Friday, March 27, 2015

Tripping on coffee in Melbourne

For a South Indian who's grown up on a staple diet of filter coffee ('kapi' for those in the mood to nitpick), it's difficult to shake me from my preference for how it's made the traditional way. I can't stand the instant variety and my biggest peeve (come to think of it, probably my only peeve) about travelling is not getting my morning cuppa. But that's not to say I won't taste any other kind. In fact, I am quite enthusiastic about tasting and have even come to relish a few, though for sheer comfort, it's always the filter coffee. But I digress. So on a cloudy, slightly nippy Saturday morning, I went on a coffee tour in Melbourne with Maria Paoli of Evolving Success, gazing at quirky and unusual cafes, and came away fascinated and impressed. Not to mention of course that I was so loaded up on caffeine, I could bounce around for a whole week. Oh well...

Padre Coffee which leads Melbourne's new wave coffee movement and their beautifully creamy, rich and invigorating coffee below.

The Hardware Societe, a yuppie hangout where the queue usually goes round the block, especially during weekends.

Krimper, (above) located in a warehouse kind of place banked on the place's history as a cabinet factory, was utterly cool and their 10 hour cold drip brew (below) served with a large blob of ice had the finesse of vintage liquor.

I got a glimpse of the cold brew process at the quirky Little Mule Cafe.

It was also quite a surprise to stumble across a cafe called Brother Baba Budan; the lush, green slopes of Bababudangiri and Chickmagalur came to mind.

But the most endearing experience was a day later at Heronswood Garden, just outside Melbourne, where the coffee was nice and rich, served in a set of bright mismatched cup and saucer and came with that most English of things - fluffy scones with clotted cream and blueberry jam. This is the stuff of complete bliss!

Friday, September 19, 2014

High on food at The Fatty Bao

One of the most funky places to open in Bangalore in recent times, The Fatty Bao epitomises the city in a way. My review in the September issue of India Today Travel Plus. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Four days of food and wine revelry in Noosa

Courtesy: Tourism and Events Queensland 
Any Masterchef Australia fan will tell you one of the most enduring images from the series has been the incredible and fantastic creations of the endearing Adriano Zumbo. So one of the first things that caught my eye was the chef list at the 11th Noosa International Food and Wine Festival this year (May 15-18) where Zumbo along with the suave Neil Perry will be the stars among an equally long list of acclaimed chefs.

Courtesy: Tourism and Events Queensland 
 For four days, this little resort and beach town North of Brisbane will be the cynosure of all eyes, or at least those who have a thing for their food and wine. Charming and pretty, Noosa can easily pass for one of those picture-postcard scenes, but it has much more going for it. Over the last decade it has gathered the most discerning gourmet and gourmand and evolved into the Sunshine Coast’s food capital with fantastic restaurants. 
Courtesy: Tourism and Events Queensland 
At the helm of this reputation is the four-day festival, where over 250 chefs, producers and winemakers will gather. What makes this festival a bit different is the fact that music and entertainment is an integral part and renowned entertainers also form an important part of the line-up for the festival. So much so that the festival will open with Foodie Fandango, the opening concert where food will be served to the accompaniment of music performed by the inimitable Queensland Virtuosi Orchestra. From there, it is one whirlwind of delectable food, wine and mind-blowing entertainment. 

Visitors can choose to pack their days with a number of things such as river and hinterland food trails which include such eclectic items as strawberries, cheese and even nougat, lifestyle lunches, riverside high-teas, picnics and wine masterclasses among other things.

For a break in the festival, visitors can also choose to head out to the scenic mountain villages of Montville and Maleny, colourful markets or stretch out on one of the many beaches and let the sun and sea work their magic. It’s a combo that is potent and alluring and I can hardly wait for it to get underway. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dining with the ghosts of Bach, Mendelssohn and Goethe
Leipzig in Germany's Saxony is both trendy and rich in history, especially the musical kind. Underneath one of the trendiest shopping areas is a huge basement restaurant, Auerbach's Keller, which has been in existence in some form for over 400 years and was once a watering hole frequented by musical geniuses Bach, Mendelssohn, Wagner and where Goethe was inspired to create Faustus. All about it in the November issue of India Today Travel Plus. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Getting high on Japanese food and whisky
Two hours, four courses of delectable Japanese food, whisky cocktails and smooth whiskys at the elegantly simple Edo in ITC Gardenia.  What’s not to like about that? 

Chilean sea bass 

Whimsically titled Japan Debate on a Plate, diners are offered two sets of menus – a traditional set by resident masterchef Sensei Kikuta San and a contemporary take on Japanese food by Masterchef Vikramjit Roy from Pan Asian, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai.
Both menus have veg and non-veg options for each course. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to stick to one menu for the entire meal but can switch back and forth between the courses. And then there’s the pairing of Johnnie Walker whisky with each course. Priced at Rs 4000 plus taxes the feast is on till Sunday for dinner. 

