Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Chef Marco Pierre white was the celebrity guest at the World Gourmet Summit 2012 held in Singapore. I have watched chef White cook and guide the contestants in the show - Masterchef Australia. I was intrigued by his personality and skills. He was the youngest chef to receive 3 Michelin stars at an age of 33 in the year 1994 (the current record is held by an Italian chef who received 3 stars at 28 in 2002). He has had famous chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Heston Bluementhol work under him.

Chef White was hosted at the Mezza9 restaurant of the Grand Hyatt on Scotts Road, Singapore. A gala dinner was organised as part of the World Gourmet Summit. This was the only dinner I had signed up for at the summit and looked forward to it eagerly. The day before the dinner, I got to watch chef White perform a cooking demonstration at the Universal Studios as part of the Gastronomic Jam Sessions. He demonstrated two simple recipes but gave valuable inputs on how to handle the ingredients, seasoning and heat. He is the brand ambassador for Knorr and seemed to use the Knorr products rampantly in his cooking.

I made friends with some of the other participants at the gastronomic sessions, who live in Singapore and are also ardent cooks. About 4 of us managed to secure seats in the same table at the gala dinner and had a very memorable and joyful evening together. There were over 300 guests at the dinner that night and chef White had prepared a splendid meal for us. None of the dishes were extravagant or over the top. The different courses were a fine example of what a chef of March Pierre White's standard can do to simple ingredients and turn them into spectacular dishes. Chef White was present in the kitchen through out the evening and oversaw the entire operations.

The evening started with a reception outside the grand ballroom at the Grand Hyatt. Gourmet hand-crafted canapes and Brut Rose were served while the guests waited for friends and mingled. Once the dinner was announced, we were led inside the grand ballroom and seated in our predetermined tables.

Our first course was a Pea and Ham Soup en Tasse. The soup was velvety smooth and the ham lent it a nice saltiness. Pea Soup from a British chef? Why am I not surprised? Like I mentioned earlier, every course was a fine example of how a very simple dish can be elevated to a totally new and refined level by how its handled.

The second course was a Brandade of Salmon with Fennel and Lemon Vinaigrette. The flavours of the fennel and lemon along with the Salmon was like marriage made in heaven. Also the quality of the Salmon was fresh and top-class. The quality of the ingredients available in Singapore is extremely fresh. Although it involves a lot of food miles I can be very biased when it comes to good seafood especially if its Salmon.

The third course was a truly spectacular dish, my favourite among all the courses. It was a Mousseline of Sole en Fleur de Courgette with sauce Jacqueline. The Sole mousse was absolutely smooth and delicious and was just melting in my mouth. The rich Jacqueline sauce complimented the dish perfectly. Here is a link (http://www.westernstarbutter.com.au/recipes/show/3/4/jacqueline-sauce/index.html) to a recipe for Jacqueline sauce. Give it try, if you are curious.

The fourth course was a Fillet of Beef with Cepes, Pomme Fondant & Jus Madere. My fillet was cooked to a medium and was perfect. I wonder if they got all (over 300) of the fillets cooked right! Two different red wines were paired with this dish. They were both equally good.

The final course - dessert was a bit of a let down for me. It was Red Fruits in Rose Wine Jelly and Raspberry Syrup. I anticipated a rich chocolate dessert or something unusual. But this dinner seemed to be all about getting the simple dishes done really well. Just the final course seemed like a glorified Jello with fruits. I am sorry, I love my desserts and I expected more from Chef March Pierre White!!

While I was still craving for some chocolate after eating most of the fruity dessert, we were served a platter of rich chocolate logs along with our coffee and tea after dinner. Its a good thing we were served that, else I would have personally walked up to Chef White and expressed my discontent about the dessert.

The entire evening was an enjoyable one. Everyone was all dressed up and the settings were very formal and suited the occasion. The wines paired with each of the courses were picked well and complimented the dishes very well. The skills of the celebrity chef and the quality of produce available in Singapore were the highlights of the evening.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Last year, I heard about the Frugal Gourmet through some friends that were staying at the Ooty club. Frugal Gourmet is a private kitchen in Ootacamund (Ooty) hosted by a lady named, Sharmila in her beautiful home, past Lovedale. She hosts guests in her home for lunch ,about 2 - 3 times a week. The entire operation is mostly run by just her and sometimes her son accompanies in serving the meal while he is visiting. I tried to book my family a lunch at the Frugal Gourmet last summer but Sharmila couldn't fit us in her busy schedule. Yes, she is very busy during the summer with all the travelers that go up the hills to get away from the heat in the plains. So this summer, a lunch at the Frugal Gourmet was one of the top priorities on my Ooty list.
I managed to secure a reservation at the Frugal Gourmet at the end of April. The Frugal Gourmet is a good 10 kilometers from the Charring Cross junction in Ooty. I received an sms with the directions to Frugal Gourmet and they were fairly easy to follow. If anyone is familiar with the Light and Life Academy in Ooty, Frugal Gourmet is right across from that.
We were greeted on our arrival and led in to a beautiful house. Not only is Sharmila a great cook but she is also a gifted painter. The walls of her home are adorned with beautiful canvases of her own artwork. The dining room is fairly large and seats 6 people comfortably. We were served Iced tea while we waited for the various courses to arrive. Taking one's own bottle of wine would be a good idea. There was also a menu placed on the table with details of our 5 course lunch.
Our first course was Flash fried Prawns on a bed of Rosti Potatoes. The quality of the prawns was fresh and good and I also liked the marinade used. The potato rosti was crisp and golden brown. This particular dish was a hit with the two young diners that were a part of our group.
The second course was a warm aromatic bowl of Pumpkin Soup with roasted garlic. The soup was velvetty smooth and flavours and seasoning were just right.
The third and main course was Grilled Bhasa fish in a herb butter sauce served on a bed of Tagliatelle tossed with red chillies and herbs. On the side we were served some fresh home-made Rosemary Foccacia along with crunchy Greek Salad and Batter-fried Courgettes. The fish was cooked just right and the sauce was mild and flavourful which went perfectly well with the pasta that had a bit of kick in it, from the red chillies. She was thoughtful enough to avoid red chillies in the pasta that were served to the children in our group. There was also some pickled onion and mustard that was served on the side that went well with the fish and the rosemary foccacia. I must add that the pasta was hand-rolled. In all the excitement, I forgot to take a picture of our main course!!! The fourth course was a platter of desserts. The chef specialises in home-made ice creams and gelato. So there was a scoop of Guava ice cream and a scoop of Plum Gelato. Along with it, there was also the Dark Chocolate Slice and Strawberry Mousse. The ice cream and gelato were both excellent, not too sweet. I enjoy cold desserts on a warm sunny afternoon in Ooty.
Finally, we were served coffee and green tea along with some Dates soaked in Grand Marnier and Mocha Cupcakes. I had a top quality Peach-flavoured French green tea which was a perfect end to a very fine and satisfying lunch.
I recommended a stop at the Frugal Gourmet to most of my friends and family who traveled up the hills this summer. Some of them managed to get a reservation but many of them were turned down before they were fully booked and could not be accommodated. So next time you plan a visit to the Frugal Gourmet, make sure you call well ahead. Sharmila cannot be reached very often on her mobile phone due to poor mobile network in her neighbourhood. It is best to send her an sms and wait for a reply or to e-mail her. Frugal Gourmet, un'acre, Lovedale , Nilgiris, below light and life academy, Ooty, Tamil nadu 643003 Hours of operation: 12 noon to 7pm Phone - +919487487250 Email address - darkchoclate@gmail.com, www.thefrugalgourmet.webs.com

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Every year, at the end of April, World Gourmet Summit is held in Singapore for food enthusiasts. It is a melting pot of world-renowned chefs and gourmands. The sharing of knowledge and the commrardarie is immense, all for the love of food. I had the privilege to attend a few events at the World Gourmet Summit 2012. The summit is an exciting mix of cooking demos, workshops and gala dinners at various local restaurants who collaborate with the visiting chefs. At the two day Gastronomic jam sessions, the chefs shed light on their areas of expertise. Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White and chef Ian Curly demonstrated dishes like Chateaubriand and Steak au poivre. It was interesting to note the different techniques used by these chefs to cook the same dish.
Local talent Chef Janice Wong shared her passion for desserts with the audience. She was very excited about fruit purees and demonstrated how she made fruit puree sheets and used them in colourful desserts.
Day 2 at the Gastronomic jam sessions began with a demonstration of an edible landscape by the Singapore Pastry team. The team skillfully demonstrated the techniques to form various shapes and put together a beautiful master piece made out of sugar and chocolate. The butterfly's glass-like wings and curly feelers were almost surreal.
The pastry demonstration was followed by a pleasant surprise for me, in my personal opinion. Indian chef, Vikas Khanna of the restaurant Junoon in New York city demonstrated a recipe for Sandalwood-smoked chicken with green peppercorns and Saffron. It was a very simple dish but the imaginative combination of the ingredients showcased the knowledge and talent of the young chef. I was very impressed by the chef's humbleness and his respect for Indian cuisine.
Next up was Michelin star chef Bruno Menard who took us through a slide show of his innovative dishes. It was interesting to note the Japanese influence in his Neo-French cuisine concept. Nordic cuisine has stormed the world gourmet scene since the inception of Norma as the world's best restaurant, 2 years ago. Following this trend, Chef Ronny Emborg from Denmark was one of the guest chefs at the World Gourmet summit 2012 and he did justice to the hype around Nordic cuisine. He and his Sous Chef demonstrated some spectacular dishes like Burnt Bread, Frozen Halibut, Potato Skin salad and a Malt Log Dessert.
Russian chef Anatoly Komm demonstrated dishes like a crab salad and Sushi-like rolls but made with typical Russian ingredients like beet root, potatoes, and mayonnaise. Chef Komm had a career in the world of Fashion before he became a chef and his culinary skills were rather eccentric and imaginative.
Another interesting segment at the Jam sessions was a cook off between two renowned chefs - chef Michel Sarran and Chef Susur Lee. They were both asked to cook Signature dishes using a theme ingredient - Truffles. Chef Sarran demonstrated a Truffle breakfast with Truffle Cappuccino and Truffle Yogurt while Chef Lee demonstrated Truffle-induced Squid ink and Sesame balls.
The final segment at the Jam sessions was a fun and exciting one by the celebrity Mixologist Javier De Las Muelas of the Dry Martini bar fame. He presented a slide of photos and videos of his bar and the innovative cocktails that the mixologist is famous for. His team demonstrated a drink called the Carnivore which is served in a pitcher plant placed in a martini glass. They also demonstrated a couple of beer-based cocktails.
The jam sessions were an eye-opener and was a truly rewarding experience. Although no written down recipes were shared by the visiting chefs, the sessions were informative and it was exhilarating to see the chefs at work, who showcased their skills and philosophies. This particular blog post is only part of a series of posts that I am going to be writing about the World Gourmet Summit 2012. Look forward to more news about the other events at the Summit.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


As you all know, I do a lot of research before I embark on any trip, especially one that revolves around eating. One of the names that kept popping up while I was researching about restaurants in Singapore was the Iggy's at Hilton Hotel, Orchard Road, Singapore. Iggy's serves European cuisine with a Japanese influence. I was beyond tired when I landed in Singapore since I barely got 2 hours of sleep over the previous night at the airport and airplane. I realised I was staying very close to Iggy's and decided to give it a try for my very first meal in Singapore. Most websites recommend making a reservation at the Iggy's to ensure a table. I also realised if you don't want to splurge on your meals, lunch in restaurants like Iggy's makes a lot of sense. They offer very reasonably priced 4 and 6 course meals for lunch. Meals like these are a steal compared to the dinner prices.
I made a reservation for 1 person and reported on time for my lunch. Its a very formal setting and black is the predominant colour. I was led to a seating area at the back and seated in a corner. I was the first diner at the restaurant. The service is the very attentive and the staff are very knowledgeable and helped me pick the right dishes for different courses. I decided to go for the 4 course meal and made my selections for the various courses.
Before my actual lunch arrived, I was served a Amuse Bouche of Eel mousse with yuzu sauce and caviar, all enveloped in Hickory smoke in a glass dome. The acidity of the yuzu sauce and the creaminess of the mousee along with the smoky flavour made for a very well-rounded dish.
For the first course, I picked a Salad of marinated Salmon with Savoy cabbage and Blood Orange. All the elements of the dish were plated very delicately along with some micro herbs and finally the quick-frozen Blood Orange was sprinkled on top of the salad at the table. It was a very refreshing salad to start the meal with.
For the second course, I had picked Cappellini with tiny shrimps, seaweed and shellfish oil. It was one of the most flavourful pastas I have ever tasted. The tiny shrimps lent crunch to the dish while the seaweed and shellfish brought in subtle and delicate flavours. I liked the idea and flavour of the shell fish oil, I am going to try and make some at home with oil and prawn shells.
For the Main course, I picked Duck Confit with beetroot. I was a tough choice between Venison and Duck and I finally succumbed to the Duck. The Duck Confit was cooked to perfection and it went really well with the beetroot puree that was served along with it. Finally, for dessert, I picked the Spicy Mango. I was so engrossed in my meal that I forgot to click a picture of my dessert. It was a beautiful combination of Kiwi puree, sesame tuille, Meringue, coffee and Mango, all plated up in a very artistic manner. The service at Iggy's was impeccable and the food was even better. Iggy's is definitely on the top of my list of favourite restaurants in Singapore.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Malabar cuisine is truly spectacular. Whether Kerala is God's own country or not, its cuisine is truly God's own. I love Malabar cuisine and I get cranky if I don't get my fair share of it every now and then. I plan a trip across the state border at least once a year, to indulge in the delicacies of the neighboring state. Malabar cuisine may not be for everyone. First of all, it requires a certain tolerance to coconut oil. Coconut oil is abundantly used in all the dishes. Coconut oil is to Malayalis what mustard oil is to Bengalis. The seafood and other non-vegetarian dishes stand out from the rest of what the state has to offer and are my favourites.

A visit to Ernakulam/Kochi is incomplete for me without a stop for lunch at the Grand Hotel on M G Road. Its a grand old institution that has been serving scrumptious food to the locals and tourists alike since the mid 1960s. The restaurant at the Grand received a face-lift in mid 2011 and has opened its doors once again to its loyal customers. The restaurant offers North-Indian, Continental, Oriental and Malabar fare but in the last 12 years of my visits to the Grand, I do not remember ordering a single dish outside the Malabar cuisine. Ok, maybe once I ordered caramel custard for my son.

I am also very fond of restaurants in Fort Kochi that cater mostly to the foreign palate. Most restaurant menus in Fort Kochi will feature grilled seafood and a fusion of malabar and continental cuisine. On my recent trip to Fort Kochi I had the opportunity to have dinner at the Old Harbour Hotel which is just across the street from the Chinese fishing nets. We ordered a grilled prawn appetiser served with beetroot chutney & pineapple chutney, Indian-style sauteed crab served with rice and a dish of Prawn Ullarthiyathu wrapped with a fillet of red snapper and steamed. The seafood was fresh and flavourful and menu was definitely designed to cater to the tourists from the far and beyond.

I am personally very fond of the restaurant at the Malabar House on Parade Road which is a small boutique hotel. There is also a Tapas and wine bar in the hotel premises. I did not get the chance to dine at the Malabar House during my recent trip but I clearly remember relishing the grilled seafood platter and the Pork Vindaloo Ravioli from my previous trips.

The other restaurant that I stopped at for dinner in Fort Kochi on the following night was the History Restaurant at the Brunton Boatyard Hotel. The Brunton Boatyard again is not far from the Chinese fishing nets and is situated right by the waterfront. The History restaurant is a tribute to the settlers of Fort Kochi who have called this island home over the centuries. The Chef, Mr.Ajeeth has drawn inspiration from the Brahmins, Syrian Christians, Jews and Portuguese among other settlers who settled to Fort Kochi decades ago.

The limited menu varies on a daily basis and among other dishes are three signature dishes which they claim is unique to the History Restaurant and will not be found in any other restaurants in Fort Kochi. On the night of our dinner, the signature dishes were a slow-cooked First-Class Railway Mutton Curry, Chuttuli Meen - a dish of brackish water fish stuffed with shallots and ginger, grilled and finished in the oven with potatoes and Bristow Camp Potatoes - baby potatoes sauteed with red spinach and spices. The bar menu at the History restaurant was impressive and I spotted some unusual liqueurs among some usual suspects.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Annapoorna is synonymous with the word breakfast. Although there are many outlets round the town, Annapoorna People's Park on Govt Arts College has a comfortable and relaxed ambiance compared to the busy and loud atmosphere of the other outlets. The Vada-Sambhar, Ghee Roast, Rawa Dosa and Poori-masal are local favourites. There is even an executive breakfast available which is like a breakfast-thali with a variety of tiffin items. Round off your breakfast with Annapoorna's south Indian filter coffee which has a serious fan-following in town. (Breakfast for 2 with coffee Rs 125 - 150).

With its white-washed walls and cool air-conditioning, Thats Why On the Go makes for an ideal stop for lunch in the scorching afternoon heat. Whether you are looking for a light lunch or a heavy one, On the Go has something for all (salads, wraps, kebabs, Mediterranean appetisers, biriyanis, rotis, curries, pastas and other continental mains). Dessert at this place is not to be missed. Their Mud Souffle and Ferraro-Rocher cake are a treat for chocolate-lovers. (Meal for 2 Rs1000 - 1250).

Latitude is the coffee shop at the newly opened Taj Vivanta-Surya in Race course. Both buffet and a la carte options are available for dinner. The buffet spread varies everyday and leans more on Indian cuisine with a few continental and Asian dishes . The salad bar is well-stocked with ample greens and vegetables and there is also a live counter for either pastas, dosas or appams. The a la carte menu is large and will not disappoint you. The al fresco seating area is very pleasant in the evenings. (Meal for 2 - Rs.1200 - 1500). For a taste of local flavours head to Juniour kuppanna in Ram Nagar. Kothu Parotta, Chicken Kolumbu, Kal Dosa, Pallipalayam Chicken and Egg Kalakkal are highly recommended. (Meal for 2 - Rs.500)

Friday, March 9, 2012


After strenuous exercise and a moderate breakfast we were looking to load up on pizza or pasta calories and Don Giovanni seemed to be the apt choice for lunch. It is situated on the roof top of a very non-descriptive building, on a busy street in Puducherry. The interiors are a mix of traditional Chettiar house-style pillars and red checkered table cloths. The general feeling is very relaxed, in fact the owner (supposedly an Italian chef) seemed very chilled out, walking around in shorts, taking orders and sipping on beer on the side. Wine and beer was available along with the food there.

We ordered some home-made orange drink which was quite refreshing for the Puducherry heat and humidity followed by an appetiser of Crostini with ham and tomatoes. The tomatoes were a mix of sauteed onion, tomatoes and mild herbs. My friend did say it reminded her of a tomato subzi made in her folk's place that was served with chapathis!!

For the main course we ordered a pizza with sun-dried tomatoes, pesto ravioli and Chicken Cacciotore. The pizza was quite good. It seemed to have been baked in a wood-fired oven. The crust was thin and cheese was stringy and of good quality.

The pesto ravioli tasted good but was rather heavy on the cheese. The raviolis were filled with only cheese and then tossed in basil pesto. I wish the filling had some ricotta in it, it would have made the raviolis taste lighter. The pesto was fresh and flavorsome.

The Chicken cacciotore was a stew of chicken with olives, tomatoes and onions. It was a very homely dish with no great airs about it, just the way it was supposed to be. The meat was well cooked and was literally falling off the bones.

The dessert selection did not look very attractive and we were already very satisfied after a good lunch, so we skipped dessert. The owner had this weird habit of walking up to every table and asking his customers how the food was, by just shaking his head and making eye contact. And he would do that more than once during a meal. We found it funny but it may make some customers uncomfortable.

The overall experience was good. For a seasoned traveler who has eaten in many good Italian restaurants, Don Giovanni may come across average. Nevertheless, it is a decent option for a meal in puducherry which is scattered with cafes and restaurants serving spin offs on European cuisines.

Italian Restaurant,
Roof top of Hotel Corbelli,
170, Mission Street,
Ph # 98948 97955

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I was recently in Pondicherry on a brief weekend trip. Although the purpose of my trip was for other reasons, I had taken my camera along and hoped to click some pictures of food and write a blog post or two. Boy! was I thrilled when I came across this true French bakery by the name, Baker Street! The name may not sound very French but every other aspect of it was definitely French. There were even south Indian native Pondicherry staff conversing in fluent French to their French customers. Thanks to a friend from Coimbatore who had recommended this place!

They had an array of breads that included Baguettes, multi-grain loaves, whole wheat loaves and dinner rolls. The pastries included butter croissants, almond croissants, pain au chocolate and pain au raisin. The breads and pastries looked as authentic as it would in any bakery in the streets of Paris. I tasted the butter croissant and the almond croissant and I must say that its the best I have tasted in India and would come really close to the Parisian ones.

There was also a variety of sweet pastries that included strawberry tart, almond tart, chocolate tart, chocolate mousse, brownies, cheesecake, mille feuille, cookies, meringues and macaroons.

To top all this off, the Baker street bakery is also a great option for lunch or dinner. They had a range of healthy and mouth watering salads. There was also a buffet pasta counter where you could choose from a variety of pastas and sauces.

The pizzas, savoury quiches, grilled sandwiches and croque monsieurs looked very tempting indeed.

There was also a separate section with counters full of gourmet chocolates and special edible gifts for Valentine's day.

The Baker street looked impressive and the pastries and bread from there tasted very French and authentic. The Manager at the bakery was very helpful and was full of information. Now we all know where to stop to pick up authentic French baked goodies on our next trip to Pondicherry.

PUDUCHERRY - 605001.
PH # 0413-6458888
(at the time of writing, there was a problem loading the website)