Deliciously exciting news! I’m getting definitive, scientific advice on what I should eat to lose weight, to detox, to be healthy. It’s based on hardcore scientific genetic research. Nutrigenomics cracks the connection between diet and health and ensures that everyone benefits from the genomic revolution. And all it takes is a saliva test. And that simply cracks the genetic code.
Spearheading this is renowned Biotechnologist Dr Vice Soljan of Nutrigenext Sàrl. He’s based in Switzerland but I’m fortunate to meet him in Dubai, after the Master Class given by him at Faarah Mehta’s amazing Maison Imperiale educational academy for adults.
And in the photograph, the food they are holding are what Faarah should eat to reach optimal health. Through that one simple saliva test for her genetic profile she has learnt what to eat and what exercises to do, simply superb and superbly simple.
Please take a look at the photo, would you believe this is in the concrete jungle of Dubai? I love sniffing out hidden gems all over the world and this one is tucked into a fishing village . Run by a young husband and wife team, it serves up gems of wizardry. And guiding me to it are our very own revered and feared, media baron (Blitz) the late Russy Karanjia’s gorgeous daughter and granddaughter. Discerning gourmets, they are the toast of Dubai. High profile editor Rita Mehta Karanjia makes time from her hectic media and celebrity management work, Faarah Mehta Shewakramani takes time off her pioneering and fully booked up elective educational academy to lunch with me here. The ocean bounty is distilled on our plates. Evolving modern Asian cuisine with a Japanese influence the brilliant young Akmal Anuar serves up one masterpiece after another. The most fresh, delicate and crazily addictive Seaurchin, heady white truffles, refreshing ponzu-spiked Yellowtail tuna and more. The Hairy crab with Piedmonte white truffles dazzles and the feast continues. Ends with the delightful
Kadak chai (you read that right) ice cream. Our lunch at “3 Fils” hits gastronomic stratospheres but the price points are down to earth. Therein lies the magic.
India is shining. And how! I’ve never seen such a full-on star cast of Indian chefs together. I write from the stunning seaside city of San Sebastian (which has the largest number of Michelin starred restaurants in the world). Fittingly enough the gigantic gourmet Gastronomika is taking place here. Eye-opening sessions, cooking demos with tastings, tours and more. And amid all this high-end gastronomy, India is the guest of honor. The dynamic director Roser Torres dons a red salwar kameez especially to welcome dream-team India. Our very own, worlds 7thb est, Asia’s best Gaggan Anand has flown in from Bangkok. What a cluster of Michelin stars: Vineet Bhatia (London), Sriram Aylur (London), Srijith Gopinathan (SanFrancisco). Saurabh Udinia and Manish Mehrotra (New Delhi) and covering both North and South India are Manjit Singh Gill and his dreamteam, And from Mumbai our very own chef Thomas Zachariah are making India proud. Jai hind!
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.
I’m rejoicing! My ongoing global research on gourmet vegetarian food just got more exciting. In the past few months I’ve tracked the best of the best vegetarian in Japan, China, Russia, Austria and now in the capital of glamor and films…Los Angeles. I’m feeling like a million dollars as I report from a charmed frontier (Hollywood, where else?) where fantasy is blending into reality, and that too in it’s beloved and iconic landmarks. Both close to each other in the glamorously beautiful Beverly Hills. Every square inch of both bristles with star power. Both are the haunt of Hollywood and the global who’s who. Both are legends…
In this legendary landmark, glamor and luxury drips in every practical detail and human warmth marks every hi-tech comfort. The iconic Beverly Wilshire “Pretty Woman hotel” (the movie was filmed here) turns ninety at the close of this year yet continues to rock with a youthful rhythm and beat.
Star spangled Hollywood dines, meets and stays here, it is also officially on the National Register of Historic Places of the United States. Superstars such as Elvis Presley, Warren Beatty and Steve McQueen have all lived in this luxurious landmark. As does our very own Bollywood. Over the years, I’ve had salad with Priyanka Chopra, muesli with Anil Kapoor and steak with Javed Akhtar here. A favourite of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Anil Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Karan Johar and others.
I love to soak in the cool sunshine in BLVD, their patio restaurant on the stunning sun-drenched, Rodeo drive designer boulevard to the world. I feast on the brilliant chefs freshest of seasonal California and watch the sun bronzed greek gods with their six pack abs and la-di-da babes with endless legs glide by. And today am doubly delighted: their brilliant new executive chef is not only our very own Samir Roonwal but he especially cooks up some delightful pure vegetarian dishes which sparkle with the Californian and Indian touch. Having worked in world famous kitchens and had the who’s who eating out of his hands Samir is now creating culinary magic here.
And it is here in BLVD, ( voted top “Power Tables” … Wall Street Journal) that I catch up with him as well as the dapper, high-energy Ben Trodd, who not only helms this landmark, but also spearheads nine other superb hotels. This discerning gourmet, well-travelled Vice President wears his success and his designer suit with equal panache. We trip out on the Crunchy okra smeared with the velvety dip, which makes for the perfect cocktail snack and I request chef Samir to share the recipe with us. After this the gorgeous Lauren Dutton Breen takes me up to show me Los Angeles very first “Glamping” site.
But that another exciting story…
P.S. Within this hotel itself is yet another superb restaurant CUT by America’s high-priest of cuisine Wolfgang Puck. It specialises in non-vegetarian food. A short stroll away is his landmark Spago, where I taste yet another veggie wow.
Chef Roonwal’s Crispy OKRA
2 cups: Okra Julienne
1 tsp: Toasted Cumin seeds
1 tsp: Chilli powder
1 tsp: Dry mango powder
1/2 cup: Chickpea Flour
1 tsp: Onion Seeds
1/2 tsp: Turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Wash okra well, dry them out completely and Julienne them.
Add all the dry spice powders and seeds, along with salt, to the okra.
Toss them well till incorporated and set it down for 5 mins.
Then sprinkle chickpea flour on top (start with a few tbsps). Mix them well. Add a few tsps water so the okra gets coated with the flour.
Deep fry them in oil. Serve hot.
Ingredient: Julienne Okra, Spiced Chickpea Flour, Dry Mango Powder
Garnish: Pomegranate Seeds Fresh, Mustard Flower, Micro Cilantro
He has recently received his own star on the Hollywood walk of fame. So when this superstar celebrity chef, restaurateur, and occasional actor, Wolfgang Puck takes three hours off his busy schedule to lunch with me its celebration time. We do so in his three decades old landmark Spago which continues to play host to the who’s who of the world, to Oscar premieres restaurants and more. Wolfgangs catering services, cookbooks and licensed products are in great demand. We chat about his 27 (and counting) restaurants around the world and I trip out on the outstanding vegetarian tasting menu. Though Wolfgang Puck is single handedly responsible to introduce gourmet pizzas to the world and his signature dish at his original restaurant, Spago, is House Smoked Salmon Pizza, he continues to introduce flavours from around the world.
Today, his brilliant young chef Tetsuya cooks up an amazing pumpkin baked in salt, tangy sweet plaintain salad served in a half coconut, a parmesan marshmallow and beetroot cookie flag off our multi-course vegetarian lunch which ends with a light and bright melon dessert. And in Wolfgang Pucks Hollywood flagship restaurant in Los Angeles, their Japanese chef cooks up the most deliciously creamy (hold your breath) baingan bharta. And my joy comes full circle.
Whoa! A gourmet pure vegetarian and vegan menu in Hollywood Roosevelt, the very heart of Hollywood itself. Here, Hollywood history lives, breathes and dazzles. It was here that the first Oscars were held in 1927, it has the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” at it’s feet and is within air kissing distance of the iconic “Dolby Theatre” where the Oscars are held. Marilyn Monroe lived here, by this poolside. It is right here that along with Andrea Escobar, I get a taste of the brilliant chef Josh Eden’s vegan creations (including the bagel and lox made of carrots and tofu). Having opened over 30 restaurants around the world Chef Eden is all set to add this delicious vegetarian, vegan dimension here. Don Jacinto who helms this iconic landmark ensures that all normal people are treated like movie stars and movie stars like normal people. Therein lies the magic!
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 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.
Cheers! I raise a toast with the delicious herb infused water in the bottle. Nestled in the beautiful Bavarian Alps, Lanserhof’s organic herb garden ensures the addition of fresh seasonal herbs into the food and of course the water. It ensures that nutritious can be delicious. And that is what excites me the most here in Lanserhof the medical institution, which has been at the forefront of cutting edge research and is based on a symbiosis of ancient healing and state-of-the-art medicine treating both mind and body. Helming it is Dr Benedetto Resich, the globally renowned expert doctor in individualistic and integrated medicine and under her guidance the brilliant Chef Karsten Wolf creates energy cuisine. At my request they shared some of their recipes. Should you need them please email email@example.com