Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a NYC based food and travel website that views various dining scenes and destinations through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated thirty-something.



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Entries in Interviews / Q+A's (16)


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


'Dish Envy' interviews The Lunch Belle

Dear readers,

Click here to read my Q&A with Dish Envy, a fantastic source that will help guide you (via tips and photos from "real" people) towards the best item on every menu!  How cool is that?


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


An interview with Magnolia Bakery's Bobbie Lloyd: When life hands you lemons, bake (lemon) cupcakes!

"When life hands you lemons, bake (lemon) cupcakes!" 

How much do you love that quote?  I saw it posted on my girlfriend, Stacey's Facebook "wall" recently and smiled.  A lemon-flavored cupcake sounded utterly delightful, summer-y, and definitely more satisfying than a glass of lemonade.  No doubt about that. 

And speaking of everyone's favorite hand-held dessert, I'm curious: how do you eat a cupcake?  Seems like a simple enough question, doesn't it?  Now before you blurt out the *obvious* answer, take a minute - close your eyes - and imagine yourself about to partake in a heavenly cupcake from Magnolia Bakery.  Flavor of your choice, of course.  I think you'll be surprised by *your* unique answer.

Gorgeous photo found on: www.lovescool.comI had the honor/pleasure/privilege of getting the opportunity to chat with Bobbie Lloyd, Magnolia Bakery's C.B.O. ("Chief Baking Officer") about, among other things, how she eats a cupcake.  Enjoy!


*TLB = The Lunch Belle // BL = Bobbie Lloyd

TLB  I love all-things-Magnolia Bakery but, I have to be honest with you, I find it extremely difficult to eat a cupcake in public. 

BL  (Laughs)

TLB  How do you eat a cupcake? 

  • BL  I cut my cupcake in half and flip it over.  Icing first!

TLB  I like your stance.  To heck with "saving the best for last!"  (Chuckle)  So, what is your favorite Magnolia Bakery cupcake flavor?

  • BL  Pistachio, lemon, and chocolate cake with chocolate-buttercream icing.

BL  And how do you eat your cupcake?

TLB  Are you ready for a "Lunch Belle" Magnolia Bakery visual?  OK, so I walk over to your West Village location - wait x-number of minutes on line - grab a small box - fill it with 4-cupcakes - pay, then walk out.  There's this cute park across the street from the bakery, but I wouldn't dare eat one of my cupcakes there/in public.  Nope, I wait until I get home.  It's a process, really: I grab a juice glass from my cupboard -  reach in to the small bakery-box for a cupcake and remove the wrapper - I cut the cupcake in half and put both pieces in to the juice glass.  Using a spoon, I stir/fold the cake and icing together, so that each bite incorporates a healthy amount of every component.  Believe it or not, I add a dash of salt before one final stir/fold, et voila!  It's gross to look at but, boy, is it good!

BL  (Laughs)

TLB   Speaking of your original West Village bakery, it's pretty small.  I did read, however, that one of your locations in Manhattan has a "party room."  Can you tell me a bit more about that and where it is located?

  • BL  Our Upper Westside location is much larger and does, in fact, have a party room that can accommodate up to 24 guests.  In the event that a client would need more space, we cater off-site, including but not limited to weddings, bar/bat-mitzvahs, birthday parties, etc.

TLB  I'm really looking forward to seeing Magnolia Bakery at the annual New Taste of the UWS, May 20-21!  What is your role at the event?   

  • BL  Magnolia Bakery will have a table where we'll be offering an array of our delectably sweet, American-comfort classics!  It should be a great time.

TLB  I heard that Magnolia Bakery is going to begin shipping products nationwide.  Like Sprinkles, will these items be "bake-yourself?"

  • BL  No, our products will be shipped pre-made. 

TLB  One of my readers, in Kuwait, has spoken very highly of your Dubai location.  What are Magnolia Bakery's most popular items in the Middle East?

  • BL  Cheesecake!


