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.

Just consider me your one-stop NYC - and, most recently, Los Angeles - shop!



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Entries in Schmoozing with famous people (48)


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


Celebrating Wong's 1st anniversary with $9 cocktails & Gael Greene

I was thrilled when Hollywood invited me to join her and her husband, plus two of our other couples friends for Wong's First Anniversary Whole Hog Roast.  Gosh, I'm such an exemplary Jew...

For $38 (Including tax and a service fee), we enjoyed a multi-course, pig-centric meal.  Added bonus?  $9 specialty cocktails.  Look, I realize that $9 for a drink may sound pricey to those of you outside of the five boroughs but, sadly, that's quite a steal for us locals.  Or suckers that pay too much for everything.  Whatever you'd like to coin us...

Despite the fact that we would not be sampling any of Wong's daily menu items, I was really looking forward to this large format meal.  There was just something about the restaurant's casual, yet sophisticated, space that made me want to linger.  I especially got a kick out of the chairs...They reminded me of those from grammar school.  Perhaps it was those chairs, coupled with the long, communal tables that resembled desks, that really evoked the whole "being in a classroom" thing.  Only this was a classroom where you could actually talk to your friends without getting scolded...and drink.  A lot.

Source: wong new york dot comI whetted my palate with an excellent Tamarind Margarita (...that tasted even better at $9/glass).  Rimmed with a blend of black sesame seeds, tamarind, and salt, an "old fashioned" glass was filled to the brim with this fragrant, exotic take on a traditional favorite.

Tamarind MargaritaThe first course we received was the Pig Ear Salad.  While I did take a lovely picture (ahem, see below), there was no way in hell that I was going to devour this dish.  I took one bite and spit the ear out.  It's not any fault of the kitchen/chef, I'm just not a big "offal" fan.  And I guess I draw the line at pig ears.  Sorry, y'all.  But, please, do enjoy that pretty photo!  Oh, and make sure to note the white "stripes" in each noodle-looking thing - that's cartilage!! 

Pig Ear SaladJust as I was about to start eating my chopsticks from hunger pangs, something arrived that warmed my picky little heart:  Scallion Pancakes

Are all scallion pancakes made with rice flour?  Because these were greasier than most - along the same vein as Korean pancakes.  Don't worry, it's not like that stopped me from eating my portion - and then ordering a second helping.  Laced with plenty of melted scallion bits, the 'cakes were accompanied by soy sauce for dipping/dunking purposes.    

Scallion PancakesThe next dish to arrive was the Dan Dan Noodles.  One of my most favorite things in the entire world...When prepared properly, of course. 

Wong's version was constructed with ultra-thin ramen noodles.  By "ultra-thin," I mean thinner than the noodles I've seen in most versions of Dan Dan - as in vermicelli-thin.  Anyways, the gristle-free ground pork, crunchy scallions, and tangy - but not spicy - vinaigrette were fantastic and incredibly flavorful when combined. 

And, come on, you already know that we ordered two more bowls of this deliciousness...

Dan Dan NoodlesAs if I hadn't already gorged on enough starch, the next item to arrive was the Fried Rice

Moist, yet dotted with crunchy kernels, the buttery rice was chock-full of Chinese sausage and sauteed green onions.

Fried RiceFor our "vegetable course," we received some sort of bitter green and baked squash/gourd. 

I found the greens to have an overwhelmingly unpleasant rotten-fish taste.  But my friends absolutely loved them and could not stop raving!

The baked squash/gourd, in my opinion, felt more like an afterthought. 

I give this course an overall "meh."

Bitter, fishy greensBaked squash/gourdAnd......drumroll please......the Roast Pig

The seven of us were initially (read "initially") presented with two roasted pork-topped plates; one for each side of the table.  Since I'm not big on gristle and/or spitting fatty bits in to my napkin, I didn't eat too much of the swine.  However, I did enjoy a couple of bites.  The rest of the table, on the other hand, went "hog wild" and ordered more plates.

Just when I was about to relieve the top button of my jeans, Julie gasped, "OMG you guys! (cough, point, cough) Gael Greene just walked in!" 

...You bet your ass we got a picture with her!

Hollywood, Jules, Gael, me, and MarysaAlthough a bit startled by our approach, Ms. Greene was gracious and seemed like a very nice woman.  She even handed us 'post cards' advertising her newest books, which she claimed were "very similar to 50 Shades of Grey."  Meowwww!

Just when we thought our night could not get any sweeter, dessert was served:  Nectarine Financier topped with Pork Ice Cream

Buttery, mildly sweet, dense, yet moist at the exact same time, the financier was divine.  I wanted another, in fact. 

Prior to taking my first hesitant spoonful, the pork ice cream was very intimidating.  However, it revealed that it was only kissed by the slightest pork-y essense (smoky and earthy).  Nothing offensive or overwhelming in the least.

Nectarine Financier, Pork Ice CreamWhat a fun, affordable, delicious, and star-studded evening we enjoyed together at Wong!  Hey, if it's good enough for Gael Greene...



7 Cornelia Street, NYC 10014

Ph: 212-989-3399


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


A pre-Bastille Day cruise with Chef Marc Murphy

My mom always encourages me to "be a tourist in your own city."  And she's right.  To this day, I'm shamed to admit that I've never been to the following major NYC attractions:  Top of the Rock, Museum of Natural History, MoMa.  And those are just a handful.  Oh, did I mention that I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate museums? 

So, you can imagine how excited I was to learn about something a little more my style, if you will:  Every Tuesday evening, Benchmarc Events (owned by celeb chef, Marc Murphy) hosts a "Summer Cruise Series," featuring different themes (see postcard, below).  For $60, guests enjoy 2-hour's worth of unlimited assorted cocktails/wine/beer, Chef Marc Murphy's delicious food, and priceless views of NY Harbor.  Now, I don't know about you but, to me, that sounds like the ideal way to "be a tourist in my own city."   So much so, in fact, that two friends and I grabbed tickets for this past Tuesday's Bastille Day-themed cruise!

"Oh, that has to be it," I said, pointing to the line of beautiful people at the NY Waterway Pier (Battery Park City location).  And, sure enough, as we neared, a friendly Benchmarc employee approached and checked us in for the cruise.

While boarding the bi-level, open-air ferry, Nicole, Em, and I were offered ice cold Brooklyn Summer Ale.

How cute - and fitting - is her beret for Bastille Day?At 8:15pm on the dot, we set sail!  Cocktails began being poured atop the ferry's upper deck.     

I opted for the specialty cocktail, the Bastille Blanc:  Lillet, Limoncello, Soda, and Orange. 

We socialized and imbibed as the sun slowly set over Manhattan...

Me and my two Emily'sAnd passed by some breathtaking sites and urban-scapes...

Beautiful lower ManhattanJust after sunset, we headed to the lower deck and filled our plates with an abundance of delicious, French-inspired bites.

Merguez (lamb) sausageBoudin blanc and chicken sausage skewers, baguetteCold vichyssoise soup shots (potatoes, leeks, onion, cream, chicken broth)Croque monsieur!French cheese boardCrudite and fresh breadSweet & savory crepes!For dessert:  Hand-made pistachio macarons with salted caramel, strawberry macarons with dark chocolate (apologize for not having a photo - it was too dark to get a decent shot).    

And the piece de resistance?  Breathtaking (literally), magical views of lower Manhattan and Lady Liberty under the dark night's sky...

Freedom Tower is the building w/ blue lights!God bless America!Me with Chef Marc!

I had such an incredibly fun and delicious evening "being a tourist in my own city," that I've decided to return for July 31st's "Sparkling Wine and Swine" cruise.  As my birthday celebration!  Seriously, is there a better way to ring in (gasp) 32?  I don't think so... 


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Oh, what a night! A recap of the 3rd Annual SAVEUR Summer BBQ

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the 3rd Annual SAVEUR Summer BBQ:  Global Food Tasting Event.  Encompassing the circular, open-air rotunda at the Boat Basin Cafe, 15+ of the country's top chefs - and friends of SAVEUR Magazine - served up their own unique spins on barbecue.  Wait, it gets better:  Each food item was paired with one of two specialty Grey Goose cocktails, a Brewery Ommegang beer, and a wine from Dona Paula.

Here's a list of the chefs who came out - the restaurant(s) that they represent - and the BBQ-themed dish(es) that they made:

  • Chef Chris Cosentino, Incanto:  Calabrian Lam & Corned Lamb Heart Panino
  • Chef Shea Gallante, Ciano:  Maine Lobster Alla Griglia
  • Chef Susan Feniger, Border Grill, STREET:  Chilled Yakisoba Noodles w/ Pickled Green Vegetables & Green Sriracha Skirt Steak
  • Chef Teddy Folkman, Granville Moore's:  Chicken & Waffles
  • Chef Gavin Kaysen, Cafe Boulud:  Blackened Grilled Shrimp & White Polenta w/ Pico de Gallo
  • Chefs Warach Lacharojana & Patharaphon Phutpha, Spice Group:  Grilled Esarn Pork Jaw
  • Chef Anita Lo, Annisa:  Green papaya Salad w/ Pork Jerky
  • Chef Seamus Mullen, Tertulia:  Pulpo A La Brasa, Grilled Octopus w/ Summer Squash
  • Chef Sisha Otruzar, Riverpark:  Grilled Brisket Quesadillas
  • Chef Francois Payard, FPB:  Chocolate BBQ Macarons and Toasted Marshmallow Milkshakes
  • Chef Andy Ricker, Pok Pok:  Marinated Flank Steak w/ Galangal Chili Paste
  • Chef Ben Pollinger, Oceana:  Blackened Louisiana Shrimp w/ Mirliton Salad
  • Chefs Max & Eli Sussman, Mile End Deli, Roberta's:  Peanut Butter Cheesecake, Raspberry Jam Gelato, Fried Banana
  • Chef KN Vinod, Indique Heights:  Masala Lamb Chops
  • Chef Damon Wise, Monkey Bar:  BBQ'd Tri-Tip
  • Chefs Chen-Hua Yang & Shao-Lung Huang, Mr. K's, Maruko Sushi & Tea:  BBQ Pork Sausage, Hot Stone Beef BBQ, & Mushroom Melody

Inside of the open-air rotunda at Boat Basin CafeI made an attempt to photograph every chef's offering but, while some pictures were lost due to bad exposure/lighting, others simply weren't taken.  Sorry, guys, I was just too afraid to sample Chris Consentino's "Calabrian Lamb & Corned Lamb Heart Panino"...

Below, please enjoy my gustatory photo tour of everything that I ate, chronologically, at the 3rd Annual SAVEUR Summer BBQ:  Global Food Tasting Event:

Grey Goose Cherry Noir "Hamptons Punch"Chef Teddy Folkman, Granville Moore's: Chicken & WafflesChefs Chen-Hua Yang & Shao-Lung Huang, Mr. K's, Maruko Sushi & Tea: BBQ Pork Sausage, Hot Stone Beef BBQ, & Mushroom MelodyChef Gavin Kaysen, Cafe Boulud: Blackened Grilled Shrimp & White Polenta w/ Pico de Gallo Chef Susan Feniger, Border Grill, STREET: Chilled Yakisoba Noodles w/ Pickled Green Vegetables & Green Sriracha Skirt SteakChef Francois Payard, FPB: Chocolate BBQ Macarons and Toasted Marshmallow Milkshakes Chefs Max & Eli Sussman, Mile End Deli, Roberta's: Peanut Butter Cheesecake, Raspberry Jam Gelato, Fried BananaChef Andy Ricker, Pok Pok: Marinated Flank Steak w/ Galangal Chili PasteChef KN Vinod, Indique Heights: Masala Lamb ChopsChefs Warach Lacharojana & Patharaphon Phutpha, Spice Group: Grilled Esarn Pork JawChef Shea Gallante, Ciano: Maine Lobster Alla GrigliaChef Anita Lo, Annisa: Green papaya Salad w/ Pork JerkyChef Ben Pollinger, Oceana: Blackened Louisiana Shrimp w/ Mirliton SaladChef Damon Wise, Monkey Bar: BBQ'd Tri-TipChef Sisha Otruzar, Riverpark: Grilled Brisket QuesadillasMe and my "rover," Emily...

Dishes that made me swoon (...so much so, that I turned around and grabbed seconds):

  • Chef Susan Feniger, Border Grill, STREET:  Chilled Yakisoba Noodles w/ Pickled Green Vegetables & Green Sriracha Skirt Steak
  • Chef Gavin Kaysen, Cafe Boulud:  Blackened Grilled Shrimp & White Polenta w/ Pico de Gallo
  • Chef Sisha Otruzar, Riverpark:  Grilled Brisket Quesadillas
  • Chef Francois Payard, FPB:  Chocolate BBQ Macarons and Toasted Marshmallow Milkshakes
  • Chef KN Vinod, Indique Heights:  Masala Lamb Chops
  • Chef Damon Wise, Monkey Bar:  BBQ'd Tri-Tip

Chefs that made me swoon/drool:

  • Chef Chris Cosentino, IncantoPhoto found on Incanto dot biz
  • Chef Shea Gallante, CianoPhoto found on nymag dot com

Personal highlights from the event (...aside from all of the delicious food I consumed):

  • Catching up with Chef Marc Murphy, and getting introduced to his adorable Director of Communications, Emily
  • The fact that, despite the predicted forecast, the weather remained precipitation-free.
  • I took some seriously awesome food photos!
  • I ran in to my good buddy, Dana.
  • I scored the recipe for my favorite cocktail of the eve, Grey Goose Cherry Noir "Hamptons Punch!"  See below...


Grey Goose Cherry Noir "Hamptons Punch"


Ingredients :

  • 5 parts GREY GOOSE Cherry Noir Flavored Vodka 
  • 4 parts fresh-squeezed white grapefruit juice 
  • 3 parts strawberries
  • 1 part basil simple syrup (recipe below)
    • To make basil simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and hot water with 10 fresh basil leaves. Steep until dissolved and cool.

Method:  Thinly slice strawberries and place in a punch vessel.  Add remaining ingredients and chill for two hours.  Serve over ice, and present with strawberries.


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


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



Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle