Tag Archives: enjoy

Tea Tales & Winter food

Winters are somehow all about indulgence. Given the weather when the temperature drops, one can getaway by giving in to one’s guilty pleasures. More calories are needed to generate body heat, we are told, so we all gladly embark upon that task. Sadly, Mumbai does not gift us real winters, yet, we unabashedly gorge on some winter delicacies.

Another thing which is synonymous for everyone with winters, is a hot brew-tea or coffee. I love my tea and  when a winter menu is about tea and food, naturally I am ecstatic.

Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House (TMTH) has curated a new Winter Menu, using the most exotic and fresh produce of the season.  TMTH has handpicked season’s popular ingredients and created an interplay of flavours to intrigue the diner’s taste buds.

Irresistible this sounded, so I set about to explore it one evening.

As I settled in, I discovered each item on the cleverly crafted menu, was aptly complemented by one of their signature tea blends.

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The falafel chaat arrived on the table and was paired with  a pink guava and kaffir lime tea. The tangy chaat with palate-teasing flavours, was delightful. After a sip of the light tea, the flavours came alive with a vengeance. I was off to a good start.

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Next was the salad with paneer and the tea to go along, was a delicate Oriental Jasmine and rose. A unique blend of the East and West- a romantic tea, which uplifts your mood instantly. It did just that. It perked my taste buds and I found myself enjoying the hearty and crunchy salad even more.

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Teas being paired with every course, I thought was an exciting thing to do in order to enhance the dining experience. And it really worked wonders.

Risotto infused with Sambar was served next but the watered down version did not entice me enough. The silver needle and berries tea paired with it though, took me by surprise. Fruity and flavourful, it was comforting all the way and yet, added zest to my palate with its intoxicating flavours. Who needs wine with teas like this around?

The Idly Crust with Pomfret was the piece de resistance. Fresh fluffy soft fish with a delectable crust was a treat for the taste buds.

What can I say about the matcha semifreddo. It bore ample testimony to Chef’s mastery over his craft. The matcha tea flavours, lend themselves seamlessly to this dessert and in fact enhanced the taste. Layers of Matcha cream and cake covered with grilled almond slivers and served with chocolate sauce. Truly decadent. Paired with the robust mocha tea this course was truly memorable. Assam chai with a rich coffee cream crown and finished with cracked roasted coffee beans. Whew! I had tasted nothing like this ever before.

There is Chai cheese cake tart too, for dessert lovers, which I have to head back to try.

This menu is truly innovative and offers something for every palate. A special treat for the Vegans is using the winter staple Ragi in a contemporary Vegetable Quiche. Vegetarians can relish the Multigrain Hari Matar Burger, while carnivores will enjoy the Baked Irani Lamb Kheema – Aubergine parceled shells baked with lamb kheema inspired by Dhansak flavor and glazed with Béchamel sauce, among others.

I left the place with a smile as the manner in which teas had been paired with food,  especially the fish course was a true revelation. And I had sampled the very best of teas and food. It does not get any better than this. Winters had set in for me this evening, and I was not complaining.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A haven of rest and relaxation

Getting out of Mumbai is always an exciting prospect. We all need short breaks at least when we live in big cities and lead hectic lives. My excitement knew no bounds as Alibaug is a place I love. What added to the charm was that I was to experience Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Alibaug, a hotel, which has been around for a while but revamped and refurbished recently.

As our car rolled into Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug, the vast expanse over which this property is spread, caught my eye.  A warm welcome and quick check in made me feel truly welcome.

The prospect of a stay at Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug with its famous Aparanta, the all-day dining restaurant and Kokum & Spice, the specialty restaurant, serving coastal fare, a spa, recreation facilities, suddenly seemed more thrilling.

Spread across several acres of land, this hotel is a haven of luxury, rest and repose. Shown around the hotel by the affable Aparup Biswas and Hemang Parmar, Director F&B, I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. Time had just flown as I was soaking in all the information.

The 156 rooms comprise deluxe rooms, superior rooms, executive suites, deluxe spa villas and executive spa villas. With beautiful views, each of these offers understated luxury.

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I entered my vibrant and comfortable villa. The elegant and aesthetic décor appealed to me instantly. My villa spelt comfort and all the possible needs of a guest were anticipated and taken care of by Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug. Their attention to detail impressed me. The duplex villa was designed aptly with effective usage of space. The living room with a dining space was on the lower floor with a spacious bedroom on top.

After settling down in my room, I enjoyed my lunch at Aparanta, where chef had created unique delicacies. Punjabi food acquired a whole new meaning here as chef gave it a contemporary twist in presentation without altering the flavours. The food was hearty and the flavours robust. Even the vegetarian dishes boasted of exquisite flavours and bore testimony to the chef’s creativity.

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After a restful afternoon, I moved to the Escenza Spa, where I was booked for a spa treatment. The spa, I noticed, had a tastefully done up reception area, treatment rooms, steam room and sauna. Other amenities of the hotel include a gym, a library, outdoor and indoor games. One need not step out of the property as there is something for everyone to relax and keep busy.

The spa room was tranquil and I felt relaxed immediately. The serene environment, the expert therapist using the best possible range of products were enough to pamper me.  The Swedish massage with aromatic oils, sounded just like what my tired body needed. The therapist firmly but gently removed all the knots from my muscles and massaged me deftly. I was rejuvenated beyond words. The music however could have been a bit softer. Nevertheless, a surge of well-being enveloped me as I left the Spa recharged ready to enjoy my evening.

Dinner was at Kokum & Spice. We experienced coastal food at its best. The chic but understated elegance of this place impressed me. The spacious seating and mood lighting added to the charm of this traditional restaurant.

Chef had curated a menu for us, giving us a glimpse of the signature dishes from Goa, Mangalore, Maharashtra and we had a lot to choose from. Mangalore fish curry, bombil fry, rawas, prawns, vade. The food was delectable and offered a melange of tantalizing flavours, characteristic of the coastal belt.  The freshness of the sea food and the quality of ingredients used struck me as outstanding. The spices used were authentic and the outcome was an aromatic experience which lingered on my palate. This restaurant was going to  henceforth top my list for coastal food.

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I rounded off my meal with the traditional ukadiche modak with ghee or thoop. And of course the paan freshly made by the cute paan kiosk outside the restaurant.

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Next morning, feeling rested after a good night’s sleep, after sipping my tea in my room which faced a  lake, I stepped down for breakfast at the all-day dining restaurant, Aparanta.

The breakfast spread was an exercise in choices. The expansive restaurant with several seating options and abundant natural light, was abuzz with activity. The live counters served dosas, eggs, parathas and more. The food was fresh and the offerings varied. The service was alert and exemplary.

After a lazy morning spent walking around the property, I checked out at noon.  I had been spoilt thoroughly by the warm hospitality extended to me. Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug, the contemporary luxury resort, so close to Mumbai, yet a perfect getaway, transports you to another world nestled in nature’s surroundings.

 

Guilty Pleasures in Winter

Winter foods can be such a delight for the palate and one does not mind giving into one’s guilty pleasures in this season. After all, one needs more calories to keep oneself warm. So indulgence is allowed this cold season. Warmth is  a must of course, but comforting foods are what the body and soul need.

Spices and nuts should be a part of one’s meal, as should be meats, including lamb. Ghee, ginger, seasonal vegetables like turnips, brussel sprouts, raddish, peas, broad beans, carrots are a must-have to help the body fight infections and remain warm.

As the temperatures drop, one also likes to indulge in hot and delicious grilled foods. There is nothing more enticing than the aroma of slowly grilled meat, fish and vegetables.

Makki ki roti and sarson ka saag tops every foodie’s list. Not many know that sarson ka saag being rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, that are important antioxidants and a significant amount of iron, is ideal for winter.

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Beetroot is rich in minerals and helps in increased blood flow in the body, essential to keep one warm. Jaggery or gur is a great winter food too. It aids in digestion, purifies blood and keeps the skin free from acne. The best way to enjoy Gur is to eat it with make ki roti and white butter.

Interestingly, every region in India celebrates this season with typical dishes. If North India relishes their sarson ka saag and Kaali Gajar ki Kaanji, Gujaratis cannot do without their oondhiyo. It is eaten in winter because the main ingredients like papadi, tuar Dana, Lilua, for Oondiyo are available in this season.

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Nalli Ghosht and Paya shorba are popular winter dishes in most households in Hyderabad. Bengalis enjoy their Kosha mangsho a mutton preparation and also several leafy vegetables and sweets made from nolen gur or new jaggery.

So make sure you gorge on all the right foods this season and relish seasonal favourites, which are healthy for the body and equally comforting too as you beat the chill.

Drinks for the festive season

The spirits during this season are high and there isn’t any reason, why we can’t enjoy the festive season, without consuming any spirits. Is that possible? Of course it is… in fact, there are plenty of delightful seasonal beverages that can help you ring in the yuletide festivities without compromising on your desire to go alcohol free or risking the fact of getting drowned in alcohol.

If you want to sample a few of my favourites, to keep you cheery, check out this quick menu.
Cinnamon Laced Double Chocolate: Make a cup of deluxe hot cocoa, dissolve a piece of bitter chocolate cube to give the added double chocolate effect and sprinkle with powdered Cinnamon.
Hot Toddy with apple cider: In a pan combine apple cider, cinnamon, star anise and cloves, bring to boil. Remove from heat and allow the spices to steep for 10-15 minutes, strain spices stir in honey till dissolved serve with sliced apples, lemon, cinnamon sticks and star anise.
Spiced tea: In a big mug place tea bag and honey, add enough boiling water to fill the mug add cinnamon and lemon, steep for 3 minutes and remove bag, sprinkle lightly with nutmeg and serve.
Virgin Fruit Muddle: Take a bowl full of diced mixed winter fruits, muddle them, add half cup of orange juice, a dash of lime, and top it with room temperature Apple Juice. Serve in a beer glass or brandy balloon.  
If you are out on the streets you could try the many variants of Café Coffee Days’ Magical brews.
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And if you neither want to take the trouble of making your own brews that I offered nor do you want to step out at Café Coffee Day’s offerings, you could try the four variants of Gold Fogg’s latest offering, which includes: The Gold Fogg Energy Drink, Mish Mash – Fruit Kiss made of apple, strawberry, mango, peach, guava, grape and passion fruit all packed in one.
So compliments of the season and go on for a non-alcoholic drinking spree !

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.

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.

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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.

Monsoon Magic in Goa

Goa really never has to try hard to woo us. We are all in love with it, aren’t we?

Throughout the year, this destination, full of surprises, lures us, yet, monsoons are a time too, to head to Goa as well. Contrary to popular belief, the rains and the scenic beauty replete with the rivers joyfully overflowing with their rushing streams, the trees dancing to the tune of the winds and the fields a lush, verdant green carpet, is not all there is to look forward to. There are the traditional  festivals that acquaint you with tradition and also provide merriment galore.

 

These festivals are unique to Goa and each one has an interesting story behind it.It is truly worth discovering a Goa, that is beyond the ordinary, this Monsoons.

  • Sao Joao: Goa readies itself for the gala Sao Joao fest celebrated on June 24 in Siolim Goa. This monsoon feast has special significance in Christianity as it is dedicated to St John the Baptist, the firebrand prophet. The celebration of San Joao goes back nearly 150 years, when San Joao revelers from Chapora and Zhor villages of Anjuna, Badem in Assagao and Siolim would come up year after year in boats to the chapel of Sao Joao in Periera Vaddo, Siolim, to pay homage and take part in the traditional dali. The festivals takes place at the beginning of Monsoon season in Goa and people of all ages jumping into wells, streams and ponds.
  •  Ponsachem Fest : It is a Jackfruit festival called ‘Ponsachem Fest’ celebrated on the occasion of Sao Joao in Socorro village. Parish priest Fr Santana Carvalho says that the inspiration for the festival comes from Sao Joao itself. This is an occasion to savour Goa’s choicest jackfruits and the scrumptious items made from it. I am all for this festival as I love the versatile jackfruit and love to experiment with it in my kitchen

Sangodd

  •  Sangodd: The Feast of St. Peter, also known as Sangodd, is a monsoon-based celebration by Goa’s local fishing community. Their boats are tied together to form rafts, which serve as makeshift stages on June 29. On these stages are erected miniature models of chapels or churches.
  •  Chikalkalo : Come July and there is the Chikalkalo. People celebrate Chikalkalo, a traditional festival, at Marcel, Goa. It is an annual traditional celebration, in which people of Marcel village take part after the ‘Ashadi Ekadashi’.

Touxeachem Feast of Telaulim

  • Touxeachem Feast: The magnificent Church of St Anne also known as the Santana Church locally, is the scene of the very unusual feast every year on July 29. The Church located at Talaulim in Tiswadi taluka, is dedicated to St Anne. The couples come to the Church to seek the blessings of St Anne, who herself was blessed with a child after 40 years of barren life. They buy cucumbers from local vendors at the feast and offer them at the feet of St Ann and carry them home to eat. Touxeachem Fest (in Konkani) literally translates as the Cucumber Feast in English. Besides the huge number of devotees from all around Goa, a large number of newly married couples is in attendance.   

Patollio

  • Patolleanchem feast: It is a feast depicting a rich old Goan culture. This festival is organized on the feast of Our Lady of Assumption and Independence Day. Patollio ( a sweet made of jiggery and rice covered with a turmeric leaf) is prepared by the villagers  and is blessed by parish priest Fr Santana Carvalho  and is served to all and this is how the name Patolleanchem feast derives. I look forward to this feast to gorge on this delicacy which is painstakingly prepared by family members.
  • Bonderam is a local festival, celebrated on the third or fourth Saturday in the month of August, in the quaint island of Divar, away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. In remembrance of old territorial battles that took place on the island, mock skirmishes are re-enacted by boys and girls wielding fotashes (toy flags made with bamboo) and using berries for missiles.

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I am certainly heading to Goa to witness some of these first hand and partake in the celebrations. Are you?