Thursday, March 29, 2018

WONDERFUL WANAKA

The ride from Franz Josef to Wanaka is most scenic and finally when I reach the town of Wanaka nestled lakeside, encircled by colossal mountain ranges and nature reserves, I fall in love with perhaps one of the most beautiful locales in New Zealand…. 

FARM TO FORK….LITERALLY!
I drive into Wanaka right in time for lunch and my first stop is Bistro Gentil where in a magical setting surrounding a pretty courtyard, Chef Mario Rodrigues garners the regional produce and sublimates them through his imaginative and refined cuisine, bursting with flavours and respectful of the product. 

He conceives dishes with intelligence and intuition, subtlety and creative spirit and I get to savour the essential delights of the table. House made chicken liver pate is served with the most artistic flair without compromising on the taste, a most original dish beyond creative but still ‘organic’ as opposed to science experiments  is a highlight for me. On offer are also Maude wines, from the nearby vineyard to reduce the environmental footprint of transporting this!
OF NATURE & LOCAL MAORI CULTURE

Wanaka is one of the most scenic places I have encountered. The majestic craggy mountains and the beautiful lake form a magnificent backdrop to this beautiful town. Wanaka has so much to offer that it is almost surreal I love their outdoors and the fabulous food, but no holiday to Wanaka is complete without a picture of the world famous Wanaka willow tree! Wanaka is also the preliminary point to discover nearby Mt. Aspiring and the National Park. I am staying at the Edgewater Resort and pulling away myself from the scenic beauty of the lake from my balcony is bit difficult, but a walking tour with my Maori guide Joe takes me closer to the lake and the tree and the local culture.  
With Joe, I get to experience an up close and personal Hongi and Haka at the Wanaka Tree which ended with a unique Maori bone carving necklace as a souvenir of my experience.
LAVENDER FARM & AERIEL VIEWS
I love lavender in its original state as it brings a sense of peace and calm and looking at beautiful lavender fields is something I truly enjoy. For an entrance fee of just about a 100 INR, I get to wander over the 10 acres lavender field and gardens. 
I see the fruit trees, alpacas and sheep. Of course, a lavender farm is inevitable to retail its products. Out here, there is a wide variety of products to choose from, including oils, lotions and the works. My favourite part is enjoying a scoop of lavender chocolate ice cream in their quaint little café. I am in love with the natural ambience, peaceful and oh so charming.
At 3030 metres high, Mount Aspiring is often called the ‘Matterhorn of the South’ I take a Southern Alps air flight over Lake Wanaka and Wanaka Township​ and am simply mesmerized by the views; Highlights include, Treble Cone ski field​, Matukituki Valley, Bonar and Voltar glaciers, Mount Aspiring​& the Southern Alps. I am back in town by the early evening to grab dinner and to get my fill of yet another sunset over the lake before heading for a movie at Ruby Cinema & Bar and calling it a day!
FAST FACTS
Best Place to Stay: Stay in one of Edgewater's studios, suites or apartment accommodations on the shores of Lake Wanaka.
Best Places to Dine: Bistro Gentil for a farm to table experience, Big Fig for slow food served fast & Francesca’s for super awesome Italian.
My story first published in Statesman

Monday, February 19, 2018

MASTER CLASS WITH CELEBRITY CHEF TANMOY SAVERDEKAR @COFFEE TREE BY CINEPOLIS


A great start to the weekend came in the form of a masterclass & a fun cook off at Coffee Tree, Cinepolis’s signature coffee shop
THE CHEF
Friday the 16th of February was indeed a special day!  A few of us were lucky to meet and cook along with Tanmoy Saverdekar, one of the most popular chefs in Bengaluru and for sure signifies a vital reference point for aspiring chefs. He comes with a 20 year experience in the food space and is best known for his aptitude to innovate and his novel creativity, with great attention to the presentation of dishes. He’s the owner of The Winking Macaron a premier boulangere and is also a consultant chef to many aspiring restaurateurs!
THE COFFEE TREE EXPERIENCE
I would say thanks to Cinepolis India for giving us this wonderful insight into what goes into the making of the Coffee Tree experience!
A well balanced ‘finger, fork and spoon’ menu is available for order at the well-stocked coffee shop, attached to the cinema or one can choose to order in at the seat as well, with dishes ranging from Penne Arrabiata, Grilled chicken double decker sandwich, chicken momos to brownies to a range of exciting beverages like the Strawberry frappe and Mint Mojito. The USP of the Coffee Tree lounge is that even the non-cinema goers can drop in for a sip and bite here!
THE MASTERCLASS
In this impressive culinary master class, Chef Tanmoy astoundingly stood out as an artist with the plate as a canvas and food as a medium. His objective over this exclusive master class was to showcase some of his favourite combos from the ‘Coffee Tree’ menu. We also learnt that inspite of the many restrictions of fire safety and equipment used in a Cinema Kitchen, Cinepolis ensures freshness and taste in all items on the menu. The excited chatter of the audience built up as Chef Tanmoy talks about the 3 combos he’s going to demonstrate! 
The star of the show at the masterclass was the Chilli Cheese toast …which tastes divine with Oreo Milk shake. The Chicken Burger with cold coffee, Veg pasta with Masala lemonade was equally stellar.
THE COOK OFF
Whether you are an ambitious chef or an open the packet and heat kind of a cook, there is something exhilarating about participating head-to-head in a fast and furious cook-off to determine who will create the most crowd pleasing dish in under 20 minutes! Ayesha Tabassum from Indian Express Indulge, Ravi & Akshay from EazyDiner & Deepa a food blogger competed fiercely! These winners from the Instagram competition announced in the beginning of the masterclass got luck to cook a double decker sandwich and a Mint Mojito using their creativity!
With grillers on, very quick hands chopping vegetables, the participants powered on as Chef Tanmoy engaged with each one and enlightened the audience on the his favourite foods, motivation for becoming a chef. Chef Tanmoy gave interesting tips like rubbing Mint on the palms before muddling it for extra flavour, using just the correct amount of filling for the perfect bite etc! The Culinary Cook Off also exhibited that Coffee Tree is a dining destination where fresh and choicest ingredients are vital to creating the menu!


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

MASQUE TRAVELS TO THE CAPITAL THIS DECEMBER

Rhododendron & Begonia Sorbet
I bump into him at Tian a few years ago, where Chef Vikramjit Roy introduces me to him saying, ‘This guy is a genius’ and we all sit down at the alfresco area post dinner (I was staying at the Maurya so was in no hurry to rush back). He talks about the chefs he looks up to; about his growing up at a farm in Jammu where his weekends would go in spending his time in the fields. He was born in Kashmir and originally wanted to become a Commercial Pilot. He was young, and gained experience in several places including a stint at Alinea, French laundry and Le Bernardin followed by a tour of some of Europe’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Sadhu thinks his hitting the stride may be rooted in the fact that ‘It wasn’t until my tenure under Rene Redzepi at Noma that I learnt how to cook from the region and harnessing the soil’.
A lot of Prateek’s memories are sensory. He would visit his Aunts farm every Sunday. Naturally curious and always driven, he could be found in the Farm kitchen by his 10th birthday and over the coming years spent most of his free time there, learning the basics with his Mom and Aunt.
Prateek’s step into Masque came, he says, as a result of disillusionment with cooking after he returned to his homeland as he found it hard to source ingredients in India that were as good as those in New York, and he also felt that the dishes he was putting together were simply copies of those from the restaurants he worked at his stint as the Sous Chef of Le Cirque in Bangalore.
Smoked Potatoes, Butternut Squash
A tour of India taught him about its possibilities. Sadhu learnt India being a diverse country has different terrain and topography. Soon it became an ambition, this expedition for new ingredients and flavours. When a local forager in Ladakh made him experience Sea buckthorn, Sadhu saw the runway before him. ‘For me India defines local produce, be in chocolate from Pondicherry or sea buckthorn from Ladakh. It can be any ingredient grown in that particular season. Seasonality is what we are serious about here at Masque’.
Buckwheat, Salted Caramel 
I have dined at Masque thrice and each time has been a great experience. I still remember the tomato course on their first tasting menu wherein they focus on delivering the taste of a naturally grown tomato, (which comes from their flagship farm from pune) onto the plate with few complimenting flavours.
Prateek is restless, a good sign, he does various collaboration meals at Masque in Mumbai and also travels across the world where he showcases his food. The last one in Mumbai was with Garima Arora of Gaa (I have written about it in a previous post). And this time round, Masque travels to the capital….yes in Saadi Dilli; showcasing his skill for reaching just yonder the possible: here’s this Indian guy showing us things we may have never seen before – things from India.

