Paradise Found

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I’m in the midst of Chef Enrico Figliuolo’s cooking-class, but cant resist asking this question…

Question:  What do  Mona Lisa,  global luxury icon Ferragamo,  golf legend Tom Weiskopf, our very own hotelier extraordinaire Radha Arora and Brilliant chef Enrico Figliuolo  have in common?

Ans: They are all connected to  this secluded serene “castle in the woods” ( Castioglon del Bosco) two hours drive from Florence.  Coddled in Italy’s magnificent Tuscan countryside, this 800 year old. 2000 hectare Rosewood Castiglon del Bosco (translates to castle in the woods) not only has it’s own golf course ( designed by golf maestro Tom Weiskopf, it is also Italy’s only private golf course), vineyard, herb garden but also make it’s own olive oil, honey and  grows its own (hold your breath) truffles.


Time stands still. I’m coddled in true luxury here…be it the luxurious flavors and textures of food, the restrained elegance of the décor (of the  private villas and suites)   and the lush green of the private sprawling golf course. Swimming in the infinity pool overlooking the magnificent Tuscan countryside is an experience I will cherish forever.  As also meeting the dapper dynamo Massimo Ferragamo,  the founder of Castioglone and (son of the legendary Salvatore Ferragamo). Castiglion del Bosco’s Castle was built in classic medieval style in 1100.

It was 200 years later,  in 1318 that Castiglion del Bosco was taken over by the Gallerani family – prosperous merchants who held public offices in Siena. Interestingly, it has been claimed that Cecilia Gallerani, was the subject of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “The Lady with an Ermine” and a muse for the “Mona Lisa”Now you see the Mona lisa connection?


It’s a luxury to have a tutored wine tasting in the midst of the sun-drenched vineyards. And then to pair the local cheeses with the local wines is yet another dimension of learning and joy. All this in the resort’s very own vineyards (there are only a handful of Brunello di Montalcino wine producers.) The quality of Brunello (grape)  production is controlled and monitored and Brunello is among the first Italian wines to be granted the titles DOC (Controlled Denomination of Origin) and DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin).And all this in the valley  (Val d’Orcia) a site of ‘outstanding universal value’ declared to be a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

And our very own Radha Arora, the discerning farsighted President of the Rosewood group is the driving force of this unique experience resort. And its in the resorts own Church (with frescos dating to 1345)  where I just prayed in gratitude for being in Paradise.


For me, prayer and gratitude for the food we are blessed with, are equally important. And I’m thrilled to find that this must be the worlds only hotel with it’s own church (where mass is held on holy days). Here, the well known artist Pietro Lorenzetti  has painted the fresco “Annunciazione dei Santi” in the Church of San Michele. And it is right next to it, that Chef Enrico holds his hands on cooking classes. First he took us to the herb garden(  we picked plump artichokes, smelt the intensely fragrant mint and other herbs) and then proceeded to the first floored cooking session area. Here, each of us students chopped vegetables and cooked ourselves as we followed Chef Enrico’s explanations. From useful tips to authentic recipes, Chef Enrico shared them all with us ( I share with you his panzanella recipe)

Paradise found: Massimo Ferragamo flanked by Azzurra Casini and Chef Enrico Figliuolo

This is one of the simple but delightfully tasty, authentic dishes that the chef taught us in the hands on cooking class. This Italian bread salad is typical of this region.



… … …

Ingredients for 4 people

Bread 200 g.

Onion 100 g.

Celery 100 g.

Tomatoes 100 g.

Vinegar 20 g.

Salt to taste

… … …

Cut the bread into cubes and toast in a hot pan

or oven using extra virgin olive oil.

When the bread is cool, season with vinegar and

bit of water, allowing the bread to soak for one hour.

Chop the onion, celery and tomatoes, then season

with salt and oil.

Add the bread to the vegetables to make a salad.

Garnish with basil leaves.


Ferragamo’s favorite

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Chef Enrico Fegliuolo and Azzurra Cassini with the famed truffle pizza.



Paradise found. I’m feasting on magically simple Tuscan cooking, truffle hunting and taking lessons in Tuscan cooking.swimming amid nature and golfing.Coddled in Italy’s magnificent Tuscan countryside, this 800 year old. 2000 hectare Rosewood Castiglon del Bosco (translates to castle in the woods) not only has it’s own golf course (Italy’s only private golf course), vineyard, herb garden but also make it’s own olive oil, honey and  grows its own (hold your breath) truffles. And it is these heady truffles that perfume the wood fired oven pizza that the owner of the estate Massimo Ferragamo (son of the legendary Salvatore Ferragamo) loves. Oh and did I tell you that the President of this group is our very own dynamo, Radha Arora? And this amazing estate with it’s villas also has it’s own   Church (with frescos dating to 1345) This is where I just prayed  in gratitude for being in Paradise. Amen!


Review: Mockingbird Café

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“Heartwarming” that’s the only way I can describe my lunch-experience in this brand new Churchgate café. I love books and the very fact that this brightly lit café is dedicated to books is wonderful enough.

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Review: Ruka

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Ruka is the first Indian outpost of a Japanese restaurant chain from Bahrain.

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Review: Desi Klub

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It seems as though“Aaao twist karein” is the theme tune of this pure vegetarian, Nariman Point restaurant.

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Deepak’s delicious perspectives

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Food for thought from Deepak Chopra the iconic fountain of youth and well-being.

It’s a treat to beat all treats: to be here with Deepak Chopra, the iconic fountain of youth and well-being, the repository of ancient wisdom and modern medical scientific knowledge. Over the years,  I’ve interviewed him for my TV show on health and many a column. Each time I’ve come away with many a nugget of wisdom, but this time I get the most eye-opening  perspectives of food.

Through my 36 books on food and countless columns, I’ve been on the constant quest to find out more about food, but  it’s Deepak Chopra interpretations of food, on the physical, gourmet, medical, spiritual and even genetic aspects  that are mind-blowing.


Here’s the mind-blowing great news: food  can actually alter our genetic makeup. Spearheading this research on Epigenetics, Deepak explains the complex scientific mechanisms of mind, brain, genome and microbiome.  Together with prof Rudy Tanzi, authority on genetics ( who discovered the Alzheimer gene)   their groundbreaking research, on the Super gene (and the role of the plant-based diet)  has been making global waves. For me its this cutting edge finding of how food interacts with our  genes that is thrilling.I talk to Prof Rudy. he is Vegetarian (loves indian food, paneer korma, in particular). Deepak is vegan. Both explain how we need not be at the mercy of our genetic inheritance.  Super genes. Super news indeed!


It can’t get better than this. Would you have credited the thousands of years old Ayurveda with gourmet sensibilities? Deepak Chopra  points out… “If the meal isnt delicious it isn’t nourishing you. Enjoy your meal. If you are struggling with a diet that you think is good for you but you do not find it appetizing, it will ultimately not be nourishing and you will not be able to stay with it for long”.
According to Ayurveda. everything can be classified according to one or more of six basic tastes; sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. If you sample foods that correspond to these tastes your food will provide an assortment of health promoting nutrients. In fact Sweet:- Sweet is the taste of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. (Breads, grains, nuts, fruits, starchy vegetables, fruits, dairy, oils and animal products are considered sweet.) Sour:_ Any food that is mildly acidic is experienced as sour. Favor oranges, berries, tomatoes while reducing your intake of pickles alcohol and vinegar.

Salty:- Salt is the flavor of ion producing minerals on the tongue. In the right dose salt adds flavor and promotes digestion. Too much salt can aggravate high blood pressure and cause fluid retention.

Pungent;- Most pungent foods contain natural antioxidants and infection fighting chemicals Due in part to their anti-spoiling properties pungent spices have been valued for millenia. These include chilli peppers, black pepper, fresh and dry ginger, cloves, mustard, garlic cardamom. Adding spices and herbs will serve your palate and
your health.

Bitter;- Bitter is the taste of most green and yellow vegetables. Bitterness is due to natural plant chemicals known as phytochemicals which have detoxifying, disease preventing and healing properties.

Astringent;The last of the six tastes is more of an effect than an actual flavor.Astringent foods have a drying, compacting and puckering influence on your body. Beans, legumes, peas, pomegranates are all considered astringent.


Ofcourse, we are all aware of the connection between food and emotions, about how mothers express their love through food, romance blossoms over that candlelight dinner or families bond over the table. But I learn even more when I spend time in California’s sprawling and picturesque headquarters of The Chopra center, four hundred acres of lush, sun-dappled, palm-tree-lined beauty. Here I meditate,  attend talks and enjoy some superbly delicious vegetarian food. I explore the connection between our environment, physiology, food and emotions. Much as I wish to, I cannot compress all that in one column, Suffice it to say that the mind controls the body and even what we eat is metabolized depending on the state of mind we eat it in. I learn to eat mind fully and  in a calm state of mind.


“Radical Beauty “   ………. is  what happens when two powerful, influential founts of knowledge and experience come together.  Deepak Chopra  and Kimberly Snyder serve up trailblazing solutions on “how to transform yourself from inside out”.  Kimberly is a nutritionist for the mind, body & soul, a yogini and the New York Times best-selling author of The Beauty Detox Solution and many other books and  nutritionist for many of the top celebrities.

Deepak brings his unique medical, spiritual perspective and together they share secrets everyone can use to experience extraordinary health, vitality and a radiant glow. How to transform yourself from inside out. And Deepak is an inspirational example of this!


Review: Rivea

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Is it possible? Can the magic of the Mediteranean Riveira be reproduced here?  So I did a surprise check out of the brand new Rivea, (right next to the domestic airport).

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Review: Lighthouse Café

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For me, there’s nothing more exciting than youthful energy. And of late this has been infusing many a brand new Mumbai restaurant, the 2 month old Lighthouse Café in Worli.

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A Golden treat to beat all treats

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A request. Please take a look at the lead photograph in the collage above. Till date, it’s the most “speaking” photograph I’ve shot. Not just because I shot it from a helicopter (while sitting next to the pilot) but because this one photo distils the spirit of Australia’s gorgeous Gold coast. Ofcourse the focus is food…Australia’s iconic dessert, the coconut dusted Lamington (more about it later) which I put into Gold coast’s style icon, an expensive Versace bowl from the Palazzo Versace here (more about it later too) and ofcourse the golden beaches lazing in the sun are visible in the photo too.  What follows is my attempt to encapsulate the delicious beauty of this part of the world, ( Gold coast in Queensland) in a few paras.


How I love this comfortingly delicious  Australian dessert.  The fluffy square of sponge cake coated  with chocolate sauce and rolled in desiccated coconut, the Lamington is a my must-have dessert here. Ofcourse there are variations like cream or strawberry jam added on too.  I also love the many varied stories of it’s origins from  the one that says it was named after

Lord Lamington, ( Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901,) whose chef was called upon at short notice to feed unexpected guests and so he used left-over vanilla sponge cake baked the day before, dipped the slices in chocolate and set them in coconut. The lamington you see in the photograph is the one I picked up at Gold Coast’s buzzing “Nighquarter”. An amazing weekend collection of food stalls, local fashion and more. It was packed and here, not only was my palate regaled with many a different cuisine and local favourite but I also bought a dress made of bamboo (you read that right) and ofcourse brought back the Lamington to take it on the helicopter for my photoshoot.


Located in this stunning sun drenched, famous-for-fun Gold Coast  is  the worlds first ever fashion-branded hotel, PalazzoVersace. That is sprawls luxuriously and every detail is impeccably perfect, is to be expected. From the custom made Rolls Royces (Versace cushions et al ) to the Medusa head every where. But whoa! what surprises… it’s dynamic General Manager  is our very own Subash Basrur ( former chef of the Taj)  who delivers experiences beyond expectations. And the other amazing surprise is the many a vegetarian masterpiece,  Jain too. French chefs create magic with vegetables here. Even in, Vanitas the fine dining restaurant, I am regaled by many a vegetarian masterpiece.  The third surprise is the sprawling pristine swimming pool and it is here that I request the chef to serve up the local seafood delights as I sit chatting with the dynamic Subash Basrur and the gorgeous Jasmine Webb.


Endless beauty of beaches, nature in all her magnificence is a feast in itself but to find restaurants that  serve world class fare is a treat to beat all treats. In Brisbane it is the superstar Matt Moran’s Aria (located on the river, overlooking the Story Bridge) that serves up amazing fare (pl see the pumpkin dish in my collage). From the Greek Hellenika to the buzzing modern Australian “Soical eating House” , Max Brenner’s chocolate  cafe to Bazar in the uber-cool QT hotel, there is something for everyone.   Gourmet meals seduce:   even at  “Three Little pigs” in the Mountains, Amazing Asian infused “Rick Shores” too. Australia surprises with it’s  gourmet vegetarian meals (be it  a Jain meal at the Australian Outback dinner theatre   while watching horses on stage or  the bustling nightquarter.

I feast on it all…From floating gently in a balloon at sunrise. hovering in a helicopter  to walking on treetops in the rain forest which covers Mount Tamborine (an hours drive from Gold coast) to soaking in the beaches…. I’ve said it before, I ll say it again… I’m feeling like a queen in Queensland!