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Q&A with "Food Porn Daily, The Cookbook" author, Amanda Simpson

Click. Drool. Repeat.

Of all of the famous chefs, cookbook authors, and television personalities that I've had the pleasure of interviewing, I have to say that Amanda Simpson, author of Food Porn Daily, The Cookbook, has been my favorite.  After our nearly 30-minute phone conversation, I smiled and thought to myself, "Now this is the kind of girl that I could become great friends with."  

Photo: LeenaEats

In 2005, after Amanda Simpson's then boyfriend received a digital SLR (camera) as a college graduation gift, the couple found themselves photographing nearly every curiosity that they encountered.  Food, in particular, quickly became a focal point.  And the rest, as you will read in our Q&A below, is history!


*Note: "TLB" stands for The Lunch Belle, and "AS" stands for Amanda Simpson

TLB  Where are you from?

  • AS  I'm from a very rural town in northern Virginia, but I went to college at LSU (Baton Rouge, LA).

TLB  Where did you garner your restaurant-industry experience?

  • AS  Since the day that I was legally old enough to work (I assume that she meant "16."), I earned my keep at restaurants!

TLB  So, when did you start writing about food?

TLB  What brought you to San Diego, CA?

  • AS  Work!  I packed up my life in Baton Rouge and became a counselor in sunny California.

TLB  At what point did you return to the "industry?"

  • AS  Don't get me wrong, I loved working as a counselor but, after a couple of years, I chose to follow my heart and return to where I was most comfortable: the kitchen.  I was hired as a personal chef for a family living just outside of San Diego.  I worked with them for three years.  

TLB  How were you approached to write the cookbook?

  • AS  Everything happened after I founded Food Porn Daily.  Believe it or not, I was approached, via email, by a publishing house representative! 

TLB  Did you already have an arsenal of recipes, or did you create those found in your cookbook from scratch?

  • AS  Yes, I did have an arsenal of recipes however, for the cookbook, I created all of those from scratch.  I would sit at the beach with my ideas for certain dishes, and wonder how I could make them extra delicious, and that much more food porn-y.  

TLB  Your cookbook is divided/organized by season, with 5 starters - 1 breakfast - 1 drink - and 12 main courses, per season: what advice would you give someone who, say, lives in another part of the country and wants to cook something that is "out of season" for their respective region?

  • AS  Whew!  Good question.  I would tell them to replace what is out-of-season in their region, with an ingredient that is in season.  For example, where I live (in San Diego), the weather is mild and fresh produce is readily available.  What may be in season in California, obviously may not be in season in Maine.  Go ahead and substitute, say, blackberries for strawberries.   

TLB  You recently finished your cross-country book tour.  How was that?

  • AS  It was amazing!  Me, myself, and I drove from San Diego to 26 cities across the USA in about 5 weeks!

TLB  OK, since we're both Southern girls, what are some recipes, from the pages of Food Porn Daily, The Cookbookthat would you recommend whipping up for a Super Bowl-watching party and/or a tailgate? 

  • AS  Another great question!  I would recommend, from the cookbook: Asian Sliders (mini hamburgers), Spicy Chipotle Buffalo Wings, Hearty Short Rib Chili, or my Duck & Linguica Gumbo.


Read it & eat...and go getcha' a copy of Food Porn Daily, The Cookbook!

The Lunch Belle 


Dessert First! My interview with Food Network hostess-extraordinaire, Anne Thornton

Photo courtesy: Patrick Buckley

If you crossed a high school homecoming queen with a modern-day Betty Crocker, then added a dash of Manhattan socialite - you would get Anne Thornton.  Not only is she beautiful and talented -  witty and funny - but I'm willing to bet that she can put your grandmother's baking to shame.  From her days as Pastry Chef at one of NYC's most exclusive restaurants, The Waverly Inn - to serving as Event Coordinator and Executive Pastry Chef at Hotel Griffou - Anne recently landed the role of a lifetime, as host of her very own series on the Food Network, Dessert First with Anne Thornton

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Ms. Thornton, and am thrilled to be able to share our Q&A session with you:


What time can we expect to tune in to your new Food Network show, Dessert First with Anne Thornton?  I’d love to get my DVR all set up!

I see that you’re a fellow Texan – hailing from San Antonio.  Do you still have family in the Lone Star State? 

  • I have two cousins living in Austin, but they are Northern transplants. One was born in raised in Chicago and the other was born and raised in New York City. I'm the only born Texan in my family.

At what age did you move North? 

  • I moved to Cleveland, where my mother was born and raised, when I was a toddler. But Texas has a very special place in my heart. People always guess I'm from Texas by the way that I look (which I take as a compliment). I guess it's true that you can take the girl out of Texas but you can't take Texas out of the girl and why would you want to?

Which part of the country – North or South – has had the most impact on your style of cooking, to date?

  • I think my cooking style is a mix of the best of Southern, Northern and West Coast cooking. My sister was born in Atlanta and I was born in Texas and our father lived in Atlanta until he passed away, so we spent a lot of time down South. My mother loves architecture, antiques and Southern hospitality so we also spent a great deal of time in Savannah and Charleston growing up. Two cities that have amazing food. Our extended family is located in Chicago, Cleveland, and New York City so I was exposed to the best of the best of Northern food as well. I also lived in California and am a big advocate of eating locally and seasonally. I'm really fortunate to have been influenced by all of the amazing American styles of cooking.

How were you approached for your own series by Food Network?

  • I made my signature Salted Caramel Banana Pudding Pie for the 2009 New York Wine and Food Festival's SWEET event.  The press declared it as the winner and fan favorite.  Food Network, who was a major sponsor of the event, called me in for a meeting shortly thereafter.  I was really lucky, it came out of the blue for me and all happened very quickly.

How coincidentally fabulous that your first episode aired the weekend before Halloween!  Was this done on purpose? 

  • It worked out perfectly. I also have a Thanksgiving show and a Christmas show. Desserts are all about community, sharing, and celebration. On Dessert First with Anne Thornton, I show you how to make simple delicious desserts that have a wow factor that will impress your guests. On my premiere episode I showed viewers how to make spooky and sweet Halloween treats like Red Velvet Brain Cupcakes, Milk Chocolate Graveyard Cake, and Couture Caramel Apples.  This Sunday (Halloween!) is all about Breakfast Desserts – I’m going to whip up my finger-licking Other Worldly Sticky Buns drizzled with a gooey cinnamon glaze and royal icing.   I’ll also show you how to create a make-ahead Blueberry Almond Breakfast Tart filled with a perfectly flaky crust to serve alongside Spiced Coffee, a fragrant blend of coffee, cloves and orange zest. 

Where does your dessert inspiration come from?  How do you keep the customer “hungry for more,” both literally and figuratively?

  • My inspiration comes from desserts, flavors, and ingredients I grew up loving. My desserts are comfort food desserts, and who doesn't love comfort food?

What is your favorite-to-make, go-to dessert?

  • My go to favorite dessert is my signature dish: Salted Caramel Banana Pudding Pie.   

What is your opinion of the cupcake phenomenon that has taken America - and the world, for that matter - by storm?

  • I love cupcakes. What is better than cake that you can hold in your hand? I think cupcakes are here to stay but I think we are going to start to see some new dessert trends. I predict that Parisian macarons will be the next hand-held dessert phenomenon. They are beautiful and easy to eat, like a cupcake, and they are gluten free.

If you had to choose just one, what do you consider to be your favorite restaurant in NYC? 

  • It doesn’t have to be fancy. Ballato's on East Houston Street is my staple go-to favorite restaurant.  Emilio's Bolognese (sauce) is heavenly and his focaccia bread is crisp on the outside and as light and fluffy as angel food cake on the inside. He is a super talented chef.

What is your favorite "guilty-pleasure" cuisine?

  • I love fried food. I love fried chicken more than any other food on the planet. I like it warm, room temperature or cold. I love any and everything fried. I have an entire episode dedicated to this delicious and decadent method of cooking. My Deep Fried Cookie Dough with Fleur de Sel is worth living for, and you'll be able to get the recipe after it airs on November 21, 2010.

Salted Caramel Banana Pudding Pie: the "winning recipe" that put Anne on the map~

Read it & eat...and make sure to tune-in!

The Lunch Belle


My interview with Food Network star, Claire Robinson

The lovely Food Network celebu-chef, Claire RobinsonHaving developed a mild "girl crush" on the Southern beauty from watching her commentary on The Best Thing I Ever Ate, I decided to check out a couple of episodes from Chef Claire Robinson's television series, 5 Ingredient Fix, on the Food Network.  Hence the name, the premise of Claire's show is to prove that it is possible to create both delicious and eclectic dishes using five ingredients or fewer per recipe.  Hey, maybe it's just the "New Yorker" in me but, with my lack of time and counter space, I absolutely love the idea that I can whip up homemade meals using only a handful of items!  Amen to you, Claire.  

With the very recent release of her first cookbook, 5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant and Irresistible Recipes, I had the pleasure of catching up with Claire between filming (in addition to 5 Ingredient Fix, she also hosts the Food Network Challenge!).  Check out our phone conversation, below:


*Note: CR = Claire Robinson // TLB = The Lunch Belle

CR  "Well hello, Lunch Belle," Claire exclaimed in her charmingly-intoxicating Southern twang, "greetings from Denver!" 

TLB  Denver?  Had I not done enough background research on Ms. Robinson to know that she spent time in the Mile High City?  Ack!  "Hi Claire," I responded,"thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with The Lunch Belle.  What brings you to Denver?"

CR  "Believe it or not, this (Denver) is where we shoot the Food Network Challenge, but my home base is in New York City."

TLB  "Interesting!  OK, so congratulations on the recent release of your first cookbook, 5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant and Irresistible Recipes!  Sounds like you have quite a bit on your plate right now!"

CR  "Thank you!  It's a really exciting time!  Also, I'm not sure if you know but, recently, I teamed up with Eggland's Best Eggs to share the exciting news about their pink ribbon eggs!  Since the company recently donated $50,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, each egg is now stamped with a pink, not red, "EB" stamp plus the famous "Pink Ribbon" logo."

TLB  "Wow, that's fantastic, Claire!  That is a cause (breast cancer) that is near and dear to my heart.  Did you create any yummy egg-based recipes for them (Eggland's Best)?"

CR  "I sure did!  Check out the front page of their website: www.egglandsbest.com, and look for the blurb with my name/picture."  Readers, make sure to check out Claire's recipe for Scrambled Eggs over Roasted Tomatoes!  I can hardly wait to make this dish!

TLB  "I love it.  Each of you are lucky to have partnered with the other!  Now, going back to your new cookbook, what is something that you would like to tell my readers that, you feel, makes your recipes unique amongst the sea of competition?  In other words, why should they buy your cookbook?"

CR  "I want to inspire people to be the executive chefs of their own kitchens.  What I mean is, each of my recipes will tell you which ingredients to buy and provide you with the cooking instructions, but my hope is that folks will take this basic information and really make it their own.  For example, if green tomatoes aren't readily available in your area, I want you to feel empowered enough to substitute them for something that is available and in-season."

TLB  "Thanks.  OK, I have one final question for you, Claire.  You and I both hail from the South - you grew up in Memphis, and I'm from Texas - so, what is your opinion of this Southern food/comfort fare trend that has taken NYC by storm?  From haute fried chicken and greens to shrimp 'n grits, I feel like every restaurant, from Italian to Korean, has at least one dish representing what you and I call "home."

CR  Claire giggles, "And you know what?  I have not found one place here (in NYC) that does it right!"


Read it & eat,

The Lunch Belle