Saturday, July 21, 2012

Food Review : Sizzler Festival at Bombay Blue, Bandra.



I am the kind of person who is hardly random. I like to plan my days in advance, I am not a huge fan of last moment arrangements. But in certain exceptional cases, I don't even realize how random I can get. A last minute email was how I landed up at Bombay Blue in Bandra to try out their Sizzler Festival, and after having a previous bad experience with them and hearing not so good things about the place from my friends, I am glad I gave it a second chance.

Firstly, on entering the place it was amazing to see how full and noisy it was. The lady at the door graciously received us and we were promptly seated at a corner table by the glass wall. The Manager, Vaibhav, explained their menu in detail and each and every member of their staff was smiling, helpful, quick with suggestions and attentive without being a nuisance to us while we enjoyed our meal.



Chef Indraneel who heads the Bombay Blue team in Bandra welcomed us and spoke about the menu in more detail. Every July, they change their Sizzler Menu and add something new and different for their customers. This year their theme is to Sizzle as well as Chill so they have devised a set of 6 new flavors of Virgin Mojitos, and in collaboration with Vladivar Vodka, a set of refreshing cocktails too.

I had the Raw Mango Mojito which was refreshing and tangy, but a tad over sweetened.



The Vanilla Mojito on the other hand was surprisingly great tasting. Vanilla+Mint+Lemon+Lots of Ice = Win!



We also got to sample two of their Cocktails, The Vladi Foxy Lady with had Pomegranate Juice, Lemon and Vodka and The Vladi Shock with my new favorite Cucumber and Mint with Lemon, along with the Vodka.




Both Cocktails were pretty much fresh and new combinations with the hit of Vodka.

We started off with the Nachos Grande from their regular menu which the chef insisted that we try. I take my Nachos very seriously and believe me, these were unbelievably crisp, delicate, melt in the mouth with just the right amount of seasoning and the beans were cooked to perfection.




The Guacamole was a tad too creamy for me and the Sour Cream needed to be creamier. Or they could just do away with the Sour Cream altogether there. Great thoughts were put into not finishing that ginormous portion of Nachos for there were sizzlers waiting for us. Even after all that, we ended up with this.



Soon after, arrived our first sizzler, the Italian Crepe sizzler. We opted to go for one Vegetarian and one Non Vegetarian variety so we could have a taste of whats going on in both departments.


The Sizzler comes with  2 stuffed crepes, one with a mixed veg Ragu and the other with Mushrooms and Cheese a bed of Spaghetti Arrabiata and laden with some cheese and chilies on top and baked, with the side of Potato Wedges and Blanched and Sauteed Veg.



The crepes were an absolute delight for even a hardcore meat eater like me. I did not miss my chicken at all. While in the normal course one would be intrigued by the Mushroom and Cheese stuffing, which was absolutely classic, no nonsense and delicious, we were hooked to the Vegetable Ragu stuffed crepe which consisted of dices of Zucchini, Baby Corn, Carrots, Mixed Peppers and the works. All the vegetables in the Ragu were cooked to perfection, crunchy but not raw, and not over-seasoned like the gas station Ragu I am used to having over the years. The Potato Wedges needed some more cooking as well as seasoning and the Blanched Veg actually complimented the dish very well, especially the Spinach.


We also got to sample the Fritterati Sizzler which is a bunch of stuff like Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Onion Rings, Baby Corn and Potato Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers all coated in Panko Crumbs and fried to perfection.



Very little can actually go wrong with deep fried stuff!



Then arrived the Meat Medley Sizzler, which consisted of a Chicken Steak, a Prawn and Smoked Sausage Cutlet, Minced Lamb Con Carne served over a bed of Rice with the usual accompaniments of Wedges and Veg. They also gave us a lovely Brown Pepper Gravy and Garlic Sauce to go with it.



