If one were to ask me, there are only two things that truly define the culture of the United States of America – Jazz and the Burger. While I’m sure this comment might spark a great debate, let’s all just be civil for the remainder of this post.
Celebrating the culinary culture of the US, I was invited to try out the spread at the American food festival at the Aloft (Cessna business park). Naturally, my expectations of the burger were quite high. I was also keen to see what else would be spread. This was the first festival put together by Aloft’s new executive chef – Chef Sandeep Kumar. Chef Sandeep brings with him over a decade of experience in food and beverages with stints at the Leela Goa, the Carnival Cruise Line, The Orient Express at the Taj Palace in Delhi and more. The inspiration for the theme for this particular food festival comes from Chef Sandeep’s time with the Carnival Cruise Line that allowed him to sample a lot of dishes that are now synonymous with the American landscape.
We kicked off our lunch with a helping of chicken wings. Very American in flavour, the wings were tender and came off the bone very easily. Like with all wings, the key differentiator is the sauce that the wings are coated in. The flavour of the sauce with these wings fell right in the middle of familiar territory with a largely sweet taste with a hint of spice. Following the wings was the good old American dish of fried chicken. With a light spice in the very crunchy skin on the outside, the chicken was once again a very familiar taste. But the absolute kicker and one of the highlights of this dish was the spicy chocolate mole.
Made from chocolate and spices mixed together for over eight hours, the bitter sweet chocolate with the pepper and spice flavour that precedes it was an absolute turn on for my taste buds. They wanted to have this sauce with everything. I couldn’t hold back my shamelessness and requested for a small bottle of this sauce to take home with me. I have diligently been dipping everything from carrots to baked crisps in it. I know that sauce set me back in my grand ‘lose weight’ plan, but oh hell… YOLO. (See what that chocolate sauce has made me do, I’m typing YOLO and all that.)
Next up was a plate of nachos salad. I’ll be quite honest in saying that the nachos were one of the better nacho salads I’ve had in ages. With a lot of local restaurants maintaining their margins by cutting out elements on their previously flavourful nacho salads, this hit the spot with the right amount of veggies, meat, salsa, sour cream and guacamole.
We moved on to my favourite part of the meal – the burger. I was served a delicious beef patty that was sandwiched between a layer of fresh mustard, a fried egg, tomatoes and onion rings. While the mustard and beef flavours dominated the burger, a quick dip in the chocolate sauce took it to a whole new level altogether. A thumb up for the burger from me.
Mexican food and flavours are an integral part of the American food landscape. Next up was the chicken roll with salsa roja. Heavy on Mexican spices, the roll was quite filling with the salsa sauce, layer of cheese, egg and mustard topped off with a jalapeno pepper. The tiny cubes of chicken themselves did not hold any flavour; this was driven completely by everything else in the roll. After having a third of the roll, I was quite full. I reluctantly sampled the hot dog because no American experience is complete without the hot dog. Compared to the burger and the hot dog was mild. It missed the punch of the all-important relish. Relish and mustard define the taste of any hot dog.
While there were numerous other dishes on the spread including the classic American mac and cheese, a corn jalapeno timble in a coriander sauce, a veg stew, burritos and more, I was too full to have anything more. Besides, whatever little crevices were left in my tummy was reserved for dessert.
Dessert was simple plate of churros, done perfectly with a slightly crispy exterior coated in sugar with a soft inside. There was a slightly overwhelming taste of cinnamon which went even better when I dipped it in the chocolate mole.
This is a very promising start to Chef Sandeep’s stint with the Aloft at Cessna Business Park. I’m looking forward to more such festivals that chef has planned out. He did share some of the grand plans he’s got for the next year, and cheers to more good food.