24 February 2014

Mahabaleshwar Memoirs

Mahabaleshwar is called the Grand Canyon of India. And rightfully so. Vast expanses of greenery, deep mountainous terrain, dizzying heights, narrow roads and chilly weather! Perfect for a weekend getaway. And the amazing local food and produce makes it even more worthwhile for foodies like me to take a trip. So a bunch of us set off this weekend for a getaway. (Which explains the long hiatus from blogging).
The weekend was filled with food, food and only food. We lived between meals, planning the next meal while we ate our first. Out of all that we ate, here are my top three most memorable.

1. Strawberries, strawberries, and some more strawberries.
Mahabaleshwar 'aint called the 'land of strawberries' for nothing. As one drives into Panchgani one can start seeing strawberry vendors on either side of the tiny roads. Every food stall sells the fruit in whatever variation possible...juice, milkshake, ice cream, with fresh cream, with syrup, with chocolate....and whatever other combination one can think of. There are tiny plantations selling strawberries overlooking the valley where one can go strawberry picking too!

Selfie with strawberries

Strawberry and fresh cream at Hirakani Gardens

Strawberry and Fresh Cream again
Photo courtesy: Mumbai Food Lovers
We sampled the strawberry- fresh cream combination at three places: Mapro gardens, Bagicha restaurant & Hirakani gardens. All three equally good. Ask for one without the ice-cream and syrup on your next visit. Strawberry-fresh cream in the pure form! 

2. Maharashtrian Thali.
Mahabaleshwar is filled with thali places: Punjabi, Gujarati and Maharashrian varieties. Skip the Punjabi and Gujarati ones and head straight for the local one! We sampled a Maharashtrian thali at Bagicha restaurant. Bagicha is quite famous in Mahabaleshwar with outlets all over. The thali is absolute Value for Money for 250 bucks of unlimited goodness. Thali comprises of corn sabzi, aloo sabzi, french beans sabzi, dal, usal, baingan gravy, dahi kadhi, pitla and jawar roti. And let me not forget the thecha which is made up of green chilli and garlic. Loved everything on the thali, though, special mention to the kadhi, corn sabzi, thecha, and pitla. Traditional, wholesome, unlimited food...this was our most favourite meal. And we 'destroyed' the thali. Fully paisa vasool!

Maharashtrian Thali

3. Corn Bhajiyas
For that matter, corn anything. The next famous ingredient after strawberries, used almost in any dish is corn. So they make corn pattice, corn bhajiyas, corn pakodas, corn frankies, corn sabzi, and for the less adventurous plain old corn on the cob! We ended up trying all of these and loved whatever we ate. The corn pattice with green chutney combination went perfectly with the weather. A cup of hot coffee and one doesn't need anything else. 
All in all, such a fun trip with fun people. And good food was the cherry on the cake!
Corn Bhajiyas with Red chutney

19 February 2014

Once Upon a Time in Yoga House...Dobara

Kindly excuse the really lame title, but I just had to do this. Yoga House is back. Relaunched, revamped. New additions to the menu, new location. 
I've spent many an evening at the previous Yoga House, chilling, putting my feet up, reading, pretending I was in Goa all while I was in a tiny lane in Bandra. So when I heard they were planning to open up a bigger studio and cafe, I was maha thrilled. All this at a stones throw away from where I live. God is kind!
I've been a regular customer there. Not for the Yoga classes that they organize, but for the pure, organic, vegan food they serve. And the crowd that comes there, mainly expats. And the relaxed, chilled vibe I get there. 
When it comes to all of these factors the new Yoga House does not disappoint one bit. Located in a beautiful green bungalow at Sherly Rajan Road, off Carter Road. The entire bungalow is converted into a yoga studio at the bottom, juice bar, cafe, and a souvenir store, at various levels in the bungalow.

Ambience: Relaxed vibe. Grab one of their tables scattered at various floors in the bungalow, or a seat down on the floor with cushions. The juice bar is a good place to grab a quick juice or salad on the go. But we are allowed to enter with our footwear at this Yoga House, which disappointed me to some extent. The previous Yoga House had a sign board that said, 'Please leave your footwear and egos at the door'.

Food: I started off with something called 'The Pink Juice' (Rs. 200). My love for all things pink continues. It contained pomegranate, watermelon and natural rose water. No added sugar or preservatives, obviously. Made for a quick and refreshing drink. I only wished it was a tad bit colder.

Pink Juice

We ordered 'I am melting' next (Rs. 250). (All of the food at Yoga House has these fun titles attached). It was an almond pesto pasta salad. Comprised of penne, mushrooms, spinach, feta cheese, zucchini, cardamom, mint and homemade almond pesto with balsamic dressing. I don't know how healthy this was, but tasty it surely was. Slightly bland for me though. I wanted to douse it in a covering of chilly flakes. 

I am melting

We also ordered the 'I am completing' which was a 3 cereals bento box (Rs. 300). Comprised of brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat, grilled tofu, with pesto alfa alfa sprouts and sweet potatoes. This is a crowd favorite here. Very filling. Very healthy. Brown rice was very flavorsome inspite of being a tad bit dry. 

I am completing

For dessert we tried the recent additions to their menu. Started off with a 'So light, butterfree almond cookie' made up of egg whites only, white sugar and almond powder (Rs. 50). Quite delicious and makes for a quick snack without the guilt of calories.

Butterfree almond cookie

We saved the best for the last. The eggless carrot cake was strongly recommended by our server. And we thanked him for that. Made up of fresh carrots, minimally raw sugar, flour, yogurt, butter, cinnamon and spices where the juicy carrots lend sweetness to this very healthy cake. Cake was moist, sweet and filled with the flavour of cinnamon. Im surely going back to try their healthy versions of Chocolate Mandarin cake and Blueberry Almond cake next. 

Eggless Carrot Cake
Total Damages done: Rs. 1400 between two of us for drinks, mains and dessert.

My Ratings
Ambience: 4/5
Food: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 3/5

The Yoga House,
Nergis Villa,
Sherly Rajan Road, Bandra west.
Monday to Sunday 8am to 10pm.
tel: +91 22 6554 5001

Everyone must go drop by if they're in Bandra for the quaint ambiance and healthy food. And lemme know if you're there, I shall come say hi.
P.S: They've also opened another branch in Bangalore.

17 February 2014

P.S. I love u(ndhiyu)

A blog post dedicated to undhiyu. No I haven't lost my mind...yet. It's just my way of shouting my love for undhiyu out to the world from the rooftops. My love affair with all things gujju is rampant and undhiyu tops the list (closely followed by garba and chaas).
Undhiyu definitely ranks in my top 5 food items of all times. I would happily cut an undhiyu cake on my birthday. Or get undhiyu scented candles as a gift. Okay so you get the gist...
Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm not much of a vegetable eater. Blame that on me being a bawi. But throw in a dozen, two dozen odd vegetables into a green concoction called undhiyu, and I'm a happy camper. I guess its the fact that they're all blended and camouflaged in so beautifully. Only the Gujaratis can add fruit such as banana and snack items like muthiya into a dish at the same time and make it taste god damn spectacular!
The best undhiyu I've eaten are undoubtedly the ones made at home. Like the less oily one my friend Darshi's mom makes (@darshic on twitter) or the superb one my mom's friend made us this Sunday (picture below). I think the magic ingredient is love! Of course I never skip any Gujarati weddings, undhiyu gorging being my number one reason. And then when all those options fail there's always Swati snacks and Soam in South Mumbai. Its sad that its seasonal and mainly cooked during the winter at people's homes.
That reminds me, I better get going. Shall go eat some undhiyu before winter leaves us. Cheers! *raises her chaas glass*

16 February 2014

Women who W(h)ine

I love my wine. The only alcohol i can whole heartedly enjoy is wine.So when the awesome Hetal Lakhani (@Gujjucactus on twitter) invited me for a wine tasting event at Out Of the Blue, Bandra I jumped. And the fact that is was organised in conjunction with Nikhil Agarwal of All Things Nice got me even more excited. I've heard so much about the various wine tasting and pairing events they organize, I surely knew I wanted to go try this.
This event was a pre-cursor to the Wine week that is following up from the 17th to 23rd February, 2014. During the entire duration of the week, wine lovers can enjoy set courses of food and wine pairings at a number of restaurants around the city. These pre-decided menus are otherwise unavailable. And if you really enjoy what your drinking, you can take home the wine at a 30% discounted rate. How cool is that!!
For more information check out their website
The setting was relaxed and fun. A group of around 20 of us wine aficionados were present from the ages of 25-75! There's no age limit to enjoy a glass of wine. The event was open to the public at no cost. So anyone could come and enjoy an evening of wine, conversations. learning and break bread with like minded people.

We were made to taste seven wines. Two white wines, Four red, and one dessert wine. They are as follows in the order of their appearance:
  • Reveilo Grillo 2012
  • York Chennin Blanc Vintage 2013
  • Reveilo Merlot 2012
  • Grover Merlot 2013 Art Collection
  • York Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage 2010
  • Grover La Reserve 2011
  • Reveilo Late Harvest Chenin Balnc vintage 2006 Dessert Wine

All the seven wines we got to savour

 We were served some absolutely delicious Bread basket with hummus and some Tomato Bruschetta alongside. Absolutely important to eat some bread as it serves a dual function of being a palate cleanser and the bread also helps absorb the alcohol.

Tomato Bruschetta

Nikhil patiently explained the process of wine tasting with each of the seven wines. He described each of the seven wines to us, getting each table to participate and interact and explore the basics of each wine. We described the wines based on:

  • Look of the wine. Checking for color and clarity.
  • Opacity of the wine. Is the wine clear, opaque or translucent?
  • Smell or aroma of the wine after swirling it. Swirling the wine well helps 'open' it up. I became an expert swirler after the two hours. Swirling others wines for them too!
  • Fruitiness of the wine. Describe the first fruit that comes to your mind after a sip of the wine.
  • Acidity of the wine. Is the wine acidic? How acidic? What is the sugar content like?
  • Attack phase of the wine. What does your throat and mouth feel like after you've finished swallowing it down.

Seven wine glasses lined up neatly in a row. See me drink....down they go!

All in all a great evening. Learnt my wine basics. I think I will be able to describe and appreciate wine more carefully now. Everyone who enjoys their wine, do get a chance to try out a Wine Appreciation Class atleast once. All Things Nice keeps posting up their events on the website.

Cheers from Branded Bawi and Gujju Cactus

Branded Bawi's Most Favorite Wine: Reveilo Late Harvest Chenin Blanc Dessert Wine. Most people found it a tad bit sweet, but it was my first dessert wine and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would surely buy it again for a special occasion or just to treat myself.