31 May, 2015

Food Mood: Mango Adventures at Starbucks

I confess that no matter how many fine places I eat at (or drink at), I tend to be very pedestrian when it comes to certain things. Coffee is one of them. Coming from a Tambram family, my love for filter coffee surpasses any other.  One of the big reasons why I chose to be  part of this bloggers meet at Starbucks was because we were not going to be having any coffee, so I knew I wouldn’t be writing a review starting off with a bias on the lines of ‘ this isn’t like my filter coffee’.

With the mango season going on in India, the Starbucks chain launched some new flavours of their Frappucino range to cater to the taste buds of the local market, the speciality being their flavours around mango. That evening, we tried out three of the new entrants to the Starbucks product line which included the Alphonso Mango Frappuccino, the Baked Mango Yoghurt and the Alphonso Mango Frappuccino with Java chip. 

The Alphonso Mango Frappuccino is a straight forward concoction of Alphonso mango with milk, with a topping of whipped cream if you’d like it. The mango flavour is quite mild and does not overburden the taste buds. This has been made possible with the use of actual mango pulp and not synthetic essences or ice cream which gives you a strong mango flavour. This is a relatively light drink compared to a lot of the other frappucinos, and this would go well with the summer. We also tried another variant of the same which added chocolate chips into the mix. I wasn’t too thrilled with this particular mix because chocolate and mango are two distinct flavours that I personally do not enjoy mixing as the result does absolutely no justice to either flavour.

The one that that we did try that I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend everyone to head to their local Starbucks and try is the Baked Mango Yogurt topped with tropical mango sauce. This was a lovely little dish made out of mango puree, yogurt and cream. While I was expecting it to be like a standard mango yogurt, the taste was miles ahead and very refreshing. Most of the bloggers at the table that evening concurred that this was a really good dish. Do note, this is available only until the end of June, so hurry over and pick it up. 

PS: I did not take this particular picture
Do check out the new flavours and let me know which one is your favourite. I hope you enjoy the Baked Mango Yogurt as much as I did.

PS: Below are some pictures from some of the fun activities we had as part of a larger campaign by Starbucks to promote their new frappucino flavours for the summer. Check out #sipface #starbucksfunventures #starbucksindia on your various social media channels to see some of the innovative entries. 

24 May, 2015

Guest Column: Deccan Chronicle

This particular article appeared on the 19th of May'2015. This was my tribute to one of the most influential Bluesmen - B.B King who had passed away the previous Friday.

Food Pix: From Las Vegas (Pt. 3 of 4)

I've never been a fan of pancakes. But then again, I've never been to IHOP. While I was putting together my list of places to eat at while in Vegas, IHOP was among the top three. Numerous folks returning from the U.S have raved about the overly large quantities of food during the IHOP breakfast. I went in at around ten in the morning, filled with supreme confidence that I would be able to tackle the breakfast. Once again, the nice folks in America have proven that I am the Jon Snow of eating... I can't eat nothing.

I ordered the Hearty Ham & Cheese Omelette while my colleague who had come along ordered a Garden Omelette. Now, this is where I should have known that I was going to eat humble pie (pun intended) because every helping comes with a stack of four really large pancakes. I'm used to much thinner omelettes and pancakes here in India, but this was not something I expected.

The delightful waitress brought over enough food to feed a family of four in India. The omelette I had ordered was about two-inches thick and was covered in so much cheese that the egg was not visible. One cut it open to to be overwhelmed by large chunks of ham and enough cheddar cheese that the mere sight of it clogged an artery. But oh my lord, it tasted so good. The omelette had a consistent taste of cheese and ham right through with every bite tasting exactly the same. I was only about forty percent through when I could take no more cheese. Being someone who used to lick the cream between biscuits, I started picking out just the ham and was able to eat five more percent of the omelette.

Ham & Cheese Omelette

Ham & Cheese Omelette

Adding to that, the buttermilk pancakes were just delicious. I tried all the varieties of syrups that were given. I'm not sure if it's all the marketing that has my brain wired, but I found maple syrup to be my favourite. I struggled and managed to claw my way through one and a half pancakes before throwing down my utensils and surrendering. 

Buttermilk Pancakes

All the syrups

Garden Omelette

I got the rest of the meal packed and gave it to a homeless person outside the IHOP who was ecstatic and kept thanking me till the end of the block. It's nice two know two people that morning had full bellies.

17 May, 2015

Food Mood: Mother's Day Special at I & Monkey

While this might not qualify as a review of the restaurant, it’s definitely a very interesting lunch that I had been to at I & Monkey. On the occasion of Mother’s Day, a few bloggers and I were invited to a special lunch. The difference was that, we were told to send in the favourite dish that our mother 's make and the chef would try his hand at putting a twist on the same. 

First up was a very interesting dish which was a mix between the local favourite Lemon Rice and a Risotto. I’m not a fan of either dish individually, but this particular mash-up had a very unique taste that I was quite surprised that I enjoyed. It had the texture of the risotto with a mild touch of lemon giving it the lemon rice twang. Kudos to the chef on this one. It was one of the dishes that I shamelessly took more than one helping off. 

Next was the Navaratan Kurma which was average in comparison to the previous risotto. This dish is probably one of those few dishes that you really can’t mess around with and adapt to any other cuisine. We were also served a helping of Fish Fry which tasted alright, but the texture was a little tough. Fish is normally expected to easily break off with a fork, but this took some doing. The outer layer that was fried was crispy and quite tangy.

The next dish was my favourite part of the meal - The Moroccan Lamb Stew. Made in a gravy of plum and pepper, the saltiness of the meat went excellently well with the sauce. This was a perfect compliment to the Moroccan Rice that was mild in nature and did not overpower the gravy. The meat was tender enough to be cut with a fork. The bloggers at the table were unanimous that this was the best dish of the day and we all took several helpings.

Accompanying the food were a few cocktails based on whiskey, rum and vodka. I did not drink anything but a fresh lime soda as I was already nursing a bit of a hangover from some decent Irish single malt the previous evening.

Dessert was a fine closing chapter to our Mother’s Day special meal with Mango SoufflĂ©, Tiramisu and my favourite Chocolate Brownie with Ice Cream. It would be important to note that the brownie had a gelatine-like texture to it and was quite rich in chocolate. Folks who don’t relish dark chocolate might not enjoy this dish. 

Big thumbs up for the Lamb Stew and the Risotto in my book.  I look forward to trying some of the grub off the regular menus which the chef informed us will be changing every few months based on the ingredients that season. This would be an interesting change because neither the chef gets bored of doing the same thing every day nor more importantly, neither do the patrons. 

Food Pix: From Las Vegas (Pt. 2 of 4)

Before I went on my trip to Vegas, I did a quick search of must-visit eateries and the Secret Pizza place showed up. Located at the Cosmopolitan hotel, this isn’t this New York style Pizza place is not the easiest to find. There’s no advertising for the place, directions not listed in the hotel and the folks at the hotel decided to be a little more helpful by telling me things like ‘It wouldn’t be a secret if we told you now would it?’ I spent a good twenty minutes locating the place and boy it was worth it.

Located at the far end of a dimly lit corridor, the Secret Pizza Place offers the typical New York style of Pizzas. Although I went at around 1:30 in the morning, there was a bit of a line to get your order. The place is a quaint joint with just some counters attached to the side of the wall. It could fit about 5 people; hence most of the folks opted for a take-away.

After much waiting (and tolerating the typical American Teenager types) I ordered a slice of the Pepperoni Pizza. Trust me; a single slice is large enough and heavy enough to be counted as a meal. The pizza was extremely cheesy with the pepperoni nice and salty. As an overweight person, this was exactly the sort of thing I should not be consuming. But WTH…. You only live once!  This was one of my favourite eating joints in Vegas and I did go back a second night to grab the Meat-Lovers pizza which was way more delicious. Open till 4 in the morning, this is definitely a must visit joint should you be at Vegas.

13 May, 2015

Gig Pix: Ode to the Blues 2015, Counter Culture (Pt.3 of 3)

The penultimate act for the evening featured a very interesting performance by Madou Sidiki Diabte from Mali. Madou played a very interesting instrument called the Kora which had some 21 strings, all played by using just two fingers on either hand. While it was musically very soothing after heavy-ish gigs, I'm not too sure how it fit into the blues theme. But then again, I might just be being overly critical.

The final act for the evening was one of my favourite bands, Soulmate. As always stellar performance from Rudy on guitar and a mesmerizing vocal act by Tipriti who is one of my fav Indian female vocalists. They were joined by Rick Payne and Madou towards the end of the set for a very interesting jam session that made me really enjoy how Madou's Kora blended in with Rudy's electric guitar and Rick's acoustic guitar. It was the perfect end to an evening of blues.

It's going to a tough task to top this year's OTTB by the folks at Counter Culture, but I'm sure they're up to the challenge.

Gig Pix: Ode to the Blues 2015, Counter Culture (Pt.2 of 3)

Back to the outside acoustic stage, we had a clean set by our two esteemed foreign guests. Rick Payne started off the set with his version of the Rolling Stones classic 'Because I used to love her'. Three songs in and he was joined by Steve Treble. The duo put on on a very neat acoustic set that to me was one of the high points of this year's festival.

Next up on the main stage were Bengaluru veterans, Ministry of Blues. I was a bit disappointed with their set because it seemed very similar to the set from last year's edition. Tight gig nonetheless, but nothing really new that brought the wow factor.

Post a brief acoustic set by By2 Blues, we had stalwarts of Bengaluru's blues scene, Chronic Blues Circus take the main stage. They were accompanied by Steve Treble on lead guitars who kept profusely sweating and complaining between killer riffs about how his strings kept getting detuned due to the weather.