A Taste of Israel, at the Aloft Cessna Business Park

One of the countries that is sitting on my list of ‘Places to travel’, with the driving force being the food of the region, is Israel. Israeli cuisine brings together flavours from the Mediterranean cuisine, the middle-eastern cuisine and the Levantine cuisine. While I’ve had my fair share at restaurants abroad, there’s nothing like having a chef from the region put together a festival in one’s own backyard. The Nook, at Aloft Cessna Business Park is playing host to Chef Shachar Aschengrau, a culinary expert from the port city of Haifa, who is leveraging local produce to put together a feast that showcases contemporary Israeli flavours.

Chef Aschengrau (L) with Chef Sandeep (R)

Along with fellow food enthusiasts, I was invited on the opening day of the festival to sample the food and interact with the Chef. While dinner was being set up, we were served appetizers that included Vegetable Shashlik, Chickpea dumplings, Mushroom Kibbeh and Fish in Beer. The stand out dish was the Cinnamon Sheekh, succulent meat on sticks of cinnamon that offered a lovely spicy flavour, leaving the lovely taste of cinnamon to take over one’s mouth. 

Cinnamon Sheekh

At the dinner table, we were served a variety of breads including the popular pita bread, the challah, the shabbat, and my favourite of the lot, the Jerusalem bagel; these were accompanied by an Israeli salad and a variety of dips each with a distinct flavour that covered everything from citrus, to mint, to spice. One of the stand-out dips was the Amba, a tangy mixture of mangoes, mustard, and spices. This popular middle-eastern condiment derives its name from the Sanskrit term for mango. 

While most of us were occupied with polishing off the bread and dips, we were served a rather large and gnarly looking cauliflower that I was certain had been mutated and would come alive at any point. This Baked Cauliflower was a simple dish of, as the name indicates, a baked cauliflower with spices on top. Despite its appearance, the dish actually tasted nice with the flavour of the vegetable with the mild spices on top working well together. This was followed by a rather tasty combination of grilled aubergines with Tabbouleh.

When one thinks of food from Israel, traditional dishes that immediately come to mind would be the falafel and hummus. Looking to showcase how hummus is consumed very differently back home, as compared to how most folks have the dish, Chef Aschengrau had a small master class where he demonstrated how hummus is had back home. With a variety of toppings including whole boiled chickpeas, boiled egg, chilli, pine nuts, onions, lemon-spiked tahini and more, hummus has evolved to suit the more contemporary palate that seeks out more flavour and textures. Soon enough, everyone in the room was looking make their own versions of the dish.


The main course featured traditional dishes like Tahini , Baba ghanoush, Fattoush and more. Accompanying the Shwarma and the Falafel were Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, Stuff Chicken, Baked Fish and the Israeli Rice Pilaf. Dessert included a platter of various tiny desserts and candies that made one feel like a kid in a candy store. A favourite of mine among the dessert was the relatively simple yet satisfying dish of figs and fresh cream. I should have stopped at two, but no one seemed too concerned, so I had about four. The team at Aloft put together a bit of a show with putting together various little sweet knick-knacks like cake, macaroons, chocolate and candy and sprinkling it with dry ice. I hadn’t any space left to try that out.

Chef Aschengrau has a relatively extensive arsenal of dishes that one can try out during the festival that runs till the 28th of the month. Dishes from this menu will be available for both lunch and dinner along with the regular buffet at Nook. This is a festival I do recommend to the vegetarians especially for the tasty spread of dips, hummus, salads and bread from Israel.

The Ska Vengers launch their second album, XX

The 16th of July saw Delhi-based 'Ska' band , The Ska Vengers launch their second album, XX, at the Humming Tree in Bangalore. The evening started out with about two dozen people when Bass B'tards opened the gig, but the venue quickly filled up by the time Ska Vengers took the stage. Pumped up from the grooves of the opening band, the crowd was primed and set for Ska Vengers who kicked off the show with Vampire from their debut Lp.

Missing from vocal duties was front woman Samara Chopra, aka Begum X who was out with poor health. Accompanying frontman Taru Dalmia, aka Delhi Sultanate, on vocals were Talia Bentson and Meg Dsouza. The band's energy was at full throttle from the first song right to the end as they powered through songs like Frank Brazil, Shut your Mouth, Jail Mein, El Cumbanchero and other songs from XX. The band closed the evening with Badda from their debut self-titled Lp.

This was the second time I was seeing the band play live and they've gotten a lot tighter without compromising on the live performance or their sound. The album, which took 4 years to be put together, is a lot more mature in terms of sound, bringing together jazz and funk elements without compromising the overall politicking nature of Ska Vengers lyrics. If anything, that fire burns lot brighter and hotter now. 

You can buy the album from oklisten.com.

The Soup and Dim sum festival, Hunan

During the monsoons, there’s probably nothing more comforting than a cup of hot masala tea with fresh onion pakodas. Dishes that are apt for this kind of weather include samosas, fresh idlis, Maggi noodles and more. Adding to the usual suspects, keeping the emotions that a hot dish on a cold wet day should evoke, Hunan has put together a festival to celebrate soups and dim sums. I was invited along with fellow food enthusiasts to try out this menu.

That evening saw the city witness particularly intense rains (and the traffic jam that comes along with monsoons) that had me raring to go. Our evening began with the Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup, a Thai inspired vegetarian soup that hit the spot immediately. Strong flavours of carrot, coconut milk, spices with the crunchiness of peanuts made this an ideal soup to kick off the evening. I would have preferred if the carrot and sweet potato were a little crunchier to add some more texture to the soup. 
The first dim sums we sampled was the Bok Choy and Mushroom Money Pouch followed by the Truffle Scented Edamame dumpling. I enjoyed the latter a lot more owing to the more subtle salty flavour of the edamame which with the dipping sauce was a lot closer to the flavours I enjoy.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

Bok Choy and Mushroom Money Pouch

Truffle Scented Edemame Dumpling

The Chicken Drumstick with Noodle Soup was my favourite from the evening. What hit the home run with the soup was the flavourful broth which was a chicken consommé with soya. The combination of that broth with the light noodles, the tender chicken leg and vegetables ticked all the boxes in my book. To balance out the meaty flavours of the broth, we were served the Vegan Vietnamese Spring Roll, a healthy and very sober option of crunchy vegetables wrapped in rice paper with a lovely spicy hoisin peanut sauce. 

Chicken Drumstick with Noodle Soup

Chicken Drumstick with Noodle Soup

Vegan Vietnamese Spring Roll
The Sweet and Sour Tofu Soup with Crabmeat was a bit of a miss in my book, predominantly because the strong tangy flavours overpowered the natural flavours of the crab. The sampling session was back on track with the Chicken Meatballs with Prawn Wanton Soup, a light clear soup that highlighted the simple flavours of the chicken and prawn. This was my second favourite soup of the evening. I would have preferred to have started the evening with this soup rather than with the sweet potato and carrot. 

Chicken Meatballs with Prawn Wonton Soup
Another big highlight of the evening was the Cocktail rolls with Chicken and Prawns. While by themselves, these crispy rolls offered good meaty flavours, it was the chilli and mango dipping sauce that accompanied the dish pushed it to a whole new level. It brought back fond memories of the Chilli Orange Marmalade dipping sauce from my New Orleans trip. Borrowing the tagline of a fast food brand, the rolls with the dipping sauce were ‘finger-licking-good’. Don’t miss ordering this one.

Cocktail Rolls with Chicken and Prawn

Some of the other dishes such as the Sesame Chicken Potstickers, the Chicken Steamed Bao and the Taro Puff with Chicken didn’t offer me flavours that made me sit up and take notice, and want to go back for seconds. We were also served a Khow Suey but I was too full to have more than a couple of spoons. An honourable runner up to the Cocktail rolls was the Crunchy Wanton Ribbon Prawns. The marinated prawns were served in a little wanton cage like package that allowed spicy honey mustard sauce to coat not just the outer wanton but the prawn as well, making this a strong flavoured dish.

Crunchy Wanton Ribbon Prawns

Khow Suey

 The final dish of the main course, the best for last was the Pork Flower Dumplings. Rolled into the shape of a flower, with a pork filling in between the petals, a sweet soya sauce is poured over the dumpling. Eaten in one go, the flower dumpling held the sauce and was a perfect end to the meal. Definitely a ‘must-have’ in my books. Dessert was a relatively simple affair with chocolate spring rolls and ice cream.

