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**Readers!  I recently moved to the City of Angels.  The good news is that I'm keeping this site alive while simultaneously working on something Los Angeles-centric, as well.**

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.

For those of you who enjoy highly thorough and traditional restaurant reviews, you may find them located here

But that's not all!  Additionally, I...

  • ~ For tourists, I can help you create itineraries and answer any questions you may have/offer advice for your upcoming visit to NYC.
  • ~ I can consult and/or advise on all of your small and large events.
  • ~ I will assist you with restaurant recommendations.

Just consider me your one-stop NYC - and, most recently, Los Angeles - shop!

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Entries in News you can actually use (78)

Sunday
Jun222014

LA Woman

My dear readers, 

Believe it or not, I recently moved to the City of Angels.  The good news is that I'm keeping this site live while I simultaneously work on something Los Angeles-centric.  Have a look-see: Beverly Hills Bites.  

The hope is that I can eventually merge the two websites together.  If you have any brilliant ideas to make this transition easier, please advise!  I'm a total stress case.  In the meantime, thank you for stopping by and I appreciate your continued patronage!

xoxo, 

The Lunch Belle / Beverly Hills Bites

Wednesday
May212014

Completely unBAREable

As if packing up the past 10-years of my life in NYC and moving to the West Coast wasn't stressful and difficult enough, Completely Bare wanted to wedge that proverbial knife even deeper...

In February, after having been a client for the better part of a year, I purchased a 6-pack of laser hair removal sessions from Completely Bare.  For those of you who don't know about laser hair removal, you have to wait 6-weeks in between sessions.  So, if you do the math, it would take 36-weeks to complete a 6-session package.  To date, I've completed two sessions and have my third on Friday. 

Rewind 1-month ago: I recently returned to NYC from a long weekend in LA.  I had just made the incredibly emotional decision to move across the country at the end of May, when my lease was due to expire.  In closing out and scheduling the cancellations of my utilities and other services, I contacted Completely Bare to see what I could do about my three remaining sessions (remember, one has to wait 6-weeks in between sessions).  The conversation between me and Carol, one of the managers, went something like this:

Me: "Hi Carol, I'm moving to LA at the end of May.  After my session on May 23rd, I will have three remaining.  I am not going to be able to use them, as I was informed that you do not have West Coast locations."

Carol: "OK, I can offer you one of two solutions.  You can transfer your credits in to another person's name, or we can extend the time frame to a year and you can use them when you come back to NYC."

Me: "Thanks, but I will not be coming back to NYC every 6-weeks or even 3-times in the next year.  I do not have to travel for work, and I certainly cannot afford to return merely for laser hair removal sessions.  If I send you a copy of my California lease, can I get some sort of refund?  This was not something that I planned when I had initially purchased this package.  Clearly."

Carol: "Sorry, but even giving you the two options I offered is normally something we don't do.  I cannot offer you a refund."

After trying to sell my remaining sessions to friends and coworkers, no one bit.  So, in utter desperation, I put a listing on (gasp) Craigslist.  I cannot afford to eat hundreds of dollars!  Thank you, Completely Bare, for making this process Completely UnBAREable.  Shame on you!

 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
May152014

The Lunch Belle is moving...to the west coast!

Dear readers,

A week ago, today, I celebrated my 10-year anniversary in NYC.  And, coincidentally, I also did something rather 'life changing': I signed a lease for an apartment in Los Angeles.  Commencing on June 1st!  That's right, folks, I'm moving away from my beloved Manhattan in exactly 2-weeks from today. 

Both friends and coworkers, alike, keep asking me if I have grown tired of NYC.  And the answer is a wholehearted "hell no."  I love this city more than my own life; it accepted me with open arms, forced me grow in more ways than I could have ever imagined, allowed me to very proudly and happily relish in my authentic self, and so, so much more.  I am, without a doubt, a New Yorker to the core.  I live and breathe Manhattan and proudly bleed "Big Apple" red.  However, I have come to the point where I desperately miss my family - who reside on the west coast - and my rent has forced me out of the building where I lived for the past 7-years.  It was those two factors that initially got the wheels in my head turning about a potentially major move.  Then, the idea of having more square footage, a washer/dryer, and a dishwasher began to seduce me.  Pair all of that with 365 days of picture-perfect weather, palm trees, "dog beaches" for Lucy, and the fact that there are only 0.78% more women than men (as opposed to NYC, where there are 9.61% more women than men).  I mean, I would be an idiot not to go, right?   

This is not, by any means, my exit from blogging.  I'm currently at the stage where I'm deciding whether to write about my west coast adventures on The Lunch Belle or, like this move, pick up and start anew.  I'd love to hear what you think/prefer!

