Here in the cacophonic and frenetic Big Apple, it’s our very own Indian mango which is being celebrated. And that too at the NYC premiere of Dame Judi Dench’s superb film where she brilliantly plays the role of Queen Victoria (also a great gourmet). Post screening, superstar chef Vikas Khanna created the most amazing mango dessert topped with edible gold. His tribute to the king of fruits for the queen of acting. I tasted, photographed and couldn’t stop smiling.
Please take a look at the photograph shot under the beautiful ceiling mural of the Rotunda. For over eighty years, it has been New York’s iconic meeting place. And aptly enough, I’m breakfasting with icons of the culinary world. And India is the focus. America’s most brilliant award winning Food TV producer Geoffrey Drummond (renowned for his shows with Julia Child and Eric Ripert) is working on the ultimate food show on nourishment and India is magnetising him. Putting India firmly on America’s gourmet map, Vikas Khanna, the award-winning Michelin-starred chef, cookbook writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and judge of MasterChef India sparkles the morning. Interestingly though Escoffier, the King of French chefs (and codifier of French cuisine), did all the initial menus at this magnificent stately Pierre. It was here that America’s first Indian fine dine restaurant was located. Today, the brilliant young Keralite chef Ashfer Biju is making history again. He is reimagining classics with a fresh modern seasonal perspective and has NYC eating out of his hands. The joint-degree holder from the finest in America and France, the dynamic Francois Olivier Luiggi who helms this exquisite icon not only ensures that it retains its historic grandeur (hand-painted murals et al) but also rocks ahead youthfully. Jai Ho!
Strange but true! Here in this frenetic, cacophonic New York city, I am not only getting rare insights into Indian grains and spices but doing so in a treasure trove spread over two floors. And our very own Indian superstar chef Vikas Khanna has been getting accolades for incorporating Grains in American cuisines. Sharing his insights with me is award-winning Michelin starred chef, cookbook writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and judge of MasterChef India. To top it all, the dashing and yet down to earth Vikas Khanna has been hailed as the “sexiest chef alive” He combines a rare humility, knowledge and passion and I am blown off my feet when he guides me into his favourite New York hot spot.
We are at this iconic Kalustyans set up in 1944. The haunt of many s great chef. Here, he gives me taste of the finest black garlic pistachios, turmeric a sniff of the finest Iranian saffron of butterflypea and a round up of amazing rare grains. Though he works a lot with vendors in Kerala, Mumbai and Tamil Nadu to bring more organic grains to North America and to find creative ways to incorporate them into American diets.
He always tells people that our ancestors ate much better food than us. Organic, disciplined and balanced. The use of different types of grains and organizing a healthy eating around them is pure heaven for him and me. I had no idea that there was such a staggering number of grains and each had several sub-types. For instance Wheat includes Bulgar, Durum, Einkorn, Emmer, Farro, Kamut, Semolina, Spelt, Triticale. Rice (Red, Forbidden, White, Black) Corn (Flint, Dent, Waxy) Barley (Pot Barly, Pearl Barley) Sorghum (Johnson Grass, Broom-Corn) Millet (finger millet, foxtail millet, kodo millet, pearl millet, proso millet) and so on.
“I still remember the first time I entered Kalustyans. It was a much smaller store back then in 2001.” explains Vikas, “But was an eye opening experience, it was like being a kid in the candy store.”
He had come here to find fresh turmeric. It was not available then, but today it is. He has been a part of Kalustyan family since then. It could be buying new stuff or bringing chefs here or taking spices from here for chefs like Eric Ripert to Jean George’s to Daniel Boulud.
We both agree that spices are more precious than jewels. His latest research has been about Blossoms of spices and their evolution and metamorphosis through time. A lot like Vikas’s own fascinating journey…a boy born in Punjab with misaligned feet (not able to run until he was 13) and who learnt cooking from his grandmother, came to America with no money at all and rose to be awarded and celebrated. And even today continues to be down to earth.
BARLEY AND ORANGE PUDHA
Vikas shared many a creative bread recipe with me, due to space constraint am able to print only one. Should you need more, please email email@example.com
A great tasting healthy bread made with whole barley flour, which is highly nutritious and recommended for a low-fat diet. Orange juice is added not only for a wonderful citrusy flavour but also because it helps to tenderise the dough.
1 cup barley flour
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon chilli powder
Salt to taste
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
Take the flour, onion, cilantro, orange zest, chilli powder and salt in a bowl. Gradually blend in the orange juice and mix well. Add a little water at a time to a smooth batter. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and smear the pan with 1 tablespoon oil. Spoon 1/4 of the batter into the pan and spread to it to even thickness. Cook for 2-3 minutes until crispy golden brown, then turn it over and drizzle a little oil around the edges. Continue to cook until the sides turn golden brown, about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining batter.
I write from Paradise. Why else would it be called “The Big Apple”? Here, in this adrenalin-fueled New York city, keeping tabs on all that is new is like jogging on quicksand. But here’s some brand new news from New york city’s 85 year old iconic landmark which keeps reinventing itself. Escoffier, the King of French chefs (and codifier of French cuisine,) did all the initial menus at this magnificent stately Pierre. Today, the brilliant young Keralite chef Ashfer Biju is making history again. He is reimagining classics with a fresh modern seasonal perspective. Can the American classic of Crab Imperial be immensely pleasurable on Naan? We re convinced it is as we do a preview lunch in The Perrine with America’s most brilliant award-winning Food TV producer Geoffrey Drummond ( renowned for his shows with Julia Child to Eric Ripert,). Joint-degree holder from finest in America and France, the dynamic Francois Olivier Luigi who helms this exquisite icon not only ensures that it retains it’s historic grandeur (hand painted murals et al) but also rocks ahead youthfully.
While in New york another high point was the mindblowing 5 hour degustation dinner in the 8 acre farm of the Rockefellers where the “Blue Hill on the Stone Barnes” is located. It was all about farm to table to heart. Amazing conservation and experimentation and fascinating flavors and stories brought to the table. Thanks Shom Hinduja and Raman Macker for your invaluable recommendation.
I write from Paradise. Why else would New York be called the Big Apple? My high points? The exquisite high-tea at “Two E” with the “worlds sexiest chef”, Vikas Khanna and the dynamic Rajesh Bhardwaj, their “Junoon” has got a Michelin star, fifth consecutive year. And just last week they cooked for Prime Minister Modi. They catch up with the brilliant Chef Ashfer Biju and Michel Mignano not only serve up English-Indian- American flavors in their “cucumber, chutney and cream cheese sandwiches” but also many a gem of sweet wizardry which the dapper French Francois Luiggi (chief of the iconic Pierre) approves of.
Here it is. My ultimate-mega Foodie Blind date (please see photo). Ive been bonding with foodie-strangers over food in Mumbai, Dubai, LA, London, Paris but this date happened In NYC. thanks to instagram and the lovely @therestaurantfairy (who I also met for the first time) I landed up in NYC’s newest, hottest, secret Atwood Kitchen and bar, which recreates old New York with a classical and ageless feel by Daniel Rieger, Evan Rosenberg. Here I chatted and ate with @eatupnewyork @cheatdayeats @cy_eats @food.drunk @ogluttoness @realjayjay @restaurantfairy @thenewforkr @thesweetlifeoflina @womenwhowhiskey @chef_bradleyw@upspringpr Amid the natural brick, reclaimed wood and steampunk decor, we had superb handcrafted cocktails, tartares and NYCs best “mac n cheese”, what else did we do? Sip, snack, snap, eat, tweet, repeat.Would you like to join me on a foodie blind date in Mumbai and check out new eateries? Email firstname.lastname@example.org instagram, twitter @rashmiudaysingh
My Cup of Tea
I confess. I am a “High-tea” addict. Over the years I have partaken of the British tradition of the classic High tea in all the gastronomique meccas. In all of London’s legendary hotels, The Ritz, The Lanesbrough and The Dorchester. And now joy of joys! I find that this elegant tradition has crossed the Atlantic and is as, if not more beautiful and memorable in NYC. But first an open letter to the creator of the High tea.
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!