Tag Archives: salad

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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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:)

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burghul or cracked wheat Salad: Recipe

Another quick and healthy recipe. My favourite!

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Ingredients:

250 gms cracked wheat

2tbsp olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

15 gms dried apricots

15 gms raisins

2 spring onions finely chopped

500 ml vegetable stock

a bunch of fresh chopped parsley

Salt to taste

Method:

Put cracked wheat in a large bowl. Add veg stock and soak for 20 minutes

Meanwhile, whisk together Olive oil and lemon juice in another small bowl.

Add dried fruits and spring onions. Stir well and coat with dressing.

Drain cracked wheat and add to the dressing. Season with salt. Sprinkle chopped parsley and serve.

Delicious and healthy.