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.

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Entries in This and that and everything else (39)


Mi vida loca: Nuptials and a bitch named Sandy

Wow.  I'm not sure if there's another word that better summarizes this past week.  Or month, for that matter.  It's been quite an eventful - and eerie - October in the Big Apple.  And, certainly, one that we will not soon - or ever - forget...

Speaking of this past week, there were the obvious lows (brought on by Mother Nature) - but plenty of fantastic highs.  So, please join me as I highlight October's final days:

Thursday, 10/25

I met Tammi, a friend and reader, for snacks and drinks at the bar at Eleven Madison Park, in honor of her birthday.  The extraordinary service was beyond compare...as were the freshly-baked croissant rolls, specially-prepared butternut squash soup, and our dessert - a play on ricotta cheesecake.

Just a taste..."Ricotta cheesecake," lime curd, berriesFriday, 10/26

While Friday was relatively uneventful, I received a notice from my apartment's management to "...remove and secure all terrace/balcony furniture and other objects in preparation for Hurricane Sandy."  I made sure to take care of that as soon as I got home from work, since I would be leaving early the next morning for a wedding in Connecticut. 

Saturday, 10/27

After dropping Lucy off at chi-chi D Pet Hotel, I headed to Penn Station to board my Providence, RI-bound Amtrak train to New London, CT. 

FYI, donut buffs:  Did you know that there's a Krispy Kreme on the Amtrak level at Penn Station?

Mmmm...Glazed pumpkin-spice cake donuts!From my window seat, the cornucopia of fall scenery was fantastic!

Check out that killer view!

Upon arrival in New London, I took a taxi across the Thames River to the Avis Rental Car at the Groton-New London Airport.  1 train, 1 cab, and 1 rental car-ride later, I finally arrived at my hotel in Dayville - with only an hour to spare before the shuttle came to fetch me for the wedding.  Whew! 

...Leave it to me to forget to pack my contact lenses, blush, and toothbrush.  That's right, I ended up looking like Sarah Palin in a cocktail dress!  Sigh.

A quarter after three, a classic yellow school bus arrived (at the hotel) to take us to Tyrone Farm - Moira's wedding venue - in picturesque Pomfret, CT.  Despite the impending hurricane on the horizon, the rain clouds parted for the entirety of Moira's 1950's/60's-themed, indoor/outdoor wedding and reception. 

Note the clusters of pumpkins and gourds ~

Along with programs, guests were encouraged to grab a "Toss Me" bag, filled with small wooden music notes, on their way to their seats.  Pashmina wraps were provided for the ladies ~


The guests anticipate Moira & Eric's walk down the aisle ~

Live musicians ~

The flower girl ~


The beautiful bride and her groom ~

Post "I do," the guests toss the wooden music notes at the happy couple ~

The crowd heads towards the celebratory reception, catered by Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro ~


Outdoors, guests imbibed in an array of cocktails, wines, beers, and hot cider/sodas/water ~

I fancied the Rum Punch...

...and the delicious passed hors d'oeuvres.  Namely, the sweet 'n sticky BBQ ribs.  :)

For those who preferred to stay indoors, a 1950's-inspired band was playing live music ~

At about 6:30pm, guests began making their way over to the barn for a candle lit dinner - dessert - and dancing ~

The food, wine, and cocktails served were the best that I've ever had at a wedding.  So much care and detail was put in to every last bite and sip...

Served family style, menu highlights included:  Locally-grown zucchini bread, roasted beet salad (pictured further below), thyme-roasted Brussels sprouts, BBC-brined roasted chicken, and roasted arctic char.

To start, each guest received an "amuse bouche," of sorts:  Local goat's cheese, seasonal berries.

Roasted Beet Salad

While many of my other entree photos didn't fare as beautifully, I was able to snap a shot of the wedding cake - and the couple's incredibly creative "cake bar," courtesy of Good Butter Bakery, featuring an array of a dozen different, handmade, cake varieties.  Additionally, an outdoor fire pit was ignited for guests who wished to make their own smores.    

While many danced the night away, I used my time to eat.  And drink.  And eat some more.  And take silly pics in the photo booth with my friend, Veronica ~

As if I had any more room in my stomach, The Cheese Truck (food truck) pulled up to the barn at 10:30pm, serving gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and warm tomato soup-shots! 

