• Mayoki at Dubai HyattTravelling, today, has become quick and easy. It’s almost so easy that one can be in several cities, if not countries  in a span of a few hours. And with different avenues in tourism opening up, culinary tourism, of late, seems to be the biggest earner. Culinary tourism is what makes one travel to another city or country to experience culture through food and cuisine. There is no confusion here. The itinerary won’t feature famous monuments, it’ll feature small or large food joints, some famous, some not-so-famous, but all of them serving delicious authentic local cuisine. And with this rising trend, restaurants and hotels are not far behind in cashing in on this windfall.

    Every hotel or restaurant is seen organising food festivals, workshops, and demonstrations. Some hotels have even begun organising food walks that are similar to heritage or nature walks, and why not? Food seems to be the new breath. That’s why most people who travel carry back bags of assorted food. I do, too. It’s

    Read More »from On the food trail: Culinary Tourism
  • Hong Kong by nightImagine yourself gliding over the dark sea, your plane touching the runway just as the sun appears above the horizon, flooding everything in your sight with a warm reddish orange glow. This was the experience of landing in Hong Kong early in the morning. We were there for a shoot and after grabbing a quick bite at the airport, we scrambled off to the heart of the city towards the Langham Hotel. On the way, though sleepy, I couldn’t help but look around at the many street carts and small joints opening for breakfast as the busy bustling city came to life, and the roads filled up with cars, double-decker buses and bikes, and a sea of people spilled out from the train stations. 

    The Langham is not only one of the most prestigious addresses in the city, it also houses one of the best restaurants in Hong Kong – T’ang Court - and Chef Kwong Wai-Keung holds two well-deserved Michelin stars for his food. Meeting him was almost a dream as he walked us around his magnificent kitchen which

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  • Corn on the cobSome of my earliest memories of food funnily stems from school. Never a first-bencher, the smell of  freshly-wrapped new notebooks in brown paper, of sharpened pencils and new erasers was distracting enough, but so was the thought of the mid-day break. It was comforting to tuck into one’s tiffin after pretending to study so much. It was even better to run down during the 15-minute break to grab a vada pav or samosa pav, or sometimes, with a few minutes to spare, heading to the gates to pick up a few rupees worth of channa or shengdana, to squirrel away into one’s desk and nibble on slowly and stealthily while the boring afternoon lecturers droned on.

    Heading out after school we would crowd around the “masala berry” cart, as I used to call it, stationed outside the school gates. A large metal plate stood upon a spindle of legs tied up in the centre with baskets of goodies of an unimaginable and unparalleled kind. From tangy star fruit, sweet amla (Indian gooseberries), ber, raw mango and

    Read More »from On the food trail - Eating out through the years
  • John Jameson


    One of my first trips out of India was to Ireland and though I was enthralled by the beauty of the country, I came back quite captivated with what they called their “water of life” – a clear amber liquid – whiskey. I was very young then, and whiskey was not my beverage of choice. In fact, back then, it was “the drink enjoyed by the old”.  It wasn’t till I was in my thirty’s that I took a liking to this golden beverage, and even then, I didn’t take a liking to scotch like most others, but single malts.

    It was a trip of a lifetime, and the best part of it other than the food, were the long drives, open roads and the quaintly named pubs dotting the Giants’ Causeway, which is probably the oldest and best whiskey trail. It is said that Irish monks first distilled whiskey along this trail.

    That journey was to visit the Jameson’s Distillery where the famous Jameson Irish Whiskey was made by John Jameson. It was my first taste of whiskey, and the first sip and whiff of the heady fumes made me

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  • "A Martini, Shaken - not stirred." James Bond (Sean Connery) Goldfinger (1964)

    AppletiniI am yet to meet a bartender who doesn’t know this line – even if he hasn’t heard of James Bond. (Yes, there are people who haven’t heard of him.) I am also yet to meet a mixologist who cannot stop marveling at the craziness of the statement, nor have I met anyone who has actually tried a shaken martini, including myself.

    I had once heard another delightful quote: “I was born talented… education ruined me.” This seems to apply to all of us who study hospitality, a part of which is bartending, or an advanced stage of which is nowadays called mixology. Not only do the two terms have different meanings, they also hold different connotations in terms of profession.

    Mixologist is one term heard quite frequently these days, and almost with as much regard as wine connoisseur. So who is a mixologist and what exactly is mixology? Mixology is defined as “the art or skill of preparing mixed drinks”, and a mixologist is

    Read More »from On the food trail - The age of mixology
  • A tribal painting which resembles embroidery


    In the last week of February, I visited the Bandhavgarh National Park for a couple of days to try my luck at tiger sightings. Unfortunately, the weather changed suddenly and thanks to the untimely rain and hailstorms, the tiger eluded me. What came as a stroke of luck was being able to attend the first ever Baghesur Festival being held in the Tala village.

    A first-of-its-kind attempt at showcasing the co-existence of tigers and tribals, this festival gave me a rare glimpse into some never-before-seen tribal art, and also showed me the other side of the “Save the Tiger” coin. A side, which I had always overlooked or even misunderstood.

    As I checked into the White Tiger Forest Lodge run by MPTDC, I could not help but notice the vibrant posters of a typically tribal sketch of a tiger that spoke about a festival which showcased tribal arts, dances, theatre, food and culture – and the tribal’s relationship with the tiger. This last bit caught my attention, and as I visited the festival site

    Read More »from On the food trail: Jai Baghesur – Of Tigers & Tribals
  • Chef Christopher doing a demo


    In today’s day and age, when winning a reality show gives one the title of “Chef” quite easily, it’s reassuring to know that the true world of chefs still exists. The world where one embarks on a long journey of learning, absorption, practice, thought and application. A journey that begins rather tearfully with the chopping of onions, and leads to rough and tough kitchens sometimes results in a celebrated title.

    Of late, I’ve often been asked, “Who is a true chef and who isn’t?” or “Are TV chefs true?” And the answer is not so easy. There was a time when TV chefs were true chefs who had undergone the grind; chefs like Gary Rhodes or the Roux Brothers who had worked in kitchens (not necessarily 5-star hotel kitchens) and who really knew food, who strived for perfection in every aspect of cooking right from selecting ingredients to presentation. These were chefs who could demonstrate a dish or technique anywhere and using any ingredients given to them. Today, sadly, the picture has

    Read More »from On the food trail - The journey to becoming a Chef
  • Organic fruit jam at HideoutOrganic vegetables, organic fruits, organic food products… What is the world fussing all about? Well, before I get into that, one needs a bit of history. ‘Organic Food’, a term coined by Lord Northbourne in 1939, is a holistic approach to farming. It was a recent trip to an organic farm in the middle of a desert near Abu Dhabi that got me thinking about it all. This particular farm had been created on a piece of land the Sheikh had gifted the farmer telling him to use it for the good of society. The farmer used it to make an organic farm.

    Another destination closer home, is Hideout, an eco-destination near Vasai where organic produce is grown, and meals are cooked using that very produce. The functioning of the establishment also follows an eco-friendly module wherein water and electricity are used sparingly, water used for washing utensils is drained into the nearby forest to water the trees, water drained from cooking rice is used to starch sheets, food is served in leaf plates,

    Read More »from On the food trail - What’s the organic fuss all about?
  • Guava Cottage Cheese salad

    As I travel seeing just glimpses of the world racing by, food trends seem to come and go. While molecular cuisine has phased itself out of the European market and is eyeing the global scene, very few are actually trying their hand at it. The chemicals that one consumes in a single ‘molecular’ meal are perhaps more than one would consume in a year of eating regular food.

    A relatively new concept has been making the rounds for a while, and it is one that I’m drawn to at the moment. Not so much due to the absence of meat, but the fact that food is eaten virtually in its raw natural stage, while coupled with slow cooking gives it the potential of becoming quite a fad -  that concept is ‘raw cooking’. To be absolutely truthful, it is the Hollywood stars that are to be credited for increasing awareness and popularity, for it was they who discovered how a diet based on natural foods creates a whole new physical persona.

    Raw Food means no meat, for obvious reasons; it also does not mean just a

    Read More »from On the food trail - The Raw Revolution
  • Varun Inamdar's Chocolate-covered Mandarin with Sea Salt.


    As Valentine’s Day approaches, I am reminded of my old loves, sweet heartaches and wanton heartbreaks. I am also reminded of the song Please send me Someone to Love  by Percy Mayfield. The lyrics say:

    “Heaven please send to all mankind,
    Understanding and peace of mind,
    And if it's not asking too much,
    Please send me someone to love” 
     
    It’s a song that goes straight to one’s heart. It arouses a myriad of feelings from warm gooey lovesickness to annoyance at lost loves, and for some a sense of loneliness.  And the one thing that complements all these in terms of taste, flavour, and the much needed feel-good-factor is chocolate.  Over the years, chocolate has become synonymous with love, and its celebration especially on to the run-up and eventually on Valentine’s Day, more so. The story of Valentine is about the young St Valentine who cured his jailor’s daughter (who he was in love with) of blindness and sent her a card signed “your valentine” as a love note just before being executed. For Read More »from On the food trail - A bit of chocolate for Valentine’s Day

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