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Entries in News you can actually use (101)


Super Bowl LI: Why cook when someone else can do it for you?

Can y'all believe that Super Bowl is already here again?  By the way, does anyone else automatically think Super Bowl Long Island when you see "Super Bowl LI?"  Certainly, I cannot be the only one...
Now, let's skip over to the most important item on the game day agenda: What to eat?  Honestly, while the idea of spending all day in the kitchen whipping up a variety of both savory and sweet dishes sounds romantic and ideal, it's completely unrealistic!  At least it is for me.  So, in the essence of my precious time plus kitchen catastrophe/culinary disappointment prevention, I'm going to have someone else cook my 'wings and chili; and you should, too!  
Folks, from today through Sunday (game day), take this amazing opportunity to impress your game day guests with awesome food at a great price: Caviar, the absolute best restaurant delivery service (sorry Seamless) is offering $10 off orders $40 or more with code WINNING.  New customer?  You will will also receive free delivery!

Offer: Take $10 off orders $40+
Valid: 2/3 - 2/5
Until we eat again, 
The Lunch Belle

I joined the MILE HIGH (in the sky) CLUB...at Bar 54

*This post was written by Jean Hsu and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photos were captured by Jean Hsu.*

The weather in New York has finally turned and the seasonal imbiber within each of us (toasting to the glory of global warming, no doubt) is putting our pitchers of sangria aside, eager to make way for soul-warming cocktails.

Enter scene: Bar 54, the tallest rooftop lounge in NYC (at the Hyatt Times Square).  Boasting floor-to-ceiling glass windows that give way to focus on the back-lit, fully-stocked bar, you can only imagine the Instagram-worthy potential of the incredible 360-degree views (Did I mention outdoor terraces to enjoy, weather permitting?!).  Also to note, Bar 54 recently teamed up with master cocktelier, Julie Reiner (YES, of Flatiron Lounge and author of The Craft Cocktail Party), to create a brand new fall/winter line of of seasonally-inspired bevvies. 

The drinks are STRONG (Did I not use the term "soul-warming"?) and unique.  My favorite of the trio that we sampled was the "Doctor's Note," a visually triumphant cocktail.  Fruit-forward, courtesy of the notes of citrus and apple, this elixir pays homage to the wintry flavors of cider and spices while still being light and bright.

Doctor's Note: Applejack, lemon juice, ginger syrup, cinnabark syrup, bitters, and cider over crushed ice served with an apple slice and powdered cinnamon

"The Brighton Beets" is the perfect aperitif for all of your SoulCycle/juice cleanse/vegan/LA wannabe cronies.  Made with beet-infused vodka, this stiff cocktail is a force to be reckoned with!  But hey, at least its chock-full of antioxidants, right?

Brighton Beets: Beet-infused vodka, Tanqurey gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, Fonsecca ruby port, simple syrup, and muddled mint over crushed ice

Everyone needs a little bubbly in their life!  The "Colletti Royale" features a lethal blend of tequila, St. Germain (elderflower liqueur), blood orange, and rose champagne; a winning combo of citrus and, what tasted like, ONE MILLION PROOF ALCOHOL. 

Colletti Royale: Partida Reposada tequila, Cointreau, St. Germain, blood orange juice, lime juice, orange bitters, and rose champagne garnished with a blood orange wheel

And if that didn't leave you twisted enough, why not take it up a notch...or three?  WARNING: order your Uber ride - with destination input - BEFORE downing this drink)!  Enter the "Rhapsody in Rye," a sophisticated, dignified blend of rye, vermouth, amaro, and a few other liqueurs for good measure.  Whew!

Rhapsody in Rye: Bulleit rye, Dolin Dry vermouth, Ramazotti amaro, benedictine, and angostura and orange bitters garnished with an orange twist

Do not miss out on your chance to imbibe these gorgeous concoctions courtesy of the talented Ms. Reiner!  Set your next Tinder date, girls' night, or work outing at Bar 54 and prepare your shoulders for getting brushed off when everyone be like, "ERMAGERD, THIS VIEW IS LIFEEEEE!!!!!!!!"


Until we eat again,

Jean Hsu for The Lunch Belle


24 hours - and an arduous quest for uni - in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara had been on my "California bucket list" since I arrived in LA over 1.5 years ago.  With the clock ticking towards my February move back to NYC, I knew that I had to get there before I jumped ship!  So, with my buddy in town for the New Year's holiday weekend, we decided to make a quick, 24-hour jaunt.

After snagging a delicious breakfast on-the-go at Champagne Bakery ("Le Metro" Breakfast Sandwich: Whole wheat soft roll, Egg, herbed cream cheese, tomato and avocado), Jean and I made the seamless 1.5 hour trek to Santa B.

