A SelectED experience

When a break beckons along with some good food, who’d not jump at it? I signed up for the SelectED events (of Select CityWalk) fun getaway to showcase their talented dining wing at the Heritage resort in Manesar. The property itself is a favourite with the weekend getaway seekers and is a delight to the eye. The meditative silence of the trees, herbs, bushes, fruits and colourful flowers are broken occasionally by the call of peacocks, sunbirds and lapwings amongst the buzz of colourful butterflies.
bouquet-SelectEDThe deal was to experience an event by SelectED, created under the tutelage of Ishaan Sarkar, CEO of SelectED and Chef Gaurav Mathur (Ex ITC). We ended up savouring a mix of delightfully traditional Indian hospitality, a food high and some fond memories.

Having arrived at Manesar, we were ushered to our rooms where a colourful bouquet greeted us with a bottle of wine. It was only a while later, after refreshing ourselves, we discovered the bouquet was made entirely of cupcakes and not just that, a mugshot of ours was embedded in an edible cookie! And this was just the beginning of some amazing things to be experienced.

At about 4pm, we headed for a curated high-tea party. Ishaan had thought of having the high tea by the pool, but the weatherteacups-SelectED did not allow us to be out.

A large banquet table was set at the restaurant with the most attractive treats of bite sized desserts, cookies, finger
foods ranging from tea-infused cup cakes, spiced carrot madeleines, apple chutney samosa (innovative), smoked lamb and mint emapnadas, coffee religieuse, Chocolate Cup with Creme Chantilly and Fresh Fruit, Californian avacado pie, Bhel puri, addictive gol gappas with tabouleh, fanta and mango salsa, Ouinoa Ki Tikki and Sweet Potato and Oats Galattes amongst others.

SelectED-golsAs we took our picks from the fun offerings displayed on pretty cake platters, a server came along with a portable bhel mixing tray strapped to him. He went from table to table customising the bhel puri to everyone’s tastes. It was quite novel and another talking point was the kala khatta gola’s, perfect for the muggy weather we were experiencing. What was missing was some space and yes those finger sandwiches without which a
high-tea is incomplete.

Though we were suitably warned about the evening dinner, we still stuffed ourselves to gills and headed for some rest to our thoughtfully decorated rooms, after endless cup of coffee and tea, only to reappear at night for another round of conversations and food.

We were greeted at the banquet hall by Ishaan and his able staff with a round of wines and drinks along with appetising small bites like Marinated Lychee and Prunes, Wasabi feta, Trio of Nacho with Refried Bean/Guacamole/Sour Cream, Scallop Ceviche, Crystal Dimsum, Parma Ham Melon Pops, Bakharkhani, Hare dane ka kabab, jalapeno and cheese stuffed gucchi, ajwaini crisps, squid peri peri and chicken cigarellos.

What followed after the chit chat was a multi-course sit down dinner with personalised menus and name cards. A hush fell in the dining room as amuse bouche of makki roti and sarso saag arrived on our plates. The cuisine on offer was SelectED-AmuseBoucheprogressive Indian. For the main course I opted for the Grilled Lobster, String Hopper with Saffron Gravy – The lobster was meaty, soft, flaky and the saffron cream sauce, fragrant and almost did a slow dance on the taste buds. The other option of Tandoori Atlantic Salmon, Basil Pesto with Aloo chokha/ papaya relish looked as delectable on the opposite table. I wish I could have dug my fork in there as well.

A palate cleanser of Sugar cane granitas was followed by New Zealand Lamb Chops with Aam Papad and Kokum Jus was tantalizing to the whole affair. The lamb fell of the bone and the shock of sourness of aam papad and kokum jus worked its magic on the meat.

SelectED-DinnerThe vegetarians had their fare share of winners. In fact, I managed to sample a bit from the vegetarian menu and what an eye opener it was! The Gucchi Khichdi with Nimona Fragrant Basmati Rice and Stuffed Pickled Salan was a revelation, and Stuffed baby aubergines and sting hoppers teamed with tamarind salsa hit the spot.

