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 ( 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.

The German Food Festival at Feast, Sheraton Grand

It’s time for the Oktober Fest! And celebrating it, the Feast at Sheraton Grand Bangalore put together a German food festival, which for someone with my tastes, was simple brilliant thanks to all the non-vegetarian. Let’s be honest Paneer Bratwurst just doesn’t cut it. Our meal began with two classic German sausages – The Bratwurst and the Knackwurst. The former is a German classic and I was happy that they had the stronger whole mustard sauce when I asked for it. This went really well with the little helpings of Sauerkraut and red cabbage that I had to balance out the flavour. The Knackwurst was a little more flavourful and had a nice cracking skin on the outside that gave it just a little most zest than the bratwurst.

Next up was the lentils soup with sausage. For me, the problem with anything with lentil is that I ultimately dumb it down to either a daal or a rasam because that’s what it tastes to me. The soup was nothing to write home about and we quickly moved on. We were served the Bacon wrapped meatloaf with boiled egg and creamy sauce. Traditionally, meatloaf is a heavy dish that stands alone by itself. However, the chef had ensured that the dish was kept light and was served in smaller portions to ensure people don’t make a meal out of that. Nice light flavour, but nothing that knocked my socks off. On the contrary, the vegetarian variant - Bread dumpling with creamy mushroom sauce has a nice mushroom and light pepper flavour to it. I did go back for a second helping of this dish because it ticked all the boxes in terms of flavour and presentation.

Before we continued with more of the main course, we tried out some of the salads.  The Pasta salad with green peas and cooked ham, the Potato salad with egg and mayonnaise and the Pickled cucumber salad with dill were my favourites. The Potato salad became a constant on my plate from the first bite.

Next up was Beef roulades with sauce. While the beef was a little tougher than what I was expecting and it took a bit of chewing to break this down, the dark sauce was quite tasty and drove the flavour of the meat. I was hoping that the roulade would have held a little more flavour.  The Chicken schnitzel with lemon was nice crunchy piece of chicken that was very light and if not checked can cause one to overindulge.

Considering the amount of knackwurst I had tucked in, I wasn’t left with much space for dessert. I served myself very small portions of the Red berry compote with Vanilla Sauce and the Strudel with vanilla sauce. The desserts offered a familiar flavour that one would expect, but nothing noteworthy. You would have noticed that I’ve not mentioned any beer in the entire post. Quite simple, this was a food festival and not a beer festival. That being said, I was hoping to try at least one imported German beer this evening just to complete the entire package.

The final verdict – the German food festival doesn’t offer anything to the vegetarians on account of the nature of the cuisine. But for those who enjoy sausages and meats, do try and catch the festival before it closes on the 4th of October . The spread is relatively limited compared to previous food festivals at Feast, some of the flavours have been tempered down to suit the Indian palate and the absence of German styled beers leaves just a little to be desired. Do catch the spread if you’re in the area.

"The Cuisine of the Navaithas" at the Cubbon Pavilion at ITC Gardenia

As a part of their ‘Kitchens of India’ theme, ITC Gardenia introduced the "The Cuisine of the Navaithas" - a culinary treat whose origins date back to the time of Tipu Sultan. A quick history lesson before we get into what was offered on fare; the Navaitha Muslims are an Urdu speaking community from Gingee who were brought to fill the barracks of the British army in the war against Tipu Sultan.  They chose to stay back and resided in what we now know as Shivajinagar in Bengaluru. The flavours that this community introduced are an integral part of the city’s food culture.

We began the evening with a plate of Fried Chicken Kabab. Those familiar with Bengaluru would recognize this particular taste, especially from a lot of smaller outlets in the city. The kabab was spot –on in terms of spiciness and was just lightly over-fried to give it a familiar crunch. We also tried the Brain Tawa Masala. I’m not the biggest fan of brain ( I know some of you just went,” That’s evident since you hardly use what you already have!”), this dish didn’t do much to win me over. The texture was rather mushy unlike some of the other variants I’ve had elsewhere which tend to have the consistency of scrambled eggs. I guess we’ll have to check with Dr.Hannibal Lector on what’s the ideal consistency. The Tala Macchi was not too bad either. Among the vegetarian appetizers, I tried the Jimikand ke Kabab. While the taste was good, the initial attack of ghee was a tad unpleasant.

Chicken Kabab

Brain Tawa Masala

Tala Macchi

Jimikand Ke kabab

Next up was one of the stars of the meal – the Paya Khamiri. The broth in this paya soup had oodles of flavour that hit all the right notes with the pepper taste being just a tad more prominent than the other flavours. The meat on the bone was cooked to perfection; it came off the bone with just a spoon and easily melted in my mouth. Two thumbs up for this beautiful dish.

Paya Khamiri

The main-course was spread over twelve vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. First the not-so-good stuff before I get into what really caught my attention. Being a big fan of prawn, I started off with the Palak Prawn. I wasn’t pleased with the overall flavour and felt uncomfortable with the texture of the prawns which I thought was inconsistent. The Seen Ghosht was a familiar mildly spicy taste that I’ve had before but did not pack the punch I was expecting. One dish that I did enjoy, but had mixed responses across the table was the Mahi Sukha. This fried fish was cooked very well and the outer layer held the right amount of crunch. With a dash of lemon, the citrus flavour with the spiciness of the outer layer was tasty. Others however said that there was no spice on their fish. I guess I got lucky. The Dum ki Tangdi was one of the highlights among the non-vegetarian dishes for me. The chicken leg was cooked perfectly, as was the gravy which tasted almost like a cashew-based gravy but was not.

Mahi Sukha

Palak Prawn and Seen Ghosht

Dum ki Tangdi

The vegetarian section consisted of Tamatar ka dalcha, Besan wale paneer, Soppu saagu, Denta Soppu and other dishes, many of which are quite common to Bengaluru today. Good tastes, but nothing that caught my attention and made me go ‘Oh Wow’. But standing tall above all, was one particular dish that joined the paya on the winner’s podium. This dish was the Soya Lauki. On a regular day, I wouldn’t touch lauki with a ten foot pole. But the flavours that went into this dish muted the taste of the dreaded vegetable and infused some crunch into the same. The main-course ended with some Gosht Timatar biryani. The rice had excellent flavours and had the right amount of spice which was consistent through the meat and the rice. Tender meat and great flavour put this dish on the winner’s podium to complete my top three dishes from the evening.

Soya Lauki

Ghosht Timatar Biryani

I’m not the biggest fan of a lot of Indian desserts (yes yes…food snob and all that), so I had a few bites of what was on the spread. One dessert that did have a very interesting flavour was the Ginger Cream Rossagulla. While I was expecting the cream on top to have a ginger flavour,  it turned out that the juice of the rossagulla held a strong ginger flavour that almost killed the sugary taste of the actual dish. I’m still at odds as to whether this was ethically the right thing to do to an Indian classic like the rossagulla. 

Ginger Cream Rossagulla

Final verdict, I really enjoyed the concept of the entire festival. Food is probably one of the greatest history books one can ever indulge themselves in as it says a lot about the culture of a place. A lot of the dishes offered familiar tastes to someone like me who has been in the city for two decades. My top three picks from the fare would be  the Gosht Timatar biryani,the Soya Lauki and the Paya Khamiri, in ascending order. 

Food Pix: From Las Vegas (Pt. 3 of 4)

I've never been a fan of pancakes. But then again, I've never been to IHOP. While I was putting together my list of places to eat at while in Vegas, IHOP was among the top three. Numerous folks returning from the U.S have raved about the overly large quantities of food during the IHOP breakfast. I went in at around ten in the morning, filled with supreme confidence that I would be able to tackle the breakfast. Once again, the nice folks in America have proven that I am the Jon Snow of eating... I can't eat nothing.

I ordered the Hearty Ham & Cheese Omelette while my colleague who had come along ordered a Garden Omelette. Now, this is where I should have known that I was going to eat humble pie (pun intended) because every helping comes with a stack of four really large pancakes. I'm used to much thinner omelettes and pancakes here in India, but this was not something I expected.

The delightful waitress brought over enough food to feed a family of four in India. The omelette I had ordered was about two-inches thick and was covered in so much cheese that the egg was not visible. One cut it open to to be overwhelmed by large chunks of ham and enough cheddar cheese that the mere sight of it clogged an artery. But oh my lord, it tasted so good. The omelette had a consistent taste of cheese and ham right through with every bite tasting exactly the same. I was only about forty percent through when I could take no more cheese. Being someone who used to lick the cream between biscuits, I started picking out just the ham and was able to eat five more percent of the omelette.

Ham & Cheese Omelette

Ham & Cheese Omelette

Adding to that, the buttermilk pancakes were just delicious. I tried all the varieties of syrups that were given. I'm not sure if it's all the marketing that has my brain wired, but I found maple syrup to be my favourite. I struggled and managed to claw my way through one and a half pancakes before throwing down my utensils and surrendering. 

Buttermilk Pancakes

All the syrups

Garden Omelette

I got the rest of the meal packed and gave it to a homeless person outside the IHOP who was ecstatic and kept thanking me till the end of the block. It's nice two know two people that morning had full bellies.

Food Pix: From Las Vegas (Pt.1 of 4)

While I was hoping to have a lot more food related pictures from my office-sponsored trip to Vegas, I ended up eating at some standard joints since time ( and money) was a bit tight. Nevertheless, here are some of the lovely (and supremely fattening) food I had during my eight days in Las Vegas. 

I was fortunate to have a Denny's right next door to the motel I was put up at. Why fortunate? Because the food at the conference I had gone for was probably the worst tasting thing I've had in ages. Different versions of bread and even more raw vegetables.... I don't know how folks there survive with no spice or flavour in their lives. The 24-hour Denny's was a big savior as it ensured I got at least one good meal a day. Besides the supremely cheesy omelette , the highlight was the Jack Daniels Steak which...well...Jack Daniels. Need I say more. Here are some pictures from the meals I had at Denny's.

The Jack Daniels Steak

Food Mood: Aperitivo Evening with Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Bang at Ritz Carlton, B'lore

I was recently invited to an Aperitivo Evening sponsored by Peroni Nastro Azzurro at the Bang located at the Ritz Carlton. This was the first time I have been to the fabulous venue here and simply loved everything about the location. Towering over the centre of Bangalore, the venue was apt for an evening of fine Peroni beer along with some fabulous Italian appetizers. I also got to take look at some of the art work by Shola Carletti, an Italian painter and sculptor. My knowledge of art is limited to doodles and comic books, so lest I come across as a philistine, I’d better not comment on the same. 

As far as the appetizers go, Chef Anupam had put together an excellent fare. I really enjoyed this little starter made out of duck and fig. The little pastry had three distinct flavours as you bite through. The immediate flavour is that of the fig. This slowly gets replaced by the taste of the duck and finally the taste of the pastry. I also enjoyed an appetizer which had a prawn over a shot glass, the contents of which were beer and tomato extract. The shot itself wasn’t strong, but the taste complemented the prawn excellently. There were numerous other appetizers that evening. An excellent end to the evening was the Tiramisu which was made fresh and left a fabulous taste in the mouth.  Overall, it was a fun evening of meeting people, copious amounts of Peroni beer, great food and great music. Here are some pictures from the evening.

Chef Anupam (center) with fellow food bloggers Natasha and Nitin

Food Mood: Chinita, B'lore

A bunch of friends and I were looking to try out some Mexican food on a Sunday afternoon. Having visited most of the places in our vicinity, we chose to drive up to Indiranagar to try out Chinita. We had heard so much about it from various people. We arrived to find the place packed and two parties waiting ahead of us to get a table. Since we had driven all the way, we decided to just wait. I’m quite delighted that we didn’t choose to go elsewhere.

When we got a table after about twenty minutes, we immediately ordered some Fresh Lime Sodas and I tried the Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate. (Well, we all know my love for Hot Chocolate). While the drink could have been a little hotter, the level of spice with the chocolate was a very interesting flavour. I’m not too sure how many people would take a liking to this drink though.  I’ve tried spicy chocolates before, but this was not as disappointing.  After a night of drinking, this was quite refreshing.

Fresh Lime Soda

Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate

We started out with a plate of Veg Quesadilla. I must say that this is one cheesy guilty pleasure. Coupled with the dips (which were the highlight of every dish of the meal), this is a definite must have. The dish meets the right balance of crispiness and softness and the hot cheese just melts in your mouth. We also ordered for a plate of Grilled Corn. This was yet another spicy yet cheesy treat of sweet corn on the cob. Just add a dash of lemon to this and go crazy.

Veg Quesadilla

Grilled Corn
My friend ordered the Burrito Bowl with Grilled Beef. While the Burrito Bowl is the Mexican cousin of our Rajma-chaawal, the beef was grilled quite well and despite being slightly large in size was not overly chewy. The salsa added a nice zing to the dish. We ordered a burrito and some tacos as well. I ordered the Tostadas with the Pan-seared Prawns. While this is a rather messy dish to eat because the tortilla base is very thin, it has a very interesting albeit not-so-spicy flavour thanks to the combination of the red cabbage and mayo. I added some of the spicy Habanero dip to it to give it a little more kick. But that’s a personal choice since I prefer my Mexican food to be on the spicier side.

Burrito Bowl

Tostadas with Pan-Seared Prawns

During our meal, we got to speak to Candice Lock Mirchandani, one of the owners who turned out to have a Kuala Lumpur connection with one of my friends who had joined us, who stays in KL. They got into an intense discussion on why the habanero chillies here are nothing compared to what they get in the U.S and discussed how they could turn the Tex-mex style of the restaurant into a hardcore Mexican styled joint. She even whipped up her spiciest batch of Habanero sauce, to which both agreed fell very short of the usual spicy standards of the chilly that was available elsewhere.

For the dessert, we tried the Flan which was not memorable at all. But the hit of the entire meal was the Chocolate Chilli Cake with Ice Cream. I implore you, dear reader, to head to this place to try this dish over the weekend. While some might find the thought of combing the two distinct flavours into a dessert uncomfortable, this dessert just blew my mind apart. The spiciness of the cake hits the front of your tongue immediately. As you swallow the piece, it is quickly replaced by the nice cocoa flavour of the chocolate on the centre of your tongue. The ice cream is a definite requirement for someone who can’t handle too much spice. This cake was a perfect way to close the meal.


Chilli Chocolate Cake with Ice Cream

Overall, while Chinita is a small restaurant, it’s a refreshing taste from a lot of the larger Tex-mex brands in the city. I am definitely going back to try out other dishes on the menu, but more importantly, to have the Chilli Chocolate Cake. If I had to point out something I felt was lacking, I do wish they would try to go towards the more mainstream Mexican style of cooking and drift away from the milder Tex-Mex style of food. Other than that,  Chinita is my new favourite place for Mexican food.

Food Mood: Apertivo at Serafina. Bengaluru

Serafina (Bengaluru) had invited a few bloggers and me to partake in their version, or Italy’s version, of the happy hour, known as “Apertivo”. But unlike the better known buy-1-get-1-free happy hour, this is a more polished affair with pre-dinner cocktails and bite-sized appetizers to set the mood for dinner. Traditionally, the Apertivo starts just after working hours.

We started our evening with a Campari Spritz which is extremely light on the palette and offers a refreshing taste each time. However, as someone who prefers a stronger drink, this cocktail wasn’t my favourite. But it is an ideal drink for someone looking at something light to accompany their appetizers. Speaking of which, we started out with two salads. The first was an Insalate Rinforzo. (Yes, it does sound like the name of a rather rugged 4x4).  The salad is a traditional Neapolitan Christmas-Eve cold salad.  Traditionally made of pickled cauliflower, olives, pickled peppers and capers, the salad was a completely new taste to me. I was told that it goes best with the heavier meats and is traditionally had between bites to ensure the mouth is cleansed to allow one to savour the sauces of the meat better. The first thought in my head was ‘I need pork ribs to be sure of this claim’. The second salad had a more familiar taste and was a mix of tomatoes, onion, beans and various grains. It was on the sweeter side and the grains gave it the taste more suited to the Indian taste bud.

Campari Spritz

Insalate Rinforzo

Grains and veggie salad

We were offered two varieties of sangria – a white wine sangria with thyme and a red wine with rosemary. I chose the former and instantly took a liking to the taste. The thyme offers a nice herbal tinge in the end as the wine goes down your throat. Made cold to just the right temperature, this was definitely a good choice considering I traditionally favour red wine over white.

White Wine Sangria with Thyme
Next up was the cheese platter which had way too many varieties of cheese for me to pronounce or recognize. I’ll take a shot though. The platter comes with Parmigiano Reggiano, Smoked Scarmoza, Provolone Piccante, Gorgonzola Dolce, Pecorio Romano accompanied with Balsamic reduction, wine poached pear, onion crackers, candied walnuts, olives and fig pate. Phew!!!

Cheese Platter
I’m not an avid cheese connoisseur so I symbolically tried a few. What I do know about cheese is about mozzarella, and that’s primarily because of my sordid love affair with pizza. Fresh-made mozzarella is hard to find and that can make or break a pizza. Owing to a very short shelf-life, fresh mozzarella cheese is hard to transport over long distances. Lucky for Bengaluru, we have a cheese-maker in town and Serafina have been spot-on to use fresh cheese that makes a world of difference. This was evident in the refreshing taste of the Caprese Skewers which consisted of fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and Basil. This light snack will definitely hit the right spot thanks to the cheese.

Caprese Skewers
We then tried the Sausage Pizza rolls which were fresh out of the oven. Rolled with garlic pork sausages and broccoli the pizza rolls were scrumptious. Equally tasty were the Gamberi Fritti (Shrimp popcorn) and the Mozzarella Sandwiches. I also got a taste of the Negroni, which despite having the milder Campari, was a decently strong cocktail. There was also a rather healthy Citrus Salad up for grabs. I was not a fan of that. So I won’t say anything cruel.

Sausage Pizza Rolls

Sausage Pizza Rolls

Shrimp Popcorn

Mozarella Sandwiches
Now for the crowning glory of the entire meal. Well, this time we have two. The first is the pan-fried Chicken Wings. While this isn’t the traditional spicy wings that I’ve gotten used to, the wings were the best I’ve had in a long time. Countries could go to war thanks to these wings. The first plate that was brought out was polished off almost instantaneously. So everyone was careful enough when the second plate came out to take their time and relish every bite, occasionally turning to the person next to them to say with a mouthful,”These are awesome”. When you head to Serafina, don’t forget to ask for this. The pan frying and the sauce on top make this an excellent meal al by itself. Go ahead, pamper yourself...order two plates!

Chicken Wings
The next awesome part of the meal was a cocktail known as A Monk’s Sin. Made up of dark rum, chocolate ganache, banana and whip and served in a shot glass, this is one yummy cocktail. While some of you might raise an eyebrow at the combination of the ingredients, none of them have an overwhelming taste. This cocktail is lighter than having a Bailey’s Irish shot, but it has a fun taste to it.
Monk's Sin
Our evening ended with a simple Pizza Primavera. Hand stretched and baked on a stone-hearth, the topping offered fresh tomato, fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese and garden vegetables. This was an enjoyable thin crust pizza. I do however, need to go back and try the pizza separately because I kept fantasising about the chicken wings.

Pizza Primavera
The ambience of Serafina is quite simple and pleasing. All the paintings on the wall are done by a single artistic team responsible for the look and feel of Serafina restaurants world over. The place can seat about 140 people, but still seems quite spread out. There is a rather cute outdoor area on the first floor that’s ideal for a small gathering. 

The Apertivo is available on weekdays between 4 pm and 7 pm. While I don’t have the prices with me, the experience was really nice and is something folks must try out. I do believe they might be extending the same to the weekend to ensure everyone in Bengaluru gets a taste of what Serafina has to offer.