Happy Birthdady Sarayu!

What’s a birthday more or less when you wear yours with such finesse!

What a fun ‘you’re a hottie at forty’ birthday bash on a sunny afternoon at the swanky Shangri-La Hotel. The restaurant Caprese was overflowing with the birthday girl Sarayu Hegde’s friends and the room was filled with the sound of laughter and music, with her charming husband Praveen Chandra playing the perfect host!

They made an eye catching couple with their son; the boys gamely matching their shirts with Sarayu’s gorgeous dress.The theme was ‘tropical’ and the guests looked fantastic in their colourful and fabulous clothes. Gucci, Micheal Kors, Prada and Chanel eye shades vied for attention with each other.

Perfect ingredients for a perfect party were seamlessly in place.

A fabulous bar serving mind-blowing cocktails, wines and champagne, never ending tables laden with anti-pasti, salads and cheese, hot grills whipping up fabulous grilled meat and veggies, main courses that looked endless and a mouth watering dessert table laden with all things sweet and wonderful. But the icing on the cake was a roomful of Sarayu and Praveen’s friends who didn’t miss an opportunity to show their love to this very popular and loved couple.

The highlight of the afternoon was the cake cutting…as befitting a truly ‘equal opportunity’ scenario a hunky dancer wearing a ‘darling’ little bow-tie and tight pants served the birthday girl her cake!Amidst much hooting and whistling the equally hunky husband Praveen jumped up and did a duo dance with the ‘hunky dancer’ for his wife.

The delighted Sarayu…me thinks preferred the ‘hunky husband’! We all did!!

Why should the guys have all the fun huh?

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The Oberoi Bangalore is 25!

With the lovely Madhulika Bhattacharya, a.k.a. madamlacave, who (firmly tongue in cheek) admits to ‘drinking wine for a living’!

At the most fabulous, seamlessly put together Wine and Dinner soiree, celebrating 25 years of excellence at The Oberoi, in association with Kripal Amanna of Food Lovers.
With the interesting and lovely Madhulika Bhattacharya, a.k.a. madamlacave, who (firmly tongue in cheek) admits to ‘drinking wine for a living’!

Spectacular cuisine from The Oberoi’s South-East Asian restaurants paired with scintillating wines from the cellars of La Cave.

Applause; Team The Oberoi, Visheshwar Raj Singh, Pinky Padmaraj and Kripal Amanna!
And thank you my friend Chetan Kamani for always making me look good with your expert photography skills!

Gourmet Passport!

We were invited to a fabulous soiree at The Ritz Carlton with the creme-de-la-creme from the hospitality industry to mark the launch of “Gourmet Passport”. Launched by a formidable and well respected name in the world of business, hospitality and a connoisseur of all things bright and beautiful, Rocky Mohan, who is a wonderful encapsulation of the genre…’from an officers stock (his father was from the legendary Gurkha regiment) and a gentleman.’

Rocky Mohan, is a gentleman of many talents, a gourmand, an author and an expert in the world of food and liquor. Hailing from the well respected Mohan Meakin family (Mohan Meakin’s principal brands are Old Monk Rum and Golden Eagle Beer.) it is but natural that Rocky is a chip of he old block as far as innovation, implementation and value for money go, with an ‘eagle’ eye on quality and services.

His elegant soiree to launch the Gourmet Passport concept in Bangalore with Aslam Gafoor playing an integral role, was a wonderful and elegantly curated evening. Tables groaning under the weight of fruit, artisan cheese, anti-pasti and wines from the fabulous cellars of Penfolds India was simply spot on!

The especially curated desserts (that went beautifully with both the wines and liquors) wowed the guests. Considering most of them were big wigs from the hospitality industry, that is saying a lot!

I was charmed to meet Rocky and his son Siddharth as we revived family connections and animatedly spoke about his new baby ‘Gourmet Passport’.
It is really heartening to see charm, valour, good breeding and impeccable manners still ruling the roost. Here’s raising a glass to you, Rocky Mohan and Aslam Gafoor! Sláinte

Siracha @ UB City

Sriracha is a type of hot sauce or chili sauce made from a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt.It is named after the coastal city of Si Racha, a coastal town in eastern Thailand, where it may have been first produced for dishes served at local seafood restaurants.

There are stories that suggest that because of a big Indian/Buddhist influence in Thailand, the word ‘Si’ may be a Sanskrit derivation of the title ‘Sri’ which loosely translated means honorable and ‘racha’ similarly is derived from raja. So if you’re being hyper-literal about it, could be called the “Sauce of the Glorious Ruler!” (Though it technically just means “sauce from a town called Si Racha.”)!

Not to be outdone in the hyper-literal department we trotted off to meet the master who uses the ‘sauce of the glorious ruler’ to perfection, Vikas Seth! Meeting up with the good-natured and down to earth chef whose eyes always crinkle with delight as he explains his pieces of culinary art, is always a pleasure.

Since I was shooting on the day of his book launch we promised to meet up at his ‘newest’ baby, the pan-Asian restaurant ‘Sriracha’,later in the week.
To say I was excited was an understatement! I love pan-Asian food, and I was really looking forward to a quintessential ‘Vikas’ twist to the meal.My fellow gourmand friends and chefs with a reputation had dined there and they were all praises for the food.
I couldn’t wait!

We got down to business as soon as we settled ourselves on the table. With barely a cursory glace at the extensive cocktail menu, we looked at Vikas with a barely concealed expectation.Eyes crinkling with his trade-mark mirth he rolled out his famous salad table with his wooden mortar and pestle, and he lovingly ground the condiments, spices and herbs to coax out the most beautiful flavours. We were treated to his Sriracha’s Som-Tam green papaya salad(an irresistible combination of green papaya, chilies, green beans, cherry tomatoes, house sauce, lime) a Grapefruit and Malta salad and his coup-de-grace; the Oriental chicken (slow roosted in an herb infused broth for a couple of hours!) and banana blossom salad!

We never looked back after that! The perfectly pleated thin skinned dumplings arrived, and I never thought I could prefer the purple skinned wild mushroom dumplings over the almost perfect roasted duck and plum dumplings!

The sushi arrived in a dragon boat and were almost too pretty to eat. But who could resist the beautiful Salmon, Avocado & Cucumber roll or the spicy Yellow finned Tuna roll infused with Toban djang (a spicy, salty paste made from fermented broad beans, soybeans, salt, rice, and various spices). Again the exquisite, Dragon Roll made with Avocado & cream cheese Uramaki, (Uramaki differs from other makimono because the rice is on the outside and the nori inside) won my heart.I must be slipping!

The flavours on our taste buds were relentless! Whether in the form of steamed open buns stuffed with Srirachi chicken or Sriracha tofu or the simply glorious Togarashi dusted Sriracha prawns. Just when we thought we couldn’t surpass this flavour, the baked chicken puffs and the coffee rubbed pork riblets dusted with Togarashi powder (Japanese spice mixture containing seven ingredients containing coarsely ground red chili pepper) arrived!

We didn’t need much coaxing to try out a hearty Khow Suey and ultimately end this food orgy with the most spectacular desserts!
Rich dark chocolate sponge, orange mousse, caramel, crushed with a Sriracha meringue…what more could one ask for.

I had just tasted a repast for ‘a glorious ruler’…I felt like a satiated queen!

GOT themed mega feast at Big Brewsky!

I have to be careful to mention that I am not a fan of George R.R. Martin’s bloody behemoth of a book and television series, Game Of Thrones, before a gaggle of die-hard fans let off a medieval shriek of protest!

So when I was invited to a GOT themed mega feast at Big Brewsky, by Pravesh Pandey featuring the almost legendary chef Sabyasachi Gorai my interest was piqued.
The neo-gothic ambiance replete with candles and the medieval themed feast on a 40 foot table completely blew me away!

With Chef Saby at the helm of affairs I was prepared for a food orgy, but the sight of the long table laden with a repast like this would have made the warlocks and warlords groan with pleasure!

A suckling pig on a platter, rabbit fricasse, slow roasted lamb in a red wine gravy, a full fledged Crown roast and a honey glazed leg of ham with a multitude of other sea food made my eyes pop…

As always being friends with the chef and the partner always helps…and a stone platter with an array of soft shelled crabs, seafood pies, a scrumptious beef Yorkshire pudding and forest mushrooms and black rice porridge kept me in good spirits till we sat down to dinner…

The tall tea stands and smaller tables adorned with aged cheese, cold meat, flavoured butter and crusty bread caught my attention and palate.Did I mention that I lost count of how many chicken liver pate crostinis I wolfed down a la Game Of Thrones style?
A truly fabulous feast (to call it any other name would be sacrilegious!)

Well done…and I will come dressed in ‘warlock’ black anytime you call…maybe next time I will wear a headdress…as surely befits a meal that is a ‘jewel in the crown’!

Toscano’s 10th Anniversary!

It’s been 10 years since Toscano has opened its doors to its adoring clientele. A decade since Jean Michel Jasserand and Goutham Balasubramanian put their shiny heads and deft hands together to change the ‘eat-scape’ of Bangalore city. Nestled in the further most corner of the famous piazza in U.B. City, this restaurant has seen many new eateries opening up and closing down just as rapidly. But Toscanos has always prevailed. Why, one may ask?
Well it can be easily summed up in a sentence…’ten years and never a bad day’!Well! That in itself is a huge compliment and says it all.

I have never seen Jean Michel Jasserand rest on his laurels…always supervising, always hands on, always an eagle eye out for anything that does not meet his exacting standards.He is practical, talented and supremely hard working.That in my parlance is a ‘winning formula’!

Friends, well wishers, contemporaries and rivals all gathered under one roof to cheer them on, amongst some fabulous revelry!

A band was in attendance, as Jean Michel and Goutham wore their chef caps time and again to give their awed guests a peek into how they can deftly turn out such fabulous dishes! A succulent rabbit stew vied for attention with pepperoni pizzas, wine and mushroom risotto and a fabulous seafood bisque.
Mamma mia! This has only whetted my appetite…’yeh dil mange more’!

Congratulations team Toscano!

Wine Pairing at The Ritz Carlton

There is a certain happy snobbery about drinking fine wine…the whole process is seductive. The decanting process, the pouring of the ambrosia into the finest crystal goblets, to ‘nosing’ the wine, the gentle twirling of the gold speckled liquid and ultimately letting it slip seductively over your palate and pass silkenly down your throat!

It truly is, almost an art form…

I was honoured to say the least, to be invited to be a part of a discerning group of wine aficionados for the launch of the very prestigious and iconic Australian wine, Penfolds, in India.

An exquisite food and wine pairing in the lovely environs of The Ritz Carlton, bedecked with a red carpet (the invitation said black tie with a touch of red). The wonderful hosts,the gracious Madhulika Bhattacharya aka Madamelacave, the dapper Aman Dhall and Mr Sam Stephens, Wine Making Ambassador for Penfolds, left no stone unturned in their efforts to make it into a fabulous and elegant evening.

Michelin Star awardee, chef Anupam Banerjee, meticulously paired the Indian dishes at Rivaaz with the spectacular Penfolds wines.

The light fruity Koonunga Hill Chardonnay (with a touch of an oak flavour) that we were served with the hors d’oeuvres freshened our palates beautifully.

The fruity and surprisingly peppery, earthy and dry; Bin 2 Shiraz Mataro went excellently with the cauliflower and Parmesan soup.

The succulent and moist Tandoor Lamb Loin served on a silky bed of mashed potatoes with a spectacular jus( I suspect a touch of blackberry which reflected in the wine too) paired with a full bodied Classic South Australian Shiraz ( Kalima Bin 28- 2014) with generous flavours of blackberry and spicy fruit with soft plush tannins, was almost too good to be true!

Things only got better with Anupam Banerjee’s coup de grâce, the almost unbelievably soft cuts of venison with a mild spice rub, which paired unbelievably with (my most favourite wine of the evening) the deep red, mysterious and passionate Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon, with hidden mysterious flavours of dried herbs, tobacco, mint, rosemary and thyme and that almost imperceptible tantalizing whiff of Eucalyptus!

Understandably, with the effort that both the hotel and Penfolds, put into making this an unforgettable gastronomic and wine journey, the happy guests slipped into a mellow mood. The joie de vivre in the room was unmistakable, and the beautifully curated and sophisticated evening ended with a song… Encore une fois, bravo!

BBQ’D!

Another stormy night and another launch…whew! Bangalore is undaunted by floods, rain or shine,it epitomising the tag given to it… A party city, pub city and a city that doesn’t sleep (even though our friendly neighbourhood politicians tried their damnedest to put us to bed by eight!)

Zorawar Kalra doesn’t sleep! Because if he did, he wouldn’t be opening up a newer, better and more innovative restaurant by the minute!.His latest offering is BBQ’D… a restaurant offering everything barbecued with a Karla-esque twist! Thyme infused chicken pieces basted with tequila and flambeed anyone?

The list is quite intensive and that requires another day and time…till then we eyeballed the crowd at the party, chugged some wheat beer from their micro-brewery and tasted bite size portions of everything.

Great going Zorawar,and thank you for always thinking about us…and formidable gourmet Suresh Hinduja and the pint sized dynamite Rekha Ghosh, thank you for being such excellent and attentive hosts.

Tanishq’s Red Carpet Jewelry Collection

A wonderful stormy night, where the proverbial glitter of fabulous diamonds lit up the sky outshining the thunder bolts…and what could be a better location than the Skyye Bar which is perched on the zenith of UB City!

It was a soiree to mark the launch of Tanishq’s Red Carpet Jewelry Collection. As in any of the events that the polished and sophisticated Dia Bhandary puts together, this too was a genteel and upmarket affair.Sparkling laughter mixed beautifully with the sparkling wine, ambiance and of course…the stunning, sparkling jewelry that was on display!

Fortified with a seamlessly offering of ambrosia and hors d’oeuvres, the well heeled ladies (quite literally) enjoyed wearing the stunning neck pieces (as did yours truly) and they all looked stunning!
I was mesmerized with a gorgeous emerald and diamond neck piece (which made my husband disappear in a flash!), and I just needed some gentle coaxing to wear it as a tiara! As my buddy Prasad Bidapa remarked; it looked like I had challenged my ‘inner Nefertiti’!!!

Good friend and celebrity photographer Waseem Khan, made sure I felt like a princess as he did a photo shoot to capture the moment with me sitting on a gold chair et al! There were some good natured ribbing and whistling as friends gathered around to egg me on, whilst I vainly tried to pout and do justice to the stunner on my head!

This can only happen when one is in the right company of friends and auld Bangaloreans…all class and no crass!

Banh Mi & Wok

Pan Asian cuisine has always tickled an Indian palate, because of its almost fanatical need to use super fresh produce and also because the spices used are familiar and comforting on the palate. In the last decade or so, the average person has traveled a great deal and that has led to a spate of pan-Asian restaurants that have mushroomed all over India and now, one can decipher the finer and subtle inferences between Cantonese, Sichuan, Shandong, Huaiyang cuisine in China, to the sometimes almost indecipherable nuances between Thai, Indonesian, Korean and Vietnamese cuisine to name a few!

I love it when they keep food simple…. a select and well thought out menu, where one is surprised and delighted with every mouthful. Over sophisticated plating and quirky twists are fine for the bigger well established hotels…but at the end of the day, how it tastes in your mouth is how it matters.

So when a talented chef like Arup Kakati who has trained from one of the most prestigious hotel chains in India, teams up with a bohemian entrepreneur Salamat Sharieff, one can expect a wee bit of magic.

The pulse of their brand new restaurant Banh Mi & Wok is vibrant, informal and yet with that certain touch of sophistication that comes from serving top quality fare.

Chatting with the ‘wonder boys,’ one laid back and easy and the other edgy and passionate, I was mesmerized with their personal stories. Arup Kakati was very sure from the beginning, that one day he wanted his own place serving the food he loves and prepares with so much love, and Salamat a top notch executive from a leading brand decided that he wanted to put some roots to his wild side (he is an avid ‘hog,’Harley Owners Group) and his rides have often culminated in many ‘cuisine carousels’!!

Well, I for one am thrilled at this unlikely pairing because the Vietnamese Bahn Mi’s I tasted at their place was outstanding! Their Bahn Mi or Vietnamese baguette was crammed with chicken, cilantro, fresh veggies, pickled daikon, Jalapeno, chilli and garlic mayo and OMG!

Chef Arup has trained with the best…so he serves the best ingredients…no compromise, no short cuts! Even if it means he imports some of the produce (to maintain authenticity) then so be it! His Baos’ are outstanding because they are made with lotus flour and not maida flour which makes the bao lumpy and dense.The baos I tasted in Banh Mi were light and fluffy and his five spice fried bao is already a hot favourite with his guests.

Tempura prawns with sweet bell peppers, crispy lamb, chicken liver pate smeared with a Kalbi dressing…everything was authentic tasting, fabulously delicious and superbly priced. A win win combination for sure!

A wonderful easy ambience, with a long community table dominating the eating space, no pretentious cutlery and crockery but instead bio degradable boxes with chopsticks and disposable cutlery,high end technology at work with a great soft ware that allows you to choose and pay for your dishes and a spanking, new, bright and fabulously clean kitchen…the only place that is air-conditioned! How cool is that!

I loved the concept, the easy ambience and the food…what more can one ask for…