Monday, July 30, 2012

4 Seasons wine tasting and bloggers meet

A couple of Mondays back, I was invited for a wine tasting event at Fava by 4 Seasons who are doing a lot of promotions for their wines. They have regularly been inviting bloggers and other social 'influencers' and educating them about wines and some of the minor points about wines, be it white, red, or rose. The opportunity to get a little more insight into wines and to also meet fellow bloggers from different genres (not just food bloggers) was appealing and too good to miss, and so off I went in spite of it being a Monday evening.


Mr Abhay Kewadkar, the head of UB-4 Seasons Wines and chief wine maker was the host, and his intention was to not only help promote his product, but also to talk to us bloggers and give us an understanding of wines and answer questions we may have about wines. A look at the menu that was prepared for us was enough to make me happy :)


We started off with a glass of Chenin Blanc, and later moved on to a Sauvignon Blanc. Mr. Kewadkar began a very passionate round of conversation about the subtleties in the two wines, and then we gradually moved on towards how wines are paired, and what are the essential characteristics in the wine and food that make them 'match'. 

Sauvignon Blanc

Soon the first course arrived - simple Caesar's salad that was to be paired with the Savignon. The salad was fresh, and the chicken was grilled nicely with the right amount of dressing on the salad. Also, the conversations touched upon how the Indian palate, which may be unaccustomed to wine, would perhaps naturally gravitate toward sweeter wines. Another popular 'idea' in most peoples' head is that wine is only for the sophisticated, high class folks, who dine on fancy cuisines. Mr. Kewadkar very clearly dispelled this notion and explained how the Indian foods can be paired very well with wines. One way to try to get people to change their habits is certainly through interactive sessions like this one.

Caesar salad


To each his own. This was essentially the mantra that needs to be understood. While there can be guidelines about how to pair wines with food, you can never lay it down as a 'rule'. We then moved on to the main course, rosemary lamb chops, paired with both a Cabarnet Sauvignon as well as a Shiraz (both red wines). I think I preferred the Shiraz over the Cabarnet, and it did seem to go well with the lamb chops. The reason we were served both wines was to compare and see what suited our palates better, and then arrive at a 'decision'. The lamb chops were decently done, and although off late I seem to have lost some interest in lamb chops, this was nice. 

Lamb Chops

During the meal ,we were joined by Abhijit Saha, the top chef and person behind Fava and Caperberry. Chef Saha spoke about the changing scenario in Bangalore and India and also spoke about his experiences in Spain (during a recent visit). To round things off, dessert was served along with a blush rosé wine.


Creme brulee with peaches and blush rosé 

The health qualities of red wine have been explained through a lot of studies, especially due to anti oxidants in red wine. Overall, this was a very satisfying experience and one that was loaded with information. And of course, meeting new bloggers across the board is always a wonderful thing. Hopefully, more wine companies will come forward and try to impress upon the public about wines and get them into wines. Thanks to 4 Seasons and this initiative of theirs. You can find more details about their wines on their website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sunday Brunch ar The Park Plaza

A couple of Sundays back, I was at The Park Plaza for brunch. Invited. Normally, I don't take invites from restaurants to visit their place and then 'blog' about it - there's always the credibility issue. However, in this case, I reasoned with myself that a brunch cannot be 'fixed' or 'be made more special' for me. I was right.

The Park Plaza is in Marathahalli, near the multiplex (on the same side). The hotel houses a 24 hour coffee shop called The Melange, a North Indian/Mughlai restaurant Zafran (single 'f'), a Chinese restaurant Shao, and a lounge called Gadang. I particularly like the name chosen for the lounge because the word 'gadang' is a  word from my mother tongue Tulu, and basically is used to refer to a local liquor shop. Of course, I didn't ask as to whether that was the case here because I was drawn into Melange like a moth toward a ... no sorry, like a bee toward a colourful flower.

Melange is a huge place, with both indoor as well as outdoor seating. My friend and I chose to sit outside, but that was probably not the best decision in spite of the fantastic weather. The wind was on a rampage, knocking over some of the live grills that were set up outside, and on other occasions toppling over the caps some of the chefs had got on their heads. But it was fun to see in a nice way.

We started off with a laksa that was part of the Asian section along with steamed momos. The laksa had a nice dose of coconut milk and I was sold! The noodles and meat in it was nicely married in the dish along with the veggies. However, I didn't think the dish was spicy enough - given the colour of the laksa, this certainly was not the rempah-based laksa (Sarawak laksa), and it didn't have enough sourness from tamarind for it to qualify as a asam-based laksa (Penang laksa). Given the colour, I'm guessing they were going for the Penang laksa, but I can't be certain. Nonetheless, if you're the kind you enjoys a Tom Kha soup, you're bound to enjoy this, but if you're looking for the real deal, I'm not so sure. 

Laksa

Beside the usual starters like salads, there were also a few neatly laid out amuse bouches that made for a very nice picture. The prawn amuse bouches were really very nice, and the lamb was fantastic - creamy in texture, with good amount of seasoning to bring out the flavour of the meat. Amongst the salads, the carrot salad blew me away simply because of the way it looked (first), and then because of the taste and the fact that is retained a crunch but wasn't hard at the same time, making it easy to eat with a fork. There were also some cured meats - ham and the like, and those were very nice as well, including the melon + ham combo.

The steamed momos that came in, chicken and prawn, were also quite nice, although the shells were a little on the thicker side. However, since they were steamed right there, I'm guessing the shells had to have a slightly thicker 'bottom' to ensure the entire things holds and doesn't crumble and disintegrate.

Starting from top left, moving clockwise: Pasta salad, German potato salad, Mexican carrot salad, and aubergine & broccoli salad

Prawn, lamb, and prawn again

Prawn amuse bouche, all lined up

Mango yogurt

Chicken (left), and prawn momos

The spread for the Sunday brunch is extremely extensive and very impressive. There was a counter where a chef was making pizzas and you could choose the toppings, while another counter had pastas. The are where we sat outside had a tandoor for tikkas for kababs, a burger stand, as well as a huge Weber grill where jumbo prawns were being grilled. The pizzas were decent, although I wish they hadn't been so stingy with the meat toppings.

As part of the brunch, you also get to have cocktails, and there are some really nice cocktails - not your usual run of the mill types - available here. 'Sweet' cocktails are perhaps easy to make, most usually involving the addition of some syrup like grenadine or curacao. However, try one of the spicier cocktails and you'll be in for a treat, especially if you go in for the Indian Mule, a gin-based cocktail.

Salami pizza

Indian Mule (left), and a whiskey-based cocktail along with another gin-based cocktail

I was torn between trying out the tandoori stuff, grilled prawns and burger (all outdoor), and the indoor food that included biryani, rice, and fish curry. Pastas were going to be left out. Eventually, the rice dishes and Goan fish curry won. No regrets. The biryani was spot on in terms of taste, how well it was cooked, and the salan with it was also quite brilliant - a little spicy, tangy, tasty...yum! The Goan fish curry though could've been a little spicier, given that Goans toss in a fair amount of chillies into their curries. All in all, quite a good meal, one that I took a couple of days to work off on the treadmill.

And then there were desserts! Oh yes, I'm not done yet! There was a whole shelf of desserts to choose from, and just looking at them made my stomach want to go on strike, protesting against the stuffing that it was being subjected to. However, better sense prevailed and I did have some desserts. While the creme brulee wasn't up to the mark (it was in a shallow dish, so the caramelized sugar was a in a larger proportion when compared to the custard below. However, the two kinds of creamy deliciousness that I had...they had me hooked. I don't remember what they were called, but they were lovely. I also caught sight of some pretzels (shaped in a manner to resemble the hands of a monk in prayer).

Blueberry & lime


Namashkar, I am pretzel!

Overall, a very satisfying experience and totally worth the drive from where I stay. A few tweaks here and there can be done so that everything is ship-shape and that should certainly get people coming back.

Food: Good
$$$: The Sunday brunch, with alcohol is Rs 1600 + taxes...worth it.
Service: Good
Verdict: Worth a visit at least once, and if you live close by, then whenever you feel like gorging on food on a Sunday.

Hotel Park Plaza, 90/4, Outer Ring Road, Munnekollaly Village, Marathahalli, Bangalore. Phone: 080 49094909

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spoonful of Sugar

This post has been a while in the making. Spoonful of Sugar (SoS) is a small pastry shop, which then became a pastry shop that began masquerading as a cafe, a cafe that was essentially a pastry shop, in Indiranagar. It has been around for a while - it used to be around when I was working at GXS, but when I finally was awakened to the fact that I am what is generally described in many circles as a 'foodie' (around the year 2007), and when I began my gastronomic adventures around town, SoS was a place I frequented many a time, and never once have I been disappointed. Well, OK, I was disappointed once, but that's out of more than 15 visits.

So what do you do when you're stressed? Sleep? Punch something (or someone)? Yell out loud? Use one of those squeeze ball-thingies perhaps? How about 'turning it around' backwards and eating it? No, really, try it. Because stressed, turned around backwards, spells desserts. Coincidence? I dunno.

Lemon pie

A narrow lane, opposite Toit on 100 Feet Road Indiranagar, called Sri Krishna Temple street takes you to Nilgiri's, and a little after that, a left turn directs you toward what is arguably Bangalore's finest spot of cakes, bakes, and pastries. Spoonful of sugar is a quite literally a hole in the wall, and until a couple of years ago didn't even have proper seating - it was more a take-away place. But all that has changed now - well, they have about 4 tables (3 outdoors and 1 indoor) - and although there has been a change in terms of seating arrangements, it has maintained the same high standards of everything it has to offer in terms of food, especially the items for your sweet-tooth.

Raspberry mascarpone pie

Essentially, Spoonful of sugar is a place that serves (or sells) you dishes that in any restaurant would be categorised under 'desserts'. From cakes and pastries, to luscious cheesecakes and creamy tarts, they have them all. All the items are made only in limited numbers per day. The owner, Sangeetha Damani, says that they use only the freshest ingredients and so sticking to a fixed number helps maintain quality.

Cucumber mint cooler

For those with a sweet tooth, some of the fastest moving items are the fruit tarts, the oreo cheesecakes, the banoffee pie, and the raspberry mascarpone pies, the last one being one of my all time favourites, simply because the cream cheese used is quite good, and the amount of gelatin used is minimal, leaving them quite creamy and not 'stiff'. And it's not too hard to see why. There is also a baked version of the classic blueberry cheesecake which is sublime, and usually this competes with the raspberry mascarpone for top slot. The fruit tarts are probably the ones anyone visiting the store should start off with. Firm but not hard tart shells hold a delicious concoction of cream cheese, fruits, and jelly - and thus far, I've only noticed a slight increase in the cost of these, but never a drop in the quality. They also take orders for cakes, and compared to the stores that 'mass produce' cakes, one can immediately spot the difference in the taste, in the richness that oozes from every bite of their cakes.

Baked blueberry cheesecake

Fruit tarts

Spoonful of sugar also caters to those who wish to grab a bite of food. Primarily sandwiches and pastas, they also have some wonderful quiches and fresh dips that are served along with crackers. The hummus here can match the ones made at any top end restaurant in the city. My only grouse about the sandwiches are that they are made using sliced bread; perhaps a next step could be to offer a choice of bread, but I don't know if that would bode too well with the philosophy of the place. It is after all, a spoonful of 'sugar'. Also, the quiche I had, it's base was a little underdone, and the lasagna seemed to have cheese that was old (visibly), and that was the only 'issue' I had that I'd mentioned at the start of this blog post. But that apart, they tasted very nice indeed.

Chicken quiche

Chicken lasagna

When it comes to cost, Spoonful of sugar certainly charges more than any of your other cake shops, but you can easily see why. With ingredients as fresh as the ones used here as well as a quality that many will find hard to match, you will WANT to pay for their food. If you love desserts and can't settle at just one per person, then desserts for two can set you back by about Rs 400 or so. If, like me, you're get a little dessert starved, then you may spend a wee bit more. I personally have polished off Rs 800 worth of goodies here in one sitting, but then that's just me.

Verdict
Food: Very good indeed
$$$: Expensive
Additional info: While it is expensive, you do get your money's worth

Spoonful of Sugar, 421-G, 1st Main, 3rd Cross, 1st Stage, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Phone: 25255534, 25255535