Monday, November 10, 2014


I have always been very fond of Sweden as far back as I can remember. From the time when I was a little girl, my family has had business ties with Swedes. My Dad's friend Sven  is a dear friend of mine as well. When I was about 7 years old, I got a little note from then 8 year old Evelina through her mother Ylva who was in India on work. From then on, we have continued to write letters to each other which then graduated to emails and now whatsapp messages!! Like all friends, we have shared and discussed all things related to pets, books, movies, boys, schools, etc.

And when I was 15 years old, I had the opportunity to visit her for 4 weeks and go to school with her as well. Those 4 weeks as a 9th grader in Sweden during one summer, was a period of enlightenment and change for me. I came back a different person and till date I remember my time there fondly. One of the memories I carry with me was the time I spent in the kitchen with Ylva, my friend's mother. I was her sous chef in the kitchen and enjoyed spending that time with her during the weekends. Ylva, was a warm and caring mother who would churn out delicious meals for the family everyday. I went to Sweden as a scrawny teenager and came back as a plump one!! I gained 8kgs in those 4 weeks I spent with Evelina's family. So you can imagine what a fantastic cook Ylva was and still is!! Ylva has been a strong influence on me when it comes to my fondness for food and cooking.

Since 1995, I have visited Sweden numerous times and have been a big fan of Swedish home cooking. My favourite is of course, the Swedish meatballs. But I must say, that my most favourite are the breakfasts there. I love the different breads, honey, smoked salmon at times, the cream cheese and other cheese spreads!

During my short stay of 3 days in Sweden this October, I got to eat all my favourite dishes and what made it even more special was catching up friends after a long break. I was going back to Sweden after a break of 7.5 years, a lot of things have changed since my last visit there. For starters, Evelina has two little adorable boys aged 4 and 5 and I met them for the first time last month. Evelina put in a lot of effort to make sure that they were delicious dishes on her table for every single meal while I was there. What was very striking for me to know was that she has inherited the dining table from her parents after they moved and it was the same table that witnessed me gain 8 kgs in the summer of 1995. Only fingers crossed this time that it doesn't happen again! ;-)

My very first dinner at Evelina's was a seafood extravaganza. She had to drive to Gothenburg to pick me up from the airport and she used this opportunity to visit a local seafood store and bought a lot of goodies to feed me. There was boiled shrimp which was very flavourful and was served with a spicy aioli. There was also cold-smoked salmon and hot-smoked salmon with gravlax sauce. She had also baked a potato gratin for dinner. Its layers of potato slices baked in cream along with garlic and parsley. Now what can go wrong with something like that? It was heavenly! Although I manage to buy smoked salmon every now and then from the big metros in India, the gravlax sauce is something I miss here in India. I love the sweet, spicy and sour taste of the gravlax sauce and has been unable to recreate the same in my kitchen.

Clockwise from top left - Hot and cold smoked Salmon, Vintage Volvo, boiled shrimp and the grey autumn skies over the Swedish countryside

Evelina and her husband John, live in the Swedish countryside about 3 kms from the nearest town of Gallstad. She has her own hens in a coop and gets fresh eggs from them every day. A week before I arrived, she had a bought a whole sheep from the farmer next door and had it butchered and packed into neat little packages to be tucked into the freezer, to consume over the next few weeks. I made Rogan Josh with some of that lamb and it was a big hit with her family. I also made a chicken curry for dinner one evening and had her little boys running around in circles with their tongues out as they found it too spicy. Evelina made Swedish meatballs for lunch one day when her mother visited us. In no time, she made the meatballs, sauce and potatoes while chatting with us in her kitchen. The meatballs were served with Lingonberry jam which is a classic combination.

Like I mentioned earlier, breakfasts are my favourite in Sweden. With fresh eggs from Evelina's back yard, the breakfasts in her house were very special. As a teenager, my favourite was a layer of butter on any bread and a thick layer of honey. I had to eat that one morning just to relive that summer of 1995. Another day, it was smoked salmon with gravlax sauce and eggs. One of my new discoveries this time is the cheese spread that is available in tubes in a multitude of flavours. The flavours range from smoked shrimps, shrimp and crayfish, ham, blue cheese, chives and smoked reindeer meat with actual bits in it. During one of my visits to the local grocery store I was amazed to find a huge display of these cheese spread tubes. The range of flavours was just mind-blowing!

This was probably my shortest trip to Sweden and the first time I did not visit Sven and his family. Sweden and its people are very close to my heart and I am already longing to go back to Sweden. I hope to make it back to Sweden in 2 years from now with my little boys and share with them the culture and friendship that is very special to me. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


After landing in Tromso in northern Norway, I was to go on a long ferry ride to reach my final destination, Skjervoy. This was a huge ferry service named 'Hurtigruten' where tourists are known to spend a few days on board traveling along the west coast of Norway watching the northern lights in the winter and whales thorough out the year, if they get lucky. I was all set to witness the northern lights and was eagerly looking forward to a decent meal after the rather insipid meals on long flights.

Above - Hurtigruten and my sumptuous three course meal onboard

The food served on board this ferry was to highlight the produce from northern Norway. The first course was a warm carrot soup served with bits of crispy cured ham. The salty and crisp bits of ham was a lovely garnish to the soup and highlighted the sweetness of the carrots. It was followed by a course of baked arctic char (a close relative of salmon and lake trout) with pickled vegetables (mostly fennel), roasted beetroot, potatoes and a mustard sauce. The Arctic char had been sourced from a nearby port that very morning. The fish was cooked just right and the fennel along with the mustard sauce rounded off the dish very well. For dessert, it was cloudberry from the local region served with sour cream and a crisp and crumbly biscuit. Followed by dinner there was a magnificent display of the northern lights in the sky for me to witness and enjoy for the first time in my life. It was indeed a challenging task to be out on the deck of the ferry to capture the northern lights in my camera to bring back home the images and share with my family. The night was cold and the wind was howling!!!

I arrived at my friend's village in the middle of that night and the next 3 days were filled with memorable meals from the Norwegian and Indian frontiers. It is amazing to have access to such good produce in near zero weather conditions and with just the right planning, I pulled off a couple of great Indian dishes for my special friends too. My friend Elna, grew up in the sleepy seaside village of Skjervoy in the north of Norway, settled in Lillesand in the south of Norway but spent a good part of the last 20 years in Tirupur, South of India. I have known her for 20 years now and I must say that she is definitely one-of-a-kind, in a very nice way.

Day or night, east or west - stunning views

Skjervoy is a beautiful little island along the north coast of Norway, well north of the arctic circle. When Elna was a little girl growing up in this village in the 1950s and 60s, the only way to the mainland was by boat. But today, they have a single lane bridge that connects Skjervoy to another island which in turn is connected to the mainland by a tunnel that goes under the seabed. The population of the island of Skjervoy today is about 2000 and it is largely comprised of the fishing community and a few pensioners. 

I made sure that Elna's fridge is stocked up with Salmon, especially smoked salmon. I was determined to eat as much salmon as possible on this trip, as we do not have access to this lovely fish in India. My lunches were a few slivers of smoked salmon with a green salad and a soft local bread for the next 3 days. The dinners were all home-cooked and very interesting.

Elna's younger son, Thore is a trained chef but had to give up his career due to skin allergies caused from handling fresh food. He is now a full-time fisherman in the northern waters of Norway but still can thankfully whip up delicious dinners while wearing rubber gloves during prep time. For my first dinner in Skjervoy, he cooked a delicious meal of baked salmon in a hollandaise-like sauce along with spaghetti. After devouring a large piece of salmon, I was treated to fresh strawberries (quite unusual for this time of the year as I was told) with cream. To add to this delightful meal, I was also treated to another fantastic display of northern lights right over the village and it looked splendid in spite of the lights from the village.

Diwali dinner and the salmon delicacies

The next day, I decided to cook them an authentic Indian dinner and managed to serve a near original Rogan Josh cooked with the local lamb and served it with rice and a cauliflower subzi. I had taken a few Indian spices along with me and they came in handy with the Indian dishes I cooked in my Norwegian friend's kitchen. As I was in Norway during Diwali, I thought it was only appropriate to take some Indian sweets for Elna and her family. I had a taken a box of Mysurpa from Krishna sweets (a local specialty here in Coimbatore where I live) and they were truly appreciated after a meal of warm lamb curry and rice. The strawberries and wine along with the Mysurpa added a Norwegian touch just to remind me that I was far away from home but in the comfort of my dear Norwegian friends.

