Monthly Archives: July 2016

Want to Sizzle Your Taste buds?

Oh! the sound of a sizzler on the table, the aroma that  pervades the room and fills your nostrils, is irresistible in this weather. Right? I enjoy sizzlers immensely. And in Monsoons, even more. Something about that drama on the table,  is what appeals to me, apart from the taste of course.

Sizzlers are very popular and usually served sizzling hot and smoking in restaurants.  What is exciting is the fact that sizzlers can be from any cuisine- Indian, continental, Pan Asian.

Actually it is just any other meal, but being served on a sizzler plate is what makes it unique and give sit that wow factor. I love the way it is presented. The entire platter with colourful veggies, and the meat or sea food on a bed of rice or noodles or pasta, and of course the French fries. It  sure adds to my hunger.

Cafe Mangii in Mumbai serves some great sizzlers. Currently my favourites. In the good ol’ days there were Kobez and Yoko’s but sadly their standards have deteriorated. And they lack innovation too. Gondola’s in Bandra offered some great ones too in the 90’s.

 

The Harissa marinated Rawas steak at Cafe Mangii is a treat for the eyes and palate. A sensory overload actually.The Pot Roast Chicken with mushroom pepper sauce is another favourite.

In Oriental cuisine, I have a weakness for a Teriyaki prawns sizzler. Who wants chicken when there is sea food on offer?

 

For fish lovers, fish piri piri sizzler, a spicy Goan style dish is a treat. The balchao masala, a blend of garlic, clove and cinnamon, however, gives it a unique twist. I have tried this one in Goa and long for someone to replicate it in Mumbai. It certainly was all about innovation.

Tamari at Vivanta by Taj, Panjim serves great sizzlers. The Babrbeque of Cidade de Goa which opens around late October after the Monsoons is known for its ‘Sizzlers by the Sea.’ Chargril, Flat top, Teppenyaki, Tandoor are some of the forms used for sizzlers here. Chef Sunit Sharma, the Executive Chef, is a master of creativity.  Lamb, beef, pork, vegetables, sea food. Guests can choose from an array of these. The accompaniments are equally interesting. Garlic bread, vegetables, mashed or baked potatoes, Indian breads. I can never have enough of these.

Vegetarians generally relish paneer and mushroom sizzlers as other vegetables are already there. Here is where the real challenge lies for chefs to be creative. Cream Centre does a fantastic job here and their Paneer sizzler makes me miss no non-vegetarian sizzler. Been having this one for years and their quality is incomparable.

Sizzler at Cream Centre

I always feel it the sauces in a sizzler that make all the difference. Barbecue sauce does wonders. So does a pepper sauce. Adds that zing and spice to the dish. I have even tasted sizzlers with a schezwan sauce.

 

The iron plates used for plating sizzlers weigh 3.5 kg each. One has to heat them till they sizzle when sprinkled with water. They emanate heat for about 45 minutes, keeping your food hot while you eat it. I personally marvel the way a sizzler is served.

 

Oops! discussing sizzlers at length is making my mouth water now and I am definitely opting for one this afternoon for lunch. What’s more, the weather too is perfect.

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Flavours of Maharashtra, Home Style

An opportunity to visit Taj Wellington Mews and Luxury Residences in Colaba, Mumbai and that too, to savour the local cuisine of Maharashtra? This invitation was accepted by me in minutes. After all Taj Wellington Mews is one of Mumbai’s best kept secrets. How many of us ordinary mortals get to enter its haloed precincts? I, for one, had never been inside.

We were welcomed warmly at the entrance by the General Manager himself, Mr. Anmol Ahluwalia. I was touched beyond words.

Over kokum sherbet, we were made to feel comfortable, till the other guests arrived and after an extensive tour of the property, which left me speechless, we sat down to enjoy a traditional meal. Their eye for detailing and ensuring guest comfort, is legendary.

Maharashtrian cuisine boasts of a wide variety of delicacies, ranging from subtly flavoured to tongue-twisting spicy. I was looking forward to my meal. This promised to be an exciting journey.

On a beautifully decorated table replete with orange marigolds, we were served our lunch on a silver thali at Weli Deli, the restaurant. Made me feel like royalty, actually.

Kothimbir vadi a popular snack of this region, made from coriander leaves and chickpea flour or besan was what I tried first. A bite into it and a plethora of flavours, burst in my mouth. It literally melt in my mouth.

There was a lot of food on my thali or platter- puris, chicken kolhapuri, batata sukhi bhaji, masala bhat, amti and shrikhand. It could not get more traditional than this.

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Goda masala, essentially consisting of onion, garlic, ginger, red chilli powder, green chillies and mustard, which is a bit sweetish, is what is typically used in Maharashtrian vegetable preparations or a black or kala masala.

This batatachi sukhi bhaji was the quintessential dry potato preparation from Pune, with the right amount of spices, curry leaves and crushed peanuts. It paired exceedingly well with the deep fried, hot and crisp puris.

The Chicken Kolhapuri was surprisingly a milder version, of what I expected. Not fiery at all. But it was luscious nevertheless and the taambda rassa or red gravy was lip-smacking. One could feel the lavish use of spices, yet,  these were not overpowering.

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The Masale bhat  or spicy rice, was well-made, with delectable, but robust flavours. The use of spices was apt. The sweet and tangy amti, or dal was just the way I enjoy it. Absolutely home made.

Each dish struck me as authentic and home-style. Nothing was oily or greasy or too spicy and the fresh ingredients were enhancing the flavours.

We rounded off our meal with shrikand, sweetened yogurt with cardamom and saffron. The creamy texture coated my palate and I was enjoying, every spoonful of this.

Over animated conversations about food, we had a thoroughly enjoyable and leisurely afternoon, where we were treated to authentic Maharashtrian cuisine spread over the entire state. These were truly flavours from home. At Rs 1500 all inclusive, this was a steal.

The service was impeccable, the hospitality, warm, characteristic of the Taj Group of hotels. I stepped out, with a smile. Satiated of course and my heart filled with the warmth of Indian hospitality. I felt privileged, this afternoon.

What’s more one need not be staying here to experience a meal at Weli Deli. One can just call and book and step in for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Trust me, this place is worth a visit.

 

My Saturday was ‘Reserved’

This winery has been eluding me for a while now. I have somehow never been able to make this trip, despite several invitations from the generous Abhay Kewadkar, of Four Seasons Wines.

Persuasion or luck, or a combination of both and I found myself heading to Baramati, to experience the launch of Four Seasons Vintner’s Reserve last Saturday.

The journey, was long and somewhat tiring, but it was all worth it. As the car rolled into the winery, I was spellbound at the spectacle before my eyes – A palatial French styled chateau.

The atmosphere  was redolent with an air of informality, as the long table by the poolside was set for the launch of the highly anticipated 2011 signature wine, the Vintner’s Reserve Select Barrels.

The Four Seasons Vintner’s Reserve Select Barrels is a magnificent limited edition wine that is an iconic expression of style, having been conceptualized in their vineyards, and made to mature in seasoned oak barrels.

The Vintner’s Reserve red wine is an intricate assemblage of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz varieties grown in the Sahyadri valley, meticulously nurtured and aged over two years in barrels, followed by further aging in bottles for two years.

“The Four Seasons Vintner’s Reserve is a wine that is very dear to my heart, a wine crafted with care and artistry, and combining the highest quality with an aura of exclusivity. This limited release red wine is a one-of-a-kind, beautifully layered, complex wine, brimming with rich notes of autumn black fruits as top notes, and underlying notes of spice. It is an outstanding wine that will impress you with its rich color and deep aromas,” said Abhay Kewadkar, Chief Winemaker and Director.

It was not as if we were only going to witness the launch of the wine. A carefully curated menu by Chef Sachin Joshi of Vivanta by Taj, Pune had been put together. Each course, had dishes with grapes integrated in them, in some form.

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The Greek salad with local grapes and chia, was what we started our meal with. The light sunny yellow, Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc was paired with it. This zesty and refreshing wine complimented the citrusy flavours of the salad.

My Fish Veronique was a delight for the palate. The experience was further enhanced as we sipped the Vintner’s Reserve Select Barrels 2011 with it. Selective ageing has given deep intensity, depth, clarity, and variety of flavor to this wine.

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With the Baked grape and Philadelphia Cheesecake came the  Four Seasons Sparkling Rose Brut. There could not have been a better pairing.  With layered aromas and floral notes on the nose and palate, this was truly a match made in heaven.

Amidst a lot of glasses of wines, conversations and food, the hours just flew and it was time to rush back to Mumbai as the clock struck 3 !

Warm hospitality, extended by Abhay himself and his team, made the few hours spent there, worth it and I was glad to have made the journey to Baramati. But of course I need to go back again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Melange of Traditions & Flavours 

My entry into the Bohri kitchen, well, not literally, but Nafisa Kapadia’s home, to experience its rich and lavish cuisine, needed destiny to intervene. Several times, family and friends, made plans to “do the experiential” Bohri thaal at The Bohri Kitchen, run by Munaf Kapadia in Colaba, offering his mother’s lip-smacking food, but somehow for me, it never worked out.

On Eid, this year, I was lucky. Yes, to receive a kind invitation from Burrp to celebrate Eid with other fellow foodies. the next day at The Bohri Kitchen. I was excited. Kept my fingers crossed, as I accepted the invitation.

And yes, on the stipulated Friday afternoon, I actually made it. A warm welcome from the lady herself, Nafisa and her son Munaf, and I got pleasant vibes as I entered their home.

A cooling drink made with nariyal pani (coconut water) and tender coconut, not only refreshed me, but made my stomach get ready to brace the onslaught of rich and spicy Bohri food. Or so I thought.

A large thaal or platter was placed on the table. Yes, Bohri meals are meant to be shared. Salt was passed around as that is how the meal begins. One must cleanse one’s palate so as to be able to taste and savour each distinct dish.

A date and almond chutney, a green chutney, pineapple and boondi raita and diced nimbus or lemons in a bowl were already placed, to enjoy with the various dishes.

Kheema samosas were served first. One dish is served at a time. Munaf instructed us to bite into the samosa, squeeze some lime to release the smoked flavours of the mutton. We did so and discovered how right he was. A dash of the green mint and coriander chutney, further tickled our palates. I was ready for the next.

Chicken drumsticks came next. Fried to perfection and well-spiced, these were equally delicious.

To my utter surprise, sheer kurma, or seviyan(vermicelli) replete with nuts et al in thickened milk, a sweet dish, came next. Apparently, that is how a Bohri meal is best enjoyed – Mithaas and khaaras, aka sweet and savoury must be contrasted,  to enjoy the meal, the Bohris believe.

Flawless, was the first word that came to my mind for the sheer kurma. The perfect proportion of milk, vermicelli and sugar. I generally don’t like the ones where the vermicelli swells up and enevelopes the entire bowl.

Each course was interesting and I was relishing this entire culinary journey with Munaf explaining how each dish was to be enjoyed and the reason behind the sequence.

Everyone went into a tizzy as the piece de resistance- the Raan was served. And that too in two contrasting gravies- a red masala, spicy and luscious and a creamy, white, cashew based gravy. The salli on top of the red masala version, added to the flavours and textures. My vote went to this one instantly. The mutton was succulent and melt in the mouth. It had been marinated for days and absorbed the spices, extremely well.

In between, we sipped the rose sherbet with sabja seeds. Again to cool our systems from the abundant red meat we were consuming.

Chicken bhuna paired with aam ras or mango pulp? This was a first for me. But a marriage made in heaven. No one did not have to dip the chicken in the aam ras of course, but eat both together, to bring out the best in each other. Complimentary?

What can I say about the Gosht biryani? Thsi was the jaman or the main course. It surpassed my expectations. Not oily or greasy at all. Well-layered and perfectly spiced, the mutton pieces, seamlessly mingled with the long grain rice and the potatoes. This dish rendered me speechless.

I was surprised at myself as I willingly helped myself to the accompanying paya soup (lamb trotters soup) something which I usually never venture to do. It was the appearance which made me do so. Light and appealing it looked. And it was. Absolutely mild and flavourful.

This was a never-ending gastronomic journey and yet, I was not complaining.

The sancha ince cream-litchi and mango, was the perfect finale to our meal. But today. even the desserts paled in comparison to the sumptuous repast.

The hospitality was fuss-free but warm, the meal, hygienically served and each dish, mouth-watering and authentic.

What is heartening to know is that The Bohri Kitchen does home delivery too.

This is a gastronomical experience no non vegetarian should miss. Of course you have got to be a hard core carnivore to devour this thaal.

Rating : 4.5/5

 

 

 

Click, Order, Enjoy !

Convenience is key nowadays, and I love it when I can order things I need online, at the click of a button or from apps downloaded on my phone.

In the past week, with the heavy downpour in Mumbai, Gourmet Delight and Ananya Banerjee’s website

www. Gourmetdelight.in  is a food lover’s delight. Literally. It is a premier online organic food store and gourmet shop in Mumbai and Pune, India. Great ingredients and good quality stuff is what you can be assured of, from them.

Their range is varied -gourmet chocolates, homemade artisanal cakes, exquisite cheese, teas, spices, to healthy organic super foods such as flax seeds, buckwheat, kale and quinoa. What appeals to me is that each of the products you find here is sourced from renowned national and international brands, as well as reliable local Indian producers.

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I tried the Namjai Thai curry paste, elephant noodles laksa paste, Indian Basa  and Kara coconut milk. Need I say, my kitchen was replete with fragrant Thai food and the aromas filled the air, as I prepared an authentic meal, so easily and quickly. The right products, obviously make all the difference.

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Craving for something Bengali, lead me to Ananya Banerjee, the multi-faceted, talented lady’s website http://www.ananyabanerjee.com

I opted for her prawns kasundi, a typical mustard based tangy sauce or paste, from Bengal and yes, it had a twist – prawns integrated in it, along with shilebata chicken, a stone ground rustic chicken paste.

The kasundi was unique, as it was made with raw mangoes, with the addition of succulent prawns.  Unlike the usual Kasundi, I am used to, this  one, was an innovative relish. One can safely pair this with rice. I loved the fact that is absolutely organic and also without any preservatives or vinegar.

 

The chicken shile bata too was robust and spicy bursting with flavours and yes, I loved the aroma of my comforting mustard oil. Made me so nostalgic.

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Both the products were home style and that’s what I look for.

Of course her website offers a plethora of options, so got to log in again soon.

So, if you are stuck because of rains, do not fret, there are plenty of choices available from the comfort of your home or even your smart phone. Technology zindabaad!