Monthly Archives: April 2013

Sensory deprivation and exploration…..with Sergi Arola

Blind-Tasting always sounds exciting. A combination of sensory deprivation and exploration, it heightens  all your senses and makes you experience food better. And that is exactly what Two Michelin Star Chef Sergi Arola believes in. “You do not taste food, you experience it.” The dinner at Arola, JW Marriott, Mumbai  thus seemed like something I was going to enjoy.

A few sips if our wine and were blindfolded. With baited breath we waited for our very first course. There was some anxiety and trepidation too. We were gently directed to our plates. The aroma of potatoes was distinct and filled my nostrils. Patatas bravas it turned out to be. One of Arola’s signature dish. Delicious. It simply melt in the mouth. Trust me, it tasted even better today with our eyes closed. We were obviously concentrating more on the flavours.

Patatas Bravas

The second course seemed more confusing. Prawns, fish, were some of the wild guesses that were made. Eyes opened and we were embarrassed to discover Chicken wings with honey, soy sauce and sesame seeds. The vegetarians were savouring green asparagus.

An intimate tour of the flavour palate is what we had embarked upon and one realises how important it is to concentrate on what one is eating.

The dessert arrived. It was so tasty that I almost forgot, I was supposed to guess what it was and simply walloped most of it. The orange flavour was evident as was the cream. At first bite though, I must confess, I mistook it for mascarpone cheese. It was Crema Catalan, the popular dessert from Arola.

Crema Catalan

The food this evening tantalized our taste buds with flavours and textures like never  before. Sergi Arola painstakingly explained why food tastes that way it does and makes us feel the way we do.

The beautiful amalgamation of good food, aroma and music, guided by the gourmet magician Chef Sergi Arola, made it a memorable and fun evening. I was glad I made the effort to attend it.

 

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Palate Pleasing Pizza from CPK

My first visit to the casual dining restaurant California Pizza Kitchen aka CPK, at BKC, Mumbai, turned out to be a memorable one. I was actually going to meet and witness the International chef, ‘Chef Justin Parras’ make hand- tossed pizzas.

Known for their innovative, non-traditional pizzas, such as the Original BBQ Chicken Pizza, BLT, Thai Chicken, and Jamaican Jerk Chicken pizza, it was going to be fun watching chef prepare those.

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And fun it sure was. An excellent conversationalist, the energetic and witty Chef Parras regaled us with anecdotes, lesser known facts about CPK pizzas, as he hand- tossed them with convivial ease. Watching him hand stretch the artisan dough seemed so easy. He also shared the 10 Pizza Commandments that everyone at CPK has to follow.

Chef Parras reiterated that the ingredients were of high quality, mostly imported as CPK serves only the best.

The interactive Live Kitchen session got all of us engrossed. Chef invited some of us to participate in the pizza making process. He spoke about the 16 different type of sauces like Barbeque, Kaprow Kai (Thai inspired), Korean Barbeque from various parts of the world. These are used on the pizza base along with hi-end ingredients like Salami Napoli, Scottish Salmon, Wild Rice and innovative pizza toppings  Chipotle salsa with lime cream sauce,  Tostada pizza topping – shredded lettuce, roasted tomato salsa, ranch, and tortilla strips, Grana Padano. Whew! That was a vast array. Now one knew why a pizza at CPK is so deliciously different.

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The ‘Hearth Oven Baked Pizza’ at CPK is really unique and there is something for every palate, including vegetarians.

Chef also demonstrated salads and pastas and of course the ‘pick me up’ Italian Tiramisu.

I had the most enjoyable evening, learning how to make pizzas. My favourite was the five meat and Kaprow Kai. The tiramisu sadly,  did not live upto my expectations.

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They have recently introduced the multigrain pizza and what’s more, the Mexican festival is starting from April 29. I can’t wait to sample some of those delectable dishes as part of that promotion. Are you coming?

 

 

 

 

Goan cuisine revisited…….

 

It was my second visit to Casa Sarita and I was really looking forward to the Goan meal akin to the one we cook at home. Chicken Xacuti, Prawn curry, Pork Vindaloo, red rice et al. But I was in for a pleasant surprise.  Chef  Vaz had beautifully amalgamated authentic flavours with minimalistic presentations and in a way redefined fine-dining. He had created a contemporary menu with time-honoured Goan culinary traditions. We thus embarked upon a new Goan culinary journey.

I was a little skeptical and even voiced my fears to the Chef. Would the traditional Goans accept this avant garde treatment to their sacred cuisine? Would foreign tourists really understand what the real Goan cuisine is? With these thoughts in mind, I surrendered to the new culinary experience.

Thomas Abraham, General Manager, Park Hyatt Goa, put things in perspective. “Goan cuisine tells a story that is steeped in history. There is tradition and emotion attached to every dish; we didn’t want to take away from that. What we offer our guests is still a medley of the piquant flavours associated with Goan cuisine, yet presented with creativity and innovation.” I bought that.

Chef Edridge Vaz’s modern interpretation of traditional dishes left me spellbound. Prawn and coriander soup with black pepper was served so artistically. Made me want to try it more than ever. Quail cafreal with sweet potato bhaji and tamarind glazed shallot. Sounded unique. With trepidation we tried it. It was mind blowing or shall I say palate blowing? Scallop jere mere, mango and chilli sauce, cabbage and coconut salad roll. The surprise element of the meal continued. My favourite fish curry rice too came in a new avatar. Sea bass fillet in acrid lemon berry curry and Goan rice. It was a treat for the eyes first and then all the other senses. All the original flavours and ingredients had been retained. Only its presentation was more attractive now. Crispy pork belly with vindalho jam and rawa sanna, I though was a delightful way to present this good ‘ol dish. But the best was yet to come. The traditional alle belle was deconstructed to an alle belle parfait with semi dried coconut and jaggery sauce. Chef Nelson Fernandes, Pastry Chef, had clearly won my heart as normally I do not even touch Goan desserts. And this one was a treat par excellence –  a perfect conclusion to the repast.

Casa Sarita is the signature fine-dining restaurant at Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa.  The restaurant is reminiscent of a bygone era, offering guests an experience that reflects the delicate blend of Indian and Portuguese influences.  It has remained true to its promise and yet delivered a meal which has put Goan cuisine on the international map in presentation too. Kudos to Chef Vaz, Chef Tanuja Kerker and their team.

 

 

Introducing Oleevia…….

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I met an interesting young lady called Oleevia and I discovered our common passion for cooking. There is something about Oleevia I want to share with all of you.  It is quite exciting. To know more about her, click on this link

http://bit.ly/MissingRecipeBook3

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Mini Punjab in Mumbai?

Punjabi food occupies a pride of place in Indian cuisine. Most people enjoy it and I am no exception. After all,  I am a Punjabi by birth. The spice content and variety is what make it popular. It is easily available across India  at small roadside eateries to Five star Hotels. Punjabi food is a must on the menu of most Indian restaurants. Mumbai is replete with Punjabi food.

North Indian cuisine mainly comprises dairy products; like milk, paneer, ghee, and yoghurt. Gravies are typically dairy-based. Punjabi cuisine includes home made preparations which are easy to cook and for which the ingredients are locally available or locally produced. Even spices which are used are not very exotic as other cuisines. Only regular spices such as bay leaf, cloves, black pepper, nutmeg, cumin, red chili are used.

The use of the “tawa” for baking flat breads like roti, paratha, naan, Kulcha and “tandoor” is common. The most popular dish of Punjab is the Makki Ki roti aur sarson ka saag. The dals are a specialty of Punjabi cuisine. Made of whole pulses like black gram, green gram and Bengal gram, they are cooked on a slow fire, often simmered for hours till they turn creamy and then are flavoured with spices and rounded off with a dollop of butter. Tandoori chicken, Amritsari Macchi, Chole Bhatura, Baingan Bhartha, Missi roti, Sarson da saag, Rajma masala, are other typical favourites.

Masala Mantar is a great place for Punjabi food in Mumbai. Urban Tadka in Andheri  is known for its wholesome Punjabi food. Pratap’s The Dhaba, is one of my favourites. Copper Chimney serves some of the best kebabs. Oye Punjabi is also good for certain dishes. The Great Punjab in Bandra is another hot spot. Of course Five Star Hotels serve delectable Punjabi cuisine.

Adhering to the culinary trends of the city, The Funjabi Tadka cuisine by Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi at Cest La Vie Bandra recently was essentially North Indian, rustic and home-style. Kadak Kulcha Aur Choley, Mushroom Ki Galouti Kabab, Fish Tikka Afghani, Beetroot aur Amley ka Kabab, Lawrence Road Ka Tandoori Murgh, were some memorable dishes.

Gulmurg, the fine dining restaurant at Shalimar Hotel, Kemps also recently organised  a Punjabi food festival titled, “Gurdaspur to Batinda-” where one could savour some lip smacking Punjabi food replete with authentic masalas and cooking techniques.

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Master Chef finalist  Jyoti Arora is in Mumbai this week, and is cooking dishes for the Punjabi Food Festival at JW Marriott Mumbai. A housewife from Punjab, Jyoti has been cooking since 29 years. A typical housewife, Jyoti takes pride in feeding people with her innovations, especially in Punjabi cuisine. I can’t wait to dig into the delectable fare she will be preparing. Will remind me of my mum’s home-cooked food I bet.