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  • 6/20-6/23: Milwaukee
  • 6/28-7/7: Turkey & Greece
  • 7/17: Lionel Richie concert
  • 7/20: Rockaway Soiree
  • 8/10-8/19: LA & San Diego
  • 8/31-9/2: Nantucket

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Entries in News you can actually use (101)


I quit my job...and I'm going to culinary school!

Dear readers,

Happy holidays!  Can you believe it's already "that time of year" again? 

About a month prior to my move to LA, I decided to "start fresh" and create a brand new, California-centric blog called Beverly Hills Bites (as opposed to writing about my new West Coast adventures on my East Coast-born/raised website, The Lunch Belle).  In hindsight, this wasn't the best idea (leaving The Lunch Belle in limbo), as I had spent 7+ years building the site from scratch.  Literally!  Not to mention the email addresses, business cards, contacts, etc. associated with the name.  It wasn't until a friend of mine asked why I would "just throw all of that hard work away and start something new" that I decided to revert back to solely writing on The Lunch Belle.  Plus, with the exception of a handful of LA event/restaurant pitches, I continued to be contacted by NYC public relations agencies and restaurateurs on a daily basis. 

For the past 1.5 years (time that I've been in LA), I have struggled with content - especially Los Angeles-related content.  Blame it on my homesickness for NYC, or being underwhelmed/unstimulated/uninspired in LA - or a mix of both.  Honestly, it wasn't until very recently that I began working with and showcasing NYC contributors to fill the void and keep my site and content somewhat fresh.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I have to be in a very specific mood/mindset to write - even something as simple as a recipe!  And, while I consider myself to be a generally happy person, I have felt completely lost.  So, you can understand why my writing has slowly dwindled; hell, I'm lucky if I can publish even one post/week (that would be a very good week, by the way)! 

In terms of being surrounded by great friends and family, I am blessed with an amazing - and quite large - group of people in my life.  I have a roof over my head and all of the "things" that anyone could ever want/need.  I am fully aware of how lucky I am!  The big issue that I've been struggling with is my career.  While the financial services industry has been very good to me, there just really isn't much any room for growth in my role (Executive Assistant) in terms of moving to a different/higher position within the bank/institution.  I have felt completely trapped and pigeon-holed for such a long time (for the better half of 10-years, to be exact), and I kind of feel like I've overstayed my welcome.  I have slowly become that angry, bitter employee with a fuse about as tiny as a fruit fly. 

Things came to a head last month with an amalgamation of crap.  After having a conversation with my family who, quite literally, talked me off of a ledge, my sister chimed in with, "Dude, why don't you go to culinary school?"  She was right.  Learning how to cook in a professional kitchen was the missing link in my culinary education.  After all, I graduated from college with a BS in Restaurant/Hotel/Institutional Management and spent a year in the NYU Food Studies Program (until I dropped out to move to LA), so I had the "classroom portion" down. 

And so...Beginning on February 10th, I will be a full-time culinary student in the heart of my beloved Manhattan (I am so excited that I can hardly breathe)!  While I don't have an immediate response to "What do you want to do when you graduate?", I do know that this is the best decision I've made in a very long time.  The unknown is both scary and exciting but, this time, it just feels right. 

In the last few weeks, I have enthusiastically shared my news with friends and family - gave notice to my apartment's leasing company - quit my job - secured a sublet from one of my best friends - lined up a few internships - and booked a one way ticket to New York City for me and my pup.  Oh, and that thing I said about having to be in a specific mindset to write?  I have a feeling that you'll be seeing (read: reading) much more of me! 

In closing, I'd like to wish you and yours an incredibly healthy and happy holiday season and New Year!  I, for one, cannot wait to see all that 2016 has in store!


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


I was invited to pre-screen "Noma: My Perfect Storm." Check out the trailer - and my review - here!

The perks of being a food blogger go beyond just stuffing delicious morsels in my mouth: Recently, I was contacted by the Director of Publicity at Magnolia Pictures to pre-screen the highly-anticipated, feature-length documentary film, Noma: My Perfect Storm (debuting to the public on Friday, December 18th). 

"Noma" not sound familiar?  Geez, do you live under a rock?  Just kidding.  Here, this may help:

"Noma is a two Michelin star restaurant run by chef René Redzepi in Copenhagen, Denmark.  The name is a portmanteau of the two Danish words "nordisk" (Nordic) and "mad" (food).  Opened in 2003, the restaurant is known for its reinvention and interpretation of the Nordic Cuisine.  In 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014, it has been ranked as the "Best Restaurant in the World" by Restaurant magazine.(Excerpt from Wikipedia)

Click on picture, below, to watch the trailer!

Click on the image above to view the trailer!Film director, Pierre Deschamps, spent more than three years at Noma following chef/co-owner Rene Redzepi on a creative culinary journey that traversed the Danish landscape in his quest for inspiration and the pursuit of perfection in concocting bold, exciting dishes for travelers from around the world.  Noma: My Perfect Storm is set against the backdrop of Chef Redzepi's Copenhagen-based restaurant, which is famous for its reinvention of Danish cuisine.  Chef notably pioneered the approach to “foraging" (sourcing nearly all ingredients from the various environments of Scandinavia), and Noma is at the forefront of experimenting with new techniques in food.

As someone who both enthusiastically and trepidatiously decided to quit her job in finance and apply to culinary school, this film really solidified my life-altering decision.  I'm not, by any stretch, calling myself a prodigy like Chef Redzepi, but the way that he thinks and speaks about food and pairs specific ingredients together is something that makes clear and concise sense.  Perhaps all of us who are kitchen-bent have some sort of creative mental alignment, if you will, when it comes to the art of cooking and culinary?  

Another aspect of the film that I appreciated was outside of Noma's kitchen, when Chef's parents were interviewed and his background/childhood was brought to light.  Hailing from Macedonia, Chef Redzepi was born to working-class parents who fled to Denmark at the start of the Yugoslav wars.  His father, a practicing Muslim, experienced racism in blonde hair/blue eye-dominant Scandinavia.  Now before you question why I'm bringing these points to light and/or glorifying the struggle, let me just say that it just made me appreciate Chef's incredibly hard work and accolades that much more.  After all, it's so easy to put someone of his clout on a pedestal of perfection when, at the end of the day, we are all human.  And what's more beautiful than celebrating the success of someone who's earned every ounce of it, despite silver spoons, roadblocks, and set-backs?

I hope - and expect - that you will enjoy this documentary and appreciate the insane amount of detail, creativity, blood/sweat/tears, stress, and passion that go in to each and every day at Noma, the "Best Restaurant in the World." 

**Make sure to mark December 18th in your calendar, when Noma: My Perfect Storm opens in theaters, on Demand, Amazon Video, and on iTunes!**


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Product review: Sofia Vergara's favorite "Coffee Bar"

When I purchased my last coffee maker during a 'Friends and Family' sale at Bloomingdales (like 5+ years ago), it was pretty top-of-the-line.  I'm not talking about a fancy Nespresso machine, just a solid coffee maker with all the bells and whistles: Bean grinder, clock, and that awesome "program" button you can pre-set to have your coffee brewing the minute you wake up.  It's been a great device and one that even moved across the country with me 1.5 years ago!

A few weeks ago, I decided to clean my coffee maker for the first time ever in ages.  Having never changed the machine's water filter (ever), I removed the cartridge and almost threw up.  Overgrown with silt and muck, I was beyond disgusted and horrified.  As one of those people who always assumed that Brita filters were a conspiracy and serious waste of money - not to mention rolling my eyes at friends who actually had one in their fridge - I quickly realized: Maybe I was the asshole!  Perhaps water filter contraptions weren't a bunch of BS, after all, judging by how much crap mine had collected over the years.  Forgoing an attempt to clean my diseased machine (WTF had I been drinking all this time!?!?!), I decided to go out and purchase something brand new.

I'd be a liar if I said that the brilliant advertising/marketing behind those Ninja Coffee Bar commercials with Sofia Vergara didn't work...Because you're looking at the newest owner of one! 

Always one to shudder away from instruction manuals and intimidating drawings, I was pleased to find a very user-friendly "quick start guide" upon ripping in to the box containing my Ninja.  Aside from the machine, carafe, and filter compartment, the Ninja also came with a travel mug, measuring device, and a milk frother (sold separately).

Depending on the size of your cup or carafe, Ninja's AUTO-IQ Technology draws just the right amount of water needed from the reservoir.  In terms of flavor and strength, you are able to select the graduated level of coffee-to-water concentration.  Options range from lesser to higher intensity: "Classic Brew,"Rich Brew," "Over Ice Brew," or "Specialty Brew."  So far, I'm hooked on the "Rich Brew," but am super curious to try the "Over Ice Brew."  I cannot tell you how thrilling it is to be able to make both hot and cold coffee from the same machine.  At home! 

Forgoing the carafe, I've been making single-cups in the morning before work.  There's this awesome "cup holder" feature that lowers and sits just above the carafe plate warmer.  Once the coffee has finished brewing, there's a "drip stop" switch that you can hit to put the kibosh on those annoying coffee droplets that burn your hand and dirty the warmer.  Brilliant! 

My only complaint is that the Ninja does not have an in-machine bean grinder (...but the company sells those separately.  Go figure!).  Otherwise, I'm one happy customer!

The Ninja Coffee Bar retails for around $150 and has been worth every penny.  Go out and treat yourself!  I promise that you'll adore this machine and love the excellent coffee it produces even more!


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 


Are you a documentary buff like me? If so...

It was a cold, drizzly evening in Williamsburg as I ducked down a flight of brick steps just outside the Wythe Hotel's screening room and bar entrance.  As I entered the space, it hit me: What I was about to experience would be something incredibly special, unique, and (literally) underground.  After all, it was the SundanceNow Doc Club's inaugural screening of Jonathan Nossiter's Natural Resistance.

The SundanceNow Doc Club is a service dedicated solely to streaming documentaries completely ad-free!  They provide tailored collections selected by tastemakers and experts (from the likes of Susan Sarandon, Anthony Bourdain, and Bill Hader, to name a few) for under $10/month ($6.99/month or $4.99/month for an annual subscription).  Natural Resistance is a part of the Club's "Wine and Spirits" Collection (a series that I can get totally down with).

Prior to entering the screening room, I sauntered over to the bar to check out the selection of natural wines being poured for the evening.  The tastings married beautifully to the synopsis of the documentary, as the vineyards and their owners were also featured in the film!  Below are the varietals that I was able to taste, each distinct in flavor and composition:

  • La Distesa Verdicchio 2013
  • La Stoppa Malvasia/Ortugo 2009
  • Stefano Bellotti Dolcetto/Barbera 2013
  • Pacini Sangiovese 2010

While all of the tastings for the evening hailed from Italy, natural wines can now be found all over the world - Austria, France, and even in America.  What is a natural wine, you ask?  Grapes (for natural wines) are farmed organically and made with minimal chemical or technological interference.  Nothing is added and nothing is removed during this process, so you are tasting the PURE byproduct of the fruit and its dominant terroir. 

Natural wine has a noticeable difference in its flavor profile; it's a lot more vinegar-y and, in some cases, cider-like.  The coloring is derived from the innate hue of the grape skins (which can change with each harvest due to weather and farming) and is not modified to conform to a consumer's expectations of how a white or red should appear.  Hence, you might even receive a glass of orange-tinted wine (such as the glass of "La Stoppa," pictured below, that I tried)!

The film was an absolutely lovely portrayal of natural winemakers, their passion for the product, and their stance against conforming to the contrived industry standards enforced by the EU and the DOC.  The most eye-opening scene was when winemaker, Stefano Bellotti, dug up the lush, earthy, living soil of his organic vineyard and compared it to that of his neighbor's (soil) just a few feet away, which was hardened, dead, and grey from the over-usage of pesticides and chemicals.  It really makes you wonder...Am I what I eat and drink?  And, if so, do I want to be hard, dead, and grey!?  Let's just say that I'm sold on natural wine!

I absolutely loved my experience with the SundanceNow Doc Club!  Make sure you check out Natural Resistance and many other amazing expertly-curated documentaries using their service!  Whether you are an avid film buff or just a "movies and chill" type of person - I am certain you will not be disappointed.

Pre-movie selfie!...

Until we eat again,

Jean Hsu for The Lunch Belle