Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a food website/blog that views the New York City + Los Angeles dining scenes through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated, critical, adorably quirky, and culinary-obsessed thirty-something year old.

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



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Entries in News you can actually use (80)


Friends, family, & 5 Napkin Burger introduce...

Sending a cyber shout-out to my friend and fellow food-blogger, Judith, whose site recently morphed from "Foodista NYC" to "Fooditka."  So, why the name change, you ask?  "Fooditka is a direct reflection of me.  With my Slovak name being Juditka, the word Fooditka is an extension of that and exemplifies my true passion in life.  Food!  The suffix 'itka' is an affectionate way to address someone (a woman, particularly) in Slovak," said Judith. 

On Tuesday evening, Juditka, the Fooditka invited 60+ of her closest friends, family members, media, and fellow foodies to join her in celebrating the launch of her beloved website's new name at 5 Napkin Burger in Astoria (Queens)...

Cheers to you, my pretty Fooditka!  Wishing you and your website much continued success and prosperity - I cannot wait to watch and see what your bright future holds!


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Sealed with a kiss: Nigel Barker, Kelly Rutherford stand up to end the Canadian seal hunt

While they may not be as glamorous as fur seals (their luxe-coated cousins up North), I could not help but fall head-over-heels in love with the adorably playful, awkwardly vocal sea lions that sang, danced, and swam with me during my travels to the Galapagos Islands in 2009.  So you can imagine how touched and thrilled I was to have been invited to Tuesday evening's Chefs for Seals NYC event, a fabulous soiree that celebrated the more than 250 New York chefs who have pledged to stand up for seals by boycotting Canadian seafood. 

With forces like Nigel Barker, Kelly Rutherford, Cat Cora, Mario Batali, Beth Ostrosky-Stern - plus thirty James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef supporters - the impact of this cause is growing: more than 130 of America's highest regarded restaurants have established seal-friendly seafood buying policies, which means that they have pledged not to purchase some, or all, Canadian seafood until the country's commercial seal slaughter ends.  Pair that with an additional 5,500 US restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels who are also pledging their support to help end the commercial seal hunt in Canada, and you've got one hell of a steadfast cause.  

So, are you ready to stand up for seals?  Here are three *free* ways to show your support:

Please enjoy some of my favorite captured moments from the Chefs for Seals NYC event, held on various levels of the lofty and fabulous Skylight West...

A seal mascot greets guests as they arrive to the eventGuests are whisked from the street via freight elevator, which is fully enclosed by caging. This is the view I had on my way up to the event.A lighting banner that shined on the venue's concrete floors.One of Nigel Barker's photographs adorning the walls at the event"Handprints of the stars" wall artCrudite, vegetable sushi, and soup shootersStep and repeat / Gossip Girl's Kelly RutherfordKelly Rutherford, name not given, Beth Ostrosky-SternMy favorite picture of the evening: the bartender's silhouette is captured as the sun sets over Midtown ManhattanNext, we took another elevator up to the sprawling rooftop...

A view from the top: note the Empire State Building!DJ booth

Famous local bartenders photo shootGetting poured by "Death & Co's" finest...~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


CLOSED: Press preview: Milk Street Cafe 

**Opening to the public on Thursday, June 23rd**

Originally hailing from Boston, Milk Street Cafe's second and newest concept is an "upscale Food Hall" located smack-dab in the heart of NYC's world-famous financial district: in the Trump Building, on Wall Street, of course!  You can imagine how thrilled I was to be included at their "private press preview," which was held this past Monday evening. 

Within the last handful of years, the restaurant scene in NYC's financial district has dramatically improved.  As a 2001 summer intern at the World Trade Center, I can remember how bleak my meal options were: pizza, hot dog, the food court in the mall beneath the towers, or Burger King.  That. Was. It.  Luckily, things have changed.  And rightfully so, because I've always wondered how so many downtown employees were able to eat relatively healthy - and semi-tasty - breakfasts and lunches.  Not to mention the folks who actually reside in this up-and-coming neighborhood!   

Going back to the topic: aside from my obvious curiosity about the Milk Street's concept, food, decor, etc., my fascination was especially piqued when I began to compile a mental list of potential Midtown "food halls" that I could compare to Milk Street.  Why Midtown?  Because that's where I work.  Both Dishes and The Plaza Food Hall came to mind; the latter, for the sheer fact that its name actually *contains* the words, "food hall."  But I decided to nix The Plaza Food Hall, as I've only eaten there once, and that was on a weekend.  So how would Milk Street stack up against Dishes?  Read on to find out...

Exterior signage - I like the touch of "adding flavor and jobs to Wall Street."Marble entry way with customized signageFor Milk Street's preview, a red carpet was rolled out from the front doors to the street which, at least I thought, made guests feel extra special.

Step & repeat: The Luscious Lifestyle Diva and me, yours trulyA look inside the 23,000 sq. ft. spaceVarious food stations, grab 'n go setupThe first thing I noticed about Milk Street, aside from its "Hollywood Regency" cum beaux-arts decor, was how large its interior space was!  23,000 square feet, to be exact.  And don't think that all of it is dedicated to food stations and beverage kiosks - there is seating for approximately 100!

Decor splendorYummy passed plates and hors d'oeuvresAfter sampling numerous hors d'oeuvres, gulping down two chocolate chip mocha frappes, and taking a guided tour throughout Milk Street's interior space, here is what really stuck out:

  • As I said above, the sheer size of the venue: 23,000 square feet!
  • Amount of food stations: barista, made-to-order breakfasts, made-from-scratch breads/desserts/pastries, pasta bar, Asian specialties, sushi bar, two create-your-own salad bars (one vegetarian, one non), homemade soups, a grill, rotisserie, carving station, AND grab 'n go stands
  • "Line Busters," which is a hand-held checkout system to speed up the payment process for those paying with plastic
  • Produce Soak sinks, which are sophisticated whirlpool systems used for cleaning produce
  • Website: so user friendly, in fact, that it will allow customers to sort foods/meals by their personal dietary needs (ie: if a customer is vegan, it will automatically eliminate all non-vegan items from the menu)
  • 80 permanent jobs will be brought back to Wall Street!

So, how does Milk Street stack up against Dishes, thus far? 

  • Food: I only sampled a couple of Milk Street's offerings, but from what I did have, Dishes still reigns supreme
  • Space:  Milk Street is much bigger and offers more seating than Dishes, plus its aesthetic isn't as sterile
  • Options: Milk Street offers more grab n' go options, whereas Dishes only offers a few - good for those on-the-go
  • Service: Dishes is not known for having the friendliest of service.  The staff at Milk Street, on the other hand, was knowledgeable and kind
  • Hours: Milk Street stays open until 9pm (M-Th) and until 3pm on Friday's - Dishes closes at 5pm (M-F)

Bottom line: Wall Street doesn't know what it's in for!  I think that Milk Street's success will be monumental and I cannot believe that it's taken any company this long to bring the "food hall" concept downtown.


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Contest alert: no sass with this gas!


The 6th number of the random sequence was: 11.  The  two winners of a $25 Shell (gasoline) gift card are:

  • Dionne: correctly chose "11"
  • Cheryl: chose "14," which was the second closest guess


Random Sequence Generator

Here is your sequence:


Timestamp: 2011-06-03 18:25:34 UTC

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TGIF!  In honor of today being Friday - and for the fact that this is the first real month of summer - I thought that it would be fun and fitting to host a little giveaway. 

Now, within reason, what do you consider to be road-trip "essentials" for your 2+ hour drive to the Hamptons (or wherever it is you drive to escape the heat)?  Great music?  Check.  A fully-charged phone + hands-free device?  Check.  Water and snacks?  Check.  How about a $25 Shell (gasoline) gift card?  Check!  Check!  I knew that would get your attention...

In honor of Stop & Shop, East Coast supermarket, and Shell's, the #1-selling gasoline brand in the US, recent expansion of the Gas Rewards program across Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and New York - I'm giving away TWO $25 Shell gas cards good at any Shell station nationwide!

Here's how the contest works: I went to random.org and created a "random sequence generator," using numbers 1-20 (which I will later post to prove that the two winners are legit).  I'm going to choose the two folks who can correctly guess the 6th number of the random sequence (or closest to by "time").  Please leave your answers in the "comments" field of this post.

Good luck!  *Contest ends on Monday, June 6th at 10am EST. 


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Momofuku "Crack" Bar's Strawberry-lemon cake truffles

Holy crack.  They've turned me in to a fiend.

I could not not tell y'all about the best thing that I've put in my mouth since my meal at Melt Shop.  On Monday night, I found myself around the perimeter of Madison Square Park, killing time between appointments.  Beyond the tree tops, I observed a blanket of white tents and recalled that, until June 4th, Madison Square Eats was in full-effect.  "Yessssssssssssssssssss," I mumbled, channeling my inner Kip.  

Sure, there were and still are plenty of kiosks that I have yet to try, but it was Momofuku Milk Bar - a Lunch Belle favorite - that beckoned.  The first thing I noticed?  The bakery was selling their famous cookies in single packs instead of in denominations of six or more.  Tempting.  But it was their "cake truffles" that caught my eye, as I'm a die-hard, Southern-style petit four type of girl.  "I've had your 'birthday cake' flavor before," I explained to the helpful Milk Bar employee.  "Do you think I should do that again, or try the strawberry-lemon?"  She suggested that I go with the latter, justifying that it wasn't as cloyingly sweet as its cousin.  Not that "cloyingly" is a bad thing.  At least not in my eye.  

On my walk home, I decided to rip in to the dainty plastic bag stuffed with a trio of plump truffles.  I anxiously reached in, grabbed one, and took a bite.  "Oh!"  I shrieked, "my god!"  I stopped in my tracks and stood, literally frozen, in the middle of the sidewalk - completely overcome by an edible orgasm.  Do I eat all three of these truffles right here, right now?
Do I run back to the Milk Bar kiosk and buy every single package of the strawberry-lemon cake truffles that they have?  What the hell do they put in these things, crack?  I was conflicted.  I mean, god forbid I would want more than three truffles in one sitting.  I can't believe I'm admitting this "out loud." 

If you read my interview with Bobbie Lloyd, President of Magnolia Bakery, then you probably recall the peculiar way in which I eat a cupcake.  Well, Milk Bar's cake truffles have the identical consistency/texture of what becomes of my cupcake - something I now call my "stircake."  It's much more moist and has a better ratio of icing/crunch to cake.  The strawberry-lemon cake truffles are indeed sweet, but they're packed with a tangy punch from the lemon, which counteracts what the employee described as "cloyingly."  If you enjoy lemon-flavored products or lemonade - in fact, if you like strawberry-lemonade - then you will love these voluptuous treats.   

So if you're still unfamiliar with a cake truffle/ball, here's a brief description: imagine a super moist wad of cake - flavor of your choice, of course - packed neatly in to a perfectly-shaped ball (roughly the size of a golfball) and either rolled in to some sort of topping or dipped in to icing.  Here's a good visual - though this is NOT a cake truffle from Momofuku Milk Bar.  It gives you the idea, though - plus, I know that "red velvet cake" is all the rage:

Found on: Big Mama's Home KitchenWhether you visit them, before June 4th, at Madison Square Eats or at either of Momofuku Milk Bar's two "brick and mortar" locations, here's a word of advice: Get. These. Truffles. Now.  


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


The summer is slowly upon us: are you gellin'?

To gel or not to gel? That is the question.

Despite the grim forecast (the weather is supposed to be cold and wet all week here in NYC), summer really is upon us.  It may not feel like the middle of May but, come June, we'll all be complaining about the heat and humidity.  True story!  Regardless of which coast you reside on or vacation, this upcoming season will, without a doubt, be filled with an abundance of sun, sand, and sea (water)...three of mother nature's ingredients that, especially when combined, can wreak havoc on a mani/pedi.

That was before Shellac / Axxium, the beauty industry's answer to a polish that can last the test of time. 

I was hesitant at first.  Hell, I almost laughed in the face of at least three aestheticians who each quoted me "$70 for a 'Shellac pedicure.'"  After all, this would be quite a big investment for a gal who has always done her own.  But as I began to recall how much of a beating my nails always took when they came in to contact with sunscreen and salt water, I decided that, just maybe, I wasn't above a Shellac-ing.

So what I did next was nothing short of wallet-savvy genius: I headed out of Manhattan and in to Brooklyn - right over the Williamsburg Bridge, in fact - and got my Shellac pedicure done at a fraction of what it would have cost in "the city."  Primp & Polish is the name, $40 is the game: that's right, folks, $25 for the pedicure and $15 for the Shellac-ing.  And the part of this story that's almost as sweet as saving $30 by getting my pedicure done in Brooklyn?  The fact that, with gel manicures/pedicures, there is virtually no polish "drying-time."  I walked out of the salon with socks and sneakers just minutes after my toes were painted.  What could possibly be more fitting for a hurried, impatient New Yorker?  Um, nothing.

Drumroll please.

The test: as you know, I spent a week in Belize, 1-day post Shellac pedicure.  With all of the sand, salt water, and SPF that I came in to contact with, not once did my polish chip or dull.  In fact, it was not until this past week - almost 1-month after the fact - that the gel began to slowly pop off.  So, would I recommend investing in gel Shellac / Axxium mani/pedis this summer?  Absolutely!  Heck, if you play your cards right, you'd only have to visit a salon three times over the the course of the season (considering that each pedicure lasts for virtually 3-4 weeks).  Win win.

The inspiration behind sunburned foot-fetishes everywhere. ~~~

The Lunch Belle       

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