food

From Russia With Love

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I write from magical Moscow. The spirit of Russia is distilling itself in the photograph I shot. I’m not referring to just to the vodka and the epitome of epicurean pleasure, caviar (which the chef is holding), but also to the spectacularly beautiful Red square (flanked by the Kremlin and the cathedrals) which is visible. I shot it from the glamorous rooftop lounge of Moscow’s most luxurious landmark done up in the classical gilded luxurious glamor of nineteenth century Russia. The magnificent Red square has been witness to  centuries of  Russian history and culture and art. It continues to throb with the vibrance of modern Moscow. And here in this uber hotspot rooftop lounge, the knowledgable and brilliant French executive chef Yoann Barnard explains the centuries of connection between French and Russian cuisines. Did you know that during the reign of the Russian Tsars, the nobility spoke mainly  French? French food was the norm and many French chefs worked in the Tsars kitchens and those of the nobility too. This French-Russian style continues to be popular even today. I taste this fare in “Café Pushkin”in “Matryshcka” in the innovative and highly awarded “White Rabbit” and the many spectacular restaurants of the Ritz Carlton too. Here I do caviar tasting and learn to distinguish the fine from the rest. I continue to explore vegetarian food in Russia…but that is a very long story.

Review: Oriental Spice

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If it’s the wedding of Chinese cuisine to Indian flavours (moderately priced too) that you’re looking for then “Oriental Spice” is where you should head to. That’s of course if you’re in the vicinity of Thane.

Read my detailed review on: https://whatshot.in/mumbai

Review: Slink And Bardot

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What happens when the French superstar bombshell Bardot slinks into the unglamorous Worli village? Voila! Mumbai’s only French restaurant (other than the creperie Suzette) “Slink and Bardot” opens.

Read my detailed review on: https://whatshot.in/mumbai/slink-and-bardot-charms-with-a-true-taste-of-paris-r-9803

The Edible Heart Of Art

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I’m thrilled to art  in sunny Barcelona. Every conceivable form of art, breathing art, seeing art, hearing art and of course tasting art. Over the years, Barcelona has been my most favourite city which has nurtured global superstars of art, architecture and cuisine. I’ve been a constant and ardent fan of trailblazers Antonio Gaudi, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and of course my culinary hero Ferran Adria. I have luxuriated in their immortal art forms and dining at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli was an experience I’ll treasure forever. And this time, thanks to my ever helpful friend in China, Vito Romeo, I even stay in the aptly named and the stunning Hotel Arts, designed by the globally renowned architect Frank Gehry.

Please take a look at the accompanying photograph, the intriguing flying Fish sculpture that you see, is named after a  Spanish dance (Sardana) performed in front of the cathedral and for sure the Hotel Arts, while not a cathedral has a similar dominating presence. And standing below is the brilliant Calatan chef Antonio Saez , who at a very young age worked as chef de cuisine in a three Michelin starred restaurant. He masterminds the wealth of dining options here and shares with me amazing insights about Spanish cuisine. The dapper and dynamic Raul Salcido helms this 25 year old iconic landmark and ensures that it delivers superb food and equally superior service.

DINING IN THE ARTS

All under one roof; A mind blowing wealth of dining options, I dine at two Michelin-starred Chef Paco Pérez’s Enoteca. And am blown away by his sheer genius and creativity which fuses textures and flavours into a delicious parade of dishes.

Lunching on Michelin starred Chef Sergi Arola’s fresh ingredients straight from the Boqueria market is a treat.

Seafood from all the coastlines of the world dazzle at Marina, which is situated in the gardens with views of the Mediterranean.

Its always been my most favourite summer soup. The very simple to make, Gazpacho. Not sure whether it’s recipe finds place in the first ever culinary book which was written in Barcelona in the 12th century.

And though Barcelona  has assimilated cosmopolitan cultures, over a 1000 years, it continues to hold it’’s own roots, culture, language and cuisine in high regard.

I am fascinated by this complex yet amazingly simple cuisine and the high state of gastronomy in Catalonia. And thanks to Chef Antonio Saez I taste and learn more about it.

GAZPACHO

Interestingly, Gazpacho may be served as a starter, main dish, or tapas. Its old and original recipe includes garlic paste, bread, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Chef Antonio points out  “You can many different kinds of gazpachos. Cherry gazpacho, beetroot gazpacho or peach gazpacho”, he explains, “What you need to do is, change 1/3 of the weight of the tomato for cherries, peach or beetroot.You will have a totally different gazpacho.”

 1.5 kg of plum tomatoes/400g of cucumber

150g of green capsicum/50g of onion

500ml of mineral water/½ garlic clove

250g of Extra virgin olive oil/25g of cider/ vinegar/ Salt

Blend all the ingredients, but not the vinegar and salt. Using an upright blender, blend for 5 minutes at maximum power, pass through a fine sieve and keep in the fridge. Adjust seasoning with the salt and vinegar. 

Serve very cold in soup plates, finish with garlic croutons, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

MORE GREAT SPANISH RESTAURANTS

ELBULLI

Crowned the “worlds best restaurant” five times over, Spanish wizard Ferran Adria’s “El Bulli” was a phenomenon. I was fortunate enough to have dined here, before Adria shut it. This is where Ferran Adria coaxed science to copulate with imagination and deliver brilliant surprises in texture, temperature and taste. His innovation of  “molecular gastronomy” (though he hats the word) continues to inspire the world.

CELLER DE CAN ROCA

Multi-sensorial Techno-emotion cuisine seduces at worlds best (twice over)  Located an hours drive out of Barcelona, the three Roca brothers fuse science, poetry, melody, into an orchestra of flavours & textures & memories & stories. This is my second dinner here and once again I come away thrilled.

DISFRUTAR

My last meal at the Michelin starred Disfrutar (means Enjoy)  more than lives up to it’s name. The brilliant chefs Mateu Casañas, Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch conjure a delicious extravaganza of innovative surprises.

Review: 1 Above

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1 Above conjures enough atmospheric pizzazz to wind you up while paying enough attention to basic creature comforts to let you wind down.

Read my detailed review on: https://whatshot.in/mumbai

Review: The Blue

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Alleluia! A star is born! Let me quickly correct that…a superstar is born, in Bandra.

Read my detailed review on: https://whatshot.in/mumbai/the-blue-r-9795

The Worlds Most Awesome Restaurant

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No two ways about it. This is the worlds most awesome restaurant. Here’s a restaurant where the worlds greatest chefs fly in from all over the world, to volunteer and cook ONLY for the homeless and the vulnerable. And to do so they use waste materials. This is it. The ultimate and most heart-touching and transformative use of gastronomy. It takes within it’s sweep a fight against food waste in support of social inclusion, feeding the homeless and the vulnerable. It’s a non-profit organisation, its aptly named “Food for Soul” and is founded by one of the worlds greatest, most brilliant chefs Massimo Bottura whose mindblowing “Osteria francescana” was judged the worlds best restaurant last year. Lara and Massimo Bottura are blessed alchemists and their non-stop dedication to this selfless work is truly awesome. “Chefs have risen to celebrity heights,” Chef Bottura commented. “I believe we, chefs, can reflect these lights to illuminate the most pressing issues facing society today. Cooking is a call to act.” And sure enough they are using this in many amazing ways to change the world. I could write a book on those, but  due to space constraint have to limit myself to Food for Soul today.

THE AWESOME COMMUNITY KITCHEN

It’s a privilege and a blessing. I came to London, only to be able to volunteer as a part-time waitress in Lara and Massimo Bottura’s truly noble and innovative “Food For Soul”. They’ve set up this community kitchen and restaurant  Refettorio Felix to provide lunch from Monday toFriday for the homeless and other vulnerable groups from surplus produce supplied by The Felix Project. The aim is to serve more than 2,000 meals using five tonnes of recovered food. The community kitchen is based on Food for Soul’s highly successful Refettorios established in Milan and Rio de Janeiro opened during the 2016 Olympic Games.

It was a great experience to be in the beautiful and elegant Refettorio felix. It was set up in St Cuthbert’s Centre in Earl’s Court the historic community space underwent an ambitious six-week makeover by Charles Wainwright and Ilse Crawford. It is a beautiful space infused with art and design  and it brings a new sense of dignity to the table, showing how aesthetics and ethics go hand in hand.

More than 30 leading British and international chefs have already accepted the call to action from Massimo Bottura to cook in the Refettorio.  Michelin starred chefs Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Jamie Oliver, Ashley Palmer-Watts, Jason Atherton, Monica Galetti, Nuno Mendes  and many more turning surplus ingredients into a delicious menu. I was privileged to watch the brilliant and highly gifted Michel Roux jr and his daughter Emily (of the legendary Le Gavaroche) and Jonny Lake (of the iconic Fat Duck) in action. And on the day that I excitedly watch Georgio Locatelli (of the award winning Locanda Locatelli) the dynamic Charles Reed, chief of the  trailblazing Worlds 50 best restaurant Academy was also there to support this noble venture.

 YOU CAN BE A PART OF IT TOO

Following the month-long June festival, Refettorio Felix will continue to operate and provide a vital community service for years to come. With the support of Food for Soul and its partner, The Felix Project, meals will be prepared by two resident cooks with  assistance from a guest chef. If you are a chef and visiting London you can volunteer to cook for a day. Should you be visiting London and want to volunteer to help to serve or help out you can do so too. Reach out to info@foodforsoul.it

MASSIMO’s Breadcrumb Pesto

Here’s the recipe which maestro Massimo Bottura cooked up on the very first day launch of “Food for Soul” Refettorio felix.

Ingredients
Serves 4- 400g Artisanal dried Pasta (spaghetti)/ 1 garlic clove/120g fresh basil leaves (if you don’t have enough basil, use parsley, mint, and gentle green herbs – not rosemary )/ 50g  breadcrumbs /salt (1g)/100g grated Parmigiano Reggiano / 70g extra virgin olive oil (preferably chilled 3 hours)/ 30g cold water

Place the garlic, bread crumbs, basil and mint, and salt in a food processor and pulse. While the machine is running, drizzle in the oil and the water alternatively through the feed tube, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Transfer to a large serving bowl and stir in the Parmesan.Cook the pasta according to the package directions (al dente).

Strain the Pasta without rinsing, add the pasta to the bowl with pesto, stir gently and serve warm. Enjoy!

Divinely Delicious Dive

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Island owner and pilot Peter Gash with Chef Mitch on Lady Elliot island.

It’s a deliciously life changing experience. Above and below the waters too. I’m in this tiny (one mile long,) remote Lady Elliot Island which shimmers in the turquoise blue waters of Australia’s Great Barrier reef. Peter Gash  the gallant owner of the island, flies me in his tiny plane and the  colourful, naked beauty of nature seduces. He has been dedicatedly reforesting  this island  and preserving the pristine marine life (I snorkel and dive for the first time)and running this amazing 41 room eco resort. In the midst of  this raw nature the brilliant Chef Mitch conjures a gourmet meal from Moreton Bay Bugs in a coconut Asian sauce to handmade Salted Caramel Macarons.

We feast on the beach and right there in the azure sunset flecked waters the sea turtles, whales, dolphins dance to a divine rhythm.

P.S. I love the India connection…this remote island is named after  the Lady Elliot ship built in Calcutta. Named after the governor of India’s wife it was the ship in which the island was  discovered. Jai hind!