Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review: The #ZestUpYourLife experience with Blogadda and Tata Motors.

Last week I got an invitation from the team over at BlogAdda to be part of a "Zestilicious" experience. The top 50 bloggers were flown down to Goa, courtesy Tata Motors, for a test drive of the Tata Zest, that is all set to hit the market next month. I am "live-blogging" right now, from the Zuri White Sands Resort at Varca Beach, with 49 other bloggers who are pretty engrossed into typing.

While blogging on cue is not my thing, let alone talking about anything that is not food, On a food blog, I will try to encompass the #ZestUpYourLife experience in two parts- The Car and the the test drive by itself, and the experience with Blogadda and the event as a whole. 

1. The Tata Zest:

The Tata Zest is a next generation Sedan, which makes me look forward to getting behind a steering wheel (which is rare). We sat through a presentation where it was explained to us in detail, the vision behind the concept and the journey through its execution. The result looks pretty impressive. Just like food (eating with your eyes first), the Tata Zest has been designed in a way that even if its parked, it looks like it has been designed for speed and power. The state of the art Horizon Next behind the Zest makes sure that the car represents its owner-confident, cool and trustworthy. The Tata Zest is powered by a 1.2T Revotron Engine that creates a lot of Torque for this category of cars. It is available in two variants- Petrol and AMT Diesel. The Diesel is an automatic while the Petrol version 

What I really liked about the Tata Zest is the Connect Next feature. On paper it looks great. Your smartphone can be synced to the inbuilt system and it can read out your text messages, play music from your smartphone/ipod/pen drive, answer calls, and keep you connected throughout. The climate control works on voice command, and the entire interface is pretty looking with the touch screen.

When I actually got around to using the Connect Next feature on the phone, it was quite confusing. In my opinion, it is impossible for someone who is driving the car to be able to sync and get around the features easily as it takes up a lot of attention. I managed to play music from my phone using the USB cable, and also paired a phone via bluetooth. The voice commands are only available for the AMT Diesel version, and I could not get to work it despite trying repeatedly. There are 3 preset modes on the car, the City, Eco, and Sport. The City mode is specially designed to withstand the constant braking and potholes while driving in a metropolitan city. The Sport mode does make the car more peppy and is an excellent driving experience! The Eco mode is mainly for cruise, and is a maximum endurance and fuel efficiency mode. 

Overall I think it is a really nice car, and maybe I woulc consider buying one for myself in the near future.

2. The Blogadda experience: 

While I think most of the experience was well curated and every single BlogAdda personnel was super helpful and always ready to answer any question with a smile on their faces, I do have to stress on how much we were pushed to the limits over these two days. I have had my share of experiences with various hotels and blogger organizations, but this has been so stressing out. When I am told that I am going for a weekend getaway at a 5 star resort hotel, the least I expect is to have a drive along the beach. We had to skip high tea just go get a buggy ride and catch the beach side sunset. The "live blogging" activity was not a great idea either, considering that the majority of bloggers is having issues churning out blog posts with a deadline. When you have a schedule so packed with live tweeting and updates, at least let the bloggers get time to charge their devices or provide them with portable chargers. 

Now getting down to the point which I am most concerned about- Food. The lunch yesterday was unbearable, except for a glass of buttermilk. The dinner was not half bad, the Racheado King fish and Basa were great, and so was the Dal makhani and the Thai Curry with Rice. The breakfast this morning had some amazing hot mini Medu Wadas, which I overdosed on, so I did not really get to try anything else! I am now headed out to lunch, and I am so excited to try it. Or am I?


Monday, June 2, 2014

[Rant] How to become a Food Blogger 101

If you have read my last few posts and/or know me in person, you will know that I have been going through a phase where it has become difficult to play the role of a Food Blogger. What started out as a fun space to share ideas has now become an informative portal, and suddenly I have to be responsible for what I say (which makes me uncomfortable since this is my space after all. If you like it, read it and enjoy, else close the window). 'Food Blogging' has deteriorated to memorizing names of dishes and techniques, and 'Food Blogger' has been criticized widely, especially in India. Every single one of us has a reason why each of us make sense and the others don't. I'll get back to my take on this but since the wave is ever growing, and if you are interested at all, here is a guide to become a (maybe successful) Food Blogger.

1. Name Your Blog: Go for words related to food. Well, you could go for something that defines your personality but looks like it ain't a prerequisite anymore. Some good examples are names like Recipe in my Kitchen, Baselessly Delicious, Preheat your Oven, Caramel Wings, Pom pom Cooks, Food is my Life, Forever Hungry... You get the drill.

2. Watch lots of food shows on TV: You HAVE to know the Trimurti of the Food Blogging world- Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris. Other popular names include Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Curtis Stone- not only because they are hot but they are hot property in the food world. Oh, and by the way you must remember the names of every guest judge that appeared on Master Chef Australia, along with their portfolio, how many Michelin stars/Hats their restaurants have earned, along with the names of all the contestants from all the seasons. Other than that you may also indulge in watching a lot of Eat Street. No one's gonna judge you if you watch a lot of Khana Khazana, but its passé.

3. Make a Twitter account/Facebook Page: Follow all the food celebrities you know and spam their TL all the time. Act like they are your BFF from high school. Also follow other Food Bloggers and keep a tab on what they are up to. Butt into conversations among other bloggers when they plan on having pot lucks and force them to invite you by sending a lot of sad smileys.

4. Offer false praises: Leave a comment and reply to each tweet of every blogger who you think is popular. Tell them how amazing they are. Ask them to adopt you. Tell them you wish you could do all these too, and if they are nice (we are nice people) they'll guide you.

5. Make an Instagram account: Remember the mantra "tweet before you eat". An important requirement for a Food Blogger is to be able to eat food that is not at the optimum temperature. Choose your tables as per the lighting. Memorize your filters. Save your tags. Yep. I do it every day. Not even ashamed! :D

6. Make every single trip you take, a food trail: Tweet/Instagram pictures of old shops. Trips are not about enjoying yourself with the camera anymore, people! Its all about click and upload! If you are not uploading pics and will later post them as a blog, still keep tweeting about it whilst being totally ignorant towards people around you. Your followers are God.

7. Use the slang: You must know it all. From "YUMMMM" to "DROOL" to "OMNOMNOM". Remember, Caps lock makes it more believable.

8.  Make Google/Wikipedia your best friend: Even though your writing is pretty bad and you could also use Google for some grammar lessons online, keep the important terms and what they mean accessible to you. You cannot be a food blogger if you can't tell a Bernaise from a Hollandaise. (No, I did not Wiki that.)

9. Be Opinionated (even if you don't have an opinion): Try using phrases like "not up to my liking" and "I would prefer". No one cares about your writing. Its all in the pics anyway.

10. Attend all PR events and throw your weight around: Take a million pics with Vikas Khanna. Then make him take a Selfie Video with you while he endorses you. That will gain you a lot of followers, (even if he looks uncomfortable in the video) and people will love you even more.

11. Act like a Snob: One word replies are the epitome of snobbery. Use that.

12. Accept free work for Publicity: Go write everywhere. Tweet with brands. Offer them to write for their blogs. They will publicize your blog link to generate traffic. Wait for traffic to increase while you click on your own blog page 1,000 times a day.

13. Flaunt it/Check ins: Check into every place you go to. You have to become Mayor of at least 5 places, even if its the Vada Pav stall under your society. Check in standing outside nice places too, I mean who knows if you actually went in right? It is important to check in at a restaurant/eatery every day even if people think you may fall seriously ill some day.

Okay. I was kidding. Or maybe not. But mostly I was.

On a more serious note, I am of the opinion that everyone is fit to be a "foodie" or whatever it is. I personally don't dislike or like the term. I think food is subjective and everyone has a different palate. As someone who writes about restaurants I must tell all the newbies on the block that you must give your opinion with a neutral mindset, or at least the mindset of your reader. As a blogger who cooks and likes to mix up flavours, one must be very careful not to cross the line. You cannot make something like a Birizza and call yourself a great blogger. Seriously, who thought of that? The inventors of Pizza and Biryani must be so disturbed. Recipes are traditions handed down from generations to generations and they must be respected. Else the next thing we know will be a Batata Crostini (Instead of Vada pav).

A good quality, I am told, is to admit it when you are less informed about a certain cuisine, and have an open mind. To be a blogger is to be a learner.

Respect the Chefs. They spend years learning about the science/art of cooking so the least one can do is be respectful while critiquing. If you are reviewing a burger, the least you can do is comment on it after you reach half way. You cannot eat one bite from the edge of a Burger and comment saying it is too dry.

One of my readers and a close friend (not a blogger, but someone who cooks/travels a lot) says "There have been many definitions of a foodie but in my very own personal opinion a FOODIE is a person who gets aroused by food. That arousal can manifest itself in many ways. Be it eating, cooking, feeding, travelling to experience diverse cuisines, or even to say sorry by cooking for someone and to tell them how much they mean to you. For me, the kitchen is my temple, cooking is my prayer and the people I cook for are my Gods." 

 It could not have been put any better.






Saturday, May 31, 2014

Recipe: 'Finger Lickin' Good' Southern Fried Chicken.



I am not going to write an intro for this recipe- it does not need one. What you do need to know is that it is a 100% crowd pleasing recipe! I taught this one at a cooking class but I have been receiving too many requests for the recipe, so here it is!

Finger Lickin' Good Fried Chicken
Serves 6
Recipe: Self

Ingredients:

Marination:
1.5 kg Chicken, cut into big pieces. (12 pieces)
4 Cups Buttermilk
1 tbsp Red Chili Powder
1 tsp Pepper
Salt to Taste

Coating:
Panko Crumbs for coating (you can also use tough bread, or 'butter' that is available at khaari shops in India)
1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Oregano
Canola/Sunflower Oil for Skillet Frying

Seasoning:
1 tbsp Caster Sugar
1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder
A pinch of Salt and Pepper.

Method:

Mix all ingredients for the marinade and add the Chicken to it, let it chill in the refrigerator overnight, covered. You cannot skip this step. The Buttermilk really does all the magic overnight. (giving it the omnomnomnomy feeling)

Heat 1 inch Oil in the frying pan. In a flat dish, mix the ingredients for the coating. Coat the chicken pieces thoroughly and let them rest for 10 minutes on a wire rack. In a separate dish mix ingredients for the seasoning and have them ready.

Fry the chicken pieces till tender, mine took around 12 minutes (6 minutes each side) to turn a lovely golden brown colour. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle the seasoning evenly on the Chicken pieces.

Serve them with Waffles and drizzle a lot of Syrup, or serve them as is!

(and thank me later)

P.S. They can be reheated in the oven at 150C for 5 minutes.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Launch of the new burger McRoyale at McDonalds, Mumbai.



Food memories are the best memories. The best of my childhood memories involve playing hide and seek, lock and key, and pakda pakdi with my friends and coming back home to usually a glass of milk shake before dinner. Other prominent memories include me fighting with my brothers to get a chance to play Mario on my Nintendo video game during vacations, while munching on cheese crackers and little 200 ml tetra packs of Chocolate/Banana/Strawberry Milk that Mom brought from her trips to Dubai and Sharjah. Back then, little pleasures mattered the most, much like enjoying and chilling with a madh (honey) wala gola, which was nothing but shaved ice on a stick that was dipped in flavored syrups and then swirled in faux honey which was actually something like sugar in an almost soft ball stage, which solidified on the ice so we could actually chew it off. Wow, I feel old.



Then arrived the rage that was McDonalds, and Ronald, the man in a Yellow boiler Suit with a white face and Red hair was too adorable to make clowns appear freaky to me anymore (I was so scared of clowns as a child). Everyone wanted to go to McDonalds and look at the super awesome wallpapers of Grimace, Hamburglar and Birdie, and get a Happy Meal or two so they could update their collection. I remember visiting McDonalds for the first time with Mom and the younger brother, and I was in love. Mom made sure that we earned a meal at McDonalds, much like the precious (fixed) time to play video games or to indulge in our favorite meals. Nothing came free.



Time went by, but the memory stayed. I dreamed of conquering the Maharaja Mac one day, and I finally did, when I was 16. The McDonalds at Vile Parle Station, near my college (Mithibai) was a popular bunking destination as it opened up at 0800 hrs and had a jukebox. I remember spending days on end at our favorite spot, playing truth and dare with friends, listening to music and being able to recite the entire menu of McDonalds at one go. Along with special discounts and toys of the month. Wish I paid more attention to studies (or not).

I tend to stretch topics out and explain them over and over again when they mean something to me. I guess what I am trying to say is, even when we're all grown up, and we spend time dining at gourmet restaurants, there is very little that is as comforting as Burger and Fries. If you've ever noticed, very little has ever been struck off the menu at McDonalds. People love what they provide - a quick and affordable meal. 



The McRoyale Paneer/Chicken was launched two weeks ago after a lot of testing, and a bunch of bloggers got to know exactly how. From conceptualizing a Burger to providing the ultimate experience with the perfect bread, patty and vegetables, Chef Swarup Solgaonkar has had to spend a lot of time in his test kitchen coming up with a great burger experience. The Mc Royale Chicken is a big burger, priced at Rs. 140, that consists of two chicken patties, two slices of chicken salami, garden fresh salad, and a cornmeal dusted bun. The McPaneer Royale is priced at Rs. 130, that consists the same items, but has a different shape and of course, a Paneer Steak coated with Mediterranean spices in place of the meat. 



It was great to know how passionate everyone from the McDonalds team was about their new product. A fun challenge followed and we all got to interpret our styles of what is an ultimate burger eating experience. For some it was pretty, but for some it meant serious flavor packed awesomeness. I'd leave it up to you guys to judge how the burger was, but this was one of those rare times where I favoured the Vegetarian version more than its Non Veg counterpart (It was too yummy for me to be partial towards the meat).Wishing everyone over at McDonalds all the best and here is a confession from me - I will be a McDonalds fan girl for life! (even if that means training harder at the gym)



Which is your favorite burger from McDonalds? Have you tried the McRoyale burgers yet? What is your verdict? I'd love to know! 


Photo Credits: Rashi Arora

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Food Review: Smoke House Deli, Bandra Kurla Complex.


Picture Courtesy : Smoke House Deli


Pharrell William's Happy is doing the rounds almost everywhere on the internet. Its great, everyone is uploading their version of the Happy Song on youtube, so much so that someone has actually uploaded a parody video called 'Crappy'. Crappy makes them Happy. Well, whatever floats their boat!

Happiness for me is simple things. Food, Love, and Laughter. Smoke House Deli has consistently managed to maintain the number 1 spot in all 3 departments for me. It also happens to be my most visited place for a Date night, other than Big Chill in New Delhi, just for the perfect setting and feel-good ambiance along with lip smacking food.

Picture Courtesy: Smoke House Deli


Smoke House Deli has opened their brand new outlet at Bandra Kurla Complex, which happens to cater to mostly clientele who want to grab a quick lunch during their break from office, or who want to chill with a drink after work. Time is the essence to this outlet, in my opinion.

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