Just before midnight, guests serenaded the couple with a parade of sparklers ~

Wedding favors included the most unbelieveable "salty oats" cookies from the bride's aunt's cookie bakery, Kayak Cookies.  (This is the same aunt who owns Good Butter Bakery!)

Sunday, 10/28 

At 9am, I awoke to a nagging alarm clock and a raging headache.  The sign of a good night, no? 

With the impending hurricane slowly making its way up north, I wanted to get back to NYC as soon as possible...

Shortly after 10am, I arrived at Moira & Eric's send-off brunch, located in a lodge on the sprawling grounds of The Pomfret Boarding School.  Catered by Mrs. Bridges' Pantry, a British tea shop located in nearby Woodstock, guests enjoyed:

Traditional British tea, coffee - Paired alongside shabby-chic, mismatched tea cups and spoons ~

Homemade scones, served with strawberry jam - lemon curd - and clotted cream ~

The best Shepard's Pie that I've ever tasted ~

Spinach & feta pies ~

And an assortment of quiches & savory pies ~

After the lovely brunch, I drove back to the Avis location at the Groton-New London Airport, and hitched a ride to the New London train station.  I could not wait to get home to Lucy and finish preparing for the storm.

With time to spare before my scheduled departure, I strolled the perimeter of the train station.  Here's something that caught my eye...

I mean, I would certainly hope that the restaurant was hygienic.  What the hell kind of name is that??

Although my train was delayed for 30 minutes, I still made it to Penn Station by 4:30pm...But was taken aback when, upon my walk home, I read that subway service would be halted from 7pm onward.  Until further notice...

I was home - with Lucy in tow - by 5pm.  Phew!

Monday, 10/29 - Tuesday, 10/30

Both of these days were spent on the sofa, with my eyes glued to the TV.  And the big window in my living room, which I used to monitor the storm...and the terrace of that idiot who lives across 6th Avenue from me.  Although every person with outdoor space received ample warning to remove "any furniture or objects," this fool proceeded to leave his BOWFLEX machine outdoors for the duration of the storm!  And, no, he was not out of town.  Imagine the damage that this could have caused?  But let's not deviate from the real question at hand here:  What kind of douche puts his exercise equipment on his terrace, a virtual fish bowl, to begin with?  C'mon now...

Luckily, you will see that the only damage done was to the machine, itself.  Good riddance!

Since the stock exchange was closed on both Monday and Tuesday (I work at an investment bank), I literally did not leave my apartment - change out of my pajamas - or eat anything perishable until Wednesday.  Believe it or not, my apartment building was one of the few in the area that did not lose power or water!  I was in complete shock and disbelief.  And counting every last one of my lucky stars.  

On Tuesday afternoon, my friend, Dana, whose building was (and still is) without power and water, came over to charge her phone and take a hot shower. 

Wednesday, 10/31

Halloween shmalloween.  It sure as hell didn't feel like a fun, festive holiday in NYC.   Especially since I had to go back to work...

Since bus service was free, I took the M7 up 6th Avenue, and got off at 57th Street to see if I could get a good view of the collapsed crane...

My friend, Jane, who was (and still is) without power and water, asked if she could take refuge in my apartment.  On my walk home from work - remember, subways were still not running - I happened upon flashing lights, police caution tape, flares, and a small mob scene.  Assuming that scaffolding had fallen, I overheard someone say that a girl had just leapt to her death.  My heart sank.  This was the second instance - this month - that someone had died in this manner.  : (

I was thrilled to have Jane stay over, as I knew that her presence would really help get my mind off of what had just happened.  We decided to grab drinks and dinner in my neighborhood, but soon realized that a) restaurants/bars were either beyond crowded, or b) not open because of power loss.  

Here's a view of the Flatiron District at around 7:30pm on Wednesday night, illuminated only by the head/tail lights of motoristsThink that only buildings lost power?  Think again.  A multitude of street lights were out, too, wreaking havoc on the traffic...       

After wandering aimlessly with no luck, we finally ended up at Hill country.  Whoever said that BBQ and margaritas can't cure the blues is a total idiot...

