Im celebrating. Im saluting the trailblazing culinary revolution focussing on health, vegetables, naturalness that is taking place here, in Paris, the gastonomique capital of the world. I’ve been researching vegetarian restaurants around the world ( China, Russia, Japan too) and here in Paris I find paradise. This Parisian landmark is synonymous with Dior, Dietrich and diamonds. This is where icons and trends are born since 1913. And it is here in Plaza Athenee that the very best of the best, the Michelin starred maestro Alain Ducasse’s shimmering temple to gastronomy is blazing trails. He serves up the trilogy…vegetables, cereals and fish. It goes without saying that the brilliant chef in the restaurant Romain Meder, ensures that the technical base of French haute cuisine remains intact, including expertise and absolutely precise detailing for vegetable preparation, cooking and seasoning.
NO GARDENER, NO COOKS
Its amazing that here in this temple to high gastronomy the gardener is being given as much importance as the chefs. And there are several reasons for it.
Head gardener of the Royal Grand park de Versailles at the behest of François Delahaye who helms Plaza Athénée have established an exclusive partnership with the Palace of Versailles for the vegetables and fruits supply of the Alain Ducasse restaurant.
The freshest of seasonal Sorrel, squash, broad beans, zucchini, to shallots, rhubarb… dazzle. Also artichokes introduced centuries ago by Catherine de Medicis and were a runaway success at Court because of their hypothetical aphrodisiac virtues .
Needless to say, all these fruits and vegetables are never exposed to phytosanitary chemicals etc. Picked in the morning and in the kitchen with hours. The ever helpful Isabelle Maurin translates whenever I need explanations in the kitchen.
Starting off with the refreshing tomato water flavoured with hibiscus, a parade of masterpieces dazzle, black current in black rice, the kiss of beetroot flavour in amaranth seeds, the crunch of flax or sunflower seed and so on. This approach infuses the work of the talented pastry chef, Jessica Préalpato too.
What do Liz Taylor, Marlene Dietrich have in common with the Parisian landmark Plaza Athenee? Plenty. For sure, they along with legendary figures of the world of glamor and royalty loved to stay here but there is also a deeper connect: a delicious salad dish. I tasted this Salad Mc carthy for the first time in Los Angeles, in Polo Lounge, Hollywood’s most beloved and historic dining institution, when it had just undergone a subtle Tihany-style revamp to celebrate it’s 100th year .It was in Beverly hills (also part of the Dorchester collection) The Polo Lounge that Charlie Chaplin had a standing reservation, Marlene Dietrich, eradicated the “no slacks for women” dress code and dined here. And the gorgeous beauty Liz Taylor honeymooned here four times . Her daily favorite used to be the McCarthy salad . I loved it then and requested for the recipe too, Imagine my delight when the dapper Francois Delahaye (who I met just by chance thanks to my old friend Paul Roll) shows it to me on the menu and has it made too. Ofcourse here in Paris it has been adapted by Ducasse and diced bigger and softer. But I reproduce for you my Hollywood Polo Lounge recipe.
Beverly Hills Hotel McCarthy Salad
1/4 head iceburg lettuce
1/2 head romaine lettuce
1/2 cup grilled, diced free-range chicken
1/2 cup diced roasted red beets
1/4 cup free range egg yolk
1/4 cup free range egg white
1/2 cup bacon
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup diced avocado
Balsamic Dressing Recipe
1 c. Balsamic Vinegar
1 T. brown Sugar
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and black pepper
Place all ingredients in a blender and drizzle in the vegetable oil to emulsify. Check seasoning
Arrange salad in bowl. Toss with balsamic vinaigrette tableside. You can vary ingredients according to your preferences.
You’ll agree with me that taste in food is very subjective. What is my nectar maybe yucky to you. And yet as restaurant critics we strive to give objective and accurate critiques with relevant guidelines for the majority of readers. So, what do I do when an all-vegetarian salad restaurant opens in swish SOBO Breach candy? Land up unannounced for two meals.
Read my detailed review on http://www.whatshot.in/critic-review/ministry-of-salads-r-9545
A TASTE OF THE DIVINE
Surprise of surprises. Here, in this spiritual retreat of a heaven- on- earth, I am being exposed not only to life-changing philosophies but also blowingly new perspectives on food.
Here I am in Isha Ashram. It sprawls below the majestic Velliangiri mountains, Coimbatore. The crisp, cool air of the 200 acre ashram is fragrant with flowering trees and plants. Champa and jasmine weave their heady magic. God paints his canvas with a riot of vivid colored flowers and fruits.
And in this paradise too, the fruit trees are heavy with smooth-cheeked papayas, fresh green lemons, glossy mangoes, plump custard apples and more. Each fruit bursting with goodness and flavor and color. Aptly enough, it is here that my perspectives on food get overhauled.
FOOD AND SELFLESS LOVE
Sure! Its through three decades of food writing, that I have learnt that there are some universal truths…gifted chefs skilled and experienced in the art and science of cooking produce great food. Tried and tested recipes are paramount. But I had no idea that selfless love can result in such tasty fare. Selfless love alone which drives total novices and amateurs. Here in this ashram Annadhanam ( An offering of food) is served to almost 2000 persons daily. It is totally free and is for the ashrams residents, volunteers & guests. Sattvic, positive pranic and 100% vegetarian food (a variety of salads, cereals, vegetables, fruits and porridge) is cooked here. Here’s the riveting part,
all the food here is cooked by volunteers.
Even more interestingly, these residents and volunteers in the center are from US, UK, Europe, Lebanon, of course Indian, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and many more countries. I trip out on the delicious flavors and textures of many a cuisine here and the salads surprise with their cheeky ingenuity of combinations and then they seduce. I eat them in the cool winter-sunshine, and request the two volunteers Sriram Kumar and Bharathi.V. (who have made the salads) to pose with them.Please see the photograph. They’re both full time volunteers at Isha Yoga Center and both have lovingly cubed and chopped and mixed and matched fruits and vegetables, nuts, coconut and more and produced an astonishing symphony of tastes and textures. They generously share their salad recipes with us…
TANGY, CRUNCHY SALAD
Cucumber – Pineapple Salad:
– 1 cup cubed cucumber
– 1/2 cup cubed pineapple
– 1/4 cup pomogranate
– Little finely chopped Corriander
– Salt and pepper to taste
SWEET BLISS SALAD
Carrot Chikki Salad:
– 1cup grated carrot
– 3/4 cup apple ( Julian cut)
– 2 table spoon Grated coconut ( add more if needed)
– Pomogranate for colour
– 2 table spoon of broken groundnut chikki
– 1 tablespoon honey
– cut pieces of cashew nut, Raisins
– 1 teaspoon roasted white sesame seeds
RED RICE SALAD
– 1/2 cup cut Orange pieces
– 1/2 cup cut Apple
– 1 cup torn Spinach
– 1/2 cup semi boiled red rice
– 1 cup cut cucumber
Dressing: make a paste of the below mentioned ingridients in a blender
– 1/4 cup orange juice
– 1/2 cup peeled apple
– 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon honey
– Salt and Pepper to taste.
MICHELIN-STARRED CHEF GORDON RAMSAY IN THIS ASHRAM
When the celebrated , revered and feared London based chef Gordon Ramsay’s team approached me to be his South India guide for his Channel 4 TV show “Great Escapes” I insisted he go to Isha ashram, Coimbatore and pick up not just spiritual principles but also great vegetarian cooking tips and recipes. Having done that, the committed carnivore that he is , Gordon came back to Mumbai totally impressed and converted.
He couldn’t believe how tasty the vegetarian fare was in the ashram and ofcourse he was bowled over by the erudite and enlightened, (fluent in English) Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.Here its not about vitamins, minerals or proteins. Here, food is categorized as positive pranic food ( increases vitality in the body), negative pranic food,(drains energy) and zero pranic food. While Negative pranic food comprises of Garlic,Onion,Asafoetida,Brinjal,Chili and
Coffee / tea.everything else is positive or zero pranic.
Interestingly, lime and all citrus fruits, as well as coconut are highly prized positive pranic foods.
Needless to add all the salad recipes given above are positively pranic. What is it that the hardened carnivore, globally acknowledged Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay got bowled over by? It’s the high-voltage combination of positive pranic energy and spectacular taste that is unbeatable. And addictive!