Tag Archives: cheese

Of Wines and Italian Home flavours

It has been my week of savouring Italian food. A strange co-incidence, but one, I am not complaining about. Anything for the love of Italian cuisine.

Olio, at Novotel Juhu, Mumbai, is a restaurant shrouded in a bit of a mystery. Not too many people know about this wonderful restaurant, with a chic ambience and an open kitchen. I have been fortunate to have visited this twice before in the last 5 years or so. Naturally then, a dinner at Olio, with an all-new menu under the aegis of Executive Chef Kailash Gundupalli, sounded like an interesting prospect.

The warmth and hospitality extended by the hotel team was overwhelming. The General Manager Manish Dayya, personally welcomed all guests.

The long table for our dinner was beautifully laid out. Flawless. Each course was to be  paired with Reveilo wines and the wine maker Andrea was present there himself.

The amuse bouche arrived. The baked brie with a crust, was just the perfect way to tantalize one’s taste buds. As one bit into the crust, soft, gooey brie enveloped the taste buds and rendered one speechless.

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Barely recovering from the onslaught of cheese on my palate, and the pickled watermelon and arugula salad took me by surprise. The water melon was handled with precision and the pickled flavours  were unique. The smattering of goat cheese, focaccia chips and the apple vinaigrette imparted the final touch to this salad replete with freshness and crunch. And yes, a hint of tangy flavours too.

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We were definitely off to a great start. The grillo and chardonnay paired with these opened our palate and with their citrusy and fruity flavours, were refreshing all the way.

The spinach and ricotta ravioli had a filling which was well-made, the outer covering of the dumpling, made with pasta dough seemed a tad tough and under cooked. The chewy texture robbed me of the outstanding experience I was expecting, considering the tomato basil sauce was light and flavoursome.

An eternal optimist, I looked forward to my risotto, a dish I have an immense weakness for. But alas! this too did not pass the test. It was a mushy mass of sticky rice. A spoonful and I knew it was half-cooked. Perhaps it was prepared in stages, which proved to be its undoing. The stock had got absorbed too soon and the arborio rice grains were not cooked to perfection. Of course the quality of the ingredients used boasted of freshness and shone all through. The black truffle essence too could have been a bit more.

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Perhaps I had made the wrong choices. There was Chicken d’ avolo – roast chicken preparation and a red snapper dish to choose from as well and I saw others relish those. Fortunately, the food  here is light, home-style and causes no discomfort with a cheese and cream overload, as is sometimes the case with what is passed off as Italian food.

Grilled salmon – sautéed Asparagus, garlic mash potato and lobster cream sauce

Just when I was beginning to let my despondent taste buds take over and feel sorry for themselves, the desserts- tiramisu and flour less chocolate cake, came along, artistically presented and literally “picked me up.” The flavors were bang on as were the textures. I was elated once again. A sip of the late harvest Chenin Blanc dessert wine and I was grateful to the hosts for a lovely evening.

Flour less chocolate cake – olio signature gluten free dessert with vanilla ice cream

The service through out the evening struck me as alert and efficient and the chefs passionate about their craft.

The new menu  certainly looks promising with appetizers ranging from Bruschetta, Olio De Caesare, Cozze Al Forno to Capsesante, while the mains feature avant-garde additions like Linguine Pescatora, open-face Lasagna, Angello Al Balsamico, all-time classic pizzas, and much more.

The simple home style cooking techniques, fresh sauces and condiments are going to make all the difference, along with the chef’s expertise and skills.

Add to that the fact that Olio exudes a kind of bonhomie and cheer and is not a staid, stiff-upper lip kind of dining place.

Saluti and Buon Appetito all:)

 

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Getting Cheesy

‘Say Cheese’. A common expression used by photographers when they want their subject/s to smile during a photo session. I am an exception. Cheese, makes me smile anyway, as I love it. Naturally then, the very thought of an entire promotion dedicated to cheese, at 1441 Pizzeria, Mumbai at Fort and Lokhandwala, Andheri West, titled’ Say Cheese Festival’ made me smile ear to ear. I was visibly excited.

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An entire new menu curated around cheese.  What more could a cheese lover like me ask for? Camembert and blue cheese pizza, buratta pizza, fromage blanc pizza, feta cheese pizza, smoky cheese pizza, were some of the exciting offerings on this menu.

I tried a piece each of some of the varieties at the Lokhandwala outlet and was blown away by the quality of the cheese. They had obviously used the best and that made all the difference to the taste of the pizza. The fresh ingredients and flavours were bursting and seeking attention. The techniques, precision and variety at 144 Pizzeria has always impressed me.

 

The Camembert and blue cheese pizza was delightful. The flavours in sharp contrast, yet complementary. The smoky pizza was, as expected, a treat for the palate with the smoky flavours, enveloping my taste buds. The crunch came in the form of veggies, olives, in many of the pizza.

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But the piece de resistance that evening was the coffee pizza. I have never eaten anything  quite like that before. Dessert pizza, with chocolates, fruits et al, in abundance, made by the best Italian chefs, but this coffee pizza was unique. The honey, spices, herbs, jalapenos, were high on flavours and then, the drizzle of strong coffee powder teased your taste buds, just the right amount. The contrast was evident and spectacular. I lauded the mastery of the person who created this concept and of course those, who were skilfully, executing it.

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The in-house Italian sauces, used in each pizza were lip-smacking and different. The usage of vegetables and other ingredients was apt, in the right proportion. Even the cheese did not overpower any of the pizza flavours. The crust, as always, was just perfect for me.

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The enthusiastic staff, their positive energy and desire to see a guest satisfied, is praiseworthy. I love the fact that they are well-informed and able to explain the pizza offerings on the menu exceedingly well to a guest.

I left, satiated and smiling. I was, inadvertently, saying cheese, as that was what was on my mind and in my stomach:)

On till, May 31, this ‘Say Cheese’ festival is not to be missed if you are a cheese lover or a pizza lover or both.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

The Real Taste of America in India

I am not a big fan of American food I confess. Big burgers, sandwiches et al do not excite me at all. I much rather eat global comfort food.But when The American Joint a vegetarian eatery opened in BKC Mumbai last year, I was intrigued. Unfortunately I was unable to visit the place, so decided to remedy this by going to the newly opened second outpost in Borivali West on Link Road. And to my utter glee I discovered it offers an interesting mix of American food and raw Indian flavours. That is not all, I loved the fact that they use only organic fruits and vegetables and serve food free of chemicals and preservatives. Kudos!

The ground floor section was buzzing with people on a Monday night. I was impressed. The first floor too seemed packed and the third section on a raised level is where I was seated. The cheerful vibe and decor in green with elegant ceiling lights caught my fancy immediately.

Interior 5

The menu looked attractive and the food reasonably priced. Oodles of cheese in most of the dishes. That is what struck me immediately. But then it is American comfort food we are talking about. Sandwiches, burgers, pizza, some avant garde fare, desserts, mocktails and shakes were attractively presented in the menu.

The  creamy baked potato soup doused with cheese was warm and comforting. I was speechless as the luscious flavours filled my mouth. The pita bread and hummus was perfect too- both in texture and flavours. The olive oil on the top however could be a tad less.

Try Some Feta with your Watermelon

The In-house veggie burger was  tasty, but a bit messy and ought to be served wrapped in paper, as it might be easier to handle. The salads are fresh and bursting with flavours and are everything a salad should be.

Pick The Greek

The food is well-presented in a fun and quirky manner which of course seems to be the order of the day.

Vegggidilla  – tortillas made with in-house flour caught my eye although I did not try those. Chole rice bowl – a meal of spicy chanas and rice can be both comforting and filling. College goers and fans of fries are going to love the exhaustive section with a variety of fries.Indulgent and sinful, but innovative too. The San Francisco Garlic and Sweet Potato fries sounded very unique.

Club Sandwich

The flavours and good quality ingredients shine effortlessly in each dish. There is clearly no compromise there. The service staff although affable and polite requires some more training as it is only the first week of this new outlet.

The  dessert section offers ample variety. The Ferrero Nutella mousse made in house was the piece de resistance undoubtedly. With the texture of a soft fudge, laden with nuts and crushed cookies, it is the stuff dreams are made of for chocoholics.

This restaurant clearly has a lot of potential and promise, once it overcomes the minor hiccups that occur when a restaurant opens. It is a great family dining destination as well the perfect hotspot for youngsters to relax and unwind over good vegetarian food.

Rating : 3.5/5

 

 

Let’s Get Cheesy…….

Cheese is something I have an incredible weakness for. It is a versatile ingredient, eaten and relished standalone, as well as used widely in cooking. My fridge is always well-stocked with several varieties. After all it comes handy as cheese makes an excellent ingredient to add both flair and flavour to the menu.

I relish it in dips or fondues. Perks up my taste buds instantly. Every type of cheese, fresh, semi-soft, washed rind, blue, semi-firm, or hard, has its special characteristics and properties. And yes, each variety of cheese has a unique, taste, texture and nutritional profile.

Cheese Burger Pizza

Some of the cheese dishes from my list of favourites are Swiss Fondue, Tiramisu made with mascarpone cheese and even a pizza generously topped with cheese. Or a crust filled with cheese. Pastas, pizzas and salads are incomplete without cheese.  Who can resist a well-made cheese toast for breakfast or a cheesy omelette for that matter? Another way to relish cheese is with crackers, nuts, fruits, bread.

A somewhat underutilized version is cream cheese. Can work wonders in desserts especially the New York cheese cake, which lends a great texture and richness to the dish.  The texture appeals to me a great deal.

Most varieties of cheese can be enjoyed cooked or uncooked. It depends on personal preferences. Few cheeses taste divine once heated, whereas some lose their distinct taste with application of heat. For example the pizza mozzarella is enjoyed in a better way if served warm.

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Gouda, Cheddar, Colby, Gruyere, Parmesan, are the hard varieties. European cheeses like Cheddar, Ricola, Emmental, Gruyere, Mozzarella are equally popular in India now and easily available at gourmet stores too. That is heartening to see though I wish these were a bit more affordable.

I need no reason or occasion to savour cheese. I love it anyway, anytime. I still love my Kraft cheese even though my palate has now accepted many more newer varieties.

Creamy Green n Red Pepper Pasta: Recipe

This quick and easy to prepare creamy Green Pepper Pasta can home handy when you are not in the mood for an elaborate meal but want something delicious made in a jiffy. One of my favourites, obviously.

Ingredients:

500 gms tagliatelle

1 Tbsp cooking oil

1 Green pepper

1 red pepper

300 ml parmesan cheese

100 ml double cream

200 ml creme fraiche

2 tbsp butter

salt and pepper

Method:

Boil pasta in water with salt and oil  till al dente.

Rinse with cold water

Dice peppers into cubes. Mix together with cheese, creme fraiche and cream.  sprinkle salt and pepper as per taste.

Place pasta in an oven proof dish.

Sprinkle chopped peppers. Pour over the cheese mixture and bake at 225 degrees C for approx 15 minutes

Remove from oven, let it stand and serve hot.

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