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Entries in Product reviews (29)

Thursday
Sep112014

Your grocer's freezer: Frozen meals that don't suck. And where to find them.

"Frozen meals that don't suck."  Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?  Well, for the most part, it is.  Frozen meals do suck!  I mean, is there anything more repulsive than the gnarly dusting of chopped tomatoes that top that frozen organic pizza?  Or the fake grill marks that are, quite literally, *drawn* on vegetables?  And how about those dinosaur-shaped nuggets that are made from "mechanically-separated" chicken?  Ewwww!  Gross!   

Just call me the "frozen food martyr."  In an effort to save a few bucks for weekday lunch (...OK, fine, and dinner), I've been bringing frozen meals to work and microwaving them in our communal pantry.  As depressing as that - and eating at my desk - sounds, the worst of it all is making awkward small talk with other coworkers who are doing the same GD thing.  Anyhoo, the point here is that I've tasted my fair share of this shet. 

The meals listed, below, are the best of the best of what's out there.  *Note that I stay away from anything that contains meat/poultry, as I don't trust that what's actually used is of any higher quality than the mystery meat in my dog's kibble

...

TaDah Falafel Wraps (Ralph's)

My tip: Because falafel can get dry, make sure to have a side of salsa or tzatziki dipping sauce (make yourself with Greek yogurt, dill, salt, pepper, and garlic) on the side.  Photo credit: TaDah Foods

Evol's Truffle Parmesan Mac & Cheese (Ralph's, Vons/Pavillion's, Target)

My tip: This makes a great side dish suitable for two people.  Or one person, if you have an appetite like mine...Photo credit: Evol Foods

Amy's Kitchen: Mexican Casserole Bowl (sold at practically every supermarket, bodega, Target, etc. out there)

My tip: Follow the "conventional oven" directions, if you can.  Otherwise, the microwaved version is perfectly fine, too.Photo credit: Amy's

Trader Joe's Cheese & Green Chile Tamales (Trader Joe's)

My tip: These beauties are totally satisfying, authentic, and unbelievably delicious.  Pair with salsa and enjoy!

Trader Joe's Korean Scallion Pancakes/Pa jeon (Trader Joe's)

My tip: Griddle on stove top and serve with soy sauce to dip.  This is one of the most mouth-watering products available in the frozen aisle, in my humble opinion.

 

What are some of your favorite frozen meals?  Have you ever tried any of the selections that I listed, above?

Saturday
May032014

Holey Donuts: One Donut You Won't Want to Glaze Over

Low-cal is not in my vocabulary. Diet ice cream? Portion control potato chips? Sorry, but you have no my place in my life. Let me be clear: I don't judge pastries based on how good they taste relative to their nutritional value. Sure, if I can avoid clogging my arteries, that's great. But when all is said and done, I want my pastries to taste good because that is their sole purpose.

So, you can imagine my skepticism when I was invited to try Holey Donuts!, a brand of low-calorie, low-fat donuts inhabiting their first retail store this week. Would they taste like the fake bread I eat on Passover? Would they be really good donuts that were just incredibly small? Would they be alien donuts with side effects of blue skin?

Well, first thing's first, I was taken aback to discover that the donuts were big. Aha, I thought, so portion control isn't the secret. This is going to taste like the pastries they served in synagogue growing up. Right? Wrong. A Holey Donut tastes like a donut because it is a donut. I kept chewing, waiting for a catch. Zilch. These were definitely donuts: sweet, sticky, chewy, and round. 

A Bay Ridge native and self-declared "Brooklyn boy", Frank Dilullo comes by his donut entrepreneurship honestly. He's no stranger to the world of the fried: Frank's father was one of the original Dunkin' Donuts franchisees back in 1958. Growing up sneaking clandestine bites of freshly-made donut "with the icing on top still wet," Frank owned several Dunkin' Donuts stores before selling them to start Holey Donuts!. "It was an accident, really. I was by the fryer, and I made the donut a different way than we usually did. I tasted it, and I was like, 'holy shit!' That's where Holey Donuts! comes from. 'Holy cow' will also work," he says, his eyes lighting up with that Brooklyn boy mischief. "Well, how do you make them?" I pressed. "That I can't tell you, but it's a twenty-two step process. Half of the work is done at our factory in Brooklyn, the other half here in the store." He wasn't lying. Every donut is customized on the spot, and goes from being dough to art. Already a successful online brand, the Holey Donuts! retail store looks like a day spa for donuts with jars full of fresh filling ready to be pumped into the fritters. It's like reverse liposuction for donuts. 

"I once had a baked donut," I confessed. "It didn't taste very good." "People tell me stuff like that all the time, and I'm like, if a donut is baked, it's a bagel. A lot of the time with low-cal foods, brands try to disguise it. Of course our donuts are going to have carbs and sugar. They're donuts! We just don't prepare them quite the same way."

I'm dying to reveal my donut-making conspiracy theories here, but I digress... In addition to donuts, Holey Donuts! has cinnamon buns, coffee, and juice. The store plans on staying open fairly late; think 10PM on the weekdays, and midnight on the weekends. "Or," Frank says, "until we're out of donuts." The store doesn't accept cash in an effort to keep things as germ-free as possible (my kind of place, hey there Jewish neuroses), and has a good amount of seating. Located in in a pink-splattered, spacious store in the West Village, Holey has a good shot of wracking up success.

Frank and his crew sent me home with several boxes of goodies, making me queen for a day in the office. To be on Holey Donuts! grand opening guest list, email info@holeydonuts.net, with 'guest list' in the subject line. Word on the street is that there will be goodies a' plenty.

 

Until we eat again, 

Aliza Kellerman for The Lunch Belle

Aliza Kellerman is an NYC based booze & food writer, an employed twenty-something, and an avid kvetcher. She sips and noshes her way through misadventures while befriending strangers and discovering new interests. Check out her blog at here, follow her here, and browse her portfolio here.

Wednesday
Feb062013

The Weekly Eater: 1/27 - 2/03

Since I'm transitioning in to a new-ish role at work, my schedule is kind of all over the place.  That, paired with the fact that I've just begun a month-long "academy" at Barry's Bootcamp (which is a 5x/week commitment - every weekday morning at 6am).  Needless to say, I'm exhausted.  But I'm also really excited about the new challenges ahead.

