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Am a contradiction of sorts. i love going out and having a good time with friends, and i can also stay home chill out over a book or a movie.. Am very passionate about writing, so give me a topic and watch me float away into wonderland... I Am crazy about music,books,friends and my doggie... :)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Food options across the ocean.. Eight AM in San Francisco - 3

It was around 8 when I landed in San Francisco, picked up my suitcase and was waiting for my broinlaw and niece. Once they arrived, we piled in my bags and he announced we were gonna drive around the city, do some touristy things, grab breakfast and then head home around noon. I was happy, but my niece was not too kicked [ I guess it gets boring after a point when you get dragged around to the same places over and over again...]but she was a sport and came along :) 

We headed straight to Lombard Street [ or crooked street, drove down the zig zag roads- quite exciting, thrilling and scary at the same time], parked the car on the lane across from it and went up the steps along the Lombard Street. Up we went one by one, they are steep but not tiring. And then we came down.. By this time, hunger bells began hitting our tummies. My broinlaw suggested we head to 8am for a bite, since it was rated as #1 on yelp. Since it was literally just a few blocks away, he suggested we walk. 

Walking is no problem, but the streets in San Francisco are either going all the way upwards or downwards... So either ways, you have to make an effort to keep going.. This one was downhill, and so going towards it was gonna be easy but coming back up with full tummies ,now thats another thing... We walked,cracking random jokes, commenting on places along the way and the biggest joke was we reached Eight am at 9am, and left there around 10am.. :D

Its a small cafe of sorts and looked like a popular one as the place was packed. They have few tables indoors and some outdoors as well. We had to wait a few minutes for a table, and got to sit outside. The weather was beautiful- chill and bright. The buildings around were either hotels or libraries, & museums. We spotted quite a few walk by with dogs, one such group took the table next to ours. 

Getting down to business, me & broinlaw ordered Frittatas - I chose Haight Ashbury [mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and swiss cheese], while he chose Castro [chicken apple sausage with Manchego cheese, only egg whites], and my niece went for the Crepe-called 9am [ fresh strawberries, cream cheese and chantily cream] 

Along with our breakfast, we also asked for coffee -black, decaf and strong is how it was. Milk here is optional as is everywhere else in the country and comes in little pockets referred to as "creamer". 

Our Frittatas were served with a bowl of fruits and a side of baked sweet potato+potato as well. It makes it quite the filling meal. We enjoyed the view, the food and left there in about an hour back towards the car... Huff puff up the hill, me lugging my backpack [that had laptop, camera and few other valuables*]










* I was lugging my backpack cos the city is renowned for thefts and my browinlaw suggested I remove anything valuable from the car and carry it with me!! There are enough sign boards that scare you about the same... 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Royal Marwar Festival, The Dining Room, Park Hyatt, Chennai




Milk flavoured with saffron& sugar

Khandvi, Dhokla, Samosa and Hara Kabab served with a medley of chutneys- Tomato and mango. There were also Khakras to nibble on


 Dal Bhati churma where the Bhati had masala stuffing inside.. 

Mango chutney and Lashun ki chutney [Garlic chutney]- sinful  


 The Mains- Paneer Sabzi, Palak Mattar, Gatte ki sabzi, Ker sangria, Dum aloo and Panchmel Sabzi [some of  these keep changing on a regular basis]

The different breads- Besan ka chilla, Moong daal Chilla, Bedmi roti and Palak puri. 

The desserts- Moong Daal Halwa and Kheer made with Rice - Simple and yumm

If there is one cuisine I love, and dont mind eating repeatedly it has to be Rajasthani food. From the very first time I had a Daal Bhati churma I was in love. And so am excited to tell you that The Dining Room, restaurant at Park Hyatt Chennai has converted itself into a Royal Palace from the princely state of Rajasthan for the Marwari food festival. 

Royal Marwar, the land of Maharajas in the princely state of Rajasthan is not only famous for its rich culture. But what makes the state distinctive and popular is its delectable cuisine. Rajasthani's love food and it is evident in the preparations. Dal Bati Churma and Gatte Ki Subzi are the most famous dishes from the state.  

Even though they did have a few dishes from neighbouring states, we shall forgive them. Why? The fare from Rajasthan was simply divine and had me walking on the rugged roads of Jaipur biting into a Ghevar while looking for a place to sit to watch the Teej Festival. Every lane you walk into will have a stall selling hot samosas, kachori, or jalebis. It is a city that loves its food and shows it off proudly...  So, what are you waiting for? Make that reservation already..... 

The Royal Marwar Food Festival will run till 28th June, 2017
Dinner only  - 7 pm to 11 pm
Cost- INR 1600 per person (Excl of taxes). 
For more information or to make a reservation at The Dining Room, please call 044 4991 9965 
or 044 7177 1234.

Disclaimer:
The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  :) 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Namaskara Tulu Nadu festival, Madras Pavilion, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai


This Festival is on till June 25. Dinner only @ Rs 2,200+ taxes per person. For details and reservations, dial 044 22200000














Have lost track of the number of times I have been to ITC Grand Chola, the one thing I do remember is that every visit is different... This time I was there to check out the "Namaskara Tulu Nadu festival" at Madras Pavilion... 

Tulu Nadu or Tulunad refers to the small community of  Tulu speaking folks who occupy the region in the Southern part of Karnataka and northern part of Kerala... Mangalore, Udupi and Kasaragod are its important cities. At Madras Pavilion, chef Sandeep tells us this is another feather from the Kitchens of India cap that features dishes made as they would be in the Tulu households, with influences from Coorg, Kerala and Mangalore dominating the flavours. . The one thing that stood out from what he shared was that the people believe in showcasing the main ingredient rather than drowning it in a world of spices, be it vegetarian or non vegetarian dishes. 

The evening began with the refreshing buttermilk- Alai, that was laced with curry leaves, asafoetida and ginger accompanied by the Bana Bairada Juice which was made with tender coconut water, flesh of the coconut blended with ripe bananas.  

As for the soup, we were served hot Bele Saaru, a sort of Daal shorba crossed with our rasam, packed with flavours it was delicious. The highlight of the evening was that we had the honour of eating on Banana leaves, as traditional as it can get.

While there were a few non veg starters, I got to try the mini adai of sorts- Sajji ke taarai da roti [coconut & semolina pancakes] that had a few familiar flavours but different from what I have had at home. Following this came the main courses- Two more kinds of dosa- one was the Neer dosa while other was a thick dosa of sorts, and we also had red rice. 

For the sides, we got Kadla belay kootu (Channa dal tempered with mustard, curry leaves and whole chilli), rich tart spicy Pineapple Gujju (Pineapple cooked over a gentle flame with select Karavali spices) and my favourite Spinach garlic daal that was just perfect, with subtle undertones of garlic. I also got to try some Veg Ghee pulao, all it had was sautéed onions on top and nothing but rich ghee flavour singing through every spoonful. There were quite a few non veg sides- fish, pork, prawns and chicken, and of course the Mamsam Biryani as well. From the reaction of my friends, these were a big hit with them~ 

To finish off the meal, we got two desserts, Bele payasam(Lentils and milk cooked together and flavoured with cardamom) and the divine Ragi manni (Ragi  and jaggery  fudge)- couldn't have enough of the Ragi dessert, I would definitely recommend this for anyone with a sweet tooth.

While the flavours are familiar, there was something comforting about them all and I loved the dishes. 

For the non veg perspective, check out Chennaifoodie blog 

Disclaimer:
The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  :) 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Food options across the ocean... Emily's- 2

We were driving down towards Santa Cruz beach on the cool Sunday afternoon. There was crazy traffic, so we had music playing with the kids taking turns to choose from their favourite songs...

And voila, what did we spot along the way- we spotted the name - Emily's which belonged to Emily's bakery, known as "Emily's Good things to eat".

My nephew and cousin went "hey, look, its Emily".. his best friend's name is Emily. 

We decided to stop by on our way back to click picture of the place so he could show it to her :D 

............... Fast forward to a few hours and we were back on the road headed home. This time it involved two stops, one was at Emily's [ofcourse] and another at an Ice cream store. 

The stop at Emily's was meant only to take a quick picture of the name board. But then it turned into a longer stop, with almost all of us hopping out of the car to explore the bakery. The name board had a cute doggy with a butterfly on its nose. But then you enter the main bakery and it is filled with zebras... A zebra toy, a display of zebra based paraphernalia, zebra sitting atop the fridge, zebra rocking toy, zebra prints here and there and some more... My nephew and I tried to see how many Zebra's we could spot while my broinlaw and niece went about trying to pick up some eats from their wide range of dishes.












They had everything from Muffins, breads, croissants, sandwiches, drinks, cakes and few other interesting looking stuff. We could also smell the freshly baked bread coming out of the own beyond the counter.

We grabbed a few eats- brownie, chocolate muffin and I was arm twisted into picking one for myself- apple pie muffin and boy oh boy was it sinfully yumm.... The muffins were quite big in size, and so we took our time devouring them all as we drove back home.... 

With every passing day I have come to realise food is more than just food. It is about the experience, it is the moment, the little stories that come with it and of course the time & place as well.  Today, as I write this post, I remember how the kids were giggling away, we were all generally high and upbeat through the trip. Randomly reading out sign boards, trying to spot buildings, identify songs that were being played and enjoying the drive.. I for one, loved the company and the trip.. more than words can describe!! 


Address:
Emily's Good Things to Eat
1129 Mission St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 429-YUMM
(800) 461-2976



Monday, May 22, 2017

Food options across the ocean... 1



  Blackberries

 Blueberries

Raspberries


 Clementines [ Baby size]

 Granny Smith Apples

Strawberries

The day after I landed, morning breakfast was a party of sorts. Not just because we were one big happy gang, but the food on the table was equally enticing. There was no boring cornflakes or toast.. We had a giant bowl of fruits [ mixed berries], french toast, Hash browns, Burger patty that were eaten with cheese and bread, and a whole host of juices plus coffee as well.  I was in some kinda of heaven during my recent holiday in USA. While almost all products are available in our country, we still dont get to see a range of berries, atleast not in Chennai [give the weather and the fact that most of these are grown outside, thereby imported ].. Off late we have been getting blueberries and raspberries, but in frozen format. Strawberries we do get, but they are seasonal. 

The range of options, the way these fruits were all packaged, they all looked so plump fresh and juicy, I was happily digging into them for every meal... Oh I could have lived off just these forever and ever... Everywhere I went, there were fresh fruits in the fridge, in Boston there were the added Apples the town is famous for...  Another cool thing about fruits here was that since the weather was cool/cold, they lasted longer as well. Every morning as I would pack my backpack to head out to expire the city, I would carry a box of these fruits along to nibble on every time hunger pang hit. They made such wonderful snacks. Sometimes I would grab a hot chocolate and sit on a bench, enjoying it with a clementine or an apple. 

In Costco which is like a warehouse size version of our grocery stores, there is an entire section dedicated to fresh produce where temperatures are near zero and products are all super fresh. It is such a treat to just walk around here and feast on the produce. That apart, there would be rows of freezers with cheese, milk, fruits and much more across other sections. 

A juice brand that I got hooked on was "Naked". Yes, you read it right. Infact, within an hour of landing in LA we went to grab a bite and there i saw a guy in line holding a bottle that said "Naked" on it. I chuckled but soon discovered this was a brand that made some sinful juices.  During the time i was in the country, would have had atleast 2-3 litres of this juice.... We tried their Orange, Orange carrot, Mango, Orange Mango, Green Machine [which tasted far better than it looked] .. My all-time fav was the plain orange and Green machine!! they come in nice small containers that are perfect for travel. 

[Image source: https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/naked-smoothies-18-most-popular-flavors]

While I see a number of ready to eat food and juices hit the shelves back home, America is a country that leaves you spoilt for choice. You name it, heck you think of it, they have it in the shelves. Across price ranges that too ~ So nothing is uber expensive or unaffordable, there is always something that fits your budget... 

Stay tuned for more on this... 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Va Pho, Asian Canteen, Chennai


Pan Asian flavours are my favourite  followed closely by Italian. And so when I saw the bright lights of Va Pho, the newest to join this league, I had to drop by for a visit. Aptly titled Asian Canteen, the name is a play of words. Ph [pronounced Foe is a Vietnamese soup] while it could also be the Va Po [as we say in Tamil- which translates to come and go]. There were no doubts in my head with reference to the food or flavours as this was another feature in the Oriental Cuisines's hat.  

As I marched up the two flights of stairs, the stark grey walls kept me company. But the minute you walk in, you are hit by the burst of colours, the vibrant decor and the glittering tuk tuk near the entrance. We took the table at the far end , with high chairs. Two others near us were enjoying their plate of momos while playing a game of Jenga. I spotted a corner on the other side with shelves lined up with merchandise and one of them vintage radio units as well. The walls are all brightly decorated with murals, the monkey being the highlight of it all.  Some of the light fittings look like cameras set up for a photo shoot and there are round tables with seating on three sides, perfect for large groups. It had a very casual relaxed feel to it. 

I also spotted a Roulette and quickly made a beeline to check it out. They were just sorting the game out and hopefully on my next visit it would have the cards and tokens. I had seen this only in movies and so the curious me wanted to play.

Time to get down to the food, right? the menu is simple, all of 4 sheets and the Chef told us it would change periodically. They had a Chef from Malaysia overseeing the kitchen for the time being.. all of which meant the food was going to be spot on and delicious. Here is what we had,


Miloni crush [Melon and pineapple based] and Royale Madras [ with Tender Coconut as base]

Broccoli stir fry of sorts - just yummilicious 

Veg dim sums

Chilli Tofu Satay 

The Bao- it had spicy Tofu . My first experience digging into a Bao and this was light, airy and went well with the filling. did not need a dipping sauce at all. 

The Vegetarian Soup - the broth is poured on the vegetables at the table. There is a side of lemon, sprouts and chilli sauce to add based on your preference.

Since Mangos are in season, here is a Mango based drink that was thick, creamy and refreshing

Japchae- Glass noodles salad with crunchy vegetables and variety of mushrooms.

A Chef's special rice bowl- with beans, garlic and thai flavours 

A melange of veggies stir fried

Chocolate Mousse- it was fun to open the dome and dig into this dark chocolate heaven

Burmese Falooda- There was ice cream, chia seeds, and so much more in this tall dessert 

Sticky rice with peaches, a twist on the traditional sticky rice and mango.


Tender coconut ice cream stick served with coconut cream that had saago in it along with light flaky biscuits on the side. 

What was amazing about the place was not only was the food good, it was also priced very reasonably. All dishes were between 140- 350 bucks. The most expensive item on their menu was a main dish [non veg] and a dessert- Vapholicious [that would be a fun dessert if you are a group of 4 or more] priced @Rs499  

While the flavours in all dishes were familiar, quite a few were new to me [I have heard of the Bao and glass noodles salad, but this was my1st time digging into one]. I know for sure this is going to be one of my favourite places to head to ... 

Address:
Va Pho is located behind Hot Breads ,Copper Chimney and Sera Tapas bar. 
No: 6, Cathedral road, Chennai: 86. 
Ph: (044) 48566555.

They are open from 12noon to 11pm all days. 

Disclaimer:
The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  :) 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Avartana unveiled, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai






















Deconstructed…Dehydrated….Emulsified…Smoked..
are terms that once upon a time used to go over my head.. Now I know what they mean, and I know what to expect when a dish is placed in front of me. But then there are times when I falter and assume what I see is what I get, well those are times when am in for a surprise..  It is like the dish does a one up on me, giving me a jolt and shaking things up a bit. :-) 

Tonight we were there to explore the newest restaurant in the block, Avartana. "Avartana", the name is  derived from sanskrit [means rhythm, mysticism and magic] 

As we walked along the familiar corridor at ITC Grand Chola towards the new restaurant [located near Towers Lobby],  I could not help but wonder what Chef Ajit Bagera has whipped up.    We had reached the end of the corridor and were guided towards the left, into the restaurant.  The first thing I notice is the rotary evaporator sitting there on the table. When enquired, I was told it was for rasam.. My mind was starting to wander into the world of its own where food was similar to what I have read in Willi Wonka’s Chocolate factory- fun & playful, yet true to the flavours. 

The carpet has banana leaf patterns, the walls have Kerala boat style lighting etched on them, there are glass panels all around with banana flower styled fittings on them, the lights on our table were inspired from the tender coconuts… I could go on and on. It was amazing to see the attention to detail. Oh and this is probably the only South Indian restaurant with an open kitchen.

We had the privilege of being seated in the private dining area [it can accommodate 10 pax, overall capacity of the Restaurant is 60 covers]. I see my plate, and a green blob of sorts on my knife. I wonder if it is a macaron or something else. Chef Harish Rao [ of Park Sheraton’s Dakshin] fame walks in with a grin with a “gotcha, you guys did not know I am here now didja” ..  And thus began our WOW evening.

A flower arrangement with what looked like macaroons on a stick, which turned out to be Fennel & pepper Air with Avocado Fluff [the green blob from my knife] that melted in our mouths… Tomato rasam that was poured into a French press containing herbs, tomato and poured onto martini glasses- it was filled with flavour and fun[ I would have happily had a pot of this]… 

Fluffy little idlies served with a Sweet pepper & Eggplant stuffed Ridge gourd sitting on a sesame & peanut curry.  The rice & Madurai Chutney [ a version of Kuzhi paniyaram served atop hot red chilli chutney] , Jackfruit and vegetable congee served with brinjal raita.. Butter milk noodles dish, a take on our curd rice perhaps where the sauce was poured on and it had a tiny pippet containing lemon pickle. To finish it off there was Finger millet vermicelli served with tender coconut ice cream and caramalised milk sitting pretty on a plate resembling a bird’s nest with some edible art work around it…

Along with the food there were a few interesting drinks- Mocktails & Cocktails as well. I had Mouth Road 63 [which is the address the property sits on] and Gooseberry Margharita served in one tall glass, both of which were absolutely divine. For the others there were a range of Mocktails- Nannari based, Paneer soda, raw mango drink served in a traditional Bharani, mint-coriander and many more.

The dishes were not only a treat for the eyes, but for the palate as well. During the course of the evening, Chef Bangera shared the journey behind the restaurant, and how the team has been at it for a while, working on the dishes and presentations. He was clear he did not want to reinvent South Indian food, but he was here to give it a twist and add a surprise element for the guests. Well, must say he has done exactly that.

All during the evening, I kept thinking of my granpa. He was one of those always open to new flavours and would have loved this place.  He is one of those true blue South Indians who will not tolerate any mucking about, especially with traditional dishes.  It also makes me happy to note that my city has now opened doors to such new restaurants and the fact that the restaurant is sold out the 1st few days is heart warming~ 

The restaurant is open for dinner [7pm to 11pm] and offer only tasting menus.
Prices begin at Rs. 2000 approx [per pax] for a 7 course-tasting menu.  
[All you need to do is tell the Chef if you have any allergies or don’t eat certain items.]

Address: No., 63, Anna Salai, Guindy, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600032
Call 044 2220 0000 for reservations.
Website : http://www.itchotels.in/hotels/itcgrandchola.aspx

Disclaimer:
The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  :-) 
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