Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Love affair with Lonavala.

Hello there,
                 Been on a little well deserved stay - cation. But that's when I figured out, that my mind never takes a break. I was out with the family one of these days in Lonavala, and we stopped at this beautiful place for lunch and lo - behold, my hands started to itch and I couldn't enjoy my meal without taking a few pictures of it. Well, that's the down side of loving blogging too much, and now even my family has made peace with my annoying habit of not letting people touch food unless I get a good picture of it.
                  Lonavala is a little hill station, around 85 km from Mumbai. It is one of the places I call my second home because me and my father, both have a certain connect with the scenic, peaceful locale and the all year round pleasant weather. Both Dad & I never need an excuse to jump into the car and drive away to Lonavala, especially because it is hardly an one hour drive, from where I live. Lonavala has been a part of my growing up and a lot of amazing memories that I will keep with me for life. Coming back to its tourism culture, it is the hottest destination for any Mumbai citizen who needs a break from the work stress and the heat.The variety of food that the place offers, both in terms of cuisine and budget is phenomenal. From gourmet food in five - starred hotels to simple, homely yet soul - satisfying meals at small sanatoriums. You name it, and you shall find it.

                  That certain day, we were out on a little jaunt when we decided to stop at The Kinara Village Dhaba (Yes, I found their website for you! ). It is located at the end of the Old Mumbai - Pune road. It has a similar setup to that of a Rajasthani Village. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to visit a lot of such set ups, but Kinara Dhaba by far, is one of the most well maintained and well  managed ones I have seen.
Wooden d├ęcor, with rural motifs and artifacts all around, you immediately feel relaxed, wanting to soak in this different kind of beauty. They have various seating arrangements with one of the most beautiful concepts of turning a wooden bed ( the one with the posts) into a charming, hand - painted dining table. The scattered seating - from cots, to benches made from old logs of wood make for a nice sight. The  concept is taken a notch further up with stationery hand - pulled rickshaws, earthen urns, pestle and mortar, old hand pumps strategically placed all around. There was a palmist who was predicted peoples futures,also they were offering camel rides to their guests.

                     Because I wasn't planning to cover anything, I obviously wasn't carrying my big - girl camera, and had to use my crappy phone. So please make do with the sub standard photography in this post. It was sweltering hot that day, and as a dhaba is supposed to be, this one is open - air too. Warm breeze was making life difficult. The seating is well sheltered and they have good fans, which provided relief. Also, they were well prepared and kept us supplied with jugs of iced water from time to time. The menu is a little on the higher side and they serve both Veg, non - veg and alcohol.. Approximately from INR 60/ 80 upto INR 320+ per dish, which is standard for decent/ good Dhabas on all the national highways. The staff is extremely courteous and not persistently annoying.

                     We started off with a masala papad. Because it was in the middle of the afternoon, we weren't really hungry. So we stuck to the usual basics of Paneer Makhanwala, Dum Aloo, Palak Daal, Naans and Rotis and Boondi Raita for accompaniment. To be very honest, I was blown away with the quality and quantity of food. We were 5 of us, and just one dish of each of the items I mentioned, was enough for us to have a stomach filling meal. The food is not too spicy or excessively oily. It displays cooking skills that usually come only from well experienced hands. A special mention to the Dum Aloo and the Palak Daal. Both mind blowing. The Palak Daal had this smoky undertone that took brilliantly with fresh palak (spinach) in it. The paneer was absolutely fresh and soft. The staff, like I mentioned earlier was super efficient. We did not need to ask for separate bowls for the daal, they served them in the bowls on their own. We did not have to keep asking for water refills. The staff was the perfect balance of attentive at the same time they gave us the privacy we wanted.

                       By the end of the meal, I was too full to move. But I simply had to parcel their speciality in desserts - Delhi wali Kesar Jalebi with Rabri. I had the most wonderful and calorific midnight snack that ;D .
So verditct,
Ambiance - 9/ 10 (No AC option)
Food - 9/ 10
Service - 10/ 10
Value for money - 10/ 10

After a very long time have I come across a place that I have loved so much. Now I know where I will be going for my next long weekend. Do drop in a comment if you have been here or to a similar place or if you would like to visit!

Until next time,
Cheers! :)


Friday, 11 April 2014

Rasoi at JW Marriott's Lotus Cafe

Rasoi, the food event happening at JW Marriott Mumbai's Lotus Cafe is an ode to authentic Homely Punjabi Cuisine, headed by none other than Jyoti Arora, one of the most talented participants on the last season of Masterchef India. With a warm personality, and a lovely smile, Chef Jyoti reminded me of that caring motherly figure, who would never let you leave her house with an empty stomach.

We had a big table and a running discussion about the common perceptions about Punjabi food and cuisine. Had a lot of misconceptions debunked. Did you know that Daal Makhni and Butter chicken are actually not actually a part of authentic, traditional Punjabi cuisine? They are inspired and tampered from the original recipes like that of Maa ki Daal :D

Coming to the food, we were welcomed with two drinks - the Badam ka Sharbat and the ever so famous Pede ke Lassi.. The Badam ka Sharbat was a non dairy drink - almonds, cardamom and sugar - perfect and light; whereas the Lassi, was its heavier cousin with a distinct, mild undertone of the mawa pedha (mawa is a thickened by-product of milk. Similar in consistency to ricotta). A fit beginning to what was to be a delicious meal.

Just a small heads up - My co blogger, who usually covers the non vegetarian dishes is on a vacation, so this post will sans all the meaty delights :) 
The appetizers were Tawa paneer and Aloo methi ki Tikki. On a personal note, even though the paneer was tasty and well done, I couldn't simply have it on its own. I would prefer eating it with some naan or roti to accompany because it strongly reminded me of paneer bhurji. The tikki was perfect, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside with appropriate chopped chili to give it the right spunk.

One thing that I simply had to mention, was the broccoli pickle that was there along with an array of other pickles. It was absolutely delicious and made me want to come home a pickle a jar full of them. I am certainly going to request Chef Jyoti, if she would kindly give me the recipe, because I am an absolute pickle lover. Summers are my paradise and I have never had something so good, that too with broccoli in it :P 

The broccoli pickle in the center

The main course consisted of a large variety of vegetables, right from the smoky Baingan ka Bharta, Chole, Arbi (Yam) ki Sabzi, Paneer Makhanwala, and Aloo Gobhi with a bowlful of Kaali Daal.
The Bharta had just enough of the smoky flavor to send you back to your Nan's cooking. All the food was simplistic, and light on masala, keeping it healthy without the excessive layer of oil we find in the restaurants.
One unique kind of bread was a brother version of the bhature - only crisper and lighter. It is fermented using gram flour dough - something that is unique to the city of Amritsar. These were to be had with sheera (semolina pudding) which was gorgeous, soft and fragrant with infused saffron.

We were already almost full, even though we did no more than simply taste what was served. This was followed by an array of the most sinful desserts. All those dishes laid out just took me back to my childhood. Especially the kheer. There is something about food that rings our memories. There was Paneer ki Kheer (which was very similar to Rabri), with the pistachio and saffron flavored Rice Kheer. There were Raw sugar cane Sheera, Jaggery Sheera, a Mewa Barfi of sorts. I was too full to sample the different sheeras. But I was in love with the Kheer. it was absolutely flawless. 

All in all, I had a super wonderful evening thanks to Chef Jyoti and the wonderful company I had. A special mention to Stacy and Shimonti. Chef Jyoti's Rasoi will be running at JW Marriott's Lotus Cafe until the 22nd of April. So do drop by to experience Amritsar, right in the heart of Mumbai. 

Until Next time - 
Cheers :)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Demerara Chocolate Cupcakes with ButterCream Icing

I have been wanting to experiment with demerara sugar for quite some time. It is the warmer, more organic kind of brown sugar, which is now available in almost every super market and is not very expensive either! I bought a small box of Mawana's (this is the one brand I saw almost every where) - about 500 grams for INR 85/- .
Demerara sugar is named so, because it originally came from the sugar cane fields of the Demerara Colony in Guyana. It is a brown raw - cane sugar which has a crunchy texture - perfect for biscuits / cookies, in in today's case - cupcakes! :D These are vegetarian ones ( I shall put in a little sub for those who wish to use eggs)


For the cupcakes

Makes around 6 Cupcakes
(Standardized measures to be used - i.e. - the same size of cup for all ingredients)

2 cups of plain flour (If you are using self raising flour, halve the quantity of baking soda and dont add the baking powder)
1 1/2 cups of demerara sugar
2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of Baking powder
1 teaspoon of Baking soda
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of vanilla essence
1/2 cup of vegetable oil (you can use canola too)
3 tablespoons of milk
1 tablespoon of white vinegar