So, because I'm a bit pressed for time, I thought that, at least until I get in to a routine, I will start posting a summary of my favorite eats/drinks/activities/etc. from the week prior.  Hopefully, every Monday or Tuesday...

~~~

What I loved and/or really stood out last week (1/27 - 2/03)

Jamba Juice's "Brown Sugar Crumble" Oatmeal

I remember reading somewhere that Jamba Juice's oatmeal was" really good and way better than Starbucks" which, to be honest, didn't really mean anything to me.  I typically hate oatmeal.  And I think that the food at Starbucks - minus the cake pops - is sub par. 

Sick of my usual routine - which included a Nature Valley granola bar - I decided to give Jamba Juice's oatmeal a shot.  Unbeknownst to me, it happened to be "$1 oatmeal day" on the morning that I stopped in the store (which, by the way, happens *every* Wednesday!).  What an incentive, right?  I mean, what did I really have to lose for $1?

I chose the "Brown Sugar Crumble" because it was the lowest-calorie of the trio (registering at 220 calories/single serving), which also includes Blueberry/Blackberry and Fresh Banana.  Upon opening the container, my first observation was how scrumptiously attractive the oatmeal appeared.  By that, I mean it didn't look like a grey glop.  Beneath a crust of fresh brown sugar was a heaping helping of oatmeal.  I liked how visibly textured it appeared - you know, dispersed with tons of tiny lumpy-bits. 

Warm and comforting, just like that favorite blanket on your sofa, this transcendent bowl of slow-cooked porridge did not disappoint.  Since that first bite nearly 6-weeks ago, I eat this delicious oatmeal every single morning.  It's actually what I look forward to when I wake up! 

Now THAT is some sexy oatmeal!

...

Soul Cycle

"Spin is in."  And I have always bled Flywheel's black and blue.  However, in anticipation of a friend's upcoming birthday at Soul Cycle, I figured that I should take one class to familiarize myself prior to her event.

I wanted to hate it.  So bad.  I wanted to walk out of the studio post-class - roll my eyes - and feel reassured that Flywheel reigned supreme.  Well, that didn't happen.  I found Soul Cycle to be very different, but in a really refreshing and positive way.  Without a calibrated number on your bike, you don't feel like you're battling yourself or competing against the girl next to you.  Because, at Flywheel, you're only as good as your last number.  Period.  And, at least when I spin, I just want to lose myself in the rhythm of the music and enjoy the dark serenity surrounding me.  Additionally, at Soul Cycle, other body parts are incorporated in to the exercise beyond just your legs.  It's a winning formula.

This does not mean that I'm a convert, it just means that I appreciate and respect the differences between Soul Cycle and Flywheel

...

Millesime

$1 oysters every weekday from 5:30pm-8pm at Millesime's Oyster Bar

Spicy Tuna Tartare  If you love the contents of a well made spicy tuna roll, then this appetizer is for you:  A rectangular mold of lightly-bound tuna tartare is topped with a crunchy slaw and fried wonton strips for texture, and finished with an agave-soy jus.  Absolute decadence and sheer perfection.

Cherry/Chocolate Croissant Pudding  This was, without a doubt, one of the most memorable desserts I've had of late.  Imagine, if you will, a ramekin filled with warm, gooey, intensely-rich "bread pudding."  Only, instead of day-old bread, Millesime's version is made with chocolate/cherry croissant scraps.  And is crowned with a scoop of chocolate ice cream that nearly liquefies when placed atop the warm pudding.  Heavenly...

...

7-11's "Vermont Blueberry" coffee  I know, I know.  This sounds completely asinine, gnarly and, in all honesty, makes absolutely no sense.  Blueberry coffee?  Trust me, I was so geeked out when I saw this flavor at the 7-11 on 7th Avenue...that I had to taste it!  And guess what?  It's actually *really* good!  Seriously, if you see this wacky blend at your local 7-11, give it a try and please let me know what you think! 

...

A Taste of Modern Luxury: Celebrity Cruises Pops Up in New York City   Of any "pop up" that I've ever attended, this was, by far, the best.  Held at The Kitchen, the team from Celebrity Cruises "came to land," if you will, to showcase cocktails from resident mixologist, Junior Merino, and culinary creations prepared by Chef John Suley.

Tasteful and lovely decor in the "Molecular Bar" area of the space. 

Junior Merino pours one of his signature cocktails.

My first cocktail of the evening was the "El Angel," which was a concoction of:  Dehydrated Hibiscus, citrus, Dainzu Gomme, tequila blanco, mezcal joven, and Junior Merino's Aleppo Pepper Lime Rimmer

After finishing my first cocktail within minutes, I chose to proceed with "Coming Up Roses," a concoction made of:  Bacardi Razz, lime, Dainzu Rose Essence, rose petals, champagne, and Junior Merino's Rasberry Rose Foam.

About 3/4 of the way finished with my second cocktail, Michelle and I were whisked to our table for dinner.  Let me just say that if the three courses we enjoyed are anything akin to what is served onboard, I am confident that a Celebrity Cruise will be in my *very* near future...

Bread & salted butter for the tableJerusalem Artichoke Veloute: Iberico ham, black trumpet mushrooms, sourdough croutons, marscaponeHandmade Ricotta Cavatelli: Wild mushroom fricassee, mach, parmigiano reggiano, shaved black truffles (look at those truffles!!!)Five Spice Crusted Cervena Venison Loin: Celery root fondant, wilted spinach, red cabbage marmalade, lingonberry sauceSeared Halibut (this was my favorite dish of the evening): Salsify, beef oxtail marmalade, Brussels sprouts, parmesan emulsion

Pork and "Beans": Tenderloin, cheek, tarbals beans, collard greens, heirloom carrots, cider jus

Strawberry Fields and CustardsWarm Pineapple Tart Tatin: Coconut rum ice cream, lime confit, passion fruitValrhona Cocoa Cake: Chocolate mousse, peanut butter creme brulee, salted caramel ice cream

...

Needless to say, it was a very delicious and eventfull week! 

Thank you all, in advance, for your patience as I transition in to my new schedule. 

~~~

Until we eat again (next week),

The Lunch Belle

Monday
Jan142013

Layer after caramelized sugar-encrusted layer: A DKA at DAB

On Saturday, I met fellow blogger, Sara (of Small Chick Big Deals), for a mid-morning treat at Dominique Ansel Bakery...

Macarons and "King Cake"An assortment of sweet, handmade indulgencesThe bakery's famous "DKA"While so many of his other fancy retail treats will certainly tempt, you'd be an idiot not order at least one "DKA" (Dominque's Kouign Amann) from Daniel Boulud alum, Dominique Ansel.  What the heck does Dominque's Kouign Amann mean?  Don't worry, I didn't know, either.  But I'll do my best to explain in laymen's terms:  Imagine, if you will, a croissant that, instead of being rolled in to a crescent shape, instead resembles some sort of flower whose petals are folded in to the center.  While the traditional croissant could be considered savory, what sets the DKA apart is the fact that sugar is added to the dough.  The pastry is slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough and the sugar caramelizes.  The result?  A crunchy, burnt-sugar exterior that gives way to a moist, pillowy interior full of airy, intricate layers. 

You can even purchase a box of three DKA's!  I cannot fathom a better hostess gift...

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Nov152012

William Greenberg's color and flavor kaleidoscope of "black and white" cookies

Blame it on me feeling guilty about leaving town for two weeks.  I am the lone-woman (read "mother") of the office, after all.  What will the fella's do without me?  Or, the fact that, this time next week, the country will be celebrating Thanksgiving.  My favorite holiday of the calendar year.  Without me.  Or, maybe I was just looking to soothe that one last itch/craving of "New York" before I book it out of here.  Folks, I'm talking about today's "black and white" cookie purchase at William Greenberg Desserts...

Since my dumb ass has all of these strict, ridiculous rules about what I can eat and when, I never allowed myself to sample the "black and white" cookies that I had purchased last month at William Greenberg Desserts for my baby cousins.  And, obviously, not doing so has done way more bad than good, as I have not been able to get those damn cookies off of my mind.

It's slow-moving mornings like today's when I find myself overly-fantasizing about food.  Sometimes, my paramour will be cheese enchiladas.  Other times, it's ice cream.  And, today, it was cookies.  "Black and white" cookies, to be exact.  Sure, the packaged ones at the drug store work just fine.  But only in a bind.  Today, I wanted something that was handmade.  As in handmade an hour ago.  Not "handmade" a month ago.  So, I gave my rigid diet 'the bird' and made my way over to William Greenberg Desserts, where I picked up nearly a dozen "black and white" cookies in different sizes, colors, and flavors...

The goods

These mini "black and white" cookies are festively dressed for the season in vibrant red and green frosting.  (Blue and white-hued Hanukkah cookies are available, as well!)

Before presenting them to the team, I made sure to snag one of these babies for myself.  First off, I loved the cookie's realistically-small, saucer-shaped size.  Because, as many of you know, "black and white" cookies are, typically and traditionally, ginormous.  To the point where you feel like a complete a-hole if you consume one in its entirety.  Secondly, the actual "cookie" portion of this particular sample was soft, moist, and not too sweet.  And, most importantly, at least to me, its fondant-like, powdered sugar-icing was thick, had a very delicate crunch, and was void of any almond-y after taste. 

Large and mini "black and white" cookies, with a sweet potato or pumpkin-cookie base, are frosted with vanilla and chocolate buttercream.

Pumpkin "black and white" cookie  Hey, it's the holidays, folks.  And you can bet your nalgas that, just like my coffee order at Starbucks, I will always choose the festive, seasonal flavor/color over the everyday/standard! 

The first thing that I noticed about this particular cookie was its rich, sweet buttercream frosting.  This eventually gave way to a moist, dull orange-hued, cake-like interior with the slightest pumpkin essence.

Sweet potato "black and white" cookie  Ditto on the first two sentences above re: festive, seasonal flavors and colors.  Although the frosting was identical to that of the pumpkin cookie, it was this particular sweet potato base that really tugged at my holiday season-loving heart strings.  While I wouldn't describe it so much as cinnamon, this cookie had a fragrant aroma and just enough allspice flavoring to evoke that of one of my favorite Southern treats:  Sweet potato pie.    

...

In every aspect - size options, seasonal flavors and colors, and packaging - these "black and white" cookies make the perfect holiday gift for your favorite host/ess with the most/ess.  Even if that host/ess happens to be you!  Tomorrow, in fact, I'm bringing a box of these cookies with me all the way to my cousin in Singapore!

Needless to say, I wasn't the only one who fell in love...My coworkers went absolutely bananas over these cookies!  Like, to the point that one of them plans on making his own pilgrimage to William Greenberg Desserts after work. 

On that note, here's to hoping that my departure tomorrow will fare just a little bit *sweeter* with my team!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Sep132012

Instagram crazy

Somebody stop me!  For those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, I apologize.  Kind of.  And, for those of you who don't, I'll explain:  Just today, I decided to fcuk around with my Instagram account and actually learn about all of its cool features.  Besides having the capability of taking new and uploading current photos, you can then edit your pics before sharing them with your friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare!  So, with that, I just went hog wild and uploaded about twenty photos.  In a row.  Literally.  Hence my semi-sincere apology.  But I'll take it all back if one more person asks me how I was in Seattle and the East Village at the same time...   

Check me out, y'all!  My Instagram handle, obviously, is:  TheLunchBelle.  Let's be friends!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle