Welcome

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

Search this site
Contributions & affiliations

Tabelog Reviewer TheLunchBelle

 

 

My delicious calendar
  • 4/28: dinner at Flex Mussels
  • 4/29: brunch at Atla
  • 4/30: NYMFLMG brunch at Rachel's Taqueria
  • 5/6: P&J's Derby party
  • 5/6: Derby Day at the Union League Club
  • 5/7: Liz's baby shower
  • 5/7: Adela's birthday at Roberta's
  • 5/26-5/29: Newport, RI
  • 6/23-6/25: Lissa's bachelorette
  • 6/29-7/4: Maine
  • 7/14-7/19: London
  • 8/31-9/5: Lissa's wedding in Hawaii
Login

Need more streamlined advice?  Shoot me an email with your specific requests:  Lindsay@TheLunchBelle.com.

Entries in The Weekly Eater: Recaps of my week in food/drink (17)

Wednesday
Jan292014

The Weekly Eater: Dining adventures in the Polar Vortex

Damn, the winter sucks.  And it's not like it only lasts for a month or two in NYC.  No, the bone-chilling temps hang around well in to April.  And the attire?  Don't even get me started on the unsexiness of it all.  With my floor-length black puffer jacket and furry ear muffs, I look like the Michelin Man directing air traffic.    

...and the air in my apartment is so dry that my poor dog has constant static-cling.

To further darken an already dark season, I took a bad spill a few weeks ago and fractured my hip.  "I've never heard of anybody under the age of 90 with a broken hip!  Hahhahhah!"  Said the resident office clown.  He does have a point though!  Doctor's orders are for me to modify my exercise routine so as not to further break the break.  Otherwise, I'm looking at surgery.  So, as you can imagine, I've been spending even more time doing what I do best:  Eating.  I've *tried* to cut back on my drinking to ward off extra non-exercisable calories. 

Without further ado, here's where and what I've been eating as of late... 

.

El Maguey y La Tuna  Mexican food, Lower East Side

Verdict:  A little rough around the edges and the restroom gave me vivid flashbacks of Mexico (...you cannot flush paper down the toilet) but, all in all, I enjoyed a tasty meal paired with warm service. 

If you do find yourself at El Maguey y La Tuna, famous for their handmade mole sauces, make sure to try their phenomenal Chilaquiles Verdes.  Imagine, if you will, a mound of mild green mole sauce-saturated corn tortilla chips finished with melted white cheese and paired alongside eggs (cooked to your liking) and black beans  This is a truly transcendent dish that is destination-worthy in every sense of the word. 

Chilaquiles verdes con juevosTo help weather the frigid temperatures outside, might I suggest the sweet and comforting Mexican Fruit Hot Cider? 

Mexican Fruit Hot Cider.

La Cenita  Mexican food, Meatpacking District

Verdict:  Hated it, hated it, HATED IT!

What are the ingredients for a shitty restaurant?  1) 9 times out of 10, a location in the Meatpacking District 2) Wait staff that doesn't communicate with the busser staff 3) A manager that scans the room constantly for famous folks and only approaching tables that appear to be occupied by Greek shipping magnates 4) Charging $9 for a double espresso.  Yes, I said $9 5) A waiter that exclaims, immediately upon being seated, "Hayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy girls!  What kind of water are we going to have tonight?  Still?  Sparkling?  You'll want to make sure to hydrate yourselves in preparation for drinking!"  To his unfortunate surprise, neither Jean, Ceci, nor I was imbibing that night.  And to our unfortunate surprise, that's when service took a somber turn for the worse.  6) Must I go on?

Get here NEVER!

.

Oreo's newest flavors!

VerdictOreo sent me a brought a box of each, Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Crispy,so I brought them to work.  The winning flavor amongst my coworkers was...a tie!  I told folks to take one of each and then let me know which was their favorite.  There was no middle ground; my colleagues either loved one flavor and hated the other. 

Personally, I did not have a favorite.  I enjoyed both of the new flavors, though found their respective fillings to be too oily/greasy.  I also noticed that the actual cookie portions didn't stick to the filling/icing very well.  I will say that I did enjoy the generous filling-to-cookie ratio...

