15 September, 2015
11 September, 2015
Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the last of the empire’s warlords in the Star Wars universe says in the ‘Heir to the Empire’ book that the study of his enemies' artwork gives him insight into their thought processes and cultures. To me and a lot of other folks, food is art. The ability to use local spices and ingredients to create magical mouth-watering dishes is nothing short of taking a blank canvas and putting a masterpiece together. If we run with my belief that good food is art, even someone like Grand Admiral Thrawn would have been bamboozled by the spread at the’ Indian Culinary Route’ festival organized by the Bangalore Marriott Hotel Whitefield.
The festival brings together 12 chefs from 12 different Marriott properties across India, with every chef bringing with them cuisine unique to that region. This interesting showcase of the diversity of Indian culture offers dishes from various cuisines including Rajasthani, Awadhi, Hyderabadi, Chettinad, Goan, Punjabi and many more. Every chef had a little stall to themselves where they would showcase some of the prize dishes that are synonymous with the region.
|The 12 chefs from across the Marriott group|
|The chefs with bloggers for the evening|
This spread is one the largest I’ve seen. I had to be prudent and show a lot of self-control to sample smaller portions so as to maximize the number of dishes I ate. I also decided (quite shockingly) not to drink anything but water that evening. I started off with the Goan section and particularly the Goan spicy beef curry with pav bread. This was the Virendar Sehwag of the meal and came out all guns blazing smashing boundaries with the excellent balance of spice and pepper. The meat was done well enough to be mildly chewy and simply blew my taste buds away with the overall flavour. I also had the fish and calamari which were less than average when compared to the fabulous beef curry. The evening was off to a promising start.
|Goan Spicy Curry|
Next, I hit the Rajasthani section to try out some of the dishes there with the chutneys and especially the laal maas. There was this particular garlic chutney that offered a lovely taste yet was not strong enough to keep the vampires away. The spice in the laal maas was tempered down owing to the large foreign crowd at the festival. This seemed to be a theme across some of the dishes in the other counters that I was expecting would be spicy. I was looking forward to some ker sangri in this section. While there wasn’t any on display, the chef was kind enough to make a batch for us. My love for this dish continues.
I moved on to the Delhi section to indulge myself in some Delhi style chaat. While the flavour was closer to what one would get on the streets of Delhi as compared to what one gets locally, the lowered spice levels was a bit of a disappointment. There was a raw papaya salad in the Delhi stall that was among the dishes that stood out that evening. However, the best was yet to come.
|Dahi Paapdi Chaat|
The Maharashtrian stall was up next, and one particular dish at this stall pretty much sealed the deal for the evening. The Mutton Pandhara was a lovely dish made from chilli seeds and coconut milk. The mutton was cooked fabulously with the meat effortlessly falling off the bone. Combined with the sweet taste of coconut milk and the mild hint of chilli as the gravy goes down, this dish was my favourite for the evening. Everything about this dish was absolutely perfect. Followed by some hot poories with Shrikand, the Maharashtrian stall was the best among the stalls that evening.
|Mutton Pandhara with poori and Shrikand|
|A vegetarian dish made from Brinjal|
While I was tempted to go back for more of the mutton, better senses prevailed and I tried a variety of dishes from the other stalls including some kakori and shammi kababs from the Lucknow stall, an extremely heavy butter chicken from the Punjabi stall, kozhi roast from the Chettinad stall and a few others. One dish that did catch my attention was the twist on the paddu which was made from chicken and egg which was a completely new flavour altogether. I’ve always had the vegetarian version which I thoroughly enjoy with mint chutney, so it was nice to see some experimentation that paid off.
|Kababs from Lucknow|
The dessert section had a few pastries and custards, but did not offer anything that grabbed my attention and made me want to go back for seconds.
This festival was definitely one of the most unique festivals I have been too in terms of the spread and in terms of discovering new tastes. While I did wish I could revert to my former self from three years ago and effortlessly sample all the dishes, from what I did taste, there were some dishes that stood out miles ahead of the others. Namely, the Mutton Pandhara and the Goan Spicy Beef Curry. Folks looking to truly explore India through food must try this festival. Do head over to the Marriott and let me know what dish you loved the most.
06 September, 2015
If one were to ask me, there are only two things that truly define the culture of the United States of America – Jazz and the Burger. While I’m sure this comment might spark a great debate, let’s all just be civil for the remainder of this post.
Celebrating the culinary culture of the US, I was invited to try out the spread at the American food festival at the Aloft (Cessna business park). Naturally, my expectations of the burger were quite high. I was also keen to see what else would be spread. This was the first festival put together by Aloft’s new executive chef – Chef Sandeep Kumar. Chef Sandeep brings with him over a decade of experience in food and beverages with stints at the Leela Goa, the Carnival Cruise Line, The Orient Express at the Taj Palace in Delhi and more. The inspiration for the theme for this particular food festival comes from Chef Sandeep’s time with the Carnival Cruise Line that allowed him to sample a lot of dishes that are now synonymous with the American landscape.
We kicked off our lunch with a helping of chicken wings. Very American in flavour, the wings were tender and came off the bone very easily. Like with all wings, the key differentiator is the sauce that the wings are coated in. The flavour of the sauce with these wings fell right in the middle of familiar territory with a largely sweet taste with a hint of spice. Following the wings was the good old American dish of fried chicken. With a light spice in the very crunchy skin on the outside, the chicken was once again a very familiar taste. But the absolute kicker and one of the highlights of this dish was the spicy chocolate mole.
Made from chocolate and spices mixed together for over eight hours, the bitter sweet chocolate with the pepper and spice flavour that precedes it was an absolute turn on for my taste buds. They wanted to have this sauce with everything. I couldn’t hold back my shamelessness and requested for a small bottle of this sauce to take home with me. I have diligently been dipping everything from carrots to baked crisps in it. I know that sauce set me back in my grand ‘lose weight’ plan, but oh hell… YOLO. (See what that chocolate sauce has made me do, I’m typing YOLO and all that.)
Next up was a plate of nachos salad. I’ll be quite honest in saying that the nachos were one of the better nacho salads I’ve had in ages. With a lot of local restaurants maintaining their margins by cutting out elements on their previously flavourful nacho salads, this hit the spot with the right amount of veggies, meat, salsa, sour cream and guacamole.
We moved on to my favourite part of the meal – the burger. I was served a delicious beef patty that was sandwiched between a layer of fresh mustard, a fried egg, tomatoes and onion rings. While the mustard and beef flavours dominated the burger, a quick dip in the chocolate sauce took it to a whole new level altogether. A thumb up for the burger from me.
Mexican food and flavours are an integral part of the American food landscape. Next up was the chicken roll with salsa roja. Heavy on Mexican spices, the roll was quite filling with the salsa sauce, layer of cheese, egg and mustard topped off with a jalapeno pepper. The tiny cubes of chicken themselves did not hold any flavour; this was driven completely by everything else in the roll. After having a third of the roll, I was quite full. I reluctantly sampled the hot dog because no American experience is complete without the hot dog. Compared to the burger and the hot dog was mild. It missed the punch of the all-important relish. Relish and mustard define the taste of any hot dog.
While there were numerous other dishes on the spread including the classic American mac and cheese, a corn jalapeno timble in a coriander sauce, a veg stew, burritos and more, I was too full to have anything more. Besides, whatever little crevices were left in my tummy was reserved for dessert.
Dessert was simple plate of churros, done perfectly with a slightly crispy exterior coated in sugar with a soft inside. There was a slightly overwhelming taste of cinnamon which went even better when I dipped it in the chocolate mole.
This is a very promising start to Chef Sandeep’s stint with the Aloft at Cessna Business Park. I’m looking forward to more such festivals that chef has planned out. He did share some of the grand plans he’s got for the next year, and cheers to more good food.
02 September, 2015
There are food festivals and there are food festivals. This one’s the latter. The culinary team at Sheraton Grand (erstwhile Sheraton Bangalore Brigade Gateway) have raised the bar for what a food festival is all about. Focussing on the strong peppery flavours of the Chettinad cuisine, Chef Marty and Chef Sabari travelled into the heart of the region to discover flavours and recipes to put up an authentic chettinad food festival at Feast.
The big difference, besides the fabulous flavours of almost every dish, is the spread of the festival that seems to be almost double of what was on offer during previous festivals. A lot more effort has gone into decorating the restaurant with spices, curry powders, ceramic dolls and more to give one a chettinad feel. Another big difference was the equal proportion of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes that kept both camps happy.
I kicked off the festival with a fabulous crab soup. If ever there was a way to set the pace for the barrage of strong flavours I was going to experience for the rest of the evening, that crab soup was it. Strong on pepper, with a mild helping of spices with really soft crab portions, the soup instantly hits your throat. Some might find the taste of the pepper overwhelming, but I completely enjoyed the flavour. There were quite a few appetizers, each with their own unique flavours served. The Kozhi Kal Chops (chicken leg chop) was another dish strong on pepper and spices with the chicken just coming off the bone very easily. There was also the Nethli Fry, a fish appetizer that missed the mark in my book in terms of really displaying some strong spice. A variety of knick knacks for the vegetarians were excellent too including a masala vada, appam with tomato chutney, dosa and mini-addai (a dosa variant cooked with six types of lentils).
|Kozhi Kal Chops|
|Masala Vada and Fried Pepper Mushroom|
For the main course, there was a chicken and a mutton dish. While the mutton kurma offered no new tastes as such, the chicken in the pepper gravy was a home run. Loaded with spice and pepper, the chicken dish was cooked brilliantly. The meat was tender and cooked evenly across every piece. What did work for me was the gravy. One bite in and the typical-pepper flavour of chettinad food over-whelmed my taste buds and the aroma even crept into my nose. This gravy was an excellent complement for the mutton biryani which despite looking full of flavour was relatively bland. The buffet also offered a brinjal rice and a veg pulao, both off which gave off wonderful aromas of spice when I walked by.
|Chicken in Pepper Sauce|
I didn’t try out too many of the vegetarian section as most of the dishes were very familiar. One dish among all caught my eye and I was delighted that it tasted even better than it looked. The Beetroot Kolavurndai, a beetroot dumpling cooked in coconut gravy offered a very unique taste. On the sweeter side owing to the sweetness of the beetroot and coconut, this dish provided much relief in terms of flavour. The texture of the dumpling was soft and while the outer layer had absorbed a lot of the coconut taste, the inside still retained the sweetness of beetroot. This is another example of how vegetarian food can be tasty and inventive too.
For the dessert, I took a small helping of the halwa which was average. The second dessert, the Eleneer Payasam (coconut kheer) was light, not too sweet and acted as a nice cleanser to the end of a meal driven by punches of pepper and spice.
In all honesty, this has been the best food festival at the Sheraton Grand that I have been too. There is clearly a lot more work that has gone into the dishes and the overall theme. This would be the new benchmark for all following festivals at Feast.