A Cafe with Heart

A while ago, I visited a lovely little cafe in Koramangala, which is actually the coming together of three different brands, Mitti Cafe | Enerjuvate | Oak + Hill Coffee, each with a different offering but an altogether shared ethos. Enerjuvate is the food, Oak + Hill, as the name gives away, is the coffee, and Mitti Cafe is the staff.

Mitti is about inclusivity, with all their people being differently abled, across physical, intellectual and emotional disabilities. So, the cafe is staffed by these folks, a cheery bunch who will surely put a smile on your face as they go about the business of taking orders, serving and clearing up.

In terms of the food and drink, Enerjuvate (which I had frequented in its previous iteration in Jayanagar, and which has since reopened on KR Road in this new format with Mitti and Oak + HIll) focuses on healthy, vegetarian offerings – and yes, the devout non-vegetarian that I am has and will again, visit, because the food’s delicious! My favorites are the multigrain pizzas which are a must-order, the sabudana khichdi, and the Buddha bowl and the hummus and pita platter. Oh, and if you love chaat like me, then you will be pleasantly surprised by the ragi cracker base Aloo and Dahi Paapri chaats – crunchy and flavorful.

Oak + Hill is the result of one man’s passion, who brings a variety of specialty hot and chilled, regular and flavored coffees with the beans sourced from his family’s estates in Chikmagalur and Coorg. As a sometimes coffee drinker, who likes flavored coffees only, the citrusy cold brew with tonic was my pick – the perfect pick me up on a summer day.

Here’s a look at all the food and drink I enjoyed…

The day I visited, the staff had been gathered from the different locations for a shoot with Better India and I thus got the chance to get a photograph with most of the team. It was lovely meeting and interacting with them, and with Alina (Mitt founder) and Wilfred (whose brainchild is Oak + Hill) though I missed Darshana (the main lady behind Enerjuvate).

The Big Bawa Breakfast at SBOW

SodaBottleOpenerWala isn’t kidding about their #BigBawaBreakfast. It’s available every day of the week, from 8.30 am for the breakfast first thing set, until noon, for those like me who can’t eat first thing in the morning. Now, Parsi cuisine is known for its egg preps (Akuri, anyone?), so a Bawa style breakfast menu is a match made in heaven. Eggs are also a personal favorite food, probably the first thing I began making for myself. Whenever dinner wasn’t to my liking, I would go into the kitchen and make myself eggs, as a teen. Even today, eggs are my go-to option for a quick and simple meal. I have also been known to make a meal of pancakes or waffles!

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Ghotala Pav

SBOW’s breakfast offerings cover Bombay Pao pairings, sandwiches, pancakes, breakfast trays for those who want variety on their plate, a selection of Poros – Parsi flat omelettes with fillings like Goan Chorizo, ham and bacon, and smoked cheese, and some brilliant cold brew coffee (Star Anise & Mandarin, Hazelnut, Lime & Cinnamon), alongside fresh smoothies, iced teas, and old favorites like their Irani and Masala Chai. You can also have eggs to order. Pancake fans have four choices including the exotic Espresso & Whisky Cream or Coconut & Organic Jaggery.

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Espresso & Whisky Cream Pancakes

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Navsari Style French Toast

I’ve been to SBOW for the express purpose of breakfast a total of three times already, and can safely say that these breakfasts are the best meals I’ve eaten there. And that it’s available 7 days a week is a big plus! The Poro section is delightful – I loved the Smoky Poro as well as the Meaty Poro with bacon, ham and cheddar, and the Angry Poro is stuffed with red chutney, for those who like a fiery start to the day! Akuri, Paneer and Classic are always  a good bet too. But the one dish you absolutely must order is the Navsari Style French Toast, which is french toast with special toppings – for maximum satisfaction, I suggest you first slather on the cream, followed by a thick coating of Lagan Nu Achar aka wedding pickle, and then take a big bite. Another brilliant dish is the Ghotala Pav, where mutton kheema and eggs combine for a treat! Just writing this has made me want to head back for brekkie again and soon!

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Angry Poro for a fiery start!

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Check out all that ham and bacon on the Meaty Poro

Details: SodaBottleOpenerWala, Lavelle Road; Breakfast is available Monday-Sunday; 8.30am to 12 noon; Meal for two will cost INR 1000 plus taxes.

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.

New Blends by Classic Coffees (2)

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.