*These two new flavors hit the shelves on Monday, 2/3.*  If you happen to buy a box of each, let me know what you think, overall, and which flavor you enjoyed more.  Personally, I cannot wait until Birthday Cake, Lemon, and Peanut Butter flavors are debuted!! 

.

Hu chocolate bars

Verdict:  Never was I EVER even remotely in to dark chocolate.  I passed it off as bitter crap that only snobby, skeletal wannabes and the men who love them ate.  That was until, out of sheer desperation, I succumbed to a Hershey's Special Dark mini.  And loved it!  Slowly, I began sampling various brands of dark chocolate and cacao percentages ranging from 40 to the mid 70s.  And then I stumbled upon Hu bars... 

Of the flavors I've sampled thus far, I'd have to say that my favorite is the Almond Butter & Puffed Quinoa.  I totally get that it sounds too healthy and too hipster, but it's fcuking delicious.  Imagine the crunch of a Nestle Crunch bar married with the sweet/salty/textural appeal of a Reese's PB Cup.  Bam! 

 

~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
Dec312013

Two months' worth of my favorite eats, drinks, and jaunts

Because December is (gasp!) almost over, I wanted to share some of my favorite eats, drinks, and treats.   And, most of all, I'd like to wish each and every one of you a very happy, healthy, successful, fruitful, and delicious New Year. 

All my best,

The Lunch Belle

.

Mead 

Be it corn, wheat, potatoes, grapes...you can make an alcoholic beverage out of pretty much anything.  So, why not honey? 

Recently, I discovered mead, a.k.a "honey wine," at Distilled, one of my favorite local bars.  Ranging from semi-sweet to cloying, mead goes down almost too easily.  Which is precisely how I like my alcoholic beverages.  Bottoms up!

.

Warm Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad at Blue Water Grill

Blue Water Grill's Warm Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad"Warm Brussels Sprouts."  Fine.  I get that.  But add "Caesar Salad" to the name?  That just sounds unappetizing.  And smelly.  If it were not for our server gushing about this dish after having asked what her favorites were on the menu, there's no way that I would have ordered this particular salad.  

Never, in a million years, would I have guessed how much I loved this bowl 'o greens.  Don't be fooled by the name like I initially was; the only thing "Caesar" about this dish is that the 'Sprouts are finished with a quick sautee in the namesake dressing.  Oh, and sprinkled with shredded parmesan cheese.

.

Otto's Tacos

You all know what a sucker I am for Mexican food.  And you also know that, since moving here almost 10-years ago, I've been on a constant quest for solid Mexican restaurants.  Looking back, it's not that I haven't been successful in my tireless search, per se, I just haven't found more than a handful of places that I'd actually return to.  Otto's Tacos just so happens to be one of those "handful of places."

Aside from the fact that they make their corn tortillas in house (shwing!), it's the garlicky guacamole, the 'why didn't I think of that' Masa Fries + dipping sauce, that secret red marinade on the carne asada, and the shrimp taco in its entirety that took my breath away.

Corn tortillas are made on the premises!HorchataMasa Fries & spicy dipping sauceGuacamoleCarne asada tacoShrimp taco (my favorite).

Breads Bakery

As a discriminating carb-o-holic, I take my baked goods seriously.  Very seriously.  Especially when the said bakery is of Israeli-Jewish descent. 

Chocolate babka and Nutella rugelach aren't all that is sold at Breads Bakery.  Think olive and cheese breadsticks that are worthy of changing your life; bourekas; loaves of freshly-baked breads and crusty baguette; warm chocolate croissants; a small gourmet sandwich/salad counter.  That's just to name a few of the mouth-watering offerings...

Dark chocolate and Nutella rugelachCrusty, cheesy breadstickBoureka trio.

'Chicken broth rice' at Nyonya

With entree accompanying-rice options of "brown, white, coconut, or chicken broth," I decided to live daringly and choose the latter.  After all, who hasn't had the first three?  Can I just say that this was one of the best decisions I've made in recent memory?  Imagine your traditional, semi-sticky, white jasmine rice.  However, instead of being boiled in plain old boring water, it's simmered in rich and salty chicken broth.  The resulting rice is light yellow in color and full of flavor.  To be honest, I would rather eat 'chicken broth rice' than a traditional entree.  

Try. It. Now.  

.

Shipley's Donuts

If you ever find yourself in Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport's terminal B, do yourself a solid and grab a fresh-from-the-fryer donut - or kolache - from Shipley's.  They're worth every last calorie, namely the glazed cake donuts. 

.

Home for the holidays...

For Thanksgiving, I joined my immediate and extended family in Texas for an abundance of cooking, delicious food, and plenty of cheer.

Lucy (white dog) and my sisters dogs got to come home, too!Many margaritas were had......and for Christmas, I joined my immediate family in California, where my sister lives.

Not bad for a "winter" view!I ate more than my fair share of Mexican food.I got my In 'N Out burger "animal style."Mom, my sis, and I got matching David Yurman bracelets from Santa Claus.We went to a Van Cleef & Arpels exhibit at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.

~~~

Until we eat again (...next year!),

The Lunch Belle

Saturday
Nov092013

The Weekly Eater: Fabulous finds and revelations

Happy weekend, y'all! 

Well, if I've done anything right this week, it was playing the role of "fat girl."  Instead of waking up each morning at 5am for my routine 6am workouts, I decided to set my alarm for 6:30am.  I've been feeling guilty about not being able to walk my pup, Lucy, as often as I'd like, so I figured that I'd take the week to treat her to some pre-breakfast strolls.  After all, with school two nights/week, and most of the other evenings dedicated to catching up with friends, Lucy and I haven't had as much 1x1 time.  That's a good justification for not exercising, right?  Add to that a couple of emotional eating binges, and here I sit about to burst out of my pants.  Sigh...   

What's on deck for your weekend?  As for me, I'm headed to San Francisco - like, as we speak (greetings from 30,000 feet above you, thanks to my new favorite way to fly, Virgin America) - to visit one of my besties.  I haven't been since I was a naive, uncultured 18 year old, so I'm really looking forward to my vacay.  And, tomorrow, we're heading to wine country!  But, before I land in California, I wanted to leave you with some of my favorite finds and revelations from this past week.   

Enjoy! 

~~~

Giovanni Rana's Artichoke Ravioli and Basil Pesto

Last weekend, we threw a belated Halloween bash at Jeremy's new apartment.  I arrived at his place on the early side to help decorate and make sure that we had our playlist in check.  Because he was generous enough to host our buddies at his new abode, I cooked him dinner as a "thank you."   

The name Giovanni Rana was already familiar to me since I had seen his restaurant, Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina, multiple times on Opentable searches.  So, while shopping at my local grocer, I did a double take when I spotted an assortment of his namesake pasta and sauces.  Feeling hurried and spontaneous, I decided to grab a bag of Artichoke Ravioli and a container of Basil Pesto.  

I'm not going to lie, I was completely floored upon opening the incredibly aromatic, bright green pesto... 

After boiling for 3-minutes, the ravioli was ready to be plated.  In following the instructions, there was no need to pre-heat the sauce since the just-cooked pasta was so hot.  Seriously, could this entree be any easier to prepare? 

Looks pretty mouth-watering, doesn't it?  After each taking our first bite, Jeremy and I just looked at each other, mouths agape.  "Damn, this is really good," he exclaimed.  "And I don't even like pesto sauce!"  He was right.  The ravioli pillows, stuffed with *real* chunks of artichoke, were perfectly al-dente.  Salty and robust with fragrant basil, the pesto was, quite possibly, the best I've ever tasted.  Seriously, there is no way in hell that anyone, save for the cook, would have an inkling that this pasta/sauce was store bought.  

What a winning combo! 

~

Jello shot-mold

One of our guests brought a ginormous, brain-shaped, vodka-infused, lime flavored-Jello mold for last weekend's Halloween party.  Cute, right?  I'm telling you, it must have been five - possibly ten - years since I'd slurped down a Jello shot.  I almost forgot how delicious and horrifyingly *easy* it was to get bombed!  Good, albeit foggy, times...

I may look sober, but...

~

Brunch at Park Avenue Autumn

This is home to one of my favorite - albeit expensive - prix-fixe brunches in the city.  Aside from the lovely and sophisticated atmosphere, the service is always on point.  And the food/beverage?  Dynamite. 

Honey + truffle prosecco cocktailFreshly-baked pastries, fruit buttersCocktail #2: Tumeric + lime with proseccoScallops with honeycrisp applesOmelet with butternut squash, gouda, and mushrooms~

Rachel Ray

My friend, Nicole, and I bought tickets from the Hudson Union Socieity to hear Rachel speak at The Cornell Club.  To be frank, I was pretty ambivalent about the event.  On one hand, my culinary/journalist hero, Anthony Bourdain, hates and pokes fun at her.  And I worship everything he says.  So much so, that I take his every word and opinion at face value and could care less about the "other side of the story."  On the other hand, however, Rachel is an accomplished star in the realm in which I live and breathe:  The world of food.  

From the moment the q&a session began, I found myself really taken by Rachel.  She is the product of working her ass off and falling in to fame by accident.  She's held every position from dishwasher to gourmet store manager to Food Network star.  And then some.  No, she's not a French-trained chef, but who cares?  Seriously, how many Americans legitimately eat - or prepare - fancy, French cuisine on a regular basis?  Most of us are home cooks who follow relatively uncomplicated, time-conscious recipes.  If that!  And Rachel represents the modern, everyday American.  That is why people take to her.  There is a commonality.  Plus, she's not intimidating.  And neither are her recipes.  Call me crazy, but isn't that a breath of fresh air?  

The bottom line is this:  I respect people who have had to pull themselves up by their own "boot straps" (as my Southern mother would say).  You know, those of us who have had to experience some good old fashioned character-building at the hands of suffering and penny-pinching.  Not Daddy's little princes/princesses who get "bailed out" each time they get canned/laid off/land on their asses.   

~

Tres Leches donut, Doughnut Plant

If you didn't know, tres leches cake is one of my top three favorite desserts of all time.  There's just something so deliriously sexy about iced white cake that becomes moist from soaking in three different *sweetened* varieties of milk.

Now, imagine all of that formed into the shape of a traditional cake donut - enveloped in a simple, powdered sugar-based icing.  First bite reveals a delicate, cakey interior that's dotted with globs of, what tasted like, condensed milk pudding.  Yes, really.  

This, my friends, is worth fcuking up your diet for.

~

Alta

Aside from our shady ass waiter, Jeremy, who demanded more than an $18 tip - and lied about the location of the cash register (he claimed that he had to "walk down three flights of stairs to run the credit cards") - our experience at Alta was fantastic.  

Looking for a charming, romantic spot for date night?  Check.  Do you expect more, in terms of caliber and quality, from your tapas joint?  Check.  Craving something other than sangria - hello cocktails! - to whet your appetite?  Check.  

From the food menu, might I recommend:

  • Fried Goat Cheese with lavender-infused honey
  • Lamb Meatballs charred red pepper sauce, soft cooked egg yolk, toasted sesame seeds, lebne
  • Crispy Brussels Sprouts fuji apples, creme fraiche, pistachio nuts
  • Pulled Pork Empanadas sweet & spicy cilantro dipping sauce
  • ...and one more thing:  Make sure to ask for a side of bread.  It's really delish and *necessary* for sopping up all of the yummy sauce from the lamb meatballs!

~

Hot guys at work

...because God knows I need a reason to put on makeup - and do my hair - in the mornings.  And cut back on my afternoon candy/sugar binges.  And apply lip gloss throughout the day.  

It's because of you, my dear man stallions, that I look forward to going in to the office each and every day.  Thank you!

.

~~~

Until we eat again, 

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Nov012013

The Weekly Eater: Halloween edition

Happy belated Halloween, y'all!  I hope this post finds you well.  What did I do for the holiday, you ask?  Well, Lucy, my pup, and I handed out candy in our apartment building before I hit the town and went to a few parties.  As Scarlett O'hara.

Lucy, the ballerinaScarlett O'haraBut if I had more time, some good ol' fashioned creativity, and actually gave a chit about *not* recycling Halloween costumes, I would have taken a lesson from this young lady and rocked a Chanel purse!

Source: NY PostPretty fantastic, right?  On a more somber note, I cannot even begin to tell you how many obese pleasantly plump "slutty nurses" and scantily-clad "Wonder Women" I saw last night.  While I found them to be a sight for sore eyes, you've really got to hand it to these ample duds, because they have a hell of a lot more body confidence than I do.  Oh, and speaking of sluts, one of my favorite things to do on the morning after Halloween is to laugh at all of the festive "aftermath" from the night before...

Black bra laying on the floor at the Franklin Street subway stop. Someone had some fun while waiting for the train! Changing subjects, I've happened upon quite a few delicious finds - and revelations - this week.  And one of the best blog posts I've read, to date.  Check them out: 

Lotus Root

When sliced, this root vegetable reveals a white, starchy interior that's dotted with holes.  The texture is crunchy (think jicama) and the flavor, if any at all, is subtle enough that you can pair it with almost anything, sauce or protein-wise! 

Lotus root is common in various Asian cuisines, namely Chinese. 

Source: Joy HarariHan Dynasty

Beyond the friendly and knowledgeable staff, the evenly-paced service, the affordable prices, and the warm atmosphere, the food was damn near perfect.  At 6:30pm on a Monday night, the three of us only waited about seven minutes for a table which, considering Han Dynasty is one of the city's current hot spots, is pretty awesome. 

For appetizers, the three of us split wontons in chili oil, spicy crispy cucumbers, Dan Dan noodles, and scallion pancakes.

Wontons in chili oilSpicy crispy cucumbersDan Dan noodlesWe chose to split two entrees among the three of us:  Cumin lamb and "crispy rice shrimp."  While I enjoyed the lamb, I found the shrimp dish to be extremely underwhelming.  It was as if someone accidentally dumped the entire box of corn starch in to the sauce because it was so gelatinous and gloppy.  Blech!!

Cumin lambCrispy rice shrimpVandalism

What?  Sometimes vandalism is cool.  Or funny.  And in this case, it's both!

Spotted at the 8th Street subway stationMaoz Vegetarian

Do NOT let the word "vegetarian" scare you, because this place is a falafel whore's dream come true.  Imagine, if you will, homemade pita bread (your choice of wheat or white) filled with the most crispy, delicious falafel balls you've ever tasted.  And instead of your pita pocket being topped with boring iceberg lettuce and mealy tomatoes, there's a "do it yourself" filler bar just to your right.  Yep, a plethora of both fresh and pickled vegetables and house-made sauces.  Dynamite!

Shanghai Sogo

With both of my grad school classes starting at 6:45pm on week nights, I'm always on the prowl for a relatively portable, quick bite.  Luckily, there are a slew of food trucks lined up in front of NYU's business school, so there's actually plenty to choose from.  This week, I happened upon the Shanghai Sogo truck, as I could not help but turn in the direction of Akon blasting through its speakers.  Random.  "Ma'am, would you like to sample something?"  The friendly chef offered me a handmade pork/chive dumpling.  Unlike most versions that skimp, this particular dumpling was stuffed to the brim with the juicy, pork/chive filling.  "I'll take an order of six!"  I exclaimed.  Secretly, I wanted to order a dozen.  They were THAT GOOD - perhaps some of the best in the city!

This blog post about staying in NYC

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Sunday
Oct132013

A 6-week's sabbatical worth of my favorite finds!

Dear readers,

My poor, neglected, disappointed, bored readers.  I cannot tell you how sorry I am for having gone M.I.A. on y'all for the past *gasp* six weeks.  I've had - and will continue to have - a lot on my proverbial plate.  Aside from my 9-5, I've also began attending part-time graduate school classes at NYU.  For my Masters in Food Studies/Culture.  And as much as this particular program puts the "cool" in "school," it's a lot of work.  And reading.  And time.   My point is this:  Blog posts will not be as frequent as they once were - I'm hoping for a handful/week - but I'm not going anywhere.

In the meantime, I'm going to share some of my favorite finds over the past 6-weeks:

  • Healing Home Foods' products sold at Hu Kitchen
    • I am particularly obsessed with this artisan snack company's gluten free/dairy free/vegan Raw Graham Bites and Baked Granola Crumbles
  • PB&J Cookies at The Smile to-go
    • This outpost, located within the Shinola store in Tribeca, is so new that The Smile doesn't even have it listed on their website!  Anyhoo, aside from their delicious coffees and other baked goods, this PB&J cookie - composed of peanut butter, jelly, nut flour (to bind everything together), and crack - will change your life.  Mark my words.  It's *that* good. 
  • Tutto Il Giorno (Italian - Southampton)
    • Great restaurants in the Hamptons are a dime a dozen.  But fabulous restaurants?  Now, those are more rare.  Tutto Il Giorno, the Southampton outpost of the Sag Harbor original, happens to be one of those prized gems.    
  • Stew Leonard's faux "Cronut"
    • Granted, I've never had a *real* Cronut, but if it tastes anything nearly as delicious as Stew's version, then I 100% get why all of those suckers folks continue to wait hours on that laughable line.
  • Trattoria Il Mulino
    • What initially attracted me to this concept was the fact that it was the "casual" trattoria of the Il Mulino family.  What nearly drove me away were the outrageous, not-very-casual prices.  But what kept me was the excellent food.  And cocktails.  Highlights included:  Beet salad, Spaghettini with meatballs.
  • Il Pesce at Eataly
    • I guess I've always been too hurried and frantic (to get the hell out of there) to even look twice at this "restaurant" within Eataly.  Big mistake!  I had the pleasure of sitting down to my first meal at Il Pesce just weeks ago.  It was fantastic!  To start, I enjoyed a platter of fresh, briny oysters and for my entree, the seared scallops.    
  • Maison Premier  (Brooklyn)
    • If you love a wide variety of the freshest oysters - delicious handcrafted cocktails - excellent and knowledgeable service - absinthe - a romantic atmosphere that's illuminated by candlelight...then you will LOVE Maison Premier
  • Southern hospitality
    • ...As in the way that folks treat one another in Texas.  Passersby smile and say hello - men hold doors open for women - people say "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me."  
  • Drybar
    • OK, so I'm totally late to this whole "blow dry only" concept namely because I find it RIDICULOUS to pay somebody else to dry your damn hair.  But a few weeks ago, I was treated to this amazing service in Dallas (for my BFFs wedding) and, quite frankly, I cannot wait to schedule an appointment at one of the locations here in NYC!  So, it goes like this:  You walk in to Drybar - point to a hair style that you want yours to emulate - get your coiffe washed and conditioned - sip on a fizzy cocktail - skim through an array of magazines or watch a movie - all while letting someone else gussie you up.  Magical!
  • Katy Trail Ice House  (Dallas, TX)
    • Why wasn't this place around when I lived here?  I kept thinking to myself, upon my recent visit to Dallas.  Located just steps off of the famous Katy Trail, this watering hole/restaurant boasts indoor/outdoor seating, sports on the tube and, most importantly for a Texas expat, frozen margaritas and chile con queso! 
  • Street meat
    • This semester, I'm taking a super interesting class called "Comparative Cuisine," where we study the history/ingredients/recipes/politics/gender roles surrounding Israel and Palestine.  So you can only imagine how often I fantisize about hummus, falafel, freshly-baked pita bread sprinkled with za'atar, lamb, chopped salads, labneh, etc.  My Middle Eastern food kick led me to give my local Halal cart, HM Halal, a whirl.  For $6, I get a styrofoam container filled to the brim with yellow rice, salad, hummus, a falafel ball, lamb gyro meat, and stewed vegetables.  And a soda/bottled water of my choice!   

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Aug162013

Eats, drinks, and mi vida loca

I know.  I've been the worst food blogger on the planet.  It's been like three weeks since my last post and, trust me, I'm feeling the guilt.  But, you know me, when I get stressed or down-in-the-dumps, I refrain from writing.  And a lot of crap has happened over the past few weeks.  Nothing unbelievably crazy or negative, but just enough shiz to make me take a step back and hibernate, if you will. 

But I hate drama and petty personal rants - especially on blogs - so I'm going to stop bitching.  And, instead, start writing about some awesome discoveries I've experienced - and tasted - recently.  Because they're just too delicious and worthwhile not to share!  So, without further ado, enjoy and have a fantastic weekend!

~~~

Brooklyn Kolache Co.

Back in college, a frienemy of mine used to make a homemade savory version with jalapeno, cheese, and sausage.  And, while I had never seen or heard of a kolache prior to my time as a co-ed, I quickly fell hard for these historically Czechoslovakian treats.  Suffice to say, it was "love at first bite."

In paying tribute to the many Texas expats in my Mexican food Meetup group, I decided to host July's monthly get-together at Brooklyn Kolache Co

Flavors range from from the savory, such as bacon, egg, and cheese, to sweet, like lemon curd

Of those that I sampled, my favorite kolache was, without a doubt, the pimento cheese.  Its warm and squishy exterior reminded me of a crazy cross-breed of a brioche bun and a potato roll.  With density.  This gave way to a creamy interior that was laced with cheddar cheese nibs and the slightest hint of spice.  Dynamite!

Although it's a bit of a hike from Manhattan, I would definitely consider Brooklyn Kolache Co. to be "destination worthy."  As an added bonus, the venue boasts an intimate outdoor space for al-fresco dining.  NYC weather permitting, of course.  :)

~~~

Courtney Paul, my favorite instructor at Barry's Bootcamp

"Girl, I will fcuk you up!"  That's just one of my favorite Courtney-isms that is yelled out in class.  Directly in to his microphone for the rest of the students to hear.  As he simultaneously stares you down.  Yep, Mr. Paul is my kind of instructor.  He's ruthless and feisty.  He challenges you until you think you cannot be challenged anymore.  And, for god's sake, he's intimidating as hell.  I mean, look at him!

Photo found at "Well + Good"Aside from being easy on the eyes, Mr. Paul is one of the funniest people I know.  And, between you and me, I'm convinced that, deep down, he's a squishy marshmallow that wouldn't harm a fly.  But, when it comes fitness, he certainly doesn't fcuk around.

Whether you're a Barry's regular that's never had a class with Courtney - or a Barry's virgin who has no idea what you're in for - I highly recommend snagging a coveted spot in one of Mr. Paul's classes.  "Work!"

~~~

Sophie's Cuban Cuisine

Of all of the places I could have gone for lunch on my birthday last week, I chose to have Sophie's deliver platters of their Spicy Grilled Chicken with yellow rice and black beans, Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with yellow rice and black beans, the 'Pernil with a Twist' sandwich, and the warm Guava and Cheese empanadas.  Split amongst three of us, of course.

Sophie's Spicy Grilled Chicken platter with yellow rice and black beansI'm obsessed with this place.  Even my Cuban coworker, Iris, considers Sophie's to be "muy authentico."  Now that's saying a lot. 

~~~

Gilligan's

"I cannot believe that I've lived here for 9.5 years and have never been here!  This place is fantastic!" I exclaimed to one of the hostesses.  With nearly 3/4 of the venue boasting outdoor space, Gilligan's is the ultimate summer drinking destination.  Aside from its perfect Soho location, Gilligan's is situated on street level, meaning no elevator lines.  Plus, they have a classy food menu with dishes that actually sound - and appear - appetizing.  Not your typical greasy array of crap.  Think more along the lines of Yellowfin Tuna Crudo and grilled thin-crust pizzas.  Oh, and they also serve frozen *watermelon* margaritas that are quite addictive...

~~~

Sushi Dojo

Look, I'll be honest, when I learned that the chef was a gringo, I had my doubts.  I mean, what the heck could he possibly know about Japanese technique, in terms of, well, anything?  Granted, Chef David Bouhadana did have ten years of culinary experience - and three of those spent training in Japan.  But still...

With a beverage menu chock-full of sake, wine, and beer, I chose - believe it or not - a glass of Merlot that was recommended to me by the 'house expert.'

Although our appetizers were tasty - lightly-fried eggplant marinated with dashi, deep fried soft shell shrimp, lightly-blanched greens and mushrooms in a light soy dashi broth - it wasn't until I sampled the sushi that I realized just how incredibly talented the Chef was. 

"May I have some more wasabi?" Kate asked our server.  The employee explained that it was already atop the rice - as was the soy sauce.  The only item that accompanied the sushi was tendrils of ginger. 

Not a single piece of fish in our sushi assortment tasted more than a handful of hours' old.  Each pristine slice was delicately painted with salty soy sauce and freshly-grated wasabi.  The sticky rice, perfectly-cooked and served just above room temperature, evoked a subtle hint of vinegar.

But my most favorite aspect of the entire meal was the fatty tuna with scallions roll.  Never in my entire life have I tasted minced tuna that was more buttery or fresh.  This roll, quite literally, took my breath away.  In fact, I just may have to return this weekend for another fix.  Heck, Sushi Dojo could become part of my weekly repertoire!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle