21 September, 2014

Food Mood: 'Tea Taster's Anonymous' at Infinitea

Every now and then, I like to do something that makes me feel snobbish and better about myself. Admit it, who doesn’t? I attended a tea-pairing workshop organized by Infinitea. Aptly titled ‘Tea Taster’s Anonymous’, the tea-pairing workshop had us try out five varieties of tea and understand what food went best with it. Driven by Gaurav S, who is the Tea Master and the Chef at Infinitea, the session got off to a very interesting start where we were told about the pretty awesome history of tea and how it came to be a very important part of India’s food and beverage landscape. We were told in great detail about how tea is picked, the defining features that make each tea different, flushes (no...Not what you are thinking) of tea and a lot more interesting facts.

The first tea served was the Spring Speciality, First Flush, Oolang Tea from Infinitea’s own tea estate. This tea had a strong earthy smell and taste to it. Not to sound very poetic, but this smell is characteristic of proper non-mainstream teas from Darjeeling. Complementing the taste required a strong sweet companion. This came in the form of lovely Apple, date and cinnamon tea cake. I would have this cake even without any tea. It took a lot of restraint to not fill my tummy with just the cake as we had four more pairings to go.

Spring Speciality, First Flush, Oolang Tea

Apple, Date and Cinnamon Tea Cake
Next up was the China Jasmine Green Tea with real jasmine. The whiff of the tea powder gave off a strong jasmine fragrance and that came out in the tea as well. Having been used to traditional bitter green tea, this tea tasted quite refreshing and went excellent with the almond cookies. This was the most sober pairing of the evening.

China Jasmine Green Tea with Jasmine

Almond Cookies
We moved on to a full-bodied black tea known as the Risheehat Second Flush. I’m not a big fan of black teas, so I found this one to be strong and bitter. The tea does have a slight kick at the end owing to the caffeine. I did however like the mild Tiramisu that gave this tea company.

Risheehat Second Flush

Most of us assume that tea is only made from tea leaves. The reality is that any leaf, flower, fruit that is boiled in water to allow the extracts to blend with the water qualifies as tea. Keeping this in mind, we were introduced to my favourite tea of the evening; well it was actually a melange. From Germany, this was a mixture of hibiscus, carrots, orange, rose bits and other dried fruits. The melange smelt almost like being in a candy land and tasted equally mind-blowing. And since it had no caffeine, this could also be had as a juice at any time of day. We were originally supposed to have some English scones, making me truly snobbish, but had to settle for some pretty neat Bruschetta owing to some mix up in the kitchen.

Fruit Melange

Fruit Melange

The final tea for the evening was a strong fresh herbal tea popularly known as the Stress Blocker. The tea smells like a lovely herb garden that has just been watered and tastes amazing. It truly did make me feel better. Or was it the contrasting delicious Hazelnut and Belgian Chocolate Cake Bites? I don’t know.

Stress Buster

My favourite tea for the evening was the Fruit Melange and I recommend you try that out the next time you head to Infinitea. Having been a part of a few wine, beer and whiskey pairing sessions, the tea pairing session was something different and was quite fun. Kudos to Gaurav for keeping everyone entertained with stories of tea and introducing me to this lovely world of tea.

Gaurav S - Tea Master and Chef
I’ll be honest and admit – I did go into work the next day and frowned upon all the philistines drinking the well-cooked masala chai. I do recommend you call up and try to attend the next session; it’s something different and opens you up to a whole new world.

15 September, 2014

Gig Pix: The Saturday Night Blues Band at B-flat

After much pestering on FaceBook, the nice folks from the Saturday Night Blues Band in Kolkata played a super gig at B-flat in Indiranagar, in namma Bengaluru. Playing to a packed house, the band played super tunes covering Clapton, CCR, Hendrix and a whole host of other blues legends.

Food Mood: Beer Master Class at Four Points by Sheraton Bengaluru Whitefield

It was the start of another fabulous evening, courtesy the nice folks at the Four Points by Shertan Bengaluru Whitefield. However, it was a little different this time. Besides being invited to be a part of their Beer Master Class at their Best Brews Bar, I was staying the night over. Being a business hotel, it made sense for us to get the true business feel of coming in straight from a busy day at the office in the middle of the week, unwinding and heading back out the next day. The last time I stayed at a Sheraton property was way back in 1991 at the Sheraton in Lagos. Clearly, I was super-thrilled.

We checked in at around 6:30 in the evening. When I entered my room, I had to try very hard to act my age and not use the bed as a trampoline. A quick shower and we began the facility tour by around seven, led by Mr.Rajesh Malliya, the GM at the hotel. It was nice to see the hotel choosing to promote the vast and beautiful heritage of Karnataka through all the artwork. Every room had a custom portrait over the bed depicting various places in Karnataka. The rooms themselves are quite spacious and adequately stocked to meet the needs of business travelers. Pictures at the end of the post.

Now onto the fun part that you've all come to read on this blog. The Beer Master Class was a workshop of sorts where we were allowed to sample various beer-based cocktails and accompaniments that were also cooked in beer. Driving the cocktails section of our evening was Karl Fernandes, who entertained everyone with little stories of how he made the cocktails. We started off the evening with a Beer Kazi. Made in a snifter glass, the Beer Kazi was a refreshing drink with a distinct flavour of coriander, accompanied with vodka, lemon juice and of course, beer. The Beer Kazi is a great drink to be had even as shots.

Beer Kazi

Beer Kazi
The second cocktail for the evening was the Summer Drummer. Tasting almost like a modified Cosmopolitan, the drink had watermelon, cranberry juice, and peach syrup and was topped with beer. Served in a tall glass, this cocktail was not my favourite as it was too sweet. While Karl did try to be a little cheeky saying that it was a ladies drink, the women that evening vehemently disagreed.

Karl Fernandes

Summer Drummer
The third and final cocktail for the evening, my favourite, was the Citrus Oak. The concoction contained whiskey, the dominating taste of orange juice, a little bit of lemon juice and was topped with beer. What I really liked about this drink was the fact that it wasn't overly sweet and you got all the flavours of the beer, orange juice and whiskey at the same time. Needless to say, I had a fairly good share of the same. This is the one I would recommend for anyone heading to the Best Brews at Four Points.

Citrus Oak
A quick note on the decor at the Best Brews - the ambiance is very laid back, almost retro. A lot of the art work on the walls depicts life of Bangalore from the 70's. The lighting is warm and makes you want to sit back and try out all the brews while munching on some local savouries that are quite popular in smaller joints.

Best Brews

Om nom nom nom

Fried Prawns
Now to the food. The first dish was prepared by Chef Mangilal Kurly. The Dahakte Jhinga was my favourite dish of the evening. A spicy dish of jumbo prawns marinated in a ginger and garlic paste, accompanied by beer was cooked in a hot pan and served on a sizzler plate. After this, the prawns were flambéed with brandy. You’d think that the amount of alcohol would actually make you high, but the taste of beer hits you very mildly. I loved this dish and could have spent the entire night just munching on those juicy prawns.

Burning in Brandy

Dahakte Jhinga
Next up was Chef Michael Swamy, who besides being the host for the evening's Beer Master Class, made a very neat Meen Varuval (fish), again cooked with beer. The fish was marinated in egg, ginger-garlic paste, lemon and coriander powder. Fried well, the fish had a nice crunchy feel to it, but I loved the prawns way more.

Chef Michael Swamy with his masterpiece

Meen Varuval
Karl was kind enough to whip up another batch of cocktails for everyone before we went to dinner. We also got a second helping of the prawns which was a clear favourite. We retired to the Four Comfort Beds post dinner. All those lovely cocktails, prawns and fish gave me one of the best night's sleep I’ve had in a long time.

Don't you just want to jump on that bed?

Idea for my living room

Simple super reception
We checked out by around ten in the morning after a lavish buffet breakfast put together , aptly titled 'For the Love of Great Breakfast' . I made my way to work in a really good mood which made my boss worry if I was going to leave for greener pastures. Little did he know that I was thinking about the fab Dahakte Jhinga from the previous evening and that I was all fresh and rested for another long day at work.

07 September, 2014

Gig Pix: The launch of Baran, by Parvaaz at Counter Culture, B'lore

Having been a part of their Wishberry campaign, I got my hands on the debut full length album by Bangalore band Parvaaz a few weeks before the official launch. The album titled ‘Baran’ blew my mind. I’ll comment on the album on a later post. I was looking forward to the launch at Counter Culture, it took place on the 6th of September.

The evening began with Vasu Dixit (of Swarathma) who set the ball rolling with Bindumalini, had a fabulous controlled voice. The short acoustic set also had Bindu sing with Kashif on a few Kabir-inspired songs. Vasu was accompanied by fellow-band mate  Sanjeev Nayak, on a few Swarathma tracks and he closed the opening set with the Swarathma hit ‘Topiwalleh’.

Vasu Dixit from Swarathma


Sanjeev Nayak

Bindumalini with Kashif
Parvaaz started their set with Beparwah from the new album – a perfect song to set the evening in motion. Giving the band solid support on guitar was Anthony Michael Dias from Mad Orange Fireworks. The band then moved on to some of the older stuff like Marika, Aazadi, Dil Khush and others.

Khalid with Michael Anthony Dias

Sachin Banandur

Kashif Iqbal

The crowd was all set and cosy for the rest of the gig with the band resuming playing material from the new album. The band called upon Sanjeev Nayak to help out on Ab ki yeh Subah, from the new album. This was followed by Ramanan Chandramouli and Wilbur Colaco, who came on stage to help on the very daft-punk meets Michael Jackson (the early stuff) song Fitnah. Wilbur continued to play the sax on Ziyankar.

Parvaaz ft. Sanjeev Nayak

Khalid with Ramanan

Fidel D'souza
The band closed the planned set with Roz Roz that morphed into the thirteen minute masterpiece, also the title of the album, Baran. The crowd went nuts and almost rowdily demanded an encore. After a bit of deliberation, the band obliged by playing a completely new song- Mastaan. The launch of Baran was rather epic, right from the whole Wishberry campaign to D-day which had a packed house. The awesome lighting by the folks at Counter Culture was a big added element that made the music sound so much better. 

The one guy who danced right through the gig

Packed house at Counter Culture

Khalid Ahmed
Kudos to the boys from Parvaaz for putting together a great show, and a great album. Do go and buy it online and catch the band in your city. You’ll love it.

04 September, 2014

Food Mood: Cafe Max

I’ve been meaning to put this up for some time now, but better late than never. We wanted to celebrate one of my best friend’s birthday and use that occasion to try out a new joint for lunch. We settled on Cafe Max located at the Max Mueller Bhavan in Bengaluru. It was the best choice we could make because, I have now found a new favourite place that I would surely recommend to people.

Cafe Max
Located on the terrace, the restaurant has ample natural light and fresh breeze pouring in. They’ve not made too much of an effort to publicize the place, hence there was a small number of people when we went. I hear it’s normally crowded in the evenings. We ordered ourselves a few drinks which included Sangria. The Sangria is worth mentioning here because the fruits seem to have a tinge of some masala, giving you a very mild spicy hit as you drink it down. The drink was cold and hit the spot. My friend also tried the Fresh Orange Mojito which was quite refreshing too. 

We ordered three starters. The first was a plate of Chicken Skewers. The chicken skewers were marinated in orange juice, giving the dish a nice tangy citrus taste. The chicken itself was cooked perfectly allowing the meat to be really soft and absorb all the orange juice. We also ordered a plate of Spanish Coastal-style Prawns. These were prawns stir fried in olive oil with spring onions, garlic and chili. While I normally love prawns in any style, this dish didn't strike a great chord with me. The reason would be predominantly because the taste of olive oil lingered long after I had finished the prawn. The prawns themselves were done fairly alright maintaining the right amount of crunch. 

Chicken Skewers

Spanish Coastal-style Prawns
Now for the champion of the starters. We ordered a plate of Bratwurst ‘snail style’. This typical German sausage made of pork was the yummiest thing we had eaten so far. The meat was really soft, had the right amount of spice and was absolutely fabulous with the mustard sauce that was served. Thank god for the sausage because it took care of the lingering taste of olive oil in my mouth. While the dish was pricey, it was completely worth it. The sausages here are a definite recommendation from my side. I intend to try out all the varieties on the menu over the next few months.

As far as the main course goes, I ordered a plate of Salmon ‘Denmark Style'. I've very rarely come across salmon in India, so I jumped at the chance of trying it here considering the sausage had set very high expectations. And I was not disappointed. The grilled salmon came with sautéed potatoes, which were simply awesome and vegetables. The fish itself was done perfectly leaving all the right taste of the salmon intact. Thankfully, they didn't ruin the natural flavour of salmon with too much oil or spices. 

Salmon 'Denmark Style'

Salmon 'Denmark Style'

Onto the second best part of the meal – dessert. Yes, we had room for dessert. We started with a slice of the Walnut Chocolate Pie which was..... OHMYGAWD.....so delicious. After a delicious meal of salmon, the lovely taste of chocolate which was not too sweet was just what the doctor ordered. We also tried a slice of the Lemon Pie. And that was..... OHMYGAWDTAKEMENOW. I kid you not, if I had died of a cardiac arrest at that moment, I would have been so happy that the lemon pie was the last thing I had tasted. It was sweet and tangy with a nice hazelnut base and was very light on the tummy. I have no words to describe the awesome desserts.

Walnut Chocolate Pie

Lemon Pie
I love Cafe Max now and hope to go there soon. If you do go to Cafe Max, do not miss out on the sausages and the desserts. Located on CMH Road, Cafe Max is ideal for a nice lazy weekend brunch. While service isn't the quickest, the ambience and food makes you want to stay longer. So it really doesn't bother you. Depending on how much you eat, a meal for two should cost around Rs.1500. But I can promise you that you’ll come back loving the place.