For the icing

Today, we will be making some buttercream icing, for which you will need -

100 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
400 grams of icing sugar
75 grams of dark chocolate melted over double boiler (if you don't know what a double boiler is, check one of my previous recipes HERE.)
And a lot of elbow grease :D


Cupcakes -
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar. Fold in the oil, the milk, the vanilla essence till you reach a porridge like consistency. (Add more milk if required. 
Line and bake your cupcake tins/ moulds. Lastly add the vinegar and whisk until you see the mixtures effervescence. Fill the cupcake tins until they are 3/4 th full and bake them in the oven at 180 C for 18 to 20 minutes. Take them out and keep them aside to cool.

In a big bowl, keep whisking the butter until it becomes light and a little pale (donot over whip and hold the bowl from the top rim, not the bottom; or else your body heat will melt the butter). This should take a good four continuous minutes/ 1 and a half if you are using any electrical appliance.
Once that is done, add the icing sugar in parts (make four parts - 100 grams each) and keep whisking till all of it is folded in, and has a thick, luscious and creamy consistency. 
Check that the chocolate has completely cooled (it shouldn't even be warm) and is still liquid - slowly add it, and fold it in. (her you could also add a few drops of chocolate/ vanilla essence if you want. You could also substitute chocolate with a color of your choice- two drops of food color should be good to go! )
Let the cream sit in the fridge (bottom rung) for a maximum of 3 minutes. Load it into a piping bag. 

Once you have made sure that your cupcakes are completely cooled, pipe on your buttercream icing throw in a few sprinkles, and you are good to have a delicious cupcake party!! :)
Your cupcakes will have a pleasantly firm texture, with possible crunchy bits of demerara sugar in between. The brown sugar makes the cupcakes heavier and more filling. 

P.S - those wishing to use eggs- substitute the baking soda and vinegar with 2 well whisked eggs. And increase a teaspoon of vanilla essence! :) Hope this tip helps! 

I hope you liked this recipe. Please leave a comment below, if you would like me to do something more like this/ something different. I would love to hear what you have to say! 

Until next time,
Cheers! :)

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

      This is one of those posts, which I donot know what to title. I had so many little, teensy weensy, important tidbits to share with you. Each really important, but not with enough content to make up for an entire blogpost, so I decided to put all of it into one. I promise not to rant too much! :)
First things first, I have been attending and reviewing so many events and restaurants that I simply have neglected my health (read- put on too much of weight). I know this is a late resolution - but you know, better late than never. I have resolved to put myself back into shape and become healthy because of something very big coming up (I shall reveal this in some time :D). Also, I figured, if I resolve on my blog, I shall have some tangible evidence that will guilt me into pushing harder, every time I think of giving up and sitting at home like a lazy person - something I have been doing for four years. Neglecting my health for so long, has lead to not one, but many undesirable consequences that I am able to see only now. But I truly hope I am able to get back on track before any lasting damage is done. Wish me luck! :)

 Secondly, I found this worth mentioning - I had been to this musical event at The Renaissance, Powai, where the artist performed on water percussion. Even though I am not very musically inclined, nor do I have any special knowledge in the said field, I was left in awe at his performance. It was visually enticing and left all the guests there spellbound. Coupled with good company and brilliant Italian food, I did have a wonderful evening.

Thirdly, I spent two days and almost all my pocket money on the Good Food Show, Mumbai. That was held on the 29th and the 30th of March. That disaster deserves its own private post. You can read it HERE

Fourth, SugarRushes is going to migrating to Wordpress soon. Simply because I thought its high time to buy my own domain name. Also, wordpress gives me better options and more freedom with templates, customization etc. Please leave me a comment below if you have any advice regarding the same, I am trying to get as many opinions as possible! Also, SugarRushes is going to venture a little into lifestyle blogging too. 

And now, for the news I have been saving for the last. If you have been following my blog, you must've known that almost a year ago, I had hinted about some big news (I know its a long stretch for anyone to remember, but nevertheless). I am very very very proud to announce that I have been accepted as a student at The Le Cordon Bleu culinary academy, Sydney, Australia for their two and a half year Diploma in Hospitality Management - specializing in Patisserie. I cannot tell you how happy and over the moon I am. Excitement is rushing through every nerve in my body! My childhood dream of studying at LCB is finally coming true. All my hard work and persistence has paid off! How exciting is that!?!?!? ASDFGHJKL!!!!!! :D :D :D 
So if you have figured it out by now, , SugarRushes is moving to Sydney in less than 6 months!! woot! woot! *dances around*

*sits down, takes a deep breath* I cannot help but thank each and everyone of the people who have read even one of my blog posts. Whether you follow me on blogger or not. I thank you from the depth of my heart. Because if it hadn't been for each of those blog hits, for every post, I wouldn't have trusted myself or pushed myself to go get what I want in life. Thank you once again! 

So, that is all for now. Comment and tell me what is on with your life, whether there is something exciting happening or is going to happen! I would love to know!

Until next time,

The Good Food Show, Mumbai - 2014

If you have been keeping track of whats happening in the Mumbai foodie circuit, you must know that the first ever edition of BBC's Good Food Show was held in Mumbai, India.
Honestly, I was disappointed, to say the least. Disorganization and chaos ruled. I was shocked to see that an organisation of such reputation could do such a shoddy job. My friends and I had booked VIP passes (thats INR 1500+ convenience fee a pop) and what we received was nothing near VIP treatment. Either there was miscommunication between the ticketing agent and the show organizers, or the organizers failed miserably at fulfilling their promise, we were left tired, heartbroken and terribly upset. Firstly, there was no proper seating arrangement on both the days (the event was on the 29th and the 30th of March - 2014) . I was standing for a good 3 to 4 hours both the days; even after I was at the venue an hour earlier than the scheduled time - and mind you, I live bloody far away.
No distinction between VIP seating or the normal seating. Substandard, mediocre food was being served in the VIP lounges. They did not let the VIP guests interact or interview the Chefs like they had promised. The gift hampers (read- random stuff from sponsors being shoved into a bag. The second day hampers were literally nothing but a pile of different crisps.) Some people had stuff missing from their hampers that others had in theirs. The air conditioning in the VIP lounges was not even functional. The crowd was left fuming. More than half of them demanded refunds. I did not get to see the master classes that I wanted to. It was a sheer waste of time, energy and money.
With not a single person answerable, the poor volunteers had to bear the brunt of the angry masses. I sincerely hope that they up their game for next year, or I doubt anyone will even bother to take a look at what they will have to offer.
Another thing that annoyed the crap out of me was that people who had come there simply to while their time away. They ruined the entire experience for others by either being too loud (conversation + phone), passing smart comments about what the chef was saying/ doing ( a line of annoying aunties behind me actually said "why is she wasting time in telling us this, doesn't she have some common sense?) - when a chef was demonstrating how to pipe and decorate choux pastry. All this from women who dint know how to pronounce "choux".
Honestly, such events should be open only for people who are genuinely interested in what is happening and want to learn, not for people who just want to sit, heckle and take up seats. :|
Another thing that I found rather amusing. Whenever a Chef would finish demonstrating a recipe, she/ he would prep a few plates and send it out to the crowd so that everyone may taste. In such cases, it doesn't help to have too many people (as it was in our case), also it was even worse because people were acting like they had not seen food for weeks, nay, months. I literally saw aunties running to the chef's table to gobble down what was made; only to turn around and make a face because they dint like it. Come one people! use your heads. When the chef says that there is miso in the food, do you honestly think, shoving it down your throat is going to be brilliant? Exquisite food is meant to be savored and relished. Not devoured at the speed of light. I actually saw aunties sneaking in food tasters (in multiples) into tissue papers and into their bags :O .

I know, this may sound like a complete disaster, and I assure you it was. But being around people from the same industry, who are so passionate and so brilliant at what they do, inspires you to another level and makes you happier. This is when you can't help but try and look for the silver lining in the grey clouds. I was happy that even though my legs were crying at the end of two days, I was able to have at least a sneak peak at the people who inspire me to better myself each and every time. I had the opportunity to go around the product stalls, see and learn about all the new things that are coming into the Indian market. And if I can ignore the fact that the Good Food Show, just fell short of being a money making racket, then I am grateful for being able to afford to go to an event like this, even though now I am broke after paying for the tickets, my traveling, food etc. But I did make a few good friends (hello! you know who you guys are! :D )

Sigh. I know this has been a big, humongous rant. I hope you dont feel that I am nitpicking or being extra critical and judgmental. But you know what, I don't care, because all of the above is exactly what went through my head in those two days. Nevertheless, I shall always think of it as a learning experience and hope for better stuff the next time, yet be prepared for the worst.

On a parting note, I shall leave you with a few pictures of the masterclasses I was able to take with my camera (all hail the power of the zoom lens! :D ). Enjoy. Do comment and tell me if you were at the show too, or if you have been to a similar show (better or worse :P ) !

Chef Gresham Fernandes (Impresario) 

CHef Vikas Seth (Sanchos) 

Chef Himanshu Saini (Masala Library)

Chef Manu Chandra (Olive, Bangalore) 

Until next time,

Sliders (Bandra)

It looks like sliders are the new craze to hit foodie town, with new slider menu's popping out here and there. Ketan Kadam's (famous for Two One Two) 'Sliders' at Bandra (Waterfield Road) is the newest to jump onto the bandwagon. A lot of mixed reviews came my way, so I was a little apprehensive when I decided to go over and try them out. 
However, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Sliders shares the place with Maroosh (within the same outlet), so diners have both options open. We started of with the Strawberry Rush (INR 110/-). Very honestly, it was a little disappointing. Bit too watered down and sweeter than I could handle. I found it a  little over priced.

 I absolutely loved the seating arrangement; especially in the Slider's section with high chairs, that had a comfortable foot and back rest. Chalk board painted walls with cutesy burgers drawn on it. The first slider they served, was the Philly Steak (INR 65/-). It was a well-seasoned and surprisingly well cooked. The mayonnaise wasn't too sweet and the bread was so soft, that I almost didn't have to chew it. The vegetarian fare included the Jalepeno Popper (INR 60/-) It had a brilliant relish. One major plus point was that the onions they served in every slider were slightly grilled and hence did not leave that pungent aftertaste. The chicken BBQ slider came next (INR 65/-). Those who love pepper in everything must give this one a shot. The chicken was moist and spicy, which went well with the soft bun and crunchy relish.  
The Philly Steak

The Jalepeno Popper

The BBQ Chicken

The next item on the menu was the one we were waiting for. The Cheese Fries (INR 90/-). Not too crispy, neither too salty, but we were let down by the lack of cheese in the said "cheese" fries. The photograph looks deceiving- because the bits of cheese had already stuck to the fries and dried. We were actually expecting the fries to be coated generously in liquid cheese; the one that satisfies the very depth of your soul, leaving you feeling supremely guilty for weeks to come. 

Because of the let down from the Strawberry Rush, we decided to call for the second and only other drink on their menu - Nutella Coffee (INR 110/-). And surprisingly, it did turn out to be as promising as it sounded. A definite recommendation. The Mushroom slider (INR 60/-) that came next was slightly okay - ish. The patty felt slightly stodgy, but a +1 for the mini sliced gherkins in the bun! Loved them! The Sliders are the perfect size for when you need to grab a bite - on the go. And are very reasonable priced for what they are serving.

We tried a shwarma each from Maroosh.The Chicken  Shawarma which was really tasty. It had ample chicken which was well spiced along with tahini and harissa sauce, the pita it was served in was well toasted. The Veggie Falafel shwarma had well pickled beets with a hint of garlic sauce. So if you are someone who doesn't like sliders, you can give Maroosh a shot, without having to go to another place :)

Lastly, came the Brownie Slider (INR 70/-). Okay, here is the thing with me and desserts. I am usually a traditionalist when it comes to desserts. Anything extra "inventive" on the dessert menu, puts me off immediately. I had no idea what to expect when this one came. It was a thick slice of Brownie (which was dense, appropriately sweet) nestled between a sweetened bun,which was slathered with strawberry and chocolate sauce and a layer of cream cheese underneath. I know it sounds wild, but it dint taste that bad. I definitely wish they had given everything except the brownie and the chocolate sauce a miss. The bun eaten separately with the strawberry and chocolate sauce tasted amazing. But together, it wasn't something I would try. 

All in all, Sliders gets a 6/10 from us. An 8/10 for service (Ask for a certain Mr. Vinod when you get there, he was really nice). Very budget friendly. Something that can be a fantastic hit with a few, but a miss with the rest.
 I hope you enjoyed reading the review. Do leave a comment below if you have already been to sliders, or would like to go there! :)

Until next time -