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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... :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Food tales, the battle of choices

“You are vegetarian, right?” is the first question am asked when I head out to dinner with a group.  And then there will be a round of chuckles, comments, frowns and smartass comments before we get down to the food.. Last evening, suddenly it hit me that I never ask others [people am meeting for the 1st time] if they are vegetarians or non vegetarians!! It never even hits me to ask that, probably cos I don’t care and it makes no difference to me…

I am part of several groups of friends and in one am the only vegetarian, while in another there is a guy who is the only non vegetarian, and then there is the other group where most of us are veggies and another where it is 50:50.. But whenever we are out, if there is a non veg minority, we do tell them they can go ahead order non veg food, on the other hand when am out to dinner with a group where am a minority or the only veggie, the veggie food comes, but quite delayed.. Again, something that makes me wonder why!!

The one good thing is that most restaurants now know am a veggie and make it a point to tell the staff that am a veggie and to bring out a few veggies dishes alongside the non veg dishes.

But then there are times, more so than ever where my friends seem to love the veg dishes more than their non veg dishes..  I have had debates with friends about how cooking a good veg dish is far challenging than making a non veg dish and while initially they disagree when they do get down to it, they agree!!

I dont expect my non veg friends to convert, but then it would help if they stopped mocking/frowning down at us veggies.. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Food Tales... Preferences..

Last evening while at dinner we were talking about how in one household you could have three people cooking the same dish three different ways. A friend commented on how in his house, his mother  makes a dish in a certain way for dad and the rest of them have a different version made for them. The food for dad is referred to as  "Dad's food" and the others know better than to touch it. 

Another lady spoke about how when a girl gets married, she moves to her in-laws house where her husband and mom in law are used to cooking a dish in a certain way while she grew up watching her mom/gramma cook it a certain way. This lady commented that she was in a dilemma on what to do, but then she managed to meet them half way through and it worked out fine. But there are others where you need to go all the way to one side to satisfy the palates. Many a times when a dish is made in a way different from what we are used to, our mind just freezes up and refuses to even let us try it, leave along eat it [even if we do end up liking it] 

The major influences in my cooking journey has been my gramma, I have learnt a lot by watching her cook and what is more, she is a good teacher as well , unlike my mom who is good at cooking but not great at teaching... So, when I go to someone else's house and see a dish I have grown up eating, and it tastes different, a mini conflict erupts in my head and sometimes I just shush it and other times I voice our my concern/ ask how the dish was made and then only rest my case. 

The one thing I have been taught is to not add Perungayam [asafoetida] when making dishes that have onions or radish in them. But then I see friends who add the same to onion & radish based dishes.. I wonder why I was told not to add, what happens if you add [ if the taste changes or if there is a chemical reaction of sorts, or these veggies dont mix with it well]... But trained that way, I dont add it when I make onion or radish based dishes. 

Do you have any such quirks? lessons to share? 

Coorgi Food Festival, Taj Club House, Chennai

Ah, the lush greenery, mist covered mountain tops, monks in red chanting in unison are some things that come to my mind when you mention "Coorg". During my visit there, I came to know that the Coorgs’ (Kodavas) love their food [Kadi] and their liquor [Kudi[] equally.  Their food is largely influenced by the geography (hills and forests) and their culture which is quite unique. 

They are essentially rice eaters, but eat rice in various forms - Akki Ooti (rice chapathis made like rotis using cooked rice and rice flour), Puttus (steamed rice dishes), Kadambuttu (ball shaped puttus made with finest rice flour), Thaliya puttu (flat puttus steamed in plates), and a wide variety of puttus [ some made with coconut milk, others with broken rice and then ther are some made with banana or jackfruit. There is also one puttu called Madd puttu (made of a medicinal leaf called Madd Thopp). Oh and how can I forget the Thambuttu that I tasted in Madikeri, a dish made with roasted and powdered rice flour mixed with mashed ripe bananas. Apart from these, they make quite a few varieties of Biryani and pulaos [ both veg & non veg]

The region is also filled with tea and spice plantations which is why we find all dishes laced with cardomom or cinnamon.  Therefore when I heard about the Coorgi festival at Club House restaurant in Taj Club House, Mount Road, Chennai, I was quite excited and eager. This is a cuisine that is yet to find a place in Chennai and so with all my memories and stories I had heard from friends, the curiousity levels were quite high. 

Chef Naresh has put together a simple yet intriguing menu based on Coorg cuisine and he hails from their Hotel in Coorg. The dishes ranged from Akki Ooti to Pandi Curry and Cardomom Custard as well. It had quite a few Non veg dishes, but I was happy to note that us Veggies were not left out. 

The meal opened with two starters - one was Kummu Barthad [chilli spiced Mushroom, lightly dusted with flour & fried] and the other was Kari Bale Cutlet  [Raw banana patties]. I loved the mushroom but the raw banana one was also good, the chutneys that accompanied these were amazing [one had a strong sesame kind of flavour while the other seemed to be made with ginger]. And then came the Kummu soup [Classic mushroom soup from Coorg], it was thick, it had coconut paste & curry leaves, and was tad spicy [very different from the other Mushroom soups I have had].. 

During the course of the dinner, we learnt more insights about Coorg way of life and food, how each family has their own version of making a dish [ very alike the rest of the world]. 

For the main course, there was Akki Ooti, Kadambuttu, a kind of simple Puttu and Tarkari Pulao[ veg pulao] that was served with 2 veg side dishes- Molai Kuru [mixed sprouts curry] and another made with Spinach which was really yumm.  The non veggies got to try the Pandi curry[pork gravy] and Koli curry[ chicken cooked with spices]. I quite liked the Akki ooti and the spinach the best, probably because I have eaten Akki ooti quite a few times before [in Coorg and at an aunt's house]. 

Just when we were talking about food, the conversation drifted towards Desserts and before we were done, a portion of Cardomom Custard [it was Caramel custard but with a good sprinkle of cardomom on top] served with traditional sauce. And then came the Akki payasam [ rice payasam] that i enjoyed as it was hot and low on sweet quotient.  Oh and how can I not mention the interesting drink we all tried- it was warm, filled with spices and just sinfully light.. 

This festival is on at Taj Club House till the 28th September. So, all of you who have never tried Coorgi food or knew what this cuisine was all about, go for it... 

Lunch and Dinner |A la Carte | INR 2000 onwards per couple

No. 2,Club House Road, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600002
For more details and reservations contact +91 44 6631 3131

Disclaimer: The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember these were just my views!! Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit :-)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Spice29-Dewberry, Chennai

You are driving down Cathedral road, looking for a place to grab a bite at, wondering what your options are and you see that little board just ahead of Van Heusen showroom on the left and decide to pull into the road. And what do you know, tucked away inside that Rajasekaran Street is where you find Spice 29/Dewberry's. You might miss it but remember to watch out for that large black gate and the smart board on top. 

As you walk in, you find a long path lined with canopies and seating on the side and the small cozy air-conditioned area at the end of the corridor. The decor is simple, clean and neat, black and white walls with splashes of colour from the paintings. the tables are all lined up to make the most of the space and you are welcomed by a bright red, black and white menu.

The menu has three sections: continental, Indian and snacks, for those in-between meal cravings. To open the meal, I tried the mushroom cappuccino that was served in a coffee mug with a slice of crostini with a dollop of butter and a single basil on top. I loved the soup, it was earthy, rich and creamy.  The crostini was crisp and fresh. Since most at the table were non vegetarians, I had to wait a tad longer for the veg dishes, but boy the wait was worth it. The starters came one by one, the first was the absolutely delicious broccoli served with the traditional green chutney. I couldnt get enough of it, it was soft yet had a bite, it was sinfully amazing.. And then came the Paneer tikka which was good [ I shall not go on about it as paneer isnt really among my favorite items these days, but for those who love paneer, I say go for it!]. After a breather, I was served a plate of crispy friend Onions with a healthy swirl of cheese sauce on top along with few crispy curry leaves. It was fresh, oil free and had a good bite to it [who can say no to onion pakoda]

The non veggies had their share of fish, chicken cooked many ways to dig into. It was time for me to move on to the main dishes. I opted to try Appam and Veg stew, the appam was lovely [had a slight sweetness to it and was soft and fluffy], only quip was it stuck to the plate and tore as we pulled it off. Guess the staff had placed it right off the pan.  I was full and all I wanted to do was check out their desserts, but then giving into the public demand, we tried their naan and daal makhani, both of which were good, but I felt the Daal was a tad spicy.  

Yayy, finally it was dessert time and I got to try their Elaneer payasam, which had pieces of tender coconut in them. 

Overall the food here is good, perfect for someone looking for good Indian dishes. They have quite a range of beverages as well to choose from. The place also has free wi-fi as well, and is perfect for a casual meet or a serious lunch as well.


Dewberry's Spice 29: 6/29 Rajasekaran Street, 
Chennai- 4
Meal For Two: Approx Rs1000
Timings: From 12.30 pm to 11 pm 

The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember these were just my views!! Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  :-)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Basil with a Twist

The gang had decided to visit this restaurant together and then one by one did a visit on their own, and then there were 2 of us left. One evening last evening, a friend suggested I join her & family for dinner. I did not have any plans, knew her husband and daughter, so agreed. I kept waiting for her to pop a name [one of the places I knew she loved] which is when she surprised me by asking if I wanna check out "Basil with a twist".... [silent yay went off in my head and I wondered about the lone friend who was yet to visit the place... but what the heck!!.. lol] 

After giving friend's husband directions to the place, we hopped out and made our way inside. We found a table near the open kitchen, and within minutes a tall guy walked up to our table and introduced himself as 'Hello, my name is Bogdan Maksimovic, I'm from Serbia and I welcome you to my restaurant. We believe in cooking food from the heart, with simple spices and hope you enjoy the food and have a good evening'. I then noticed there were two other White men in the kitchen. The place has three Serb men manning it- Bogdan (who coowned it with Ms.Bhagheerathi) and then there were the two chefs, Chef Jovan and Chef Goran. 

During the brief chat with Bogdan, I learnt that he has been around in India for a while and has travelled quite extensively. He has also worked as a consultant to a large food company up in the North and knew quite a bit of Hindi and some Tamil as well. And his English was impeccable! 

Getting down to business, we skimmed through the menu to see what the place offered. Steering away from the traditional ‘European’ food  [Italian and French], this kitchen was all set to introduce us to the world of food from the Balkans region and the Adriatic Sea. I had no idea about these regions and so was quite curious. But what sets them apart is what their name is about, adding a quirky twist to the dishes. 

We went ahead and ordered the roasted pumpkin soup which was thick, creamy and divine, packed with flavours. I have always been a fan of pumpkin and my friend was someone who dint like the veggie much [ unless it was hidden among other veggies] but both of us loved it. Following this, we went straight for the main course and ordered a Pasta in Mushroom sauce, while friend's husband chose a Beef dish that sat on a bed of tartare sauce and side of  a big portion of mash potatoes. The pasta was divine, there was a small drizzle of balsamic vinegar on the side and friend's daughter just dug straight into it [ she loves sour tangy flavours and so enjoyed the balsamic, to a point where she dunked the pasta and mashed potato in the sauce and happily went at it] :)

We were enjoying the food, the gentle lights and could not get over how smooth the kitchen seem to be functioning. There was no yelling, no shouting, infact we barely saw any exchange of words in the kitchen... The dishes were made seamlessly, sent to the pass where the fresh cherry tomatoes and generous grate of cheese was added to our pasta [ we could see the process]

Just as we cleaned the plates clean, we unanimously decided to order the Blueberry cheesecake [ friend requested for the blueberry coulie to be served on the side], it was a no bake cheesecake and texture and flavour was quite different [smoother and subtle], but yumm nevertheless. 

The bill was around Rs1400 if I remember right... The portions are good and flavours just rock your senses. I know for a fact that Basil with a twist joins the league of my favorite restaurants! 

Basil with a Twist
 # 58 A, Habibullah Road, 
T. Nagar, Chennai. 
Landmark: Bang opp SGS Wedding Hall [on the road next to Vidyodaya School]
Phone: 044 4261 3613

The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember these were just my views!! Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  :-)

Friday, September 5, 2014

L'amandier revisited...

It was my Birthday and was planning lunch with the girls, and let them pick a place, which they did without thinking twice- L’amandier. It has become our regular jaunt for coffee and a bite, and so I was ok with the pick. 

By the time I made it, those two were already there warming the seats. They had also gone ahead and ordered a starter – mixed platter of Bruschetta [one had tomato & cheese topping while the other had spinach & mushrooms] and D had ordered a pasta for herself. After a quick Hi hello, me happily receiving the gifts, we decided to order few more dishes as we were ravenous. Wanting to try something new, I chose the Polenta cakes with Mushroom sauce and ratatouille while R chose the Lasagna. Both the dishes were yummy, infact we quite loved the polenta cake more than we thought we would. I loved the creamy mushroom sauce and the tangy ratatouille. 


The Lasagna on the other hand was good as well; it had a dollop of fresh pesto on top and was served with crisp bread slices. And for dessert, the Eggless walnut brownie was chosen, which came with a dollop of Ice cream. The brownie was alright, a surprise was when friend bit into a piece of walnut shell...

The meal worked out to Rs1400 or so, value for money indeed… This place continues to remain among my favorite restaurants in the city!  I just wish they notched up their service a bit... 

#57, Chamiers Road, RA Puram, 
Landmark: Right next to Cream Center 
Ph: 044 42827882

Gourmet week at The Flying Elephant, Park Hyatt, Chennai

It was like the Heavens knew I was off for a special evening. It started to pour the minute I walked out of home all the way till I ran into the Lobby at Park Hyatt. I was there to experience the Timescity gourmet week menu at The Flying Elephant. About a week ago was when I was here for a lunch at The Dining room, where I quite enjoyed the food. And so, I was quite looking forward to exploring the dishes at The Flying Elephant. 

Spread across not one or two, but seven levels, it is probably one of a kind in the city of Chennai.  I was told that The Flying Elephant has been designed by the renowned international designer George Wong and features five live kitchens across Indian, Teppan, Turkish, Western & Southeast Asian as well. The cuisines served here spanned across the Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, North Indian, Italian & Western cuisine.It was quite amazing just listening to these tales about the place, and what is more, customers can order from any of the live kitchens [irrespective of where you were seated] 

I was shown to a table on the 1st floor, the walls had beautiful oriental red wallpaper with a bit of shimmer in them. I also noticed a few funky wigs and four blocks that had #WTFS on them. I gave into my curiosity and enquired what it stood for, well what do you know- it stood for "Where the fun Starts" and all the staff wore a pin on their shirts that was colorful and had the hashtag on it. Cool concept! 

Alright, it was time to get down to business. The menu is a Times Gourmet Week special menu, resembling a set menu that comprised of soup, salad/starter, main and dessert which was served along with soft drinks for the price of Rs2000 per pax [excl tax]. 

Since am a vegetarian and my friend was a non veg, it worked out perfect. The soup I got was Cauliflower Soup served alongside a crispy crostini topped with some blue cheese. The soup was beautiful, it sang in my mouth and the flavours were clean. I also loved the strong pungent taste of that blue cheese. Friend enjoyed his non veg soup- a version of Tom Yum soup with prawns in it [ it was spicy but looked like he loved it]. 

The music was perfect, I could hear Michael Jackson., Roxette and all the others from the 80s wafting in the air keeping us company. And the place was fairly quiet, no screaming, not noise, it was like a well oiled machine. And while our starters were making their way to the table, I noticed the staff suddenly stop and start dancing to Gangnam style. :-) 

For starters, I got the cold Mezze platter [crispy pita bread with a variety of dips] while my friend got seared Tuna on a bed of Raw papaya salad[ the salad was sinful, spicy, tangy, sweet and heavenly]. While waiting for the main course to arrive, I noticed a small private dining area in the floor above ours, like a circular room.  Each floor had a different decor, seating and lighting. It was quite unique! Right next to our table was the rustic wooden elevator,with black panels and thick doors. 

I looked at my watch and noticed it was 10ish, and I could still hear the pitter patter of rain outside the window as the staff served us the main dishes. Mine was Asparagus risotto and friend got Lamb dish. The risotto was good, but was cold and so the rice had become tad chewy [ it also felt a little undercooked], but
nevertheless I polished my plate clean. 

My phone had begun ringing with cousins and friends calling to wish me "happy birthday" and as if on cue, the desserts arrived. There was the Flying Elephant signature Chocolate cake, a small shot of cold chocolate and the Strawberry Romanof in a tall glass. Surprisingly, the lights were turned off and the place became dark in minutes. We wound up and made our way down the stairs already dreaming of a repeat visit, if only to explore the various levels. 

This fest is on till 7th September!! Do check it out, experience The Flying Elephant in all its glory! 

Timing: Only for Dinner : 7:00pm - 11:00pm
39 Velachery Road,
Near Raj Bhavan,
Chennai 600 032
Tel: +91 44 7177 1234 | Fax: +91 44 7177 1235

For reservations, call 044 71771234....