Baked salted Cod with the various accompaniments

On my last day in Skjervoj, I was treated to an authentic Norwegian dinner which is usually cooked on Christmas eve. Thore baked a batch of dried and salted cod which his uncle Stan was kind enough to arrange for their visitor from India (me!!!). The baked cod had a rather unusual texture and was served with an array of traditional accompaniments. It was served with boiled potatoes and a pea stew and the garnishes were sliced onion, brown cheese slivers, bacon bits fried in butter and fried bacon fat that popped in one's mouth like popcorn and melted away with all the salty goodness that comes with bacon. Apparently, the brown cheese made from goat's milk is a local specialty and it tasted delicious and reminded me of Kova (condensed solidified milk in India) for some reason. I had cooked some South Indian coriander chicken curry to satisfy my friends and they were indeed thankful for a second Indian dish during my short stay there. The highlight of every evening while I was there was the magnificent display of northern lights in the night sky over Skjervoy. Not for a moment did I miss the fireworks back home in India that were lighting up the sky during Diwali. The key factor to witness the northern lights is a clear sky and I was lucky to get 4 clear nights in a row during my stay.

Although my stay in Norway was rather short, I shared a lot of great memories with my friends over the special dinners we cooked for each other. The nearest Indian restaurant is at least a good two-hour drive from Skjervoy but even they fail to cook up dishes that are authentic enough to satisfy my friend who has spent many a months in India eating home-cooked meals in my folk's place. And to me, a self-proclaimed lover of all things with salmon, it was a gastronomic-fantasy-come-true eating salmon literally for every meal during my stay in Norway. With a heavy heart and a content belly, I said good bye to my friends (as I won't be seeing them for a while) and carried on with the rest of my trip. To be continued with more food stories from other parts of Scandinavia...............

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Hosting a lunch for a fun-loving bunch of friends is always exciting. Off late, I find an array of appetisers and a selection of desserts to work better than an elaborate lunch. A heavy lunch is literally frowned upon these days. After a light lunch, everyone can go back to do whatever it is that they need to without feeling stuffed or drowsy. For the health-conscious guests, throw in a couple of salads. The salads can be served in small ice cream bowls or shot glasses to make it look elegant and alluring, at the same time. Here is how I went about planning and executing a lunch that I hosted recently for a bunch of girls.

It is important to know everyone's dietary preferences before planning the lunch menu. Very often there are vegetarians and we need to bare them in mind as well. Surprisingly, some of these vegetarians are partial to seafood, especially fish. I know of quite a few vegetarians who eat fish occasionally. Well, they are not technically vegetarians, are they? I am always happy when a so-called vegetarian eats a piece of fish or prawn, I take it as a compliment and feel upbeat about my food. I feel that my food smells and looks enticing enough for them to change their mind and eat a piece of it.

While planning for the appetisers, I try to keep it colourful and also look for a good mix of protein. For the non-vegetarians, I try and include one chicken dish, one mutton dish, one of fish and one of shellfish as well. I prefer not to repeat the same protein in two different dishes. If there are enough takers, beef and pork should also work well. An appetiser with cheese is generally appreciated but make sure not to have many dishes with cheese in them. Pita chips with one or many dips is also hugely popular. Store-bought pita chips can be served along with a few dips and some of these dips can be made a day ahead. A friend of mine once served pita chips with 10 different dips. I also try to keep the number of deep-fried dishes to a minimum as most of my friends are health and calorie-conscious. If your friends offer to bring food, go ahead and accept the offer as it gives you more time to focus on the dishes you are preparing and on the decor. Hosting a lunch for friends should be light and easy on the host as well.

Clockwise from top left: Vegetable sticks with red chilli pickle and cream cheese dip, Pesto Gnocchi with oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, White bean crostini with truffle salt and truffle oil & Corn balls with ketchup

I laid out the pita chips with Babaganoush and Black Olive and Fig dip while my friends were trickling in. The guests can dig into them while settling down and getting to know each other, if some of the guests haven't met before. While bringing out the appetisers one after the other, it is a good idea to alternate between vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. A friend of mine brought Vegetable sticks along with a Red Chilli pickle and Cream Cheese dip. The presentation of this appetiser was very smart and colourful. She also brought Mushrooms with a Cream Cheese filling. It was one of the best appetisers of the afternoon and the serving platter was wiped clean in no time. Some of the other vegetarian appetisers were Mini Corn Balls with ketchup, White Bean Crostini with Truffle salt and Truffle oil, Pesto Gnocchi with Oven-roasted Tomatoes and Vietnamese Rice paper Rolls.

A lot of these dishes were inspired by recipes I found online and from visits to restaurants. Wherever appropriate, I have given the links to recipes. The White Bean Crostini was inspired by a recent meal at the Yauatcha in Bangalore. They have a steamed dumpling that has a filling made with pureed Edamame beans and Truffles. It was a stand-out dish at the restaurant and served as an inspiration for me to recreate a similar taste but with a different texture. Gnocchi with Pesto is an easy appetiser to prepare especially if you use store-bought Gnocchi and store-bought Pesto. I love using Oven-roasted Cherry Tomatoes in my cooking. I love to toss them in salads and in appetisers as a garnish. Cut cherry tomatoes into half and spread them on a baking tray. Drizzle with Extra virgin Olive oil, salt and pepper. Stick it into a 160C oven for about 30 to 45 mins, depending on how roasted you want them. They can be made a day ahead and stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. The Vietnamese Rice paper rolls are loosely based on a recipe by Chef Emeril Lagasse. The sauce that accompanies the rice paper rolls is always a big hit. The Rice paper rolls themselves are very light and refreshing loaded with lettuce, carrots and herbs. The salty soy and peanut sauce that accompanies it is a striking contrast and works wonderfully well.

Clockwise from top left: Shredded Buffalo Chicken in Lettuce cups with Ranch dressing, Bengali steamed Fish, Teriyaki Mutton Ribs & Vietnamese Rice paper Rolls 

Buffalo chicken wings are a firm favourite for many. So when I found the recipe for Lettuce cups with shredded Buffalo Chicken with Ranch dressing on Pinterest, I knew I had to try it for my lunch. As expected, everyone liked it very much. The Bengali steamed fish was inspired by a recipe for Prawn Chingri. I applied the coconut spice paste only on one side of the fish (on top), wrapped it in banana leaf, secured it with a thread and steamed it for about 10 minutes. I removed the steamed fish pieces from the banana leaf it was cooked in and served them on top of fresh banana leaves cut into squares. It made for a very striking presentation. The recipe for the Teriyaki Mutton ribs are from a dear friend. It has a simple marinade of light and dark soya sauce, sesame oil, green chillies, garlic, ginger and brown sugar. I marinate the mutton pieces in the marinade for a few hours and pressure cook them. Then I reduce the sauce until it becomes sticky in consistency. The dish can be garnished with finely chopped spring onion.

Desserts, Clockwise from top left: Flourless Chocolate cake, Yogurt Panna Cotta with Balsamic and Vanilla Strawberries & Miniature cupcakes with Butter Cream frosting

Now for the desserts, the most important part of a meal for many. A friend of mine baked these really cute Bite-sized cupcakes in pink and blue colour with a simple butter cream frosting. It was the perfect size for a cupcake as we could eat one of these cupcakes and try the other desserts too. The kids may not appreciate this size but it definitely is the ideal size for cupcakes for adults. If I am making more than 1 dessert, I always make sure that at least 1 of the desserts has chocolate in it. For this special lunch I baked a rich Flourless Chocolate cake along with the other desserts. The consistency of the cake is much better if its baked the previous day and stored in the refrigerator overnight.

My final and most popular dessert that afternoon was the Yogurt Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries. It is a very simple dessert to make and almost always bowls by guests over with delight. Unlike, many panna cotta recipes I have come across, this one does not have any cream in it. It uses a combination of milk and yogurt. You need to get the right amount of gelatin in order to get a good consistency. Depending on the gelatin leaves or the brand of gelatin flakes you use, you may have to alter the quantity of gelatin to get the right consistency. This may require a couple of attempts but the results make it worthwhile. The same Panna Cotta can be served with other fruit compotes as well. The original recipe for this panna cotta calls for an orange compote but I always serve this with the balsamic strawberries, the recipe for which I found elsewhere on the internet. If strawberries are not in season, any other seasonal fruit compote can be used depending on your liking. I also recommend that you make this panna cotta a day ahead and refrigerate it overnight. That way, you will be sure that it is set and not have a Masterchef moment of 'has it set or has it not?'.

A lot of these dishes were inspired by recipes I found online and from visits to restaurants. The following are links to recipes that served as inspirations to make some of the dishes for my lunch.

Vietnamese Rice paper Rolls -
Buffalo Chicken in Lettuce cups and Ranch dressing -
Bengali Steamed Fish -
Flourless Chocolate cake -
Yogurt Panna Cotta -
Balsamic Strawberries -

I hope you enjoy trying out some of these recipes. My friends and I had a lot of fun that afternoon and everybody went home with a full belly and a big smile on their faces. I can't wait to plan my next lunch or dinner for my friends. It is always exciting and fulfilling to cook for family and friends.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


What do you do if you are spending a weekend in Bangalore? Where do you go to eat or for drinks and have a good time? Here are my top picks for breakfast, lunch, drinks and dinner inspired by a recent trip to Bangalore.

For breakfast, Smoke House Deli on Lavelle road is a good option. The day I visited Smoke house deli, it was buzzing with women runners who had just completed their pink run in aid of Breast Cancer in the nearby Kanteerava Stadium. They serve breakfast all day and their granola with yogurt and omelettes come highly recommended. I must say that I have not seen a more enticing-looking glass of granola with yogurt anywhere else! The black and white theme is funky and will set you in the right mood for the rest of the day to follow. There is also a selection of freshly baked breads for one to take home.

Granola with yogurt and fruits & Omelette with Smoked Salmon

For a relaxed and laid-back lunch head to the Karavalli restaurant at the Taj Gateway on Residency road which serves coastal cuisine from the west coast of India. This restaurant has been a long-time favorite in my family and no trip to Bangalore is complete without a meal here. Some of the old favorites are not featured in the menu any longer but the chefs are happy to whip up the dishes on request. The complimentary rasam served at the start of the meal is delicious, even on a hot day I found myself enjoying the rasam. For starters try the Ladyfish fry and Meen Pollichathu. For mains, the appams are outstanding along with Prawn Balchow and Karavalli Mutton curry. There is usually only enough room for paan and not for dessert, after a spectacular meal here. The only downside to this restaurant is the slow service. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable but they lack in efficiency and speed. A quick snooze after a satisfying meal in Karavalli will help you get adequate rest to take on the evening with enthusiasm and eagerness.

Karavalli Mutton curry, Fish Moilee, Mutton Fry and Paan

Toit in Indira Nagar is a fun place for a few drinks. I visited Toit in the afternoon on a Sunday. Although it was sparsely occupied, the music and ambiance was very relaxed and enjoyable. I hear that they have a live band playing and occasionally stand-up comedians performing on weekend evenings. The Irish brew master did not disappoint the beer lovers and for the non-beer drinkers, there was a good selection of wines and cocktails on offer. Another place that came highly recommended was the Arbor Brewing Co. I did not get the opportunity to visit ABC but many of my friends recommend it both for their brews and for their grub. 

Monkey Bar is a fun and happening place to hang out in the evenings, especially for the younger lot. The drinks and food menu was eclectic and added to the young vibe of the place. In both the drinks and food menu, there seemed to be subtle twists to well-known classics and it came across so effortlessly that you get the feeling that they are not trying too hard. This in turn sets the mood for one to relax and enjoy the concoctions while soaking in the atmosphere. But be warned, the place seemed to be very popular with the college crowd. 

Clockwise from top left: Quirky coasters at Monkey bar, Prosecco at The Glasshouse, Drinks at Toit and finally the stunning ceiling at The Glasshouse

Another place, I stopped by with a great vibe was The Glasshouse on Lavelle road. It is a relatively new place and I don't remember seeing it from my previous trip to Bangalore which was in mid-2013. It had an outdoor lounge and an indoor restaurant area. The lounge had a spectacular roof and I caught myself gawking at it every now and then. The restaurant area was filled with diners who were visibly enjoying their dinner. Another interesting element at The Glasshouse was the bakery section. There were freshly baked breads, tarts and crackers for sale. I picked up the sunflower seed loaf to take back home and I was not disappointed.

It is no news that I enjoy Asian cuisine, particularly authentic Asian cuisine which is becoming popular in India. There is a growing shift from Desi-Chinese to authentic Thai, Vietnamese, Cantonese and other regional Asian cuisines. The Zen at Leela Palace and Blue Ginger at the Taj Westend have been catering to a loyal and discerning clientele for many years. The New Kid on the Block is Yauatcha at #1 MG Mall, at the Eastern end of MG road, right across from Vivanta by Taj. Yauatcha is a Michelin-starred Asian restaurant chain from London currently in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore in India. They have a fantastic selection of dimsums on their menu. The stand-outs were steamed prawn dimsum wrapped in spinach leaves and dumplings filled with pureed Edamame and Truffle. Prosecco and Thea martinis were great accompaniments to the meal.

I hope this post has given you some new and interesting options to try out while in Bangalore next time. The dining and bar scene in Bangalore is changing frequently and I enjoy trying out a few new places while revisiting some of my old favorites. No matter what, a weekend in Bangalore is always fun especially if you are in the company of some good friends.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


A friend of mine asked me recently about restaurants in Paris. She wanted me to recommend a few places to try out while she visited Paris. My first advice to her was not to walk into a cafe or a restaurant that you happen to just walk by. I always plan ahead and decide where to eat my meals at the start of the day or sometimes a few days ahead if its hard to get a reservation in a restaurant. So here are some of my favorite places to eat in Paris.

Most hotels offer breakfast along with the room reservation. One can expect croissants, bread rolls, preserves, cereals, eggs to order, yogurt and fruits. If you step out of your hotel without eating breakfast, Paul is a good place to grab a quick bite on your way to a museum or other tourist destinations. Paul boulangeries are dotted all around Paris and you can easily find one in the neighborhood you are staying in.

Clockwise from top left: Seared scallops with string potatoes and XO sauce, Watercress soup with Sea Urchins, Aromatic broth with Oysters, Seabass with seaweed and Seared beef with Bok choy at Yamt'cha

For lunch, I highly recommend the restaurant Yamt'cha. It is a one-Michelin star restaurant and I would say the food and experience here is better than some of the 3-Michelin star restaurants. Chef Adeline Grattard draws inspiration from her culinary training in Hong Kong and the result is a delightful offering of French Cuisine with very subtle Asian influences. The lunch menu is a usually a 6 course tasting menu accompanied by teas or wine. The guests are asked about their meat preferences and allergies at the start of the meal. It is a surprise menu, you never know what you are getting until the plate is placed in front of you. I have eaten here twice and not a single dish has been disappointing. The desserts are also surprisingly light and refreshing and you won't feel stuffed when you walk out of the restaurant after lunch. It is the perfect place for lunch as the meal is light and you will be all set and ready with a good appetite for your dinner reservation at 8pm.

         Goat cheese with Honey and Olive oil & Meringue with passion fruit and plum puree, Almond sorbet at Yamt'cha

If you are in the Eiffel Tower neighborhood sight-seeing, a good place to stop by for lunch would be Cafe Constant. Chef Christian Constant owns 3 different restaurants, all of them on Rue Saint-Dominique, not far from the Eiffel Tower. They do not take reservations at Cafe Constant and if you plan to have an early lunch, it is easy to find a table at the start of lunch service.

Prawn tart & Guinea fowl with Cous cous at Cafe Constant

As you sight-see and shop around Paris, if you are looking for coffee and a light snack in the evening, Fauchon is a good place to stop by. After a cafe latte and a macaroon or one of their eclairs you are good to carry on shopping in Printemps, Lafayette or the stores on St. Honore street.

Sugary goodness at Fauchon

There are a few options for dinner and a lot depends on how adventurous you are. A great way to spend an evening in Paris with a friend or your spouse is to go to one of the wine bars. These bars serve good wine and cocktails along with delicious gourmet small plates. A few glasses of wine and small plates over an engaging conversation will definitely make for a fun night out in Paris. Some of the tried and tested bars are Le Mary Celeste, Frenchie Bar A Wins and Ver Jus Wine Bar.

Le Mary Celeste is run by Chef Hann who is originally from Canada and he has picked up a flare for International flavors, particularly Asian flavours during his stint in Korea and other places around the world. I recommend that you try the cocktail Rain dog and a couple of small plates from their ever-changing menu. Even the vegetarian small plates are surprisingly tasty and delightful.

Cocktails and small plates at Le Mary Celeste

The restaurant, Frenchie in Paris is one tough place to make a reservation. I almost got calluses in my fingers trying to dial their number to make a reservation, about 2 years ago. So a great option to taste renowned chef Gregory Marchand's culinary magic is to step into the Frenchie bar as they do not take reservations. It can be tough to get a table in the bar as well but you can order a glass of wine and hang around the bar counter while waiting for a table to free up. The food here is definitely worth the wait.

Cava, Crab and Avocado canneloni, Burrata & Cep mushrooms at Frenchie Bar a Vins

Ver Jus Wine Bar  is run by the American duo Braden and Laura, the couple behind the highly popular Hidden Kitchen. They have graduated from running a private kitchen out of their apartment into setting up a restaurant and a wine bar. The small plates menu here is also very interesting and eclectic. The duck meatballs were bursting with flavors and I still remember them very vividly from my visit here last year.

Cava, Hummus & Duck meatballs at Verjus Wine bar

If you are not feeling too adventurous and are looking for a quiet place to have a hearty meal, I recommend the Maison de la Truffe. There are a couple of locations and if you are a big fan of truffles as I am, look no further.

Pork Tenderloin with Mornay sauce, Ravioli with summer truffles and truffled cream & Baguette with the world's best Black Truffle Oil

If you have not made a reservation in any of the restaurants and you are not looking to walk or ride very far from your hotel, its a good idea to ask the Hotel concierge to recommend a good restaurant in the neighborhood. Their recommendations usually turn out good and they will be happy to make a reservation on your behalf as well.

From my personal experience, most of the restaurants I have walked into randomly for a meal have turned out rather disappointing. Especially on Champs-Elysees, if you have been out shopping all day and you are too tired to go looking for a restaurant, do not make the mistake of walking into one of the restaurants randomly. They may seem very crowded and popular but I think its full of tourists who are just looking to get a quick bite before calling it a day.

I hope my recommendations above help you in having a tasty and wonderful time in Paris, as I always do! Bon Appetite!

Monday, February 3, 2014


On a recent family holiday in Kashmir, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Gulmarg and Srinagar. Like any foodie, trying out different dishes and picking up interesting ingredients to bring back home were on the top of my list. There was not much information available online for me to plan ahead before the trip. So hopefully, this post of mine helps some of the readers get an idea of what to expect and where to go for good food in Kashmir.

Before I say anything about the food in Kashmir, Kahwa (the Kashmiri tea) deserves a special mention. We drank innumerable cups of this tea throughout our trip. It is made from a brew of full-leaf tea, saffron, cardamom and sugar, topped with flaked almonds. The warm and delightful tea in the cold Kashmiri winter was soothing to the body and soul, especially in the evenings after a long day of sight-seeing and shopping.

First up, Gulmarg does not have many dining options. I ate most of my meals at the Khyber Resort during my stay in Gulmarg. I must say that I was very impressed with the quality of South Indian dishes, especially at breakfast. The dosas and sambhar were as good as what we get in some of the popular places in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. If you are the outdoor kind and out skiing during the winter months in Kashmir, your only dining option will be the shacks on the slopes for lunch. Piping hot tomato soup, aloo parathas with pickle, Maggi noogles and vegetable pulao are just about what you will find in these shacks. After a long morning on the slopes, anything hot (in temperature) will be well-appreciated.

When it comes to Srinagar, again the dining options are just a handful if you are looking for small local restaurants, not including the big hotels like the Lalit or the Taj. Our first stop for lunch in Srinagar was the 'Adhoos'. We were told that its the 'Annapoorna of Srinagar'. Annapoorna is a local chain of restaurants in Coimbatore (where I live) which is very popular among the locals for South Indian fare. The service at Adhoos was good and the quality of food was also good. The ground meatballs are popular in Kashmir and they generally come in a red (Rista) or white (Gustava - a yogurt base) gravy. The gustava with naan was very good at the Adhoos.

We tried the 'Mughal Durbar' for lunch the next day. This place was more crowded than Adhoos and seemed more popular with the locals. Although the waiter who was helping us was very friendly, we had a hard time figuring out what the 'Wazwan platter' was. We finally decided to take a chance and ordered the Wazwan platter for 2 which was for the adults and the usual butter naan and butter chicken for the kids. When the Wazwan platter finally arrived, it looked rather glorious with all the meat on top of the rice and the accompanying three gravies of Rogan Josh, Rista and Gustava. We quite enjoyed our Wazwan platter inspite of it being greasy. The children also enjoyed their naan and butter chicken gravy although I thought the butter chicken gravy tasted more like a desi-chinese dish. But I must confess that our friends in the table next to us thought the food was very greasy and some of them fell sick after eating at the Mughal Durbar.

Our lunch on the third day in Srinagar was the best meal of the entire trip. It was at the small boutique hotel, 'Dar-Es-Salam'. The hotel is set on the shore of Lake Nagin and the restaurant had a very beautiful view thorough the window. It was a buffet meal and almost every dish was flawless. The Shammi kebabs (minced lamb kebabs), Murgh Masalam (chicken gravy), Kashmiri Saag (greens) and the Kashmiri bread - Sheermal were outstanding. We were the only diners there that afternoon and we had a very memorable experience at Dar-Es-Salam.

I wanted to take back some of the flavours of Kashmir to experiment in own kitchen back home. During sight-seeing in Srinagar, I did not miss opportunities to try out some local flavours. For instance, just outside Hazrat bal, we found a small shop that sold some local sweets and savouries. I had a taste of a sweet that very much resembled the South Indian sweet - Kesari. My family and I were keen on taking back some food soveniours for our friends and family back home. The Taj Bakery came highly recommended. We knew we hit the jackpot when we tasted the macaroons at the Taj Bakery. Unlike the dainty French macaroons, these were huge and quite rugged in appearance. There was a hint of coconut in these macaroons and it only complimented the taste and texture of the macaroon. The Moonlight Bakery which was just behind the Taj Bakery was also another great find. The Walnut fudge squares were delicious and we picked up a few to bring back home.

Another must-visit store is the Amin-bin-Khalik (the dry fruit people; This store was recommended to us by the hotel when we asked for a dry fruits store. This store is located in the busy polo view street and it is a treasure trove of all things dried in Kashmir. Some of the special finds were dried Morrel mushrooms that cost Rs. 40,000 for a kilo, green garlic, Kashmiri saffron, almonds, dried cherries and apricot kernel oil. They also have an online store and are meant to be very reliable with the quality of produce and delivery.

The over all Kashmiri food experience was enjoyable. But I must say that in my personal opinion, Kashmiri cuisine does not rank very high among the top cuisines of India. Any day, I would prefer Kerala, Mangalorean, Bengali, Rajasthani or Goan cuisine over Kashmiri Wazwan. But nevertheless, its a good one.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


Choosing to sign up for a walking tour in Jaipur was definitely a good idea. The main purpose of my trip to Rajasthan was to relax and enjoy the place and the food. On a rather laid back holiday, the walking tour was a genius idea. Fours hours of walking while tasting the staples of Jaipur was the best way to see and observe the sights and sounds of the Old city in Jaipur.

My friends and I signed up for a customised four hour walking tour that involved walking in 2 of the major segments of the old city. We observed the various craftsmen at work while getting to taste the popular snacks of Jaipur at regular intervals from the popular roadside establishments. In the initial part of our walk, we walked past various havelis of the Old city that played a prominent role in the city's history. Our first stop for a bite was by a roadside stall that was very popular for its Kachoris that were filled with a potato filling. In the same stall, I got to see a contraption that was fabricated to let out Sev batter in fine strands, in full action.

 As part of our walking tour, we got to visit a few havelis that are now places of worship, largely for Lord Krishna. Outside one of those religious havelis, I was fascinated to see a man making Ghewars using a ketchup squeeze bottle. We stood there watching him in awe for a few minutes until the heat of the wood burn stove got to us. It was in deed, a fascinating sight!!!

Along our walk we got a chance to see various snacks being prepared by street vendors and small establishments that catered to the neighbourhood. We were then lead to a small shop that was popular for its Kachoris served with Dahi. The Kachori had a spicy dal filling that had whole spices mixed in the filling. It was refreshing to eat these spicy Kachoris with the dahi by the side. The shop owner was a stern man who sat by a weighing scale and measured exact quantities of dahi to go with each Kachori. Midway during our walking tour, with the sharp sun belting on us, we decided to take a short tea break.

We were taken to a store that was in a basement for the best Chai in old city. The hot chai was light and refreshing and in a way helped cool off for a while. After our chai break we walked through a whole-sale market before heading to the area that specialised in Meenakari Jewelery work. The streets nearby were lined with Namkeen stores that seemed to have endless varieties of fried snacks in a mixture of colours and textures. On request, we were taken to a store that specialised in Supari (beetelnut) products. Like children in a candy store, we got very excited and tasted a huge array of suparis from the supari sample platter. Finally, we made up our minds and picked up a variety of flavoured suparis to brings back home for ourselves and our family. I also managed to pick up some Fini for my kids from another store that specialised in Fini. We decided to call it quits after a glass of cool and soothing lassi in mud glasses. While all of us wanted our lassi without the topping of cream from the yogurt, our guide decided to have his lassi with extra cream!!

We had a walked for a total of 4 hours through the narrow and busy street of the old city of Jaipur. There were a few moments when we wished that it had not rained the previous day. Apparently, the waste management system in the old city is not very efficient and it showed. According to statistics, 70,000 people lived in every of the old city. Speeding bikes and chilled out cows were the norm on the streets. It was a very insightful tour and our guide's passion for his city showed through. I would highly recommend this tour to anyone that wants to see and observe Jaipurians at close quarters. The opulent palaces of Jaipur and the surroundings are at one end of the spectrum and life in these narrow lanes of the old city show the other end of it.