Tag Archives: chefs

Indulge your taste buds, luxuriously

One does not really need an excuse to bite into a piece of sinful decadence – chocolates, I mean. I can never say no to chocolates. But yes, it is not every chocolate that I enjoy. The percentage of cocoa solids and sugar, matters to me, as this indicates the quality and taste of the chocolate. After all, the higher the cocoa content, the less sugar it contains and the more ‘chocolatey’ it’s going to be.

The epitome of chocolate for most chocolate lovers is the indulgent chocolate cake. But today, there’s more to chocolates than just that. Having tasted  many a luxury chocolate across the world, when I tried, Fabelle, our very own desi luxury brand of chocolates,  from ITC, I could safely say they had raised the bar. From now on, it is going to be difficult settling for any other.

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A visit to the Fabelle, exclusive boutique at ITC Maratha Mumbai, was a revelation of sorts. Fabelle chocolates have been in the making for almost a decade, with extensive research and innumerable trials in the company’s pursuit to craft the finest luxury chocolates in India that  compete with the best in the world. Fabelle has been created by  international chefs together with ITC master chocolatiers. Small wonder then that the end product is a piece de resistance.

 

The range of Fabelle creations  I experienced, were overwhelming. Fabelle Elements – intricately crafted pralines inspired by the elements of nature, Fabelle Ganache – velvety soft cubes of exotic cocoas delicately churned with butter & fresh cream, Fabelle As You Like It – personalized chocolate cup creations offering myriad possibilities of fillings and toppings, Fabelle Single Origin Cacoas – single origin bars, crafted using cocoa from 6 different countries (Madagascar, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Ecuador, Sao Tome and Ghana), each asserting its own distinct flavour and Fabelle Gianduja – recreation of an Italian delicacy from the Napoleon era fashioned with infusion of hazelnuts into rich, creamy milk chocolate.

 

I was in a trance, mesmerized and my palate awash with decadence. It was difficult to decide which one I had relished the most. But yes, my instant vote went to the apple and cinnamon ganache. Those flavours, so intricately combined, plunged me into a coma, hitherto unknown to me.

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The chefs at the Fabelle boutique enthralled us with their artistic creations, poetry on plate to say the least.

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A chocolate made from a single cocoa sourced from a single country, imparts a distinct characteristic and flavour which is unparalleled. Undoubtedly, chocolates made from blended cocoas cannot match this perfection. The cocoa % in these dark chocolate bars starts from 67% right up to 84% for the chocolate bar made from Ghana cocoa.The Fabelle Single Origins Cacaos – Rich Dark Chocolates were just that and stood apart, like none other. Each pack of Fabelle Single Origin Cacaos is a collection of 6 carefully crafted chocolate dark bars, each perfectly sized for a single serving. This is the most coveted box, a chocolate lover can possess.

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The chocolate boutiques also provide a range of exquisitely crafted desserts and cocoa beverages, created live by Fabelle Master Chocolatiers. Additionally,  one can pick up  the exquisite gift packs too for friends and family.

I left the Fabelle boutique, in a trance and of course with my dessert quota for the week. With the best around, there was no way I was not going to give into my guilty pleasures.

 

With the launch of the chocolate boutiques at ITC Maratha & ITC Central in Mumbai, Fabelle  is now present nationally across Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai & Kolkata.

So indulge all ye chocolate lovers!

Rating : 4.5/5

 

 

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Dealing With Diabetes

With the alarming proportions, diabetes is assuming across the world and especially India, it is indeed heartening to see the husband wife duo, Seema and Manoj Pinto, proactively share their experience to inspire people to cope with diabetes through healthy eating and the Diabetic Food Trail is a positive step in that direction.

The Diabetic Food Trail 2016 is all set,  to begin on November 12. The aim is to offer Diabetics, Pre-Diabetics and Health conscious individuals, a wonderful culinary experience at over 200 restaurants across Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore & Pune, where Celebrated chefs from acclaimed restaurants across the country will get a chance to showcase their culinary talents to an all new set of target audience that did not have many options for healthy and diabetic food earlier.

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I was fortunate to have experienced this in Mumbai at Meluha-The Fern Hotel in Powai, where, Executive Chef Parimal Sawant, along with his team demonstrated several recipes including a salad, soup, main course and dessert which are healthy and suitable for diabetics. The demos were fun and interactive, with Seema constantly asking chef pertinent questions and the chef sharing helpful tips.

