‘Secret Sauce’

Author and columnist Priya Bala launched an interesting book,aptly titled ‘Secret Sauce’ documenting and outlining stories and interviews of people and that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ behind the success of their now iconic restaurants.

In conversation with the ‘delicious’ Chef extraordinaire Manu Chandra, Sumana Mukherjee and co-author Jayanth Narayan. Priya gave us insider tid-bits of her experiences that she went through trying to interview her subjects.

The open discussion veered toward what was the one ‘secret sauce’ that separated success from failure and of course most of the panel agreed it was passion.

Well I don’t love Manu Chandra for nothing! I loved his insights about how there has to be a right proportional mix, of great and consistent food, sensible pricing, chef experience (working under chef masters and learning from ground up) and having a handle on operational issues…with that the all important ingredient… passion of course!

Bang on! One must always be able to afford ones passion…a sure fire secret sauce for success!

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Parsi Bhonu @ SodaBottleOpenerWala

I am an honorary Parsi! With a name like Rubi, and a married surname that says Furniturewalla, I’m half way there already.

I grew up in Mumbai surrounded by the genteel Parsis (whatever was left of them). They are an institution amongst themselves, philanthropists, doctors, industrialists and of course owners of the best cafes in the world!

The original Parsis’ followers of the Persian prophet Zoroaster
(Parsi means Persian in Farsi), fled from religious persecution from their native country Persia and landed on the shores of Gujarat.

Most of the enterprising Parsis moved to Mumbai to make their mark on the development of emerging India, and their greatest trait was adaptability, while still holding strong to the tenets of their beliefs.

Their power to adapt shows up strongly in their cuisine. There is a French influence, especially how they steam and cook their ‘Saas ni Machi’ which has a ‘Frenchness’ to it being cooked in a delicate rice flour sauce. Their tomato gravies definitely reek of a Portuguese influence and how can we leave out the Brits! The chops and the mashes come from the Brits.

The quintessential Parsi cuisine is a eclectic mix of tastes, smells, spices and cooking techniques with exotic culinary influences of East and West, which is reflected in the sweet and sour taste of the cuisine.

So when we have visitors from overseas where do we go? To SodaBottleOpenerWala of course!

We started with a Chicken mince pattice, delicately flavoured chicken mince coated with mashed potatoes & crumb fried…delicious! What followed was a meat feast (just the way any self respecting Parsi likes it!). Fried mackerel with that distinct sweet and sour tanginess, Jardaloo Ma Marghi and the coup de grace! A Russian salad, with piqued my taste buds with nostalgia. Boiled veggies coated in that gooey salad dressing with an unmistakable taste of mustard and sweetness!

The main course was fairly simple… ‘Masala Ni Daal’ with ‘Gajar Mewa nu aachar’, and the incomparable mutton berry pulao!

If you are looking for a bit of Indian and Western adventure in your mouth, rooted in taste and the guts to try out some fabulous unapologetically rich and scrumptious cuisine…you know where to head.

What the hell! We have but one life to live…lets eat love and pray!

Sutras of Indian Cooking

I remember conceptualizing my best friend Geramin La Brie first charity art event in our city and trying so hard to give it a name which would transmit what we felt…could be ‘heart to art’…no very cheesy…then one fine morning the name popped into my head! Since the cause was raising funds for the children with a cleft palate syndrome, the name ‘Palette to Palate’ was born!

It has been five years now, and all the work, the endless writing, e-mailing and talking to people to partner with us, for ‘Palette to Palate’, has always been a marathon effort, but so worth it.

This time Geramin’s cook book ‘Sutras of Indian Cooking’, demystifying Indian cooking for novices, was unveiled and…’From Plate to Palate’ was born!

It is always a humbling experience when friends and supporters year after year turn up to support, encourage and show so much affection…it is always so humbling when Geramin takes the time and effort to paint and write like a maniac to be able to donate the entire proceedings to The Deutsche cleft lip foundation…it is always humbling to see how the self effacing Director from Deutsche, Dr. Dushyant Prasad manages to bring him team together, and it is always humbling to see how my friends in the hospitality and wine business never fail to help, lend their support and trust in us. This year my good friends Abhijit Saha and Shruti M Saha from Fava generously stepped forward as hospitality partners and Ratish Somasekaran of Fratelli Vineyards stepped in as Wine partners.

It is always humbling to see how Geramin’s husband David, her parents, my husband Imtiaz and my kids unflinchingly support us. .and our friends…my loyal supportive and generous A Team! What can I say? A mere ‘thank you’ is just not enough!
To my friends and family;
‘What music lurks in the art of you,
That draws my heart into the heart of you.
From you, no power can separate me since,
I am an inseparable part of you’

The Maharajah’s Birthday

Ancient India was steeped in pomp and tradition and most of us have grown up on our grandmother’s tales of valiant Maharajahs,’ Ranis,’ Sultans and Badshahs who loved, adorned, fought for or plundered our country.

Though much of the pomp and pageantry has waned in modern India, there is still a fascination we all share about our erstwhile kings and queens,especially how they lived (extravagant lifestyles etc), rumours, gossip, palace intrigues and the like!

We have our very own Maharajah from the house of Wodeyars, and they too have had a colourful past. So when we were invited to The Ritz Carlton to cerebrate the newly anointed young Maharajah’s birthday, with pomp pageantry and lighting of mashals (fire torches), followed by the very talented ‘jewel of India’ Shivamani’s concert, we were raring to go!

The most stylish component was the Champagne Sabering…a tradition steeped in myth and lore. Some say it was a practice started by Napoléon Bonaparte, who stylishly lopped off the neck of a champagne bottle with a sword and famously proclaimed, “Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it.”

The Ritz Carlton looked very regal dressed up in canopies of silk, with drummers and dancers welcoming the guests, fiery mashals that lit up the water body and an impeccable array of guests all regally dressed up to the nines.

The regal service was like clockwork! The ladies and gentlemen of The Ritz Carlton, made sure that every champagne flute was permanently topped up…the regal executives mixed and mingled, the superbly regal Executive Chef Anupam Banerjee, personally plated the food, while their lovely PR and communications manager Gargi Guha, made sure we felt like erstwhile royalty ourselves! Last but not least, their gregarious GM Antony Page,like an erstwhile Sultan, kept an eagle eye open to see that his guests were well watered and fed!

We were then invited to a small exclusive dinner at ‘Riwaz’, their Indian restaurant, along with the shy Maharajah’s entourage. The evening meandered into a starlit night where we were treated to the most superlative dinner topped with smooth as silk wines from France,and from our very own Indian vineyards of Fratelli.

Sandwiched between Craig Wedge, the Aussie Brand Ambassador of Fratelli, on one side and the gregarious ‘India loving Aussie’ GM of The Ritz Carlton on the other side, the evening was sure to be a barrel of laughs, royal service and superlative food and drink…all components to make one feel like royalty!
#RitzCarltonRoyalty #RCMemories

International Women’s Day with Glen Grant

It was International Women’s Day and what better way to celebrate than with a dram of single malt, and a man in a skirt (kilt)!

The Ritz Carlton poolside was aglow with a gentle shade of red…both from the lights and a flush on the cheeks of guests imbibing a fabulous Glen Grant 10 year old and an 18 year old smooth as silk malt!

There was a fun interactive talk with the brand ambassador, Scotsman Robin Coupar who went through the paces of helping us ‘nose’ the whiskey and rolling it on ones palate to open up the gentle nuances of sometimes citrus, fruity or a smoky flavour. He did mention that I was more interested in the rumour of what the Scots really wore under their kilts!

Gentle nuances aside, as a great fan of Single Malt, I was totally enraptured as to how smoothly and effortlessly the malt glided down my throat. Scotland has the most fabulous ‘glens’ and bright sparkling water captured from their myriad of natural springs fostering the best whiskeys in the world…Glen Grant was not an exception to the rule…a simply divine single malt.
A small soiree with interested guests…my kind of evening.

Heritage Sarees of Karnataka

When Prasad Bidapa calls I go…and vice-versa! What’s the point of being buddies from way back when otherwise.

Prasad has always being deeply passionate about preserving our heritage hand-looms and if no one cares then we will lose centuries of heritage and culture.

The glorious lawns of The Lalit Ashok was aglow with the beautiful and radiant colours of our lovely silk and cotton heritage saris from Karnataka.Truly there is nothing more elegant or beautiful as a saree.

The show was interesting and evocative, tracing back from time immemorial, how our weavers so painstaking wove each garmet with love and labour.
In true solidarity all the lovely ladies present wore beautifully draped sarees and mine was a rich blue hand-loom silk from Karnataka.

Kudos Prasad Bidapa,your passion is truly inspiring and contagious!

Chefs For Charity

A balmy afternoon, a majestic canopy of trees on the lawns of The Lalit Ashok giving one shade, 11 restaurants, a gazillion friends, a rocking band, a spectacular bar and 9 charities where the money was going to…what could be better!

For the 5th year running, The Food Lovers Team headed by the undauntable Kripal Amanna managed to pull off an impeccable event…Kudos!
We were a large contingent of friends doing what we do best. Laughing, eating, drinking and enjoying each others company.

The array of cuisines, the quality of the food, my friends from the hospitality business and outside it, spent the afternoon of unadulterated bliss!
All the generous Bangaloreans who believe in giving back (read not accepting unlimited freebies!) were there to lend their support.

There was such a mêlée at some restaurant counters that I wilily pulled in the executive chefs to garner support and manage to get my favourite tidbits on my plate…but what the hell! That’s the joy of having these masters as your good friends right?

Long languid hours of chatting, catching up, laughter and meaningful conversations, holiday plans and sundry, over the pick of the best restaurants showcasing their best food…just my type of afternoon!

Jyotika Tanwani Tantiwathinand Puneet Dhawan…till the next time you guys are in Bangalore…adieu and see you soon on the hot sands of Dubai….

Going GaGa over Lady Baga

To say that ace hotelier A.D. Singh has a Midas touch would be an understatement! That man has a pulse on everything that works…

The newest kid on the block, Lady Baga (such a clever spin to that name) epitomizes everything Goa. The informal seating, quirky cocktails, a little flea market, funky decor, some sand thrown in for good measure and the most amazing food!

If you think it’s a yuppy place only for young puppies then you are mistaken! We popped in for dinner on a Thursday evening and the place was packed with diners…both young and young at heart, and the commonality in design was they were all enjoying the simply fabulous fare.

In a land locked city like Bangalore, I am always slightly skeptical about eating sea food, but I was blown away with the quality of the produce! It requires a deep commitment on the part of the owners to ensure a quality that is faultless.

Since I was in a Goa state of mind, we started off with their fresh from the sea perfectly done Prawn Lonchas, bursting with flavour, lightly pickled prawns, tossed with coconut and green chillies, that set the note for the feast to follow. Goan style masala prawn on fried toast,Spicy Goan sausages tossed with onions, chilli and peppers in an in-house spice mix.served with pao. Simply scrumptious!

The surprise tinge on my palate came in the form of a ‘ D’ shaped baby crepe stuffed with a spicy cilantro, mint, cheese, carrot and corn filling, crusted with panko and sesame.This was served with two really interesting and unusual sauces. One was a tangy fresh tomato sauce,with a hint of charred peppers and the other was a fried basil leaf chutney.The Rissois Verde, as they called it got full points from me!

The fresh Surmai steaks lathered in the famed Goan/Portugese Rechad or Recheado spice mix was outstanding! This is the spicy, chilli paste of Goa, a thick paste of red chillies, garlic and spices ground in vinegar. Recipes vary from household to household and village to village. It is spicy, tangy and hot, and used especially on meats and hardy vegetables like brinjals. But, to have this paste, gently altered so not as to over power the fresh fish was a master stroke by the chef.

Our main dish, Chef Aloos secret recipe prawn curry, made us want us to kidnap him till he spilled the beans on his ‘secret recipe’! Succulent prawns cooked in a lightly ‘secret’ spiced coconut curry, served with a side of unpolished rice, fried anchovies and the heavenly Kismur, a dried prawn (kardi) salad with tamarind chilli and scraped coconut….simply divine!

To say we went ‘gaga’ over Baga’ would be correct. A jewel tucked away on Lavelle Rd, just a hop skip and jump away from where we stay.
There will certainly be more of a ‘Lady who goes gaga over meals at Lady Baga’ soon enough for me!

‘Padman’

Spent the evening watching a charity screening of Pad Man a film based on the life of Padma Shri award winner Arunachalam Muruganantham, the school drop out who revolutionized the concept of hygienic and affordable sanitary napkins in India.

Born in Coimbatore to hand-loom weavers, Muruganantham is a school drop-out. To earn a livelihood he started doing various odd jobs such as a farm labourer, tool operator and welder. His family and neighbours started calling him a ‘pervert’ and his wife left him as she could not handle the awkwardness the project caused her.

Machines to manufacture sanitary napkins could have cost him Rs 35 million so he invented a low-cost machine for Rs 35,000 that would grind and sterilize the pad using ultraviolet light. Regardless of several attempts by corporate individuals to commercialize his venture, he turned down the proposals and continues to supply the machines to only self-help groups run by women. His invention not only made women’s life easier but also generated a source of livelihood for many women.

In 2014, he was featured in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world. In 2016, he was awarded a Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
He has given lectures in premiere institutions like Harvard, IIT Bombay, IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Bangalore. He was also a speaker at TedX.

The ladies associated with the NGO, World of Women (WOW), spearheaded by the charming Nirmala Gowda Nayak and her friends work tirelessly educating and empowering women and girls on the importance of menstrual hygiene and various mis-conceptions associated with it. They pulled off this event with élan and going by the reaction of all the donors and guests present…they were equally proud of them

Well done ladies!

Christian Louboutin Trunk Show

An obsession of owning and wearing fabulous shoes is justified…look at Cinderella…a shoe changed her life didn’t it?

The very exclusive trunk show of the master of ‘all shoes bright and beautiful, ‘Christian Louboutin’ unfolded at the Presidential Suite of the Shangri-La Hotel.The event was hosted by the ‘hostess with the mostest’, the equally fabulous Manjusha Maheshwari and Anjali Gaekwar.

The new spring/summer collection was simply stunning, and all the stunning ladies and gents who graced the show agreed!
The red soles leave a mark… right on your heart!

As my favourite lady Oprah Winfrey said’‘I still have my feet on the ground – I just wear better shoes.’