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TASTING THE VEGETARIAN ICON

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 I’ve done it again and again. In the gourmet capitals of the world…Paris, London, Tokyo, New York. Tasted the emblematic dish  of  the seventeen Michelin starred maestro Alain Ducasse’s culinary philosophy. A symbol of “sincere cuisine”– a harmony of flavors– that is both respectful to the environment and to health. And that too in restaurants located in the world’s most legendary hotels. I refer to the cookpot…Alain Ducasse’s world renowned signature dish He serves up seasonal vegetables from the local terroir cooked in the cookpot. And this seemingly simple pot  is used from the stove to the table.

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DUCASSE’S WORLD RENOWNED COOKPOT…

It’s truly a “sensual”  dish with an aesthetic that cradles and caresses the food. It’s almost feminine and womb like and Ducasse’s inspiration for it is from his grandmother. “We must restart from the beginning, where the true tastes are […] the technique here is to reveal the flavour of nature,” announced this maestro many years ago. And this simply superb and superbly simple dish has a basic recipe which is the same across all of Ducasse’s restaurants, with the mushroom duxelle and at least seven local, seasonal vegetables. The pot itself is a design masterpiece that is contemporary and nostalgic ( created by Pierre Tachon  it owes it’s attractive curves and perfect proportions to porcelain manufacturer Pillivuyt)

Over the years I’ve been getting high on the cookpot in Ducasse’s restaurants around the world.

Be it London’s Dorchester, Paris’s Plaza Athenee, these finest of all hotels are reputed for infusing into their essence the glamour, excitement, and creativity of the people who have been regulars here.

Today I share with you my most recent taste of this dish in three memorable venues.

PARIS :LUXURIOUS VEGETARIAN WOWS

Please take a look at the photograph, shot in the gleaming kitchen of Paris’ most stylish address Plaza Athenee, which serves up the best of the best. Including Alain Ducasse’s shimmering temple to gastronomy which has the gardener’s name on the menu and serves only vegetables, grain and fish. Luxury drips in 10,000 Swarovski pendant-like chandeliers and it is here that I’ve had the most fabulous meals  coddled by immaculate service and brilliant attention to detail.

On this recent trip I not only had the most exceptional was fixated on Ducasse’s brand new book on vegetarian cooking (which the gifted Chef Romain Meder is holding along with the dynamic chief of the Dorchester group Francois Delahaye).

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 Alain Ducasse with Jean Phillipe Blondet  at the Dorchester (black and white photo by Pierre Monetta).
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 Chef Romain Meder with Francois Delahaye at Plaza Athenee.

GOD HAS COME TO LONDON…Dorchester

“God has come to London” swooned  critics when Ducasse set up in London’s legendary landmark  The Dorchester. I’d first dined at Ducasse’s  newly opened restaurant and went back several times again. Here reality is more luxurious than fantasy.   Amid the cloud, surrounded by a luminiscient oval curtain, Id gotten high on the classic French-driven menu  I still remember the tastes and textures of  the “delicate soft Royale of greens”  a glorious medley of vegetables with an ever enlarging circle of freshness. And of course that cookpot, heady and perfect.And I still marvel at how the grand hotel continues to tango with high octane young energy.

BREAKING NEWS…On the River Seine

Its making international waves. It’s an unrivalled Parisian experience. And its has just been launched. It’s a floating masterpiece of Paris history and landmarks. It’s been overbooked since it opened and it took planning ahead to get a table here.

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By the Eiffel tower, sailing on the brand new Ducasse sur Seine
…Ines Aouididi flanked by Herve Garnier and Ulysse Bour.

 I’m on board the brand new super luxurious restaurant “Ducasse sur seinne” that has just opened and is making international waves. As the Eiffel tower sparkles on the hour of eight,  Captain Ulysee Boar and Ines Ioudidi   flag off our luxurious meal. Luxurious dining gets redefined. Sailing & Feasting on Parisian landmarks and  emblematic French  food too. Serenditpitiously we are sailing past  my favorite Alexanders bridge when my favorite vegetarian Cookpot is served up. The specially-created, single-serving cocotte, delicious with spelt and violet artichokes is memorable. All created in the bespoke kitchens which sprawl on the lower deck Champagne sparkled the beginning of the dinner. And a parade of dishes sashay in as the silent electric boat glides to music. The meal meanders from the delicate Foie gras pâté  to the Chocolate  crispy praline accompanied by the finest wines, a symphony of the best French Crus. All this amid lighting by Franck Franjoy from lunar cold to candle warm, a coddling of  music and sound  and uberfab  interiors. And ooh! that cookpot…and yes! the maestro has very generously shared the recipe with me, should you need it, please do mail rashmiudaysingh18@gmail.com

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LATIN AMERICAS FOOD OSCARS

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Here’s to the power of Food and restaurants. Did you think Foodiesm is only about  taste, excitement, creativity and great cooking? It’s much more. Foodiesm is a uniting global force.And it’s power is evident here in Bogota.

I write from the most prestigious, glittering Oscar of food awards, amid the largest gathering of Latin American chefs. Here, Latin America’s 50 best restaurants are being announced. Crowned as Latin America’s best is Maido, where the ever smiling Mitsuharu’s Peruvian- Japanese Nikkei cuisine dazzles. Due to space constraint I cannot possibly list the other exciting winning restaurants, cuisine trends on display or record the pathbreaking  50 best talks on the future of food, meat and vegetables.All nationalities are mingling, tasting, connecting and celebrating here.

Making it possible is the  dreamteam of the Worlds 50 best restaurant academy from London  who even  in as far away as Latin America, encourage and award the finest 50 best restaurants, give diners an accurate compass to find the best, even promote tourism. It’s  living proof that foodiesm is a good ism, it unites us all, it is understood in all languages. It knows no boundaries or frontiers.  It is, in fact, the frontier to be on.

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Latin America’s best  Mitsuharu of Maido flanked by Tim Brooke Webb and Will Drew of 50 Best and the presenter Claudia Bahaman.

 

 

 

LUXURIOUS VEGETARIAN WOWS

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Please take a look at the photograph, shot with France’s most revered Michelin-starred maestro Alain Ducasse in his iconic restaurant’s gleaming kitchen. The focus is their brand new book on vegetarian cooking which the gifted Chef Romain Meder is holding. When I researched and wrote the Worlds first vegetarian guide to Paris (published by The Times of India) this gleaming glittering Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee took center stage. It has the gardener’s name on the menu and serves only vegetables, grain and fish. Aptly ensconced in Paris’ most stylish address Plaza Athenee, it continues to offer the best of the best. Including the most luxurious breakfast in the French capital, which is what the dynamic chief of the Dorchester group Francois Delahaye, St Petersburg’s brilliant restaurateur and ballerina Matilda Shnurova and I were luxuriating in when we got to know that Alain Ducasse was in the kitchen. He is unstoppable, his brand new restaurant in a super luxurious electric boat was even more exciting than dining on the Eiffel tower. But that’s another story!

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My Memorable Michelin Moment; Alain Ducasse, Romain Meder (holding the book) Matilda Shnurova at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee.

Recipe: Avocado Carpaccio

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SHOOTING WITH THE STARS

Thrilling. Memorable. Delicious moments. Woven together in Los Angeles,  when we were shooting for an international cooking competition for  Netflix, the worlds largest streaming network. The India episode of The Final table, brought together superstars… Michelin starred celebrity chef Vineet Bhatia, awardwinning Actor Madhavan, Hasan Minhaj and yours truly as the India food critic on the judging panel. Amongst  the 24 contestant chefs, there was only one from India… national award winning best female chef Amninder Sandhu. What did  we all have in common? Shooting in Los Angeles super hitech Sony Pictures studio.

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Lunching at the LA landmark Chef Samir Roonwal and Lauren Dutton Breen.

SUPERSTAR ICON.

And of course, fittingly enough, Netflix hosted  our stay in the most iconic of Los Angeles hotels…,

The LA landmark, “pretty woman hotel”, Beverly Wilshire. Located on the glamour boulevard to the world, the Rodeo drive, its been a favorite of  Hollywood and Bollywood superstars for nine decades. Star spangled Hollywood dines ,meets and stays here and happily so do ShahRukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Anil Kapoor and others.

 And it continues to rock with a youthful energy. Feeding this super glam contemporary buzz in this legendary hotel    is our very own Executive chef Samir Roonwal Specialized in Contemporary International and Asian Cuisine. Having dined at  Michelin starred Chef Vineet Bhatias restaurants in London Dubai and Mumbai, it was great to spend relaxed time with him lunching on the sundrenched patio of the BLVD.  And nibbling on  Chef Roonwal’s healthy and delicious creations with the forever helpful lovely Lauren Dutton Breen was a treat. Here, two of my passions come together in a sacred union, cutting edge food and plenty of vibrantly healthy fare too. Not only does Americas leading chef Wolfgang Puck’s CUT restaurant raise the bar but Chef Roonwal serves up equally spectacular healthy fare. Here’s a sample …

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Avocado carpaccio.

Avocado Carpaccio

Ingredients

2  Avocados

1 Whole Lemon Juice

4 Teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 Teaspoon sea salt

1 Oz  Caviar

10 ml Fennel Oil

1 Fennel Flower for Garnish (optional)

Freshly Cracked Black Pepper, To Taste

Method

  1. Cut the Avocados in half and remove the stone and the skin.
  2. Slice the Avocado very thin and arrange it one by one in an overlapping form.
  3. Sprinkle lemon juice on the cut pieces. Season with salt and cracked Pepper.
  4. Brush some Fennel Oil on the Avocado.
  5. Garnish with a quenelle of  and a fennel Flower.
  6. Enjoy!

R Madhavan
  Shooting with Superstar Madhavan,
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 Michelin starred chef Vineet Bhatia with Samir Roonwal.
Amninder Sandhu
Chef Amninder Sandhu.

 

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UNDER THE STARS

First time ever… You can now sleep under the stars in this shimmering city of stars. Camping in a tent for two on the top of Beverly Hills most iconic landmark. “Glamping” just got redefined…  a tent with a shimmering crystal chandelier, marble lamps, and  plush rugs. Feasting not just on unparalleled, breathtaking city views but feasting also on te exclusive, 8 course gourmet glamping tasting menu which changes seasonally, in which every dish is customized to your choice.  Chef Roonwal cooks this tasting menu in person, on the Veranda, using elevated takes on picnic table favorites.  End with innovative reimagination of Campfire S’mores with 24k gold leaf from celebrity chef Chris Ford.  Luxury drips in every practical detail. Here,reality is more exciting than fantasy!!!

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First time ever: “Glamping”.

STUDY TIME IN PARIS

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Back to school…studying, upgrading  and updating one’s knowledge is crucial. And to do it in the best of the best is exciting. And that too in Paris, the worlds gourmet capital. The second half of our course is in the land of champagne, at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne.

At  Hautes Etudes du Goût (Advanced Studies in Taste) multidisciplinary training programme I,m learning from the eminent university professors, researchers, experts,  food professionals and even the revered Herve This, the father of Molecular gastronomy. We re focusing on the culture of taste, gastronomy and the art of fine dining. From going at 2 AM (yes!) to the worlds largest fresh produce market Rungis, Paris to paired, tutored food and wine dinners at Michelin restaurants and back-breaking 10 hour lectures on historic, scientific, economic and sociological aspects of gastronomy.   There is a written exam tomorrow and a thesis to be submitted. Excuse me as I go back to my studies…

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The best of the best:
Mr Rémi Krug, Chairman of HEG, Ms Edwige Régnier, HEG project manager, Mrs Colette Padet, Director of Studies, Mr Guillaume Gellé, President of the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne.

TASTING HOLLYWOOD

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What you’re seeing on the table are not just delicious dishes but a taste of Hollywood history. The colourful salad Mc carthy was beloved of Elizabeth Taylor who honeymooned here four times in a row. And the plump Russian salad sandwich a favorite of Al Pacino, Brad Pitt and many a Hollywood superstar. The iconic Polo Lounge with its sundappled courtyard and immaculate food and service continues to breathe superglam Hollywood history. Over a century old, the pink palace,  Hotel Beverly Hills has been magnetising Hollywood and is their mecca.
Pepe De Anda  director of Polo Lounge for several decades embodies it’s gracious charm as I photograph him over our lunch with the beauty former Miss India Manasvi, Bollywood actress now taking Hollywood by storm. The sweet finale to our lunch? A curvaceous sundae (topped with candy floss). Marilyn Monroe’s favorite. Ofcourse!

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Tasting Hollywood  Pepe de Anda and Manasvi at the iconic Polo Lounge.

FLAVOR PARTNERSHIPS

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Here it is. An inspiring idea for our hotels and big restaurants… Five star hotels tie up with small, local, artisans, bakers,  and cooks and serve up local flavours in five star environs. 

 I get a delicious taste of this Flavor partnership series at  Loews Hollywood. Thanks to Chef Mark I Ching, I meet  26 year old David Vanlochem of Duidough’s Cookie Lab who started off pushing a cart on Hollywood Boulevard and today owns a bakery. I taste his creations in this host hotel to the Oscars  (connected with the winners walk corridor to the Oscars Dolby theatre.) I watch chef Mark add innovative touches and transform David’s  addictive chocolate cookie into the “German Blondie”…named after superstar Marlene Dietrich. “Tasting Hollywood” gets redefined!

The “German Blondie” with Chef Mark and David’ “Flavorpartnership” in Loews Hollywood.

INDIAN SHINES IN RUSSIA

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Surprises never cease! This young enterprising doctor turned restaurateur is from Malad (his parents still live there). He came to Russia to complete his medical education, practised as a doctor and than passion for food turned into a business and today he owns 20 restaurants in South Russia. I came to know of Ajay Singh just by chance when a common friend mentioned his name in passing.  No! none of Ajay’s restaurants serve Indian cuisines. It’s Russian, Pan asian ,frontier ,multi cuisines,  sushi bars too. He is all set  to open a Italian restaurant with  renowned Italian chef Mirko Zago joining hands with the Tsar of Russian restaurant business Arkadi Novikov. Jai ho!

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Ajay Singh does India proud in Russia.

OF THE FINEST CAVIAR & INDIAN FLAVORS…

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It’s heady. Its memorable and its incomparable. I refer to the amazing spectrum of tastes that I am feasting on. Here in Russia’s most magnificent 143 year old landmark, Im not only devouring Russian cuisine, history and culture but also  a taste of India. From taking a Masterclass in the most supreme of all Epicurean luxuries, Caviar to tasting traditional and contemporary Russian dishes to vegetarian Asian delights and (here’s the happy surprise) superb Indian cuisine too.

It’s great to be part of gastronomic history: dining in Russia’s first restaurant which had electricity, feasting on 143 years of  history in this stunningly beautiful Grand hotel Europe in St Petersburg with its high stained glass ceilings, balconies where the Tsars sat is a treat. Luxury and class  drips from every detail. It is here that Tchaikovsly honeymooned, where Elton John played on the piano Bill Clinton, Whitney Houston and our Prime minister Modi dined.  And this is where I attend an amazing caviar master class.

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The finest Caviar master class: with Sven Gevers, Nikita Yurin and Irina Khlopov .

OF CAVIAR CROWNED

It doesn’t get any better than this: attending a caviar masterclass in the home-country of this supreme epicurean pleasure. And that too in Russia’s  only caviar restaurant,  Caviar Bar & Restaurant, which serves only the best caviar with  vodkas you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Would you believe that the best way of tasting caviar is to put a bit of it on the back of one’s hand and lick it off? The caviar master and sommelier articulate and knowledgable Nikita yurin explains it all…  the very basic… only fish eggs produced by the sturgeon fish ( a prehistoric huge fish ) can be called caviar to the types, preservation, history, telling fake from real. etc.

It’s a joy to accompany the dapper, dynamic Sven Gevers, a knowledgable caviar buff, who helms this landmark. This discerning, highly qualified economist and globe trotting  gourmet even breakfasts on eggs and caviar. Chipping in with her experiences and helping translate many a Russian term,   is  the ever helpful Irina Khlopova.

Before us are Mother of pearl spoons (essential to serve the caviar to avoid metal oxidation). The finest caviar to the least expensive salmon one, a line up of vodkas and champagne. Also accompaniments, take your pick (though toast is the most traditional)  Russian  coin shaped pancakes or blini, Boiled potatoes

Pancakes go well too.. One thing is for sure, points out Nikita, “caviar should not be eaten with onion or lemon” It should be

Stored  in the coldest part of your refrigerator, as close to the freezer as possible.

We taste the finest Beluga (made from the Beluga fish of the sturgeon family) caviar, it has the largest grains, is creamy, has a  fishy flavour, of seaweed  and even walnuts.

Oscietra fish (16 types) Sevruga Sterlet (smallest grains)  and Bester are some of the main varieties of caviar. In this short space its impossible to include it all,

All I can say, is that it’s fascinating to learn about these precious black pearls, which Russia s been eating  since  before the 14th century.  It’s  methods of production and preservation, which determine the taste and price of caviar. When pasteurized the price and taste gets compromised.

 CAVIAR WISHES AND CHAMPAGNE DREAMS

 To crown it all is the Tchaikovsky night where I taste Russia’s food, history, art, culture, dance all in one bite of this traditional “egginanegg” dish you see in the photograph. It has egg crowned with caviar which pirouette with salty buttery nutty notes on my palate as the ballerinas twirl to Tchaikovskys compositions. Caviar wishes and champagne dreams do come true. May yours too.

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Tasting Russia: egg in an egg dish. Chef Larissa Kordik and ballet dancers at the Tchaikovsky night dinner.

INDIA SHINES

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Chef Sachdev Kathait and Executive chef Ian Minnis in the 143 year old L Europe restaurant.

Amid the finest of caviar, the best of Russian and modern Russian dishes, Japanese and Asian dishes our very own Indian dazzle too . Appreciated and enjoyed by  Hema Malini to  our Prime Minister Modi who stayed here but happily by the Russians too.  Seeing the popularity of Indian cuisine  the multi-talented Executive Chef Ian Christopher Minnis is in the midst of coordinating  a “Mystery of India” festival here. He ensures the finest gourmet dinners in  St Petersburg’s most gastronomique L Europe restaurant (serving authentic Russian masterpieces) to the legendary caviar bar to the  Asian restaurant Azia. It is here that the young talented chef Indian chef Sachdev Kathait’s Indian menu is in great demand. Authentic  delicious dal, kebabs and tandoori, Chef Kathait ‘s unique “pickle prawns” and “cheese chicken” combine the best of both worlds but retain their authentic Indian flavour.

Should you need their recipes please  email rashmiudaysingh16@gmail.com