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Apart from being simple recipes, what appealed to me was that the ingredients were ones which could be easily procured as opposed to exotic ones usually suggested. The chefs at Meluha-The Fern exhibited a great deal of innovation in crafting those recipes.

Furthermore, I was glad to know that the Diabetic Food Trail will also introduce a special Healthy Dessert Trail which will allow diabetic patrons to sinfully indulge in  their guilty pleasures-desserts as these desserts,  do not contain any processed sugars.

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Seema Pinto – Director, Semora Entertainment Works and the brain behind this initiative says, “The focus of the second edition is on Diet and Fitness in effective Diabetes management. For a person with diabetes, eating nutritious and well-balanced meals with a regular fitness routine is vital in managing diabetes. This applies to pre-diabetics and the health conscious too”

The aim of this masterclass is to help individuals understand the ingredients, nutritional values, read packaging labels, learn exciting recipes which will help elevate the eating habits of diabetics without compromising on taste. These masterclasses will be held by renowned nutritionists and chefs across the 5 cities.

 

Some of the participating restaurants include Sassy Spoon,  Zaffran, Copper Chimney, Lemon Leaf, Boveda, Fern Hotels, Renaissance-Powai,  Woodside Inn, Mirchi & Mime, Smoke House Deli, Faasos, to name a few.

That’s not all, Seema has put together some well-researched  recipes in a small book which can benefit diabetics a great deal, which you can enjoy cooking too.

So eat healthy and stay fit and yes, diabetes can be controlled with eating right, apart from exercise.

 

Chocolates, Twice Over

This has been a sweet week. Well, quite literally. Chocolates galore for me. No,  unfortunately relatives did not come visiting and bring me chocolates. It was work that took me closer to chocolates and am not complaining.

Mondelez  India Foods Pvt Limited, launched  Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations just ahead of the festive season. The entire launch event was in tandem with the spirit of this product- fun and playful.

Available in two flavours, Jelly Popping Candy and Cookie Nut Crunch, kids are going to love it, as are adults like me. It is every chocolate lover’s delight. The packaging is so alluring that it compels you to pick up one. Irresistible.

Mondelez India introduces Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations. Prashant Peres - Director - Marketing (Chocolates) Mondelez India launching the product (2)

It is quite different from the previous Cadbury Dairy Milk range, I assure you. With a quirky looking block and curiously shaped pieces of varying sizes made specifically for sharing, this chocolate spells a lot of fun for families and friends. The rounded pieces roll off the roof of your mouth, the chocolate melting away to leave the key ingredients to explode, as the contrasting sensations play off. The jelly beanies, gems and popping candy all infused in delightfully shaped bar, is what sets it apart.

 

Prashant Peres, Director – Marketing (Chocolates), Mondelez India,  told me “We are delighted to introduce global innovation like Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations in India. Indian consumers now demand unique formats and eat experiences and given our global leadership in chocolate, we are well positioned to identify and bring some of our world leading brands to India. Our objective is to bring fun and excitement into the way Indians enjoy their favorite chocolate. The product combines exciting inclusions like gems, jelly and popping candy in an indulgent bar of milk chocolate that literally explodes in your mouth with every unpredictably delicious bite.”

As if I had not gorged enough on the Marvellous Creations, that Barry Callebaut Group, the world’s leading manufacturer of high quality chocolate and cocoa products,  decided to indulge me further.

It was the opening of their new, relocated Callebaut CHOCOLATE ACADEMY Center office in  Andheri East, Mumbai.

Barry Callebaut celebrates the opening of its new relocated Callleabut Chocolate Academy center in Mumbai  (4)

Oh what a sight to behold it was. State of the art equipment for chefs and culinary professionals to experiment, create and innovate with the most comprehensive and diverse selection of high-quality global gourmet chocolate products. The CALLEBAUT CHOCOLATE ACADEMY center in Mumbai is one of the company’s 19th chocolate training centers in the world and one of four in Asia Pacific.
“Callebaut is proud to have been a part of the chef’s community for over 10 years and we owe our customers in India for helping us build our business. We want to provide locals and visitors with the best chocolate making experience we can and we look forward to serving them even better in this state-of-the-art CHOCOLATE ACADEMY center and sales office,” said Dhruv Bhatia, Barry Callebaut’s Managing Director, India.
Barry Callebaut celebrates the opening of its new relocated Callleabut Chocolate Academy center in Mumbai  (1)
Chef Mane and Chef Ghosh demonstrated choux pastry and a white chocolate mousse using the Callebaut range. One can sure do wonders with this superior quality chocolate. They made it look so simple and effortless.
Barry Callebaut celebrates the opening of its new relocated Callleabut Chocolate Academy center in Mumbai  (6)
Amidst hot chocolate shots and a variety of decadent Callebaut chocolates, which simply melt in the mouth, the afternoon just flew.
The center’s offerings include a wide range of workshops, courses and demonstrations for professional customers in all sectors: chocolatiers, pastry chefs, bakers and other chocolate experts as well as culinary professionals working in hotels, restaurants and the catering business.
Barry Callebaut celebrates the opening of its new relocated Callleabut Chocolate Academy center in Mumbai  (21)
With budding chefs being able to learn more from the experts and experienced chefs being able to experiment with new creations using Callebaut’s wide inventory of high quality gourmet chocolate and cocoa products, this center is certainly going to be a sought-after haven for  professionals and enthusiasts working with chocolate.
Cheers! to chocolate and innovation.

Your Late Night Saviour: Pot de Fusion

Mumbai used to be a city that never slept or at least, was pulsating all night, when I first came to live here 24 years ago. Sadly, a lot has changed since then. One was never worried about getting food at any hour in Mumbai. Restaurants were open or at least some hole in the wall eatery would serve a keema pav or omelette pav at any unearthly hour. Over the years those too have dwindled.

Thus, when I cam across PDF or Pot de Fusion, a food delivery kitchen which delivers food at your doorstep, albeit right now only in the Western Suburbs, from 7 pm to 4 am, I was ecstatic. It’s not only about party goers returning home late and craving some food but even people who work in shifts or even those returning from a journey perhaps.

I called for their food one night. Try karna to banta hai. So what if I was not returning late from anywhere 🙂

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My  Chicken Wings in BBQ Sauce, Chicken Peri Peri, Pasta Salad and Gooey Chocolate dessert arrived, neatly packed in containers in a blue cardboard box, duly branded. There was no spilling or mess. Every food item was in perfect condition. Full marks to the packaging.

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The chicken wings were interesting. The BBQ sauce actually. The chicken wings were swathed in the sauce and had luscious flavours. Chicken Peri Peri too was a delight for the taste buds. Fiery, but the spices were overpowering in this case. The somewhat bland Pasta salad came to my rescue and for once I was glad. The raw onions in the salad did not augur well for me though. And it was a bit too dry. Was quite basic and could have been boosted a bit in terms of presentation and flavours.

The chicken piece in the peri peri struck me as somewhat inadequate. Should have been a little more robust and generous, I thought.

The gooey chocolate, got my vote instantly. Fresh and moist, it melt in my mouth completely and was not cloyingly sweet, as sometimes chocolate desserts are.

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The ingredients used are of a good quality and undoubtedly fresh. The concept is of course a winner all the way if it continues to be executed to perfection. Who would not want a proper meal at one’s doorstep even late at night rather than rummage the fridge for something or make a Maggi? Mumbaikars are going to welcome this abundantly.

The menu too is exhaustive and offers plenty of options, both, Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian, global and Indian. Butter Chicken, Red Snapper Fish Meuniere,  Jammu De Rajma or Crab Masala. You can have it all at Pot de fusion.

It is indeed comforting to know that something like PDF now exists. For once, I am glad I live in the Western suburbs!

To order:

Phone – 9820285558/9820895559
Website – www.potdefusion.com
App – Pot de Fusion on Android

Rediscovering Cashew-The wonder fruit of Goa

I have loved cashews ever since I can remember. Roasted, plain or in marzipans. I love them in any form. Being married to a Goan, of course I am now well-versed with the importance of cashews in Goa and its popularity, but it was only recently that I rediscovered the fruit, apart from the nut, I am so familiar with.

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Park Hyatt Resort & Spa Goa’s Cashew Trail beckoned us to Goa. I am ever willing to go to Goa, just as most of us are. But in reality, it was the cashew related itinerary, which intrigued me.

As a food and beverage writer, I was keen to know more about feni and urak, the drinks made from cashew apple and of course cocktails made with these. I was equally curious to see how Chefs infuse the cashew into a variety of dishes across cuisines. And that’s exactly what the culinary wizards at Park Hyatt Goa did. I was mesmerized.

I was in for a surprise at Casa Sarita, the Goan restaurant at the Hotel. The special five-course menu was paired with urak, feni aged one year, an Oak Cask 2012 edition feni and a Port Oak Cask 2010 edition feni. These feni selections were specially presented by the Vaz family for Cashew Trail 2015.

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I loved the passion with which Mac Vaz painstakingly explained each feni as we got ready to sip it with each course. I have great regard for Chef Edridge  of Casa Sarita, who is a master of his craft. He loves his Goan cuisine and knows it really well. Well enough to, give it his own contemporary twist. And yet, the dishes are authentic. That’s what makes him a class apart.

Chef Edridge Vaz - Casa Sarita

We began with the Assiette of seafood peri peri and Cauliflower tondak served with first pressed coconut milk and salted cumin biscotti. Exquisite flavours enveloped my mouth, as, I savoured each morsel. The spices used were 100% Goan and the modern twist to it was laudable. Light and flavourful, I relished the cauliflower tondak. The cumin biscotti added the right amount of zest to the course, in terms of the crunch. Never knew Vegetarian Goan food could be so appeasing. The Cinnamon feni sorbet meant to be our palate cleanser, was so delicious that it well could have been my dessert. Smooth in texture, it almost had a creamy feel to it.

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The highlight of the evening was the Alle Belle Cold Cheese cake with Cashew Jam. It had me spellbound. A traditional sweet of Goa, Chef had presented and served it so interestingly. It looked so appetising that my heart broke to upset his presentation on the plate. The base of the dessert was crispy and crunchy, juxtaposed perfectly with the smooth and creamy cheese cake on top. The highlight undoubtedly was the cashew jam, which I tasted for the first time ever. Chef Edridge had yet again proved his mastery. This was an example of innovation at its best.

The gourmet dinner and exquisite fenis proved to be a heady experience.

If the dinner, was an extraordinary experience, so were our subsequent meals, where cashews were so skillfully integrated into various dishes. Pulaos, curries, lentils, soups, chutneys and dips. Yes, there was cashew in all of these and more. And yet, the palate never did tire of it, even though we relished this cuisine for three days, albeit in different forms. The Cashew Trail finale brunch replete with cashew based dishes is something I will always remember and cherish. Each dish stood apart from the other. The chefs’ creativity knew no bounds today.

What can I say about the cocktails created with feni and urak? any of these were a revelation for me as I discovered several spices and seasonal fruits which were cleverly used with feni and urak to create the innovative Buenisima, Orange Sunrise and Fenirinha among others.

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Apart from savouring myriad cashew creations in various forms, the picking of the cashew apple at the Cashew farm in Valpoi and watching the feni being distilled, is something which made this trip so memorable and the experience unparalleled.

And as I sit at home in Mumbai and bite into my cashew chikki and relish the cashew nut and mango chutney, so generously provided by the Hotel, as our lil’ giveaway, I get nostalgic about the 4th Cashew Trail at Park Hyatt Goa. I had embarked on a guilt-free, hedonistic journey, but I am not complaining. For this one, once is clearly, not enough.

The Perfect Match: Longest Reserve Table Wine Dinner

It was a dinner with a difference. Jacob’s Creek, extended The Reserve Table experience with the ‘Longest Reserve Table’ in Mumbai at The Terrace Garden at ITC Grand Central. It was elegance personified. The ITC Grand Central Team did a fabulous job of the decor, service and of course food. The service too was impeccable, as expected with clockwork precision.

The ‘Longest Reserve Table’ in Mumbai witnessed more than 100 gourmands who had reserved a seat at the table to be a part of this unique experience.  I was privileged to be one of them. Adrian Pinto of Jacob’s Creek, played the perfect host, introducing the wines and ensuring all his guests were enjoying themselves. 

Jacob’s Creek Reserve wines were perfectly paired with a well -curated menu by ITC Grand Central’s Executive Chef Bhaskar Sankhari. The versatility of the wines was evident. My vote went to the Chardonnay. Have a special soft corner for that one. The Sparkling Rose too was refreshing. 

The ITC chefs were challenged to push boundaries and create flavours to complement select wines from the Jacob’s Creek Reserve range sourced from some of Australia’s most premium wine regions- the Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills. And I can safely say the Chefs came out tops.

Kuldeep Bhartee, General Manager, ITC Grand Central Mumbai said, “This is indeed a unique way to showcase the exquisite menu crafted by our Executive Chef paired with fine wines.” I couldn’t agree more with him.

The experience commenced with ITC’s signature hors d’oeuvres with Jacob’s Creek’s signature sparkling wine, the Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut Cuvee.

Indeed the food served, complemented the wines. The dum cooked chicken mince kebabs with sheermal or the vegetarian gucci badam ke shikampur were an apt match for the Jacob’s Creek Classic Shiraz Cabernet. The robust spicy red fruit and cherry bouquet with the soft tanins and fruit flavours on the palate was an unparalleled treat.

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I loved the pudina paani and citrus granita in between as a palate cleanser. My favourite wine the Chardonnay arrived with the Gosht ke nihari and taftaan. A sublime treat for the palate.

The experience reached its Nadir with the Gosht Bohri Biryani and Kathal Ki Biryani impeccably paired with Jacobs Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz.

The dessert- saffron and almoroso flavoured baked rosogulla was a creamy treat. The delicate pink Sparkling Rose did justice to it.

ITC Hotels’ Indian spread is undisputedly the best in the country.  I can never tire of it and love the way Chef Sankhari and his team keep reinventing the menus.

An enjoyable evening of tantalising food flavours and the best of wines. Have not enjoyed a wine dinner so much in a long time. There couldn’t have been a better way to usher in Gudi Padwa!

South Indian Fare + Global Flavours = Kobri Food Truck

A restaurant on wheels is always a fun prospect to eat from. Of course extremely popular in the West, one does not see too many in India owing to licenses and permission problems, yet, thankfully, a few are mushrooming all over India. Delhi and NCR seem to be leading the way. I was lucky to sample the food from Kobri, a food truck parked at The Heritage Transport Museum, one afternoon, courtesy, Le Meridien Gurgaon.

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The menu for the day was on the blackboard outside the truck and the chefs lead by Rajneesh Kumar, Head Chef, Flavour Labs,  were chopping, mixing, preparing, frying at a frenetic pace. The excitement as building. South Indian fusion food is Kobri’s speciality. After all, Kobri means coconut in Kannada.

This unique food truck is part of a hospitality setup called Flavour Labs and was conceptualised in 2013 during the Stanford Business School’s Ignite program in Bangalore. Launched in October 2014, Kobri is based in Gurgaon and mostly caters to the larger NCR region, Rohan Rajgarhia, one of the partners informed me.

The founding team comprises of entrepreneurial professionals with a passion for incredible food experiences, who have backgrounds in hotels & hospitality, healthcare, corporate strategy, analytics, customer service; and academic/professional affiliations with Stanford, Cambridge, Harvard and IIT.

South Indian food is something most of us enjoy, but the fusion bit was the intriguing part. Spinach and mushroom in a white wine cream sauce topped with cheese and chilly flakes was what I settled for, in a wrap. I had made a good choice. The wrap was crisp and the filling generous. The medley of spinach and mushrooms was flavorsome and the white wine cream sauce, laced with cheese gave it a smooth texture, which led to a burst of flavours in my mouth. It was sumptuous, the veggies crunchy and affordably priced. All the prerequisites to make it work for office goers looking for a quick, filling and healthy lunch. Aaiyyo! Delectable stuff.

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The spiced mutton kababs served with salad greens and an apple and olive salsa were equally unique and interesting. However, I preferred them on idlis rather than in the wrap form.

Other options include Paneer with assorted peppers in a mild chettinad sauce and topped with salad greens, Crispy fish on a bed of beetroot and turnip roulade, served with in-house tartar sauce and fresh greens. I like the twist Chef Rajneesh has given to the dishes. The flavours are contemporary and global, appealing to all taste buds. Yet, if one is craving for a South Indian meal, these, satiate that urge too. The idli subs I thought were cute and yet, filling. With offerings ranging from Rs 140-180, food is an absolute steal.

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Apparently they have another truck called Hoppers that offers healthy comfort food. I can’t wait to try that on my next visit to Delhi and NCR. Alas! we need a Kobri in Mumbai too!