Onam Sadya at ITC Gardenia

Onam, Kerala’s harvest festival is a ten day long celebration and also marks the start of the new year for Hindu Malayalis, and is usually celebrated by all the people from the state. The grand feast, that is prepared on the final day of Onam, called Thiruonam, is Onasadya. The Onasadya is an integral part of the celebrations, an elaborate meal served on a banana leaf, with certain specific dishes and sides, from salt to sweet, and numbering at least nine to even fifteen or more dishes. From banana chips and a banana (pazham), to puli inji (sweet and sour pickle side), pacchadi (a version of raita) and paripu (dal), with a host of delicious vegetarian dishes, some gravy, some dry, an Onam Sadya meal is a real treat.

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Over the last couple years I have been lucky enough to be part of a close friend’s annual Onam potluck celebrations. This year, I was also invited to an exclusive preview of ITC Hotel’s Onasadya, which is being served in Bangalore at ITC Gardenia’s Cubbon Pavilion restaurant. This special #GrandOnamCelebrations Onasadya will be available across India, at ITC properties, for lunch, on Monday September 4th, which is the day Onam falls on this year. The feast will be served as a Thali, priced at INR 1550 plus taxes. On Sunday the 3rd, some of these Sadya dishes will be a part of the ITC Pavilion restaurants’ daytime Sunday buffet spread.

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Expect the decorations and festivities to be on from Sunday, providing diners with a chance to try some traditional Kerala vegetarian fare, including Olan (ash gourd and red beans in coconut milk); Thoran (a dry prep with coconut, this version is with beetroot); Avial (thick gravy of Kerala veggies); and my personal favorite, Erissery (pumpkin and red beans in a coconut gravy). Kerala red rice, Kerala Sambar, and Moru curry, (a tempered yogurt based thin gravy that has mustard and curry leaf and is quite tangy), are other dishes you’ll be served as part of the feast. The meal will end with traditional desserts that are part of a Sadya – a variety of payasams. In this case, enjoy Elaneer Payasam (tender coconut dessert that is light and delicious), and Adai Pradaman (a thick prep of rice, jaggery and coconut milk.

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Enjoy Regional Specialties of Thai Cuisine at Siam Trading Company

My introduction to Thai food was as a teenager, and over the years, it has grown to become one of my most favored cuisines, helped in no small part by having a Thai roommate and best friend for four years of college, during which we ate at Thai restaurants and I also got to enjoy home cooking and goodies from Thailand, which she brought back every fall. During my time on the west coast, I had about half a dozen Thai restaurants within a few miles of my place, and would pick which of them to eat at, depending on whether I was in the mood for Larb, Pad Thai, a Thai curry, or a Thai basil stir fry. Fast forward a decade, and I found myself back in the homeland, and made my first of many trips to Bangkok to visit the friend and her family, and got introduced to even more of the cuisine!

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Bangalore has some restaurants that serve good Thai food, many of which have Thai dishes amongst a Pan-Asian selection. But a place dedicated to Thai food, with an owner-Chef at the helm who has traveled extensively across Thailand, and brought back memories, recipes, and techniques – well, that’s definitely a treat, as a recent meal at Siam Trading Company proved! Chef Thashvin Muckatira (Holy Cow Hospitality) has his finger in many pies, but Siam is, I would say, the cherry on top. A curated meal (by Ruth of Bangalore’s Restaurants) that led a select group of bloggers and foodies through specialties from Thailand, is one that we will continue to savor and talk about for some time. This was a meal for non-vegetarians, though the restaurant has enough to keep veg diners happy too.

We began the proceedings with Grey Goose cocktails, and I found the Grey Goose Le Fizz to be my favorite, and that was my accompaniment for the meal. A Som Tum salad live counter had us grabbing plates of the tangy green papaya salad with shrimp as we waited to sit down to lunch. The first course was Beef and Rambutan Soup, and Chilled Mushroom & Young Coconut Soup, both of which were flavorful and fragrant delights. Carambola & Prawn Salad, featuring starfruit and grilled prawn in a spicy and sour dressing was next, and I doubt you’ll see this on any other menu in town. Then came Basil Prawns served with peanut sauce and Pandan wrapped Chicken, with banana leaf substituting for the difficult to source Pandan. Didn’t in any way harm the flavor, and both dishes were polished off in no time.