The dessert platter was a mix of ghevar, gulab jamun tart and a chocolate cup with raspberry sauce. The expectations from the dessert platter were an all-time high after sampling such a delightful meal. But the platter worked in parts like the gulab jamun tart and ghevar were good (largely because delhiwalas are deprived of good, finger-licking ghevar). In hindsight, the platter was just average, given the repertoire of the evening. But the taste bud tantalizing gondhoraj macarons that awaited us at our rooms made up for that.

The next morning, I woke up hungry and only could imagine what awaited us for the brunch after the last evening’s high. The weather was nice and a part of the brunch was laid outside. There were
usual suspects of salads, cold cuts, fruits, cheese, pastas, eggs amongst counters which had Haleem, Bao, biriyani, teriyaki etc. It was like an Alice in Wonderland moment and I did not know where to begin. There was seriously too much food, if there can be a statement like that. And the joy of having cold beer at 11 in the morning is something else.desertplatter-SelectED

The dessert counter was the usual ice creams, yoghurts, pastries and tarts but the star of the dessert counter was the wasabi ice cream that provided a kick and ticked off the brunch on the right note.

What was exciting and good to know was that the ingredients used in each of the meals by SelectED were fresh, and
some herbs and vegetables came from their own kitchen gardens! Also, one would imagine that the food that we ate would be heavy but truth be told, none of the meals was heavy which was a double plus. And the service staff were at their courteous best and some of them even knew our personal likes and dislikes by the end of our stay, which I thought  as commendable.

Our getaway had a sweet ending with a goody bag having a marvelously decorated chocolate truffle cake with traditional Indian motifs.

Frontier, The Ashok – Showcasing NWF Cuisine

IMG_0132The city has secrets and The Frontier (Ashok Hotel) is one of them. It has been around since I was growing up, but forgotten in the hustle bustle of new restaurants opening and shutting. I have fond memories of the place and it was a delight to revisit them after a gap of more than a decade. Though the menu hasn’t changed and the preparations are intact, the interiors have changed. It is not the rustic environment that you would expect or remember but it has the elements of a desert that welcomes you. The darkness is illuminated with small cluster lights (stars), a winding river lit up with white tiles, below your feet and the waves of the river “mirrored” on the wall adds to the charm. The smiling rabab player circles around diners and is happy to play requests. We had the old hindi favourite (ajeeb dastan hai yeh…) on our table. And by the end of the evening the night grew on us, just like the desert sky.

The food is a discovery of sorts. The robust frontier cuisine in all its rusticity opened up as whispering IMG_0134secrets on the table over the evening. We started with Kabab-e-Bannu which were undoubtedly the star of the evening. Giant pieces of chicken coated with simple spices and egg yolk, and cooked in a tandoor, make for comfort food. I can have it for all meals. I saved a morsel of it on my plate, till the last flavours of other preparations had settled on my palette.

The illusive Pathar Kabab (slices of lamb, beaten and rubbed with spices and cooked on a hot stone) from the Delhi food circuit can be sampled here in all its robust avatar. The Tandoori Macchi were delectable pieces of soft pomfret in just the right spices. The Frontier menu is a bit challenged when it comes to vegetarian offerings, but it does absolute justice to what they serve. The Bharwan Aloo and Paneer Peshawari were just rightly so. The soft pieces of tandoored potatoes scooped out and stuffed, sprinkled with a hint of spice brought an unexpected delight on the table.

Chef Anish KanswalIt is difficult to fathom how the kitchen can keep control of the temperature of clay ovens, and not go overboard with spice mix measurements. Chef Anish Kanswal from the Uttarakhand region, who made an introduction at our table seemed rather young and friendly to manage a kitchen of this proportions, which also doubles up as the preferred kitchen for the President and the Prime Minister. One would expect someone older, say this, and Chef Anish breaks into a shy smile. He is generous with his knowledge and eager to feed a hungry soul. His recommendations are worth every penny.

While I was still yearning for another helping of Kabab -e-Bannu, it was time for the main course. The IMG_0136famous daal dera ismail khan (named after a city in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan) is a melt in mouth rich concoction of lentils cooked for 24+ hours. The story goes that while the men went out, it was the womenfolk who would cook with what was there in the kitchen. Now the good womenfolk would never know when to expect the men back, so they ended up cooking the lentils for days altogether and that’s how we have the fabled lentils reaching the shimmery creamy consistency. I was suitably educated by Chef Anish, that the Rogan Josh preparation is something unlike its Kashmiri cousin, which is a must try at The Frontier. The preparation of Rogan Josh here, is slightly spicy and cooked in a gravy of tomatoes and onions which I had many helpings of till the end. While the Murg Pershawari, tender chicken pieces cooked in whole spices was milder, it had a sweet aftertaste. The fragrant pudina paratha and the keema naan were perfect IMG_0138accompaniments to the food.

