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Entries in Product reviews (35)


Calling all coffee snobs: It's time to stop sticking our noses up at (gasp) Instant Coffee

During the five-day work week, The Lunch Belle spends her days managing one of her firms offices in midtown Manhattan. Luckily for me, our two New York locations are located right across the street from one another, so whenever I have to get a signature from our CFO or fetch invoices to/from our accounting team, I don't have to walk very far.

So on a recent trip across 59th Street, I strolled by a make-shift stand set up in front of my building's deli. There was an adorable young man making some sort of drink, and he could barely keep up with the crowd that was lining up for a taste. As I made my way through the excitement, the dapper young fellow handed me a 2 ounce cup filled with a milky hot liquid. As I took my first sip, I knew that my armful of paperwork would just have to wait for five more minutes. Whatever I was drinking was so outstanding that I had to find out what it was, where I could purchase it, and get the story behind this truly incredible beverage.

After exchanging business cards, I learned that the young man was a sales rep for a Mexican coffee company called Cafe La Paz. It turns out that what I was sipping was an instant coffee that was made with 100% natural ingredients (instant coffee, brown sugar cane and cinnamon) and no chemicals. I'm not sure which part I loved more: The sales rep, the beverage itself, or the fact that this was a Mexican product.

I purchased a bag of Cafe La Paz to make on weekends. Being the self labeled "Queen of Laziness," I wanted to see what the coffee would taste like should I follow the easiest instructions on the package, thus only making a cup with water, instead of diluting with milk. In a mug, I added about 6-8 ounces of water, 2 spoonfuls of the instant coffee and stirred the mix together. I placed my cup in the microwave for 1 minute, and upon pulling it out, I made the following observations:

  • There were no clumps of instant coffee floating on the top of the beverage (like you typically find with other brands)
  • The color evoked a rich, espresso brown color
  • The smell reminded me of cajeta (which is a pungent and delightful Mexican caramel)

The taste was great, as well. I'm always stoked when I know I don't have to add additional sugar/Splenda to a drink, and this coffee has the perfect amount of sweetness. I also love the subtle spicy kick of cinnamon, as it reminds me of home and vacationing in Mexico. I do, however, think that with the addition of milk (which unfortunately, I didn't have this morning), this beverage would be phenomenal and hopefully the hump that breaks my Starbucks addiction.

Currently, Cafe La Paz is only selling their product in the New York area. So if you're local, I highly recommend checking out this truly authentic and unique take on coffee. Viva Mexico!


Good Karma comes in small bottles

Scenario 1: You've got five minutes before you have to jump in a cab to meet Mr. Perfect for your first dinner date. You're nervous. Let's face it: You're not the type of girl who's going to down a shot of tequila before a first date, but you're also not the type of girl who can nervously muster up a sober conversation so soon after a long work day. What are you going to do?

Scenario 2: You're on your way to meet the dreaded in-laws for a post-brunch museum exhibit stroll (after a debaucherous night on the town) and are in no shape to walk around a refrigerated space the size of an airplane hangar while commenting on modern art (pretending to act/know like you care). Top that off with two of your least favorite fans, and it's the perfect mix for the Sunday from hell. How will you cope?

Luckily for you, my friends, good Karma does come in small bottles. Recently, while vacationing in Southern California, I ran in to a charming market in search of something bubbly that would cost under $10. Could I find such a thing that wouldn't have the numbers, "40 ounces" written after the title? With a positive attitude, and clearly some good karma, I headed strait for the wine/champagne isle, where a kind store employee led me towards a sleek bottle of Karma Sparkling Wine. I was skeptical by the bottle's appearance, as it resembled more of a fancy bottle of spring water than something bubbly. But for $6.99/bottle, I figured, "Why not?"

Having chilled the small Karma bottle in the fridge for a couple of hours, I was ready for a much-needed glass. My first thought was, "I love how I can just twist off the top of the bottle instead of shooting someones eye out trying to pop the damn cork, like more traditional sparkling wines/champagnes. Low maintenance is so cool." The color of the beverage was a crisp golden raisin, not as dull as a Sancerre, but not as yellow as a Chardonnay. The pour was delicate and subtle and the bubbles resembled tiny dancers as opposed to grand bouquets of balloons. There was also no foamy head, which I liked.

For $6.99, the sparkling wine was a masterpiece. Though crisp and dry, I tasted undertones of peach and the overall essence of the summertime. What a delightful treat! I can't wait for Karma to arrive on the East Coast...As I only have one purse that is too small to carry its bottle with me from soiree to date, etc. For those of you on the West Coast, don't wait for good Karma to find you, seek it out for yourself!

It's raining cupcakes! 4/09/08

We all know that there's nothing I love more than a delicious cupcake! This sweet obsession has intertwined quite beautifully within my office, as I officially put myself in charge of "monthly birthday cupcake celebrations." I'd be a liar if I said that I didn't give many bakeries outside of Buttercup a chance, but why mess with such an overwhelming crowd pleaser? I'll tell you when it's time to mess with the crowd pleaser...When the customer service and phone etiquette begins to suck (ahem, take some notes, Buttercup!)!

April birthdays were quickly approaching, so I decided to go out on a limb and try another cupcake company called "A Cupcake Occasion." The website's descriptions and photos intrigued me so much, that I decided to place my first order. How cool is this..I was able to specify my choices online and pay via PayPal! No more nasty salespeople to deal with on the telephone! Yipee!

The entire office was elated with the adorable, indulgent treats so I decided that I'd need to sample each flavor we ordered for myself...Just to be sure! There were: vanilla cake with vanilla butter cream, lemon cake with lemon butter cream and red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and sugar crystals. And the verdict? They were fantastic! I was amazed that I was able to taste the fresh cream that was incorporated in to the delicate icing! Every bite was magnified by its high quality ingredients, which is definitely something you don't taste in the "other" cupcakes.

Conclusion: I highly recommend trying "A Cupcake Occasion" treats for yourself because let's face it, there's ALWAYS an occasion for cupcakes! They taste as outstanding as they look and your purchase supports a small business run by two entrepreneurs...Not generic mass production! Amen, sister!


I Think I'm in Love! 2/21/08

Yes everyone, it's true...I'm in love! For the first time in my life, I think I've found "the one." Never before have I had such a positive and sunny outlook on life. Magically, I feel like every obstacle put in front of me is now conquerable. Instead of thunder clouds and rain, I see rainbows and sunshine. Every annoying horn honking on the street has now become the sweet chirping of tropical birds. For those of you who've never been in love, this is what it's all about!

So I'm sure you're dying to know, "Who in the hell is The Lunch Belle so madly in love with?" It's been a long and windy road, folks, full of disappointments and enough tears to fill up a kiddie-pool. I'll start with the ugly, the bad, and then move on to...My love!

The ugly: Nutri System. Yes, I suppose I was that desperate. I figured, "If Tori Spelling can do this diet, why can't I?" I ordered $400 worth of food that arrived in one, yes one, gigantic cardboard box. "Was the food packed with dry ice and delivered frozen," you ask? No, every single "meal" was ready-to-eat; all that was necessary was the optional zap in the 'wave. Since I didn't have enough counter or cupboard space to store my meals, I stuck them all on the shelves of my empty bookcase. Luckily, Nutri System has a fantastic return policy where you can ship back all of your uneaten food for a refund. Thank God, because after one bite of whatever the hell I tried, there was no way I was keeping that crap in my apartment.

The bad: So it took me about 6 months to get over my experience with Nutri System, and I finally decided to start the dieting process over again. My adorable friend Tiffany had told me that she stays trim on Chef's Diet
. She went on and on about how the food was edible and that there were various plan options at all price points. I got on my computer and ordered one-month's worth of frozen food from Chef's Diet (half to arrive in the beginning of the month, and the other half to arrive in 2 more weeks). About a week later, a huge box arrived with a "Caution! Dry Ice" warning label. I must have set my expectations too high for Chef's Diet, because everything I tried tasted like it had been overcooked in the 'wave for atleast 5 minutes (overcooked eggs are probably the nastiest thing I've EVER eaten). Another disappointment was the diet's not-so-Nutri-System-like return policy. Instead of trashing all of the meals, I divvied them up and gave them to some of the gals at work who luckily, enjoyed them much more than me.

And...My LOVE: Within the first week of Chef's Diet
, I knew quickly that it wasn't for me. Luckily, another fabulous lady named Amy told me about the diet that she was currently on, called "Nu Kitchen." She said that the meals were very tasty and were delivered to her doorstep every morning, which Chef's Diet can do as well (but who cares). What sold me on her pitch was the fact that you are able to choose your meals on a weekly basis from an online menu! Also, if you give Nu Kitchen a 24-hour advance warning, you can cancel a delivery! The fact that meals are delivered daily and you can choose your foods from a menu was enough to make me sign up on-the-spot. I dashed to my computer and placed my first order. Instead of going with a set plan, I chose to order a la carte, so I have a bit more flexibility and am not bound to a contract.

I nearly tripped over my first delivery! A cooler was placed in front of my door carrying two meals. Visually, the food looked amazing and I was anxious about taking my first bite. I won't take too much more of your time, but I will say that Nu Kitchen's
food is absolutely unbelievable! So far, I've had: sliced medium-rare beef, a fettuccine with mushrooms and asparagus and a breakfast granola dotted with almonds and cranberries and served with yogurt and fruit. The fettuccine and granola were definitely better than most I've eaten in restaurants! And here's the best part...All of the meals are 500 calories or less!

I just had to gush!!! I'm in love and have found my soul mate!