Salmon with melon confit - science experiment?
Sashimi and nigiri sushi
The presentation is elegant, whimsical and even a bit overwhelming at times, like the salmon with confit melon with miso cheese, bubuarare and corn mash. Mouthful as that sounds, it came to the table in a long, narrow plate like a science experiement complete with ink-dropper. Or the edamame soup which burst on the tongue with its accompaniment of truffle foam. A slew of sashimi and nigiri sushi lay on a thick bed of ice crystals, with fresh and clean flavours. Simple and elegant, black cod with sweet miso was endearing with its flavours while the Chilean sea bass did the same with its complexity.

 The cocktails

Accompanying these were a seaweed based cocktail that was mild, but a melon-coloured one was deliciously deceptive as the wasabi it was laced with left a spicy high in aftermath. Among the others, the Platinum was so smooth, I could understand why its fans go in raptures. 

Both desserts, Johnnie Walker XR 21 poached pear and dora yaki with matcha ice cream, were good but a surprise platter of ice cream and 60 per cent single origin chocolate brought about a sinfully indulgent end to the meal.       

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

After a long, long hiatus, this blog is trying to take on a new life. I have tasted so many different things in so many different places and it seems tragic that only a minuscule part of it gets into print. So this effort is to not only to put what's printed out there but also to write about the many little and large experiences.

Pigging out in Spain 

Restaurant Duque in Segovia (left) and its famous dish

There was hushed silence in the room. Very few things can induce such perfect silence amongst a dozen,
normally boisterous diners, but before them was one of such few things. A bit to the side was a smaller table and this is what held the diners in thrall. On it sat a roasted suckling pig in a large platter. That alone should not have been much of a spectacle, since it is a common enough dish in Spain, but this was in Segovia, at the Restaurante Duque, a restaurant founded in 1895, which adhered to certain traditions that ruled the carving of the pig. And hence the silence. Armed with a prettily decorated ceramic dinner plate, the Chef stood for a moment and then expertly used the plate as a carving instrument, strategically thrusting it into the pig and cutting it into segments. But that was not all: once done, he flung the plate onto the floor where it shattered into tiny pieces. “And that is how it is done in Segovia,” he said with a flourish.

Blood sausage with fava beans


I stood mesmerised by the drama and theatrics that went with what would have otherwise been just roast pork.I thought I would be queasy, but the panache, elegance and flair with which it was done put me more in the mind of an artist than anything else. Moreover, having just seen Segovia’s biggest attractions – the imposing Roman Aquaduct and the Alcazar, which became the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle and subsequently the company’s logo, I was not sure which was more fascinating. Not such a great pork fan myself, I preferred the other famous dish of the region, roast lamb, served in large ceramic shallow bowl, the tender meat accompanied by a fragrant gravy.

    Drinking wine, porron-style       

Earlier, I had tasted some of the unique sausages of the region, jamon, accompanied by red wine drunk in a unique vessel called porron, a cross between a jug and a watering can, which is shared among all those around the table. It made for an interesting exercise, with lots of hits and many more misses. For safety, we were advised to tuck table napkins tucked into the collars, to avoid the spectacle to having to explain the deep red stains down the shirt front. At the end of it, I came away with another culinary experience that promised to stay for long. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ummm....molecular gastronomy in Sydney!

Foie gras

This has been a long time coming. But the experience was too great to pass up. It’s the beautiful Four Seasons hotel in Sydney overlooking the lovely Sydney Harbour bridge and the stunning pearly white Opera House. And the restaurant is Kables, their signature restaurant. It was my first introduction to ‘molecular gastronomy.’ For me molecular gastronomy conjured up images of Anthony Bourdain’s show ‘No Reservations’ and it was an episode, I think, on Ferran Adria (of El Bulli fame) and carrot foam. (His famous words: “For the first time in my life, I am inhaling my food,” or something to that effect, but I chortled). Back to Kables. The meal lasted more than three hours. Course after course (don’t ask me what they were: each was so good to look at and to eat, and I was going ‘Ummm’ to many times that I promptly forgot their names) arrived at the table, was admired and quickly imbibed.


But some things really stick out in memory. Like the pasta made of chicken stock, champagne sorbet and light as rain foie gras. I can go ‘ummmm’ all over again. I can’t remember dessert, but the pre-dessert thingy sticks out: served on a little ceramic tile, it looked like a perfect bulls’ eye, but was in fact a clever assemblage of beaten yogurt and mango pulp. Oh yes, ummm.


But the highlight: the chef coming over to the table and demonstrating cooking with liquid nitrogen – it turned bread pieces crumbly, and they just melted on the tongue. The things chefs do !!
Cooking with liquid nitrogen !