The food at Frontier is inviting with minimal use of spices that makes you want to come back for more and get your hands dirty. After a hearty, satiating meal it was very difficult to think of sweets but we were cajoled into having the Phirni served in small clay cups, hot Gulab Jamuns and not so sweet Rasmalai  and I must say that they were the perfect end to a meaty meal.

#SocialOffline

coochiecoo-socialofflineYesterday was a long day and a day without breakfast and a lunch. Two coffees and a cookie saw me through most of the day and by evening I could hear the jungle in my stomach. As luck would have it, I had to go halfway across town towards Hauz Khas Village for another meeting. I wanted it to be a food hop kind of evening, beginning at Futomaki for some Sushi, then #SocialOffline for a drink and snacks and then either The Toddy Shop or Coastal Cafe for a meal. My plans came to an abrupt halt because I couldn’t locate Futomaki in a crowd of restaurants, quick bite and curio shops. So I called them only to be told they take orders for the day by 11 am. I was uncomfortable because of the humidity and quickly needed to rest in a cool place, when I saw the board for #SocialOffline. A pretty hostess guided us inside to a large table with comfortable cushioned sofas. We were seated next to a large wall of glass, which overlooked the beautiful emerald green lake, some dense trees, happy couples and some birds returning to their nests.

As we leafed through the menu, I was struck by this sense of nostalgia that this was the same place, where Bistro once stood proud. I grew up in the shadows of the Hauz Khas Village fort and Bistro was always there. When I started to work and had my first meal there, it was a feeling of satisfaction. There was a loss, when it shut down. But I am glad that #SocialOffline has made its presence there, with brick exposed walls and pillars, naked bulbs and unfinished chairs with rags and leather making up for the upholstery. The contrast between the erstwhile Bistro and #SocalOffline couldn’t be more stark. #socialoffline

By the looks of it, it is evident that this new kid on the block will go places. The food was fabulous, the location was comfortable and the area, spacious. The tiny restaurants at the Hauz Khas Village are nothing compared to this one. Spread over two floors #SocialOffline is aimed to seduce the entrepreneurial community. I being an entrepreneur myself and always looking for good and reasonable places to meet clients am always stuck between a Starbucks, Costa or a Hotel Coffee Shop. But this place with wi-fi, easy on the pocket plans seems like a perfect networking place.

For food, the menu offered from so many other restaurants, notably “order what our staff eats” from The Indian Accent Menu, Vada Pao from The Dhaba and Soda Bottle Opener Wala, Burgers from so many other joints, Salli Boti from Cafe Lota and Soda Bottle Opener Wala. The menu even features Andhra Biryani (perhaps inspired by Andhra Bhawan), Chakna menu from Punjab Grill, Fish Tacos from Ogaan Cafe and many more.

The menu is no doubt exhaustive and has something for everyone. And before my tummy growls were heard on the next table, I quickly sid's posh breakfast tray - socialofflinesettled in for Sid’s very posh social  breakfast tray of champions. The wait of 10-12 mins was agonizing to say the least but what made a grand entry on the table was a feast for the eyes. Warm crusty bread, dollops of butter and sweet mixed fruit jam, Heavy servings of bacon rashes, two fat sausages, two egg omlette, baked beans, two hash browns, a grilled tomato and a large cup of coffee. And yes two shrewsburry biscuits. I like my coffee black. Looking at the large cup of coffee, my companion remarked that a child could drown in it easily. Trust me  if I was not that hungry, this would have been an easy meal for two.  The quantity was substantial, but the food was tepid but I was in no mood to complain. At Rs. 280 plus taxes I think it was a steal, where some places charge as much for a sausage or bacon rashes.

The pace at which I polished of the tray, amused the manager on duty Chetan, who thought I was breaking my fast with this tray. I am so glad that Delhi has a place where I can sit for hours, work, gaze and left undisturbed.

What put me off was an irresponsible couple with a toddler in arms. They let the toddler roam around the place with a fork in his hand. coffee-#socialofflineAnd it had to happen, the toddler fell on the hard stone floor and was bawling his guts out. The mother then paced around the whole place pacifying the toddler in her arms. The father was absolute nonchalant about the incident and least bothered. Well the worse, the toddler could have poked himself in the eye with the fork, but then who cares? Another thing were the presence of houseflies.

I will surely come by another day for a relaxed time at the #SocialOffline

A Pizza and A Dessert : Indigo Deli

There are pizzas and then there are Pizzas. The city has a fair share of places like Diva, Tonino’s, Olive, Zerruco that serve some good, heartwarming pizzas but the wafer thin Sun Dried Tomato, Olives and Capers Pizza was nothing less than a soul stirrer. The richness of charred sun dried tomatoes, olives and the fragrant olive oil with every bite was a trip to Italy and back. Try it sometime, if you haven’t already.

Wafer thin Sundried tomatoes, olive and caper pizza

I am a sucker for good home made ice creams. Have been making my own mango ice creams for a while and recently gave in to making the seductive Dulche de leche following this video. When at Indigo Deli, I saw they have an Dulche de leche ice cream, how could I resist that? Though I sampled all the flavours available on that day, it was the Dulche de leche that I settled for. One large scoop of melt in the mouth, creamy, rich caramelized condensed milk with cream is definitely not what the doctor ordered. If you know what I mean.

 

How To Recreate 36 World Cuisines With 3 Spices

I came across this fantastic graphic representation for recreating 36 World cuisine with 3 spices on Design Taxi.

Sometimes, you’ll probably have cravings for a particular cuisine, which other food dishes are unable to satisfy. The answer to that might lie in the unique spices commonly associated with the signature dishes of that country.

This infographic created by Kit Stone shows you that all it takes are just three spices to recreate the distinctive taste and smell of 36 cuisines around the world.

Learn more about spices and other world cuisines below:

world cuisines

Reblogged from Design Taxi

Food memories of Calcutta

bijoliAs a child we would have our summer breaks in the hot and humid Calcutta. Trams going past you with the pace of a satiated tortoise that one could climb up and down the running trams with panache. It took you to far away places (in my mind) at a leisurely pace. The yellow ambassador taxis and hand pulled rickshaws were part of my growing up. Meeting the mandatory set of eager relatives and friends and acquaintances and the hot rosogollas from the corner shop, fresh out of the thick sugary syrup in small kulhads for a rupee was always welcome. Salted deep fried peanuts wrapped up in newspapers, phuchkas and egg rolls and mishti doi were something that we wouldnt get in Delhi easily. The luchi/ kosha mangsho and alternatively Radha Ballabi for breakfast was something that was taken for granted. Along with all this, there was this ice cream soda drink that we would be treated to, when we were visiting Calcutta. I remember when in Delhi we would get Double 7 and Campa orange and the works but this one drink wouldnt be available. The name was Bijoli Grill.

Staying in Delhi amongst Bengali relatives, food wasn’t really a problem but the yearning to have Calcutta styled street food, or dishes in general would make me go to mom and pop shops in CR park. The cutlets at Rabi (market 2, CR Park) or the phuchkas and mutton ghugni behind market number 2 at CR Park was always a must.

As I started earning, Oh Calcutta (Nehru Place) enticed me with their gleaming china ware and cutlery. The simple moosor daal with gondhoraj lebu, crisp aloo bhaja and spicy kosha mangsho has been a favourite for long. Infact the brunch on weekends is absolute value for money with varieties of prawn, fish paturi and meat preparations on offer, from both sides of Bengal. I also suspect it to be a place for prospective match making for the Bengali community.

The other place is Bijoli Grill which has its outlet at Dilli Haat and also manages the kitchen at the state run Bongo Bhawan on Hailey Road. The place is small, smelly of fish and meat just like perhaps a kitchen in Kolkata. It is also a place, where you wouldn’t mind getting your hand dirty. No wonder all the babus enjoy their meal here of daal, bhat and begun bhaja. It offers the regular daab chingri and fish fry and luchi aloor dom. But what stands out its the fish kobiraji – a giant fillet of bhetki fish deep fried in lacy egg coating and the dessert of mishti doi. But alas they don’t serve their popular ice cream soda drink. It would have been a hit here.

