29 January, 2015

Guest Column: Deccan Chronicle

This column was featured on the 27th of January 2015. I wrote about the come back that vinyl records are making and how they would be an ideal gift for your significant other come Valentine's Day.

27 January, 2015

Guest Column: Deccan Chronicle

This column appeared on the 20th of January in the Deccan Chronicle where I wrote about how selfies are the new annoying trend at live gigs.

20 January, 2015

Food Mood: 'Tales from the Bush Larder' with Chef Kiran Jethwa, Fox Life

Having lived in Africa for over seven years, I always have a soft spot for anything to do with the continent.  I also feel spectacularly lucky to have lived there as a kid at a much more peaceful time, because it really helped shape a lot of my ideas of the world and break a lot of the annoying stereotypes that many  people have when it comes to this beautiful blessed continent. Naturally, I was over the moon when Fox Life had invited me to sample an exclusive menu put together by Chef Kiran Jethwa from Kenya. This evening was at Shiro at UB city.

Kiran Jethwa is an Indo-British chef based in Kenya whose show ‘Tales from the Bush Larder’ premiers on Fox Life on the 29th of January. The show will be aired on Thursday and Friday at 9:30 PM. During the course of this show, Chef Kiran Jethwa would explore the fabulous cuisine of Kenya and recreate some of the local delicacies. Thanks to the media, Africa is something people either associate with Safari or Civil War, but this show should help showcase a whole different side of Africa (Kenya in the first season) as a culinary destination for foodies.

Prior to the event, we were able to spend some time with Chef Kiran Jethwa to understand how he brought the show together, his upbringing in Kenya and more. For those of you who didn’t know, he was selected to represent his country in both cricket and rugby and chose the latter. Fortunately for us, he found his calling with food. Chef Kiran Jethwa is the Masterchef and owner of the Seven restaurants in Nairobi. 

Chef Kiran Jethwa
The chef had put together a special menu consisting of Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Skewers, Chicken Gyoza, Chilli Basted Squid, Lamb Short Ribs and more. Once an introduction was done, the Chef was kind enough to cook a Smoked Lobster with Toasted Coconut, live for everyone to see. As always, ignoring my father’s many years of advice not to be the first one in line when it comes to food, I got the first piece fresh off the stove. And it was delicious.

Smoked Lobster with Toasted Coconut
Unfortunately, poor lighting denied me a lot of pictures of great food that was going around. It was a very fun, and almost nostalgic evening of great food and drink. Giving the food company was the Jameson Irish Whiskey. I eagerly look forward to the show and to rekindle my food-romance with Africa.

15 January, 2015

Food Pix: Citrus at Leela B'lore

Here are some pictures of the dinner that followed a cigar and single malt pairing session at the Leela. I had a fabulous Australian Rib Eye Steak for the main course. The beef was absolutely tender and was a joy to cut through and have. The desserts were equally fabulous, with the Passion Fruit Creme Brulee taking the cake (no pun intended).

Food Mood: 'The Marriage of Cigaro' - with Rocky Patel Cigars and Ballentine, The Leela, B'lore

I’m always on the look out to experience the finer things of life, especially when it comes to anything associated with food and drink. Hence, I was extremely excited to be invited to an evening of cigar and single malt appreciation at The Leela in Bengaluru. While I don’t smoke otherwise, I do make an exception when it comes to cigars. Let’s be honest, a good single malt paired with a good cigar has style and class written all over it.

The evening was hosted by Cigar Conexion in association with Ballentine’s. Titled ‘The Marriage of Cigaro’, the evening was to be about complementing cigars from the brand Rocky Patel with the fine single-malt - Ballentine. I’ll be quite honest here, while I’ve attended a couple of cigar-pairing sessions in the past, I don’t have enough experience to comment like an expert. 

I was very glad to meet and spend time with Rocky Patel who owns the brand and expand my knowledge of the world of cigars. Rocky runs a $30 million business that produces 16 million cigars a year. All of this is done at his farms in Honduras and Nicaragua. A lawyer by qualification, he worked for numerous Hollywood stars as an entertainment and product liability lawyer. This was how he was introduced to the world of cigars. One thing led to another, and now Rocky Patel cigars are among the top cigar brands in the world. In fact, one of the brands – The Rocky Patel Royale Toro, features at #5 by Cigar Aficionado for the year 2014.

Rocky spent a good part of the evening explaining in great detail, the amount of labour that goes into crafting a world-class cigar. He spoke about the soil, the temperature, the cut of the tobacco plant, the blends and all the important aspects that make one truly appreciate a cigar. He even busted certain myths of why Cuban cigars are no longer what they used to be and why brands from other Central American countries are taking precedence. The one thing that was very evident was the amount of focus that was going into production. A great product always markets itself and kudos to Rocky Patel for ensuring that.

Rocky Patel

The cigars for the evening were the Rocky Patel Decade Cameroon and the Rocky Patel Vintage 1990. I tried the latter and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Overall, the cigar left a very nice wooden taste, almost the kind that I would associate with a well-done wood fire pizza. It really complemented all the lovely hors d'oeuvres that were being served. This cigar has been placed among the top 25 cigars twice by Cigar Aficionado. Personally I would have preferred a slightly more smoky single malt over the sweeter-tasting Ballentine. 

The Rocky Patel Vintage 1990

Overall, this was one of the finest evenings I’ve had. Not only was I able to sample some excellent cigars, but was able to expand-upon my very-limited knowledge of cigars. Cigars could be a new habit that I could get used to. Once again, a big thanks to Cigar Conexion for allowing me to spend time with Rocky Patel sampling some of the finest cigars from the brand. 

11 January, 2015

Guest Column: Deccan Chronicle

This column was about albums one could expect in the coming year (2015) from all the artists in the indie scene.

Read the online version here.

05 January, 2015

Food Mood: Chillis, Indiranagar, B'lore

Considering we’ve always had a fairly good time at the branch at Phoenix Market City, we were quite thrilled when Chillis opened up in Indiranagar. We went there a few weeks after it had opened but were a bit disappointed with the experience. The evening was off to a disappointing start when we were told that they’ve not yet received the liquor license and we would have to make do with the mocktails on the menu. It’s not that we were looking to drink, but one would expect a well-established chain like Chillis to have all this in place before they opened up. While we were deciding on what to order, one could make out that the opening had been done in a bit of a hurry because a lot of the construction material was still visible in a corridor towards the back. It’s always the little things like this that annoy me quite a bit.

We ordered our favourite Classic Tacos and Southwestern Rolls which were very consistent with the other outlet when it came to the taste.  I also ordered a chocolate milkshake which was quite yummy.

I chose to have the Oldtimer Burger, which is one of my favourites. I was told that they did not have any beef patty. Dinner that night was quickly turning out to be something like what one would expect at a small-time udipi hotel where the waiter tells you that they have everything and then starts pointing out items listed on the menu that are not available. I was quite annoyed by this time and ordered the Grilled Chicken Burger with extra bacon. My friend ordered the Red Chilli Pesto Pasta which was spicier than usual.

Our experience was less than desirable so we didn’t bother ordering desserts. I’m not sure if I’ll be going there any time soon. All said and done, the waiters were courteous and more attentive to us and others compared to the other branch. That was perhaps the only plus point from my experience.

04 January, 2015

Food Mood: Phobidden Fruit , B'lore

We decided to be a little adventurous and try out some Vietnamese food. This is how we found our way to Phobidden Fruit in Indiranagar. The interiors of the joint were very nice and made you want to have a nice slow lunch with friends over good conversation. For the appetizers we chose to start off with a plate of Garden Rolls. These rolls were vegetables wrapped in a crunchy lettuce that came along with a soy sauce that completely contradicted the fresh taste of the vegetables. We actually enjoyed this dish quite a bit. We also ordered a plate of Ben Thanh Chicken which was strips of chicken in a mildly spicy sauce. It tasted very similar to the chilli chicken that was served at a roadside dhaba. That was a bit disappointing. We also tried the Vietnamese Chicken Sambal. This had a nice tangy tamarind flavour to it. After the Garden Rolls, this was dish was the best part of the appetizers.

Garden Rolls

Ben Thanh Chicken

Vietnamese Chicken Sambal
Some of us were in the mood for crab so we ordered the Tamarind Crab. Unfortunately, the crab that was served was not fresh at all and had an odour that put us off. We opened the crab only to find the meat was also terrible in texture and tasted off. The sauce on top was exactly similar to that of the spicy chicken we had ordered. Not wanting to risk it and fall ill, we returned the crab dish. I must thank the management for not making a fuss, and enquiring if we would like something else. They were also kind enough not to charge us for the dish. Not all places would be so kind.

Tamarind Crab
For the main course, I ordered a bowl of Prawn Pho. This noodle soup was accompanied with fresh herbs and sauces with which we could tailor the spice levels to our liking. Besides being hot, the quantity of the pho was plenty and took us quite a while to finish. Unlike the crab, the prawns were quite fresh and crunchy. Be warned, those with a small appetite should stick to eating only this. Another friend ordered the Hoi An Chicken Salad. At the risk of sounding uncivilized, this dish is probably what the Vietnamese version of bhel puri tastes like. Chicken pieces tossed in a tangy-sweet mix of shredded vegetables and peanuts. I must admit, I enjoyed the taste of this salad.

Prawn Pho

Hoi An Chicken Salad
For dessert, we tried the Coconut Sorbet and the Lemongrass Ice Cream. Unfortunately both of these were very mild in taste and did not leave one with the satisfaction of having had dessert. I’ve had much better Lemongrass Ice Cream elsewhere. This was a thorough disappointment.

Lemongrass Ice Cream

Coconut Sorbet
Overall, we weren’t too impressed with the quality of food at Phobidden Fruit. While service was prompt, and they were very nice not to charge us for the stale crab, I do not believe we would be revisiting the place any time soon. 

03 January, 2015

Food Mood: Zamu's Place , Pune

While I was in Pune last year for the Bacardi NH7 Weekender festival, I went to Zamu’s Place based on a recommendation from a friend. I was told not to miss the Three-Step Sizzler Programme, and that’s what I did.  I ordered a beer on arrival which was just what the doctor ordered. For the appetizers, I ordered a plate of Chicken Farcha (based on recommendations read on zomato.com). This dish had two pieces of fried chicken similar to what you’d get at a KFC, but was much better. The chicken was fresh and the meat inside was absolutely tender; this went really well with the mustard sauce that was given. Coupled with the cold beer, this was a nice way to start off the meal.

Chicken Farcha
Being the glutton I am, I had a look at the rather extensive mind-boggling combos for the Three-Step Sizzler Programme. I finally chose a combo of drunken chicken with grilled onions, a fried egg, grilled pineapple, steam veggies and fries. This was topped with a chilly garlic sauce. If your eyes widened thinking ‘How did he eat all that?’ I tell you, it was no easy task. It took me almost fifty minutes to conquer this dish, but it was really worth it. At some point during the meal, I did wish that I had worn track pants instead of jeans. The sauce was a little too spicy, but the beer took care of that. All the grilled veggies and the pineapple were done well and not burnt. 

No meal is complete without dessert. Don’t roll your eyes over; yes I had dessert after a twenty minute break. I had a bowl of nice cold caramel custard which really hit the spot. This was an ideal lunch for a long day of listening to music. 

Caramel Custard
Service was prompt and the waiter was kind enough to enquire if this was my first time at the restaurant and had some polite small talk on the concert before my meal arrived. The best part I liked about the entire meal was my ability to customize what I put on my sizzler. I was told the sandwiches here are mind-blowing and that’s on my list the next time I go to Pune. 

Food Mood: A Hole Lotta Love, B'lore

I’m of the belief that what you do on the first day of the new year will more or less represent what you’d do for the rest of the year. So it was only logical that I start off the year with a great brunch at a new place. From the owners of one of Bengaluru’s more favourite breakfast joints comes ‘A Hole Lotta Love’. You take a Led Zeppelin song and associate it with food, you pretty much know I’m sold.

A Hole Lotta Love
Located opposite the Jyoti Nivas College in Koramangala, this joint is more spacious than its older cousin ‘Hole in the Wall’. The decor is pretty similar and so is the menu. I went in at around 10:45 in the morning and the place was already packed. But since I was just by myself, I got a tiny table immediately. I ordered a cup of Hot Cocoa, a plate of sausages and a dish called the Golden Frittata Mix. This dish puts together four eggs with a lovely mix of onions, mushrooms, spinach, capsicum and jalapeno. And just in case you were feeling healthy, it’s topped with melted cheese. The jalapenos dominate the taste of the dish but do not take over completely. There is a nice spicy tinge to every bite. I would have liked more cheese. The dish came with a helping of brown bread and butter.

Golden Frittata Mix

Golden Frittata Mix
The sausages were nice and hot, but were a little bland for my taste. I prefer my sausages to have a bit more pepper in them, but that’s a personal choice. Combined together with the hot cocoa, this was an ideal brunch to start the New Year with. I’m surely going back a lot more to try out other dishes on the menu.


Hot Cocoa

A packed house

As far as ambience goes, the atmosphere is quite busy. You still have to wait a bit in case you’re late or have come with a large group of friends. But I won’t hold that against the joint because it’s a sign of good food and good service. There’s some good-old rock music playing, which is great for someone like me. The price points are very similar to the sister hotel. I do have some love for ‘A Hole Lotta Love’ right now, but I do need to visit it a few more times and try out more to be completely in love.