Photo snapped by Jean Hsu"All I want to do," Jean had been saying for months, "is eat uni (sea urchin) fresh from its shell.  Like, literally off of a boat!"  She wasn't alone in that desire.  Unfortunately, I was having the damnedest time so much as locating a restaurant that had uni on its menu - forget about successfully finding an uni diving boat that we could hijack!  So, with that, Jean and I decided it would be best to just ask the locals once we arrived in town. 

The first item on the agenda upon our 10:45AM arrival was to drop our bags at the hotel.  While it was located on the ocean, the Hyatt Santa Barbara felt a bit more motel than hotel.  The air in our room was circulated via a window unit, which felt a bit too "rustic" for me.  To make matters worse, when we asked the front desk agent to direct us to the concierge, she told us that, during this particular season, there wasn't one on staff.  "Alrighty then," Jean said.  "Perhaps you can help: Are you able to tell us where we could find the freshest uni/sea urchin in town?"  The agent looked at Jean as if she had five heads before shaking her head "no."  Clearly, she had no clue what the hell Jean was talking about.  "Wait, but isn't 'uni' what Santa Barbara is famous for?" 

After we left our motor lodge hotel, I suggested that we stop by the Four Seasons and pick the brain of their concierge.  I mean, if anyone would be fully staffed, it'd be them!  While we were given a slew of winieries to visit in Santa Ynez and Los Olivos - which proved helpful later - we were once again disappointed by the employee's lack of "uni knowledge." 

Where can a pair of hungry gals find some freshly-procured sea urchin up in this motha'?  Apparently nowhere...

Four Seasons Hotel, Santa BarbaraPost our pit-stop at the Four Seasons, Jean and I took to the road and drove 45-minutes east towards the Santa Ynez wine country.  In an effort not to get obliterated, we chose to split tastings at each of the three wineries we visited: Sunstone, Rusack, and Demetria.  Of those, we preferred Sunstone's buttery chardonnays and rich, fruity zinfandel to the lack of varietal variety at the other vineyards.   

Memories from Sunstone WIneryFor lunch, we went to Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafe, which was featured in the wine-centric movie, Sideways!  Jean and I split three dishes - Alba Pizza (mushroom trio, ricotta, arugula, parmesan, truffle oil, and a gluten-free crust on request), the Butternut Squash & Burrata Salad, and a Crab Melt - which were all outstanding.  To boot, the service and atmosphere were also top-notch. 

Alba Pizza with a gluten-free crustButternut Squash & Burrata SaladCrab Melt & FriesUpon our return to Santa Barbara-proper, Jean and I formally checked in to the Hyatt and chilled for a bit before making our way back out for shopping and dinner on State Street.  This involved snapping photos of quirky chotchkies, eating ice cream for a pre-meal appetizer, and settling for a sushi restaurant in the hopes that they would have fresh uni on the menu.

Ummmm...really? A scoop of McConnell's Ice Cream for a pre-dinner appetizer!Finally, fresh uni!  Although the rolls and other dishes we ordered at Arigato were over-priced and mediocre at best, the sea urchin was beyond spot-on.

Uni <3.

After having learned that the Santa Barbara Fish Market - located steps from the water - opened at 9AM on Sunday's, Jean and I decided to wake up early and get there as soon as we could - after all, this would likely be our best chance of eating freshly-cracked uni out of its shell. 

And, sure enough, we were in luck!  Not only did the Fish Market offer just-caught uni still in its shell, the employees were kind enough to allow Jean and I behind the counter to watch the entire experience - from the breaking of the shell and cleaning of the flesh to savoring every morsel in our mouths - take place before our very eyes!


While Jean chose tuna poke to accompany her uni, I indulged in Dungeness crab from Monterey Bay (located north of Santa B).  It was incredibly fresh and delicious!

Monterey Bay Dungeness crabWith our mission accomplished and bellies full, Jean and I took a quick stroll along the water before heading back to State Street to shop and eat lunch prior to returning to LA.

Jean enjoying the scenic beautyMy other wish came true...I scored a solid Mexican lunch - and one of the best tacos I've had, to date - at The Mex Authentic


I am pleased to say that I can officially take "visiting Santa Barbara" off of my bucket list.  Jean and I had a fantastic time and I look forward to returning sometime in the future!


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Reviewed: I tried Sakara Life, the Victoria's Secret Angels' meal program of choice. And here's what I thought...

Almost a year ago, I went to the doctor for my annual physical and learned that I have both fibroids and stage-3 endometriosis.  I was told that the only way to get rid of these painful annoyances would be via surgery and medicine.  And, while I did end up having surgery back in August, I have since learned so much more about each issue - most notably how your diet can effect symptoms and future growth.  While I was hoping to hear that dairy, red meat, pork, fried stuff, refined carbohydrates, and processed treats would alleviate me of my suffering, I wasn't too surprised to read which foods actually did make the list: Organic everything, seasonal produce, little to no caffeine and alcohol, dairy alternatives (no soy), complex carbohydrates (in the form of beans, superfood grains, etc.), raw honey, tea...I could continue listing items, but it would just put you to sleep.  Plus, you probably already know them all, anyways. 

Basically, the healthiest way to exist is by eating organically, seasonally, and as close to vegan as possible.  But is that a sustainable lifestyle for someone, like me, who relishes in trying new restaurants of a multitude of cuisines, drinking margaritas, and becoming a "regular" at my favorite local watering holes?  No, not at all.  However, I think that if I aim to be 70% "on the vegan wagon with some pescatarian tweaks" and 30% "off the wagon (with martinis wine)," I should be ok-ish.  Baby steps...

I started seeing ads on Facebook and at Physique 57 for Sakara Life, a "100% Plant-Based + Gluten Free + Organic" food delivery program that recently began servicing Los Angeles.  Curious, I began scouring the web for more information/reviews; while the Sakara Life website is "pretty" to look at, it's not chock-full of as much information and "nitty gritty" as I would have liked.  I wondered if the food would taste like cardboard or if there'd even be enough of it.  I mean, with the program being touted by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and the Victoria's Secret Angels, those aren't very far-fetched concerns!  Plus, how much would each meal cost/day? 

Photo credit: Sakara Life // No, the chicks in the photo are not super models (though they could be); they're the founders of Sakara Life. Do y'all remember Dr. Atkins or Richard Simmons looking *this* good? Me neither. It didn't take me long to sign up for the "4-Day Sakara Holiday Special - Lunch + Dinner!"  While I love to cook, when it comes to new regimens, I prefer to "learn from the experts."  By that, I mean sampling my initial meals at the hands of a professional/restaurant prior to attempting a brand new cuisine/lifestyle on my own.

After ticking that I had no food allergies, I submitted my payment information.  While the price was hard to swallow (meals are about $29 each!), I justified the expense as research.  I vowed that I would learn as much as I could about each ingredient and how/why it was paired (with other components) to create the respective meal.  After four days, I told myself, I would have enough knowledge to be able to source and prepare my own meals at home. 

On Monday morning, I eagerly opened my front door to find my Sakara Life "cold bag" hanging on my door knob.  I unpacked the ready-to-eat lunches and dinners, Morning and Night Waters, and Detox Teas for two days' worth.  Plus a hand-written "welcome" note! 

Day 1

Morning Water 

Tranquil, slightly heavy, and floral, this alkaline water claimed to be full of "trace minerals and the purest essential oils on the planet."  It wasn't until I kept having to pee that I believed there was something other than perfume and tap water in this fancy clear beverage (#detox).   

Breakfast (I ate my own)

A.M. Detox Tea

Lunch: Sakara-Style Autumn Dumplings w/ Cranberry Dressing

Served atop a bed of spinach were two roasted vegetable dumplings that were enveloped by overly sticky and gelatinous rice paper.  Instead of dipping them in the cranberry dressing, I cut each dumpling in to bite sized pieces (this took quite a lot of effort and force because of the tough dumpling skin) and tossed them together with the spinach leaves and tart dressing.  Because I was starving, I forced myself to eat this meal in its entirety, knowing that each bite cost me about $3.  I was terrified that if this entree was on par with what I would be eating for the next few days, this week would prove to be excruciatingly arduous.

P.M. Detox Tea

Dinner: Buckwheat + Brussels Warming Winter Salad

After my extremely disappointing lunch, I was very trepidatious about dinner.  However, to my pleasant surprise, this "Warming Winter Salad" was much more flavorful and varied.  Cucumbers, fresh dill, beets, chickpeas, mixed greens, and buckwheat married beautifully.

Night Water

Oddly refreshing with a "soil" aftertaste, this chlorella-laced water quenched my post-dinner thirst (...and caused me to wake up approximately 5x that night to pee!  #detox).


Day 2

Morning Water

Breakfast (I ate my own)

A.M. Detox Tea

Lunch: Thai Burger w/ Rainbow Slaw + Root Fries

Please don't let this lunch suck as hard as yesterday's, I mumbled to myself as I assembled the components.  Instead of eating the "Thai Burger" with my hands, I crumbled the patty atop the greens, tossed in the "Rainbow Slaw," and cut the "Root Fries" in to bite-sized pieces, thus creating a bountiful makeshift salad.  To my surprise, yet again, this entree was quite delicious and incredibly filling.  And how about those colors? 

P.M. Detox Tea

Dinner: Forbidden Rice + Tatsoi Bowl

Forbidden rice (black rice), snap peas, green onion, whole cashews, and thinly-sliced roasted zucchini were served atop a bed of tatsoi and spinach.  Both textures and flavors were on-point here, leaving me satiated and satisfied. 

