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Entries in Parties you weren't invited to (11)

Thursday
Oct252012

One week. Two fetes. Celebrating Sirio Maccioni

How lucky am I to have been invited to not one, but two events for Sirio Maccioni, famous restaurateur and author, in one week? 

Despite having never dined at the famed restaurant, Le Cirque is an establishment/mecca that I have been familiar with my entire life.  From a very young age, I was always fascinated and intrigued by the illustrious NYC dining scene.  And, even though I was reading my monthly issues of Bon Appetit from my bedroom in El Paso, Texas, I was well-aware that there was not a brighter star than Le Cirque (...in fact, it's so famous, that it has its own Wikipedia link!!).  So, you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to attend the book launch for Sirio Maccioni's 'A Table At Le Cirque' at...Le Cirque!

...

Personalized cocktail napkins for the scrumptious passed hors d'oeuvres, flowing glasses of wine, prosecco, and the open bar~

AranciniSigned copies of 'A Table At Le Cirque' available for purchase~

The who's who of the culinary and food media worlds were in attendance:  Pamela Fiori, who co-authored the book, Susan Magrino, Marc Murphy, Geoffrey Zakarian, Terrance Brennan, and, his majesty, Danny Meyer...

Danny Meyer - Pamela Fiori - Sirio Maccioni...and this lovely woman, seated with Mr. Maccioni.  While I'm not sure who she is, I have a feeling that she definitely is "someone."  I aspire to be this gorgeous at her age!

**Update**  Siva, one of my readers, informed me that this is Carmen Dell'Orefice, the oldest working model in the world.  And it's very clear to me *why.*

...

As if it were even possible for an event to be more fabulous than the book launch at Le Cirque, last night's preview party for Mr. Maccioni's new Tuscan-inspired restaurant, Sirio Ristorante, was, by far, the most outstanding "food event" that I've attended, to date.

Nestled street-level at The Pierre (a super-fancy, 5-star property), Sirio Ristorante has an incredibly prime location that hugs the corner of 61st Street and 5th Avenue. 

Assuming that event entry would be through the restaurant, itself, guests were instead ushered through the hotel's lobby. 

This sign let guests know that they were headed in the right direction.

The lobby's stunning mezzanine was the first point of event entry.  Guests were gifted with passed hors d'oeuvres and glasses of wine/prosecco.

Mr. Maccioni posed for photo after photo on the step-and-repeat...

There was a plethora of press/media in attendance...

Guests had the option of gracing the restaurant, itself, or the ballroom.  I chose to first check out the ballroom...

Note the incredible fall-centric floral arrangement!

The lighting was among the best I've ever seen...

General merriment...

Bubbly cocktails and passed hors d'oeuvres made the rounds and, at each end of the room, there was a full-bar.

A live jazz trio played sexy French tunes.  The singer was fantastic!

I walked across the mezzanine to the handsome restaurant, which was abuzz and filled with guests.  The who's who of New York's high society was in attendance, including Jonathan Tisch and Mayor Bloomberg.  I gawked - and admired - dressy hats, fabulous attire, bags that, easily, cost more than my yearly salary, and gems in every color of the rainbow.

Waiters, passing slightly heavier hors d'oeuvres - plus wine and prosecco, carefully made their way through the maze of impeccably-dressed attendees. 

This is often referred to as "Italian Champagne," because of its never-ending string of bubbles and crisp, dry body.

I particularly fancied the risotto...

...and the meatballs.

After one too many glasses of wine and bubbly - plus a stomach filled with risotto and meatballs - I decided to call it a night.  An outstanding one, at that! 

Party favors were individually-wrapped disks of caramel, dipped in dark chocolate.

FYISirio Ristorante opens today, 10/25/12.  And, as if anyone could ever have their fill of fabulous, my friend - and birthday girl - Tammi and I are headed to there tonight for cocktails and snacks at the bar.  Why not? 

...

To conclude:  15-20 years ago, this dreamy, head-in-the-clouds teenager would have been in utter disbelief if you told her that her future "grown up" life would involve attending - and writing about - events, book launches, and restaurant openings.  In New York City.  Involving many of the characters she grew up worshiping.  Why?  Because these opportunities and experiences are, truly, unbelieveable.  I still pinch myself every single day.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Oct182012

Cranberry bogging in the heart of Rock Center

I love the fall.  From the chill in the air to the warm colors of the season, October through mid-December (which I consider to be fall) is, easily, my favorite time of the year.  And, it also happens to be when my calendar is dotted with some of my most cherished foodie events; namely, Ocean Spray's "Bogs Across America."  The company (Ocean Spray) makes its annual pilgrimage to NYC and sets up a live cranberry bog - filled with 2,000 fresh, floating cranberries - in the heart of Rockefeller Center.

This year, I invited my friend, Robin, to join me at the private cocktail reception held *inside of the bog* - outdoors - at Rockefeller Center (just beyond the ice skating rink)!  While many of the guests exchanged their 'business casual' heels and loafers for waterproof waders and suspenders, the two of us stayed dry - outside of the bog - and enjoyed a plethora of delicious, cranberry-based cocktails and nibbles, catered by Great Performances

Please enjoy my photo collage from, yet another, fantastic Ocean Spray event...

...But first:  Did you know that the famous ice skating rink (at Rockefeller Center) has opened for the season?  Neither did I!

Giant Ocean Spray banner posted outside of 30 Rock! Yummy reception menu, catered by Great Performances"Cherry Bog" Cocktail"Crushed Pineapple Collins" Cocktails

Guests wading inside of the bog!Makeshift bar (on land)Indeed, it is! Thanks for coming with, Robin! :)~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Aug012012

Swine, wine, and 32 candles...

Good god.  The countdown to my 32nd birthday has begun!  Actually, it's less than a week away.  On freaking Monday, of course.  The worst possible/buzz kill/work-day of the week.  So, because of that tragic detail, I decided to start the birthday festivities early.  As in a week early.  It just wouldn't be "me" if a 7-day-long celebration did not ensue...

After having fallen in love with my initial experience, I decided to throw myself a birthday party aboard last night's Swine & Sparkling Wine-themed cruise.  What better way to kick off the week-long celebration, right?  With coordination assistance from Emily K., Benchmarc Events' Director of Communications, I arranged for about 40-50 friends to join me for all-things-pig and bubbly (...I know, I'm such a good Jew!). 

Since the ship wasn't scheduled to set sail until 8pm, some friends and I met up beforehand at PJ Clarke's on the Hudson (located very close to the cruise dock) for a couple of rounds. 

Once aboard the ship, we clinked our glasses of sparkling wine and noshed on a bountiful pork buffet.  All the while taking in breathtaking views of lower Manhattan, a handful of Brooklyn bridges, and Lady Liberty.  Just about an hour before we docked, I was led to the top deck where my friends gathered  to present me with sparklers and an assortment of cupcakes.  The group serenaded me with a jovial "happy birthday to you," before I blew out a candle and made a couple of wishes for my upcoming year. 

From the weather, the food and drink, and all of the surprises - to being surrounded by so many of my dear friends, last night was one of the greatest birthday celebrations of my entire life.  A big 'thank you' to Emily M., who orchestrated dessert, and to the fabulous team at Benchmarc Events, for being so generous, enthusiastic, and helpful.  I am, truly, the luckiest girl in the world.    

...

So, what's on deck for the rest of my 'celebratory week,' you ask?  Take a peak...

8/1  Dinner with Devon, my friend in town from San Diego, at La Promenade des Anglais

8/2  Dinner/drinks with Tammi, one of my readers, who I've become good friends with!

8/3  Chillaxing at home with my puppy, Lucy (Yes, I've decided to keep her!) - giving myself a pedicure - and packing for the Hamptons

8/4  Hamptons

8/5  Hamptons

8/6  *Birthday*  Massage at Exhale, followed by dinner at Mexico Lindo (though the venue may change, as it's not my favorite)

Sounds like a pretty damn good week, doesn't it?  Cheers!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Monday
Jul022012

Laurent Gras: My Provence - An exclusive cookbook launch at the French Consulate

It was, truly, this self-professed Francophile's dream come true:  An invitation to the press launch luncheon for Laurent Gras' first cookbook, "Laurent Gras: My Provence."  At the French Consulate.  I mean, come, on, seriously?   I'm still pinching myself! 

In anticipation of this event, I wanted to come prepared.  So, I did some research.  Having already been familiar with Laurent Gras, I was fascinated to learn that his very first cookbook - being published this week - is not even a "book," at all.  It's an app.  And solely an app...

With the launch of "Laurent Gras: My Provence," digital-only publishing group, Alta Editions (which, in literary terms, means "the first edition of a book"), is introducing the world to a new kind of first edition:  "One that is designed to take advantage of important new developments in technology and, more importantly, to help people learn how to be better cooks." 

  • Inspired by the much-loved Time-Life Books Series (from the 1960's and 1970's), Alta Editions will offer their eBook titles under a subscription model with a new book by a different chef released each quarter.   
    • All titles will be available as feature-rich, interactive HTML5 e-books
  • While the layout for the e-books was created with an iPad in mind, it will also be accessible on both Macs and PCs.  Versions for smartphones and other tablets (Android) will soon follow.
    • FYI:  I don't own an iPad, nor do I think I ever will.  So, I'll be one of those peeps who accesses this eBook via my PC.

OK, so for all of my fellow 'non techie' folks out there, I've broken this all down in laymen's terms:  The idea behind the e-cookbook was to combine the very best aspects of both traditional print and digital cooking apps.  The result?  A paperless "cookbook" complete with interactive recipes, ingredient lists, helpful cooking tips, high-resolution photography, inspiring stories, instructive videos, social media sharing, direct user interaction, and note sharing (with the chef and other users).   

Pretty cool, eh?

Viewing the e-cookbook on an iPadWhile Chef's cooking typically showcases modernist techniques and Asian influences, the forty recipes in "Laurent Gras: My Provence" are a tribute to the flavors of his upbringing in Antibes, on France's stunning Cote d'Azur... 

...But don't let the words "France" and "Provence" intimidate you!  With an emphasis on freshness and seasonality, it was Laurent's insistence that everything required for these recipes be available at a good grocery store and/or gourmet shop.  "If Whole Foods or Wegmans or Publix doesn't have it, you don't need it."  

So, have I piqued your interest?  Do you want to check out "Laurent Gras: My Provence" for yourself?  Click here to pre-register and get exclusive access to the eBook prior to the public launch!

...

Upon my arrival to the French Consulate's second floor, I was greeted by two dashing young men - with deliriously sexy French accents - serving Rose and sparkling water.  But, since I had to return to work 30-40 minutes later, I opted for the latter.  Sigh.

Between iPad tutorials of the eBook, I snooped around the Consulate's stunning second floor.

I also made sure to sample the lovely passed hors d'ouevres, catered by Daniel Boulud's Feast and Fetes.  

Smoked salmon "trifle" on toastGougeres!While taking a peek at the makeshift dining room, I caught a glimpse of the lovely menu for the 1pm luncheon that I would be missing.  :(

 

Although, for me, it was short and sweet (work calls!), this was one of the most fabulous and unique events that I've had the pleasure of attending in my 5-year food blogging career! 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Jun222012

Notes on (hosting) a dinner party: Celebrating the season, entertaining tips

Last Tuesday evening, I hosted a small dinner party at my apartment.  To honor the fact that the next day was, at least according to the calendar, the official "first day of summer," I chose a menu that reflected the warm and bountiful season upon us:

**White winesArneis, Rioja

**Imported and domestic cheeses:  Dried pears, walnuts, sliced baguette and pecan/raisin bread

**SaladBlueberries, Feta, and Mint

**EntreeRick Bayless' Quick-Fried Shrimp with Sweet Toasty Garlic

**Sourdough bread (to dip and sop-up all of the garlicky goodness from the shrimp dish)

**Dessert:  Homemade key lime pie

...

After I play hostess, I always seem to have a plethora of tips/shortcuts in my head that I intend to write down.  For the next time I have people over.  But, more often than not, I don't actually take the time to sit down and jot notes.  Until today.

Here are some of my tried-and-true entertaining tips for all of you fabulous hosts/hostesses out there:

  • Prepare your menu:  If you don't have the budget to offer your guests a meat/poultry/fish/vegetarian option, then find out, ahead of time, if anyone has any allergies/dietary restrictions.  God forbid you serve shellfish to an allergic, or present pork to someone who's kosher/halal.
  • Fresh flowers:  I buy 2-bunches from Trader Joe's - divide them in to various smaller bunches - and place multi, colorful bouquets all over my apartment.  Flowers smell nice, brighten up your space, and last for about a week!
  • Tidy up!  If you don't have ample time to clean, I understand.  However, at least make your bathroom a priority:  Clean your toilet bowl and have an extra roll of toilet-paper handy/in a logical location.  Use a Windex-like spray to wipe your mirror clean of toothpaste and water stains.  And, if you're really type-A, provide paper hand-towels by your sink.  I hate having to wipe my just-washed hands on someone's gnarly shower towel!  Blech. 
  • For casual get-togethers:  Use paper/plastic plates, napkins, utensils, and cups.  Everything is disposable and makes cleanup *much* less of a nightmare. 
  • Do as much as you can ahead of time:  Block time out of your busy schedule to prepare/cook as many of the items on your menu as possible, within reason.  For this most recent gathering, I made the key lime pie on Sunday afternoon.  Thank goodness, because crushing graham crackers by hand took me a good 20-minutes! 
  • Write down what you're serving and what you're serving it in:  Jot down every appetizer, beverage, entree, and dessert.  Assign a serving dish and serving utensil to go with each.  You may realize that you do not, in fact, have a soup ladle or something as common as a bottle opener!  
  • Do not make plans the night before:  It was tough, but I managed to keep my Monday evening free so that I could attend to any last-minute cleaning - organizing - and prepping.  Since I get off of work at 5pm and my guests would arrive on Tuesday night between 7/7:30pm, I did not want to rush/stress any more than I had to day-of.
  • Clean as you go:  This is a priceless tip that I learned while interning at the Marriott WTC in college.  Especially when cooking, don't let dishes, utensils, cups, etc. pile up - clean them as you use them. 
  • Once all of your guests arrive:  Give them about 30-ish minutes to enjoy a beverage(s) and appetizers.  I like to serve the "main course" at the 30-minutes-post-everyone's-arrival mark.

Food tips:

  • Have fresh plates/bowls/utensils on-hand for each course:  I prefer plastic and paper products for entertaining, as most of my gatherings are on the casual-end of the spectrum.  Plus, I do not have enough dishes or glassware to serve more than 4-guests at one time.  Sigh.
  • Cheese plate:  An hour before your guests are scheduled to arrive, take your cheeses out of the fridge and arrange on a platter (I like to follow Artisanal's "Cheese Clock").  Accompany with proper knives/spreaders.   
  • Bread:  For a crispy crust and a warm interior, heat oven to 200-degrees F.  Place sliced and/or whole bread on a cookie sheet and allow to warm for approximately 12-minutes (for slices) and 15-20 minutes (whole), respectively.  If you have less time on your hands, raise the temperature to 300-degrees, and cut warming times in half.

OK, so now you've read mine; do you have any great entertaining tips to share?  I'd love to hear from you!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
May162012

An evening with Mindy Fox: Salads that will change your mind...about salads.

This isn't the first cookbook that Mindy Fox has written.  Actually, it's her third.  But, unlike the previous two that she has co-authored, Salads: Beyond the Bowl is unique in that it contains 100 recipes.  All for some variation of a salad...

Does the word "salad" make you yawn?  Scare you, perhaps?  OK, fine, but don't roll your eyes and stop reading this post just yet.  Why?  Because, I think I can change your leaf-hating prerogative.  Look, I'll admit that, up until last night, "salad" frightened me and made me yawn, too.  I mean, it's generally so boring.  So...healthy.  Cold.  Wet.  And it never seems to have the right ratio of dressing to greens.  In fact, just typing out these boring, rainy adjectives is making me yawn... 

However, I figured that, if I was going to attend the cookbook launch for an author who was quoted as saying, "The one food that I would take with me to a desert island would be salad," I knew that I had better start practicing my best "salad poker face."  

When I arrived at the serene loft space for the launch, I was taken aback by the gorgeous, poster-sized photos of Mindy's salads adorning the walls.  A bowl of greens topped with crumbled feta, grilled shrimp, and pickled purple onions - a close-up shot of octopus tentacle "tendrils," set against a black background.  Those were just two of my favorite images.   

As I made my way further in to the space, I came upon a table topped with two different salad samples.  Salads that looked nothing like the generic, leafy, green crap that I so often refrain...and run from. 

Clearly, Mindy and I had not been eating the same salads all of these years...

Blueberries, Feta, and Mint:  How often do you see blueberries and feta cheese together?  Never.  I knew that I had to sample this salad first, because I was so perplexed by its unique ingredients. 

The sweetest, most plump blueberries were topped with salty feta cheese crumbles, torn mint leaves, sea salt crystals, coarsely-ground black pepper, and finished with a heavy drizzle of a strong, rich and peppery olive oil.  It would be safe to say that this is the "salad" that changed the way I think about salads. 

PS:  I bought Mindy's cookbook and will share this recipe with you, further below!

Panzanella di Farro:  Based on looks, alone, I wasn't as eager to sample this salad.  Maybe it was all of those vegetables?  However, after one bite, I was blown away by its electrifying flavor and burst of different textures.

A melange of briny, sliced cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, corn kernels, and edible flowers were combined with plump barley beads and tossed in a savory, garlic-y dressing that exploded with pep and delight. 

...

Now, in addition to Mindy's mind-blowing salads, a handful of her finest food-and-wine purveyor friends provided accompaniments that perfectly complimented Ms. Fox's recipes:

Bountiful bread baskets from Hot Bread Kitchen

A Grana Padano cheese wheel

*Did you know that Grana Padano cheese is lactose-free?  Now that is some food-for-thought!

A phenomenal olive oil tasting, courtesy of DeMedici Imports

*Did you know that olive oil tastings and wine tastings are almost identical in structure?

In the top picture, orange segments were sprinkled with sea salt and paired with Colonna, a very light, subtle olive oil.  The sample was consumed like a "shot." 

In the bottom picture, a piece of French chocolate was sprinkled with sea salt and paired with Albereto, a heavier, more spicy and peppery olive oil.  This sample was also consumed like a "shot."  

Both samples were delightful, but my preference was the AlberetoThough that *could* be because it was paired with French chocolate!

An exquisite brut, courtesy of Ferrari

...

As if the evening could not get more exciting or delicious, the lovely Gail Simmons arrived!   Moments after my irregular, star-struck heartbeat resumed its regular pace, I walked over to the cookbook-topped table, and began to flip through its glossy pages and intrigue-provoking chapters.  And, that's when it hit me:  Salads don't have to be boring, one-note, restrictive "dieter's lunches."  No, they can be amazingly delicious side dishes or even entrees, incorporating fruits, grains, meat, fish, poultry, cheese, nuts...you name it.  "That's it.  I have to have this cookbook!" I exclaimed to my friend, Helen.

Afer purchasing Salads: Beyond the Bowl, I approached Mindy to congratulate her and confess that, because of this particular evening, I had been transformed in to a "salad optimist."  Oh, and I also asked her to autograph my copy.  :)

Like Mindy says, it's not so much the "health" aspect of salads; for her, it's "...how delicious and show stopping a well-made salad can be."  Because, at the end of the day, shouldn't healthy also taste fabulous?  Salads: Beyond the Bowl certainly makes that possible. 

And, speaking of, I cannot WAIT to whip up Mindy's amazing recipe for "Blueberries, Feta, and Mint," which I plan to make this weekend!  You, should, too! 

RECIPE:  Blueberries, Feta, and Mint

Ingredients - serves 4

  • 3 cups blueberries (about 1.5 pints)
  • 1 cup mint leaves, large leaves torn
  • 5 ounces feta cheese (1 cup), crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons very good extra-virgin olive oil
  • Flaky course sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed

Divide the blueberries among small shallow serving bowls, then sprinkle with the mint and cheese.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over each serving.  Crush several generous pinches of salt over each dish and sprinkle with the pepper

Enjoy!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle