Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mezzogiorno: Romancing the South of Italy at JW Marriott

When I received an invite for an exclusive dinner with Chef Davide Cananzi of Mezzo Mezzo, showcasing South Italian cuisine, I realised, I just saw Italy has a whole. While I understand the subtle nuances of regional cuisine in several other parts of Europe, I'd never actually discovered that about Italy. And was I in for a surprise.

A table of chattering and excited food bloggers were brought to complete silence as antipasti and cocktails were announced, as each of us excitedly pulled out our cameras and walked towards the bar. There, lying in wait for us was a sumptuous spread.  It really was an antipasti (the antidote to pasta, because I doubt we'd have any appetite left for pasta once we were done making our way through this vast repertoire of Chef Davide's appetizers)

The antipasti
Fellow bloggers clicking away
What lay before us was several different kinds of salads, cheeses, breads, hams, olives and candied and pickled fruit. Chef Davide talked us through them, as we cradled chilled flutes of a beautiful  Prosecco that was everything I'd imagined Prosecco to be, fresh, light, and just the right amount of sweet.

Cheese. Spread.
And more bread
Say Cheese!
Once we got started, there was no stopping us. I made a beeline for the Mortadella, Proscuitto, an Italian version of Chorizo, and some sweet juicy olives. Service came with a vengeance, and several of us found our hands and plates full to an unmanageable extent. But none of us were complaining. Piping hot Arancini, Pizzas, Baked Mussels just kept on arriving as we milled about, discovering some beautiful flavours. What really took me by surprise was the seafood salad with sea bass. As a seafood lover, I couldn't imagine that a seafood dish could take me by surprise, but this was unbelievably light and fresh, and I could almost taste the sea in every forkful.

Pigging out on pig!
Beautiful Olives
Chef Davide talking us through the Antipasti
A slice from every season
I managed to pull Chef Davide aside for a quick tete a tete, where he revealed to me, that this menu was inspired by his roots, the time he spent in Sardinia  and Catania with his mom who was his first Executive Chef. He intended on serving the mains the way they would in a traditional Italian household, brought in pans straight off the fire onto the table. This time, you could tell it wasn't the chef speaking from his years of culinary excellence, just a boy from the South of Italy speaking of his mother, their roots, and the purest thing we all know- home cooked food.

Don't let the pose fool you, he's anything but coy!
Grabbing a bit of cheese, bread, an interesting 4 fruit mustard and a glass of white, we returned to our tables, awaiting the mains. And they came at us at a frenzied pace. Vegetarian Fusilli and Rigatoni (which I probably didn't get too excited about because it didn't have any meat) the wondrous pork spaghetti that made all of us wonder why our tomato sauces at home never turned out this good,  a beautiful seafood risotto (of which I had seconds) a really nice mushroom risotto, and a lovely chicken in herbed lemon sauce.

First came the veggies
Chef D presenting the next course
And then my plate was full!
But more just kept on coming
By the time dessert came around, we really were stuffed. But one look at that beautiful Cassata threatening to melt if I didn't devour it at once, got me back in the game. The sponge was light and airy, the chocolate ice cream deviously dark and salty! Winning combination. The jam tart too was rather nice, but probably too rich given how stuffed I was. However the tart base was absolutely brilliant.

Dessert, threatening to melt
Old friends, new friends, bloggers, foodies, we all finally tottered out, our bellies full of food that hadn't just touched our tastebuds and made them tingle with pleasure but also touched our hearts, and pulled at that little something called Nostalgia. Thank you Chef Davide for inviting us to your home, as well as the Marketing and PR teams at JW Marriott for making this possible with such efficiency.

Mezzogiorno: A parade of flavours from Southern Italy is on at JW Marriott Mumbai's Italian restaurant - Mezzo Mezzo until the 3rd of November 2013. Go give it a whirl.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Coorg Food Festival at South of the Vindhyas: As rare as an Orchid

Coorg food is a pretty well kept secret of South India. I've been lucky to have come across it thanks to a couple of Coorg friends. I've drooled over the delectable Pandhi Curry (which is a slow cooked Pork in a fabulously dark masala that's almost black).

So when The Orchid Hotel in Mumbai was hosting a Coorg Food Festival in their restaurant - The South of Vindhyas, we had to go! The place had a beautiful ambiance that transported us to South India almost immediately. Soft piped music, bright silk and zari place settings, authentic tableware, washing our hands in rose water, leaf plates, it was all authentically luxe. 

The luxe place setting
This was a seated buffet (a fixed menu, if you please) where I chose the Seafood menu and the husband naturally, the non-veg meat menu.

First up was some great buttermilk (that almost served as a warning of the spiciness of the food to come) with fried papads and then a bowl of rasam (which was like a really spicy meat stock, with a few pieces of meat). The starters were quite nice, with Meen Bharthad (shallow fried tamarind fish), Meen cutlet, Prawns Bharthad and more. 

Meen Bharthad
Prawns Bharthad
And then we dug into the mains, as food just kept appearing at our table, and I was at a constant battle with myself over which to eat at every morsel. Bowls of fish curries, prawns curry, stir fried prawn, crab, mixed vegetables and more lined my plate while the appams kept coming. Until finally I knew I had to stop. So I had some steamed rice, to try and finish at least half the curry in my plate. I couldn't decide which was the best, but the Meen curry and the Prawn curry were both especially delectable. 
We finished off our meal with curd rice in typical South Indian style, followed up with an extremely rich and sweet kheer. 

Koli Curry
Koomu Curry
By the time we were done, we were in an absolute food coma, and I looked at my plate in horror, I'd barely managed to finish half of it. We sat there for a while, unable to move, and finally, reluctantly but necessarily, stepped away from our table. While I did feel a bit disappointed at the beginning of the meal when I found out there was no Pandhi Curry, by the end of the meal, I was so satiated by everything else, I completely forgot all about the Pandhi Curry. Food festival or not, we'll most definitely be returning to the South of Vindhyas pretty soon. Once we've lost at least some of the weight we put on that sunny afternoon.

The Coorg Food Festival is on from 20th Sept to 29th Sept 2013
South of the Vindhyas, The Orchid Mumbai, Adjacent to the Domestic Airport
They refresh their menu every day through the festival, so the menu available on the day you visit, may differ from the dishes shown here.
For reservations, call 022-26164040 Ext. 4060

While this post was made possible thanks to the people at South of the Vindhyas, The Orchid Hotel Mumbai, the views as always, are my own. Photos partly my own, partly provided by the restaurant management.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

DIY Decor: Tugging at my heart strings

I'd seen this DIY over at Craftgawker a while ago, and it was one of those things that remained in my perpetual "must do, one rainy day" list. A while back, we had some friends staying with us, and with the boys being lost in cyberspace setting up their websites and what not, us girls decided to have an afternoon of fun. 

While I most certainly didn't want something as girly as a pink heart, I thought about what I love the most. Something I'd never tire of seeing again and again, every single day. And it had to be something he liked as well. That's when it struck me, Parisian motifs. Most definitely the prototype was staring at me from our shelf.

So we sanded and sprayed 3 really cheap pieces of ply (which we picked up at a store down the road)

Then we tacked pins using a hand-drawn design (protecting the board with newspaper)

Pulling off the newspaper, here's what our design looked like.

Then we started with a bright yellow embroidery thread. Just crisscrossing our way through. 

It wasn't always easy, and we often had to backtrack coz one of us missed a nail, or a turn.

Satisfied, when we compared our pieces. 

And then we went on to the others.

And another.

And voila, it was ready to adorn my walls!

Is there any home project you're exceptionally proud of? Anything that you've been postponing indefinitely? Now's certainly the time to do it!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Home Label - Sunday Blues

This was a wonderful weekend. Some good food with good wine and good conversation with good friends. But what made it even more wonderful was The Home Label. I've shopped from The Closet Label before, and absolutely loved their select but extremely unique collection. No matter what one may say about star wives and celeb circles, these guys have got their design aesthetic bang on.

A wonderful rug and floor cushion arrived when I was out at lunch, and absolutely made my afternoon. I love things that come packaged in soft tissue or gold embossed butter paper! Even more when it comes with a lovely note that made me smile. Ideally, I'd use these nautical stripes in a completely different setting, one that involved blues and whites and was visually much lighter, roomy and airy. After much debate, we decided to use the rug in the hall, where at first I wondered if it would clash with the black and rainbow decor but I think it's got a nice refreshing touch to it. It balances out the room much better than the previous ivory fur rug.

These pieces are a part of the 15 RAITAN collection at The Home Label. The 15 Raitan Braided Rug is available for Rs. 6999 and the 15 Raitan Floor Cushion is at Rs. 3215. You can view and purchase the entire collection here.

Have you discovered a new designer or home store recently? Share your experience!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mudd Spa: A necessary indulgence

We all have that once (or two, or three) indulgence that we're addicted to. We keep telling ourselves its an indulgence, not something that we can afford to make a habit, but that's where the addiction kicks in. Mine is the Mudd Spa. 

While I love spas, Mudd is just something else for me, for when I'm craving a day at Mudd, no other spa will do. A day? Yes. A day. Their delectable menu has so much to offer, I always end up saying, "Oh maybe I'll do this as well, and then the Mudd Glow, oh and possibly a Scrub, what's that? You have a package? Ok sure then throw both those in as well," and before I know it, an entire day has passed. 

An entire day of being cut off from the rest of the world given that they don't get very good mobile signal inside. They do however have WiFi should you wish to while your time between treatments. I prefer to take in my environment (their decor really is gorgeous, or the piped music, or just the soft dim glow of the lights in the room). 

My favourite treatment room for massages and scrubs
The view while lying in the facial room
Mudd also stocks their own products
A chai break from all the prettying up
My favourite red chair for Mani-Pedis near the reception
My favourite picks from their extensive menu:
  • The Paraffin wax Mani-Pedi leaves your digits soft, moisturised and shiny!
  • The Granular Body Scrub leaves your skin smooth, soft and addictive to touch!
  • They have a wide range of Cleanups and Facials, and the Aqua Mudd Glow is amazing!

It's always best to call ahead so they can plan your session for you, and don't forget to take a break and sit on their terrace, enjoying the sea breeze for a while.

Mudd Salon & Day Spa
Sea Bird Building, Byramji Jeejeebhoy road, Bandra west, Mumbai 400 050
022 2645 3309

Sephora, mon amour

My first trip to Paris involved me stopping at every store on Champs Elysees, and peering through the window. The french translation of window shopping is quite literally "Window Licking" and that's practically what I would do, with the world's finest fashion brands with their gorgeous window displays before me. And then, I stopped outside one store. I felt transfixed as the heaviest most intoxicating fragrances wafted towards my nose and filled my lungs. Almost as if in a haze, I walked in, being carried by the smell of a million perfumes.

The Sephora store on Champs Elysees
And that was how I found myself inside Sephora for the first time. I've returned on subsequent trips, to get my fix of their in-house brand. (Sephora also stocks other international brands) Row after row of rainbow colours, every imaginable fragrance ingredient and flavour of Shower Gel, Body Scrub, Body Butter, Mist Perfume, Soap, Bath Bubbles and more. When I found myself in Paris, on Champs Elysees, on my birthday (as a beautiful surprise from my husband), I couldn't help myself. I dropped tube after tube into my shopping basket. Mango Body Scrub, Mango Shower Gel, Vanilla Shower Gel, Coconut Shower Gel, it all went in. As did the Mango Body Butter.

A rainbow shower
Mango season
The last time I shopped at Sephora, I picked up an eyeliner (that just didn't compare to my classic favourite - the Revlon eye pencil, that I've been using for years) and a foundation. The foundation however, turned out to be far too dark (maybe I got fairer through that winter in Paris) so I mix it with my L'oreal True Match Super Blendable Makeup Foundation (which is a bit too light) and my Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock - SPF 50.

But this time, I was prepared. I knew exactly what I wanted to buy from the Face section at Sephora. In went the Purifying Cleansing Gel (which may feel slimy, but it washes everything off without drying my skin) an SPF 50+ Sunscreen Face Lotion, and the one thing I'd been holding out for. BB Creams have hit Indian markets and beauty magazines only in the past year, and I wanted to wait to buy the right one. Buying the BB Moisturising Cream SPF 15 at Sephora, just felt right.

A face arsenal
Oh, and did I mention it was my birthday? One of the staff members came up to me and tried to get me to fill a loyalty form, I was really glad to have someone to practice my french on, and obliged. My ears perked up when she mentioned something about me getting something since it was my birthday, and sure enough, when I showed that card at the billing counter, in went loads of free sample sachets, my choice of nailpolish (I love this shade, it's nuder than nude, it's almost non-existent) and nailpolish remover (that works superfast, it's perfect for rushed mornings).

Naked nude
Smooth & fast
I also picked up some gifts and other things from Sephora that day. The next week, in Barcelona, I averted my eyes each time I passed a Sephora, feeling supremely guilty for the no-holds-barred spree I'd already indulged in. And now that I'm back in Mumbai, I wish I had done another round.

So this is my open letter to Sephora, please please please open a store in Mumbai. Delhi just doesn't cut it. You've got one die hard loyal customer here for sure.

Do you have a favourite brand, that you always stock up on when you travel? 

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