So, for the next few weeks, I may be a bit quiet, but please stay tuned for what's to come.  I can't wait for you to take this new and exciting journey with me!

~~~

Until we eat again and very loyally yours,

The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
Jul022013

Because, aside from eating well, you also like to look hot: Let's talk about Botox/Juviderm/fillers, baby!

So go ahead and admit it, Lil' Miss Perfect:  You've either been injected or have seriously considered going "under the needle."  No way, you say?  Psssh.  You're fcuking lying!

I went "under the needle" for the first time in 2011.  In - where else - Los Angeles.   After receiving Botox in my forehead/brows, Juviderm in my smile lines, and some lip-filler...I felt like a new woman.  Well, it actually took a few days for everything to "set in."  In fact, 4-5 days post injection, I can tell you this:  It sure as hell wouldn't have been my forehead/eyebrows revealing any sign of happiness/surprise had you told me that I'd just won the lottery.  While my lips didn't look all that different, I simply could not get over my "semi-frozen forehead." 

Although treatments wear off after 4-8 months, it took me about a year to finally find a fabulous NYC-based dermatologist who specializes in "injectables."  I don't trust this face to just anybody.  And you shouldn't, either!  Last week, my friend, Victoria, had a "Botox/filler party" at her doctor's office.  Prices-per-syringe were being offered at such a fantastic discount that I would have been an a-hole to say no.  Plus, it had been 5-months since my last round of injections.  I felt a bit guilty "cheating" on my dermatologist but, at the end of the day, I'm all about saving a buck (or a few hundred).  Sorry Doc!

I was up in the air as to whether I should get filler in my top lip.  Why?  Go ahead and give the outermost portion of your pout the tiniest pinch.  Now, tell me about the tears that just rolled down your face and the "ouch" that you belted out, simultaneously.  Imagine that happening multiple times.  It wasn't until I learned that Victoria's doctor numbed the mouth prior to injection that I decided to proceed with lip filler.  "Hell yah," I exclaimed.  "Bring it on!"   So, after receiving approximately six novocaine shots in my gums, my lips were well on their way to looking a bit more like Taylor Armstrong Anjelina Jolie's.  "Wow," the doctor said.  "You're a bleeder!"  After informing her that I had been taking multiple doses of Advil for a back ache, she suggested that, next time around, I refrain from blood-thinning pain relievers for at least two days prior to treatment.  "Oh," I sighed.  "Really?"  She also suggested that I begin taking "Arnica" right away.  "It's over-the-counter and you can buy it at health food stores.  It will help with bruising and swelling," she said.  "I can tell that you're a sweller!"  Great.  Just fcuking great.

Post-party, some friends and I went to grab drinks at Bond St.  I figured that the Arnica could wait.  Mama needed a drink!  I mean, it's not like I got that swollen or bruised the first time I went "under the needle"...

I woke up around 1am to grab some water.  While walking back to my bedroom, I decided to take a peak at my sexy new pout.  Gasp!  My top lip made Taylor Armstrong's look like Garth's (from Wayne's World)!  I had a huge black bruise on the underside of my lip and a couple of bruises on either side of my mouth.  "This is probably just a nightmare," I told myself, while crawling back in to bed. 

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!When I was growing up, my mom always told me and my sister that most people were too focused on themselves to notice anything different/new on, with, or about us.  "It takes a 20 lb. weight loss for anyone to notice.  You may feel different after 5-10 lbs., but no one will be able to tell until 20.  Trust me," she would say.  So, despite the fact that I felt like Taylor Armstrong - I hate to say it but, post-ass whipping - I was trained to believe that no one would notice my upper "duck lip" or surrounding bruises.  "Remember, no one cares about anyone but themselves."  Right, Mom...

My boss was the first to comment.  And point.  "What happened there?"  And then my cubicle mate.  Followed by two of my girlfriends who sit nearby.  "You got all Kim'd up, girl," Reetu exclaimed.  I reasoned that people were either completely obsessed with me, or that my mom could not have been any further from the truth when she told us that no one would ever notice anything.  I'm going to go with the latter on this one.  Sigh.  

So, I decided that after - having to wear more makeup than Michael Jackson to cover-up my bruises - having to cancel all of my post-work social plans - not being able to look people in the eye/keeping my head lowered, that I would turn my personal martyrdom in to some key words of advice for those of you "injectable virgins" out there.  Oh, and one more thing, I'd like to say that my unfortunate turn of "black and blue" events is of NO fault of the doctor.  Now, back to my words of advice:

  • If you are getting lip filler, make sure to find out beforehand if the doctor will numb your mouth area prior to injection.  This is a must!  Otherwise, the pain will be excruciating!
  • Unless you can/want to craft a cool story about winning a street fight/mugging, do NOT snag a mid-week appointment.  It's like a dear friend said to me after-the-fact, "Dude.  Everyone knows that you get Bobo (Botox) done on a Friday after work!  That way you have the weekend to recover."     
  • TMI alert:  Ladies, do NOT schedule your appointment the week prior or during your monthly cycle.  Blood-thinning pain relievers contribute to swelling and bruising.  'Nuff said.
  • And, speaking of bruising, make sure to visit a health food store and pick up some Arnica.  Begin taking the pills on the day of your treatment - prior to your treatment.  Continue as needed.
  • Do not press or squeeze or manipulate the treated area(s).  Leave your damn face alone!!  Not only are your hands filthy, but pressure can actually move the product to an undesired location and make you look droopy and stupid.
  • The verdict is out on ice compresses post-treatment.  I will leave that decision up to you and your doctor.

Do you have any good/funny "Bobo" stories?  I'd love to hear them.  And if you'd like some doctor referrals, I'm happy to send them your way. 

~~~

Until we inject again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Mar272013

The Big Cheesy: Contest winner, Danielle's, recap

Please enjoy "The Big Cheesy" contest winner, Danielle's, fabulous recap from, what sounded like, a very delicious weekend event!

...

The scene at Openhouse Gallery on Mulberry Street this weekend was, in a word, heaven. From the moment I walked in and a random girl in a leather jacket offered me a Tums “just in case,” I knew that the next hour of my life would certainly be unforgettable.

“The Big Cheesy,” as its called, is a competition among seven of the most notorious cheese-grilling establishments in NYC. The contestants prepare bites of a signature grilled cheese offering (or two), and each guest is set loose to taste the sandwiches for one hour and cast a ballot.

I walked in to the stark white space and was handed a drink ticket and a Ping-Pong ball. I quickly redeemed my ticket for a “Crisp” from Brooklyn’s Sixpoint, and took a seat in the corner to wait for my round to begin.

As soon as it hit 3pm on the dot, my partner-in-hunger, Kathleen, and I quickly ran into the arena to get the lay of the land. Along the sides of the room were 7 small tables, each marked with bold signs hanging on the wall behind them. From left to right: 'wichcraft, Murray's Cheese Bar, Milk Truck, Say Cheese, Sons of Essex, Lucy's Whey and Melt Shop.

As anyone who knows me knows, my favorite grilled cheese in NYC is the Milk Truck Classic with spicy pickles, courtesy of the eponymous. As any true groupie would be, I was worried that Milk Truck’s submission wouldn’t meet my expectations, and that I would be gravely disappointed.

In dealing with this sandwich-induced anxiety, I decided to size up the competition before digging in. We walked around for a bit, until I ultimately decided to pick up the “Truffle Grilled Cheese” from Sons of Essex: Gruyere, goat cheese, parmigiano reggiano, sautéed mushrooms and baby arugula. This was an early favorite for me, though upon further review I decided that the truffle oil was a bit too overwhelming for my taste.

Kathleen opted for the “Bowery Bacon Crusted Melt” from the same table: Bacon crusted brioche, beemster, baby Swiss and white cheddar topped with a deep-red Manischewitz shallot jam. Again, an early favorite, but when we came back we both decided that the Manischewitz was better left on the Seder table.

I then quickly hopped over to Lucy's Whey where I grabbed an apple, cheddar and ham grilled cheese known to be “A sandwich as American as apple pie.” I should probably note here that I am trying to become a vegetarian, but that quickly went out the window. In any case, I did love the sharp cheddar/fromage blanc combo, but I thought that the sandwich as a whole wasn’t quite worthy of such a lofty title. I must say though, that Lucy was absolutely adorable - I would visit her little alcove in Chelsea Market just for a smile!

The line at Say Cheese was getting pretty long, so we pushed our way to the front. We both grabbed the dessert grilled cheese: nutella and mascarpone on graham cracker dusted bread, complete with a pipette of chocolate stuck in between the two pieces of bread. Now as much as I love all things chocolate and all things Nutella, how on earth could someone expect me to, in a crowded room full of people and holding both my bag and my jacket, navigate the “bite and squeeze” motion that I was hearing so much about? No matter, I’m still not sure I’m convinced that a melted Nutella sandwich really counts as a “grilled cheese.”

