Sula Wine & Indian Food – Rotarian Wine Fellowship Dinner at The Conrad

Finding time in the midst of the work week tends to be a challenge, but there are certain events for which one most definitely makes an exception. An invite from a dear friend to be a part of an exclusive private evening – a Rotarian Wine Fellowship dinner at one of the city’s newest star hotels, The Conrad, for Indian food paired with Sula wines, did not go unanswered! Starting out at The Conrad’s rooftop pool, we gathered to enjoy some bubbly – Sula Brut, and take pictures a-plenty, before we headed to our sit down dinner at Indian Durbar, The Conrad’s specialty Indian restaurant. With the co-founder of Sula, Kerry Damskey, and the brand’s chief wine maker, Karan Vasani in attendance, we knew we were in for an evening that would be both educational and delicious! I hadn’t realized that Sula has been around for close to 2 decades, or that it as one of the earlier vineyards in the country. And did you know that Sula is the brand that brought Zinfandel to India?

We started off with an amuse bouche of a miniature sized dhokla topped with a mint foam – quite living up to the name of the course! This was followed by the soup course, which was a lamb broth, simmered overnight, served with pickled lemon and tomato relish. Our appetizer was Kandhari Murgh, a wonderful spring chicken marinated with red chili spiced curd and dried pomegranate and served with dollops of the sauces. It was interesting how the combo tasted citrusy rather than having the sweetness of pomegranate. The Sula Riesling was the accompaniment for the early courses. Now if you’re a Riesling drinker, you’re likely to find this one mild, but it, as the winemakers pointed out, makes for a perfect starter wine for someone who has just begun to drink wine. And it’s unassuming nature means that it pairs well with a variety of food.

With the breaking out of the RASA wines from Sula, the evening got even more interesting. To accompany our Kashmiri Lagan ki Seekh, which had a charcoal sauce, we we were served Rasa Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine I will definitely look out for on the shelves, as too the Rasa Shiraz, which was the next pour, to accompany the main course of Hyderabadi Dum ka Nalli or Seabass Polichattu for the non vegetarians. I am usually a fan of Shiraz, and this time was no exception, offering the anticipated body and flavor. And I learned that decanting it for a bit before serving to open it up and release the aroma. While the Nalli – my choice for mains – was nice, it was the accompanying da-e-durbar and tadka saag that packed a flavor punch. A variety of naan and paratha made dipping into the gravies all that more enjoyable.

Our dinner ended with a dessert trio: Belgian dark chocolate kheer, Sonpapdi, and Kerala vanilla pod kulfi, decorated with gold leaf., and the wine poured was the Late Harvest Chenin Blanc. I must admit to not being a sweet wine fan, and usually avoid dessert wines. Sula’s Chenin Blanc was no exception, and registered quite high on the sweetness notes. So definitely for my palate, it was the two reds that worked, over the two whites served that night. Rasa Shiraz is definitely making an appearance in my drinking at home wine collection! Getting to hear first-hand, the story of Sula, the expanding team of winemakers on board, and break bread with the co-founder and chief winemaker made for a memorable experience, in the recently opened Conrad Hotel’s opulent surroundings.

 

 

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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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A wedding feast fest at SodabottleOpenerWala

SodaBottleOpenerWala, hereafter to be called SBOW in this post, just completed three years as an entity, and two years in its Bangalore home on Lavelle Road. I always love hanging out there, with the quirky decor, diner style checkered table cloths, and Bollywood music playing, and of course, the toy train making its way sedately on its track overhead. Lagan nu Bhonu, Parsi Wedding Feast, a thali meal featuring the specialties and delicacies one would find at a Parsi wedding, are how they’ve chosen to commemorate the occasion. I managed to catch the festival at the tail end (the special Thalis are available until Saturday, February 25th, at both lunch and dinner) and my dining companion and I quite loved the non-veg Thali.

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Presented on a beautiful metal work thali, with two copper-colored katoris holding gravies, and the other items presented on the leaf atop the thali, this was a deceptively simple looking meal. I thought it would be easy to polish off, but rather ran out of steam around three-fourths of the way in. My friend on the other hand, did an excellent job of presenting a clean leaf! Our meal began with the Pallonji Raspberry Soda, made in-house, with a tangy raspberry crush and soda. Just what was needed after the ride to the restaurant in the burgeoning Bangalore summer! Apparently earlier iterations of this drink tended on the sweet side, but it was our lucky day, for this version was tart and I loved it.

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And now for what we ate. The plated thali comes with two pickles, an aubergine one – Vegna nu Achar, which was more dip than pickle, and the sweeter, Chunda-like one, the Lagan nu Achar, as well as Kachumbar salad. Parsi fare has its share of fried foods, and this thali has Chutney Eeda na Pattice, which had boiled egg, potatoes and some greens, Macchi no Cutlet – double cooked Rawa fish minced and delicately spiced, and one of the favorite dishes of the meal for us, and also Saria Papad. The Masala ni Daar was quite rich and I contented myself with some bites along with the rotis, and spent the rest of the time on the delicious and my top dish of the day, Gos No Sas, a beautiful white mutton gravy dish, with egg white making for a thick gravy, and tender boneless mutton pieces. The Chicken Pulao was flavorful and a good way to close out the mains.

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The proof of the pudding: a clean plate!

Dessert was two, and in mercifully small portions. There was a Strawberry Custer served in a stainless steel bowl that was reminiscent of something you would have loved as a kid, though the two adults in question quite enjoyed it too! The Plum Cake with Brandy Sauce, by contrast, was a very grown-up dessert, both in terms of presentation (served in a shot glass) and flavor (quite a kick in that Brandy Sauce!). We lapped up both in short order, and then ended our meal with Irani Chai, a strong milk tea that I always order when at SBOW. Now, if you get the chance over the next couple of days, do head over and enjoy the feast fit for a wedding!

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Details: SodaBottleOpenerWala, Lavelle Road; Lagan nu Bhonu Thali available for lunch and dinner; INR 650 plus taxes (non-veg) and INR 550 plus taxes (veg).