Thursday, 11/1

Thank god October is *finally* over.  What a shiteous month! 

After leaving a meeting uptown, I gasped in horror as I saw the insanely long line of folks waiting to board the Queens-bound F train at 63rd Street.  Aside from the fact that service was free, this was the only subway train going across the water. 

For dinner, Jane and I enjoyed a fabulous Persian meal at Pars Grill House & Bar.


Readers:  How did you weather the storm?  Was your home affected, due to power/water loss or serious damage?  Did you have to seek refuge?  I'd love to hear your stories. 

I'm going to see/research if there's anything I can do to help.  Volunteer.  Whatever!  Are you doing anything?

One thing I will say, before I sign off, is that I think the Mayor is a complete JACKASS for deciding to proceed with the NYC Marathon this weekend.  I mean, is there any aspect of this decision that's NOT a complete epic fail?  He needs to stop trying to prove to the world that "New Yorkers will not let a storm tear us down."  Seriously.   If you're with me, then vote here to have the Marathon rescheduled to Spring 2013. 

On that note, I wish all of you a safe, warm, and healthy weekend.  Keep your heads up and, if there's anything I can do to help, please let me know.


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Questioning the longevity of a one-concept shop: La Maison du Croque Monsieur

Source: www.bonapetit.comWhile the croque monsieur does happen to be one of my favorite sandwiches, can brand-new concept-restaurant, La Maison du Croque Monsieur, really exist long-term?  Like, stand the test of time?  I hate to be 'Negative Nelly,' but methinks not.  I mean, how many variations of a fancy ham-and-cheese sandwich can you spin, after all? 

What I think went down:  The dudes behind La Maison du Croque Monsieur a) obviously love the croque,' and b) watched as other sandwich concepts, i.e. Melt Shop, became wildly successful.  Obviously, they wanted a piece of the proverbial pie! 

You ask, "So, then what makes Melt Shop - dedicated to the almighty grilled cheese - so popular?"  Here's the short answer:  Because the grilled cheese is so versatile!  At its most basic, the sandwich is vegetarian-friendly.  Too boring?  Fine.  Because any array of meats can be added to the grilled cheese to satisfy even the pickiest of carnivore.  Melt Shop's menu consists of 10 breakfast sandwiches and 13 lunch/dinner sandwiches (plus soup, desserts, side orders).  Like I said above, I have to wonder how many variations of the croque' that La Maison can possibly come up with.  Certainly not upwards of 23!  No way.  No how.

Hey, don't get me wrong, folks.  My gamble on La Maison's longevity on the NYC restaurant landscape *certainly* will not stop me from getting my croque' on; I'm just curious as to how long I will be able to rock-the-croque.  You feel me?

I want to know:  What's your take on this - and other - gimmicky, one-concept restaurants? 


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 


Wow, I wonder what ScarJo thinks...?

Sigh.  There's nothing quite as heartbreaking - and unnerving - as watching your ex beat you to the alter.  I'm sure the feeling is magnified tenfold when you're a celebrity.  That said, I wonder what ScarJo thinks about her ex-hubby's betrothal to Blake Lively?  Personally, I think that Miss Scarlet is way hotter - and cooler - than Blake. 

I've watched two of my exes-from-Texas beat me down the aisle.  And it totally sucks.  Just sayin'...

Source: People dot com~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


31 things on year #32

Every August 6th, I take time to reflect on the year that has led me up to today.  My birthday.  What have I learned?  What have I accomplished? 

31 was a particularly bittersweet year for me.  I experienced two heart breaks; literally, one right after the other.  The latter, of which, really kicked my arse.  Then, I watched as two of my dearest friends moved out of state; and, speaking of moving, in less than 1.5-weeks, I will bid farewell to my best friend.  Sigh.  On the flip side, however, I made a new group of friends (I'm talking to you, Hollywood!) who have shown me that, at 31, you can still have as much fun as a college kid.  Health-wise, I've thrived in my diet/exercise and have, for the very first time in my entire life, managed to maintain a healthy weight.  Honestly and safely.  ("Healthy" meaning not overweight).  And, most recently, Lucy, a pint-sized Maltese puppy, came in to my world.  Though weary at first, I have completely fallen for this quirky little fluff-ball who gives me more unconditional love than I could have ever imagined.  Or hoped for. 

I've thought about this post and its contents for about a month now.  I've reflected on all that I have observed (about myself and others), the lessons that I have learned (some, the hard way), and the things that I've experienced and accomplished during my 31st year.  As you will see, below, there are some triumphs scattered throughout, but most are personal struggles/road blocks. 

While I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, I do subscribe to "birthday resolutions."  So, for #32, I resolve to come to peace with the mistakes that I have made over the past year, and tackle those that are mendable.  I vow to be more vulnerable in life and love - to forgive myself more often - to follow my heart and trust my gut - and to live in the present.


31 observations, lessons, experiences, and accomplishments

  1. Our imperfections give us character, and character is what makes us beautiful.
  2. Men are sensitive, too. 
  3. Sometimes, BFFE's ("best friends forever") are NOT forever.  It's amazing how significantly a relationship can change in just one year's time.
  4. Trust your intuition.
  5. Rolling your eyes enough times everyday can eventually become a habit.  Sigh.  Eye roll.
  6. I am the world's greatest listener.  And interviewer.  But, when it comes to talking about myself, I struggle.  I suppose that's why so many women love being my friend!
  7. No matter how much weight you lose, you're still the same person on the inside.  
  8. Don't get too comfortable, because change is the only thing that stays the same.
  9. To make a tough decision, choose the outcome with the least-foreseeable regret. 
  10. "You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could've, would've happened - or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the fcuk on."  Tupac Shakur
  11. It is possible to "grow out" of your battles with eating.  But not without a lot of help and support.
  12. You won't ever know unless you ask.  Or confess.
  13. Exercise is a natural, prescription-free "happy pill."
  14. I suck at saying goodbye. 
  15. ...And tend to overstay my welcome in irrelevant, toxic relationships.
  16. You cannot make somebody love you.  Even if you lose 40 pounds...
  17. Being vulnerable, especially in romantic relationships, scares the shit out of me.
  18. I am the world's best first-dater.  And interviewee/er. 
  19. If there isn't any chemistry on the first date, cut your losses.  There is no need to go out on a second "pity date" and pray that feelings will magically appear.  Because, chances are, they won't.
  20. Note to self:  The next time a dude talks about his ex on a first date, remember not to accept a second.  Even when your friends tell you to "give him another chance."  
  21. I absolutely love margaritas.  Love.
  22. I have a very hard time not blaming myself/taking full responsibility for anything negative that happens in my everyday life.  Even when it's probably not my fault.
  23. Successful, long-term, romantic relationships seem very distant and far-fetched.  It feels way more likely that I'll be struck by lightning twice, or win the New York State jackpot.
  24. I've always seen the world in "black" and "white."  For the first time, however, I'm slowly starting to see the "grey."  And it sure is a beautiful sight. 
  25. If I get less than 7-hours of sleep, the next day is pretty much fcuked.
  26. I much prefer working with men.  Most women are just stupid, catty, micro-managing biotches.
  27. I don't think that too many people - outside of my dad and Girl - are very funny. 
  28. I tend to hold life-long grudges.  Whoever says that they are able to "forgive and forget" is fcuking lying.
  29. I do not like being the center of attention. 
  30. I have some truly amazing friends who would do just about anything for me.  And vice-versa.
  31. I am very, very blessed.  I'm not going to say that I'm lucky, because I believe that you make your own good luck. 


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Whoa(!) is me: Pet-owner problems

You've probably heard the term, 'white people problems.'  Well, I have 'pet-owner problems.'


Dear readers,

Allow me to apologize for my lack of posting over the past week.  I've been a hot, stressed-out MESS.  And when I'm this frazzled, I can't write.  How sad is that?  Normally, in anxiety-ridden situations, I rely on food as comfort.  However, there have been a number of times (OK, the number being 2, including this instance) where I've actually lost my insatiable appetite.  So, what the hell is going on, you ask? 

No one died.

No one is sick.

I didn't get fired.

I got a dog.  A 5 month-old puppy, to be exact.  Her name is Lucy, and she's the cutest, furriest, sweetest, happiest, smartest little creature on the planet.  

I mean, seriously, is she not the most adorable thing YOU'VE EVER SEEN?  

Look, I've wanted my own dog ever since my college days.  So it's been a while now.  But, any time I brought the idea up to my mom (whom I talk to daily), she'd just tell me that "...having a dog in Manhattan is selfish and cruel.  Dogs should be able to run freely outdoors and not be cooped-up."  Blah, blah, blah.  I mean, I did see her point.  But only to a certain point...

When my relative was in town the other week, we happened to walk past an outdoor pet adoption.  "You should really get a dog, dude."  That's coming from a girl who owns two pups.  In spacious, sprawling Southern California.  "I mean, of course I want one.  There's really just no rush."  She went on to tell me that there will never be the right or ideal time (to get a dog), and that I should just go for it.  When we got back to my apartment, she hopped online and researched Craigslist ads, Ebay Clasified postings, and everything in between, in search of my ideal dog.  And, 24-hours later, we brought lil' Lucy home. 

It was all unicorns, rainbows, and leprechauns for all of about 10-minutes.  My heart began beating at a dangerously-elevated pace as we unwrapped and put together Lucy's crate, food/water bowls, toys, wee-wee pads, etc.  "I just don't know if I can do this," I gasped.  Little did I know how much harder it would be once my relative left the next day...

For those of you who don't know me, personally, I am one of the most independent people you will ever meet.  I love that I can come and go as I please, and have the freedom to do whatever the hell I want.  When I want.  But, now, I'm responsible for another living, breathing being, and it's scaring the shit out of me.  Instead of killing time at a margarita bar before a 7pm dinner or event, I have to come home to walk, feed, and play with a dog.  This weekend - and the next two weekends coming up, in fact - Lucy will spend Saturday night at a "doggy hotel," while I finish out my three remaining weekends at a Hamptons share.  Granted, it's only Saturday night.  But still.  I just don't know if I'm cut out for this.

To further elevate my blood pressure, I lost my debit card last weekend while celebrating one of my good friend's last nights in town (she moved to Austin in the beginning of the week).  Then, on Monday, I learned that my best friend here is moving to San Francisco.  In less than a month.  Too much!  Yesterday was the first day that I didn't have more than one meltdown.  Baby steps.  To say that this week has brutally kicked my ass is an understatement.  (I realize that my "problems" are miniscule compared to most of the shit that's going on outside of my bubble.  But, still, this all really hurts and sucks.)

In terms of Lucy, I think I'm going to give it another week to decide if I can keep her.  To figure out if my lifestyle is such that I can support a puppy.  I adore her, but I just don't know yet if owning a dog is the right fit.  But, at the same time, the thought of selling her makes me want to throw up.  It's gut-wrenching. 

Have any of you ever experienced this?  Am I insane?  I would love to hear your pet stories.  I just feel so alone in all of this.   :(


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Addicted to food: Women and overeating

Getty Images for the Wall Street JournalI came upon this article in the Wall Street Journal that I found incredibly fascinating and somewhat eye-opening.  The writer, Caitlin Moran, discusses binge-eating - not the occasional act of over-eating on, say, Thanksgiving - as a compulsion.  And compares it to the likes of more "glamorous" addictions, such as alcoholism and drug abuse.  While all addictions are compulsive, one can remain fully-functional post a food binge; whereas the alcohol/drug abuser becomes intoxicated and, likely, non-functional post a chug/snort/smoke/injection.  "Overeating is the addiction of choice of 'carers'...It's a way of screwing yourself up while still remaining fully functional, because you have to.  Fat people aren't indulging in the "luxury" of their addiction, making them useless, chaotic or a burden.  Instead, they are slowly self-destructing in a way that doesn't inconvenience anyone.  And that is why it's so often a woman's addiction of choice."

After I finished the article, I decided to read some of the 119-and-counting comments.  I was really surprised to see how many folks - mostly men - were completely unsympathetic and unable to see the connection between food-binging and a serious addiction.  But I'm especially curious to know what you took away from this article.  What are your thoughts on food-binging being considered as serious of an abuse/addiction as alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc.?  Do you find it legit, among the others, or is it just an excuse that those who are struggling/fat/obese make to shield their laziness and/or lack of care? 

I know where I stand...


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle