the sun setting on the horizon, an incredibly-talented fire performer utilized South Street Seaport - the restaurant's virtual "back yard" – as her personal stage.  Did I mention that there was also a juggler on stilts and a live DJ?

Photo captured by EAC: Live fire performance!The staff at Industry Kitchen was just as amazing as the delicious nibbles!  After initially being served by multiple waiters and passed trays, we became friendly with Matt and Pat, a dynamic duo who ended up serving us exclusively for the remainder of the eve.  Informative, accommodating, and personable, the mission of these stand-out employees was to make sure that we sampled the bar's full range (yes, I said full range) of cocktails!

Cocktail report card: Finding a drink that I enjoyed was on par with Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Some were too weak and lacking, others were convoluted and missed the mark, yet a few were just right...

CRIMSON & CLOVER

Grey Goose Vodka, Pomegranate, Lemon, Clover Honey Cordial

Report card grade: (B) A great, lighter summer option that I can picture myself enjoying while jamming to the hit single by Tommy James & The Shondells...

SHOES OPTIONAL

Avua Cachaca, El Bujo Mezcal, Aveze, Fresh Lemon Juice

Report card grade: (D) The only reason this cocktail didn’t get an F is because of the effort that was put in to it.  The earthiness of the mescal is completely convoluted by an ever-present Avèze.  Unfortunately, the minor tones of the lime juice and Cachaça aren’t enough to save the drink. Tip: The mixologist should get rid of the Avèze.  In this writer’s eyes, a good mescal need not be mixed -- and shouldn’t be!

BOURBON BERRY SMASH

Mitcher’s Bourbon Whiskey, St. Germaine Elderflower, Lemon, “Blackberry Stew”

Report card grade: (B+) Aside from missing the obvious alliteration of calling it the “Blast” or “Bash” (because of the smashed fruit), this is the ultimate summer drink!  Refreshing, cool, and lip-smacking good!  

SUNBURNT & SPICE

Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum, Bitter Truth Allspice Pimento Dram, Fresh Lemon & Lime Juice, Soda

Report card grade: (A) This drink breaks the internet bell curve and goes straight to the head of the class! It was my favorite for the complexity, subtle shifts in flavor, and diverse ingredients that don’t overwhelm.

SANGRIA DUO (RED AND WHITE)

Report card grade: (C-) My partner in crime, Alyson, said that sangrias were a miss.  I only sampled the white variety which, while very fruit forward, failed to deliver the necessary “punch” from the wine.  I’m going to chalk this up to a humid evening and a little too much extra melted ice.

 

...

Until we eat again,

Edgar Alonso Castillo for The Lunch Belle