29 July 2014

Aboard the Bombay Local

I love how food connects us. You could be a banker, a doctor, or a stay at home mom but still pursue cooking and be a masterchef of your own kitchen. And then there are those few who take their hobbies forward and become home chefs and bakers. And honestly, it is these home chefs who whip up the tastiest, heartiest food. 

I have so many of my favorites who I always turn to when I want my share of home made desserts, dips and more. Most of which I have met at Small Fry Co.'s curated events. They manage to source the most talented home grown, foodie talent and present them to us via pop-ups and exhibitions. More about them on their Facebook page here.

This Sunday I popped into another pop-up exhibition named 'Bombay Local' at The Easel in Juhu. This quaint art hub metamorphosed into this buzzing space packed with stalls exhibiting wares from restaurants, home chefs, bakers, artists, and designers. I skipped all the apparel and beauty products stalls - purely for fear of being tempted, and stuck to what I enjoy the most- Food! I fluttered from one stall to the next, tasting and sampling what was put out, and chatting up some lovely home entrepreneurs. I came home with some interesting stuff, and hence this blog post about my experience- something that I should have done earlier. Read on for my top three picks at this edition of Bombay Local.

  • Bacon Pickle by The Pickle Bar

My nose leads me to this stall, manned by the smiling Joel Cardoza. 
I had read about the Cardoza's home grown, pickle venture and was dying to taste their pickles. The venture was started by Joel and his sister, from their home in Andheri, and all the pickles are made by Joel's mom. I sampled all the non vegetarian options- prawn, bacon, bombay duck, beef and pork. 

I loved the beef pickle with chunky, well done pieces of meat, and the prawn pickle. The prawn pickle was so different than the usual prawn pickle we Parsis make, which is slightly on the sweeter side. My favorite of the lot, and the one that got to come home with me was the Bacon pickle. 

Bacon Pickle

It had fine pieces of bacon which were submerged in this tangy, vinegary sauce. The bacon is not too chunky but definitely leaves a meaty after taste. My dad polished half the jar off, and said it reminded him a bit of his favorite Goan Vindaloo. Slightly oily, but then again what is a pickle without oil running off your plate?!

The Pickle Bar- recommended for its homely, meaty pickles made with love. After all it is 'maa ke haath ka achaar'.
(Rs. 200 for a 200 gms. bottle of Bacon Pickle)
Contact them on their Facebook Page here

  • Herb Butter and Chocolate Peanut Butter by POP!

Were they a mirage or an illusion, because I cannot seem to find trace of them on social media platform. Sigh! POP makes the most delectable chocolate peanut butter. Imagine this really chunky, delicious peanut butter. Now imagine this gooey, thick chocolate sauce. Now mix the two. Yes, that's it!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Jars

They also do this yummilicious, fragrant, herb butter, that when spread on bread magically turns it into garlic bread. I came home with one jar and cannot stop spreading it on things- toast, crackers, left over roti. Slightly on the saltier side, so I ate it sparingly. 

POP Herb Butter
One of my greatest regrets in life would be not getting that Chocolate Peanut Butter. (I was trying to be healthy...as if!) But I'm going to be content with stuffing my mouth with the butter till then.
(Rs. 250/- for a jar of Herb Butter)

  • Jus Divine Cold Pressed Juice
Cold Pressed juices are the new cupcakes. Everyone seems to be doing them. They use cold-press technology that gently grinds and squeezes the fruit to extract the juice. These juices have a higher nutritive value compared to other conventional juicing techniques.

Now since I'm an existing fan of these cold pressed juices, I decided to give these a shot. (Read about my Raw Pressery juicy experience here) After doing the hard work (lol) of tasting a few of them, I narrowed down on the Apple-Pineapple-Wheatgrass. It has this sweet apple + pineapple taste initially with an after taste of wheatgrass. I liked that it was slightly pulpy too. Made me feel good about taking in fiber, and all that.

Apple-Pineapple-Wheatgrass Juice
They also do plain juices made out of a single fruit- orange or pineapple in case you don't want to opt for the mixed ones. The Almond-Chocolate-Coconut and Almond-Mango-Coconut, may be higher on the calories but make for an interesting dessert drink. Many thank yous to them for having a user-friendly website and an online payment portal. I wish they did a one day cleanse though.
(Rs. 150/- for 250 ml. of Apple-Pineapple-Wheatgrass juice)
Check out their website here and Facebook page here

P.S. Everyone's favorite cold stone ice cream brand Hokey Pokey were there too. And they were serving these dessert sandwiches: Xcess Chocolate-Nutella and White Chocolate-Strawberry apart from the usual ice creams. These calorie laden fillings were served inside hot, buttery toast and were so good! I'm going back for them to their Carter Road outlet where they now retail.
(HoPo Melts for Rs. 99/- each)

28 July 2014

Konichiwa Mumbai!

Nowadays, everyone seems to be a fan of Japanese cuisine. Every restaurant is serving sushi and sake. But there is more to a Japanese meal than just that. Mumbai Food Lovers were invited to a preview of the latest Japanese food menu at Spices, J.W.Marriott, Juhu and yours truly was there to report. Chef Emmel Muya recently got on board the restaurant and has some delicious food up his sleeve. We lucky few got a chance to taste the new menu, and here is what I thought.

Spices at the J.W.Marriott is one of the lesser known restaurants at the hotel. Mezzo Mezzo and Lotus Café are far more popular. I wonder why the discrepancy since Spices wowed me with the décor and food. Done up in red and black, with sparkling, dim lights this is such a ‘date place’. Also they have a ‘Teppanyaki’ counter where you can see the chef preparing the food on the grill and sit around it and have your meal. I don’t know where else in the city do you get to see that.

We were all seated on a large table with fellow foodies and bloggers with sparkling wine to keep us company before the food arrived. 

Sparkling Wine and the Menu for the Night
Chef Emmel Muya came to our table and spoke about Japanese food. We learnt about the various kinds of sushi (maki, nigiri) and how it differs from sashimi. He spoke about how Japanese food uses basic ingredients and simple cooking technique. And he emphasized that Japanese food has more to it than just sushi.

Chef Emmel Muya Talks About Japanese Cooking
We started with some sashimi which is basically thin slices of raw fish which one is supposed to have with wasabi. We had four variants: salmon, cuttlefish, tuna, and yellowtail. Im not a huge fan of sashimi but I enjoyed this nevertheless. Loved the crunch of the caviar sprinkled on top.

Sashimi Platter

Then the sushi rolls were brought on, with wasabi and soy sauce to dip them into.  The vegetarian sushi platter contained asparagus, cream cheese variants. The non vegetarian sushi had salmon and tuna rolls. They were absolutely delicious and light. Special mention to the wasabi here, which was quite strong and really hits the roof of your mouth. A very small bit smeared on the sushi was enough to balance the taste. 

Non-Vegetarian Sushi Platter
Sushi Rolls

Vegetarian Sushi Platter
The Wasabi Tofu and the Wasabi Prawns were the crowd favourite of the night. Succulent prawn and tofu pieces were smeared in a wasabi sauce to make this dish an absolute winner. I loved the addition of curry leaves on the top to give it a desi tadka. Both dishes came on a bed of diced apples to give the dish some sweetness. Go order this- Prawn if you're a meat eater and tofu if you're not.

Wasabi Prawns
Wasabi Tofu
Next we all moved to the ‘Teppanyaki’ counter and were made to sit around the grill. The word teppanyaki is derived from teppan which means iron plate, and yaki which means grilled, broiled, or pan-fried. We were excited for Chef to arrive and start performing his tricks in front of us.

Food Bloggers around the Teppanyaki Table

Before that we were served a traditional ‘Wafu Sarada’ which is a Japanese green salad served with Wafu dressing. It is a simple salad dressing made of soy sauce, rice vinegar and vegetable oil.  The salad was so light and refreshing. The salad comprising carrot and cabbage was crispy, crunchy and perfectly flavoured by the Wafu. I’m ordering this when I go back.

Wafu Sarada
The Miso Soup is another favourite of mine, and I was eagerly awaiting that. This was a light, fragrant soup with soft tofu pieces dunked inside. I just wish the soup had been warmer. A common factor among all the dishes we tried was that they were light and yet filling. We could try so many courses without feeling full or bloated.

Miso Soup

We watched Chef then cook on the ‘teppanyaki’ in front of us. The different smells of the ingredients, sights, and the sounds of the vegetables and meat sizzling on the grill made it a different experience altogether. 

Chef Cooking some Teppakyaki Vegetables

Veggies Being Grilled
The vegetables were cooked in basic ingredients of soy sauce, salt and pepper. I found it a bit too bland for our Indian palate.

Teppanyaki Vegetables

The king prawns were then brought out. The babies were grilled on the teppanyaki and cooked in a simple soy sauce. Such a simple yet flavourful dish this was.

King Prawns in a row

Teppanyaki King Prawns

The Salmon in Teriyaki sauce was next. The teriyaki is a Japanese favourite, which renders a sweetish taste to the fish. It went really well with the salmon.

Salmon in Teriyaki Sauce

Salmon Being Grilled with the Teriyaki
The Chicken in Teriyaki sauce was served with Teppanyaki Fried Rice. Absolute comfort food this was - Fried Rice-Teriyaki Chicken. Special mention to the rice, which was the traditional sticky rice used in Japanese cooking. 

Teriyaki Chicken with Teppanyaki Fried Rice
For dessert there was a Teppanyaki Fruit Salad with Vanilla Ice-cream. The fruits were slightly grilled, and then refrigerated. It was a nice, summery dessert but nothing too exciting. Skip dessert and order another round of sushi instead.

Teppanyaki Fruit Salad with Vanilla Ice-cream

Overall this was a wonderful experience and I was glad I got to taste the new menu that Chef Muya has brought to the J.W.Marriott with him. I recommend going if you’re a fan of Japanese food. Add Spices to your list of places to go to for special occasions. The sushi is absolutely worth it. Sayonara!

21 July 2014

A Parcel from Peroni

What is better than receiving a surprise? Receiving a surprise at the end of a long, harrowing, tired day where you want nothing more to curl up in front of the television with a bottle of beer. The wonderful folks at Peroni, India made that come true. I came home to find the most wonderful parcel waiting for me.

Surprise Surprise!
Unveiling my 'Mystery Box'
The box contained two bottles of Peroni beer and two of the loveliest engraved beer glasses.

My favorites in the box were the bottles of Italian sun-dried tomatoes and the olive oil. Both of which went into the pasta I am eating tonight as I type this out. Sun dried tomatoes make everything taste good....pastas, pizzas, bruschetta, and more.

There were also these tiny mini snacks; puff pastry filled with clotted cream. They brought back childhood memories of cream scones I would eat from Pune's bakeries.

Peroni is one of Italy's most famous contributions to the culinary scene. It is Italy's second best selling lager and has quite a fan base in India. And they've made a fan out of me too!

19 July 2014

Invincible Vodka Fest at C'est La Vie

Mid-week spontaneous plans involving alcohol are always the best. One such plan happened recently where a bunch of us bloggers met up to review the Invincible Vodka Festival. Invincible Vodka is an Indian brand making their presence felt in the market. They recently launched a vodka festival at Ground Zero which is Bandra based club C'est La Vie's bar. As a part of the festival one can try out some signature cocktails and a few savory items created specially with Invincible Vodka. 

About Invincible Vodka: Indian based brand- Invincible sources the finest grains from the Himalayas and passes it through an 8 step distillation process to acquire the vodka. It recently bagged two awards at Spirits International Prestige (SIP) awards. The brand received Gold medal for slick packaging design and Silver medal in vodka tasting. (Source: www.invinciblevodka.com)

I Am Invincible
We started the night off with some thumping music and a limited menu listing the special cocktails for the night. 'The Bitter Truth' (vodka + jagermeiseter + fresh limed tonic) and the 'Orange Zest' (orange juice + cointreau + vodka + orange puree) both disappointed. The latter had barely any taste of alcohol and I felt I was drinking orange juice. 

(Left to Right) The Bitter Truth; Orange Zest

The 'Hawaiian Twist' (Vodka + Malibu + Baileys + Vanilla Tonic) was comparatively a better option since I could taste the spirits in this drink. The unanimous favorite that evening was the 'Death By Chocolate' (chocolate sauce + vodka + gin + brownie poppers). It made for a lovely, smooth dessert drink combining everyone's favorites: chocolate and vodka. They also had some flaming shots which I was too much of a chicken to try out.