Things were beginning to get more exciting, with Steamed Lotus Stem garnished with whole cloves of garlic and Chinese wine, as well as a fabulous Sour Beef which had been fermented in-house, making an appearance. Spicy, sour, and again with garlic cloves, this one was hard to stop eating! Homemade pork sausage was something I was looking forward to, having eaten this Northeastern Thai prep (known as Naem) for breakfast and in fried rice and even carting back a couple pounds of it on one of my trips…this version, while nice, especially given its rarity, did not have the tang and spice blast I was expecting. But the fact that Chef is curing and prepping it right in the kitchen is quite something!

Crispy Fish with Mango Salad was next, and the delicate raw mango and talapia flavors were balanced so well. The next dish had the distinction of shutting us all up, and also had us asking for seconds: Grilled Pork Neck with a spicy lime dressing. Already quite full, we still made space for the Dry Noodles with Pork and Prawns (I loved this dish and the pork fat infused flavors with the shiitake mushrooms and greens adding dimension) and the Chiang Mai Chicken Curry and Sticky Rice (also known as Burmese curry, this one was heavy on the spices and a perfect main course). The meal ended with two popular Thai desserts – Sticky Rice with Mango and Rubies (Tum Tim Krob in Thai) which is water chestnuts in sweetened coconut milk. Unfortunately, neither of the desserts lived up to past experience or the expectation based on the rest of the meal. But desserts aside, this was a spectacular meal of epic proportions and made me yearn for another trip to Thailand!

The Buns and Sours Pop-Up

The Apple catchphrase ‘there’s an app for that’ popped into my mind when I realized that these days, there’s a day for everything. You know, not just the biggies like father’s day or teacher’s day, now there’s a day for sports journalists, and hopping on the bandwagon, are days for food – and as a food writer, how can I not celebrate food days, I ask you?! Did you know, yesterday was Whiskey Sour Day, and tomorrow is Burger Day? Neither did I! But the folks over at The Hilton, EGL, decided to combine the two and create a special buns and sours menu for a three day pop-up at their Salt Grill restaurant.

Available the 25th to 27th of August, I checked out the preview a couple days ago, and came away very happy. For one, the price point is great – the burgers are INR 799 plus taxes, and the Whiskey Sours are INR 599 plus taxes. My suggestion is to go for the combo, which gives you one of each of your choice (there are 5 sours and 5 burgers on the menu) for INR 999 plus taxes. The Whiskey Sours range from The Classic, made with Jim Beam, egg white, sweet and sour, to country-inspired, like the spice-infused, Paul John Bold concoction, Made in India and the Irish Cider featuring Irish Whiskey, Peach Schnapps, Angostura Bitters, and sweet and sour (my fav. from this menu). My second fav. from the lot was the Tuscan Smash, which had JD, Sangiovese, sweet and sour and grape mist.

I was delighted to find two red meat (buffalo) burgers on offer – the Panko Crumbed Verde Burger with the patty, blue cheese, onion jam, streaky bacon, Verde sauce, served betwixt a ciabatta bun, alongside the Thai Cobb Burger, which had avocado, caramelized onion, peanut sauce in a multi-grain bun. For people like me who want their burger to not be chicken or lamb or fish, finding not one, but two of these beauties was a great thing, especially since they also turned out to be the best of the five on offer! For the vegetarians, there is a Tofu Teriyaki Burger, and they will do a veg patty on request as well. The chicken option was the Black Burger, served – you guessed it – in a black sesame bun, with Cajun spiced chicken, roasted peppers, Glenlevit and fig marmalade. This was my second fav. of the evening. My fellow blogger loved the Tempura Fillet Fish Burger. There were three kinds of fries that came as accompaniments, as well. Oh, and the mustard and ketchup were in those little glass jars/bottles, in individual servings.

We rounded out the meal with the soon to be launched new menu’s decadent desserts, which I will have to go back for separately, to be able to do proper justice to, as well as petit-fours. Kudos to Chef Deb, who’s new in town, for this lovely little pop-up. It’s only on until tomorrow night, so do head over and enjoy the food, drink, and ambience of The Salt Grill’s outdoor setting. And a quick note, some of the pics are of the tasting portion sized burgers, since we were eating ’em all.

A splendid feast awaits: The Bohri Shahi Dawat at ITC Gardenia

Biryani and kebabs make for a splendid meal – of this there is no doubt. Each city/town has its own version of these dishes, and within the Muslim community, there are variations based on sect and state. Growing up, it was the Hyderabadi style of cooking that I was most familiar with. And I also got to try the goodies in the lunchboxes of two Bohra classmates, whose lunches, truth be told, were the most interesting amongst the group. From Khichida (which I called a white haleem in my head) to kebabs and always some sweet as well, and later attending a couple of events at their homes and experiencing the community style of eating for the first time – these then are my memories of Bohra food. Thus, when an invite popped into my mailbox, proclaiming an upcoming Bohri Shahi Dawat food festival at ITC Gardenia’s Cubbon Pavilion, I knew there was only one answer – yes! That the festival coincides with the closing week of Ramazan and the Eid celebration was an added bonus. And you too can enjoy the feast, which is available for dinner until the 2nd of July as part of their Kitchens of India – Unique Tastes initiative.

The Bohri Shahi Dawat at Cubbon Pavilion, ITC Gardenia

Young Chef Zohair, a Bohra from Mumbai (the community is predominantly from Gujarat, and with roots in Yemen and a touch of Mughal influence), curated and created every dish and detail for the festival, wanting to share his heritage and culture with diners, down to the Thaal – the giant plate that serves as the focal point of the meal, with the family sitting around it and then all partaking of the various courses off it. He had even sourced from his home town, the Chemlachi Lota – silver jug – that holds water that is used to wash hands before the meal. Tradition dictates that the youngest member of the family offers salt to every diner, since the meal is supposed to begin with a pinch of salt. Then it is time to dig into the successive courses, which will alternate between sweet (Mithaas) and savory (Khaaras). And Chef assured us that this is how they eat at home, every single day, with a multiple course sweet and savory menu! Since community style eating would present a logistical challenge, for the purposes of the festival, we were served individual “mini” thaals. Mini cause they were regular plates, not because there was any less to eat, I should add!

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We were offered two drinks, one sweet, one savory here too – a sweet tender coconut one (Coconut Malai with Elaichi) and Gol Paani with Sabja seeds, which featured lemon, tulsi and basil seeds and hit the spot with a nice tangy flavor. It is traditional to begin with dates in some form – Kharek was what we go that day – Dates soaked in rose syrup and stuffed with Khoya, pistachios and almonds. And then the real feasting started! And as there was a vegetarian at the table, we learned that there is an extensive range of vegetarian delicacies prepared in Bohra cooking, and a quick taste assured us that this was indeed the case! Our non-veg starters included divine Kheema Samosas – crisp, thin, fried casing encasing hand-pounded mutton mince, Kheema Pattice – mince stuffed potatoes, Chicken Cream Tikka – chicken nuggets with cream that make for the perfect comfort food on a cold evening. For the vegetarians the Nariyal Kebab (potato encasing coconut), and Dal Na Samosa, a lentil samosa would leave them happy. Before the mains, the Mango Malai was common to both thalis, and kept up the one sweet-one savory tradition.

And now it was time for the main course. For vegetarians, there was Patrel Soya nu Tarkari made with Cocoyam leaves; the non-veg version, Patrel Gosht combined mutton and the leaves. There was a Bohri Dal that used 5 lentils to great effect, and a rich Ghaker Roti which was layers of flaky pastry and ghee and didn’t need any accompaniment, though it was perfect to dip into the Kaari Chicken – a cashew gravy and gorgeous spice combination made this the dish of the night! No meal of this sort would be complete without biryani – and the Bohra Gosht Biryani (with mutton and potatoes and deep fried onions) served with a delectable Bhuna Baingan Raita, was stellar. This was one of those times when I rued not having more space – the Kaari Chicken and biryani should be savored in large quantities! Now of course the meal had to end on a sweet note, and obviously, given the season, Sheer Khurma was a must – and with the charonji and other nuts, it transported me back to Eids of childhood! For those who would enjoy ending the meal with paan, the Bohri Paan Goli is a sort of deconstructed paan ball rolled with dessicated coconut. All in all decadence and a rare glimpse into a food culture that is not easy to find locally…

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Stomping & Sipping Sunday Scenes

A self-confessed Sunday bruncher, I am. Food, drink, merriment, leisurely pace – all the good things in life. And when one has worked hard through the week, there is a justifiable feeling of needing to take it easy and indulge a little, come Sunday. And what can make a Sunday brunch even nicer? How about flowing bubbly (pink and white) and a li’l grape stomping, as well as a live band playing Latin tunes and knocking it out of the park? This then, was the scene this past Sunday at Sheraton Grand Bangalore, with a spread that encompassed both, Bene and Persian Terrace, the hotel’s signature Italian and Persian restaurants. The weather too, is just right for al fresco dining and getting into a tub of grapes to squish them into submission – err, liquid, I mean.

IMG_20170611_140315IMG_20170611_135043The afternoon’s wine partner was Grover Zampa Vineyards, and featured both their sparkling wines, Zampa Soiree Brut Rosé and Zampa Soiree Brut. Light, crisp, dry and everything I desire for an afternoon of feasting and relaxation. The unanimous verdict from the group was that we preferred the Italian offerings to the Persian ones – a range of spicy kebabs and grills from the latter were nice, but it was, perhaps not surprisingly, the pasta, pizza, antipasti, breads and desserts from Bene that won our favor. A surprise visit from popular RJ, Nathan, who cracked jokes and made balloon animals and crowns and swords and shields and what not for kids and grownups alike, started the afternoon off nicely, with laughs and silliness.

IMG_20170611_140352IMG_20170611_140418Cold salads, seafood, cured meats, a delectable selection of fresh baked breads, and a pasta station where you had a choice of sauces, toppings, and pastas, tossed fresh and hot, were the order of the day. I tried a ravioli in white sauce that had a gorgonzola cheese filling and was delicious! A rustic specialty pasta called Cavatelli was also being prepared that day. Having gorged on the breads (especially that fantastic Focaccia!) and antipasti, I did little more than nibble on mains, and then headed for the table groaning under the weight of desserts. Gateaux, puddings, cream puffs, tarts, mousses, and more greeted me. There was also a Double Espresso ice cream that had a strong hit of coffee and was quite popular. For me, though, the dessert of the day was the cream puffs – airy and light, with a lightly flavored (caramel, hazelnut?) center as well as a generous whipped cream topping. I ate decidedly more of these than I should have, but then hey, what else is Sunday brunch for, if not a good reason to indulge!

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While this event was a one-off (and a good value at INR 2000 all-inclusive), Bene does have a Sunday brunch usually, named Grandmother’s Table, by Chef Giuseppe Lioce, Italian Head Chef for the hotel. All in all a lovely afternoon of stomping, chomping, and imbibing, and we ended by heading over to the props table and taking a bunch of photos with hats, masks, and more.

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Going Classic with coffee ‘o’ clock: A Tasting Session with Classic Coffee

Craft and artisanal coffees are all the rage these days, and a little exploration of the coffee expressions and variants available in India today show an expansion of the country’s coffee culture. South India, long the bastion of “filter kappi” and strong, dark brews, is now home to a wide range, and a growing appreciation of the various expressions of coffee. I am not a coffee drinker, but I am a curious foodie on the trail to new and interesting things related to food and drink, so an invite to a tasting of Classic Coffee’s new Premium Coffee Range that offer brews for different times of the day,  had me in attendance.

The cool coffee’o’clock invitation that was hand delivered suggested I would be in for a treat – and I figured with four craft coffees, created to suit different moods and palates depending on the time of day (morning, afternoon, evening, night), I would likely come across one I’d enjoy too! And indeed, that turned out to be the case – though much to my surprise the coffee that found favor with this non-coffee drinker was the morning brew, Blaze!

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The coffees come from estates owned by Classic in two of Karnataka’s well known coffee plantation areas – Sakleshpur and Chickmagalur, and comprise of both Arabica and Robusta beans. Mr. Purnesh, MD, Classic Coffee, the man who started the brand, took us through a talk on the brand’s premise, history, and offerings, and then we were all presented with a tray of the four coffees from the Premium Range along with tasting notes and little bites that paired with them, including a piece of cheese, dark chocolate, fruit, and cake.

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And because I am no coffee expert, let me leave you with the words from the brand (scroll to the end), so you can decide which coffee will suit your tastes – or you could give them all a try! Available both online and at our favorite grocery stores like Godrej Natures Basket, Westside Gourmet, Namdhari, and Nilgiris, the colorful packaging is sure to catch one’s eye! And it also makes each variant easily recognizable by the colors of the labels and packaging.

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Blaze which is a blend best suited for the morning. This has been blended to create a heavy-bodied brew, intense and malty with a rich mouth feel. Blaze has been crafted to help create the morning kick with a nutty fragrance and pleasantly bitter aftertaste.
Matinee is the afternoon blend in the range. Its tasting notes indicate a mix of spice and sweet citrus acidity with hints of mild berry. This has smooth mouth feel and a light body and has been designed as a perk-me-up brew.
Sundowner is the evening offering of the range; and has been crafted as a blend to be enjoyed with company. It has clean notes with hints of sweet milk chocolate, rich mouth feel, which creates the ideal, mild better, aftertaste to act as precursor to dinner.
Afterhours is a night blend which has been carefully curated to soothe and help one wind down. It is a mellow and flavourful cup which has hints of spice and pleasant citrus to create a smooth body. As with the other three blends are 100% Arabica, Afterhours is blended using Arabica Plantation AA beans.

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Brunch at the New Radisson Blu Atria

We all love Sunday brunch, don’t we? Sunday being, for many, the only day of rest in the week, the idea of waking late, then heading out to a long, leisurely, luscious brunch, has quite an appeal. I’ve always been a Sunday bruncher – it was something my mother instituted at home when I was growing up, and living in the U.S, Sunday brunch for Mother’s Day and the like was a given. Over the last couple of years, almost all the hotels in the city have started serving up Sunday brunches – some extravagant, some elegant, all enjoyable. One of the latest additions to the scene is at the Radisson Blue Atria Bengaluru. The old Atria Hotel has had a facelift and a brand makeover, and now under the Radisson Blu label, has launched a lovely Sunday brunch, which can be enjoyed poolside or indoors in the restaurant’s air conditioned comfort (which is what we opted for on a sweltering May afternoon). Oh, and a dip in the pool is part of the package, so make sure to carry your swimwear!

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The live grills counter and a bar counter were set up outside – it’s an IMFL beverage package at INR 1950 plus taxes, which means you can drink and eat to your heart’s content – now that’s a nice way to spend Sunday afternoon! There was a nice spread, with Indian, Asian, Continental, and Mediterranean offerings across the salads, appetizers, and mains. What we were impressed with was the range of salads, the live grill counter, and the meats. The Papdi Chaat and Pani Puri (I liked the way it was served to the table) went down well – we all being chaat people. There was also Pav counter with both veg and non-veg, and dim sum and tacos, as also a pasta station and kebab corner.

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I always pile my plate with the fancy salads at buffets, and this time was no exception. The Prawn salad with tomato salsa, Pesto rubbed fish  with orange segments, Seared tenderloin salad with wild mushroom, roasted shallots and Dijon mustard, and the Tuscan pork and bean salad were all nice flavor combinations and made a good chilled start to the meal on the hot day. There were the Middle Eastern dips of Baba Ghanoush and Hummus and Tabbouleh salad too – but we couldn’t find pita bread to go with it, and made do with the fresh breads from the bread counter which was quite nice. There were also Oysters served on the half shell, which were dressed with onions, lemon juice, and cilantro, and we went for a couple of rounds of these – fresh, beautiful, and definitely a treat!

From the live grills, we loved the prawns which were large and fresh and simply prepared with a spice rub, letting the shellfish speak for itself. The Olive and Pepper Lamb Chops were also a big hit – perfectly cooked and again, with balanced spicing that did not overwhelm the meat. There was also a Mustard Marinated Fish, and Pesto Chicken. The Barbecue Pork Belly from the carving station was another item we went back for seconds off – the jus, the pork belly with the soft fat and the crackling skin – so good! There was also a selection of fairly typical mains – paneer, fish and chicken curries, biryani, dal makhani and more for those wanting Indian food, and Thai green curry chicken, an Oriental fish prep, veggies, fried rice, and noodles for those wanting Asian.

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Such was the heat of the day that we stuck to beers and fresh juices, but were told they have some nice cocktails – next time! Dessert was not as vast as one sees in buffets, but everything was nicely put together, with around 8 pastries/puddings/mousses, and half a dozen Indian sweets including Kulfi, Sandesh, Ladoo, and Moong dal halwa. There was also ice cream and fresh fruits. I chose to end with the live banana fosters counter – there were various toppings and sauces to choose from and it was a good ending to the meal. Pancakes and waffles were also being made to order. I noticed a kids section with items more in tune to little appetites, like burgers, fries and smileys. All in all, a very pleasant experience at a good price point, and everyone’s sure to find stuff to their liking.

For the Love of Big Brewsky

I have a secret – I’ve developed quite a crush, one that has made me grab every opportunity to be with said crush – to the tune of four visits in one month! I’ve battled cabs and traffic and distance to be close to my new favorite, and indeed, even now am plotting ways to return. And no, this is no human love interest, but a place. Big Brewsky had been on my radar for well over two years now, but its location on Sarjapur Road meant that a trip from Jayanagar just never happened. Until a couple of months ago – and then the spell was cast!

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The space itself is the perfect foundation – the lighting is amazing and I really don’t think there can be a bad picture taken there in the daytime; the Koi Pond with numerous fish swimming about dominates the central part, like an old fashioned home where the courtyard is open to the sky in the center; there is an imposing three storey building where all the eating, drinking and partying happens; a special area set apart and again, off the ground, for a DJ or live band; a garden area which makes for a cozy private party; bars on more than one floor, and just an all-round expansive feeling. Plus it has some well-known and old hands in the F&B industry in charge of the place now – so you’re assured of being in good hands.

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My first visit was by invite, to check out the new menu the brewpub has launched, bringing in Chef Saby Gorai to plan and implement the overhauling. Chef Saby’s fame precedes him – he has restaurants in Pune and Delhi and after having met him a couple times now, it is safe to say his food and his charm are both swoon-worthy! The next trip was for their Sunday brunch, since a dear friend’s band was playing. And then one just-like-that visit happened. And the last one was the epic party they had to celebrate the new menu launch. Details of that evening remain a tad fuzzy, shall we say? 😉

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Sunday brunch, by the way, is an expansive feast set across two floors, including chaats, grills, pizzas, biryani, and with an entire car of desserts (that hacked off teal blue ambassador does serve a purpose!) and there are options for food only, food+beer, and food+cocktails, which makes it a really good deal and a good way to spend your Sunday afternoon – live music, DJ spinning tunes, loads of good food and drink, all in a very convivial atmosphere!

In addition to Saby, who flies in quite often to check on things, they have a brilliant man behind the bar, Karthik Kumar, who is weaving magic with his innovative cocktails, including using Kashmiri Kahwa! Must try that, along with The Great Pretender, which is a potent purple drink featuring tequila, tropical juice, egg white, and a homemade purple syrup that gives it the color; the gin based Pink Orchard; The Yellow Jacket with Bourbon and a turmeric syrup made in-house; and if Karthik has the popsicles in place, then the beer cocktails with a stout or blonde and a corresponding cola or orange popsicle in them are perfect for a hot summer day. My only kvetch is that the beers need some work, and I am looking forward to their pulling their socks up in this respect – the 3-4 beers I tried on my various visits were all kinda blah.

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One thing that really blew our minds was the sushi – better than what is served at some of the city’s Asian restaurants, even, rolled just so, and we couldn’t get enough. The Avocado Maki Roll, Vegetable Black Rice California Roll, Non-Veg California Roll with Salmon Roe and Tuna, and the Tempura Prawn Roll were what we had on that first visit and even though the Sunday brunch doesn’t have so many, if you’re there for it, don’t pass up on whatever sushi is on offer. The Shine Crystal Dumplings, vegetarian, taste as good as they look and are also a great inclusion amongst the Asian fare – delicate translucent wrapping without and crunchy veggies within.

