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Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a food website/blog that views the New York City dining scene 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 Seasonal guides & trends (13)

Tuesday
Nov062012

T.G.I.November!

November means...

Giving back  Whether you donate a winter coat - canned goods - or your time, try to remember those who are less fortunate this season.  Namely, the folks who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  Overwhelmed or don't know where to begin?  Here's a good place to start

Falling back  Watching the sun go down at 4pm is kind of depressing - but I can't complain about the 6am sunrise.  Maybe this time change will be the kick-start I need to resume my early morning workouts...

Rock the Vote  If you're a US citizen who's 18 years and older, get out there and vote today!  Can you believe that, at this time tomorrow, we'll know who the next President of the United States is?

Red wine-weather  I hate white wine.  It's sour and pungent and stings my throat on the way down.  Plus, many of the people I know who drink it drive me NUTS.  That's why my wine of choice is a full-bodied cabernet.  And there's not a better month to kick off being a "red wine whore" than November.

Ice skating  This is one of my favorite leisure sports to enjoy during the colder months.  And, finally, the rinks are open!

Starbucks' red holiday cups  I don't know, there's just something about this particular cup series that make me happy.

The perfect excuse to make roasted root vegetables...or Brussels sprouts  Actually, it's the perfect excuse to make *anything* roasted, for that matter. 

Here's a super easy recipe that'll serve 2-3:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, washed and halved
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Method:  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with foil.  Toss all ingredients together, and season liberally with salt & pepper.  Disperse sprouts evenly on to cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes.  Enjoy!

The return of 'pop-up' holiday markets  From November 16th through December 24th, enjoy the holiday markets at Union Square, Grand Central Terminal, Bryant Park, Columbus Circle, etc.! 

Asia  I followed him to Hong Kong, and now I'm going to visit him in Singapore.  My cousin, Eric, landed a great gig, so my sister and I are headed that way in about a week and a half.  Then, the three of us will journey to Thailand, before my sister and I finish our trip in Hong Kong.  I'm really looking forward to getting away for an extended amount of time...and eating my weight in dumplings!

Thanksgiving  While I won't be state side for my favorite holiday this year, I will make sure to give thanks for everything and everyone in my life.  And I hope that you will do the same!

 

What else is going on/kicking off this month? 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Oct052012

Embracing the fall: A Valentino "puffer" jacket + an apple festival

As we welcomed October this past Monday, I think it finally sunk in that I can no longer wear open-toed sandals - sleeveless dresses - or my beloved white jeans.  Sigh.  Summer *really* is over.  And, while I worship so many things about the warmer months in New York, to be 100% honest, this past summer royally sucked.  So, I've decided to completely embrace the fall... 

What comes to mind when you hear the word "fall?"  For me, it's:  Apples, cute boots, primary-colored leaves in the canopy of trees, 60-something degree days, and closet switch-outs.  In fact, fall in New York is one of my most favorite times of the year, second only to the spring.

Here are some items/day trips/exhibits that I'm currently "falling" for:

RED Valentino Bow-Neck Quilted Jacket  Source: saks dot comStuart Weitzman:  Spats Suede Button Knee Boot  Source: neiman marcus dot comPrada Nylon Dog Carrier  Source: neiman marcus dot comI'm *dying* to have a girl's weekend at the Bedford Post Inn, where we could take complimentary yoga classes (for hotel guests) - embrace the bounty of colorful trees - make a day trip to Blue Hill at Stone Barns - and just relax!  Source: bedford post inn dot comSpend a Saturday at a fabulous orchard picking apples - and pumpkins ~  Source: time out ny dot comCheck out the Andy Warhol exhibit at The Met  Source: met museum dot org...

While most of the above are all luxury "dream" items/weekends, I've decided to take a more realistic approach:  In order to get this season properly kicked off (after all, it is the first weekend in October), some girlfriends and I are headed to Brooklyn this Sunday for an apple festival called Gala Gala Hey!

Sounds fun, no?  Actually, it's just what the doctor ordered.  I cannot think of a better way to end what has been a very emotionally draining, dramatic week.  On Thursday morning at around 8am, a beautiful young woman fell to her death from the 40th-story roofdeck of my apartment building.  My heart breaks for her family and friends, as I cannot possibly imagine the horrendous grief and heartbreak they must be going through.  Coming home (to my apartment building) from work yesterday was pretty solemn and eerie - I just wish that there was something I could do to help, if "help" is even the right word...

Wishing you all a beautiful and healthy fall weekend!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Sep142012

Fashion emergency: What is all the rage with...

..."smoking slippers?"  Personally, I prefer to smoke in my flip-flops.  I'm kiddingSort of...

OK, granted, the minimal heel and crushed velvet exterior does look super comfortable - but, really?  They're just so...Hugh Hefner.  No?  I mean, what the hell do you wear these things with and, for the love of god, who was the fashion-house asshole that deemed them 'cool?'  I seriously want to know.

Ladies/gents:  What are your thoughts on fall's hottest - or, shall I say, "hautest" - shoe?  To slipper or not to slipper, that *is* the question.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Jul122012

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

Thursday
Apr052012

I smell summer! Plus, my "warm weather wish list"

All of this pollen in the air can only mean one thing:  spring may have sprung, but summer is just a couple of sneezes away!  

Since 2008, I've had the good fortune of enjoying many summers in the Hamptons.  Just yesterday, some girlfriends and I solidified our dates for five weekends - spread over the course of the summer - in Montauk.  Visions of bicycling to/fro the beach - lunching on lobster rolls and kettle-cooked potato chips - tanned skin and brightly-painted toes- meeting and partying with new people - play like a movie in my head.  I can't tell you how excited I will soon be to escape the sweltering city heat for Montauk's cool surf and charming turf... 

With all of this talk about the Hamptons, I'll have you know that, despite my geographical location, I'm not so keen on the whole "East Coast prep" look/attire.  I can't help but wonder what would happen if a dude, all decked out in nautical gear and Nantucket Reds, showed up at a bar in Texas.  A beat-down would ensue, no doubt.  Yikes!  So, on that note, I decided to create my very own, uniquely-styled "warm weather wish list." 

Here's to a lottery ticket, a dollar, and a dream!  Enjoy...


Atlantic City's newest resort, Revel - I hope to venture out to this part of the Jersey Shore at least once this summer!


Ray-Ban Mirrored Aviator Sunglasses- If your face isn't round/heart-shaped like mine, I hate you.  Why?  Because you can actually wear these uber-cool shades without looking like an arse.  Maybe Ray-Ban, or one of its competitors, will finally decide to make aviators for folks, like me, with big heads.  Regardless, I desperately need a new pair of sunglasses.

 

Mason Black and White with Leather Strap Dress - I love the effortless simplicity of this all-in-one dress that, deceptively, looks like two pieces.

 

Butter by Nadia Strapless Maxi Dress - This brand creates "one size fits all" dresses that, truly, flatter almost any body.

 

Salvatore Ferragamo's Selene Patent-Leather Tote - Sweet and innocent, especially with that feminine bow.  It's the perfect goodie-two-shoes bag for the bad-girl-at-heart!  And what a great color for summer!

 

Vix "Betsey" (top and bottom sold separately) -I adore everything about this bikini, from the color scheme and cut, to the details.  Love.

 

Miu Miu Bow-Embellished Halterneck Bikini (also comes in black) - The scalloping and white bow make this flirty little number mysteriously demure.

 

Karla Colletto Turquoise Square Plunge-Front Swimsuit - Because, let's face it, ladies, sometimes you just don't want to hold-in your stomach.

 

Nicholas Kirkwood Pearl-Platform Satin Slingback - Um, seriously, there are no words to describe my love for these shoes.  The pearls?  The platform?  The peep toe?  I can't.  Speechless.  Breathtaking.

Nicholas Kirkwood pumps

 

Sergio Rossi Crystal T-Strap Platform Sandals - Probably one of the most unnecessary pairs of shoes I've ever come across but, my goodness, aren't they lovely? 

 

Alice + Olivia Lansey Glitter-Coated Metallic Leather Peep Toe Platform Sandals- Perfect to rock poolside in your swimsuit and/or coverup - or just for a fun night on the town!  Bam.

 

J. Crew's 4" Chino Short - Shorts are back with a vengeance, so make sure your legs are ready to be exposed!

 

Herve Leger Cutout-Back Bandage Dress- Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, screams "sexy" like Herve Leger...

 

Valentino Couture Bow Jelly Thong Sandals - Shut up.  I know.  These exact same sandals make my wish list every year, but why wouldn't they?  They're the cutest flip-flops on the planet and maybe, just maybe, this will be the summer that I finally cave and purchase them.

 

Rachel Zoe Rachel Bootcut Jeans - White jeans are a must for summer!  I fell in love with this particular cut when I saw Olivia Palermo rocking a pair of bell-bottoms like it was her job.

 

J. Crew Enamel Bangles - The turquoise and gold color combo screams "summer!"  Imagine how gorgeous these bangles would look against golden, tanned skin?  Sigh.

 

Ippolita Lollipop 18-Karat Gold Topaz Earrings - Doesn't the blue topaz remind you of the ocean?  'Nuff said.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Mar232012

Spring flings

Thanks largely in part to global warming, spring is upon us earlier than ever.  In NYC, today's high temperature is forecasted to be around 75-degrees!  Now this may be a typical March reading for you folks down South but, in my neck of the woods, anything over 60-degrees is relatively unheard of - at least until the end of April!  Maybe. 

So, as you can only imagine, New Yorkers are ecstatic!  Friends and lovers can be found dining and cocktailing al-fresco - extra, bulky layers and S.A.D. lamps are being stowed - and, perhaps most shocking of all, passersby are acknowledging one another with eye contact and, gasp, a smile.  Well, that's all fine and dandy, but the question that every skeptical New Yorker has on his/her mind is:  when will the other shoe drop?  Today's high may reach 75-degrees, but will tomorrow's forecast include a snow storm?  Only time will tell but, at least in the meantime, all 8+ million of us are living for the moment and enjoying the hell out of this unseasonably gorgeous, spring weather.

~

And, speaking of being so 'seasonally giddy' that I'm fluttering around like a butterfly, I wanted to share some of my "spring flings" (...or, some of my *current* favorite things):

 

Pacari Ecuadorian Organic Chocolate's "Cuzco Pink Salt & Nibs" bar 

Ok, so I may have initially been drawn to this particular company's products because I spent a glorious week in Ecuador, but it was one bar that really garnered my attention:  Cuzco Pink Salt & Nibs.  And not just *any* old pink salt, folks.  But pink salt procured from the sacred valley of Cuzco, Peru, another gorgeous town and landscape that I fell in love with.  Let's be real for a second, though:  none of the fancy, fluffy "Ecuadorian Organic" wording or the region(s) in which this chocolate and its ingredients originated is important if the product sucks.  Right?  Come on, I'm just being honest... 

Well, it doesn't suck.  Not one bit!  Confession:  this particular Pacari blend is my most favorite chocolate bar in the entire world.  It captures every sense - sweet and salty - that sings to me, with a peppy texture, courtesy of the tiny nibs. 

Oh, and good news for those of you who have food allergies/intolerances/keep Kosher:  this bar is certified Organic, gluten-free, and Kosher!

Pacari Ecuadorian Organic Chocolate is available for purchase online, or at the following venues in NYC:

 

Easter & Passover-friendly desserts from Magnolia Bakery

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending Magnolia Bakery's Spring Desserts Media Tasting at the company's Columbus Avenue location.  As a self-professed sweet tooth and cupcake whore, you can imagine my anticipation! 

Below, please enjoy my sexy photo-collage from the tasting and, even further below, I'll let you know which of the treats are worthy enough of purchase!  Hint:  looks can be very deceiving...

Mini Hummingbird CupcakesStrawberry Icebox CakeMother's Day CupcakesEaster Egg Brownie BitesMini Lemon CupcakesStrawberry Rhubarb Coffee CakeMandel BreadMatzoh CrunchIf I were attending an Easter meal/party and needed to bring dessert, I would consider the following best options from Magnolia Bakery:

  • Mini Hummingbird Cupcakes:  you simply cannot beat the banana/pineapple cake that's topped with a rich, cream cheese frosting and chopped pecans!
  • Strawberry Icebox Cake:  as if this dessert weren't delicious enough, the essence of fresh strawberries takes it to a whole other level. 
  • Chocolate Whoopie Pies (*note:  these were included in our "goodie bags" from the event and were absolutely divine!!!)Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery

If I were attending a Passover meal/party and needed to bring dessert, I would consider the following best option from Magnolia Bakery:

  • Matzoh Crunch:  dense caramel is topped with a layer of matzoh and drizzled with milk, dark, and white chocolate.  Want to make this treat taste even better?  Sprinkle the top with sea salt!

 

Cherry blossoms are *actually* budding all over town!

Photo found on moonfun dot net

Dishes' sandwiches

If you happen to work in the culinary wasteland that is Midtown East, then I don't need to remind you how quickly it is before you become bored with lunch options.  Sure, there are definitely a handful of winners - Melt Shop, Omar's Kitchen & Bakery - but, more often than not, you will be disappointed by most.  And then, of course, there's Dishes, which is like in a category of it's own.  Dishes is one of the most expensive hot/cold salad bars that you will ever encounter.  In your entire life.  Complete with some of the most shiteous lines of hungry Midtown lunch'ers and spacial disorganization in the area.  So why, you ask, would I even mention this clusterf*ck of a place?  Well, because they make two of the tastiest sandwiches - at least, in my opinion - in town:  the Shrimp Bahn Mi and the special, which isn't available very often - so check the website's weekly specials frequently, the Korean Beef Bulgogi

Dishes' Shrimp Bahn Mi sandwichDishes' Korean Beef Bulgogi sandwichNow, if those aren't two of the sexiest sandwiches you've ever seen, then there's something seriously wrong with you.  But, I'm assuming that the majority of you are wiping drool off of your mouths.  So, on that note, here are my secret tips of how to get your very own Dishes sandwich with the least amount of havoc:

  • Depending on your location, Dishes offers delivery and/or pickup.  Since I'd rather not pay a delivery fee and have to tip someone, I always choose to "pickup." 
  • Beginning every morning at 10:30am, Dishes' online ordering system opens for lunch.  Place your order and pay online, and either have it delivered later or go and fetch it yourself.
    • If you do choose to fetch yourself, make sure to go to one of the two cash registers and announce that you're there for a pickup order.  Do not approach one of the employees at any of the food stations - they'll just send you to one of the registers.  Time management, courtesy of yours truly.

And, most importantly, enjoy your sandwich and do report back!  I can't wait to say "I told you so."

 

Life of a Trophy Wife

If you have a sense of humor - love/admire the finer things in life - and need someone new to envy, then I suggest checking out this fabulous blog, aptly named Life of a Trophy Wife.  I'm so obsessed, that I've even bookmarked the site - something I *rarely* do!  Yep, folks, Life of a Trophy Wife is that good.

 

Unorthodox:  The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, a memoir by Deborah Feldman

No matter what religion you claim, it's fair to say that most radical fundamentalists are mysterious, exclusive, racist, and intolerant.  So, after reading her eye-opening interview in the NY Post, I immediately purchased Deborah Feldman's memoir, Unorthodox, on Amazon.com.  I could hardly wait to read the first-hand account of a Hasidic Jewish woman who successfully broke free from the Satmar community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Sadly, I just finished this book yesterday.  It was so intense and fascinating, that I almost didn't want it to end!  Ms. Feldman's happily-ever-after ending is inspirational to women of all ages and creeds.

To me, finding a good book is like finding a decent guy:  they don't come around very often!  Sigh.

 

What have you fallen in love with this spring?  I'd love to hear from you!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle