Tuesday, June 6, 2017

THE CONCIERGE THAT STOLE MY HEART

There must be something about Marriott and absolutely brilliant Concierge services. My first encounter was at the Renaissance Powai in Mumbai with Anthony Arockinadan, the Navigation Desk Manager a few years ago who’s also won an Award for his excellent service and we even covered him on our YouTube Channel ‘EatStayChill’ ( you can later go on to the link and watch the video).
And recently during my stay at the Marriott Marquis in Bangkok I had another chance example of an unforgettable customer service win.
Please be warned…. this service story will tug at your heartstrings.
So my daughter Akanksha and I wanted to go to a store which sold chef coats and aprons, the address of which we had found online and later in the evening to dine at Suhring. We went to the concierge desk and this girl called ‘Super’ with the most gorgeous smile in the world took out google maps for us, best way to reach etc to save maximum time and finally called for a taxi to take us to our first stop, as she was explaining the way to our cab driver, she heard thunderstorms and immediately got us two umbrellas, just in case it began to pour.
We bid her a bye and happily drove past; a few seconds later, it started raining cats and dogs and we decided to change our plan, got off the cab and went in for a foot massage instead. When the rain stopped, we got back to the hotel and bump into ‘Super’ and she was like ‘How are you guys? Hope all well? I called at the store to check if you both had reached and I was really worried for you when they told me you haven’t’ (We were not carrying phones that worked or she would have called us). We told her the scenario and went back to the room to dress and change for our dinner at Suhring.
The moment Super saw we were at the lobby and ready to go, she suggested ‘Being traffic time, the best suggestion is by the Sky train’ and she had a step by step map ready in English and Thai (in her beautiful handwriting) just in case we lost our way. And as we left, she said, ‘You are checking out late afternoon, give the store another try in the morning’.

We reached Suhring so easily thanks to Super, and guess what when we reached our Hotel room that night, there was a map to the store from Super and a message reading ‘Give it another try’ with a smiley. And of course we decided to give the store another try the next morning.
Post breakfast with the map in our hand as we moved towards the lobby, Super with her infectious smile greeted us and boarded us in a cab. We reached rather quickly as there was hardly any traffic at that time. Moments later as we were selecting, we heard the store manager receive a call from Super to know we had reached all fine.
And as we left the hotel that afternoon and bid Super and her colleague Oak a goodbye, it was like leaving behind a part of the family.Truly People want to deal with other people and we seek human to human engagement. Our engagement with Super was such a personalized experience. Super could have easily given us directions or just a city map and circled places on it like most hotel concierge do, but she went the extra mile. It’s rare to come across people who do their work out of passion. With Super it was a relationship that extended beyond expectations and one that has led to such a memorable experience. ..Super you are Super! Kudos!!
CHECK IT OUT
WHERE: Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, 199 Sukhumvit Soi 22, Klong Ton, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110, Thailand
TEL: +66 (0) 2 059 5999

Monday, May 29, 2017

THE GOJI KITCHEN & BAR AT THE LARGEST HOTEL IN BANGKOK GOES WORLDWIDE ON CUISINE AND GRANDIOSE ON ITS SELECTION – THIS IS NO ORDINARY BUFFET!

It’s always a virtuous sign when you just can’t decide what to order. It’s a shared problem here, where breakfast is a cut above.
Marriott Marquis …the first in Asia Pacific and the largest in Bangkok. This fresh milestone in the heart of the Thai Capital takes its inspiration from the Thai Queen’s passion that ‘the cultural heritage of Thailand resides within its people’ and this hotel mergers fabulous Thai hospitality with the ‘Travel Brilliantly’ values of the Marriott brand. It is a portrayal of urbane luxury, a favoured among those seeking vital easing collective with an elegant ambience. It brags wide-ranging facilities, including over 1,300 rooms and suites, over 5,000m² of function space across 37 venues, two swimming pools, the Quan Spa which is a calm oasis and a collection of restaurants and bars…one of which is home to the focus of my visit that morning…aka Breakfast at the Goji Kitchen & Bar! A hotel buffet does not have to mean queuing up for lukewarm titbits, uncertain hotpots and gelatinous eggs. There is a glorious thing happening out here and the daughter and I are excited to dive in.
AMBIENCE
Attentive staff takes your order for tea or coffee as soon as you take your seat. Overlooking Bangkok’s Benjasiri Park, Bright and welcoming, Goji can seat 240 diners. Views of verdant greens echo in the cuisine itself, which is environmentally-friendly organic and sourced locally. There are also private dining rooms in case you are a larger group or celebrating!
WHAT’S ON OFFER?
Think a bounty of authentic, modern Asian cuisine, a glut of top quality ocean fresh seafood, an old-style roast carvery, sashimi and sushi station, Indian selection, Hainese chicken rice corner with its own expert chef, South American Parrilla Grill, handmade Chinese steamed buns, Dimsums galore, make your own salad bar, a huge Bagel selection (I encrusted mine with dill cream cheese and superbly grated cooked beetroot sharp with a wee bit of horseradish, the perfect bite, creamy and fresh all at once), fruits, juices, finest cheeses, cold cuts, breads, yogurts , eggs to order, pancakes, waffles …replete with live dramatic cooking stations, and an eye-popping milk bar to make any milk lover pinch themselves in disbelief. Oh, and did I mention they have got a fresh Sugar cane press? Anticipate sushi and sashimi, steamed dumplings and buns, noodle and rice dishes cooked to order, and the freshest seafood.
Come hungry. So kudos to lead chefs, Itthi Nitayaporn of Thailand, Jasvir Sanghera of Thailand and Watanabe Masayuki of Japan, who obviously know a thing or three about excellent, slightly off-piste textures and flavours and maintaining the perfect taste. Textures rule in dishes such the scramble egg, opt for one that gets chunky with salmon and covered in bonito flakes that wave in the heat. 
And then at the end see if you still have some room for dessert, and ask for the bill, and leave beaming promising to return very, very soon.

CHECK IT OUT
WHERE: Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, 199 Sukhumvit Soi 22, Klong Ton, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110, Thailand
TEL: +66 (0) 2 059 5999
VERDICT: I only tried the breakfast buffet out here, but from stylish breakfasts to high-flying lunches, exciting evening buffets to memorable family brunches, Goji Kitchen & Bar has something to suit all tastes and every occasion.

INTERNATIONAL GOURMET BUFFET PRICE
Breakfast buffet: THB 850++
Lunch buffet: THB 790++
Dinner buffet (Sunday – Thursday): THB 1,200++
Dinner buffet (Friday – Saturday): THB 1,800++
Sunday Brunch buffet (Sunday): THB 1,800++
BEVERAGE PACKAGE
Free flow fruit juices and soft drinks: THB 99++
Free flow fruit juices, soft drinks and beers: THB 499++
Free flow fruit juices, soft drinks and alcoholic beverage exclude champagne: THB 950++


Saturday, May 6, 2017

MOTHER CHILD BONDING - COOK AS YOU TRAVEL

The finest way to Bond with your Child is to experience striking customs by indulging on local produce, appreciating regional spices and sitting down to share a meal.
‘COOK AS YOU TRAVEL’  A FAST CATCHING TREND TO BOND
Trying some of the best eating out places each metropolitan and province has to offer, devouring popular dishes and local treats is a fun way to bond. If you love cooking and more essentially eating…then a local cuisine learning session is unquestionably for you! By educating to cook a local cuisine in the country you are in you straight away get an advantage as your coach is acquainted with the food, knows the local way to make it, and even gives you advice on the correct cooking techniques; carry home recipe cards are usually a part of the package. And trust me it’s exciting to start the day at a local market then sit down to a meal of your very own making …a perfect way to bond with your children.
HOW DO THESE COOKING CLASSES WORK?
Learners are characteristically teamed up with multilingual chef instructors competent in the cuisine of the region. Some packages are suited to a widespread multi-week gastronomic voyage: Learning nuances of terrines and pates in Strasbourg, cheese making in Switzerland, foraging for Truffles in Alba or cooking Javanese cuisine in Indonesia. Other half a day or day long sessions outfit to those who merely want to have fun while cooking on their travels. Hotels and resorts are progressively offering classes as well. So all in all, these classes can house budding chefs of all ability-levels, with charges stretching from free and up. All you need to do is, discover the seamless gourmet get-away to ensemble your palate and your budget.
A TASTE OF THE CLASSES
Honestly, when it comes to culinary classes and workshops there is such a respectable range world-wide, that we are spoilt for choice! More than just humble store selling kitchen utensils, Tools of the Trade in Singapore is a very food-focused retail outlet that has cooking studios, a bistro and even a gourmet market all appropriate positioned next to one another. The cooking classes they offer are very well-received with chefs coming in to give demonstrations and teaching you how to make anything running the gamut from a lesson in ‘slow food’ or ‘local treats’ like the famed Chilli Crab. 
The constant workshops and classes at the Blue Elephant in Bangkok class begins with registration followed by a visit to the market with the chef instructor which is a very hands-on experience, as he walks you around the market, explaining various ingredients; you get to shop in the local markets for seasonal ingredients, before you head back to the cooking school. For each dish, the chef explains and demonstrates, then you go to the kitchen on your individual work station, gather ingredients, and prepare the dish you have just learnt and of course you will enjoy a sampling of the dishes for yourself. Workshops at Tam’s in Nice, France pay homage to tried-and-true local dishes and include a cooking class, lunch with wine and a field experience. Go on a flower and vegetable market tour with Chef Tam, and then get into the fancy kitchen by the Sea, where you can learn the secrets of Salad Nicoise and more. At her school, Chef Tam teaches you the secrets of capturing Nice’s essence and helps you master your Nicoise dishes of your choice. She also peppers her instructions with humorous and gossipy tidbits.

