Friday, October 25, 2013


Owing to the blind monk Dom Perignon’s important role in the development of Champagne, Hautvillers calls itself ‘Le berceau du Champagne’ aka… “The Cradle of Champagne...”

Dom Perignon, known as the inventor of champagne, ultimately put the region of Champagne in North-eastern France on the map. And thanks to the TGV bullet train, I reached Reims (pronounced ‘rance’), the region’s Capital, in less than an hour from Paris. From here I drove down to Hautvillers (translates into high place), a gorgeous village founded in 658, overlooking the Marne and surrounded by vineyards, it is here in the Abbey that Dom Perignon made the cloudy, effervescent, regional wine of the time (the mid-1600s) into something which is clear, bubbly and cork popping now known as Champagne.

As I walked the cobbled streets of the picture perfect town, I could see history everywhere I looked - Roman ruins, a medieval centre, street side cafes and creperies, and of course the stupendous Abbey of Saint Pierre where also rests the tombstone of Benedictine monk Dom Petrus Perignon. But what I loved most was seeing the wide sweep of bountiful Champagne vineyards along the slopes of the Mountain of Reims. And when I looked up, I could see the whimsical house signs.
There are 160 of them in the small village and all of them have something to do with Champagne. It is the place of around 70 wine growers and many inhabitants during the summer months. Champagne Tribaut is one of those family run houses that is worth a stop and certainly a taste. The town is one of France’s loveliest, and as for the drink, I would let Dom Perignon have the last word. “Come quickly, I am tasting stars,” he had said, after his first taste of champagne. 

 And while the Abbey was beautiful and had some gorgeous stained glass windows, you don’t go to Hautvillers for just the Abbey you also go for the Champagne. ‘88 Rue d’ Eguisheim’ is open daily 9am-noon and 2-6pm so I called in advance for a free tour in English (there was a small charge for tastings), I found it to be a charming, family operation producing particularly well-regarded Blanc de Blancs and vintage champagnes.
There are far more champagne houses than anyone has time to visit so I planned just the famous ones. And sure enough, after the cellar visits, I feel quite educated on how champagne is made. Traditionally made using a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (black grapes), but one can also find Blanc de Blancs which is 100% Chardonnay or Blanc de Noirs, two Pinots only. It is fermented twice, which gives it the bubbles. In the second fermentation, yeast and sugar are added and the liquid is sealed and aged for approximately one and a half years. The yeast inside the bottle consumes the sugar, releasing alcohol and gas. Interestingly, as the champagne ages, the yeast begins to die, leaving sediments. 

At this stage, one has to start riddling the bottles i.e. rotating them every few days and storing them tilted upside-down, so that the sediments move down into the neck and can be removed. Lees are then removed by freezing the only neck of the bottle, and removing the cap. The pressure from inside the bottle pushes out the ice with the lees frozen inside, additional blends of wine are added to top off the bottle and it is recapped. And of course, it does not lose all of its bubbles because the gas in champagne is actually in the wine itself, not just added carbonation. Interestingly in the days of Dom Perignon, bottles were pushed into sand piles so that the sediment could collect. It was in the nineteenth century that ‘Veuve Clicquot’ invented the riddling table and the process of turning and tilting the bottles became more efficient!
At the end of the tour we were given a tasting. In our case we were very lucky because they were sampling special vintage champagne made from only Chardonnay grapes …. Now that’s the way I love my holiday! And of course I loved the tasting session, and to be honest I cheated …drank instead of spitting it out….I mean how I could waste it. My departure was looming in the near future. For the time being, I let the exhilaration of champagne bubbles lift my spirits with hopes of more unexpected moments to come. I’d say that my most fond memory is watching those delicate bubbles escaping to the top of my champagne glass. All in all, Hautvillers treated me extremely well. But alas, my Champagne days were over! I would also recommend bringing back a Dom Perignon from ‘Moet & Chandon’ as it is one of the best-selling labels of arguably the world’s greatest champagne house. When Moet & Chandon bought the Abbey of Hautvillers in 1792, they promptly put the monk on the label to sell more wine. And yes I did not forget to take a picture of the famous Dom Perignon, who doubled the size of the Abbey’s vineyard while it was under his stewardship.

A special celebration, an impromptu party with friends or just for pure enjoyment of a flute … these moments deserve the very best. According to your mood or imagination, depending on the ingredients and the amount of time you have, there are endless combinations: from the basic to the sophisticated recipe, or for a quick snack, eaten delicately with your fingers, without fuss and at your leisure, so simply keep these basic rules in mind. Heavy foods or main entrees, usually do not go well with Champagne, however there are in numerous foods that pair beautifully with it, making for yummy finger foods and an elegant looking soirée. The thumb rule is that the food shouldn't overtake the wine.

HARMONY (OF LIKE TASTES): When the sensations produced by the Champagne are similar to those produced by the dish (sweet- sweet and Acidic- acidic etc.)
Example: Vintage Rose with a lamb tagine (spicy- spicy)
BALANCE (OF OPPOSITES): When two opposite flavours produce a balanced, and therefore pleasant, result (acidic – sweet, acidic – fat).
Example: Vintage Reserve and chicken in a cream sauce (cream: fat – acidic wine).
Vinegar, Fresh eggs, White asparagus, Cauliflower and other ‘sulphurous’ vegetables, Excessive garlic, Pistachios & Chocolate

Before the discovery of the de-sedimentation process, Champagne was used as a dessert drink? That was because it allowed time for the sediment to settle into the stem of the glass, while dinner was being eaten!

Perignon was born around 1638 A.D. and became a Benedictine monk at the age of 19. In 1668 A.D., he transferred to the Abbey of Hautvillers and was appointed as its Treasurer and Cellar Master.
Best Way to Reach- Champagne-Ardenne region (the official name) is in North Eastern France, 129km northeast of Paris. Fly Air France to Paris and then take a TGV onto Reims and then drive onto Hautvillers.
Visa and Currency- Indians require a Schengen Visa to enter France and the currency used is the Euro (approximately 65 INR).
Best Way to move around- Hire a car.
Must do- Reserve visits to Champagne cellars at least a day in advance. Most cellars offer at least three English tours daily.
Must know- Remember that after pouring Champagne into the Champagne tulips do not swirl the champagne in your glass like wine, it will destroy in mere seconds the bubbles that took minimum three years to produce!

published in India Today Travel Plus

Thursday, October 24, 2013


When I got an invite for the Mediterranean food promotion from Le Meridien, I was a bit hesitant to travel all the way for it from Gurgaon. Anyways as work is work and I eat food for a living, I went and by the end of the meal I was totally impressed with the food Promotion.

The One brings Mediterranean flair to the lobby level of the Hotel, with a stylish yet relaxed atmosphere that overlooks the lawns during meal service.

Coming to the food, Chef Davide Zelnick who helms the kitchen at the restaurant for the food promotion has taken care to keep the cuisine at its pristine best. He is not only extremely charming but absolutely talented as well. This European chef found his cooking roots from his mother at the age of 19 and has lived and studied the culinary arts in many countries. Having grown up in different parts of Europe, he is a Mediterranean Expert and has worked with the famed Chef Mario Fabrizio as well.

Anyways, the food blew me away, it was phenomenal. Fresh flavours and herbs unite with ingredients sourced and skilfully prepared from gastronomic styles of the Mediterranean coastline. Any cuisine requires two elements namely a skilled chef, and fresh ingredients, The One seemed to have both as I realized after my round of starters which  consisted of Hummus, Tzatziki, Falafel, a greek salad with pomegranate dressing, Labneh, Pita Bread, Crostinis, Spanish Tortilla and the chicken and fruit salad which was absolutely decadent.

For an Entrée, you may simply discover the distinct chef David touch when you order the ‘cabbage dolma’ which stays true to the concept of chef’s child hood memories - combining simple ingredients that marry the Chef’s progressive approach to Mediterranean cuisine. Yet another stellar preparation is the sole fish cake, encompassing all the imaginable flavours and more importantly preserving the traditional methods used to cook it. By the end of the meal I was too full so skipped the dessert, but all in while the essence of the regular buffet remains, its translation with this food promo is indeed exceptional.

The Mediterranean food promotion is being held at Le Meridien New Delhi’s The One Signature Restaurant during dinner from 14th until 31st October’13 and is a part of dinner buffet @ Rs. 2250/- + taxes.
For Reservations: +91 23710101

Wednesday, October 23, 2013



My kitchen is a mystical place, my temple. It is where the learning of the past transfer into the future.”...Chef Manjit Singh Gill, Corporate Chef ITC Hotels 

Fresh green almonds of the season cooked along with pistachio, cashew nuts, raisins and spinach and carefully spiced.
Shelled green almonds: 1 Cup; Pistachio: ¼ cup; Cashew nuts: ¼ cup; Raisins: tbsp.; Cold pressed Mustard oil: 2 ½ tbsps.; Fenugreek seeds: ¼ tsp.; Mustard seeds: ¼ tsp.; cumin seeds: 1 tsp.; White Sesame seeds: 1 tsp.; Dried red chilli broken into 2-3 pieces: 1 no; grated Jaggery: 2tbsp.; finely chopped ginger: ¾ tbsp.; Green Chillies cut into halves lengthwise: 2 nos; Fresh green spinach, trimmed washed well, cut into large pieces : 1 kg; Fresh coconut, cut into small dices: ½ cup; Salt: to taste; Cream: 3 tbsp. ; Nutmeg grated: ¼ tsp.
1.    Soak peeled fresh almonds in ¾ cup of water. Pistachio, cashew nuts and raisins in separately each in ¾ cup of water over night or 5 -6 hours. Strain and reserve the water.
2. Rub pistachio in the kitchen cloth little hard to remove the skin. Remove the loosen skins. Wash all the fruits in fresh water and drain well.
3.    Heat the mustard oil to just the smoking point on medium heat in thick bottom pan, remove from heat and let it cook for a minute.  Place pan back on low heat, add fenugreek seeds, stir for a second, add mustard seeds & cumin seeds, stir for few seconds. Finely add sesame seeds stir for few seconds add now broken dried red chilli stir until pleasant aroma starts from spices.
4.    Add grated jaggery stir continuously until jaggery caramelises. Stir in the chopped ginger; slit green chillies, almonds, cashew nuts, coconut dices. Sprinkle little salt stir and then add spinach mix slowly until spinach and masala mixed. Add the reserved water ½ - ¾ cup. Let it cook on medium - high heat for 6 - 8 minutes or the moisture is evaporated. Remove and place in the shallow casserole.
5.    Mix grated nutmeg and cream well and pour over the spinach and almonds. Let it cool or if it prepared in advance then refrigerate when cool.  

Whole wheat flour: 1 ¾ cup; Salt: ½ tsp.; Sugar: ½ tsp.; Desi Ghee: 4 tbsp.
1.  Put flour in the large bowl, add desi ghee and work with your fingers. Pour measured water and make the dough.
2.    USING KITCHENAID STANDMIXER IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. It takes less time and is easy and clean. Fix the bowl and dough hook. Put the flour, salt and sugar, start the mixer at the lowest speed and run for 8 – 10 seconds. Now starts pouring 3 Tbs. melted desi ghee and let mixer run for 15 – 20 seconds until the mixture takes the consistency of fresh bread crumbs. While kitchen aid running add ¼ cup of warm water 40degree Centigrade or 100 degree Fahrenheit in a steady stream. The flour will become a mass, add another ¼ cup of water in dribbles until dough forms a smooth ball and the bowl is clean. If the dough is little thin then some flour may be dusted or if the dough is hard then little water may be added continue machine running. Once a bowl is formed let it run for 15 – 18 seconds to give smoothness and elastic to feel. Let it rest in the bowl for few minutes and then remove from the bowl. Place in another bowl, cover with a wet cloth and let it rest for 20 – 25 minutes.
3.    Knead the dough again for a minute. Take 1/3 of the dough, roll into a smooth ball. Cover with a plastic film and set aside. Flatten the ball and dust with flour on both sides and roll into little bigger than the size of the casserole.

Make the sides of the ready casserole with water; now lift the dough carefully with the rolling pin. Cover the casserole and press the hanging dough on the wet sides of the casserole. Brush melted desi ghee on top and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degree Centigrade or 345 degree Fahrenheit for 12 - 15 minutes.
Serve hot and cut the crust and enjoy flavours and served with emotions.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Southern Poland is place that mixes breath-taking setting with a trendy cosmopolitan culture like a perfect cocktail; Krakow was our home for three days. What people would do normally is stay in the grand city of Warsaw and do Krakow on the side – but normal is so boring. And hence we arrived one morning from Frankfurt.

Within an hour of our arrival we were out to explore. This is a place that greatly rewards the visitor who grabs a map-not that you can ever really get lost in the orderely grid of roads. Fast becoming one of the most popular cosmopolitan towns of Poland, Krakow is the unofficial culture capital of the country. It is a fantastic city to walk around, with its cobbled streets, old style buildings, and fantastic churches with beautiful designs, statues and colours everywhere. Our first stop was the Kazimierz aka the Jewish District and the old town, which was a special place.
I stood there looking out for several minutes – there was a soothing loveliness in all this that is hard to describe. As was the dinner I had that day, which is still fresh in my memory. At the Piano Rouge restaurant in the Old Town Square, you must ask for the roast chicken. The succulent, delicious preparation gave new meaning to melt-in-the-mouth and was an impeccable combination with the Polish Vodka, one of my great discoveries on this trip.

Next morning we headed to ‘Wieliczka’ salt mine, the tour started by descending into the mine in a group, arriving first at a depth of about 65 meters, and continuing on the tour to reach a maximum depth of about 135 meters below ground level. That’s over 400 feet, and guess they had free Wi-Fi and even a restaurant down there. Once we were below the surface, the guide took us through a series of rooms and passageways, telling us about the history of the mine as we walked along. I loved the fact that almost everything in the mine is made of salt, and I actually licked a wall for proof. The salt mine is truly one of the most amazing things I have ever come across in my travels, and the star of the show is the underground salt cathedral and I couldn’t help but marvel at the salt engineering contained therein. 

After a nice meal at the restaurant at the mine went back to Krakow to simply soak in the ambience at the old town square which is the largest medieval plaza in Europe. An old Cloth Hall stands in the centre, with the Town Hall Tower at one end and the huge, twin-towered, Gothic basilica of St Mary opposite. Street performers add a buzz of excitement and it's completely clear why Krakow was the European City of Culture for the millennium. I walked looking around for souvenirs, sipping my cuppa coffee before I finally headed for dinner to ‘Wesele’ for an authentic Polish experience. 
Stomach happy, went clubbing to Club Bracka 4, definitely the hippest in town.

We’d had a whirlwind three days but there was still a place on my itinerary I just could not ignore. Auschwitz is 30 miles west of Krakow. That said, I was a bit horrified and confused at what to expect. Auschwitz II – Berkenau is the main concentration camp, where we hired an English speaking Polish tour guide who took us to see the few barracks in original state that are open to the public. At one point she took us into a Block which in the basement had rooms where I found it so difficult to grasp as to how they could think up such vile ways to kill people. 
The worst were the gas chambers where children, cripples, women and the old were enclosed and just left to die within minutes basically the ones who were deemed unfit.  On the short journey from Birkenau to Auschwitz 1, I was just so numb and sadly walked around the barracks which displayed life in Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz II-Birkenau. 

Nothing I can write about Auschwitz would be adequate. You need to go there, stand and struggle to comprehend man’s blackest depths, and feel grateful being able to walk away. Life goes on and our coach headed towards a train station in Ostrava from where we continued to our next destination which was the Perky Prague!

Best way to Reach- Fly Lufthansa to Frankfurt onto Krakow.
Best Place to stay- ‘Pod Roza’ on 14, Florianska Street, which is right near the Basilica and the market square.
Visa & Currency- Indians need a Schengen Visa to enter Poland. The currency used is the Zloty and 1 Zloty is equal to approx. 22 INR.
For further information on Krakow and Poland, call the Poland National Tourist Office on + (4822) 536 70 70 or go to

 published in tlf

Friday, October 18, 2013


Veen that springs waters from pure springs in Lapland and Kotagiri initiated a great connect between Chef Samuli Wirgentius from Helsinki’s Michelin starred restaurant ‘Postres’ and Chef Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent. Chef Manish just came back from Helsinki after showcasing a ‘Taste of Modern India’ at ‘Postres’…and now Chef Samuli is here creating some Nordic Magic at Indian Accent until the 20th of October …

Chef Samuli Wirgentius is the head chef and co-founder of the restaurant Postres in Helsinki, which was born out of Wirgentius’s idea of establishing Finland’s first restaurant to serve only desserts. He realised, though, that there was not enough demand for a menu offering desserts only and then expanded into a full range of dishes. Having worked and trained in multiple Michelin star restaurants in his cooking career, Chef Samuli earned his first Michelin star for Postres in 2008, only 2 years after the restaurant was opened in spring of 2006. Samuli relies on the classics and handicraft adopting traditional French cooking practices to present food based on the Nordic Kitchen. His idea is to recapture the flavours of Grandma’s house in a fancier form. Chef Manish Mehrotra, Executive Chef at Indian Accent as we all know is ambitious, creative and has an identity of his own.

The husband and I were invited along with a host of other foodies for a showcase of this spectacular culinary journey. If the kitchen is an Orchestra then I would say Finland’s best chef and our very dear Chef Manish here composed inventive, authentic and restful music in a search of the very finest results. There were champagne and beautiful wines to go with the food but I stuck to the Veen water, the sparkling was as yummy as the still.

The first course was potatoes, dill and brown butter, the comination ...a true culinary one line simple delicious flavours
First course

Chef Samuli put his creative energies to the Hay smoked scallops with grilled fennel, sorrel and fennel for the non vegetarians and the vegetarians got the Grilled fennel, sorrel, fennel pollen and Hay ash. Chef also made me try smell the fennel pollen later...which was unbelievably fragrant.
Hay smoked scallops with grilled fennel

After a yummy sorbet in the famed 'baby pressure cooker', it was time  to witness the stunning presentation of the charcoal grilled lamb served with exquisite broccoli, oysters and cabbage which perfectly complimented the dish. The vegetarians go the Roasted Endives instead...which was quite a stunner too!
charcoal grilled lamb

With winter round the corner, Chef Manish treated us to his style of makki di roti and sarson da saag....yummy yummy yummy with dollops of white makhani popcorn ...the punjabi in me just jumped with joy literally.

Malai corn, sarson ka saag, white butter popcorn

Sample this bacon, chicken, nuts and garlic in your khichree, you would think the chef is crazy....he ain't trust me the humble khichree couldn't taste better.

Indian Accnet Kitsch...reee
Last but not the least, the Finnish summer aka strawberries, whipped cream and ice put a smile on everyone's face...a yummy ending to the decadent meal...
I would say this restaurant with a long list of loyal clients needs very little endorsement... for example living in Gurgaon, Indian Accent perhaps is the only place that I am happy to drive down all the way to's absolutely worth it..!!
Indian Accent at The Manor, 77 Friends Colony (West), New Delhi
Tel: 91 11 4323 5151.
For more

Thursday, October 10, 2013


yummy Macaroons at The winking Macaron
Blackforest cheese cake at Lavonne
KitchenAid recently made their debut in Bengaluru & Mumbai at 'Food Hall' , but what caught my fancy was the Gourmet affair where they partnered with the Top Chill Zones of the respective cities wherein the Master Chefs created some decadent desserts made using the famed stand mixer which was given away complimentary to the first 100 walk ins. What's more there was a contest on too (results to be out soon) , on participation using the outlet's unique code ,offered the stand mixer to one lucky winner per city and the outlet with the maximum number of entries. Luckily I was a part of Bengaluru and Mumbai Gourmet Affairs. There was one in Chandigarh too which I missed... Anyways here are some fun you guys feel a part of it too :)
Gauri at The Winking Macron

Chef Vinesh Johny of 'Lavonne' with Chef Hanisha of 'KitchenAid

Deccadent desserts
Chef Saha made this Rich Chocolate Marquise with cherry compote at Fava, Bengaluru using the standmixer
Mumbai rocked too!
Red velvet cupcakes at the Gourmet Store, Grand Hyatt
Creating a redvelvet muffin with white chocolate at The Rolling Pin
Crowd galore at Le 15, Bandra for sampling the complimentary Macrons 
A model enjoying the peach flan at Indigo Deli, Mumbai