travel diaries

India Shines in NYC

Posted on Updated on

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!

Advertisements

Grains of Magic

Posted on

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 rashmiudaysingh2017@gmail.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.

Serve hot.

Tasting Excellence

Posted on Updated on

Its a treat to watch culinary history in the making and to get a taste of it too. Here in Berlin, in the large historic hall, high tech sound and light shows are spinning magic and the heart of it all is revolutionary excellence, a dialog oven that is not only being unveiled but also cooking for us. Food forward thinking is being celebrated by the superstars of gastronomy who have flown in to congratulate Dr. Markus Miele. Hélène Pietrini, Director of the prestigious World’s 50 Best, Ana Roš, The World’s Best Female Chef 2017 sparkle the landmark gastronomic event. Oh! The joys of being a food writer!

 

High Energy Cuisine

Posted on Updated on

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 rashmiudaysingh2017@gmail.com

Food.. Cutting Edge Perspectives

Posted on Updated on

Foodies! Chew on it. Savor it. Here’s some food for thought. A mind-blowingly different perspective on food and its creation, on the world of food and chefs and restaurants.

I write from an amazing space, where food is not just being cooked but performed, boundaries are being pushed, new cultures discovered and knowledge exchanged. I write from the beautiful mountains of UpperAustria, from Gelinaz.

One thing is for sure, cooking is not just fine dining anymore. It touches different population segments across the world, and it needs to be both cutting-edge and playful, as well as in phase with worldwide pop culture.

And here in the beautiful mountains of Upper Austria I’m getting a taste of this amazingly different perspective. The worlds most brilliant chefs have flown in and are creating and co-creating together. And I am a voyeur.

SUPERSTARS CO CREATING MAGIC.

Every single continent seems to be represented here. The worlds superstar chefs have flown in. Rene Redzepi of Noma (Copenhagen), David Chang of Momofuku (New York), Virgilio Martinez (Of central Lima), May Chow of Little Bao Hong Kong, Heinz Reitbauer of Vienna, Margot Janse from South Africa, Manu Buffara from South America and a dozen more. Equally renowned artists, musicians, scientists, thinkers have flown in from all parts of the world. Is it about food? Is it about music? Art?  Its all this and more. Its “Gelinaz.” The curators Andrea Petrini & Alexandra Swenden are, in essence, ‘agit pop’ curators of a culinary hub that is pushing boundaries.

It’s a world wide think tank of avantgarde chefs performing food and remixing each other’s dishes like in a DJ set giving form to culinary happenings where art, music and cuisine fusion in unexpected and improvisational ways.

NOT ONLY ABOUT COOKING.

Sure! cooking is a big deal, but today it’s not enough: contemporary cuisine needs to find new ways to get in touch with a wider, younger audience, mingling and dialoguing with art, music and other fields of expression.

And here, I am witnessing  how culinary talent and human qualities can coexist harmoniously inside the kitchen.

How, the main stage for a chef is the kitchen, a place where life and art, personal experience and interdisciplinary longings  find a means of expression.

NOT ABOUT COOKING COMPETITIONS EITHER.

After all the “Masterchef” competitions and fierce rivalry, suddenly here is a welcome space, a happy space, there is:

– no competition

– universal sharing

– experimentation in a collective way beyond meritocracy and classified roles (stars, lists etc..)

Instead the collective of chefs were,

– pushing the boundaries, performing food and take risk as a starting point

– discovering new cultures and exchanging knowledge

– exploring the unknown

– zooming in on the beauty of nature, its elegant chaos

FOOD IS BEING PERFORMED.

Here, in the award winning gastronomic, family run restaurant Muhltalhof of the family Rachinger, the experimental culinary performance is taking place. The brilliant father and son chef duo of Philip and Helmut Rachinger have chosen three core ‘Matrix’ dishes. We get to taste them in a magnificent multi-course dinner the night before. Today the international chefs have been working in small teams of three and four. These dishes are being deconstructed, dismantled, cut into pieces and remixed by the 24 participating international and Austrian chefs. Chefs are asked to freely reinterpret every dish, modify some of the original ingredients and add seasonal produce from Upper-Austria to their new creations. And we walked through the different stations set up by each group as they interpreted the three matrix dishes. Rene Redzepi of Noma used moss he had foraged, Virgilio Martinez from Peru and his team interpreted the gulasch in a dumpling, David Chang from NYC along with May Chow from Hong Kong set up under a tree and even served up Schnitzel shots. The finale dinner is to follow…a sit down seven course dinner with these brilliant chefs in orchestra together. Innovative music and art installations by Joachim Eckl reverberate with the sounds of the river flowing nearby. Though sublime, its not just a gourmet dinner anymore. It’s the pampering of all senses. Nature, art, music food, cultures of different countries, good vibrations, morph into a memorable magical experience.  A Magelinaz experience!

P.S

I couldn’t resist requesting for the recipe of the  three matrix dishes of the potato gulasch, freshwater fish and the summerbock venison

Please email rashmiudaysingh2017@gmail.com should you want them.

CHENNAI  FOODLINE

So exciting to be in the mountains of UpperAustria and be in touch with you. Thanks for keeping me plugged into the vibrant home catering food scene of Chennai.

For any queries or recommendations,  please mail rashmiudaysingh2017@gmail.com  or call 98840 65010 or mail anjalisharma966@gmail.com

  • Gazeenasulu Kunhamed from Ormes Road, Kilpauk specialises in exotic cakes and desserts such as the French Jaconde cake (an almond sponge cake), Choco Coffee opera and a variety of cheesecakes. Her latest offerings are jackfruit and tender coconut cake, mango and passion fruit cake, orange and pistachio cake, cherries and chocolate cake which are made with entremets ( layered desserts with multiple flavours and textures). No home delivery. Call 98409 70353  or mail gazeenasulu@yahoo.co.in
  • Harini Sankaranarayanan from Simply Chocolate is a home baker from Abhiramapuram. She can customise cakes according for to customer requirements for  specific flavours, fillings ( types of nuts or fruits) or themes. Home delivery with extra charges. Call 98414 28798.
  • Sudha Shankaran from Pondy Bazaar takes orders for nankhatais. Minimum order is half kg. Call 99400-62327 or mail srinivaas.sudha@gmail.com
  • Anu Prosper  from Mistletoe Cakes is a home baker based in  Choolaimedu. The latest cake flavours in her menu are cotton candy, butter popcorn and bubblegum. She is also taking orders for low carb pizzas and savouries such as chicken croquettes, cheesy bakes ( veg and non veg) etc. Call  9600116757 or mail  anuprosper@gmail.com or visit https://www.facebook.com/mistletoe.cakes
  • Shyamala Sivaraman from Shyamala’s Culinary Classes  is based in Arcot road, Kodambakkam.  She conducts four hours sessions from Monday to Saturday on baking (cakes, cookies, muffins, decorative cupcakes), bread and buns, tarts and pies, puff pastries. She also conducts intensive icing workshops. Call on  98402 51050.
  • Deepika from Aumly is taking orders for  Thai Sweet Chilly Sauce, which is both spicy & sweet, Whole Wheat Muffins which can be stored in the fridge for a week in the following flavours: Apple Crumble Muffin, Carrot & Walnut Muffin and Orange & Dark Chocolate Muffins, organic fresh curd, set in earthenware pots, Idli Podi and organic Curry Leaf Powder. Order by Wednesday for pick up on Friday. Call on 8939774319. Address: 12-Z, Rutland Gate, 4th  St, Aroshree Kailash, Ground Floor. 48 hours notice required.
  • Sara Koshy is conducting a Workshop  on Garden Parties.  On the menu:
  1.  Zucchini Loaf
  2.  Cauliflower Crust Veg Pizza
  3.  Green Olive Tapennade (on Brushetta)
  4.  White Choco Chunk Brownies

Venue: The Gormei Market – 6, CIT Colony, 2nd Main Road, (behind focus gallery on TTK road), Mylapore, Chennai:4

Date: Aug 6th, Sunday. Time: 3:00pm to 6:30pm. Cost: Rs.1200/per person.

Call to register: 4217 2229.

Tasting Mind-blowing Creativity

Posted on Updated on

This is it. It doesn’t get more mind-blowingly creative than this. Or more exciting. Or more international. I’m with a wild bunch of globally acknowledged geniuses in the breathtakingly beautiful Upper Austria mountains. The superstar chefs have flown in from all over the world, be it Rene Redzepi of Noma (Copenhagen) David Chang of Momofuku (New York) Virgilio Martinez ( Of central, Lima) May Chow of Little Bao Hong Kong, and a dozen more. Equally renowned artists, musicians, scientists, thinkers have flown in from all parts of the world. And we’re about to get a taste of innovation and creativity.

Is it about food? Is it about music? Art? It’s all this and more. Its “Gelinaz.” The curators Andrea Petrini & Alexandra Swenden are, in essence, ’agit pop’ curators of a culinary hub that is pushing boundaries.

It’s a world wide think tank of avantgarde chefs performing food and remixing each other’s dishes like in a DJ set giving form to culinary happenings where art, music and cuisine fusion in unexpected and improvisational ways.

Its an amazing space, where food is not just cooked but performed, boundaries pushed, new cultures discovered and knowledge exchanged. All this while zooming in on the beauty of nature.

P.S. The dress code is an unusual one, “Leave your high heels behind but bikinis and bathing trunks could come in handy, since being an outdoor event, it’s advisable to drape some cashmere too.” I’m all set. Oh! The joy of being a food writer..

Vegetarian Russia

Posted on Updated on

Russia surprises. And how. Firstly, it is glamorous and rocking and young. And the young modern Russian cuisine is equally vibrant. Even the so called Russian food has distinct French influences (during the Tsarist regimes). Here comes the biggest surprise…there are plenty of options for vegetarians. I research these threadbare in Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi (Caucasian Riveria). Would you believe there is a sattvik, no-onion, no-garlic restaurant in St Petersburg? Its ten years old and run by a Russian woman.

And yet another surprise…due to the prevalence of Russian orthodox Christianity, Russians do not eat meat for six months a year. And remain mainly vegetarian.

But most of all,  it’s Russia’s dashing, brilliant young chef Vladimir Mukhin who symbolises the sign of the times. The dynamo multi-talented 5th generation chef creates delicious original masterpieces he makes magic. White Rabbit, his aptly named restaurant is the first restaurant in Russia to make it to the World 50best restaurant list for 3 years. I absolutely love the way his dishes look like food from the future, but have traditional tastes of the past and are made of only local products. I love his young, provocative, experimental contemporary Russian cuisine. And yes he not only has a vegetarian menu but also a vegan option!

Caviar Capers

Posted on Updated on

Its an amazing opportunity. I’m not only in the home-country of  this supreme epicurean pleasure, but also in Russia’s only caviar restaurant where Russia’s only full-time vodka sommelier and most knowledgeable caviar master Alexander Dmitriev offers caviar master-classes.

I learn it all.. the very basics.. only fish eggs produced by the sturgeon fish (a prehistoric huge fish) can be called caviar to the types, preservation, history, telling fake from real. etc.

I taste the finest Beluga (made from the Beluga fish of the sturgeon family) caviar, it has the largest grains, is creamy, has a fishy flavour, of seaweed and even walnuts. I do a vodka and champagne pairing. I sip and taste Russia’s history in its 142 year old grandest historic landmark…Belmond Grand Hotel Europe.

Russia’s Veggie Wow And P.M. Modi

Posted on Updated on

I serve you a taste of Russia’s magnificent history and cuisine and with it a peek into our Prime Minister Modi’s most recent abode in the stunning St Petersburg. It’s awesome. It is Russia’s largest most beautiful Presidential suite and this is where our very own Prime Minister Modi stayed last month. It sprawls under a dramatic domed gold-leaf ceiling, has its own grand lobby and antique Carl Schroeder grand piano too. Two bedrooms, a private fitness centre, kitchen and this antique rosewood dining table under the magnificent handblown crystal chandeliers where we shot the photograph. In the past 142 years of it’s history, it has played host to global superstars, Hollywood movie moghuls, presidents and royalty. Bill Clinton, Whitney Houston, George Bernard Shaw and many more. The great Russian composer Tchaikovsky (my all time favourite) honeymooned here in the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe. This most iconic landmark has been witness to the history of the stunning St Petersburg.  Its Neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau building is now classified as a historical monument.

RUSSIAN VEGGIE WOWS
It is here in this icon that I get a taste of  Russian history, art, culture and food. Here is the surprise…also vegetarian food. Which of course would please our very vegetarian Prime Minister to no end. The multi-talented Chef Ian Christopher Minnis ensures the finest gourmet dinners here. He also oversees the amazing plethora of restaurants here. From St Petersburg’s most gastronomique L Europe restaurant (serving authentic Russian masterpieces) to the legendary caviar bar to the new Asian restaurant Azia which also serves some Indian dishes and has an Indian chef Dev Kathait. I do a tasting of their Asian vegetarian (including delicious dal, kababs and tandoori) in Azia. And request them for a second taste of the most amazing creation of pumpkin dimsum and he is kind enough to share the recipe of  the very traditional Russian Borscht soup (pure vegetarian). Chef de Cuisine Larisa Kordik conjures superb dishes (tandoor, steam and wok cooking techniques) and Ekaterina Vasiljeva not only helps translate but also coordinates everything seamlessly.

BORSCH SOUP

INGREDIENTS

Beetroot 160 gms/ Cabbage 120 gms/ Onion 20 gms/ Carrot 30 gms/ Vegetable Oil 50 gms/ Vegetable Broth 800 gms/ Tomato Paste 15 gms/ White Wine vinegar 5 gr/ Sugar 25 gr/ Black Pepper  0.5 gr/ Bayleaf  0.5 gr/ Lemon 5 gr/ Garlic 10 gr

Method

  • Clean & cut carrots, onions ( julienne ) and sauté in vegetable oil.
  • Add cabbage as well, ( the cabbage should be cut into julienne the same way as the carrots and onions. Gently sautewithout color to the vegetables.
  • Add tomato paste to the mixture, and gently saute a little further until it is not bitter.
  • Blanch the beet root in the skin until it is fully tender
  • Peel the  beet skin and shred  through a food processor, or Slice in thin long strips, (Keep beet juice  and add to soup just before serving.
  • Add vinegar,vegetable broth, stir and stew.  Add the bayleaf& shredded beet root. mix
  • In 5-10 min till ready, add salt, sugar and spices.( lemon and garlic)
  • Do Not boil hard as the color will disappear.

CAVIAR MASTER-CLASS

What better place to learn about and do a caviar tasting than in the home-country of this supreme epicurean pleasure? And even better in Russia’s only caviar restaurant, Caviar Bar & Restaurant, which serves only the best caviar with ice cold vodkas you won’t find anywhere else in the world. And I am fortunate to do so under the tutelage of Russia’s only full-time vodka sommelier and most knowledgeable caviar master Alexander Dmitriev.

Their menu boasts 15 types of caviar, 12 Dom Perignon vintages, 35 types of vodka and 15 varieties of distillate.

What is caviar? Interestingly, like only sparkling wine made in France’s district of Champagne can be called champagne, only fish eggs produced by the sturgeon fish can be called caviar. Russia’s been eating caviar since before the 14th century. The real black caviar comes from the sturgeons ystick. And this large fish (the biggest is Beluga) lives in the Caspian sea, Siberia and Sakhalin .
Caviar differs in colour texture and size depending on fish AND how it is produced. I learnt all about the production methods of production and preservation(which determine the taste and price of caviar)
Am dazzled by the types of caviar black caviar…sturgeon/ albino caviar from an albino sturgeon. Sturgeon fish family…Beluga fish is the biggest (oldest prehistoric fish) and has the biggest grains. Oscietra fish (16 types) Sevruga Sterlet (smallest grains) and Bester are the main varieties.
I taste the finest caviar, it is creamy, has a fishy flavour, of seaweed and even walnuts. It is intense creamy and not too salty. Is non pasteurised and made by the traditional method. I do a vodka and champagne pairing with it too and end up sipping and tasting Russia’s history in its grandest historic landmark…Belmond Grand hotel Europe.