The Chicken Steak was cooked in an Isabella Marinade and reminded us a lot of the Char Grilled Chicken Sizzler from Red Box. It was cooked to perfection and was absolutely juicy and tender. The Prawn and Smoked Sausage Cutlet was the hero of the dish. Too bad that it was too small and I feel that it deserves more attention on that Sizzler Plate. The Minced Lamb Con Carne was loved by the brother while I thought it was too saucy for my liking. Or maybe it was just an overdose of Beans for me by then. And since I am a Fries+Gravy lover, I finished those Potato Wedges this time with a generous pour of Brown Pepper Gravy over it. The Garlic Sauce reminded me of Roadside Chinese Food and it could be easily done away with.

By now we were full, but hey we can can never say no to dessert!! And especially when dessert is teamed up with theater, it makes us forget all about everything and just go for it with the "come hither" kind of looks.



The Sizzling Brownie at Bombay Blue has always had rave reviews and is their house specialty alongside the Nachos. It was good to see the Giant scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream over the Brownie as opposed to the mini scoop of ice cream over all the other sizzling brownies I have had. The Brownie was Gooey, not overly sweet and everything just came together with the Chocolate Sauce poured over the assembly. Loved it.

Saying cheese with eyes between closed and open.



Would I go back to Bombay Blue? Yes, I am taking the parents sometime next week since they love sizzlers. And the way its priced, I think it is a complete Value for Money. Only if they pay attention to minor details like seasoning and saucing, they would do way better and attract another set of customers for whom it is more about the flavor than the price factor of their food.

The Bombay Blue Sizzler and Mojito Vladivar Vodka Festival is on till the 15th of August, 2012 at all their outlets and I recommend all of you to try it out!

And I end this post by saying that Randomness can also be good sometimes! :)

Thanks Melanie for the invite! :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Cheesy Affair #1 : Homemade Mascarpone Cheese & Tiramisu in a pinch.



It hurts my heart when I have to pay a bomb for a small block of Cheese more than double the price of what I used to buy when I stayed overseas. I managed to stay off all these cheeses for few months coz it all got over too soon for the amount which I ended up spending on them. But I am a Taurean to the core, lazy but determined, for I would not actually walk down to the market to buy some stuff and end up making them at home instead. I love myself for that.

It started with Cake, moved on to Breads, then to Mayonnaise and now to Cheese. Sure, some stuff we absolutely need to buy from the stores but cheeses like Cream Cheese, Ricotta and Mascarpone can totally be made at home especially when they are going to be mixed into some dish such as Pasta or Cheesecakes. The feeling of accomplishment that comes with making your own cheese at home is absolutely complimentary.

For my 50th post I wanted to do a Trio of Cheeses that we could make in the comfort of our homes, but I delayed one of my cheeses for far too long and had to go ahead and post the awesome Ramen. But this is even better, I am going to do 3 individual posts with cheese making processes and one recipe for each of them. Hope you guys like it!

Homemade Mascarpone Cheese:
Recipe source : Ria's Collection
Makes about 12 oz

Ingredients:

400 ml Fresh Cream (I used 2 packs of Amul Fresh Cream 25%)
1 tbsp Lemon Juice


Method:

(I made this in the night so pictures are crazy)

Heat up an inch of water in a saucepan till it's up to the boil. Reduce heat to simmer.


Empty the cream packs into another pan to place over the pan with simmering water.


Place the second pan on top of the one with simmering water, it should fit snugly, and let it heat for 15 minutes till you see small bubbles and some steam rising from it.


Squeeze in/ Add in the lemon juice.






Stir occasionally, you will see that the cream will start to thicken and not split like normal dairy products do when Lemon Juice is added to them. Heat it till it coats the back of a spoon and when you run a finger over it, the mark remains.


Get a small sieve lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth or tea towel whichever you prefer. Place another bowl to collect the whey from the cream under it.




Pour the Cream mixture over the cheesecloth.


Fold the cheesecloth over and let this sit in the refrigerator for at least 10 hours to a maximum of 24 hours. I let mine sit for 24 hours and got this.


The most luscious and smooth mound of Mascarpone that was ready to be used! You can store it in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to a week. I made a Tiramisu in a pinch on the next day with mine! :)

Here is the recipe:

Tiramisu (in a pinch).
Serves 4
Recipe Source : Self.

Ingredients:

12 oz Mascarpone Cheese
1/2 Cup Icing Sugar
1 cup Whipped Cream
2 packs Sliced Cake (I used Butter Flavor)
2 tbsp Coffee Powder
A shot of Whiskey/Marsala
1 cup Water
2 tbsp Sugar
Chocolate Shavings (Optional)

Method:

Heat up 1 cup Water + 2 tbsp Sugar + Coffee Powder till nicely boiled and let it cool down to room temperature. Add a shot of Whiskey/Marsala to it.

Get the cake slices ready.



Whip Mascarpone + Icing sugar together, and add in Whipped Cream. Fold to incorporate.


I served my Tiramisu in a Glass. But you can easily serve it up home style too :)

Dip the cake slices in the coffee and whiskey mixture and layer them at the bottom. Spoon over some Mascarpone Mixture. Repeat with Cake Slices. The top layer should be Mascarpone.


Dust with Cocoa Powder on top and sprinkle Chocolate Shavings if using. Let this chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. I got real rave reviews for this one!


Friday, July 13, 2012

Food Review: Coastal Delights at ITC Grand Central, Mumbai.




For all of you who think Coastal Cuisine is all about Seafood, the ITC Coastal Spice is an eye opener. There is much more to Coastal Cuisine and you would be surprised to know that they love their veggies as much as they love their meats, if not more. The ITC Coastal Spice is on till the 15th of July, 2012.



I feel so honored to have been invited for the Coastal Food Festival at the ITC Grand Central, Mumbai, for not only did it feature lip smacking and mouth watering food, but also made us feel very welcomed.



Me and the best friend traveled a rather tiresome journey from Andheri to Parel (I should get used to train travel) and had to almost walk down from the train station till we managed to find a cab barely 500 meters (or so) away from our destination. Nonetheless, all that tiredness was gone in a jiffy when we entered the Hornby's Pavilion and Chef Harish and his crew were at the entrance with the most beautiful and handsome smiles. ITC does know how to make their guests feel special.



Chef Harish has been specially flown in from the infamous Dakshin all the way from The Sheraton Park Hotel and Towers, Chennai, and for someone who is in my honest opinion a master at pairing flavours and adding his special personal twist to the classic dishes without going overboard, he is so humble and easy to talk to. All reservations lie aside when people talk over one topic - Food. Chef Harish and Chef Sumit were happy and patient with my never ending questions (only till I started eating, coz then I was quiet) and willingly shared and exchanged ideas about coastal cooking. 



We were seated down in a comfortable corner and we chose to have some drinks to start off with. I had the Pink Fantasy (Rum + Cranberry Juice) whereas my friend had the ever so amazing Cucumber and Mint Mocktail. We could not stop raving about how refreshingly pleasant this combination is and every single sip was a fresh new experience. Must try making this at home (This applies to most of the things that will follow through the post, you may choose to call it an overdose of yumminess).



I must commend the ITC group for having such an extensive spread for their buffet. Although the damage is 1800 INR + Taxes per person, you get to sample food as well as alcohol with it.



We were too tempted to try the Salads and the Cheese Station, and we did give in to the awesome Sushi and of course the wide array of desserts (which were strictly okay except the Chocolate Mousse), but alas, we had to save space for all those Coastal Delights as they were the best thing on the menu.



We started off with Appams with Chutney, if you guys remember my Bettering Breakfast post on this you would know how amazing they are. The only difference was that Chef Harish used a rice flour batter instead of what I use (Semolina+Curd) and the results were absolutely delicious.



There was also Kodi Vepudu, a Chicken Appetizer preparation, mildly spiced and with a definite hit of Curry Leaves and Onions. The Chicken was a bit dry, though.



There was a Dosa Station, and the Dosa Chef was happy enough to send a couple of Egg Dosas our way. One was spiced with crushed pepper while the other with Onions and Coriander Leaves. For someone who makes/eats Dosas every Sunday (me), this is going to be featured pretty often from now on.



We then moved on to Melagu Sadam, or Pepper Rice, which was so simple yet too high on flavour. That is completely my kind of a palate. I am not a big fan of anything overloaded with so many ingredients that you don't even know what you are tasting. But this was clean, no nonsense, super tasty, Curry Leafy Rice with a compelling aftertaste of Pepper in the throat, and that would make anyone just go for the next bite by default.



There was a very simple Cauliflower and Potato Sabzi, Urralai Pookoos Peratal, and we make this at home so it was just like having Mom made food :)



Then there was the Kai Korma, a creamy, rich and delicious preparation with mixed vegetables in a coconut based gravy. I had 2 servings of this just by itself. It was that good.



I personally feel that Chef Harish outdid himself with The Red Spinach Gravy and it was beautifully earthy, cooked in lentils and I would totally have a bowl of that on a rainy day sitting by my window.



I loved the play of flavours in the Tomato Based Ananas Mensakai, which is Pineapple cooked till it's juicy tenderness and although I was not big on the sweet Pineapple in a tangy curry which is an acquired taste, I managed to polish off a good amount of the gravy.




Moving on to the Non Vegetarian section (my favorite, I was seen hovering around in this area mostly) there were carefully spiced Crabs, Njandu Masala, which we ate in the true desi style, going all slurp and bite on the shells and all the works with bare hands. That IS the way to eat an Indian style crab preparation, if you ask me! The Crab Meat was plump, juicy, tender and fresh, and the gravy had nicely flavoured the mild crabby juices perfectly.



The Chemeen Ularthiyathi, Prawns cooked with Onions and Tomatoes, which are a popular fare at my place on weekdays were a pleasant surprise since at home we eat it overloaded with spices and the mild flavouring on this one on the other hand brought out the the freshness and maintained the integrity and the original flavour of the Prawns. In MasterChef Australia lingo, Prawns were the star of this dish. Job well done!



Classic Meen Moilee did not cease to impress. Fresh Pomfret slices simmered to perfection in a light Coconut based gravy, and usually is ideal with plain rice, but as you guys can guess, we had no room for Rice!



But we always have room for Biryani! This Mutton Bori Biryani was bursting with awesomeness, the meat was fall-off-the-bone-tender and it did not taste heavy at all, as compared to most of the soda added Biryanis I have had before.



Another pleasant surprise was the Dried Shrimp Papads, which are rare to find in the local stores, Mom used to make them when we were little kids and I was instantly nostalgic.



Let me introduce the last dish from the Coastal Fiesta this way. Lamb Chops cooked in a gravy, simmered and reduced till dry, battered in Egg and then Deep Fried. This is the stuff for champions. This is the kind of dish that cannot be identified as a main or an appetizer. If I had a choice I would snack on it Nigella style in the middle of the night. Kaipidi Chops were the dish of the night for me!



Congratulations to Chef Harish and the ITC group for pulling off a different menu each night with this amazing Coastal Festival. Cheers to you guys and a big thanks to Arundhati from ITC for having us over!

And last but not the least Thank You so much for one of the most memorable meals we have ever had.

Monday, July 9, 2012

All About Wine! Four Seasons Wine Tasting Event with Shamita Singha

Warning, Text heavy but informative post!



I am so thankful to this blog and a crazy idea of making a journal of all the recipes I like coz I tend to forget them, so thankful, it is only as their result that I am getting to be a part of some really nice foodie experiences. Right from meeting new people to meeting "the person" to knowing more and more about Food and Beverage, this seems like the best decision I have taken in a long long time.

One such experience which I was rewarded with was a special Wine Tasting organized by Four Seasons with their special wine connoisseur Shamita Singha, held at the very popular and amazingly beautiful Neel (Formerly Tote on The Turf), owned by Rahul Akrekar from the very popular Indigo fame. I was super excited about this event right from when I received an email asking if I was interested to attend and hey Wine is something I love, you love, everyone loves! But deep down inside most of us do not know how much more there is to a Wine than what meets the eye.



Let me start off with how the day went. I traveled by the Mumbai Local for the second time thanks to Desh who was kind enough to give me company (Believe me I would not have had the guts to do it without you) and traveling in the Gents compartment with all those stares, wow. It was quite an experience in itself. But with the non stop banter we missed our station and had to get off at the next one and then a cab to the Mahalakshmi Race Course, which looked greener and more beautiful thanks to the Monsoons. We got off the cab and entered the wrong street but thanks to our true blue foodie noses and our amazing olfactory senses we tracked the fragrance to the back of Neel's kitchen. With a proud smile plastered on our faces and conversations about Kitchen Confidential we entered Neel, which is as picturesque as picturesque restaurants get. Call it just pure luck or whatever, but the perfect setting was hugely due to the amazing weather outside.



But we're not talking about Neel here. We are here for the Vino. Oh yes. The real deal. Me, Desh, Karishma and Deepak were greeted by Shamita Singha, former Miss India Earth and the Brand Ambassador for Four Seasons Wine. It was like the funnest lecture ever. Yes, be jealous people, coz it was filled with laughs and Booze. It cannot get better than this. Here is how it went:



Four Seasons is a new kid on the block for Indian Wines, and their Winery is situated in Baramati, the Western Ghat region of Maharashtra which is favorable for the growth and storage of wine. Have a look at their awesome looking Winery and as far as I go, I am definitely going to visit their Winery with the man, for it sounds like a really nice couples getaway. Their main style is inspired by the French style of wine making, and their equipment is all imported from Italy.



Shamita was open to answering and discussing everything about wines. We spoke a lot about what kind of food should be had with what kind of wine. Especially because we usually have our wines either by themselves or with the traditional continental fame. But we are mostly lost when it comes to pairing wines with Indian Food. Something spicier on our palette. How would that be?



The rule of thumb to be followed here is that a food and wine pairing is ideal when you are able to taste both the food as well as the wine without overpowering each other. I have had meals in the past where I had Chicken Tikka with Merlot and believe me after the first sip of my wine post the Chicken, all I felt was a thick coat of nothingness on my tongue and was barely able to taste any flavors at all. A big no no.

Wine Colour: For white wines, the paler the wine, the younger it is. White Wines that have been aging are paler in colour. As far as the Reds go, the older it is, the lighter it gets. Younger Red Wines are darker and fruitier and have a lot more tannins, which is the aftertaste which you get after you eat a tart fruit like a Jamun or Lemon. The Red or Pale colour does not come from any additives, as we all know that the grape juice is in fact transparent. But this colour is imparted by the skin of the grapes which are in contact with the wine during fermentation. For lighter colored Reds like a Rose Wine, these skins are removed after reaching a desired colour.



Tasting the Wine: A note here. Always hold the wine glass by the stem or bottom of the base. You do not want the bodily heat to warm up the wine :)

The mantra is simple. Follow the 4 S method.

SEE the wine. Tilt your glass and see if there is a nice and clear liquid with no signs of cloudiness.

SWIRL the wine. You do this so that the flavors and aromas inside the wine glass are released.Open up the bouquet of the wine, exposing the beautiful medley that you are about to dig your nose into.

SMELL the wine. Dig your nose deep into the glass and smell the wine. Look for what fruits you're getting. White wine mainly smells like tropical fruits while Red smells more like berries. This is not because they are added to the wine. They're just the molecules.

SIP the wine. All the mumbo jumbo is done. Sip the wine, don't swallow immediately. Let it roll around on your tongue, taste the flavours and enjoy them before you gulp it down :) Simple right?



Another note: Remember the last time you ordered wine at a restaurant and the server came along and asked if you wanted to taste it before he poured you a glass? Well, that is not because he wants you to taste the wine. Well, not just taste, but you have to execute the 4 S system there to check if the wine being served to you is right or not. If not, return the bottle and a fresh one shall be opened.

Storing and serving the Wine: Wines with Corkscrews are best stored horizontal. You have to make sure that the wine should be touching the cork, since it's made out of natural material and will start decaying n growing fungus if not in contact with wine the whole time. Wines with caps can be stored vertical. Wine enthusiasts store wines in cellar fridges. But since I have none so people like me should ideally pop Red Wines in for 20 minutes or so before serving, or maybe in an ice bath, so that the temperature is between 16-18 degree C.  Another good way to chill Red Wine is to wrap it in a wet towel and place in front of the Air Conditioner vent for 20 minutes. For White Wines, the optimum temperature is 6-12 degrees C. Warmer than our refrigerator. So maybe 40 minutes in the fridge would do it.

Cooking with Wine: I have been the kind of girl who would use cheap wines or stick to Port wine while cooking. But as Shamita says (and I kinda agree) it will only taste as good as the wine is, coz basically we burn off the alcohol and what stays is the actual wine flavour. So I will try not to be stingy the next time I am cooking with Wine!



Neel put together the most perfect selection of hors d'oeuvres for our food and wine pairing. Here is a picture. I will be mentioning the dishes as we go along but like I said, it was not about the food as such but more about the Wine so hardly any food pics there! :P

We started off with The Four Seasons Chenin Blanc, a beautiful young White Wine. This was paired with Aloo Panch-Foran (Sigdi BBQ'd Baby Potatoes marinated in Mango Pickle) and Murgh Nawabi Tikka (Tandoor roasted, yoghurt marinated Chicken).



Both the wine and the food complemented each other beautifully well. I could taste the amazing aromatic aftertaste of the Aloo as well as the Chicken along with the Wine.

We then moved on to a Rosé Wine from Four Seasons called the Blush (what a cute name) which was paired with Bhoona Paneer Kathi Roll and Tulsi Patte Ka Jhinga (Tandoor cooked, Holy Basil flavoured Prawns. Also, best dish of the day).



This was a slightly rounder tasting wine with light berry notes and would complement very well with Seafood and lightly spiced dishes.

I love my Reds more than the white so the next course was my favorite. Four Seasons Shiraz served with Peshawari Paneer Tikka (Crushed Spices rubbed Paneer, Tandoor cooked) and Bhoona Gosht Kathi Roll.



The wonderfully fruity and deep Shiraz totally went with the hit of the spice and cleansed the palette while we reached out for the next bites. Lovely to go with more complex flavored dishes such as masala based gravies as well as Biryani.

The last course was The 2009 Four Seasons Special Barrique Reserve Shiraz which was served with Kesari Khumb Tikka (Another dish of the day for me, Saffron marinated Tandoori Mushrooms) and Lucknow Seekh Kabab (Sigdi cooked, coarsely ground Mutton Seekh).



We got to compare this last course with both types of Shiraz and we noticed that the Reserve Shiraz had less tannins and tasted smoother, oakier and more mellow even though it was higher on flavour. This would totally go with heavily spiced dishes. The colour of the 9 month old Shiraz Reserve was also a shade lighter than the regular one.



After many happy chit chats and fruitful discussions later I realized that I was buzzing a little and needed to get home. But not before dessert. They served us Rabdi Kulfi which was the least impressive of all the things served in my honest opinion. It was a little icy. But yummy nonetheless!



Shamita and Four Seasons gifted us with a bottle of Blush each which now sits in my bar and shall be opened up next weekend for drinks night with the family!



Met some lovely people, here are their blogs.

Four Seasons Wine, @FourSeasonsWine on Twitter
Shamita Singha, @ShamitaSingha on Twitter
Karishma from Ginger Snaps, @karishmarawat on Twitter
Deepak from Mumbai Eyed, @magic_eye on Twitter
Jaswinder from Latin Sardar, @LatinSardar on Twitter
Karina from Giggle Water, @Giggle_Water on Twitter
Nikhil from Nonchalant Gourmand, @nikhil_merchant on Twitter
And last but not the least, Desh from Being Desi, @Desh on Twitter

Thanks Akshay for the invite!

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