Italian Art of Food

artusiThe focus is on the food at Artusi.

The owner couple could have easily used the large windows at the entrance to their advantage to give passerby’s a peek into what is happening inside or the diners the pleasure of staring at the park outside while enjoying their meal. But the 40 cover dining room with modern European elements of light wood and minimal decor makes you focus on the food.

On a Saturday evening, we were the first to arrive and the by the time we left about 2 hours later, all tables were full, the chatter of diners were respectably low and a few diners were hanging patiently at the patisserie at the entrance and enjoying their wine and Bruschetta, praying to get a table quickly.

Though the tables are placed quite next to each other that you can almost dig your fork into the next table, but what is amazing is that there is no overpowering smell of food, that you usually find in closed establishments. Every now and then , a ooh follows a aah from the dining area, as the dishes arrive and a mouthful of the heavenly morsel is partaken.

Piadina e Crescione

Piadina e Crescione

The ex banker and now restaurateur Oscar and his charming wife Gurpinder are fabulous yet non-intrusive hosts and they take pride in showing the place around and sharing tidbits about the place, like the hand made plates with inscription on the back. The plates are so tempting that I almost wanted to carry one of the along with me. The couple have lived across the globe and ran successful wine and food groups and a restaurant was a logical next step. Oscar is from Emilia-Romagna region and he likes his food so much that he brought it along with him to Delhi. In fact the chef is also from the same region and the restaurant is an ode to Pellegrino Artusi – the author of the book “The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine dining”.

Coming to the food, I wonder how they have managed to keep it simple, delicate and fresh. A bite into their salad leaves and you would be amazed at the freshness as if one has just plucked them from the kitchen garden, just for you.

Capalletti in Brodo

Capalletti in Brodo

I had the 5 course tasting menu and it was a symphony for the bellycurious, with each dish surpassing the other with the freshness of ingredients, taste and presentation. The portions can get a bit overwhelming, if you are a small eater. The meal started with Piadina e Crescione – A portion of simple flat bread stuffed with spinach, generous helpings of Prosciutto di Parma which has been cured for over two years and pickles. The bread was fresh, soft and flavorful with every bite. The assorted vegetables were pickled in olive oil instead of vinegar. What followed was Capalletti in Brodo. I am told that there is pasta room at the restaurant where the Chef and her team of gnomes make fresh pasta, but I did not get a chance to peek in. I can only imagine the treasures that it will hold. The Capalleti (pasta pockets filled with parmiggiano and ricotta cheese cooked in a delicious, light chicken broth.

Pappardelle alla Faraona

Pappardelle alla Faraona

The luxurious flavour of the slow cooked guinea hen ragu accompanying the broad pasta strips (Pappardelle alla Faraona) was something that I will go back again and again. I think the bit sized pieces of rich caramelized meat will be the beginning of a secret affair.

The kitchen was out of pork cutlets , so I got the ribs for for Tagliatina e Insalata. The ribs were a bit difficult to master to my liking but the salad of fresh argula leaves, artichoke and lemon dressing was just perfect for a rain fed summer evening.

By now I was bursting at my seams but who can say no to the dessert after the fabulous meal. The melt in the mouth panna cotta with caramelized almonds, figs, reduction is just what the doctor ordered.

This meal will definitely be one of the finest meals of 2014.

panna cotta

panna cotta

The service staff is very knowledgeable and attentive. When in doubt, do look up for their suggestions and you will only be charmed. For sure I will be following Artusi’s journey henceforth and will be back soon to keep this post updated.

glorious pork

The first time I recollect having pork was when a friend of mine invited me to a house party. The hostess cooked a very simple meal of pork boiled in water, with salt and bamboo shoots. She served the flavourful pork on a bed of steamed rice and raja mirchi. My friend told me that the intense flavours of pork are released with the simplest of preparations. And I have held that tip close to my heart.  Over the years I have had quite a few preparations, few of them below:

10. Steamed pork bun Pop up party

steamed pork buns - uparwali chai

09. Spare Pork Ribs and Pork Momo’s – Nagaland Kitchen, Delhi

spare ribs - nagaland kitchen

08. Roast leg of wild boar – Yala Village, Sri Lanka

roast leg of boar

07. Pork Belly – Guppy by Ai, Delhi

pork belly - guppy by ai

06. Voksa Meh – Rosang Cafe, Delhi

voksa meh - rosang cafe

05. Pork Belly – Neung Roi, Radisson, Delhi

pork belly - neung roi

04. Mille – Feuille Ton Katshu – Izakaya, Delhi

Unfortunately they have closed down

izakaya

03. The Swiss and German Stammtisch – Hyatt Regency, Delhi

stammitsch festival - hyatt

02. Pork Belly Olive Bar and Kitchen, Delhi

pork belly with carrot puree - olive bar and kitchen

And my all time favourite is parma ham and melon. The simplicity of sweet musk melon and parma ham can never go wrong. I have had the opportunity to have this staple in lots of places and regret not clicking a pic of each time I had that. I could today have a gallery dedicated to parma and ham 🙂 Perhaps now is a good time to start.

 

 

The pictures from the web: Roast leg of wild boar – Yala Village, Sri Lanka nd  Spare Pork Ribs and Pork Momo’s – Nagaland Kitchen, Delhi

Turkey comes to Delhi

dervishTurkey has been on my mind, since my best friend went gallivanting for a holiday and posted some fabulous pictures of food, people and experiences on Facebook. Another time one of my business associate sang paeans of his balloon ride and the caves of Cappadocia. Ever since I have been looking up airfares, travel deals to visit this enchanted land. Call it serendipity, the other day as I was reading about the Turkish Food Festival at Cafe Uno, Shangri-La’s Eros hotel, I got a call to sample the menu and meet the young and talented Chef coffee-turkeyGazi Ciftci.

I kind of jumped because am one of those, who believe exploring a new cuisine is as close as you can get to the culture of any country. The evening was the launch of the menu and it was well attended by officials of the hotel and the Turkish Airlines who were promoting the partnership. As the Dervishes swirled in a trance to the divine rhythms, we started with the world famous Turkish coffee. The Turks brew their coffee in traditional brass pots and coffee drinking has been a part of their culture since long, long ago. As I was sipping on the famed coffee, I hoped that someday I would be in Turkey for real, sipping coffee and bargaining with a Turkish rug seller. If only wishes were horses.

tukey foodThe evening progressed with wine and fresh fat olives, hummus, pita and then, we moved on to a delicious spread for the main meal.The vegetarian Sebzeli Moussaka was a treat to the taste buds. It was made by layering vegetables zucchini, carrots, eggplants with a Turkish Kasseri cheese. There were the Taze fasulye – Green beans in olive oil. With its subtle flavours and a healthy outlook it was a revelation. Kidney beans and rice (the chef used Indian basmati) are Turkey’s answer to India’s Rajma rice. kidney beansThough I would’ve really liked to sample the Turkish rice. The vast varieties of rice available globally from risotto to black rice are an enticing subject that should definitely be explored by the taste buds. The lamb on skewers were grilled to perfection and the fish was buttery, almost melt in the mouth. The use of herbs in the food was minimal and they are only used to enhance the taste keeping the vegetables and meat juices flavourful.

dessertMoving on to the best part of the meal, the dessert. I was waiting for this with bated breath: the baklava. I have had baklava before and the one that I had at Kunafa was ok but nothing like what Cafe Uno made us sample. It is Turkish pastry made with several layers of wafer thin filo sheets layers. It was studded with nuts and drizzled with a sweet syrup. The one that we had here was soft, moist, crispy and full of flavour. A very, very sinful delight. The rice pudding with pumpkin was revelation. And you know my fascination for pumpkin. I can go on. 

The young enthusiastic Chef kind of rubs his enthusiasm on to you. He is Chef Gazi Ciftciquite proud of his food and feels that it is only recently that people have started differentiating food in terms of  Mediterranean , Greek food and Turkish, but in reality they are all the same and adapted to regional preferences. I personally thought it as a very interesting observation considering over centuries we all have adapted our cooking with different spices, ingredients, and techniques, but essentially scratch a person and we are all the same when it comes to food.

I would suggest that you should hop skip and jump to the Turkish food festival for your next meal.