(Left to Right) Hawaiian Twist; Death By Chocolate

Death By Chocolate
They've also created a food menu incorporating vodka. So you have Vodka Infused Poppers and a Vodka Salad using vodka in the dressing. Please order regular poppers or salad instead. The Vodka Pizza had vodka in the base and then some more vodka sprinkled on top. Your regular Margherita pizza but with the taste of vodka. The sprinkling of vodka on top made our vegetarian pizza soggy however. It worked purely because of its novelty factor: no one's eaten vodka on a pizza before!

Vodka Pizza
We ended the night with some vodka shots. I guess we all felt the vodka to be milder and smoother than its contemporaries out in the market. Which explained why after downing so many drinks, no one was in high spirits. 

Overall, visit only if you enjoy your vodka a lot and want to try a new brand. Otherwise totally worth a skip. They also have an offer going on, unlimited vodka cocktails for Rs. 850/- People who are hard core drinkers may appreciate that. 

Contact: Ground Zero, C'est La Vie, 164 Hill Road, Bandra West, Mumbai.
Phone: +91 9320433233, 022 61322222 
(I did not receive details as to how long the festival would be on till)

Group Click. All Smiles :)

16 July 2014

Dining at The Deltin, Daman

Being so used to writing about food, and enjoying sharing what's on my plate I decided to do a separate blog post on my dining experience at The Deltin, Daman. Read on for a foodie journey across The Deltin's three functional restaurants, and see what all we stuffed our mouths with.

Vegas Cafe: Aptly named and aptly situated at the hotel's casino entrance, Vegas Cafe is a multi-cuisine restaurant. They serve a la carte and buffet meals, and are open 24 hours daily. We had two lunches and breakfast at our stay there.

In lieu of our arrival they had prepared an extensive set lunch menu for us. The food was average and nothing exceptional to write home about. Multi-cuisine restaurants fall into the 'jack of all trades, master of none' trap in my opinion. They try to do too much, and end up not excelling at any specific thing.

I enjoyed the succulent and Masaledar Gosht Seekh. The Chicken Hariyali Kabab had a moist chicken filling and went well with the green chutney. The Kandahari Paneer Tikka needed more seasoning. Garlic, Pepper & Butter Tossed Potatoes made for a decent snack which I would want to eat at a bar with my beer. 

As always I stuff my mouth with appetizers and barely have space for mains. Luckily, the main course was strictly average. Grainy Chardonnay and Tomato Risotto which required more seasoning. The Thai Curry was flavorful but watery. Paneer Khatta Pyaaz was the only main I genuinely liked with crunchy onion pieces interspersed. Desserts were a dense New York Cheesecake and a Gulkand ki Rasmalai.

Lunch Spread
Breakfast next day was a grand affair like most five star buffets do. A range of cheeses, cold cuts, juices, coffees, cereals to start with. Then your mandatory dosa counter and waffle/ pancake counter were there. One can call for eggs of your choice or choose from the vegetarian South Indian fare on offer. Overall extensive breakfast spread with lot of options to pick from.

Special mention to The Oyster flavored Chicken with Saffron Risotto which we had the next day. Soft, tender roast chicken on a bed of risotto flavoured extensively with kesar, this dish was my favorite on the entire trip.

Oyster Flavored Chicken with Saffron Risotto
Whiskys Lounge: The hotels exclusive, premium lounge serves some of the finest domestic liquors. Unfortunately, no international alcohol permitted within Daman. The bar served us some interesting cocktails including one Beer Mojito. It was your regular mint mojito which was topped with some beer. Perfect drink to lounge around by the pool with.

Refreshing Beer Mojito
The most interesting thing they have on their menu are the whiskey infusions. Whiskeys infused with the oddest of ingredients from chocolate and coffee, to red chilli, peppers, cinnamon and raisins! We sniffed and sipped through most of the canisters and clearly this was the highlight at this bar.

Infused Whiskeys
Emperor: This fine dine restaurant done up in an Oriental theme serves Cantonese food and Tangra cuisine. I learnt that Tangra cusine is the spicier Chinese-Indian fusion originating from Kolkota. I got an under-the-sea vibe from the place, with the lighting and aqua tone cutlery.

I was pleasantly surprised to have eaten such juicy, well done Black Pepper Sauce coated Lamb Chops where my knife cut right through. I enjoyed The Honey Chilli stirred Lotus Stems, though others found it had a bit too much batter on it. The Crispy Corn had a chatpata taste and along with the Crispy Crackling Spinach was one of our favorites. The dumplings: prawn, chicken and water chestnut were average. Could have done with lesser coating on the outside. The Steamed Pomfret was a healthy option, but could have done with more soy sauce dressing. For dessert, there was a Lotus bun, mango Tropicana shots, and Mango creme caramel. The latter was my pick of the three.

An Emperor's Spread
Overall, The Deltin offers a variety of cuisine options. The food may not be fine-dine but definitely is comforting. Some things could do with tweaking whereas some stand out completely. (Pepper infused whiskey, anyone?) 

Our two day sojourn was definitely one filled with luxury, pampering, and of course food! The Deltin Life is good indeed. Makes me want to go back....especially when that casino opens.

Website: www.thedeltin.com
Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram: @TheDeltinLife

Group Click. All smiles.

15 July 2014

My Monsoon Getaway at The Deltin, Daman

Every once in a way we need a weekend away from the madness and chaos of the city. A weekend to relax, unwind, gorge on some delicious food along with some lovely company. My last weekend at The Deltin, Daman was filled with all those ingredients...and more. It was a weekend where a bunch of bloggers got to live out the Deltin experience courtesy the Food Bloggers Association of India (FBAI). Read on for a two part blog post on my amazing weekend: one covering the hotel and its amenities, and another doing justice to the food it offers.

After a 4.5 hour long drive from Mumbai to Daman we arrived at the sprawling property filled with lush green trees where the hotel is situated. It has 176 spacious rooms, three pools, and other amenities such as a gymnasium, spa, salon, and business center. It also boasts of two restaurants and one lounge, but more about that later. 

What makes The Deltin stand apart from other hotels is that it shall house India's largest Casino staring October this year. Spread over 60,000 square feet the casino shall have 1,000 gaming positions, including 250 slot machines, and international games such as Roulette, BlackJack, Poker etc. (Source Courtesy: www.deltingroup.com). Unfortunately when we visited, the casino was being constructed and kept under wraps.

We arrived at The Deltin in style, and were handed over a glass of bubbly in addition to the keys of our individual rooms.

The rooms were spacious and had all the basic amenities that most luxury hotels offer. A sprawling kingsized bed with uber-soft pillows that I wanted to sink into, and never get up! A large flat screen television and an easy chair completed the room. My room opened up into the view of the swimming pool. I wish I had a balcony attached so I could've lounged around there. There was also a mini-bar stocked with drinks and munchies, which was a tempting affair but expensive nevertheless.

My Palatial Room for the Day

The View from my Room
 Special mention to the art work adorning the entire hotel and the rooms which were created by my favourite Krsna Mehta (of IndiaCircus fame) for The Deltin. All the paintings had an underlying casino theme.

Art Work by Krsna Mehta for The Deltin

 I judge a hotel room by it's bathroom and this one passed with flying colours. We were spoiled for choice with a huge bathtub and a jet shower cubicle. Also luxury Ayurveda brand Kama supplies the toiletries to The Deltin. Plus points there.

The entire hotel is done up in a recurring casino theme. Everything from the large chandelier adorning the reception to the names of the restaurants has something to do with the casino. Rightfully so considering it's their main attraction, but somewhere I thought it gets too much.

The Deltin has three pools. The first is a large a lazy-river shaped pool with a sunken bar at the end (which was yet to start operations). I loved the lounge chairs which were sunken in the water for those who want to lounge get inside the pool without actually having to move around. They also have a shallow kiddie pool and a private pool for one of the suites. One of the greatest regrets of my life shall be not bringing my swimsuit on the trip.

Among other facilities that the hotel offers is a state-of-the-art gym. I wish I had one of these back home. They also have a salon (which is not yet operational) and a gaming room.

They have about four banquet halls of varying sizes. They clearly want to target the wedding/ corporate crowd as potential clients.

Grandice Banquet Hall
I got a chance to try out the in-house spa and opted for a foot massage. It was a decent massage and she could have applied a bit more pressure to my tired out feet. However, the spa was at par with any other spa in the city in terms of decor, cleanliness and professionalism of the staff.

Overall I had a comfortable stay at the hotel with its five star amenities. We never felt the need to step out of the hotel property since there was so much to do there. Special mention to the staff for being so courteous and warm. More ranting about my Deltin experience and the food it has to offer in my next blogpost. To be continued...