Pork Flower Dumplings

Pork Flower Dumplings

Coming in at the right season, the Soup and Dim Sum Festival offers an excellent mix of subtle and strong flavours to suit every palate. Considering the fine dining experience that Hunan offers, I feel the prices are just right with soups and dumplings priced at an average of INR 300. The festival is on till the end of August, only at the Koramangala branch of Hunan. My top three picks for the evening would be the Chicken Drumstick with Noodle Soup, the Cocktail rolls with Chicken and Prawns and the Pork Flower Dumplings.

The Long Drink Festival at Social

The latest season of Game of Thrones came and went by in almost an instant. By the time we got to the end of GoT, 10 weeks of our lives had passed and now there is this awkward void which will be filled with reruns of the season gone by or in my case, numerous failed starts to read the books. To keep you company while you find the next best TV series to fill up your days, the good folks at Social have taken the GoT theme and slapped onto their on-going ‘Long Drink Festival’ which heroes various flavours of everyone’s favourite , the  Long Island Iced Tea (LIIT).

A few weekends ago, some of my fellow food and drink enthusiasts were invited on a Saturday afternoon to sample all the nine concoctions and partake in some drinking games.  The nine versions of LIIT, with names like Winter is Coming, Blood of the Dragon, White Walker hero various flavours like cherries, Jim Beam, elder flower, absinthe and even jalapenos. What was evident from everyone’s choices that evening was that the cocktails have been designed to cater to a very wide variety of palates. For example, the relatively mild Sunspear includes whiskey, orange and apple juice, something too mild for my taste. At the other end of the spectrum is Ice & Fire, a drink that packs a sucker punch with Jim Beam, vodka, tequila, lavender tonic and jalapenos, a very strong drink and my favourite from the pack. A crowd favourite was the White Walker, a sweet tasting mix of Kahlua, vodka and fresh cream. 

The festival is on till the 10th of August which gives everyone ample time to head over and discover what’s your pick. And for those of you who don’t watch GoT, just think of this as a LIIT cocktail festival, you won’t be quizzed on your knowledge of GoT to get a cocktail. In Bangalore, you can try these out at both the Church Street Social as well as the Whitefield Social. Aptly priced at INR 550 for 500 ml and INR 999 for 1000 ml (not inclusive of taxes), there’s no real excuse not to head over right after you read this post.

Food for Seoul – The Korean Food Festival at The Square

The Square at Novotel plays host to Chef Hee-Jin Park and Chef Jong-Man Kim, from Seoul who are bringing some of the traditional flavours of Korea to Bangalore. I was invited last week to try out the fare at The Square. The Korean section occupied a significant portion of the buffet at the restaurant. With numerous varieties of Kimchi (Where would any Korean food festival be without its Kimchi) and some delectable juices made from pumpkin and cranberry respectively, the evening looked promising.

We kicked off the evening with the Beef in Soya Sauce with Noodles. Like a great opening partnership in cricket, this combination was luscious. The beef was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of gaminess and the combination of spice and soya flavours was perfect. This dish set the bar high for the rest of the evening.

Beef in Soya Sauce with Noodles
While we waited for the rest of the dishes, we were served various meats including calamari, chicken, prawns and fish from the barbeque. While I was honestly hoping for the real deal when it came to the barbeque, where the meats are roasted in a gas or charcoal grill, we had to make do with the regular barbeque. I’ll have to admit that the barbequed meats did not excite me as the marinade hadn’t gone through fully and there were a lot of over-cooked spots on the meat. While the prawns made it past the line in terms of flavour and texture, the rest went largely untouched post the first helping. I was told that there were certain technical problems with the grill which was causing the unevenness. That being said, I was served a rather mouth-watering fish towards the end of the meal. The fish flaked beautifully and had a perfect blend of flavours from the grill and that of the seafood. It flaked perfectly and offered redemption.

The rest of the meal was much more appetizing and flavourful. The simplicity and subtleness of the Fried Rice made this a dish that could be had all by itself and still perfectly complemented all the other sauce-based dishes that followed. It went especially well with the Stir Fried Seafood that was cooked with very familiar Asian flavours. A big tick-mark from the evening was the very comforting and familiar flavours of the Fried Chicken in Spicy Sauce. Very reminiscent of the popular American-Chinese dish - General Tso's chicken, the chicken had a perfect mix of sweet and spicy and made me go back for seconds (and thirds).