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The Stir Fried Beef Chilli, Iranian Seekh Kebab, and Hot Black Prawns are all quite delish and pair perfectly with a cold one. Then there’s this absolutely brilliant, flavorful African spiced chicken, the name eludes me but its a must order! There are also salads, pizzas, pastas, mains including a bacon wrapped chicken, and more to choose from. If you’re a Risotto and Mushroom fan like moi, then the Black Rice Mushroom Risotto will also make your repeat order list – mushroom pate, truffle essence, parmesan cheese – need I say more?

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Desserts are good too – so if you can find the space, order the Asura’s Devil Chocolate Mud Cake with its rich center and gooey topping of cream cheese frosting, or the Chocolate Fondant, a lava cake with vanilla ice cream accompaniment. It is quite an expansive menu for a brewpub and we as a group had nothing against anything we ate, so there!

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With Karthik Kumar and Saby Gorai

Details: The Big Brewsky, Sarjapur Road. INR 2000 plus taxes for a meal for two, including drinks. Sunday brunch packages start at under 1k a head all inclusive, and go up to INR 1600 (depending on the drinks package).

The Big Fat Mango Harvest at Fatty

A whole month since I posted – oh dear! Time to make amends, and I can’t think of a better way to than writing about The Fatty Bao’s on-going Big Fat Mango Harvest festival, featuring both mango laced cocktails and delicious mango infused food, including, but of course, sushi! The festival menu from Chef Prashanth is on until the 28th of this month, and I am plotting to make it back there so I can have another go at my favorites from the menu. I like but don’t love mango by itself – you won’t find me eating mango after mango during the season. But I do love the flavor of mango and an Asian menu like this, which incorporates both green and ripe mango into dishes and drinks, is right up my street.

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The Sushi was, but of course, the first offering of the afternoon. Mango and Avocado Sushi was a delightful flavor combo and Fatty’s sushi is always perfectly rolled. What came next was a fantastic summery, ceviche-esque Green Mango and Prawn Salad, with green mango and a tender coconut gel acting as the base on which perfectly poached prawns, cilantro and a black sesame brittle were artfully arranged. This was so good that we asked for a second round at the table, knowing full well there was a lot more food to come.

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Pork lovers – the Stir-Fried Pork Tenderloin with mango, chillies, and peppers is a delicious mouthful, particularly with a mango-licious cocktail to wash it down. The Sriracha Glazed Chicken Wings are another great finger (and finger licking good) food that pairs well with a mango cocktail. Of the drinks, the one that I loved was the Smokey Joe, which pairs whiskey, Lapsang souchong tea, and smoked raw mango. The combination of the smoky flavors of the tea and whiskey worked oh so well. The Asian Beet, with gin, mango pulp, beetroot juice and lemongrass was the drink I started the afternoon with, and the other popular ones at our table were the vodka, raw mango, dill leaves, mango syrup and lime concoction named By the Bay, and the Hula Coolah, also vodka based.

IMG_20170513_145436The next dish was another stunner – a tray appeared bearing Thai Mango and Seafood Curry with Jasmine Rice – squid, fish, prawn in a silky coconut gravy and the accompaniments of peanuts, rice crackers, fried onions on the side in little bowls so you can doctor the dish to suit your taste. This is a must order, and pair it with the Smokey Joe for a real party of flavors on the palate! Fatty’s desserts are always art on a plate, and this time was no exception – the two mango desserts were outstanding. Order both the Mango Pannacotta and the Mango and Yuzu Meringue and share with your mates. The latter is served in a scooped out half of a mango’s skin, with a collection of mango bites (someone had fun with the melon baller/scooper in the kitchen!) and some tart raspberry jelly – you’re unlikely to stop until the mango skin is staring back up at you! The rectangle set Pannacotta, with basil seeds, mango, caramel is prettier to look at but my vote goes to the Meringue this time. Fatty’s festival is on for a full week more, so get thee to my favorite of all the mango festivals of the summer 2017 lineup!

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Expanding my horizons – Of a coffee tasting with The Flying Squirrel Coffee

As I get older, it is becoming increasingly important to me that I don’t get stuck in my ways, or too settled. To this end, I try to grab every chance to learn or try something new, and not shy away from things outside my personal comfort zone. Quite bad enough that my hot shower and first cup of black tea have become sacrosanct, and I will not leave the house without the former, even if it makes me late. I would rather not get entrenched in other ways, and especially, not be closed to trying things. And well, that cuppa is part wake up ritual and part addiction. But it has to be a cup of tea, never coffee, unlike so many folks who can’t start their morning right without some.

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This mantra is what saw me, a couple of Saturdays ago, at The Flying Squirrel Micro-Roastery  and Cafe in Koramangala, participating in an experiential session where a group of bloggers and writers were taken through the coffee making process, the various beans and brews The Flying Squirrel Coffee offers, and of course, tastings! In case you’re wondering what makes this in any way an out of the box experience, it is for the simple reason that I stay far away from coffee – the smell bugs me, and I don’t even enjoy desserts with coffee, much less actually drink the stuff. But this was a chance to learn more and explore the world of micro-roasteries, where artisanal coffee is produced in small batches, and offers a freshness and flavor quality that is way different from mass produced brands. The Flying Squirrel Cafe is a very recent and lovely addition to the Koramangala cafe scene, but their 7 types of gourmet coffees have been available for the last three or four years, through their website and at stalls I’ve come across at markets and events in Bangalore, and today retails in multiple cities across the country.

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They have their roasting machine up front and center so customers can see the process first hand, and they also have on display their coffee beans and plants – very cool, especially for someone like me who despite being in Karnataka for five years and counting, has not yet made a trip to Coorg or experienced the coffee estates there. And indeed that is where TFSC comes from too, with Ashish D’Abreo and Tej Thammaiah, two of the founders, being experienced coffee aficionados. They led us on a tasting and making session of one of their special offerings, a cold brew coffee. And this is the one, actually, the only coffee, I drank and enjoyed, and have even brewed up at home as per their instructions. It is so perfectly refreshing for this hot summer, and I find a small glass (liberally dosed with condensed milk and milk) makes my day happier. And since I am not brewing it hot, I don’t find the smell overwhelming either, and the process of cold brewing makes for a sweeter and less pungent brew, so its a win-win!

The coffees come from Arabica and Robusta beans, which each have their own distinctive flavor palate, and length of growth as well (7 months before Arabica can be harvested; 9 months for the Robusta). The coffee is handpicked, duly inspected, and then sent through a variety of processes like pulping, fermentation, washing, sun-drying, and I learned that each choice will make for a different flavor profile (sweet, fruity, acidic, bitter) – fascinating! And that’s also why this is not the strong filter coffee that my grandparents brewed every morning that had me wrinkling my nose given the strong aroma, but a veritable bouquet of flavors and scents from the specialized treatments of the beans. For example, the cold brew that I, and indeed, most of our group took a shine to, is a blend of Honey Sun Dried Arabica and Arabica Peaberry and other beans, and had been roasted in such a way that it delays caramelization of the inherent sugars so they are released at the end – now that explains my affinity for it! Its lighter and sweeter than the average coffee and the resulting aroma, while roasty and rich, is not one I minded.

We tried a few more coffees, including the Nitro, another cold brewed coffee, which had liquid nitrogen added, something that is all the rage these days, be it in coffee or in beer, as it kicks up the flavors a few notches. Not for me, for that very reason! I also tried TFSC’s Vietnamese Iced Coffee, but found it too strong for my taste and added more condensed milk than was likely appropriate and definitely horrified some of the staunch coffee drinkers at the table. I found it interesting that I still couldn’t warm up to coffee in dessert – I usually avoid tiramisu or cheesecake with coffee, and after trying the Parama Infused Creme Brulee here, I realized that my heart belongs only to that one cold brew! Speaking of dessert, you should head to The Flying Squirrel Micro-Roastery and Cafe for a lot more than just their coffee. The desserts were really good! The Salted Caramel Cheesecake that comes with popcorn topping, the Chocolate Overload Cheesecake with Kit Kat and malted chocolate balls, or the truly zinging Old Monk and Coke Cheesecake, which had cola jelly – you must try them!

I also quite enjoyed the lunch we had, and given the size of our group, we managed to try almost all their offerings. So whether it is pasta, mains, a sandwich, or a salad, you will get a lovely meal here. They also serve breakfast all day, and I plan to check out those offerings on my next visit. The place gets quite packed and can be noisy, so it may not be the right venue for a meeting or to get work done, but whether it is coffee your heart beats faster for, or good dessert, this place is sure to leave you happy and content.