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  • 6/20-6/23: Milwaukee
  • 6/28-7/7: Turkey & Greece
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  • 7/20: Rockaway Soiree
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Entries in Schmoozing with famous people (52)


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

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

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