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.

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Entries in Parties you weren't invited to (20)


(NYC) A 'Journey to the Stars' with Michelin

*This event and article were attended/captured/photographed by Jean Hsu and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Ms. Hsu.**

The Michelin Guide Gala for 2016 - a culinary celebration in which the 2016 Michelin starred-restaurants are announced - was recently held at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan.  And I got to go!

Prior to the uber-famous Michelin Man making his grand appearance in a roaring yellow Corvette, guests were encouraged to mingle whilst enjoying light canapes and seasonally-inspired cocktails from several of the Guide's Starred restaurants. 

Of those that I sampled, the "Valborg" cocktail from Aquavit Restaurant (Famous Grouse Blended Scotch, grapefruit, and lemongrass-infused aquavit) was my favorite.  Snow Leopard Vodka, Cutty Sark Whisky, a plethora of wines from Napa Valley, plus G.H. Mumm Champagne flowed generously throughout the eve.  Additionally, we were treated to a tasting of Macallan's newest rare cask whiskey - served on the rocks (just how I like it).  And how about those ice cubes (below)?

I must admit - I was a little surprised by how small of a focus there was on food, considering all that I had read - and seen - about this event from prior years.  Mini crab and lobster sandwiches, watermelon bites filled with feta, polenta morsels, and crackers topped with smoked salmon/roe were periodically passed by waiters.  Additionally, there was a long table in the back of the space that featured a grandiose spread of artisanal breads and macaroons from Bridor de France.

After the squishy and adorable Michelin Man made his entrance, Michael Ellis - Managing Director of Michelin Guide - took to the stage and began to announce the Star recipients!  Below are  all of the *new* Stars that were awarded to New York City restaurants.  For the full recipient list, click here:

In regards to the cultural diversity and vegetarian-focus in this year's selection, I was really impressed!!  Congratulations to all of the brand new, additional Stars-gained, and annually-recurring recipients!


Until we eat again,

Jean Hsu for The Lunch Belle


(NYC) I got crabs...and I loved it!

*This post was written by Eric V. and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Eric V.*

In honor of Singapore Restaurant Week in the Big Apple, yours truly was invited to attend the Singapore Crab Throwdown at The Daily Meal Kitchen & Bar!

Hosted by The Daily Meal and the Singapore Tourism Board, this exclusive cooking class was led by influential Singaporean chefs, Justin Quek and Wayne Liew, who flew in especially for the celebration!

Check out the drool-worthy menu lineup, below:

After a quick introduction of the program - plus an overview of Singaporean cuisine (and its pan-Asian Chinese-Malay-Indian fusion) - by the staff at The Daily Meal, the first live demonstration commenced. 

Singapore Chili Crab

Chef Wayne Liew, of Keng Eng Kee Seafood (plus his brother and sister who also work at the family-run restaurant,) explained that Chili Crab is a traditional Singaporean dish and a favorite in the city-state.  Although the team wasn't using Sri Lankan mud crabs in this particular preparation, which are preferred and used at Keng Eng Kee, local crabs made for a sufficient substitution, especially when dressed with a mélange of flavorful ingredients, including: Sambal, chili, sweet and sour sauce, and a pinch of sugar.


Chef Wayne Liew's Singapore Chili CrabSalted Egg Yolk Crab

Chef Liew and the Keng Eng Kee team also prepared a twist on the traditional Singaporean entree, Salted Egg Yolk Crab.  This salty egg yolk "powder" is a Chinese ingredient that's actually used on many dishes in Singapore, including onion rings, French fries, and calamari!  Some have even gone as far as to call it the nouveau truffle...

Mmmmm, salted egg yolk!Salted Egg Yolk Crab Chef Wayne Liew + the team from Keng Eng Kee Seafood and me!.

Justin Quek, one of the best-known Singaporean chefs in the world, was next to demonstrate his cooking for the group. 

When I used to live in Singapore a few years ago, I visited his fabulous restaurant, Sky on 57, and had a lovely Franco-Asian meal.  I was so excited to get to meet Chef in person!  And it was totally surreal to re-experience his cuisine in NYC!

Chef Justin Quek and me!Crab Vermicelli in Light Ginger Broth

As an Asian chef who trained in France, many of Justin's unique culinary creations could best be described as "Asian food with French thinking or (vice versa) French food with Asian thinking."  In keeping with the shellfish theme, Chef prepared crab vermicelli in a light ginger broth.  Inspired by Singaporean hawker-stall food, he explained that this particular dish could be enjoyed at any time of the day - served as a representation of Singaporean comfort food or made more upscale by pairing it with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Chef Justin Quek's Crab Vermicelli in Light Ginger BrothWok Fried Black Pepper Crab and Maine Lobster

Chef Justin Quek's Wok Fried Black Pepper Crab & Maine Lobster


Until we eat again,

Eric V. for The Lunch Belle


(NYC) Reviewed: A fall media supper at 'Thelma on Clinton'

*This post was written by The Style Gourmande and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle*

Restaurant: Thelma on Clinton

  • Cuisine: New American
  • Location: 29A Clinton Street - NYC 10002  
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Chicken liver mousse, Braised Short Ribs & Bone Marrow, house-made chocolate truffles
  • Perfect for: Neighborhood gems, solo dining, tasting menu, cocktails/craft beer


As soon as I entered Thelma on Clinton (let’s proceed by calling it “Thelma,” for short), I already felt at home.  The interior décor is casually sophisticated, with hardwood flooring throughout, a communal chef's table and banquette seating, white-washed exposed brick walls that are lined with wine (bottle) storage, and overhead lighting that won’t put you to sleep.  Honestly, if I were living in the vicinity, I would make a daily pilgrimage.  Thelma is one of those special boutique restaurants where you can enjoy a solo dinner – likely surrounded by your neighbors - at the fabulous bar that centers the dining room. 

Photo by The Style Gourmande

Photo found on Zagat dot comUpon my arrival, I was warmly greeted by Chef Melissa O’Donnell (I’m mildly obsessed with her, by the way), who offered me a beverage of my choice.  When I explained that I don’t drink alcohol, she suggested one of her signature mocktails: Strawberry Basil (a.k.a. the Stanton Street Spritzer) or Blueberry Ginger (a.k.a. the Clinton Street Cooler), each concocted with Chef’s handmade fruit jams.  “Actually,” Chef playfully prompted, “why not try both?”  Sweet (but certainly not cloying) with a righteous tang at the end, both mocktails were refreshing and delicious. 

Strawberry Basil mocktail: Photo by The Style GourmandePost my mocktail sampling, I had a couple of minutes to chat 1x1 with Chef.  I was super curious about the story behind the restaurant's name and what her inspired her culinarily/in the kitchen.  "Thelma is the name of my grandmother," she said.  "New York City inspires me in the kitchen, and the restaurant draws from the cultural diversity of the Lower East Side without straying from a classic approach to cuisine."  And just like the city in which we live, her offerings are simple (but exceptionally well-executed) and straightforward. 

Of everything our intimate group of eight savored, my three favorite dishes of the evening were as follows:

Chicken Liver Mousse

Chicken Liver Mousse: Photo by The Style GourmandeButtery, rich, and gamey, the chicken liver mousse was the perfect compliment to the salty, crunchy crostini.  This appetizer was so delicious, in fact, that I wanted to grab the whole damn platter and hide in a corner somewhere!

Caramelized Onion Risotto

Caramelized Onion Risotto: Photo by The Style GourmandeI love anything risotto.  Thelma's version was super creamy and cheesy, and the caramelized onions added a fabulous jolt of color, flavor, and texture.  What more could I have asked for? 

Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow

Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow: Photo by The Style GourmandeDuring our 1x1 chat, Chef mentioned that she changes her menu on a seasonal basis.  So when she recently removed the Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow entree from the summer menu, the restaurant patrons revolted!  Literally.  There were so many complaints, in fact, that she had no choice but to re-add this wildly popular dish!  And after relishing in my first bite, I understood why the clientele went bananas!  The beef was so tender that it virtually melted in my mouth.  The rich broth that served as a pseudo moat around the meat was so outstanding - even on its own - that I almost asked for bread to sop up all of it's savory glory.  Wow!

Perhaps the best surprise of the evening was post the entree course, when Chef treated us to a bowl of her transcendent, homemade chocolate truffles.  And Champagne!  Talk about ending the night on a sweet note...

House-made chocolate truffles: Photo by The Style Gourmande...

Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle


(NYC) Celebrating the holidays - in July - with Champagne Taittinger

*This event and article were attended/captured by Vanessa Shoman-Duell and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.*


Last Thursday, I attended Champagne Taittinger's exclusive The Art of Celebrating The Holidays event in downtown Manhattan.

Photo courtesy of TaittingerThe world-renowned Grand Marque French Champagne house hosted their very first "winter holiday" party of the year - ahem, in July - at the private townhouse of Pamela Bell (founder of Prinkshop and co-founder of Kate Spade).  To properly "tis the season," I made my way to the soiree in my most festive holiday attire: A sassy lil' red Christian Dior number and my favorite strappy Jimmy Choo's.

Over the course of a two hour "open (town)house," approximately 75 of us very lucky folks had the pleasure of experiencing new interpretations of holiday menus and decor concepts, mouth-watering cuisine courtesy of Chef Sarah Simmons from Birds & Bubbles, plus a selection of four Taittinger Champagnes:

Photo courtesy of TaittingerPhoto courtesy of Taittinger: Chef Sarah SimmonsTaittinger's selections were perfectly paired with the evening's three holiday themes: The Champagne Cocktail Party - The Holiday Dinner - New Year's Eve Moroccan Party.  As mentioned above, Chef Sarah Simons (of Birds & Bubbles) created an outstanding array of small bites for this incredibly special evening.

The Champagne Cocktail Party

My first tantalizing bite of the eve was a house-made black pepper cracker topped with creamy shrimp rillettes.  Paired with the Taittinger Prestige Rose NV

Photo courtesy of Taittinger: Shrimp RillettesThe second hors d' oeuvre was a NY cheddar puff pastry with castelvetrano olives + smoked almonds.  Paired with Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV

The third bite was a crispy potato latke that was topped with house-cured trout, horseradish, dill, and creme fraiche.  Paired with Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV

And as if the passed hors d'oeuvres weren't enough...we were presented with a bounty of plump oysters on ice.  Tres magnifique!

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

After the Champagne Party, we were escorted to a communal table where we were seated for The Holiday Dinner.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

To wrap up the festivities, we toasted in style at a New Year's Eve Moroccan Party.

Inspired by a classic riad, designer Sam Masters invented a Moroccan-themed lounge beneath a white muslin-draped tent.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

To end the evening on a sweet note, desserts were presented both passed and served at stations.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger: French macaronsPhoto courtesy of Taittinger: Champagne truffles

Oh what a night!  This was one of the most exclusive, whimsical, delicious, romantic, and fabulous events that I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing in recent memory.  I cannot wait to recreate all that I observed, learned, tasted, and sipped courtesy of Taittinger.  But one question remains: Do I have to wait until the holidays?


Until we eat again,

Vanessa Shoman-Duell for The Lunch Belle


(NYC) Reviewed: Industry Kitchen

*This event and article were attended/captured/photographed by Edgar Alonso Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle*


Restaurant: Industry Kitchen

  • Cuisine: Modern American
  • Location: 70 South Street, New York, NY 10038
  • Pricing: All menu items under $30
  • What's delicious: Cocktails
  • Perfect for: After-hours drinks, corporate events, scenic dining/waterfront views


The entertainment-packed grand opening of Industry Kitchen, South Street Seaport’s newest waterfront restaurant + bar, proved a feast for the eyes.  Albeit a mixed bag for the palate...

Photo courtesy of Industry Kitchen: In terms of seating, the venue’s options were great - al-fresco vs. a generous interior area adjacent to the lively bar/open kitchen.

Veering away from the restaurant's daily menu, this special evening called for a festive assortment of passed hors d'oeuvres.  From sweet and savory - spicy and smoky - tangy and tart, every realm of the senses was provoked.  

An early stand out was the Spanish Artichoke Dip, which was gifted with just the right amount of texture, seasoning, and tang to compliment the delicious artisanal flatbread.

Photo captured by EAC: Spanish Artichoke DipAnother favorite of mine and Alyson's (my guest) was the marinated rock shrimp with creamy polenta.

Photo captured by EAC: Marinated rock shrimp + polentaThe brilliant marriage of savory and sweet was found in the stone fruit topped with salty ham ribbons and burrata.  However, it was the roasted tomatoes crowned with herbed goat cheese that stole our hearts.

Photo captured by EAC: Roasted tomato halves + goat cheeseHaving fantasized about the restaurant's house-made pie since I had initially read the menu, the evening was without pizza due to an issue with the wood-burning oven.  We were so bummed!

Just as we were noshing on our third second helpings of hors d’oeuvres, the entertainment began!  With the sun setting on the horizon, an incredibly-talented fire performer utilized South Street Seaport - the restaurant's virtual "back yard" – as her personal stage.  Did I mention that there was also a juggler on stilts and a live DJ?

Photo captured by EAC: Live fire performance!The staff at Industry Kitchen was just as amazing as the delicious nibbles!  After initially being served by multiple waiters and passed trays, we became friendly with Matt and Pat, a dynamic duo who ended up serving us exclusively for the remainder of the eve.  Informative, accommodating, and personable, the mission of these stand-out employees was to make sure that we sampled the bar's full range (yes, I said full range) of cocktails!

Cocktail report card: Finding a drink that I enjoyed was on par with Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Some were too weak and lacking, others were convoluted and missed the mark, yet a few were just right...


Grey Goose Vodka, Pomegranate, Lemon, Clover Honey Cordial

Report card grade: (B) A great, lighter summer option that I can picture myself enjoying while jamming to the hit single by Tommy James & The Shondells...


Avua Cachaca, El Bujo Mezcal, Aveze, Fresh Lemon Juice

Report card grade: (D) The only reason this cocktail didn’t get an F is because of the effort that was put in to it.  The earthiness of the mescal is completely convoluted by an ever-present Avèze.  Unfortunately, the minor tones of the lime juice and Cachaça aren’t enough to save the drink. Tip: The mixologist should get rid of the Avèze.  In this writer’s eyes, a good mescal need not be mixed -- and shouldn’t be!


Mitcher’s Bourbon Whiskey, St. Germaine Elderflower, Lemon, “Blackberry Stew”

Report card grade: (B+) Aside from missing the obvious alliteration of calling it the “Blast” or “Bash” (because of the smashed fruit), this is the ultimate summer drink!  Refreshing, cool, and lip-smacking good!  


Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum, Bitter Truth Allspice Pimento Dram, Fresh Lemon & Lime Juice, Soda

Report card grade: (A) This drink breaks the internet bell curve and goes straight to the head of the class! It was my favorite for the complexity, subtle shifts in flavor, and diverse ingredients that don’t overwhelm.


Report card grade: (C-) My partner in crime, Alyson, said that sangrias were a miss.  I only sampled the white variety which, while very fruit forward, failed to deliver the necessary “punch” from the wine.  I’m going to chalk this up to a humid evening and a little too much extra melted ice.



Until we eat again,

Edgar Alonso Castillo for The Lunch Belle


(NYC) Reviewed: Spaghetti Incident

*This event and article were attended/captured/photographed by Vanessa Shoman-Duell and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle*


Restaurant: Spaghetti Incident

  • Cuisine: Italian, pasta
  • Location: 231 Eldridge Street - New York, NY 10002
  • Pricing: All menu items under $12!
  • What's delicious: Bucatini in Kale Pesto, arancini
  • Perfect for: Grab'n go, mobile eats, girls' night out, first date


Last Wednesday evening, I attended a private tasting and official launch of Spaghetti Incident (Name sound familiar?  It was borrowed from the infamous Guns 'n' Roses album circa the 90's!), Emanuele Attala's latest culinary venture: Serving “mobile spaghetti” to the masses.  Yep, you heard me correctly: Pasta in a cone!  

With such a unique name and concept, I simply had to see what all the fuss was about!  I mean, have you ever heard of eating pasta in a cone?  Me neither...

Photo captured by: Vanessa Shoman-DuellReminiscent of one of my most treasured restaurants in Rome, Spaghetti Incident’s dramatic L-shaped bar wraps around the open kitchen, allowing guests to see the pasta chefs in action.  And speaking of the bar, a small selection of red, white, and rose wines are offered - in addition to beer.  With a glass of Montepulciano in hand, I was ready to sample the restaurant’s namesake pasta dishes!  Nine, to be exact. 

Photo captured by: Vanessa Shoman-DuellThe smell of fresh basil from the Bucatini in Kale Pesto was absolutely intoxicating and, by far, my favorite dish of the evening.  The Spaghetti alla Chitarra – noodles topped with a simple tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil - was precisely as one would find in Italy.  The third pasta I sampled was the Bucatini Trevigiala - a melange of salty pancetta, crunchy pine nuts, tangy radicchio, and a light cream sauce - which was exemplary and proved ideal for the Italian bacon connoisseur! 

Last but not least, the chef introduced his Sicilian-style arancini - also served in a cone - which are available in three different flavor combinations:  Green pea with mozzarella, beef ragu, and crab meat with fontina.

Spaghetti in a cone!Sicilian-style aranciniSpaghetti Incident is a true gem and makes for the ideal venue for a quick grab'n go treat, a girls' night out, or a first date.  Oh, and did I mention that nothing on the menu is over $12?  Whether you're in search of a delicious, mobile meal on-the-go - or are in the mood to sit down, relax, and enjoy one of the restaurant’s nine signature pasta dishes, salads, arancini, or a glass of wine/beer - this intimate trattoria will more than satisfy.

I will definitely return to Spaghetti Incident!  With its delicious and singular in-a-cone pasta, affable staff, and reasonable prices, I give it my highest recommendation!


Until we eat again,

Vanessa Shoman-Duell for The Lunch Belle