18 May, 2014

Food Mood: Counter Culture - Sunday Brunch

Having covered a fair number of gigs at Counter Culture, I was very pleased to be invited to review their Sunday brunch along with members of the CCSalt club. I’ve never done a food review at the place even though I visit them at least once a month for some gig or the other. I was especially looking forward to the wood fire pizzas from their newly constructed oven.

The Sunday brunch offered three variants of pizza which included the spinach and jalapeno, chicken sausages and chicken salami. We started off with the spinach and jalapeno pizza which was done really well. The crust was even, the toppings went well with the sauce and we cleaned up an entire pizza in less than ten minutes. We tried the chicken sausage pizza later on which was good, but the vegetarian one was better. Wood fire pizzas are one of my favourite and I wasn’t disappointed by what I ate. Definitely more scope for experimentation with the toppings.

Spinach Pizza

Chicken Sausage Pizza
From the live barbecue, we indulged ourselves in pork ribs, chicken wings and fish. The pork ribs were simply perfect with the honey taste coming through every morsel of fat. My friend and I had to force ourselves not to spend the rest of the meal eating only pork. The grilled fish wrapped in leaves was excellent with a perfect blend of spice and the nice herbal flavour of the leaves coming through. I wish I could share the same enthusiasm when it came to the  chicken, but I had to ignore it. The chicken was slightly overdone and had a lot of carbon on the outside which made it annoying to eat. But the pork and fish were just too awesome for us to care about the chicken.

Pork Ribs and Chicken

Grilled Fish
There were a variety of skewers for the vegetarians including baby corn, mozzarella cheese, fruits and mushrooms. While the mushrooms skewers weren’t particularly appetizing, the baby corn and mozzarella cheese skewers were very nice and refreshing thanks to all the vegetables. There were also a variety of burgers including vegetarian, chicken and beef. I had a beef burger which was alright. 

Mozarella Skewers

Baby Corn Skewers

Beef Burger
A big part of the brunch was the unlimited cocktails which included pinacoladas, mojitos, mai tais and more. I overindulged myself on pinacoladas and beer (not at the same time). The cocktails tasted very nice and were made cold to help us beat the heat. I’m guessing after pizzas, we loved the cocktails the most. There was beer for the less ambitious. The brunch also offers mocktails for those who don’t drink alcohol. My friend had one and she said it was refreshing, but nothing unique. She soon joined us on the dark side of cocktails and finished a mojito.

Mai tai

Good old KF Draught beer
The main course was fairly limited with options of chicken lasagna (which wasn't memorable), a three bean salad (which I didn't taste), a potato sausage salad (which was average) and a few other salads. I was a little disappointed with the main course which could have been better in terms of choice. While I understand most people would focus on the barbecue and the pizzas, the main course shouldn't be ignored. While I would have no hesitation in bringing my friends who ate non veg here, the options for vegetarians seemed somewhat limited in comparison. The chocolate brownie for dessert was yummy though. 

The overall ambience of the brunch was nice with people chilling out under umbrellas, people playing foosball, kids running around and more. The music was predominantly Jamaican which was nice considering my biggest fear was that at some point a dude with a Macbook would show up and start playing EDM. Despite the heat, the place was almost full and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Counter Culture definitely has something good going with their brunch and the CCSalt Club membership program. A little more focus on the main course and a vast improvement on the choices for vegetarians, this could become something really cool. Keeping up with their initial theme of promoting art and music, they could probably look at an open mic sort of thing. Otherwise, great pork ribs and grilled fish, tasty pizzas and yummy cocktails were the highlights of the brunch. The long drive to Whitefield was definitely worth the effort.

13 May, 2014

Gig Review: Indus Creed - Windmills Craftworks, 100 Pipers VH1 Sound Nation (Pt.2 of 2)

The second (and final) act on the final evening of the 100 Pipers VH1 Sound Nation campaign at Windmills Craftworks was none other than Indian rock icons – Indus Creed. Originally known as Rock Machine, the band quickly started driving the independent music scene in India and I remember listening to Pretty child on DD Metro way back in 1990.

Uday Benegal
The band started with a bang with Bulletproof and Thief (explosive drumming on this track). The band then took a page out of their history book and played Trapped that made the crowd go crazy. This was followed by songs such as Dissolve, Best Friend and Come Around. Bruce Lee Mani joined the band on their power ballad Take it harder. The crowd simply lost it on Rock & Roll Renegade

Indus Creed with Bruce Lee Mani

Mahesh Tinaikar

Krishna Jhaveri

Jai Row Kavi

What really made me fall in love with the set was Fireflies and Pretty Child. The audience were all up in arms, head banging and singing along to every word. The set closed with Indus Creed’s classic Top of the rock, which had everyone in the packed house literally on their feet.

Uday Benegal playing Fireflies

Top of the Rock
Uday Benegal was simply super with his vocals and guitar and had more energy than most of the younger bands today. Mahesh Tinaikar and Zubin were classic on the guitar and keyboards respectively. I wish the keyboards had a slightly higher volume , it did seem to be drained out by the guitars and the explosive drumming of Jai Row Kavi. Krishna on bass was a power house who jumped all over the place and yet never missed a note. The night belonged to Indus Creed and was a perfect end to the Pipers VH1 Sound Nation campaign. Clearly, work experience does make a big difference at times.

Gig Review: Thermal and a Quarter - Windmills Craftworks, 100 Pipers VH1 Sound Nation (Pt.1 of 2)

As a part of the final evening of the 100 Pipers VH1 Sound Nation campaign, I was at Windmills Craftworks to listen to two fabulous bands – Bengaluru’s very own Thermal and a Quarter (TAAQ) and India’s oldest rock icons  - Indus Creed. Up first on stage was Thermal and a Quarter, who set the perfect mood for the rest of the evening with a tight set. The band covered material from their latest Three Wheels Nine Lives album including Meter-mele one and a half and Grab me which they played with Mahesh Tinaikar from Indus Creed. The band also called upon ex-band member Rudolph David to help them out on Holy Jose. This was followed by their version of the Nirvana classic In bloom

The audience got to hear  some newer material which included Going to Abroad – which chronicles the old Indian craze of travelling abroad. The song was clearly written on a flight during TAAQs extensive touring from last year and lacked the certain punch that one expects from their music. This however was not the case with new songs In the middle and MED – a song calling out to all the people who accept EDM as a form of music. I really enjoyed MED and so did most of the rock purists in the audience. Bruce Lee Mani made full use of a voice modulating pedal (not sure if that’s the right term) to give the song a very Daft Punk like vocal touch, which was pretty cool.
Bruce Lee Mani

Leslie Charles
Rudolph David on Holy Jose

Rajeev Rajagopal
Bruce Lee Mani was his usual animated self between songs keeping the audience engaged. Leslie seems to have settled well into his role as the bassist (and backing vocalist) for the band. Rajeev was tight as ever. The band closed the set with Who do we have sex with from the latest album. The entire set was what one expected from a band with the experience of TAAQ. Nothing more, nothing less. 

12 May, 2014

Food Mood: Kanua

Some folks and I from the last company I worked at decided to have a reunion of sorts at Kanua, located just off Sarjapur Road. It used to be our favourite for birthdays, farewells and other celebrations.

Themed like one of the old houses you would see in Malgudi Days, Kanua specializes in Mangalorean cuisine. Since there were seven of us, we started the meal with a serving of Kanua Chicken Ghee Roast, Anjal Rawa Fry and Anjal Masala Fry. These have been our favourites every time we go there. The ghee roast simply melts in your mouth and oozes with the nice fattening flavour of ghee. Both the fish starters were fried to perfection, with the Anjal Masala Fry being my favourite. I simply love the spicy flavour of red chillies it leaves in your mouth. Not something for the ones with delicate taste buds.

Kanua Ghee Roast

Anjal Masala Fry

Anjal Rawa Fry
We also ordered fresh sugarcane juice and a Poddale Pohdi (stuffed fried snake gourd). I’m not a fan of snake gourd, and nothing has changed. The sugarcane juice tasted nice, but it would have been better if they could have added some ice to make it cool.

Fresh Sugarcane Juice

Poddale Pohdi
Our main course was driven by Neer dosa and various gravies. We ordered the Yetti Randhei – a mild prawn’s curry made in a thick coconut gravy which had a very coastal taste. This was accompanied by the Kanua Mutton Curry. Completing this was the Ambe Upkari, a semi-spicy mango based curry which is very unique to the Konkani region. Being the mango season, the mangos were fresh and left most of us licking our fingers.

Yetti Randhei

Ambe Upkari
After all of this, some of us still had space for more. We ordered a Kanua Chicken Biryani which was super. But giving it a rich taste was the accompanying Banana Shoot Raita which added a nice cool sweet taste complementing the rich flavour of the biryani.

Kanua Chicken Biryani

Banana Shoot Raita
We did go over the top with the biryani, which left us with no space for desert. Overall, the ambience was lovely with very few people daring to venture out in the afternoon heat. The food was served fairly quickly and the waiters were patient enough to allow me to take my photos before they served everyone. If you’re in the mood for some nice Mangalorean food, do try and venture out to Kanua. A typical meal for two would cost between Rs. 1200-1500 depending on what you order.


11 May, 2014

Gig Review: Blackstratblues and Soulmate, HRC Bengaluru - 100 Pipers VH1 Sound Nation

Since I had done a very recent review on both Blackstratblues and Soulmate, I'll keep this brief. Both these bands were playing as part of the 100 Pipers VH1 Sound Nation campaign going across the country.

The evening began with Blackstratblues playing to an almost empty house thanks to Bengaluru's traffic that came to a standstill owing to the rain. The set was tight with Warren Mendonsa running through favourites like Ode to a Sunny Day and material from the upcoming The universe has a strange sense of humour album.

By the time Soulmate took the stage, the house was full. Rudy set the tone for the set with a superb solo and Tips took over with her ever-so-mesmerizing vocals. The band played a lot of material from their soon-to-be released album Ten. The evening belonged to Soulmate whose music clearly drove up the sale of beer at the Hard Rock Cafe as everyone got into a really good mood thanks to the music.

Smoke on the Warren.... Blackstratblues

Jai Row - Blackstratblues

Rudy Wallang - Soulmate

Tips - Soulmate

Tips - Soulmate

03 May, 2014

Food Mood: Whiskey Appreciation Session - Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway

The Glenlivet 21 years
I was invited to a special evening, exclusively for SPG members( Starwood Preferred Guests), to indulge in an educative evening of whiskey appreciation, followed by a delicious five-course meal. Limited to about 30 odd guests, the host for the evening was Saurabh Bakshi, General Manager  of the Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway along with Sandeep Arora – A leading whiskey connoisseur in India. Sandeep explained the nuances of how whiskey is brewed differently from other alcohols, the importance of the number of years the whiskey is kept in the casket, ideal glasses to drink whiskey in and so on. The session was really informative, and left yours truly (a self-proclaimed whiskey connoisseur) feeling extremely ignorant about the world of this golden nectar. Sponsored by The Glenlivet, the guests were offered the variants of 12 years, 18 years and 21 years to understand how the flavours changed with time. (PS: I’ve got my eyes on a Glenlivet 21 year old Whiskey)

The Glenlivet 12 years
The Glenlivet 18 years

The Glenlivet 21 years
Sandeep Arora (on the right) with Vibhour

Post this session, we moved on to dinner and started off with an Amuse Bouche which consisted of poached pears with walnut and blue cheese. I really enjoyed how the sweet taste of the pears complimented the taste of blue cheese. I wasn’t overly fond of the walnuts as they really didn’t add to the overall taste of the dish.

For the salad, I chose the tobacco infused duck with mesclun, figs and pistachio pesto. The duck was cooked to perfection and sliced perfectly. I really enjoyed the organic taste of tobacco that came the moment I put the duck into my mouth.

Tobacco infused duck salad
The vegetarians had a tobacco infused ricotta cheese with mesclun, pickled cranberry and hazelnut. Unfortunately, I did not get to sample this one.

Tobacco infused ricotta cheese

Next up was the soup. So far, Bene has had a 100% record of making the soup my favourite dish of the entire meal. The evening’s soup was made of roasted butternut squash with goat cheese and honey. The soup had a nice fresh fruit like tinge to it and really suited the summer weather. As the chef was telling me, soups and sauces are the toughest things to make as even a little bit of adjustment can completely vary the taste. This soup was superb.

Roasted butternut squash with goat cheese and honey

I chose the non-vegetarian main course which was a whiskey glazed chicken breast, stuffed with smoked cheese and apricot. This came with a helping of truffled fondant potatoes and grilled asparagus. With whiskey being the theme of the evening, the chicken was done really well with the taste changing wildly as you ate. The outer layer had the sweet taste of whiskey which turned into the nice clean taste of tender chicken and finally culminated in a lovely combination of cheese and apricot. It was an absolute delight to have. I am going to frown on the asparagus though – personal taste. 

Whiskey glazed chicken breaast

The vegetarians were offered a dish which consisted of layers of grilled porcini, asparagus and Mediterranean vegetables with crispy carasau bread and risotto tart. My neighbour at the table was kind enough to let me sample from her plate. The bread was a little too crispy making it a bit of a fight to get everything together. What stood out was the taste of the vegetables. I liked my chicken better though.

Grilled porcini, asparagus and Mediterranian vegetables

The meal ended with a unique dessert of poached apples with mascarpone ice cream, hazelnut crumble topped with caramelized whiskey sauce. I always thought mascarpone was typically a cheese, but this was the first time I ate it in the form of an ice cream. The dessert had a unique taste to it and was enjoyable. The dessert truly epitomizes the brilliance of chefs who day in and day out look for new combinations and flavours to put together. Kudos to them. 

Poached apples,mascarpone ice cream with caramalized whiskey sauce

The evening's proceedings concluded with Dominican Robusto cigars being handed out. Sandeep ran us through a small session on how the cigars were made and some of the etiquette to be followed while smoking a cigar.  I’m going to just call out to the boys at Skrat, from Chennai whose song ‘Smoke a Cigar’ kept running through my head the whole time.

The evening was really informative and well planned out. A big thanks to Sandeep Arora, who has made me, and a lot of other folks present, look at whiskey very differently going forward. The food as usual, was exquisite with the soup and the chicken taking a tie at first place.