Night Water


Day 3

My next two days' worth of meals and teas were delivered in the "cold bag" and hung on my door knob, ready to be fetched and unpacked upon waking on Wednesday morning.

Morning Water

Breakfast (I ate my own)

A.M. Detox Tea

Lunch: Prosperity Pad Thai w/ Kelp Noodles

Eeeeek!  You know it's not a good sign when I cannot even recall what this meal looked or tasted like.  :/  I even had to snag the photo, below, from Sakara Life's Twitter feed because I didn't take one of my own.  Sorry guys.

Photo source: Sakara Life via TwitterP.M. Detox Tea

Dinner: Red Beet Borscht + Olive Foccacia

As a Russian Jew who loathes the food of her forefathers, I was petrified of this meal.  While I enjoy beets in salads, I absolutely detest borscht.  However, since each Sakara entree cost me well over $20, I wasn't not going to eat this in its entirety.  Even if it sucked.

Yet again, Sakara left me shell-shocked: The borscht was absolutely delicious!  Cold, creamy, slightly sweet and gloriously savory, the soup paired swimmingly with the accompanying gluten-free olive foccacia and dill cashew creme. 

Night Water


Day 4

So, today was Christmas Eve and I wasn't able to snap any photos of my meals.  I ate the lunch salad during my drive to San Diego (literally, with my fcuking hands - I cannot even imagine what my fellow passersby saw) and shared the dinner with my sister for a pre-lunch appetizer on Christmas Day.  Oh, and I didn't drink any of my waters or teas because of how choppy and sporadic my day was. 

Breakfast (I ate my own)

Lunch: Sakara Cobb Salad

Sans the traditional chicken, blue cheese, egg, and pork bacon (Sakara made "bacon" from strips of dried coconut), this was actually one of the more delightful Cobb salads I've ever had - and I didn't miss the dairy/meat components whatsoever!

Dinner: The Sakara Burrito Bowl

Like I mentioned above, I didn't actually eat this for dinner on Christmas Eve; my sister and I split it for a pre-lunch appetizer on Christmas Day.  Of all of the entrees that I enjoyed over the four days, this was, by far, my favorite: Sweet potato, avocado, Mexican-style brown rice, and other goodies came together over a bed of greens to create a "Burrito Bowl" full of texture, flavor, and variety.   A+


To conclude:

Would I recommend trying Sakara Life?  Hell yes.  If you have the funds and are currently residing in NYC, Miami, or LA, then I would highly recommend giving Sakara Life a shot - even if it's just for three days (which, by the way, they offer). 

Did I feel better after my four days on the program?  Yes, but in order to notice a remarkable shift, I need to follow this lifestyle for more than four days.  For me, it was a great introduction in to what lunches and dinners - at home or the office - should look like.  I enjoyed trying new items, such as dairy-free "cashew cheese" and "coconut bacon," two things I would have sworn I'd never eat years ago.  It has never been more clear or obvious to me that, in the words of Sakara's founders, "our bodies are woven from the foods we eat."  In my case, I believe that my health issues are a direct result of my poor diet.  And I am hell-bent on changing my destiny by what I put in my mouth; frankly, I'm just sick of being sick.

Was anything confusing or annoying about the program?  Beyond the price tag?  Yes.  I am a numbers person, so I would have appreciated knowing the nutritional information/values for each and every item that I ate and drank - something the company does not believe in disclosing.  Meh.

"A calorie is a unit used to measure energy, not nutrition. Calories are NOT created equal and are not a metric used for how fresh or healthy your food is. Rather than focusing on calories, we want to help you focus on how your clothes fit and how you feel! Isn’t that exciting? It’s an opportunity to listen to your body." - Sakara Life



Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

A calorie is a unit used to measure energy, not nutrition. Calories are NOT created equal and are not a metric used for how fresh or healthy your food is. Rather than focusing on calories, we want to help you focus on how your clothes fit and how you feel! Isn’t that exciting? It’s an opportunity to listen to your body. - See more at: http://www.sakaralife.com/pages/nutrition#sthash.q2AwBtXm.dpuf
A calorie is a unit used to measure energy, not nutrition. Calories are NOT created equal and are not a metric used for how fresh or healthy your food is. Rather than focusing on calories, we want to help you focus on how your clothes fit and how you feel! Isn’t that exciting? It’s an opportunity to listen to your body. - See more at: http://www.sakaralife.com/pages/nutrition#sthash.q2AwBtXm.dpuf
A calorie is a unit used to measure energy, not nutrition. Calories are NOT created equal and are not a metric used for how fresh or healthy your food is. Rather than focusing on calories, we want to help you focus on how your clothes fit and how you feel! Isn’t that exciting? It’s an opportunity to listen to your body. - See more at: http://www.sakaralife.com/pages/nutrition#sthash.q2AwBtXm.dpuf