27 February 2014

Branded Bawi Recommends: Paan Kulfi at Pali Bhavan

I love my Bandra. I'm a pure blood Bandra girl, having lived nowhere else. I love all the eating out options we have. Not just mass produced, commercial restaurants but restaurants with character. Or a back story attached to it. Pali Bhavan is one such. I imagine myself to be dining in some haveli of a long lost Maharaja every time I come here. Huge chandeliers hanging from the tin roof, an assortment of pictures on the walls each telling us a different story. The pillars, stone staircases, low dim light make it a perfect 'date' place. 
Tonight was the first time I actually ate here. I've been here twice before for their famous Thursday Bar Nights where the music is pulsating and the crowd is fab. Thursday nights post 11pm the place morphs into a nightclub like feel. Maharaja's haveli on steroids more like it!

Out of all that I ate, I'm only going to mention and recommend the one thing that excited me to bits. I've heard a lot of their Paan Kulfi. I love my paan. I rush through my food at Indian weddings so that I can leisurely enjoy the paan counter. I've been known to go on drives in the middle of the night to satiate the paan craving. And I love my kulfi. That is something I inherit from my father. We have cut kulfis on birthdays instead of cake.
So hearing about Paan Kulfi got me totally excited. The dish comprises of 3 pieces of melt-in-the mouth paan flavored kulfi wrapped in the paan leaves. You could unwrap the paan leaves to dig into the kulfi solo. Or do what is the fun part, and eat the kulfi along with the paan leaves. The kulfi is fragrant, milky and not overbearingly paan flavoured. Even those who are not too much of a paan fan will enjoy it. It leaves a wonderful aftertaste in the mouth and is a perfect palate cleanser at the end of a heavy Indian meal.

Paan Kulfi
Dishes like these make me proud of the changing Indian food scene!

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.

The 'Icing on top' of my day

One of the first food blogs I started reading and actively following was that of fellow foodie and Bawi, Roxanne Bamboat. I enjoy reading about the tiny taster and her culinary adventures. She recently celebrated the second anniversary of her blog (www.thetinytaster.com) by hosting contests all month on her facebook page. I randomly happened to take part in one of these. The incentive was a shot at winning some wonderful goodies from Icing on top desserts. And the fact that it was a simple crossword got me even more excited since I have a long standing love affair with crosswords. 
I took part. Waited patiently. And then forgot. Till Roxanne announced that I had won! And those wonderful goodies were at my doorstep waiting to greet me as I came home from work today.

Icing on top specializes in vegetarian desserts. They're known for making some amazing cake pops, cupcakes, tarts and cookies. I have eaten some of their stuff before and loved everything I tried. Their menu and other information is available on their website (www.icingontop.in), or on their facebook page (Facebook: Its Icing on top) or on twitter (@itsicingontop).

Three boxes filled with yummy cookies all for me. The first box contained Cinnamon cookies. Mini in size, but huge in taste. These cookies were dusted with cinnamon. Would go perfectly with a cup of tea.

Cinnamon cookies

Next I tried what were undoubtedly my favorite, the lemon butter minis. Lovely buttery flavour of the biscuit, similar to my favorite Shrewsbury biscuits from Pune. And a tang of lemon which pops in your mouth later. These simply melt away. I polished off the box, they were that good!

Vanilla Lemon cookies

And everyone's favorite chocolate chip cookies for last. Perfect chocolate chip cookies for those who don't like them cloyingly sweet. 

Chocolate chip cookies

I would definitely go back and order some more of those Vanilla Lemon cookies, that seem to be a universal favorite.

18 February 2014

My Very First Blog post

So surprisingly the very first time I wrote a post was not for this blog. My dear friend Harsh very sweetly gave me the green signal to go ahead and write for his blog, Mumbai Food Lovers
We were both at the Royce India chocolate tasting and pairing event recently organised at the J.W.Mariott, Juhu. It was one spectacular evening among the chocolates, cocktails and conversation.
Read all about it here http://blog.mumbaifoodlovers.in/2014/02/royce-launches-chocolate-pairing-menu.html
All honest comments and feedback appreciated. Do check out the link. And even if I didn't fall in love this Valentine's, I did fall in chocolate!

17 February 2014

Branded Bawi Recommends: Love my Love Pendant

So much excite over my new Amrapali love pendant which I flaunted all day today. Such a simple, elegant design. Thin gold chain with a gold disc pendant with the word "LOVE" embossed. And for 500 bucks its a steal! To gift the person you love. And if the person you love is yourself....even better.
Composition: Brass with 18K gold plating.
Available Online at: www.tribebyamrapali.com
I suggest you directly click on the link here otherwise you are surely going to be tempted by the other awesome bling they have on their online store. Thank me later.

So much Love!

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.

15 February 2014

A Marzipan filled Valentine's!

I'm going to start off my very first personal blog post by wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day. This blog is a Valentine's gift to myself. Something I've been wanting to do since a long time and something friends and family have been forcing me to. I consider this my version of 'Dear Diary', something I enjoyed writing in as a child.
Getting back to Valentine's Day, as a single woman it becomes perennially annoying and depressing to see the mush all around. So i decided to stay away. But as luck would've had it, celebrations were around the corner. Friends like anurag writing me poems and my girls buying me love pendants. And the super amazing gift I won thanks to RadioOne for being on air with them. And as they say....if you cant beat 'em.....join 'em! 

The lovely gift arrived today. A box of Marzipan chocolates from NordicKandieMagic (www.nordickandiemagic.com). The gift arrived within two days of placing an order with them so I was pleasantly surprised. Marzipan is a traditional delicacy made of fine almonds and sugar. I grew up eating the traditional versions every year at Christmas thanks to my Catholic friends. This company established in Europe and India deals with traditional Marzipan and offers a variety of gifting options and gift boxes. Check out the website for more!

My Box Description: A box of 9 assorted handmade Marzipan treats, wrapped in the finest chocolate made from high quality Mamra almonds. My box is priced INR 1850/-

Packaging: Such a royal Blue and Gold box with a huge golden ribbon. An embossed logo on the side made it look classy. Simple yet elegant. The box came wrapped in some bubble paper (which I'm bursting later) and the chocolates inside were intact. The lovely people also sent me a small Valentine's Day card which totally made my day!

 The marzipan chocolates were individually wrapped inside. Ohh what a pretty sight! Colorful with detailing on top. Beautiful pinks, reds and whites...perfect for V-day! Just too pretty to eat.

Taste: With a heavy heart I decided to try one. The first one I had was a pretty white one with red icing.The chocolate coating was firm from outside and i bit into the most delectable, soft, gooey marzipan inside. This one was a yum strawberry flavor. Loved the taste. Not overbearingly sweet. 

The next one I had was a chocolate covered one with a minty chocolate marzipan filling. Reminded me of the After Eight chocolate. Again perfect marzipan inside, perfect chocolate outside.

These are the two out of a box of nine that I tasted. By the time I finish writing this blog post I'm sure i will finish off half the box.

My Ratings:
Packaging: 4/5
Value For Money: 2/5
Taste: 4/5

Would I buy this again? Maybe for a special someone on a special occasion. Or else to myself next Valentine's day.