Sunday Brunching – with the family pooch!

Another week, another Sunday brunch. Brunching on the weekend has become almost de rigueur these days, but aside from the fact that I love the indulgence of a long brunch, establishments are getting more creative in enticing us to gussy up and head out. The Lalit Ashok Hotel recently put up a pet friendly brunch, and the star of the afternoon was their mascot and in-house pet, Berney, a rescue Saint Bernard. I have a soft spot for this breed, a Saint Bernard named Archie being the first dog I ever “dog sat”. Berney was a credit to his kin, being gentle, chilled out, and allowing hugs and petting. Aside from him, there were also a few other handsome pooches, including fellow blogger Monika Manchanda’s Fluffy, who accompanied their families to the brunch (I hate using the word “owner” for let’s face it, most pet lovers treat their pet like a member of the family). There was a separate play area for the pups, and food too – but we also got to enjoy their company poolside where the brunch was set up.

P_20180114_163420

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There was also a second special guest that afternoon. Chef Chris Trapani, who has the distinction of being the first transgender Chef on American television, making his maiden trip to India, brought by The Lalit Group of hotels. He cooked up some fantastic food, Tex-Mex style. Set up in front of the Lalit Food Truck Company, which is basically a food truck, he had steak being prepped to order, prawns cooked in a lovely Mexican sauce and served with wilted greens, and the piece de resistance – biscuits. We’re talking proper, Southern style biscuits, the likes of which I haven’t eaten since leaving the US! And to make them unforgettable, Chef Chris had a selection of three sauces/jams on the side, of which the cherry jam won my heart. There were also tacos being served up.

Aside from this special section, of course, the entire might of the Lalit’s bruch was set out, including live counters. The bar did brisk business all afternoon, especially when the Chandon bottles began popping! I quite enjoyed the red wine sangria that was my tipple of choice. The live counters offered chaats and pav as well as a Kothu paratha, and also kebabs and biryani for which the mutton was freshly sauteed on the tava along with the rice – a good idea and definitely making for better flavors than taking it off the buffet. Speaking of which, the buffet offered salads and appetizers, as well as mains with the majority being Indian, but also some Asian and Continental dishes. Dessert was of course its own table. Thus was a very happy and cuddly Sunday afternoon spent in the company of the food family, and some furry four legged darlings!

Details: Sunday Brunch, The Lalit Ashok; INR 2450 plus taxes (with alcohol), INR 1795 plus taxes (without alcohol), INR 1000 plus taxes (Kids (3-12 years)

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!

IMG_20170620_202715

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…

IMG-20170620-WA0015

Another Sunday, Another Beautiful Brunch – BG’s at Courtyard Bengaluru

I am an unabashed Sunday brunch fan. The idea of waking late, and then spending a few hours indulging in food and drink in the company of friends – it is the day of rest, and I can’t think of a better way to start it off! Since I also belong to the “will travel for good food” mindset, a trip to Marathahalli to check out the recently launched brunch at BG’s (Bar and Grills, natch!), a restaurant that does double duty for both the Marriott Courtyard and Fairfield by Marriott hotels, which share the space, was not daunting. And the somewhat less crowded roads of a Sunday noon helped too.

IMG_20160724_125047

On arriving at BG’s, the sight that first greets your eye as you get off the elevator is the dessert spread – it takes up the entire wall, multiple tables laden with all sorts of sweet goodies – and you already know that your “dessert stomach” will need to be in top form! Plus, it’s always good to get a glimpse of dessert first, right?

They have some fantastic cocktails on offer, and each week, a rotating special cocktail bar is set up – the week we went it was Mojitos, and there were a variety of fruits and syrups to choose from – I unabashedly dug into the pitcher that came to our table, and my glass too, to get at the alcohol soaked peaches therein (you can get the mojitos customized with the fruit of your choosing – kiwi, peach and so on). We were told the earlier weeks had seen Martinis and Margaritas as well.

IMG_20160724_130513

Continue reading

Britain in Bangalore (Taste of Britain Fest at ITC Windsor)

Food festivals are always fun, especially when they showcase something that would otherwise not be on my plate. From July 19th to 24th, ITC Windsor, in association with Curry Life magazine, is playing host to Chefs from across Britain, and is holding not one, but two food festivals in the process, concurrently at Dublin and Raj Pavilion. Raj Pavilion’s buffet features a range of Balti and Curry (Brit style) food of the subcontinent, while Dublin has a special menu featuring dishes by Michelin star Chef Mark Poynton, who helms a restaurant (Alimentum) in Cambridge that I just happened to visit last summer (and didn’t even make the connection until we spoke!).

IMG_20160718_213513

The performance of Taming of the Shrew

ITC got the festivities off to a grand start with a launch on Monday night, and the British Deputy High Commissioner was in attendance and gave a lovely speech. The evening also featured half hour enactments of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Taming of the Shrew by students of Christ University, Bangalore. It’s his 400th death anniversary this year – what can I say, the words endure and appeal evermore!

Slide2

Continue reading

Cuisine of the Navaithas: Food Fest

I enjoy the food festivals that the hotels in town put up as part of their buffets, for the simple reason that they are a departure from the norm – sure there’s a good meal to be had at any of the all day dining restaurants in the 5 stars, on any given day. But, add in a short term, week or ten day long food fest that takes over a section of the buffet and showcases a particular cuisine or culture, and you get that something extra. Raj Pavilion at ITC Windsor just hosted a festival that celebrated the cuisine of the Navaithas, a Muslim community from Gingee, brought to Bangalore during the British Raj, whose cuisine features a mix of Nawab and Mughal influences. That means kebabs and biryani, so snagging a dear friend visiting from Delhi whose heart always beats faster for biryani, we made our way over on the festival’s opening night to sample its wares.

nav2 Continue reading