Stir Fried Seafood

Fried Chicken in a Spicy Sauce
No Korean meal is complete without Bibimbap. I shared a bowl of the Beef Bibimbap, which was the perfect crescendo to end the meal with. The yolk from the egg blended perfectly with all the vegetables, the meat, the chilli pepper paste and the rice to hit the ball out of the park for this festival.

While I was hoping for more Korean(ish) desserts, I grabbed a few little bites from the large dessert section. We were also served a Salted Caramel and a Praline Ice Cream; a thumbs up for the former. Priced at INR 1250 (plus taxes), the food festival is on till the 26th of the month and is offered as a part of both the lunch and dinner buffet. Despite the disappointment with the barbeque, the flavours of the Beef in Soya Sauce with Noodles, the Fried Chicken in Spicy Sauce and the Bibimbap make this a must try festival. I rate the festival 3.5/5.

Chef Park and Chef Kim

PS - Check out Monica with fellow food enthusiast Natasha and I, rocking some aprons Gangnam Style.

Coastal Adventures at Monkey Bar

While I've been to the (now erstwhile) Monkey Bar on Wood Street for Sunday breakfast a fair number of times, my visit to the Indiranagar branch to review their on-going Coastal Adventures food festival was my first visit there. The food festival which started a couple of days ago features some of the big flavours from Udupi, Kundapur,  Mangalore and Kerala. While keeping the main flavours intact, the chefs have put their own little spin on every dish with additions of bread or salad to ensure that the festival isn't an 'also ran' food festival.

The afternoon started off with the Southern Fry. This dish consists of batter fried calamari with coconut crusted prawns in a coconut and dried shrimp crumb and is the perfect pub-finger food. With a dash of lime on top, the dish was absolutely comforting and was polished off quite quickly at our table. What was missing for me was perhaps a chutney of some sort. The first cocktail I tried was the Chilli Puli, a spicy salty cocktail of tequila, tamarind paste and green chilli. Probably not the best choice for a relatively empty stomach.

The prawns were followed by a serving of the Kuttari Salad. Mimicking the flavours of Thai-raw papaya salad, this dish comprised of baby spinach, red rice, raw mango, coconut and peanuts, with a very prominent curd pickle on top. I'm not a big fan of red rice, but this salad made me go back for more. With the sourness of the raw mango and crunch of the peanuts with the red rice, this dish was not only texturally appetizing but quite refreshing to eat. The Udipi Beet Cutlets that followed was one of the dishes that didn’t quite hit the mark for me. While the individual elements of the dish, the rava crusted beet cutlet with peas filling, the Kerala paratha and the coconut tamarind ketchup, were good individually; combined together I wasn't able to relish the combination. The cutlets themselves are very similar in taste to the Veg Chop - a favourite of mine from Kolkata. 

We were then served the Kundapur Wings, a dish that comprised of chicken wings tossed with Kundapur ghee roast masala served with sprouted moong kosambri salad. The wings were tender and quite spicy. One was expecting a bit of relief from the coconut, which could have been a bit more prominent, but that never stopped us from going back for more. While the kosambri salad seemed to have been put on the plate to offer relief from the spiciness of the masala, I wasn't too convinced. Call me a wings-purist, but the only accompaniment I like with my wings is a blue-cheese dipping sauce. That being said, lovers of spicy wings should give this one a spin. While we waited for the next dish, I ordered the Soulful Kadhee, a sweet cocktail made from gin, Kokum syrup, tender coconut, curry leaves and lime cordial.

Next up were the Monkee Eggs. Inspired by the more traditional Eggs Benedict, this dish consisted of coriander and black pepper crusted poached egg on puff pastry, with green chutney and a coconut cream hollandaise. The food snob in me was expecting a more runny poached egg, the kind that you cut into the dish and the yolk oozes out and everyone goes 'Aaaahhhh!', but that didn't hold back the dish from becoming my favourite from the afternoon. With the egg cooked almost perfectly, the light yet crunchy puff pastry, the contrasting flavours of the chutney and hollandaise, it was love at first bite. Needless to say, this is a 'must-try' dish.

The Kerela Bao Uttapam was another dish where the individual components of the Kerala-inspired Beef Fry and the Bao Uttapam worked well individually, but I wasn't able to appreciate the combination. We were served the Prawn Ghee Roast. Now don't let the name throw you off, the dish wasn't the traditional ghee roast that one would expect. However, cooked in the Kundapur style and served with garlic toast, the dish packs in quite a punch when it comes to bold spicy flavours. It's the kind of spice that make you want to go back for more (which we did). The fresh crunchy prawns and the gravy with the crunchy garlic toast brought a satisfied smile to my face. 

While we waited for a second serving of the prawns, we tried the KP tacos. Replacing the crunchy taco shell with a flaky Kerala paratha, the filling was a Chettinad styled pulled chicken with black lychen, baby onion salan and garlic pickle, comforting flavours with a twist that worked well. The tacos look deceptively small and are actually quite filling, so keep this for last. We ended the meal with some delightful homely Mangalore buns.

The Coastal Adventures festival began on the 16th of June and goes on till the end of the month. If you're looking for strong flavours, fresh seafood and cocktails to pair with, do head over the Monkey Bar. As far as the price goes, a meal for two without alcohol excluding taxes would cost you INR 1200++, and with alcohol excluding taxes, INR 1800++. I give this festival a 4/5.

Vh1 & The Humming Tree Present: Blackstratblues & By2Blues

After inching through two and a half hours of traffic (why do I bother even talking about this problem any more in B'lore?), I finally made it to the Humming Tree to catch By2Blues opening the evening for one of my favourite bands from Mumbai, Blackstratblues. This is the third time I'm seeing By2Blues play live. This band is a classic example of how you don't need fancy electronics and (no pun intended) all that jazz to put up a good show. Keeping it simple the band had a healthy mix of covers from Eric Clapton, CCR and other crowd favourites along with some own compositions. The band had Shalini Mohan (from Lagori) accompany them on bass; and set the mood perfectly for Blackstrat Blues to take over the rest of the evening.

Starting off proceedings with The Happy Billy Song, Blackstrat Blues had the crowd screaming out requests from the first note. The audience were privy to some new material including a soft ballad titled Northstar which Warren dedicated to the missus; and a very trippy untitled number whose bass a drum riff were absolutely trippy and addictive. I could probably listen to just those two instruments playing that groove in isolation and not be bored. There was also a tribute to SRV and the band’s take on 12-bar blues (Check out my Instagram feed for a sneak peek)

The band powered through popular hits like Anuva's Sky, Folkish Three and The Universe has a Strange Sense of Humour. Having seen Blackstrat Blues perform for the seventh (or eighth ) time, it's very clear to see that the band have become really comfortable with one another, joking around between songs and having a good time playing with one another. Warren Mendonsa himself has become relatively verbose and spent a good amount of time between songs talking to the audience and sharing stories rather than rushing through the name of the song and the occasional thank you. That being said, he should never sing 'Sultans of Swing'. (An inside joke with the band that I didn't quite follow beyond the fact that it had something to do with a gig in Mumbai with Zero)

Talking about how he was inspired by The Beatles' song Here Comes the Sun, Warren moved into the penultimate song of the evening, Ode to a Sunny day followed by a very smooth transition into Renaissance Mission, the last song for the evening. This was yet another stellar gig from the band. Going by all the new material that was played, I’m looking forward to the next album whenever it’s out. 

Smoke House Deli Goes the Healthy Way

For most people, the term ‘eating out’ is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle (and now an expensive one too thanks to various taxes). More often than not, the term ‘health conscious’ brings up images of abstinence from good tasting food. My addiction to 'all things salad' from late last year has however shown me that eating healthy doesn’t have to mean ‘eating boring’. (PS: It’s a different story that I’ll gorge down an entire chicken after a rather large bowl of salad). 

Bringing fun and flavour to the term ‘healthy’, the folks at Smoke House Deli ( on Lavelle Road) introduced a special, and fairly elaborate, menu of healthy yet scrumptious food that covers everything from vegan to vegetarian to diary free to paleo and more. I was invited to the launch in March, but owing to work and travel, never got around to writing about it. I have gone back twice since to satisfy my appetite with the healthy options. While the launch had us sample almost all the dishes off the menu, I’d like to describe some of my favourites and some of the healthier options whose flavour doesn’t have me quite convinced. The Paleo Coconut and Seafood Broth is one of my favourites on the menu. A Thai-inspired soup has been created for the lactose intolerant eater, without compromising on flavour. Strong flavours of lemongrass and coriander make this a favourite for almost any time of year. There was also a Millet and Spinach soup that a friend of mine fell in love with, but I’m yet to give that one a taste.

The menu also offers low glycemic sandwiches made from either gluten free bread or ragi, which despite the ominous sounding category were quite flavourful. I do recollect trying out the Soya Marinated Tofu and Spinach, whose filling I enjoyed thoroughly although the bread didn’t quite hit the spot as it got soggy fairly quickly and crumbled. 

Salads! One of my current cooking obsessions! The Super Salads offer patrons numerous options to choose from including Grilled Peach and Papaya with Amaranth Granola, a Classic Watermelon with feta and arugula (another favourite of mine), smoke chicken and caper berries and more. The highlight for me was the apricot chilli dressing on the Kefir soaked Chicken with organic red rice and brown rice flakes salad. (PS – Not yet a fan of red rice).

SHD has also included gluten free pasta made from scratch with their signature non-wheat flour. We were served a plate of the Jowar Gnocchi and Mushroom Fricasse. I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a moody eater when it comes to regular Gnocchi. Unfortunately, the one made from jowar didn’t quite cut it for me. Everyone else at the table did seem to enjoy the flavours and go for seconds. My favourite from that course was the Grilled Vegetable Ravioli with Coconut and Soya Milk. Served with sunflower seeds, the sauce tasted fabulous with the ravioli that was cooked perfectly. 

The main course (Yes, we’ve just gotten to the main course) kicked off with Pan Seared Rawas with Soya milk and Bhavnagri sauce, served with kidney beans, chickpeas and corn. Another diary free dish, the fish needed probably just a minute more of cooking as it the skin was a bit soft. Besides that, wonderful flaking and a strong blend of flavours from every element on the plate. Some of the other dishes we sampled were the Ras El Hanout grilled Chicken with Spicy Brown rice, something that found favour with everyone owing to the overall spicy flavour; and the Lean Tenderloin steak with Roasted Cauliflower.

I was looking forward to seeing what dessert would have in store, because, to me, the only healthy dessert in the world is a simple fruit salad. While the Banana Flour Cake with Carrot Pate wasn’t the most appetizing dish I’ve seen, the flavours were all there. While it ticked off all the boxes on what a dessert should be, it was missing the typical guilty pleasure of a dessert that one expects. It was a similar story with the Cacao Nib and Soya Milk Cheese Cake with a Nachini Crust. Ticked all the boxes, great presentation but I wasn’t feeling guilty. And it is that guilt that makes one love a dessert even more.

Despite staying away from all the good stuff like cheese, butter, oil and more, the meal at SHD was quite filling yet didn’t make me feel bloated such that I wanted to go back home and sleep for the rest of the day. As I had mentioned, I’ve been back to SHD on Lavelle Road twice since the inaugural lunch and have never missed ordering the Paleo Coconut and Seafood Broth and the classic Watermelon with feta and arugula salad, irrespective of what else I may order. Kudos to the chefs for going the extra mile to bring the terms ‘healthy food’ and ‘tasty food’ closer to one another. It won’t be love at first bite for many people, but do make your way through the extensive menu and find your favourites.

The Choux Box

A few weeks ago, I was invited to the opening of The Choux Box, a new venture by Natasha Patrao. Before you start looking for it on the map, I must point out that this isn’t your traditional bakery, but is more of a space that Natasha aims to use to teach kids and adults the joys of cooking and baking. Inspired by High Teas and bite-sized food from her internship with Conrad Singapore, Natasha looks to bring the experience to folks who don’t have to go all the way to a posh restaurant to experience the same. There is a menu of hor d'oeuvres, sandwiches and desserts that one can order from and pick up. Natasha also does personalized birthday cakes and wedding cakes on pre order basis. And if the blueberry cheesecake I had was anything to go by, the cakes should be simply sinful.

On the opening evening, Natasha had laid out a very impressive spread of sweet and savoury bites of food. The dessert section consisted of Walnut Brownies with Hazelnut ganache, Blueberry Cheesecake, Creme Caramel, Rose Macaroons and Lemon Macaroons, Duet Panna cotta, Dark chocolate mini cupcakes and Lemon cupcakes with Italian buttercream. I don’t know if it’s because of the summer, but my favourites in the dessert section were the Lemon Macaroons and the Lemon cupcakes with Italian buttercream. Topping them both was the blueberry cheesecake. I’m not the biggest fan of all things blueberry, but the texture and subtle flavours of everything in this cake made it the highlight of the evening. Unfortunately, since I arrived a late, I got a single piece that Natasha and Ruth (www.bangaloresrestaurants.com) saved for me.

I was little more impressed with the savoury section which had Cucumber Mayonnaise Sandwiches, Chicken Chipotle Sandwiches, Tuna with Cranberry and Fresh Herbs Sandwiches, Creamy Red Wine Mushroom canapes with fresh Parsley, Citrus Prawn Canapes and Tomato Basil Bruschetta. My pick for the evening was the Tuna with Cranberry and Fresh Herbs Sandwiches and the Citrus Prawn Canapes, whose lovely blend of prawn with bits of pomegranate made me sigh as I popped in a fair number of them. (Note to self – Order twenty Prawn Canapes and eat them all by yourself).  

Located in Koramangala, the Choux Box is definitely one the more interesting additions to the growing bakery scene of Bangalore. Do check out the menu (attached below) and don’t forget to order blueberry cheesecake, along with the Citrus Prawn Canapes.

Guest Column, LBB- 5 things to do in New Orleans for music lovers

In this article I write about the music of New Orleans, which is accompanied by dancing, at almost every corner. Here are a few things to do in New Orleans that’ll have you going back for more.

Click here to read the entire article online.

Here's a transcript of the article

The Big Easy’ aka New Orleans, popularly known for being the birthplace of jazz, is a haven for music and dance lovers. Most of the best music can be found in The French Quarter of the city. With live music and dancing at almost every corner, there’s just so much to do. Here are a few things to do in New Orleans that’ll have you going back for more.

Move over Bourbon Street….To Frenchman Street

As time progressed, the vibe of New Orleans that emanated from the great music on Bourbon Street got lost. While the fame remains, the best music doesn’t. Most of the good music has moved to Frenchman Street. While some clubs charge a small entry fee, most of them enforce a one drink minimum rule. My picks from spending every evening on Frenchman Street would be Bamboula’s, The Spotted Cat Music Club and d.b.a. You’ll also find your fair share of brass bands and folk musicians playing on the street with no one competing for space. That being said, catch the bands playing at Musical Legends Park on Bourbon Street.

Watch The Street Performers At Jackson Square

Right in the heart of the historic French Quarter is Jackson Square which during the day is teeming with street musicians, palm readers and artists. With numerous styles from folk music, contemporary jazz, brass and rap, you’ll find more than enough top-quality music around the park at Jackson Square where you can easily spend all day. If you like what you see and hear, don’t forget to tip the performers.

Any Time Is Good For Dancing

New Orleans brings out the dancer in you, even if you have two left feet. You’ll find couples breaking into serious dance routines at the drop of a hat. Whether it’s a club playing swing music in the afternoon or a music festival, or even a simple brass band playing on the streets at midnight, you can be assured there will be dancing. This isn’t limited to a few clubs, but anywhere in the city where there is music. Feel free to join in. You should definitely check out Maison, Mimi’s in the Marigny and the Blue Nile for an awesome dance experience.

Vinyl Souvenirs From The City

The Louisiana Music Factory on Frenchman Street is a must-go for any music lover. Keeping the tradition of the old-school music stores alive, the folks at the place can help you discover some of the fabulous music that defined the history and present of New Orleans. Don’t forget to check out the $3 vinyl boxes which have an overwhelming collection of jazz, rock, blues and many more genres.

Food And Drink At The Late Night Eateries

New Orleans allows you to drink on the streets, as long as you use a plastic cup. So while checking out all the music, do have some of the fabulous local beers and cocktails give you company. Beer enthusiasts will have a plethora of choices when it comes to craft beer, so feel free to experiment. My pick is the Amber and Purple Haze, both from Abita breweries. Don’t miss out on picking up Hurricanes from the local stores, a strong cold cocktail guaranteed to light up your day. When it comes to food, don’t miss out on the food trucks that offer you way more options than your brain can process. My ritual to end every evening was to grab a bag of beignets from Cafe Du Monde that’s open 24 hours.

The Aayushi Karnik Trio at Blue Frog, B'lore

The Aayushi Karnik Trio was in town this weekend and I finally managed to catch the gig after missing the last few owing to work-related travel. Playing at the Blue Frog, (not one of my favourite venues in town), the band started just a little before 9 pm. Kicking off with a Beatles cover of Across the Universe, the band powered through a relatively mellow yet tight set. Aayushi Karnik is one of those musicians whose sheer talent and ease of playing her music more than makes up for her comparatively shy and quiet demeanor on stage. And that results in a no-nonsense, no-banter straight up clean blues gig. If you can't figure out what I'm saying, check her playing Voodoo Child. Legsang Sherpa on bass was meticulous, and I rather enjoyed his work on an impromptu jazz piece the band played. I wasn't particularly thrilled with his vocal contribution though.  Sudhakar Prabhu on drums was in charge of keeping things tight and define the boundaries with which Aayushi is allowed to do her thing. I was hoping for a drums solo bit.

All the seats in the house were full and everyone enthusiastically cheered the band on. It was refreshing to see a simple stripped down blues gig after quite some time. That being said, I think the band needs to look at a slightly bigger sound, maybe the introduce a horns or harmonica section that augments the current sound.

PS - We had Luke Kenny in the house who was probably the most vocal in cheering the band on and screaming out for an encore. 

An evening of Italian cooking with Master Chef Giuseppe Lioce at the Sheraton Culinary Academy

Aiming to bring chefs and food enthusiasts closer to one another, the Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel organized the Sheraton Culinary Academy. The purpose is to create an environment where chefs can talk about their philosophy around food, how they make dishes and showcase some of their work to food enthusiasts, almost like a master class from a popular TV show.   This evening saw us working with Chef Giuseppe Lioce, who recently moved to the city from the Westin and would be driving the kitchen at Bene. Like any Italian cook, Chef Giuseppe is very passionate about the food he makes and the flavours from back home in Southern Italy which he’s looking to showcase over the next one year. 

The evening began with us being shown how to prepare the Panzerotti Pugliesi, and traditional Aulia calzone. While the end product looked fairly simple with a filling of tomato and buffalo mozzarella, the effort and precision that went into making the dish was something else. Right from kneading the dough to getting the filling spot on, the dish is deceptively simple to someone like me who doesn’t cook a whole lot. Traditionally, the dough alone has to sit for about two hours before it hits the texture needed to make this a superb dish (which immediately puts it off my radar of cooking; my window of patience is about 25 minutes). Shallow fried and served with a helping of balsamic caviar, the Panzerotti Pugliesi is a tasty little bite.

The next dish for the evening was the Cavatelli al pesto. While the sauce was a simple, yet very flavourful pesto sauce, this dish introduced me to the cavatelli pasta. Being someone who sticks to buying pasta off the shelf (PS – Even Marco Pierre White does it, so don’t roll your eyes), making pasta from scratch was a bit of a challenge. Taking a step back in time, Chef Giuseppe decided to do away with electric equipment and brought out the mortar and pestle. One of things I do admire is Chef Giuseppe’s appreciation for the older traditional ways of making food, like how our grandmothers would make, over contemporary methods that don’t always give you the best flavours. Relatively quick and easy to make, the pasta was served up with fresh ricotta and some ground garlic powder. I wasn’t a big fan of the garlic which overpowered the flavour of the freshly-made pesto sauce, an opinion others present did not share with me. 

The final course for the evening was the Biscotti di Mandorle, more easily known as the Italian almond biscuit. Fairly simple to bake, these buttery drops of heaven were presented with ricotta ice cream in a neat little dessert that vanished the moment it was placed in front of us.

If the evening was anything to go by, we can definitely expect some fabulous cooking from Chef Giuseppe with strong traditional Italian flavours coming through every dish. The rest of the evening was spent by the poolside discussing food and India over some canapes and cocktails. Do get in touch with me if you’re looking for recipes from this post.

Windoze at Bflat

In the post below are some of the pictures I took of Windoze, who played at Bflat in Bengaluru. The band were joined on stage by special guests, Ananth Menon and Vasudev Prabhu from By2Blues, and Sylvester's fellow 'The Stage' contestant, Rupin Pahwa.