Say Cheese's savory offering was a French onion grilled cheese with Gruyere, Swiss and Parmesan on sourdough. As I had moved to the back of the pack, when the enthusiastic guy behind the counter shouted, “who wants French onion?” my timid “me!” was not quite enough to be heard. A bold neighbor of mine to the right pointed and shouted “SHE DOES!” at which point I’m sure half of the room turned around. With my head hung down to the ground, I went up to fetch this sandwich which I had gone through so much trouble to acquire, and after only two bites I thought was slightly too overwhelming. If I had a craving for a bowl of French onion soup, I would order it - not a sandwich.

As an aside, it was around this time that I overheard a very tall well-dressed man say, “Milk Truck…good reddens!” and I nearly punched him right then and there!

In order to escape the crowds, we journeyed over to 'wichcraft, which was towards the front of the room, and mob-less. Rightfully so, the aged fontina with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms was certainly not mob-worthy. Great bread though.

As the hour continued we noticed a lot of Ping-Pong balls being given to Melt Shop, so we wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I took one bite of the aged cheddar with bacon and cranberry onion chutney and immediately thought that it was trying too hard. The cranberry onion chutney was much too candied for my taste, but I can see how someone with more of a sweet tooth would have been intrigued.

We traversed the room and arrived at Murray's Cheese Bar where I was told that it would be “one minute for the perfect grilled cheese.” Obviously, I was skeptical. I was then asked about my plans to Instagram and Snapchat said “perfect grilled cheese” and was warned that I might want to stretch while I waited. Theatrics aside, Murray's “Classic Melt” with smoky tomato soup was, if nothing else, a pretty decent embodiment of what a “classic” grilled cheese should be. While I thought that the bread:cheese ratio was a little heavy on the former, I can’t resist Levain Pullman bread. The smoky tomato soup was nearly perfect, and I should admit that I had about six shots of it in my final twenty minutes. Ultimately, Kathleen cast her vote for Murray's, and we plan to stop by the Cheese Bar sometime soon.

Finally, it was time to try Milk Truck. The line was small and there were barely any Ping-Pong balls in the vase, so obviously my heart was beating out of my chest! Now let me tell you, my when I saw the word “blue,” my heart sank right on to the floor. If there is one kind of cheese I hate (well I also can’t stand Goat’s cheese) it is Blue cheese. Milk Truck was serving up the “Bacon Cheddar Blue:” thick sliced bacon, cheddar, blue cheese, caramelized onions and McClure’s Spicy Pickles (<33333) on rosemary Pullman bread. The thing about this sandwich was that I actually…loved it! Anyone than can make me love something that I hate definitely have some kind of magical grilled cheese-making powers.

After some careful deliberation, I quickly reached the conclusion that every sandwich in the room (except Murray's) had way overdone it. I wanted to judge based on which sandwich I could imagine eating in its entirety, but they all had such strong flavors that I was left remiss. I was also looking for consistency. If the taste of a sandwich changes within a span of ten minutes (as I found with Sons of Essex), then how can I honestly say that on any given day I could walk in to find the best grilled cheese in the Big Apple?

Ultimately, the look of despair on the adorable young hipster in the beanie behind the Milk Truck table became too much to bear, and I walked over and cast my ballot. He humored me with some “wooing” and clanging of spatulas, but my having decided on a solid favorite mostly satisfied me.

I later found out that Melt Shop took home the grand prize for the second year in a row, and I can’t say that I’m surprised. While I was in search of a sandwich that was “traditional, original and simple – just like me!” I can imagine that most people in the crowd were looking for something with a little more oomph and innovation. Say Cheese took some second place, likely thanks to the culinary genius of Ferrero, and Sons of Essex was a solid third.

In all, on a day full of excitement, uncertainty, and approximately 2340238 calories, I was more than happy to stand by the crew who has made me countless unforgettable classic sandwiches and one unforgettable Bacon Cheddar Blue.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle...& Danielle

Friday
Jan252013

Bringing "sexy" back to the salad

Do you hate to eat salads because the sheer act of doing so is messy, awkward, and unattractive?  Have you noticed that, unless you have the luxury of ordering/preparing it "chopped," each forkful is too big for your mouth (see photo of Mike Tyson, below)?  Well, I have the perfect solution:  Chopsticks.  Obviously, you're not going to bring a pair with you to a restaurant, but keep some disposable sets in your desk at work and your kitchen at home.  Doing so will make feasting on your daily greens much easier and incredibly more enjoyable.  And, not to mention, way sexier for the poor fools who, god forbid, have to watch you eat.  

Trust me, put this practice to use and you'll thank me later. 

So. Not. Cute.~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle