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 Schmoozing with famous people (52)


(NYC) Fighting cancer with music...and mezcal

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


Yellowchair - a free, membership-based social media network for foodies - collaborates with chefs, restaurants, interesting venues and brands to create one-of-a-kind culinary experiences.  Members have access to curated dinners, tastings, private events and culinary adventures making it the perfect backdrop for “Dinner with NEW friends.”  And the ideal sponsor for last week's agave-infused dinner at Casa Mezcal, hosted by Corey Wade (third place finisher and first homosexual male contestant on America's Next Top Model, musician, TV personality, and LGBT spokesperson) and Sound Affect, a platform that partners with celebrity musical artists to promote their appraoch to revolutionizing the war on cancer.  Pretty cool, eh?

Our famous - and gorgeous - musical entertainment for the eve: Corey Wade (Photo courtesy of Yellowchair)Casa Mezcal is a modern and eclectic Mexican restaurant located in Manhattan's super hip Lower East Side neighborhood.  And, given its name, the perfect venue for a mezcal-fueled dinner!

We were given 2 types of mezcal to sample: Los Amantes (thrice distilled) and Santa Pedrera (twice distilled).  While each version of the spirit delivered the traditional smoky flavor and aroma, the Santa Pedrera‘s notes were much heavier - or shall I say fuerte!

Aside from the chips and salsa/guacamole, the first dish to be presented was the "Chapulines estilo Oaxaca"  (Translation: Toasted grasshoppers seasoned with salt and lime).  I could only bring myself to eat one.  It wasn't that the insect tasted bad...I just couldn't get over what I was eating!!  And that crunch!  (Squirm!)

Grasshoppers!!! The second dish we were served was the Queso con Yerbasanta (Translation: pan fried cheese wrapped in santa herb and served atop tomatillo sauce with tortilla on the side).  As a self-professed cheese'oholic, I could not have been happier. 

Post dinner, Cory Wade was our entertainment for the night!  He sang tons of awesome cover songs and had the most sultry voice.  After his performance, he sat down with us and had a few shots of mezcal!



Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande 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) BBQ'ing in Brooklyn with Questlove, George Takei, and friends

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


Hosted and curated by QUESTLOVE, the Taste Talks All-Star BBQ brought world-renowned chefs together in Brooklyn to whip up their signature dishes al-fresco!  Check out the incredibly brag-worthy lineup, description of offerings, and my thoughts, below.

Photo courtesy of Taste Talks.


Michael Psilakis (MP Taverna, Kefi, Fishtag) // Jarobi White (Musician; Eats, Rhymes & Life)

The chefs paired up with Los Angeles’ famed La Brea Bakery and created a pulled-lamb slider that made for an awesome start to the day!  This early favorite wowed me with a plethora of kick and an amazing range of flavor. 

Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour) // Dan Santoro & Bert Krak (Smith Street Tattoo)
RAW LAMB LARD & BBQ YUZU CABBAGE | With fish sauce, brown butter, mint, and thai basil

Certainly an interesting interpretation for a BBQ festival, this dish stood out for its lack of cooking (read: BBQ’ing) and its awkward (tang from the bitter yuzu) and inedible (charred cabbage) flavors.  Another time/another place, perhaps.  But here?  At a BBQ festival?  No.  Just no.

Alex Stupak (Empellón) // Damian Higgins AKA Dieselboy (DJ/Producer)
LA HAMBURGUESA CAMPEÓNA | Grilled short rib patty on a potato roll, Tex Mex style queso, red pepper-chorizo relish, crispy gaufrettes, smoked mayonnaise

What a remarkable slider!  Cooked to a perfect ‘medium rare,’ short rib beef patties were topped with smoked mayo, crinkle-cut potato chips, and – my favorite - Texas queso before being sandwiched within a soft and squishy potato bun.

Daniel Eddy (Rebelle)

Although I found this portion to be on the smaller side, the sausage managed to fully deliver thanks to the inherent richness of the duck.  The plum jam proved to be a fantastic companion, to boot!

Rob Newton (Wilma Jean, Nightingale 9, Smith Canteen) // Lee Gregory & Joe Sparatta (Southbound)
GRILLED PORK SHOULDER | With rice noodles, Virginia peanuts, cucumbers and herbs

The succulent, savory pork melted in my mouth.  I was so taken by this dish, I had to sit down!  The rice noodle-salad had a very familiar flavor, although it wasn’t listed - chicharrones, perhaps?


Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was the large presence of seafood dishes - from mussels and crab to lobster tails!

Hugue DuFour (M. Wells) // Mark Hegedus (Blue Point Brewing)

This was the longest line at the BBQ, and rightfully so: Hugue Dufour’s platter was so ample that it required me finding a seat to navigate through the plate of crab, summer corn, and Parker House rolls.

Ben Conniff (Luke's Lobster) // Matt Timms (The Takedowns)
CHILI-BUTTER LOBSTER TAILS | With grilled cabbage and corn slaw

These ‘tails were a surprise treat and very-well received amongst the heavier, "land" proteins.  Buttery and light with a nice amount of char, the lobster tails were served alongside a colorful purple cabbage and corn salad.

Russell Jackson (SubCulture Dining) // Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black)
GRILLED MUSSELS | with Korean gujoung pork fat butter and fermented cornbread peptia crumble

After an unforgiving rainstorm, this was the final savory booth that I visited.  And although my plate was a bit wet from the elements, the vibrancy of the flavors remained intact and the mussels, themselves, were delicious.


Dessert: What a welcome addition to a BBQ festival!

Laura O'Neill & Ben Van Leeuwen (Van Leeuwen Ice Cream// Sharon Van Etten (Musician)
TRIPLE PEANUT | Peanut butter ice cream with a peanut butter swirl and crunchy peanut brittle
BUTTERMILK JAM | Buttermilk ice cream swirled with house made raspberry jam

This creative ice cream-version of a PB&J sandwich was chock-full of natural ingredients which helped me chase away any lingering feelings of guilt.

Allison & Matt Robicelli (Robicelli's Bakery) // George Takei & Telly Leung (Actors, Allegiance A New Musical)
FUJI APPLE PIE | With miso caramel and vanilla bean tofu cream

A unique take on the American staple (apple pie), this slice of heaven was made even sweeter by the fact that it was served by none other than George Takei (modern celebrity hero) and Telly Leung (actor, equal rights activist).


While I made it a point to sample everything, there was only so much time and room in my stomach!  The following are the four booths that, unfortunately, I did not get to experience:

Justin Smillie (Upland) // Heems (Musician)
GRILLED VEAL RIBS | With charred cherry tomato salsa

Pierre Thiam (Pierre Thiam Catering) // Island Creek Oysters
GRILLED OYSTERS | With Spicy Smoked Crayfish Mignonette and Cassava Leaves with Peanuts

Roblé Ali (Roblé & Co. & Streets BK)

Shannon Shaffer (Design Cuisine) // Lauren Wagner (Street Art Throwdown) & Jenna Morello (Street Artist)
KOREAN BBQ BEEF BRISKET | Asian pear and fennel slaw, wasabi pearls, puffed rice cracker


Thank you, chefs!Not even scattered thunderstorms could keep the crowds away!  Despite the passing showers, Questlove kept the mood upbeat by spinning for the crowd throughout the entire day.  And what a day it was!



Until we eat again,

Edgar Castillo for The Lunch Belle 


So, the Food Network called...

No, really.  They did! 

I was just contacted by a casting director for the Food Network who wanted me to let y'all know that she and her team are scouring the nation looking for the best home cooks!  Why?  Because they're casting for "All-Star Academy!"  

Ten home cooks from across the country are paired up with some of Food Network's biggest names — Bobby Flay, Alex Guarnaschelli, Curtis Stone and Michael Symon — in the new culinary competition All-Star Academy, hosted by Ted Allen. Each home cook, with the guidance and support from his or her Food Network mentor, competes in intense culinary challenges; each mentor's reputation is on the line during the eight episodes, as each mentor hopes his or her pupil will make it to the finish line. One by one, the home cooks are eliminated by special guest judges who determine which dishes are not up to par. One home cook will be left standing, winning bragging rights and a $50,000 grand prize.

OK, so if you consider yourself to be a Food Network fanatic and truly skilled home cook who prepares elevated dishes completely from scratch, then read the flier, below, and apply!  What are you waiting for?


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


The Lunch Belle interviews RHOA's infamous Mama Joyce!

Love her or love to hate her, Mama Joyce is the unofficial matriarch of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.  Personally, while I've always remained neutral in tiffs between her and famous daughter, Kandi Burruss, it wasn't until I actually got to speak with Mama Joyce, one on one, that I absolutely fell in love with her. 

Photo credit: Jessica from Reality Wanted dot Com Southern women, especially of the older school, are tough cookies.  They don't put up with a bunch of crap and are more than happy to gingerly put you in your place.  By the same token, you will never meet a more outwardly warm, gracious, polite, or welcoming woman than a Southern dame.  And Mama Joyce is no exception.   While she may come off as a fire cracker on television, she could not have been more lovely over the phone.  If I could describe my interaction with MJ (Mama Joyce) in one sentence, I'd say that she is like the grandmother you never had.  But always wanted.  Sweet and loving...with a dash of Southern sass.


TLB = The Lunch Belle

MJ = Mama Joyce

TLB:  "Hi MJ!  Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me!"

MJ:  "Hi!  You are welcome."

TLB:  "So I heard that you've lost quite a bit of weight.  Congratulations!  40 pounds, to be exact!  Can you divulge how you did it?"

MJ:  "Thank you!  I started a program called Dramatic Weight Loss about 2-years ago.  Actually, it was Kandi who first told me about it.  And, yes, I've lost 40 pounds!"

TLB:  "Well, congratulations again!  But I want all of the dirty details.  What did the diet entail?"

MJ:  "For the first 3-days, I had to drink a protein shake every 3-hours to prevent hunger.  Once I went in to ketosis, I was able to add food back to my diet like salads and fish."

TLB:  "Shakes, eh?  Were they gross?" 

MJ:  "Girl, no!  I still drink them - by choice - to this day!  I love the chocolate or vanilla flavor that I make extra sweet with Sweet 'N Low."

TLB:  "Interesting.  That really says a lot about the company's products if you drink the shakes now, in your maintenance phase, by choice!   Speaking of maintenance, don't you find it to be harder than the actual diet, itself?"

MJ:  "You know what's funny?  I hadn't had fried chicken in months until the other day and, wouldn't you know, it upset my stomach!  Also, I can now be around sweets without having to indulge in a piece of cake or candy.  I don't crave those things anymore.  It's crazy!"

TLB:  "That is crazy, because no matter how far in to a diet I am, I still crave donuts/cake/gummy candy/ice cream, etc. on a daily basis.  God bless you, MJ!  So, I have to ask, do you cook at home?  If so, how often per week?"

MJ:  "(Chuckles) Thank you, baby.  Yes, I do cook at home.  About two times/week."

TLB:  "On the off times when you aren't cooking, do you go out to eat?  If so, what do you order at, say, an American restaurant?"

MJ:  Girl, I love Red Lobster.  I usually order some kind of baked fish, salad, and either a baked potato or rice."

TLB:  "...and I love Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits!  Do you let yourself indulge in those?"

MJ:  "(Chuckles) Me too!  Well, mayyyyyyyyyyybe just one."

TLB:  "Switching gears now.  How's your granddaughter, Miss Riley, doing?  I haven't seen her on the show all season!"

MJ:  "Oh, she's wonderful, thank you.  She is doing great."

TLB:  "I loved seeing your sisters with you a few episodes back.  You can see the resemblence!"

MJ:  "Thank you.  Did you know that I am the baby of fourteen?"

TLB:  "No!  That is amazing.  And so interesting!  I love it.  Now, MJ, in closing, is there anything that you'd like for me to share with my readers?"

MJ:  "Just let everyone know that I am self-sufficient.  Kandi and I have rekindled our relationship and we're stronger and better than ever.  I love my daughter."



Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


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