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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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 email@example.com instagram, twitter @rashmiudaysingh
Magic begins to happen when you land in this adrenalin fuelled aggressive city. Not only do I trip out in the latest musical “Aladdin” but also end up with many a magic genie. Like the vegetarian gourmet Shom Hinduja (a brilliant student completing masters in Columbia, is a serious cook, plays drums and discovers restaurants). Within 2 hours of landing, he blows my mind with the vegetarian specials in the most revered Japanese restaurant “Bar Masa”. Pure vegetarian Korean “Hungawi”, the cheap and cheerful “Han Dynasty” follow. Michelin starred “Eleven Madison Park” “Daniel” “Blue hill at Stone farm” serve fab veggie options. Budget friendly Totto Ramen, pizzerias (Rubi Rossa with heart shaped pizzas) come next. It’s Chef Ashfer Biju’s ( Two E at The iconic Pierre) outstanding vegetarian masterpieces of flavor and texture that thrill. I eat with a girlfriend at the hottest happening restaurant “Brooklyn Fare” (an 18 seater, no photos, no phones allowed) Japanese inspired mindblowing menu.
P.S. On my very last NYC night I have three dinners (at Uruguay Chef Ignacio’s Estela where Obama just went for his date night) wine at Corkbuzz with the charming editor of “Food and Wine” and then “Harry Cipriani” for gluten free pasta with pesto where Musical maestros Ayaan Ali Khan, Amaan Ali khan and Satya Hinduja share their favorite NYC restaurants. The discerning foodies, the Khan brothers are here on a 7 city tour with their father Amjad Ali Khan .
Want to know their non veggie recommendations ? email firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh
NEW YORK FOOD GUIDE
Pardon the blasphemy: I write from the original Biblical Paradise. I am convinced that it was this very Big apple that Eve tempted Adam with. So here’s a teeny taste of New York’s vast, tentacled food scene’s eternally evolving everythingness. My son Dhruv and his friend Tracy help me check it all out…from the low and high, faddish and fun, diabolically tasty, heartbreakingly expensive to the cheapest… happily vegetarians have plenty to eat everywhere.
NYC CULT FOOD AND STREET FARE
Go on. Take to the streets and you’ll be spoilt for choice, from calzones, falafel t to combined papaya juice/hot dog stands corndogs, grilled chestnuts and more. Go for the steaming, paper thin heaps of pastrami overflowing from a sandwich ( Katz Deli ) Manhattan is pizza lovers haven. Lombardis (Spring street) is still my choice though you can pick up a slice most anywhere. A BITE OF HISTORY NYC is where the Delicatessan (Deli) was created by the East European jews as also the Reuben sandwich, Steak Diane,Vichyssoise and the Waldorf salad . Cronuts being the latest. Crunch on the apple and walnut rich Waldorf salad at the Waldorf Astoria like we do or step back in time in the old-word charm of Café Carlye (76th and Madison) where music legends have played, we were lucky to hear Woody Allen on the clarinet as we dined on the classic Lobster bisque and Branzino. Cant keep eating fancy ? Do what I did went into the iconic Plaza hotel’s brand new Todd English Foodhall (1 W 59th street) for affordable fare.
If you have deep pockets (or like us save up and not shop) then a five hour Italian meal at celebrity chef Mario Batallis 24000 sq ft elegant Del posto (85, 10th Ave) is a must. I ate at Perse (Columbus Circle) last trip and found it too frilly and predictable,
FINE DINE DEMOCRATISED
Its also called the “Momofuku effect” And it all started with my favorite fabulous Michelin starred Changs Momofuku Ssam bar (East village)superlative food. We dine with Viveka Purandare at Will Guidara’s fabulous NoMad’s (1170 Broadway) lacquered roast chicken with truffles and foie gras to the mindblowing simplicity of red radishes enrobed in a thin shell of butter. On my last trip we had dined at their “Eleven Madison Park”(10 Columbus circle) …astounding though more formal. OUR CASUAL FLAVORITES Innovative yet comforting Mediteranean fare at Atrio (Conrad hotel, Battery park) chef Antonio Cardoso excels here. Innovative, inspired supercharged dimsum at Red Farm ( Second Ave East Village) buzzing Parisian bistro. Balthazar (Spring st) are must visits
Michelin starred Junoon (means passion in hindi) (27 W, 24th St) lives up to it’s name and serves up an authentic, yet elegantly modern take on Indian cuisine. And four of us speakers (Hemant Oberoi, Zorawar Kalra Rajesh Bhardwaj and me ) from the Columbia Business school food panel dine in this handsome, high ceilinged packed and noisy restaurant where the hot sexy chef Vikas Khanna creates magic. With us are Revti Gupta, Divya Surana and Kersi Shroff the brilliant masterminds of Columbias Inspiring India.
Whoa we feasted on the glittering 360 degree view of NYC from the swanky Top of The Standard (848 Washington street)– formerly Boom Boom Room –luxurious 70s-inspired glam, with starburst chandeliers, gold plated chairs et al. Equally popular is that oasis of luxe urban cool, Dream hotel ( Midtown West) owned by Vikram Chatwal) exclusive puny Electric Room nightclub And PH-D, their rooftop nightclub.
DOLLOPS OF GLAMOR
Asia is on steroids at this sprawling new Tao Downtown (92 9th Ave) loud music, seabass satay, dimsum, sake flight tasting and Patrick Duxbury insists we trip out the most decadent dessert platter. We do happily. Beauty& Essex… Walk through a jewellery pawn shop into this gem of a restaurant with sharing mutli ethnic plates. Purvi Thacker and I trip out on Lobster tacos to eggplant pizzettas Love the vibe and Italian fare at Robert di Nero’s Greenwich hotel.The fluffy pancakes at Three Guys Restaurant (Madison Avenue) and the Greek manager proudly informs that the worlds most beautiful actress Deepika Padukone has eaten here.
ROOHI JAIKISHEN RECOMMENDS It was a virtual miracle: it was on Instagram that I got recommendations from Roohi Jaikishen, the discerning gourmet New York addict and followed them too. Amongst them were, Jean Georges Vongerischten at 1920s Paris meets New York, Mark hotel (super steamed shrimp salad.) Tao, Beauty and Essex, Top of the Standard, Dream hotel Schiller and Arlington recommended by Roohi.
NYC CHEAPAND CHEERFUL I sniffed out some great finds on my eatabouts all thanks to instagram and twitter (@rashmiudaysingh) I got some amazing recommendations from NYCfoodtastic, Rikin Kadakia and many more. * Artichoke pizza on Mcdougal, * Xian famous food’s famous lamb burger ( St. Marks street) all for $3 *Malai Marke for Indian food beats chote nawab or bricklane * Ippudo For ramen noodles and burgers * los taco no.1 (chelsea market,) salts of 100 flavors to finger licking lobsters too. * Woorijip Authentic Korean food, for buffets with 40+ options