 my story first published in ET Travel


Friday, April 14, 2017

HOW DO PUNJABI CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE EASTER??..A QUESTION WE HAVE VERY OFTEN BEEN ASKED

Have A Blessed Good Friday & A Happy Easter
‘I remember getting dressed in new clothes and going with Mom and Dad for Sunday service which started at 11 Am post which we had Lunch cooked by the members of the church; but my favourite part was the Sunday School at the Church where we were told interesting stories from the Bible, there used to be an Easter Hunt where real boiled eggs were hidden and we hunted for them with the given clues. We also painted eggs in school and it was a whole lot of fun’, is a really sweet anecdote, my husband Bakshish shared with me of his childhood memories of Easter…
For me as a kid, Easter had always been about Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. I recall begging my mother to buy me an Easter egg from Flury’s when we lived in Kolkata and after that, she would buy me an egg and a chocolate bunny every Easter. I am a Hindu by birth, married into a Punjabi Christian family, got baptized after several years of my marriage in Bethany at the same spot where Jesus was baptized, ( an urge the place being so pure and blissful) and now belong to both religions, that said we as a family just follow one rule, God is one and teaches the same thing ...no matter what religion and we celebrate all festivals with great gusto. I feel lucky to have grown up with parents who loved celebrating things and gave me the full spectrum of experiences.  You may have noticed I have inherited that sense of celebrations and fortunately for me, my husband has been brought up the same way as well.
For those who do not know, Easter Sunday is the most Exuberant of the celebrations because it holds the miracle, faith and aptitude of the Resurrection!  
I am sure you must be curious to know, how we celebrate Easter. Well, we celebrate all festivals with great gusto and as a rule believe in spreading happiness among street and Orphan kids. On Easter we distribute chocolate Easter eggs to these kids with a little goody bag and there’s no better joy when these kids give you back a smile and sometimes a kiss and our daughter Akanksha has been instilled with the same values. 
As a family of foodies , we still make our traditional food during the Holy week at home, but what has changed is that previously we used to invite friends and family over at home, but now we go out for Easter Brunch with the family, though we try and stick to traditional food ….for example this Easter we have booked a table at Bernardo’s as they have a special Goa Kerela theme and since Easter is big in both the regions, we are sure …it’s going to be an Easter well spent.
For Punjabi Christians, the traditional cuisine is very Desi…there are NO cakes or pastries. Meat Aloo curry, mutton or Jeera pulao, Raita, a Veg dish, Salad and halwa was an integral part of the meal. If it was a smaller congregation, the meal comprised of Meat curry, Jeera Pulao and Halwa and if it was a really small congregation then Puri & halwa for that perfect savoury and sweet mix.  Things have changed slightly, now instead of the church members cooking, there are caterers hired and the menu has additions of western influenced dishes like cakes and other sweetmeats.
A FEW TRADITIONAL PUNJABI CHRISTIAN EASTER RECIPES
Hubby Bakshish Dean
MEAT POTATO CURRY
Makes 4 Portions
INGREDIENTS
Mutton: 1 Kg; Potatoes: 400 Gms; Ghee: 125 Gms; Ginger: 20 Gms; Garlic: 20 Gms; Green chilly: 3-4 no.; Onions: 500 Gms; Tomatoes: 250 Gms; Cardamom (Black): 4 nos; cloves: 4 nos; Bay Leaves: 2 –3 nos; Black peppercorn: 2.5 Gms: Cinnamon sticks: 2 sticks; Turmeric: ½ tsp; Red chilli powder: as desired; Fresh Coriander: 25 Gms; Salt: to taste.
Method
] Buy mutton in mixed pieces of Chaamp, Puth and Nalli
] Cut Potatoes into quarters lengthwise; finely chop ginger, garlic and green chilies.
] Finely chop onions and tomatoes.
] In handi heat ghee, add the whole Garam masala, when it crackles, add chopped ginger, garlic & green chilies. Then add mutton, onions, turmeric, red chili & salt. Fry on medium heat till light brown.
] Add Potatoes, sauté for a bit, add water (about 2 ½ cups), cover & simmer on slow flame till the mutton is tender. Remove mutton & potato pieces from gravy & keep aside. To the gravy add tomatoes and cook till it leaves oil, add about a cup of water & simmer. Put the mutton and potato pieces back into the gravy and give it a boil. Add water as per desired consistency. Check seasoning. Garnish with finely chopped coriander.
MUTTON PULAO
Makes 4 portions
INGREDIENTS
Basmati rice: 250 Gms; Ghee: 100 Gms; Black cardamom: 2 nos; cloves: 3-4 nos; Cinnamon stick: 1 no; Bay Leaf: 1 no; Mutton with bone (Nalli): 500 Gms; ginger: 5 Gms; Garlic: 5 Gms; Green chilly: 5 Gms; Onions sliced: 125 Gms.
METHOD
] Clean mutton; finely chop ginger, garlic and green chilly.
] Wash & soak rice.
] Heat Ghee in a handi, add whole Garam Masala, when it crackles, add finely chopped ginger, garlic & green chili, add the sliced onions and mutton, add salt and “Bhuno” well. Add water and simmer till mutton is almost done, adjust water so that it is double the quantity of rice, bring it to a boil, correct salt and add the soaked rice
] Stir gently to mix well, correct seasoning if required
] Cover the pan after it has gently boiled for a few minutes, lower the heat.
] Cook slowly until rice is cooked and the stock completely absorbed.
Remove and keep aside covered, rest the pulao for about 15 minutes then serve.


Clipping of  the Easter Story by Prerna Gauba in Today's HT CITY






Sunday, April 2, 2017

OLD IS GOLD

A step back in time to dine in the world’s oldest restaurants is a fascinating experience. 
BOTIN, MADRID
The setting is quaint, along a medieval row of restaurants that line the Plaza Mayor. Botin is crowded with tourists and locals, it’s just crowded! Established in 1725, there is a reason this place is still in business, the food is fantastic and their service is world class and so is the wine! It is the oldest restaurant in the world and they have a Guinness book of world records certificate in the restaurants front window to prove it! The Botin experience takes one behind closed doors on a guided visit of the restaurant’s history and its anecdotes. The kitchen with clay ovens, date back to 1725, where they cook suckling pigs even now. Do peek in at Bodega and the room where Ernest Hemmingway sat to write.
ZUR LETZTEN INSTANZ, BERLIN
City centre banqueting with the dreamy echo of a clan abode, ‘Zur Letzten Instanz’, Berlin’s oldest restaurant precisely reads into the last resort and has done a prosperous business since 1621 with such genuine indigenous fare as roast pork knuckle and Bouletten (Berlin-style meatballs) that go best with a mug of frothy beer.
On the menu is genuine and native German cuisine showcasing Berlin specialties, and interestingly each dish is baptized after a lawful process, for example‘Beweismittel’ which translates into Evidence and actually is a cabbage roll with mashed potatoes and salad. Another enjoyable creation is the ‘Zeugen-Aussage aka witness testimony’ the pork knuckle set flawlessly together with the farmhouse bread, sauerkraut, pureed split peas and smoked bacon.
CASA PASTEIS DE BELEM, LISBON
Do make a stop at the No 1 rated egg tart place in town. History has it that a little before the 18th century, Catholic Monks at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos of Belem, created this creamy dessert. As you stand in the serpentine queue outside you will discover that the service is swift, and you will move along the line very quickly. Order at least 2 tarts each and make yourselves comfortable on the table. They are decadent to the core with a warm (just out of the oven), light crispy pastry shell enclosing vanilla scented mouthful of custard which is luscious and one can choose to sprinkle it with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Definitely worth the wait…!
BIN ATEEK, MUSCAT
The restaurant has a few floors, divided into private rooms, named after various places in Oman. One is made to seat on the carpeted floor and the meal is brought on large traditional round trays to be eaten community style, just like at the home of any Arab. The highlight being the shuwa which is lamb cooked for up to two days wrapped in banana leaves in an underground clay oven while marinated in herbs and spices such as red pepper, garlic, cumin and coriander. The Mashuai aka spit roasted fish served on a bed of lemon rice is another great choice. Not to be missed is also Maqbous, a saffron flavoured rice dish cooked over white or red meat, their version of our Biryani. The other native curry dishes, based on various meats such as beef with green beans and potatoes or spicy fish in lime and coconut milk do not disappoint either.

my story first published in ET Panache Travel 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

threesixtyone° GOES MICHELIN

The Oberoi, Gurgaon plays host to Michelin Star Chef Mario Paecke - Chef de Cuisine at the restaurant Luce D’Oro, this season at threesixtyone°.


Michelin Star chef Mario Paecke who is at the helm of award winning restaurant Luce D’Oro is an amazing cook with an amazing palate who does remarkable things with minimal ingredients … seasonal and distinctive! The Oberoi Hotels are famous for their exceptional service which basically means they create a warm air for the diner and allow them to relish the good things in life with good people.  For me, threesixtyone° at The Oberoi, Gurgaon seemed to deliver just that.  I was in the company of my dear husband, appreciating an extraordinary meal, fenced by smiles.
You begin with a choice of wine pairing or not, my recommendation is to go for it, the wines do complete justice to the food! And to answer this question (people have been asking ever since they have seen my posts) – does the menu deserve the hype? Yes, it does! This is not just food; it is skill experienced on manifold dimensions. It’s decadent, filling, and gorgeously presented. Each course is exclusive and unforgettable. Everything on the plate was amazing.
Dishes come in perfect speed, so one can savour each bite, and just when you have taken it in, comes the next course. One minute, it’s an intense pairing of bicolored chestnut pearl goat cheese with lemon; next, it’s a velvety and superlative Beetroot soup which is interesting as it has different textures, crunchy and good, married with savoury creamy liquid full of flavour.

But what truly stood out for me were the Black Cod with carrot, freeze dried Pomello, gen mai chai, in which every bite tasted different. I will never forget the taste of the Cod and its texture. The beetroot soup, the celery with Peruvian Asparagus with the mustard saying hello were also big hits on my palate.  The dessert was unique, with flavours that have no comparison in my dining experience. A very light and delicate marshmallow cloud drizzled with the caramelized toffee; the ginger crumbs over the apple sorbet, the parfait combination added a fantastic dimension and tied it all together. The way the Apple, Ginger and toffee was treated, truly couldn’t have been a better way to end the meal and of course paired beautifully with the N.V Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port from Porto.

VERDICT
An insanely inimitable experience in a gorgeous setting with flawless service; I was asked, is it worth trying? Should I not miss this? The answer is, YES, go check it out and experience savours you never thought existed with understated use of ingredients, thus permitting each ingredient to stand-out for its sole flavour. 

FASTFACTS
Chef Mario Paecke presents his signature seasonal cosmopolitan culinary style in a seven course degustation menu exclusively at threesixtyone˚ between 22nd and 27th March 2017 for dinner only.
The Oberoi, Gurgaon’s resident Sommelier Rakesh Awaghade has paired the entire seven course menu with hand-picked wines from the restaurant’s extensive cellar of rare and specialty vintages from around the world.
The seven course wine paired menu is priced at Rs. 6200 plus taxes and Rs. 3900 for food only.
For Reservations : 0124 2451234