Karaikudi: Chettinad Charm

It all started with my fetish for cast iron pots and pans. A friend mentioned in passing that   cast iron cookware – usually elusive and expensive – was available cheap, and in abundance, at a place called Karaikudi in Tamil Nadu. Within a week, I was headed to Karaikudi with a single-minded mission: to buy a cast iron soup pot. Or two. Or maybe even three.

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Medici in Indiranagar

medici logoThe first time I visited Medici was a couple of years ago, when I was invited as a guest of the Bangalore Mirror review team. At that time, I thought it had a lot of promise, but for one reason or another (so many restaurants, so little time!), I never returned. I was recently invited, with a bunch of other people, to sample Medici’s new Franco-Italian menu, ostensibly so that they could receive feedback on it (in other words, I did not pay for this meal). Having attended the very low-key sit down dinner, I was intrigued (and impressed) enough to return, several times, on my own dime.

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European Art of Taste: EATing Italy

The Bangalore leg of the European Art of Taste (EAT) program has just concluded. As EAT’s Bangalore consultant, I had the pleasure of helping to put together a series of food-focused events.

The first, at Caperberry, was an art-themed event that explored the connection between art and food. Art historian Annapurna Garimella presented several great works of art that featured food – and chef Abhijit Saha created an extraordinary menu consisting of dishes (a choice of vegetarian or non-vegetarian for each course)  inspired by the art.

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El Tablao: Spanish Tapas in Koramangala

El tablao

From Spain with love

Tapas, tapas everywhere – excessive, don’t you think? Seems to me that every  Tom, Vik, and Hari thinks he can plop down a minuscule amount of food on a teeny tiny plate and charge a premium for it by calling “tapas”. Was that what El Tablao, this new, supposedly Spanish restaurant in Koramangala, was going to be about?

Thankfully not. In my opinion, there are very few restaurant owners or chefs in this city who understand what tapas are supposed to be – you can count them on the fingers of one hand, even if a couple of your fingers have been amputated. To that very short list, I am happy to be able to add new kid on the block Sachin Nair of El Tablao.

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Phobidden Fruit: Vietnamese Phở in Indiranagar

Phobidden Fruit, Indiranagar

Phobidden Fruit: Vietnamese in Indiranagar

About a decade ago, The Spouse and I discovered the delights of phở, a Vietnamese noodle soup that’s better described as manna from heaven. It would be an understatement to say that we both love phở. Up until last year, The Spouse kept trying to convince me that “we” should open a phở kitchen in Bangalore. Having been met with my polite and steadfast refusal for several years, he gave up. When I told him about Phobidden Fruit, a Vietnamese restaurant in Indiranagar, he was understandably ecstatic. …Keep reading

Bhutanese Cuisine

My Bhutanese alter ego 🙂

Bhutan, the last true Himalayan Kingdom, has worked hard to retain every aspect of its cultural identity. Every home that is built must conform to guidelines that mandate traditional woodwork and craftsmanship on the facade. Whenever a Bhutanese citizen sets foot on the  premises of a government office, a school, or a college, they are required by law to don traditional attire – the gho (for men) and the kira (for women). The Kingdom of Bhutan not only keeps its traditions alive from within – it also takes active steps to limit outside influence while reaping the economic benefits of tourism. Only 21,000 foreign tourists are allowed to visit each year, and each of these tourists is required by law to a) book all travel through a licensed Bhutanese or international travel agency; b) spend a minimum of US$ 200 per day, paid in advance, for food, transport, sightseeing and accommodation; and c) enter the country via air, thereby filling the coffers of DrukAir, Bhutan’s state-owned monopoly airline (as of August, Buddha Air, a Nepalese airline, is also being allowed to operate flights into Bhutan).

Happily, thanks to the bonhomie between our two countries, none of these strictures apply to Indian citizens. Indians are allowed to enter Bhutan by road, without a visa (you need a permit-on-arrival, though); make their own travel arrangements; and spend however much (or however little 🙂 ) moolah they choose. … Keep reading

Sikkimese Cuisine

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Entering: Sikkim state border

Most people are drawn to Sikkim for its cloud-shrouded hilltops, snow-clad peaks, and punishing yet fulfilling trekking opportunities. Me? All I could think of was the fact that I would be able to embark on yet another exciting food adventure.

Sikkim is India’s second-smallest (Goa is the smallest) and least populated state. That said, it also represents a confluence of diverse peoples and cultures. It is home to the indigenous Lepcha tribe, thought to be Sikkim’s original inhabitants; the Bhutias who migrated from Tibet in the 14th century; and the more recent migrant Nepalese (now almost 80% of the populace). Sikkimese cuisine is a reflection of this diversity. …Keep reading