FAST FACTS
WHERE? Masque will host a pop up at The Lodhi in Delhi on 1 Dec, 2 Dec, where the people of Delhi can sample what really is the buzz about Masque. Where seasonal produce and regional harvests will decide the menu and not cuisines and their sub-genres. Where fine-dining is not a lifestyle, but a way of life.
Heirloom Tomato
WHEN? 
1st December - Dinner, INR 8500+taxes
2nd Lunch & Dinner, INR 8500+taxes. 







Tuesday, October 10, 2017

KODE- MUMBAI'S FIRST FREESTYLE BAR AND KITCHEN

Forgotten Petal sour...must try cocktail from the many creative ones on the list
One of the most breathy and a brand new concept projects from the Massive team, this Kamla Mills freestyle bar has a freestyle take on their menu. It’s cozy and casual where you can find great cocktails and elevated fare that will generally put standard issue pub grub to shame. The menu is filled with lots of not quite so standard fare. The wall behind the long Island bar features an alluring spectacle of spirits and a wide-ranging selection of wines.
From the pondering section of the menu, the Herb crusted Scotch Eggs, with a crispy crunchy coating, a runny egg yolk and punchy flavours of Harissa, set the tone for the rest of the meal; food that is comfortable, imaginative and hearty! For starters we sample the Home Made Churros. Infused with delicate togarashi flavour, they jaunt the flawless tension between soft and springy. My favourite part of this dish is the house-made goat cheese mousse served aside these savoury churros; a hint of honey adds imperialistic flamboyance to the typically pedestrian sauce.
I instantly determine that this is where Kode earns its magnificent freestyle label. I also had the smoked chorizo Pide and Kode makes, without question, the best Pide I have ever had in the city, which is saying a lot since Pides are one of my favourite things. I personally really enjoy the fresh touch of parsley and coriander sprinkled on top.
If lobster, oscietra caviar, black truffles tickle your fancy, then the wood fired oven pizza featuring this should satisfy your cravings, the hand rolled pizza has a great flavour and the black truffles has a pleasantly subtle gamey taste to it.
Recommendations go all out for the 18 Hours Cooked Lamb Shanks, fork tender and scrumptious with add-on polenta, jus, and blue cheese truffles which give the dish panache. The Tres Leches lives up to its name. Served with a milk crisp, it has definite notes of sweet condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. The portion was ample and it cascaded into a melting river of yumminess, adding a lovely creamy consistency when I put it in my mouth.
I love the laid back vibe of the place and the familiarity of it all and I certainly recommend checking it out. Service is just as pleasant as the tasteful interior. Friendly without being obtrusive, our server did not hesitate to suggest his favourite dishes off the menu. If you haven’t experienced freestyle resto bar before then Kode will certainly surprise you…pleasantly. Both the bar menu and the food menu promise that all manner of appetites will be satisfied. One word of warning though, it’s quite popular, so get there early, it fills up fast.
This Bloody Mary  is to die for
FAST FACTS
WHERE? Ground Floor - 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills - Entrance No 2, Lower Parel, Mumbai.
FOR RESERVATIONS: 077188 82924

Sunday, September 24, 2017

THE GAA MASQUE COLLABORATION MEAL IN MUMBAI

Prateek Sadhu & Garima Arora
Prateek Sadhu’s Masque is no stranger to collaboration meals. His collaboration with Mathew Orlando, head chef of Amass was a big hit and this one with Gaa was sold out within a month.On the Occasion of its first anniversary Masque celebrated over a collaboration meal with Chef Garima Arora of Gaa, Bangkok!
The menu begins with the first course in the Masque kitchen...Garima Arora explains how to eat this tender and delicious corn with the gorgeous corn custardy dip
Chef Prateek Sadhu takes the very best from the fertile land of India. Simplicity made elegant; the quintessence of Masque cuisine!! on the occasion of Masque's first birthday chef collaborated with Garima Arora of Gaa Bangkok and both focused their talents on producing light and delicious dishes, using Avant -garde techniques to revisit Indian Ingredients heritage! The menu is sixteen courses, profoundly showcasing Indian ingredients.
Barramundi/Milk Skin
Garima’s winner of a dish is the beautiful Barramundi wrapped in a taco like casing which she calls Milk skin. The exclusively stylish plating is drool worthy and one would want to dig into it right away, and so I did! The milk skin is actually ‘Malai’, inside which sits this flavorful fish ….sinful indeed! Her minced chicken, quite like the Thai Larb is a stunner and marries well with the Black sticky rice.
Chicken Liver/Toast.....couldn't be better than this!
Right off the bat, Prateek Sadhu takes the trail less trekked with something familiar, yet done in a totally outlandish way.
Ice lolly of Seabuckthorn is served with a black pepper mousse, and presented simply and beautifully that you can mistake this pre dessert for a Salmon and cream cheese bagel. Goodness, we have this berry in Ladakh and I have never experienced it like this before. I wish I had a few more bites. It’s refreshing, subtly sweet and umami!Indeed yes, I have had standout meals with a robust native focus, but Masque is the first to offer such a panoramic swing of the country. Each dish in the menu ended up as short term lesson for geography , history and a compliment to our home-grown culture.
Divine Duck Doughnuts

THUMBS UP

 1.When talking about native and exclusive  produce, India is absolutely abundant. For  a hunter like Sadhu, our country is  an absolute cornucopia.
  2. The menu cultivates a passion for taste
 3. Respectful of the seasons from genuine tastes the plates are classical and original
 My able company at the Gaa Masque collaboration meal! DiviaThani Editor In Chief of Conde Nast Traveller Magazine, Purva Mehra co founder & Editor The Daily Pao & Greg Foster Editor Architectural Digest

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

THE RETURN OF THE RAJ @ SAFFRON, THE TRIDENT GURGAON


Nargisi Kofta aka lamb mince Scotch egg, originated from Nagra flower pattern of yellow, white and brown…yet barely the elevations of fine dining in these days of gastronomic tall change of direction, where truffles are handed out with all the indifference of chips, and desserts named Death by Chocolate as more of an unwavering determination than an alarming threat. 
Yet, in Days of The Raj, when Raj cuisine was the most favoured, history has it that once of the best things to savour was the Nargisi Kofta!!
It’s not surprising that this special cuisine still excites and especially if it happens to celebrate authentic flavours, just like at the Trident where Executive Chef Sandeep Kalra and his team explore age old recipes and use as inspiration the legacy of the khansamas!!
On other days too Saffron is really the place to be if you like the whole fine dine Indian feel restaurant replete with Indian music. It helps that many swear this place makes the best Aloo meat Tari Waala juice and Awadhi Murgh Biryani in the city. Anyways coming back to The Return of the Raj menu, it is rational in size, featuring all the favourites: Country Captain chicken curry, Jhalfarajie, Camp Soup, Chingri Samosa etc. There’s the ever-popular Dak Bungalow Roast, which already has intransigent fans notwithstanding being centuries old, thanks to its yoghurt chicken oven cooked with spices.  If you are in the more permissive mood try the Railway mutton curry that arrives with Lachha parantha, which are synchronized crisp, crumbly and decadent. However, what really is the star of the show is the East India Fish curry, which is a Bay of Bengal Bekti in traditional Bengali style. I try the aromatic curry, paired with steamed rice.

History can be quite fascinating. Especially when it is a part of a food festival in a place like Saffron!!
FAST FACTS
~ A Play of Spices : The flavours of India under the British Raj at Saffron, Trident Gurgaon  between 21st August and 8thSeptember, 2017
Timings: Open For Lunch & Dinner
For Reservations call: 0124 2450505
CHEF SPEAK
Chef Sandeep Kalra, Executive Chef, Trident, Gurgaon says, “It is a great privilege to present the richness of authentic Indian recipes from a bygone era, recreating the cuisine with consistent and delicious food. Our culinary endeavours reflect The Oberoi Group’s belief that it’s important to revive the Traditional Indian recipes in these modern times and our dedication to uncompromising quality”.