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Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a NYC based food and travel website that views various dining scenes and destinations through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated thirty-something.

xoxo, 

Lindsay

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Entries in Seasonal guides & trends (15)

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

Friday
Oct212011

Fall 'nom nom noms' at Num Pang Sandwich Shop

...because it's about time that someone incorporated the Fall season in to their everyday 'fast casual' menu.  Props to you, Num Pang Sandwich Shop!

Beverage: Hot ginger-apple cider with bourbon-infused Roma apple chunks

Platter: Maple BBQ turkey wings with spicy papaya slaw

Sandwiches

  • Oven-roasted turkey breast with ginger-cranberry jam
  • Spicy boneless pork spare rib with tamarind glaze
  • Roasted kadota figs with bacon and chilis

Soups:

  • Lemongrass beef stew w/ pickled soy sprouts
  • Roasted pumpkin with coconut cream and basil croutons

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Jul282011

A few of my favorite things: TLB's haute list for a cool summer

The Lunch Belle's list of summer staples & new finds.  What's on yours?

Apparel

Kate Spade: pricey?  Absolutely.  However, if you sign up for email alerts via the website, you will receive sale events.  Pretty often, in fact.  It's the only time that I shop at good ol' Kate Spade.  The reason that I love this brand so much, aside from her classic designs and unapologetic femininity, is because it fits.  I am shaped like a woman, not a stick-figure or a super model, and her clothes are very flattering and forgiving.  It's rare for me to find a clothing brand that I can speak so highly of but, I can say without a doubt that, everyone looks like a million bucks in Kate.  

Lululemon: Best. Workout. Gear. Ever. 

TOMS Shoes: they're affordable, comfortable as hell, are available in every color under the rainbow, and, for each pair that you buy, TOMS donates a pair to a child in need.  Plus, they're a much cleaner alternative to wearing flip-flops for the commute to/from work!

Edible

Foodsherpa: this website is like the "Groupon" for foodies.  Once you sign up, you then receive daily email alerts about fine artisanal food products - at a discount!

Sweet corn: raw, boiled, grilled, or incorporated in to Mexi-corn Salsa or Calabacitas, this is my favorite "summer staple" vegetable.

Nectarines: there's nothing quite like a perfectly ripe, non-mealy, juicy nectarine.  'Nuff said.  Only about 6 more weeks to enjoy them until next summer!

Pret-a-Manger

  • Avocado Pine Nut Wrap: one of my go-to lunches during the work week.  I love the creamy avocado and crunchy pine nuts cut with the pungent cheese and toothsome veggies.  Filling, too!
  • Edamame Bowl: perfectly salted and portioned.

Exercise

Beach cruiser (a.k.a. my $95 K-Mart bicycle): it's awkwardly wide, red, rusting from the elements, in need of some serious WD-40 love, and has only one speed but, at the end of the day, my "red rocket" safely gets me from point A to point B. 

Flywheel / Flybarre / Exhale: I have a *very* addictive personality - typically, to a fault.  Cigarettes?  Yep.  Food?  Double check.  Trust me, the *last* thing I ever thought I'd become addicted to was exercising.  Hell, I used to tell my friends that "I'd rather lick a toilet seat for 45-minutes than step foot in a f++king gym."  I'm serious.  Well, that was until my friend, Brette, introduced me to Flywheel back in January.  She begged me to take a class with her and, finally, after much persuasion, I agreed.  Having never "spun" before, I was instantly transfixed on the fact that the entire class was orchestrated in the dark.  That, to me, meant: no one had to watch me sweat and make weird faces, and I did not have to watch anyone else sweat/make weird faces/check themselves out in the mirror.  Also, having an instructor meant: I did not need to try to figure out what the hell it was that I was supposed to be doing at a gym, or have to keep up with the ever-changing "top 40" pop songs for my iPod.  Chuckle all you want, but those are two major factors that kept me far from the doors of any Equinox (even if gyms *do* offer classes...there's not a snowball's chance in hell that they're even half as awesome as Flywheel / Flybarre / Exhale).  I'm more than happy to have someone else take the guess-work out of my workout, even if that means paying a bit extra.  Thanks to Brette, that first spin class has turned in to a 3-4 day/week obsession.  On the days when I don't spin?  I treat myself to Flybarre, which is conveniently located within the same space as Flywheel.  I find 'Barre to be the perfect compliment to spinning, as it is a form of body sculpting that blends yoga, ballet, circuit training, pilates, and strength building.            

Exhale's Core Fusion: when I'm in the mood to change things up, I head to Exhale for their Core Fusion class.  Not only are all of their locations extra posh and zen, but their studios are sizeable.  My venue of choice in NYC?  Their fabulous space, Exhale Midtown, overlooking Central Park.  Nam-ahhhhh-ste.

Weekend retreat just a Metrocard swipe away

Rockaway Beach: an hour subway ride away from the heart of Manhattan - a boardwalk stocked with plenty of solid eats (not just fried clam bellies) - great people watching - and a little ghetto fabulosity make this my ideal stretch of, what I like to call, the "Queens Riviera."

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Jun092011

Summer's here: lean back and do the Rockaway!

Earlier last week, my friend, Jeremy, suggested that we hit the beach at some point during the weekend.  Having just returned from Southern California, determined to maintain my subtle tan, I jumped at the idea of "picking up where I had left off," if you will.  We went back and forth between Sandy Hook (in NJ), Long Beach (on Long Island), Orchard Beach (in the Bronx), and Rockaway Beach (in Queens) before finally deciding on Orchard Beach. 

Both of us were looking forward to our beach excursion in the Bronx until we realized what a pain in the tuckus it would be to get out there - not to mention how long it would take (upwards of 2-hours).  The directions basically read like this, "take a subway to xyz...get off and walk 20-minutes to the bus stop.  Take the bus, then walk another 20-minutes to the entrance of the park.  Hop on the back of an orangoutang, who will take you to a tree swing and push you across a river.  From there, you will be met by a unicorn who will sprinkle fairy dust on your back and fly you over the Cross Bronx Expressway.  Finally, you'll hitch-hike to the beach..."

Ugh.  No thanks.

Ultimately, we chose Rockaway Beach, instead of Orchard.  Not quite the shortest of treks, either, but the directions were definitely less intimidating and our mass transit options were more concise and familiar (subway, that's it). 

Here are my personal directions, which have been tweaked per my experience.  This will get you to Rockaway Beach quicker and leave you in the best possible span to begin your day on the water:

*We left Manhattan just before noon and arrived at the beach at approximately 1:30pm.

  • Take the FAR ROCKAWAY - MOTT AVE bound A train to BROAD CHANNEL STATION
  •  Get off of the A train @ BROAD CHANNEL STATION and transfer to the S train
  • Take the ROCKAWAY PK-BEACH 116TH ST bound S train to BEACH 98TH ST STATION
  • Get off of the S train and exit the station
  • Walk to Beach 96th Street - head in direction of the ocean
  • Walk towards water or, if hungry, to Rockaway Taco :)

Our first order of business upon arrival?  Lunch at Rockaway Taco, conveniently located on Beach 96th Street, of course!  See, there was a reason behind my "tweaked directions," above!

"Cukes," or cucumbers and, in this instance, jicama and mango, are marinated in a spicy bath of chile and limeTaco duo (one beef, one crispy fish), plus homemade chips and salsa, soda popAfter a great lunch - Rockaway Taco isn't Southern California, but it's about as good as a beach-side taco shop gets in New York - J and I headed towards Rockaway Beach's boardwalk and, ultimately, the beach.  I was incredibly surprised to pass the likes of Caracas Arepa Bar, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Babycakes, among other off-shoots of reputable, established restaurants and bakeries in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  You know, places where you couldn't find a "fried clam" on the menu to save your life.  Is it just me not having been outdoors in a while, or are beach side kiosks - serving high quality, edible food - just an isolated phenomenon at Rockaway Beach?  Whatever the case may be, this is reason enough to warrant many return visits this summer. 

If you're used to the Hamptons and/or have an aversion to children, teenagers, or being adjacent to one of the world's busiest airports (ahem, JFK), then you'd probably hate Rockaway Beach.  However, if you have somewhat of a tolerance for the above and are able to see a beach for what it is - sand, water, sun - then you'll be A-OK.

Shell-strewn sandWhat's not to love?~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle