I write from Paradise. There’s no other word that describes the feeling of being amid lush green nature in the heart of throbbing, cacophonic Manhattan. And even more tempting in the “Big apple” is the gourmet picnic fare that seduces with it’s masterful flavors and tastes. Each dish unerringly made by the brilliant and exceptionally gifted chef Ashfer Biju.
I love picnics and ever since my childhood have gone on one at the drop of a hat. But this is my most spectacular and memorable picnic ever. Interestingly, picnics have been a part of history and art and literature too. Did you know that in 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast in France? This was to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. Even here, in the United States, the 4 July celebrate American independence is a popular day for a picnic. In Italy, the favorite picnic day is Easter Monday. The energy and abundance of nature infuses itself into the food and whoa! What amazing chemistry takes place. And when there is a maestro orchestrating the goodies in the picnic basket then even more magic happens.
BIJUS BEJEWELLED BREAKFAST
Kudos to Ashfer Biju, this young Indian chef who has captivated the highly sophisticated tastebuds of New Yorkers. Ofcourse, he has gourmet genes: his father had a highly popular restaurant in Hyderabad still runs a super restaurant in Malaysia and chef Biju started cooking in his teens.
Not only did this young Executive chef start off by wining the National Level Young Chef’s Competition, in Mauritius but has continued to be showered by accolades and awards. Nationally and internationally. Having worked in many a Leading Hotel of the world he now heads up the iconic Pierre hotel. Here elegant history and glamor tango with modern high-tech luxury. Not only has it played host to royalty and state heads but many a Hollywood star like Elizabeth Taylor have made it their home for several years. It is here in their cutting edge TwoE that he has introduced many an amazing flavor palatte. Two e goes classic, Classic reinterpreted and many such spectacular dishes blitz the tastebuds here. And chef Michael Mignano’s dessert menu also dazzles, with it’s sorbet samplers and more. Interestingly, Pierre also offers Mediterranean vegetable-based dishes, Indian vegetarian, vegan Halal, gluten-free and Kosher meals too.
Through the various menus this brilliant young chef’s passion for traveling and exploring different ethnic cultures, cuisines and people shines through.
His interest in Ayurveda and Medicinal Cooking keeps him evolving amazing recipes too.
Chef Biju has an impressive roster of international work, from Kreo-Asian Food Promotion at Hotel Palace, Luzern to
training at “Claridges Hotel”
“Mosimann’s Club” London.
Chef Biju’s culinary training is rooted in the French and Basque regions. Interestingly, The Pierre has a huge and impressive culinary history. It opened in 1930 serving food in the classic French style, initiated by celebrated Master Chef Escoffier who developed the original menus. That tradition continues. And Chef Biju brings to the table amazing and dazzling flavors and textures. Our picninc basket too overflows with tasty magic…I request for the recipe of the superb buttermilk pancakes and end with the wish “Ma your life be a picnic always”.
Silver Dollar Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes 25 tiny pancakes (the size of silver dollars)
2 cups refined flour sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 ea large eggs yolks & whites separated
2 tbl sp powdered sugar
2 tsp melted butter
¼ tsp icing sugar for garnish
10 ea strawberries for garnish
1 cup maple syrup as accompaniment
1 cup chocolate chips optional
1 cup blue berries optional
Method of preparation:
- Pre-heat a griddle or a non stick pan to medium high heat, lightly smear with oil (or use pan spray) and wipe off completely. There should not be any residual oil on the pan, but for a light coating
- Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a mixing bowl
- Mix egg yolks and buttermilk together in a separate bowl
- Prepare a soft meringue by beating egg whites and adding sugar gradually
- Combine all three mixtures in a large mixing bowl ensuring the mixture is homogeneous using a spatula or a paddle, Do not over mix
- Add melted butter to the batter
- Pour the batter on to pre-heated griddle (approximately a table spoon full for each pancake)
- To prepare chocolate chip or blueberry pancake, gently place some toppings on to wet pancake top at this stage
- Once the pancake starts to bubble on top, turn and cook the other side for about a minute
- Remove the pancakes from the pan, dust with icing sugar, Serve hot with maple syrup and strawberries
A nine-hour dinner that pampered all my senses, teased my intellect and blew my mind. I was seduced by the Australian gastronomic experience.
Recently, Australia “invited the world to dinner” and declared that for this path-breaking occasion, three of its top chefs would be cooking together. I confess, initially, I was skeptical, but sure, I was flattered and thrilled to be invited as one of the 80 (only 80) “global food influencers” by Australia. I was going to be in fabulous company…superstar chefs like Heston Blumenthal, Alice Waters, Matt Preston, Maggie Beer, writers like AA Gill and many others. It was not a dinner, but an epic that is best explained
Chapter 1: A 15-MILE-LONG DINNER
We begin ‘the’ day on a sunny, windswept pier in Hobart, Tasmania, with the finest and fleshiest oysters pulled fresh from the ocean, complemented by House of Arras sparkling wines and a live orchestra. We are then ushered onto speedboats, zipping through bracing icy winds to a picturesque rocky island dotted by fire pits and pink flowers.
CHAPTER 2: ON AN ISLAND
We are now on the island, at Ben Shewry’s restaurant, Attica, coddled in the warmth of soft blankets, as we devour the freshest of seafood being grilled by Australia’s greatest chefs—Neil Perry, Ben Shewry and Peter Gilmore.
Amidst fire pits and indigenous storytellers, the three head chefs of Restaurant Australia treat the guests to the first of many creative courses—King George whiting in paperbark and grilled baby corn with forest anise from Ben Shewry; Peter Gilmore’s charcoal-grilled West Australian marron with wasabi butter and roasted wallaby tail broth; wood-roast Tasmanian lobster with kombu butter and charcoal-grilled Tasmanian abalone with liver, sake and mirin dressing by Neil Perry. They were all complemented by outstanding Australian vintage sparkling bruts.
CHAPTER 3: DINING IN THE MUSEUM
We then sail across in a huge boat to the iconic Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and fireworks light up the sky as we climb up the fortress. MONA, which sprawls across eight acres, is also home to a winery, brewery, restaurants, luxury accommodation and much more.
Here, the main courses are served on a gargantuan snake-shaped table. We are seduced by amazing flavours and textures of the freshest produce (be it beef, seafood or kangaroo). At MONA, the three chefs blurred the lines of cooking and art, each presenting a unique course
served with six matching Australian wines. Ben Shewry presented salted South Australian red kangaroo and bunya bunya; Peter Gilmore prepared a dish of smoked and confit pig jowl, black lipped abalone, koji, fermented grains, shitake and seaweed; Neil Perry served grilled sirloin, braised cheek, oxtail and tea- smoked oyster red curry.
CHAPTER 4: ROVING SWEET AND STICKY CELEBRATION
After non-stop eating, as we walk down to a lower floor of the museum for the dessert course, we see bird nests on mock trees, each with sweet white eggs. Here Ben Shewry sits behind his ice-cream cart and serves us dollops of seduction—his famous Blue Wren eggs. Peter Gilmore serves fresh lychee, vanilla, rose, coconut prune, salted caramel, jersey cream; while Neil Perry’s date tart mango, pandan and coconut thrills us. We also sample the first raw milk blue cheese to be produced in Australia, King Saul by South Australian cheese makers, Udder delights. The experience was rounded off with a decadent cheese board, which is produced by Bruny Island Cheese Company and Holy Goat.
A dinner that spanned nine hours, sure it was epic!
My idea of Columbus-fun? Straight from JFK (after a 24 hour journey) to a foodie blind date in Manhattan. All thanks to twitter and instagram. We meet at the moderately priced,Cookshop (10th Ave) and enjoy their robust and delicious meatballs, fish and chips fare (plenty for veggies) as we do the sensational desserts. It’s a treat to meet each one :“Mihir never sleeps Pathare”, user experience designer and home chef, Renate Aller, well-known artist, Elaine Goldman, art collector and Phiroza Kothavala hotelier extraordinaire. The exceptionally gifted Chef Ashfer Biju of the iconic Pierre is the only one who Ive met before. We have a super-rollicking time, eating, tweeting, eating. Please instagram, tweet (@rashmiudaysingh) and mail (Rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com) your Value for money NYC recommendations … so that in the land of Columbus I can continue to discover and feel like Columbus too!
I write from cacophonic Christmassy shimmering, glittering and shivering London. Am here for three days and Indians dazzle. It’s not about Indians in Indian restaurants,
its far more exciting than that. I have an exuberantly flavored meal at the two year old Peruvian “Coya” (Zagat rated it the worlds best restaurant) and guess what? It is not only owned by Indians, the Waney brothers but even the chef is Sanjay Dwivedi. Making waves with it’s luxurious elegance is Rosewood London the first new truly grand hotel to have opened after 25 years. It has already got cult status as a quintessential London destination. And just by chance I bump into the mega-Octane Radha Arora, the President of the group who is on a flying visit to London. His vision and genius is powering this dynamic, exciting group (which amongst other iconic properties also has the fabled Carlyle in NYC). Here, the creatively grounded Chef Palash Mitra, master of spice, deftly delivers authentic, simple Indian food. I savor every morsel, send you wishes for a delicious Christmas and New year! Lets raise a toast to our India!
I have a big soft spot for Pune restaurants. When I researched and wrote Pune’s first ever restaurant guide more than 15 years ago, I noticed a certain homespun charm and the usage of fresh ingredients here. Ofcourse, one cannot generalize, but I was delighted when Pune’s Imrun Sethi’s Terttulia opened in Dadar, mid July. That, here, I met two friends who have known each other for decades further added to the charm. Just having flown in with Kamal Morarka, her jetsetting industrialist and politician husband, Bharati, grandmother of five, makes time for Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, classical music, handicrafts and ofcourse gourmet food. “Bharati’s dinners are always fabulously organised with exquisite food and personal artistic touches ” says her lively warm friend Nina Vasa. Rooted in tradition yet modern, charmingly outspoken Bharati has us riveted. We enjoy the food, cocktails and Terttulia (Spanish for social gathering)
This cozy Dadar eatery captures the clubby, chaotic spirit of a handsomely timeworn saloon :
floral sofas, mismatched light-fixtures, birdcage. antique trunk, chalk art on the walls.mantlepieces with vintage-looking knick-knacks…get the picture?
All day dining here…burgers, pizza, pasta, steak, sandwiches , interspersed with some unusual dishes ( bite-sized Bacon ’n Parmesan Wrapped Dates, feta-stuffed Portobello Mushrooms are must trys). Veggies go for the flavorsome organic brown rice with olives, tasty, thin crust pizza, well made paninis crunchy with walnuts and superb with artichokes.
It is chef Parag Naik’s unerringly roasted chicken that comes up tops in the non-veg options. The Gooey chocolate cake lives up to it’s name. Cocktail lovers make a beeline for the Ginger pear martini, Melon Sangria, Terttulia special Sunday sangria. Orange basil mojito is a must try.
Sadly the red snapper was not available. The Rawas was dry and lacked flavor. Ditto for the pasta and the Cremebrulee cheesecake.
Happy that this stretch of Dadar has got a restaurant like Terttulia. Charming and open through the day Terttulia ‘s well-stocked bar area whips up a buzz at night. The standard European here aims to comfort and not dazzle. Comforting prices too.
Ground Floor, Hotel Parkway, Near Natural Ice Cream, Ranade Road Extension, Shivaji Park, Dadar (West). Fo 6002 0202 Hours: Daily, from noon to 1.30am
RATING FOOD 3.5 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5
Its cold and sunny here in Dubai ! And boy! Is it teeming with restaurants, gourmets, foodbloggers, foodwriters. instagrammers, tweeters (is that what we are called?). The high-flying, media-baroness now sought after brand consultant Rita K Mehta, loves the cutting edge “Tresind”. Her gorgeous daughter Faarah, director of an elective educational academy and media house is also busy setting up her granpa (the legendary Russy Karanjia’s) foundation. They update me on all that’s rocking here as we dine at the brand new, super-glam Cle. I also meet up with Dubai’s leading bloggers @secretsquirrelfood, @thehedonista @ishitaunblogged they guide me through the gastronomique maze of Dubai. Michelin starred chefs restaurants rub shoulders with cheap and cheerful mall eateries. Want more info? Please mail firstname.lastname@example.org, instagram twitter @rashmiudaysingh
You’ll agree with me, that to meet a legend in her own kitchen is a treat. To watch her cook is even more delightful and then when this 70 year young sunshiny, cheerful legend starts to share the secrets not only of her cooking but also of her staying young, its time to raise a toast. Over the years I have been a great admirer of the Australian Maggie Beer, watched her on TV (Masterchef included), read her books and even tasted some of this cook, food author, restaurateur and food manufacturer’s delicious products. The list of awards conferred on her, is unending…from the Centenary Medal to
the “Senior Australian of the Year“, to
Member of the Order of Australia and counting.
Maggie is an inspiration! She turned all the obstacles in her life into stepping stones. Her parents faced issues with bankruptcy, she did not complete her high school education (even worked as an elevator operator) and has no formal training in cooking. Her parents became caterers and she went on to establish a hugely popular Restaurant in South Australia’s Barossa Valley . I ate at her café (alfresco in the cool sunshine) and not only tasted but also bought her range of gourmet foods, including Pheasant Farm Pate, quince paste, verjuice and gourmet ice creams.
I’m fascinated. I watch her smile and deftly toss and swirl and conjure up her signature dessert with her home made icecream. She smiles a lot and has a generous smile which lights up her eves and the whole room. Maggie explains that it all begins with your food shopping… “Think local and think seasonal” – it
ensures fresher food options. She advises to grow your own and to have a vegetable garden (Maggie’s is within 20 metres of her kitchen door)
We live in highrise apartments, I remind her. “Growing your own produce would have to be my best health tip ever, even if that means a tomato plant in a pot, or some herbs in a planter box on an inner city balcony, it will make all the difference to your cooking.” Put the season in a jar, is her next advice. Always cook from the heart, with ingredients at hand, never letting anything go to waste.
The time-honoured craft of preserving in times of plenty is one of the most effective guards against waste. So she advises the practice of making jams, chutneys, sauces and pickles, which means you will never throw away excess fruit or vegetables again.
How is she so positive inspite of her hard life in her younger days? “I love what I do” she says emphatically. “I, also, always wear rose colored glasses” she points out. Maggie values family relationships and ensures that she spends time with her two daughters and five grandkids. How does she stay so young and full of energy? Its all about eating fresh food, but food that is in season , no preservatives, “ moderation” are some of her tips. As is cooking with olive oil. Yes! she loves butter, but it’s all about moderation.
A request! Please read what follows very carefully. Not only will your gourmet tastebuds be satisfied but you will also glean amazing health tips that are not only useful but also usable.
I write from the heart-stoppingly beautiful heart shaped island country of Tasmania and am delighting in it’s healthy gourmet qualities. Ofcourse we all know about that it is Australia’s smallest state, has the most astonishing and diverse natural beauty, is a haven for wildlife, but I had no clue that Tasmania produced one of the highest quality of saffron in the world or that Sheeps milk cheese is infinitely more healthy than cows milk cheese. I taste my way through the picturesque landscape and here’s what I find…
I always thought that saffron (the most expensive spice valued for it’s intense unique color, flavor and medicinal properties) was cultivated in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, Iran, and ofcourse in Jammu & Kashmir. Imagine my surprise when I find it here too. That is, the crocus flower from whose dried “stigma” saffron is produced grows here too. And behind it are the most gentle but enterprising couple Terry and Nick Noonan. They not only lay out a tray of yummies (scones, cheese) infused with their fine saffron but also explain how their “saffron tea” can heal macular degeneration, is rich in antioxidants has antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-oxidant, digestive benefits too. Its a delight to see the saffron fields, to taste it…and to take home “saffron tea” for a friend with eye problems and the organic saffron for cooking up my “biryani” and “kheer”
KYA CHEESE HAI
Can cheese really be good for cholesterol watchers? Or be okay for those with lactose intolerance? “Yes! sheeps milk cheese is”, the young and brilliant Nicole Gilliver at Grandewe Cheese farms informs me.Sure! Sheeps’ milk contains Vitamins A, B, D & E which are all essential to good health but did you know that Sheeps’ milk can contain up to three times more protein than cows’ or goats’ milk? Or that the calcium levels in sheeps’ milk are double that found in cows’ milk? But what blows my mind is that those who are lactose intolerant can enjoy sheeps milk and it’s cheese because there is scientific evidence that proves the lactose in sheeps’ milk is far more tolerated than that from other milks. Since I do tend to be lactose intolerant I happily tuck into
Nicole Gilliver’s amazing variety of cheese. The well-informed Kim Dudson of Bespoke Tasmania takes me through even more of the healthy gourmet surprises here. I love the lightness and freshness of the Spring cheese. The richness of the vine wrapped one which she has created here. And the cheese is brilliantly paired with “pino paste” the sweet tangy paste from skins of pinto noir grapes. And we top off our fabulous cheese tasting with the amazing Whey liquor and creamy rich
Sheeps milk icecream. All of this produced in Nicole’s family run. Grandewe 80 acre farm.
Yet another surprise was walking into the Ginseng farm, especially since I thought that this was a root grown only in Asia. Well established as a, stimulant, and even useful in type II diabetes treatment, or cure for sexual dysfunction in men.Ive had Ginseng in energy drinks, herbal teas and thrilled to find it in so many different forms here in Tassy. Grown here by the enterprising German couple Ziggy and Angelika Pyka of 41 degrees, along with their amazing bio-friendly salmon farm. I not only thrill in the walk but also enjoy the robust flavors of the salmon lunch.
Okay! So Im well acquainted with the flavors, textures and health benefits of Smoked salmon, but imagine my surprise when I come across port barrel smoked salmon, rich in smokey, woody flavors? Doing this is the colorful Roger Scales of Woodbridge who gets these barrels from France and it takes 6 days to complete the process. And the difference shows. In the Superb smoked Ocean trout too.
AN APPLE A DAY
Justifiably known as the “apple isle” Tasmania not only has over 800 variety of apples, but also it’s own apple museum and research centers. Im thrilled to visit these and also the 130 year old, fourth generation Willy Smith and sons organic aple farm and get a taste of their refreshing apple cider. Bursting with goodness and health,, these crunchy apples delight .”An apple a day, surely keeps the doctor away”
P.S. The final healthy fact that blows me away is that this heart shaped island has the worlds (Yes!) purest air and this is continouosly scientifically monitored in Cape Grim.
I write from this heart shaped island, Tasmania and photograph two of my favorites here…the furry devil (only found here) and apples ( Mindblowing variety and tastes in this “apple isle”, apple museum too). I’m in the stunningly beautiful ( sunny but freezing Cradle Mountain) here I pet this Tasmanian Devil, am crunching on apples, feasting on the local, fresh food in restaurants and getting more and more surprised and seduced by this amazing gourmet island. From nibbling on the most amazingly delicious sheep’s cheese (double the amount of calcium, suitable for the lactose intolerant) to tasting the intense and delightful Tasmanian saffron (yes! not only is it grown here but is also of the highest quality). It is constantly scientifically monitored… that Tasmania has the most pristine air in the world ( yes!). Any wonder that here down under, I’m feeling on top of the world?
I am a convert. Like Brad Pitt who lives here in the French quarter of this lively, crescent shaped city on the River Mississippi. It rocks to soul-stirring music, birthcity of jazz (even the airport is named Louis Armstrong). New York, London, San Francisco have great restaurants but New Orleans has a food culture. It’s own indigenous dishes…gumbo, jambalaya, po’boys, muffuletta, etouffee, beignets, Bananas Foster and many more. Ofcourse, it has great restaurants too and guiding me through them are high-profile, knowldgable New Orleanians. Ti Brennan ( generation-old Brennen family’s restaurants span the city), the city’s most eminent Cardiologist Siddharth Bhansali (also a gourmet cook and Indian art collector,)
Abhishek Bhansali, brand .
strategy consultant and co-owner of a restaurant chain, advise me on the greatest to the latest. As does the lovely Gia Rabito from the museum of art. Our tried, tested and tasted favourites: The iconic Commander’s Palace (1880) award winning Tory Mc Phael serves modern as well as traditional Creole masterpieces. We eat Oysters ( chargilled ones) at Acme (1910) have powder sugar beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe Du Monde (1862) Po Boys at the hole in the wall Mothers. Coffee Pot ( superb jambalaya and Callas rice cakes.) Superb cocktails and Louissiana small plates at the Brennen’s stylish SoBou. Feast on jazz in Frenchman’s street and Bourbon street, dine at the historic Arnauds (1918). Our finale dinner at the luxuriously appointed “Grill Room”of the gracious and elegant Windsor court begins at the cellar with John Mitchel pairing the champagnes and wines, chef Daniel Causgrove conjures masterpieces that dazzle. Need more info? please email email@example.com, twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh