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Lindsay

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Entries in Round-ups & restaurant-hopping (26)

Friday
Apr032015

March: The best things I ate last month

With March having quickly come and gone, I wanted to do a wrap-up of the best, most noteworthy things that I ate.  And drank.

Enjoy!

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Milton's Craft Bakers Gluten Free Baked Crackers

Crunchy and thin, salty, light, guilt-free (they're gluten free AND non-GMO), and absolutely delicious - my coworkers and I have been going BANANAS over these crackers!  After having tried four varieties, including Crispy Sea Salt - Multi-Grain - and Cheddar Cheese, my favorite would have to be Everything.  Similar to the namesake bagel, the Everything cracker is chock-full of sesame seeds, caraway, poppy and, in an extra-healthy twist, quinoa seeds!

Note: I do not have Celiac Disease or follow a gluten-free diet.  I begrudgingly tried these crackers assuming that, because they are "gluten free," they'd taste like cardboard.  Boy, was I wrong!!

Milton's Gluten Free "Everything" Baked Crackers.

The Kimchi Quesadilla, Kogi BBQ Truck

This is the food truck of all food trucks, isn't it?  To be honest, I don't think I had ever heard of anything other than a "taco truck" prior to Kogi.  Had you? 

Being that Kogi started right here in LA, I had to pay tribute to the "OG of street food" by paying it an inaugural visit. 

...With none other than The Kimchi Quesadilla: Two perfectly blistered, buttery flour tortillas were "filled to the gills with melting jack and cheddar cheeses and caramelized kimchi" before being slapped together and topped with classic salsa roja and sesame seed crush. 

What, hater, does the melding of Mexican and Korean cuisines not sound appealing?  Well, you couldn't be more wrong.  Because this seemingly crazy concoction of flavors and textures is sheer fcuking DYNAMITE!

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Banana cream pie, The Apple Pan

It's not that I dislike bananas, but they're not my "go to" fruit.  I'd say I'm much more of a pineapple or other type of tropical fruit kind of gal.  However, when it comes to the Banana Cream Pie at The Apple Pan, I am a born-again believer.  The buttery, slightly-sweet crust is lathered with a thin layer of banana pudding, piled high with *fresh* banana slices, crowned with another layer of pudding, then finished with homemade whipped cream.  Absolutely delicious!

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Pork & Chicken Meatballs, Shophouse Southeast Asian Kitchen

For those of you who don't know, Shophouse is like an Asian version of Chipotle.  So instead of filling a flour tortilla with Mexican ingredients, you're filling a rice bowl with pan-Asian vegetables and protein.  And the winner on the menu?  The pork + chicken meatballs.   

I'd be a liar if I said that I wasn't terrified about ordering meatballs containing chicken (upon my first visit to Shophouse).  I mean, it's just. Such. A. Boring. Protein.  Why wouldn't they make the 'balls with beef?  Whatever.  The takeaway is that they're shockingly moist, juicy and, as odd as it is to say, velvety.  These morsels are bursting with so much flavor that I find myself curiously craving them on a weekly basis.

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A tall glass of doogh, Shamshiri Grill

There's nothing sexier than hearing your beau speak his native language - especially when he's ordering food and drink on your behalf.

Farsi menu at Shamshiri GrillIn an effort to try something new, I ordered a glass of "doogh" to go alongside my meal.  Doogh, a savory yogurt beverage that tastes very similar to buttermilk, is served over ice and finished with mint.  It's tangy, slightly salty, filling, and quite delicious.  

 

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Feb132015

My first visit back to NYC…as a tourist: Homecoming 2015

Sometimes, you have to leave to come back...


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Friday, February 6th

How fitting: My NYC-bound flight number was "212."  It absolutely had to be a sign, right? 

Upon checking in for my crappy row 30/middle seat at the United Airlines kiosk, a prompt asked me if I would be interested in upgrading to First Class for $250.   Since I was flying on "miles," all I paid for my round trip ticket was $11.20, a tax fee of some sort.  $250 for a First Class upgrade on a 6-hour flight meant: Free access to the airport lounge, a humongous seat that doubled as a "flat bed," a warm meal, extra space, comfort, and free flowing champagne.  Sounds kind of like a rap video, right?   I couldn't click "yes" to the cabin upgrade quickly enough...

From security, I was ushered to United Airlines' airport lounge.  Spacious, clean, and comfortable, the only thing missing was bar service.  But, then again, it was only 6 AM...

United Airlines' Lounge at LAXAnd once onboard, breakfast was served...

United Airlines' First Class breakfast service: Sausage links, steamed spinach, broccoli + cheese souffle, scrambled eggs with red pepper sauceWhat's a long journey without some shut-eye?  I slept like a baby atop my "flat bed!"  It was more comfortable than I could have ever hoped for or imagined!  After all, I wouldn't be getting much sleep in the city that never sleeps...

Can you spot my toes?View of the Atlantic, about 5-minutes from landing in NYC...

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I feel like the cab drivers in NYC are either silent/have the personality of a fruit fly - or they're exceptionally talkative, engaging, and funny.  From JFK to Manhattan, my cabbie was the latter.  "(In his heavy Urdu accent) I live in a Jamaican neighborhood.  That is such sexy English, Mon.  Sexy!  Sometimes, I try to talk like them.  They call all of the ladies 'Ma,' you know?  I've said that to a couple of my customers.  Like, 'hey Ma!'"  What an entertaining - and totally 'New York' - way to re-enter New York!

In a twist of fate, or just sheer convenience to the wedding venue, one of the reserved room blocks for Yan's nuptials was at a Hilton located on my old block.  I couldn't not stay there!

The tall, reddish building in the background was where I hung my hat for 7 years!.

En-route to my "makeup-over" at the Caravan Style Studio, I popped by Maysville for a quick glass of vino.  Just like old times...

Wineo'clock with an urban landscape.

After my drink-and-dash, I proceeded to The Carlton Hotel, where Caravan has a fabulous, hidden "stylist studio."    

Caravan Stylist Studio, is an innovative wardrobe and beauty studio that pairs actresses, tastemakers and media influencers with top fashion designers and beauty experts located at the Carlton Hotel in New York City.

Each week, Claudine DeSola, owner of Caravan, partners with hundreds of fashion designers to select clothing and accessories for Caravan’s guests. In addition, a full-time beauty expert provides clients with a host of other complimentary services, including hair styling, makeup application, mini skincare-spa treatments and nail design.

Upon my visit, I had beauty expert, Valerie Star, give me a "makeup-over."

She did an incredibly amazing job, if I do say so myself!  For a lazy gal who only wears "full makeup" on special occasions, this was the ultimate in pampering.  I wish Valerie could work her magic on me everyday!

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For dinner, I met up with two of my girlfriends for some delicious Greek fare at Ethos Galleria.

Greek salad

Caravan Stylist Studio, is an innovative wardrobe and beauty studio that pairs actresses, tastemakers and media influencers with top fashion designers and beauty experts located at the Carlton Hotel in New York City.

Each week, Claudine DeSola, owner of Caravan, partners with hundreds of fashion designers to select clothing and accessories for Caravan’s guests. In addition, a full-time beauty expert provides clients with a host of other complimentary services, including hair styling, makeup application, mini skincare-spa treatments and nail design.

- See more at: http://www.caravanstyliststudio.com/#sthash.RQJjQSSh.dpuf

Caravan Stylist Studio, is an innovative wardrobe and beauty studio that pairs actresses, tastemakers and media influencers with top fashion designers and beauty experts located at the Carlton Hotel in New York City.

Each week, Claudine DeSola, owner of Caravan, partners with hundreds of fashion designers to select clothing and accessories for Caravan’s guests. In addition, a full-time beauty expert provides clients with a host of other complimentary services, including hair styling, makeup application, mini skincare-spa treatments and nail design.

- See more at: http://www.caravanstyliststudio.com/#sthash.RQJjQSSh.dpuf

Caravan Stylist Studio, is an innovative wardrobe and beauty studio that pairs actresses, tastemakers and media influencers with top fashion designers and beauty experts located at the Carlton Hotel in New York City.

Each week, Claudine DeSola, owner of Caravan, partners with hundreds of fashion designers to select clothing and accessories for Caravan’s guests. In addition, a full-time beauty expert provides clients with a host of other complimentary services, including hair styling, makeup application, mini skincare-spa treatments and nail design.

- See more at: http://www.caravanstyliststudio.com/#sthash.RQJjQSSh.dpuf..

Good night, NYC!

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Saturday, February 7th

Saturday morning came much quicker than I could have anticipated.  I met my cousin, Larry, and friend, Jeremy, for a quick bite before spinning off the carb-calories at SoulCycle.

Good Stuff Diner: Breakfast bagel'wich.

For brunch, I headed uptown to meet some girlfriends at one of my favorites, The Smith.  

We raised a toast and clinked our glasses...

The Smith: Blood Orange MargaritaAnd I made sure to indulge in two of the Atlantic's greatest gifts to humans: "Montauk Pearl" oysters and lobster (in the form of a traditional lobster roll).

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After visiting with two more friends and sneaking in a quick post-brunch snooze, I made my way over to Little Sal's for an informal tasting. 

Situated in the former Chat 'N' Chew space, Little Sal's takes full advantage of the interior's low ceilings, checkered floors, shiny red banquettes, and sizeable bar - thus creating the perfect atmosphere/back drop for a traditional "red sauce" Italian joint. 

Little Sal's: A look insideAfter ponying up to the bar, I asked the staff a roster of questions.  One of the most important being, "Do you have a happy hour?"  I learned that, although having only been open for a few weeks, Little Sal's did, in fact, have happy hour (menu coming soon!):

  • 4-6 PM
  • $20 bottles of wine
  • Food and drink specials

While awaiting the arrival of my entree, I noshed on buttery, grilled toast points that were accompanied by Sicilian-fig caponata and basil pesto (for dipping and dunking).  

Little Sal's: Grilled and buttered toast points with Sicilian-fig caponata, basil pestoI chose the Linguine alle Vongole (pasta with clams) for my main course.  In addition to being topped with manila clams, the noodles were intertwined with a generous amount of briny bits!

There were so many items I didn't get to sample on Little Sal's dinner menu that stood out, namely the Branzino Oreganata with Pickled Grapes & Fennel and the Meatballs with Red Sauce. Looks like I'll just have to return upon my next visit NYC! 

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As if one Italian dinner wasn't enough, I met ten of my girlfriends for 'round two' just 45-minutes post my tasting at Little Sal's!  We enjoyed a bountiful, family-style supper at newish downtown favorite, Bar Primi, followed by cocktails at Saxon + Parole.

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Sunday, February 8th

On Sunday night, I was thrilled to get to celebrate the wedding of a dear friend of mine and his beautiful bride.  The ceremony and reception took place at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers, which is a fantastic venue overlooking the glacial Hudson River.  And the icing on the cake?  Famed caterer, Abigail Kirsch, handles the food/beverage for the event space!  Win win.

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Monday, February 9th

Monday was busy; I spent the first half catching up with friends and colleagues, and the second half with the NYPD.  That's right, my ATM card was stolen and I had to file a police report per my bank's request.  I was shuffled between two precincts in completely different parts of town and, because of this, was not able to visit my old coworkers/office.  Thankfully, dinner at Root & Bone with two of my besties helped brighten up my crappy day.

Just like any other Southern supper, we kicked off our meal with scratch-made biscuits.  This version was served with delectable, warm honey-roasted chicken jus for dipping, plus sesame seeds and Maldon salt to taste/season.

Root & Bone: Biscuits + chicken jusDeviled Eggs and Grilled Butternut Squash promptly followed...

We split our three entrees, which included: Shrimp & Grits, Fried Chicken & Waffles, and the most amazing mussels I've had, to date.

This meal was, without a doubt, one of the best that I've had in recent memory.  Everything, from start to finish, was outstanding.  What a delicious way to end a vacation!

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Tuesday, February 10th

And just as quickly as my weekend jaunt flew by, it abruply came to an end.  

Before I left for the airport, I made a pitstop at my favorite bagel spot, The Corner Cafe, to grab my final breakfast and snag 2-dozen for my coworkers in LA.  What a treat that would be!

It was really hard to get in to my JFK-bound cab and watch NYC get smaller and smaller as we drove further away, not knowing the next time I'd be back...   

My homecoming was as amazing, scary, sad, exilerating, and torturing as I had imagined.  It proved to me that I love NYC more than ever and, whenever that time may be, I cannot wait to come back for more!

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

Monday
Feb022015

January: The best things I ate last month

Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class food + beverage services

My first meal of this "New Year" was kicked off in London.  Technically, I was returning to the US on January 1st but, still, I woke up in the UK.  So that counts! 

Save for that one time in 9th grade when my friend and I flew "First Class" with her father to Orlando, I have never experienced anything fancier than "Economy Plus."  So, as you can only imagine, I had no idea what I was in for when I snagged a last-minute upgrade to Virgin Atlantic's "Upper Class" cabin...

Pre-wheel's up, I enjoyed a delicious full-service English breakfast at Virgin Atlantic's The Clubhouse at London Heathrow:

English breakfast at Heathrow's Virgin Atlantic lounge: Toast, a poached egg, baked beans, grilled tomato half, bacon, and sausage

And once onboard, lunch went a little something like this:

Gnocchi to start...

For my entree, I chose the Indian meal: Yellow curry with paneer, saag with mushrooms and corn, basmati rice.

And for dessert, the Sticky Toffee Cake...

After taking a 2-hour nap on my fabulous "lie flat" bed, I was pleasantly awakened by the clinking sounds from the mugs and saucers during afternoon English tea service.  And you know I wasn't about to go back to sleep and miss out!

English tea, assorted finger sandwiches and sweet bites, jam and clotted creamCall me a yokel, but I was very impressed with the food and beverage services that I enjoyed in Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class cabins and lounges.  Well done, Mr. Branson!  Well done! 

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Capo's Rigatoni with Truffle Meat Sauce

OMFG.  This was, without a doubt, one of the best pasta dishes I've eaten.  Ever.  From those toothsome, perfectly al-dente rigatoni noodles, to that rich and creamy tomato gravy specked with salty pork nibs, this pasta makes Capo "destination worthy" in and of itself.

The only thing not sexy about this dish?  Its $26 price tag.  Le sigh...

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Dinner at Pago

Despite Utah's liquor laws, I really enjoyed my quick jaunt to Salt Lake City.  The scenery was gorgeous (snow-capped mountains), the locals were incredibly friendly and helpful, and the food was fantastic. 

On our last night in town, we dined at local favorite, Pago.  While everything we ordered was delicious, I particularly enjoyed:

Braised pork shoulder cake Served atop a bed of sauteed and fried Brussels sprouts were two deep-fried cakes/patties filled with tender braised pork shoulder.  Think along the lines of a crab cake.

Pago Burger Locally-raised beef, cooked to a perfect medium-rare, was topped with thick-cut bacon, Gouda, pickled onion, and black garlic aioli.  Truffle frites served as an accompaniment.

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Mexican combination plate, Gilbert's El Indio

Rice, beans, a cheese enchilada, and the most perfect shredded-beef taco.  Gilbert's kills it. 

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Spicy ahi poke (via the poke/ceviche bar), Bristol Farms

As if a raw bar featuring ceviche and ahi poke wasn't awesome enough, Bristol Farms offers all of the accoutrement to make your own chirashi bowl: White AND brown sushi rice, seaweed salad, chunks of fresh mango, soy sauce, etc.

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Almond croissant, Belwood Bakery

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"Lake Tahoe" sandwich (with a pork link instead of chicken), LINK

Looking back on my trip to Berlin, I realized that, not once did I indulge in Germany's most famous edible: Sausage!  Having made up for my international faux-pas last Friday night, I would be willing to bet that LINK's "Lake Tahoe" sandwich could easily hold its own against any Deutschland rival. 

Since I'm not a big poultry fan, I subbed the chicken link with pork (...good Jewish girl that I am).  Enveloped within a freshly-baked roll, the juicy wiener was topped with applewood-smoked bacon, crispy onion rings, and a ridiculously delicious apricot mustard.

Photo courtesy of LINK...

Homemade horchata finished with a shot of Stumptown's cold brew (coffee), Guisados

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My winning Super Bowl submission: Dump Cake (a.k.a. Cherry + Pineapple Cobbler)

 

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Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Apr122013

Life of late - in words, pictures, and forkfuls

Enjoy some exciting snippets from my life of late...in words, pictures, and forkfuls.  TGIF, y'all! 

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The Closing Belle

One of my baller coworkers was able to get our team floor access at the NYSE (NY Stock Exchange) to watch the closing bell.  Live! 

New York Stock ExchangeWhile I found our 'field trip' exhilarating and awe-inspiring, the highlight, at least for me, was seeing her majesty, Maria Bartiromo, in person.  And she smiled at me!

Maria Bartiromo!...

NYU

So, I didn't tell anyone besides my family and the two folks whom I asked to write letters of recommendations on my behalf but, in January, I applied to the Food Studies Masters program at NYU.  And, after almost two months of awaiting my application's fate, I learned that I was accepted! 

A big "thanks" to my family for sending me this NYU hoodie!Beginning this fall, I will be a part-time co-ed (night classes)!

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Kaffe 1668

Aside from the fact that they serve some pretty decent coffee, this Tribeca juicer/coffee house/restaurant also hand-makes an assortment of artisanal chocolates.  Think varieties like Earl Grey, pineapple + rum, and, my personal favorite, the peanut butter + honey + salt. 

Note:  Kaffe 1668, especially the location across the street from the Citigroup buildings (388 and 390 Greenwich Street), is a FABULOUS place to meet hot finance dudes.  It's swarming! 

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Locanda Verde

Carbo-loading.  It's the only way to go at Locanda Verde.  At least for me.  On a recent visit, I was reminded of how incredibly delicious the gratis, house-made focaccia (served after the table has ordered), Sheep's Milk Ricotta appetizer, and Lamb Meatball sliders are.  We're talking "destination-worthy" here, folks.  

Locanda Verde: Lamb Meatball sliders...

Terroir

And, speaking of meatballs, I ordered Terroir's version between glasses of red wine.  Large, moist, and almost perfectly seasoned (I had to add salt), the meaty trio was served in an earthenware soup-like crock amidst a pool of robust marinara.  Melted parmesan cheese blanketed each 'ball like the early winter's first dusting of snow.

What would have made the meatballs even more perfect would have been a warm side of bread for dipping and dunking.

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Escape from Camp 14

Ever since I was a child, I went through phases where I became incredibly obsessed with one specific topic/religion/person/nationality.  This typically lasted anywhere from 6-months to a few years.  From desperately wanting my name to be changed to "Amanda" - to Catholicism, Russia, Pearl Jam, Tool (the band, people!), and NYC...I definitely have/had a broad range of interests/fascinations.  I'll never forget, at about 10 or 11 years old, when I fell in love with a ski lift operator named "Winston" at Ski Apache, a ski resort that is run by the Mescalero Indians.  My parents still remind me about my $25 donation to a Native American Indian fund, who later sent me a "dream catcher" as a token of their thanks.  It hangs in my closet to this day!

Right now, I'm completely fascinated/mystified/horrified by North Korea.  A few weeks ago, I purchased a riveting book called "Escape from Camp 14," which details one man's remarkable odyssey from North Korea to freedom in the West.  There really are no words to describe the fluctuating range of emotions I experience as I eagerly - and suspensefully - turn each page.  I cannot put the thing down!

Read this now!! "Escape from Camp 14"...

Shanghai Asian Cuisine

With Seamless Web's 15%-off deal yesterday, some coworkers and I took advantage of the discount and ordered Chinese food from Shanghai Asian Cuisine.  Being that the colleagues who suggested this restaurant hail from Shanghai, I more than trusted their selection.  

In an effort to sample as much as I could in one sitting, I ordered three items:

Xiao long bao (pork soup dumplings)

Shanghai Asian Cuisine: Xiao long baoQuite possibly, the best xiao long bao that I've had outside of China...minus the fact that no vinegar sauce was served on the side.  Otherwise, the dumpling skins were thin - the broth was salty and flavorful - and the pork meatballs were juicy and decadent.

Shanghai-style rice cakes (fried)

Shanghai Asian Cuisine: Shanghai-style rice cakesMy love affair with rice cakes began with Korean food.  I love their gummy texture and, in the case of the oval/oblong shape that's shown above, the ease of combining all key components (veggies, protein, sauce) with each forkful/bite.  Rice kernels can be so tedious!

The soy-based, salty brown gravy - combined with bite-sized pieces of braised beef and shrimp, plus onions and bok choy - made for an incredibly delicious meal.  I literally had to get up and walk away from my desk to stop myself from eating the entire portion.

Sesame rice balls (sweet

Shanghai Asian Cuisine: Sesame rice ballsSurrounded by a gluttonous rice dough/shell was a molten-like core that oozed with sweet black sesame paste.  The "balls" were served in water (...god knows why). 

I'm thrilled to have been introduced to Shanghai Asian Cuisine by my coworkers and cannot wait to reorder next week!!

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Duane Park Patisserie

This small, charming bakery has been on my "must try it" list for at least a year.  I had read somewhere that they carried a version of Southern-style petit fours (see picture, below, for a better idea), and that's all it took for me to add them to my coveted list.  So, on my way to meet someone for a drink last week, I stopped in and grabbed one!  Afterall, Balthazar Bakery's version have become so almond-y.  Blech!

Photo found on Duane Park Patisserie's websiteFor $3/piece, Duane Park Patisserie's version doesn't come cheap...but it's the best Southern-style petit four that I've had outside of NM Cafe in Dallas.  And that's saying A LOT.  There wasn't a trace of overly-fragrant almond marzipan, which I find to be the "petit four deal breaker."  

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Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle