Friday, January 31, 2014


On the eve of the Month of Love.....let me share


Valentine's Day is a great opportunity to focus on love. Make your "Focus-on-Love Day" extraordinarily romantic, so here are some different things you can do to add a little spice to your Valentine's Day.


Want to feel pampered and special? Spas are the right places to help one rejuvenate, relax and charge oneself. There are lots of exotic indulgences the luxury spas have on offer. A Spa treatment is just the thing to bring to bring the zing back and make one feel romantic on Valentine’s Day and what can be better than having it together.


Since most of us work, order dinner from your favorite restaurant at home. This works especially well if you have children. Once they go to bed, you could have a late, quiet dinner for two. Don’t forget to dress to kill for the occasion. Lady should wear her most beautiful black evening dress, while the man can wear a Black suit with a white shirt and match it with sexy cologne And while she’s doing her make-up and hair (women take a while to these extra things), she’d be elated if her man put on some quiet, background music, lit the candles and sets a romantic setting. In fact create a love gazebo at home complete with romantic candles potpourri love cushions, sequins, curtains and much more. Another added feature to this could be a fireplace. If you have one, light one. The fire surely will add a romantic flare to the evening, especially if it is cold in February. If you don't want to do a full course dinner, wine and cheese works well too, or whatever beverage and snack you and your loved one prefers. Any way you do it, setting the scene for a romantic quiet time together will convey the feelings of love and companionship, you want to express. Trust me after those killer looks and dinner, you’ll surely end up dancing and sitting on the couch, telling how much you love each other and it will end up as the most romantic evening of your life.


You could do this for your spouse, it’s different and it’s fun Write up little notes about how you feel about her and what she means to you and place them around the house along with a candy heart or a red rose .To make it more exciting add a riddle at the end of each note about where to find the next note, some could be naughty ones too, just like in a game of Treasure hunt. In the last note, write “see you soon” along with two tickets for a romantic movie and a Limousine filled with red roses waiting for her to be picked up. Wait there for her at the cinema hall, give her a red carpet welcome and if you could manage to book a hall like PVR’S Gold class Lounge “just for the two of you”, she’ll be simply overwhelmed. 


Though an age-old idea but it sure hits off well with women… You could Serenade the love of your life with flowers. Get the flowers delivered accompanied by a violinist and cello player to play your special love song. Candlelight dinner for two at a restaurant is a good idea. You could book a table at your favorite restaurant.


Another romantic venture that says I love you to your spouse is a romantic getaway. Take her out for a Bed and Breakfast package in the most posh and elegant hotel nearby your city or in the city itself. The Bed and Breakfast experience is for those who like meeting other people and being a little pampered with a nice, big breakfast. It’s for those who like the idea of room service and a Jacuzzi; a hotel room is the way to go. Get splashing- Enjoy a bath, Jacuzzi, together. You have quiet time to yourselves, in a place where your focus can be and stay where you want it, with each other. But if you want to really get away from it all and really want to go all out, a weekend getaway may be just be it. Remember to check up with your local travel agent about great weekend escapes or you could even do a net search.

Whatever way you do it, remember to say “I love you” as often as you can as for a Woman it is probably one of the most treasured gifts she could receive. It doesn't cost a penny and your love is essentially the best gift you can give of yourself.

Friday, January 24, 2014


When I woke up on the 21st morning after a comfortable sleep on Le Meridien Jaipur's cozy bed, I drew the curtains and saw that it was raining cats and dogs and all the arrangements that the Hotel had made the previous day ( in terms of decoration) for hosting the writer's ball ( for those who don't know this year the venue was moved to the sprawling Le Meridien close to the Amber fort) in the lawns ...alas had been ruined and even if it meant Sun the rest of the day, the lawns couldn't have completely cleared of the muck. I kept wondering as to what the Hotel would do now as most of their area was totally blocked owing to the 'Emami' wedding. I saw Anjali Mehra (Area Director Marketing & Communications South Asia at Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts) and Vikas Malik ( Regional Director Food & Beverage, South Asia at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc) working on Plan B for the evening with their team.
As for us ( the invitees), we went over to the festival, had a delicious lunch at Laxmi Mishtaan Bhandar, did some shopping , got dressed and came down for the party...
And what a party... the team had transformed the 24 hours restaurant 'Latest Recipe' on the lobby level and the area connecting on the first floor adjoining a terrace into a party zone in a couple of hours. Kudos for that I must say! 

Big names like William Dalrymple, Sanjoy Roy, Namita Gokhale, Parveen Dusanj, Tripti Pandey and Kabir Bedi were all seen having a great time. Writers were dancing with full gusto to the tunes of a Rajasthani band led by famous artiste Chugge Khan, who sang songs like Duma Dum Mast Kalandar and Rajasthani folk songs like Kalyo Kood Padya and Mhari Odhni. 

The icing on the cake was the Big Indian Emami Wedding fireworks which could be seen from the terrace. 

As for me I had great company and couldn't help dancing to the music myself. 
It was also a pleasure to catch 
up with my friend Prashant Gupta ( General Manager at The Trident Jaipur). All in all being Starwood's designated brand for art and culture Le Meridien proved to be the perfect venue to host this ball, even the rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of the team and they rocked !! 


Food being marinated in fruit juices with a secret blend of Caribbean spices makes ‘Pollo Tropical’ a winner 

Looking for authentic Caribbean food? Looking for nourishing and healthy food? Looking for friendly and quick service? Looking for good prices? Pollo Tropical (pronounced poyyo tropicaaal) is the way to go. This little chain of heaven was started in Miami; it was interesting for me to find out later on their website that they have been around since 1988 and is located variously across America and in countries all over the world (including India now, Trinidad, and Honduras!).The food is delicious, has large quantities, and the price is reasonable.
You have a lot of options on the menu and can tailor your choices to your level of spiciness. They have wonderful specialty drinks on offer as well. You can enjoy healthy grilled chicken on an open flame before your eyes soon after you place your order. Really great chicken, pretty good sides and yummy cilantro garlic sauce is what I would highly recommend. It’s kind of Cuban, but also kind of Puerto Rican too.  I guess Latin Caribbean would be a good way to describe the succulent, tender, savoury, fall off the bone grilled chicken they serve up here. Consistency, value, consistency! The prices are just unbelievably reasonable and you get great quality food I also tried a ‘Tropichop’,
though after a lot of rethinking, because on principal I never order anything with a silly name because it seems like a ploy to get people to say something silly for an irrelevant purpose. Why this is called a Tropichop? I wondered, because the food is supposedly tropical and the meat is ‘chopped’? Whatever!! Anyways I got mine with chicken, white rice, black beans, tomatoes, corn, peppers, and onions. It was decadent to the core, completely wholesome and married well with the Spicy poyo poyo sauce. To end on a sweet note, do not leave without trying the ‘tres leches’ a freshly baked pound cake drenched in a light cream, covered with fluffy icing with a cherry on top….yummy!
Definitely Pollo Tropical has a repeat customer in me. For fast food, it sure tastes much better than any other fast food I have had. Some stuff even tastes more like a home cooked meal. Fast, cheap and the staff is actually lovely! All in all thumbs up! Did I mention consistency?

Pollo Tropical, MA-01, DLF Place Restaurant Block, Saket, New Delhi
Meal for Two: INR 750

For Reservations: 011-41099909/9999554488

published in Statesman on 23/01/2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014



Eat out of the pan, off the grill and out of the wok

Cilantro is one of comfortable sophistication with a soothing blend of muted hues of furniture with earthy tones of upholstery.
Coming to the food, I would suggest you to set your palate free to engage in an exploration of the senses. The show kitchens take the place of the hot chafing dishes found on the usual buffet line and instead, prepare food in individual portions in order to give maximum freshness and guest interaction. The menu’s one to return for: everything from the ‘Peruvian asparagus with caramelized peach and boursin’,  Miso fish’,
‘Duck confit’to the ‘Stir fried chicken with lemongrass and basil’ and ‘Smoked chicken, asparagus and sun dried tomato’ has its place. Try the ‘Lamb ragout with pappardelle’ slow cooked lamb with freshly made pasta mama mia… (If you like!)…it will surely transport you to Italy. I had an altogether new epicurean experience! Fresh flavours and herbs unite with ingredients sourced and skilfully prepared from gastronomic styles of around the Globe. Cooking styles range from grilled and poached to braised and slow roasted, to extract the goodness and flavours of the ingredients.
To end on a sweet note my vote goes all out for the stunning 
‘Hot chocolate pudding with milk and honey ice-cream’. If you are in the mood for something truly sinful; order a ‘Carrot and white chocolate fondant’ or a ‘Red velvet cake with mascarpone and strawberry’, two of Cilantro’s signature dishes. Whether you are a vegetarian or relish your seafood, chicken or lamb it offers appetizing options for all. To compliment this repertoire there is an enviable list of Beverages. 
Try the ‘Spicy green apple Martini’ or the ‘Spanish Sangria’ great to quench your thirst .The Restaurant’s creative interiors; chic friendly atmosphere and good food surely attracts the cities foodies in droves. 

Cilantro, Trident Gurgaon. 443, Udyog Vihar, Phase V, Gurgaon 122 016.
Tel: 0124 412 4307
Timings: All Day dining…open from 6 Am until midnight.
Cost: Meal for two approx. 4,000, all inclusive without alcohol.
Guests can enjoy the themed nights on almost all days of the week: Wednesdays - Italian Nights, Fridays - Pan Asian Nights and the Cilantro Family Sunday Brunch with unlimited pours of Champagne,  ‘New World’ wines, Mojitos, Martinis, Single Malts and Chilled Draught beers. 
All this paired with exotic International Cuisine. While at Cilantro, make sure you try the signature finest thin crust Italian pizzas made in a specially designed wood fired oven.

Monday, January 20, 2014


Even the delayed flight from Delhi owing to the fog, didn't let my excitement go any less for the Jaipur Literature festival which as most of us know is the World's largest free literary festival, celebrating national and International writers, and encompassing a range of interests including film, music and theatre. Anyways after my delayed flight, I first checked in at the Le Meridien and was impressed at once with its extravagantly palatial style paying homage to the grandeur of Rajput architecture with peacock arches and gleaming stone, after freshening up and a yummy lunch at the Le Meridien's coffee shop 'Latest Recipe', off I set to 'Diggy Palace' to finally get the essence of the Lit fest..
Tribute to Jaipur, acrylic on aluminium sheet (2013) by Shabbu artist

There were book launches, various book stalls, interesting eating stalls and a whole lot of excitement at the grounds and I was elated to be here.

The most interesting for me was 'Each Others Stories' -Ekta Kapoor in Conversation with Siddharth Dhanvant Shangvi. It was amazing to hear Ekta talk, she said she was a very average looking star kid with peers like Karishma Kapoor et al, and had to really work hard to be where she is now. She also shared that being 'fat' is not a bad thing and in one of her serials actor Ram Kapoor is the hero and inspite of being fat he is so popular. She also spoke about what makes her tick....'Entertaining, engaging and effective' are the 3 words she strongly believes in

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Made by Chef Joonie Tan of lavonne, Bangalore, using the KitchenAid stand mixer
'To be honest Red velvet cake is just Cake mixture with lots of synthetic colour so I wouldn’t recommend. Find Below the two most simple and basic cup cake recipes then add to them what you will and for a great basic frosting, beat together equal quantities of room temperature butter cream cheese and caster sugar (Indian icing sugar not to be used as it’s full of corn flour!)' , says well known Chef Shaun Ken worthy
Chef Shaun Kenworthy shares his cup cake recipes

Butter softened: 5 oz. (150 Gms)
Superfine (castor) sugar: 5 oz. (150 Gms)
Self-Raising flour: 6 oz. (175 Gms)
Eggs: 3 nos
Vanilla Extract: 1 tsp.
1.    Pre heat the oven to 350 * F (180* c).
2.    Line a 12 cup cake pan, with cupcake papers.
3.    Crack the Eggs into the KitchenAid Stand Mixer bowl and beat lightly.
4.    Add all the ingredients in the KitchenAid Stand Mixer bowl.
5.    Beat until light and creamy.
6.    Divide the mixture evenly between the cup cases.
7.    Bake for 18-20 minutes until they risen and are firm to touch.
8.    Allow to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
9.    Allow to cool before icing.
10. Decorate as you like it

Butter softened: 5 oz. (150 Gms)
Superfine (castor) sugar: 5 oz. (150 Gms)
Self-Raising flour: 6 oz. (175 Gms)
Eggs: 3 nos
Vanilla Extract: 1 tsp.
Cocoa powder: 2 tbsps.
1.    Pre heat the oven to 350 * F (180* c).
2.    Line a 12 cup cake pan, with cupcake papers.
3.    Crack the Eggs into the KitchenAid Stand Mixer bowl and beat lightly.
4.    Add all the ingredients in the KitchenAid Stand Mixer bowl.
5.    Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, until light and creamy.
6.    Divide the mixture evenly between the cup cases.
7.    Bake for 18-20 minutes until they risen and are firm to touch.
8.    Allow to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
9.    Allow to cool before icing.

Chef Joonie Tan of Lavonne who made all the cup cakes using a KitchenAid Stand mixer
Lavonne  is a one stop shop for bakery lovers, it’s a café, Patisserie, Academy and a bakery store all rolled into one. ‘Lavonne was born out of a dream, a dream to make India among the ultimate destinations for those looking to pursue Baking and Pastry Arts as a passion or as a profession’, shares Joonie Tan.
'We use a KitchenAid stand mixer for our classes and it is indeed a wonderful aid in the students and I just love it' , she further adds
Their academy is also affiliated to the world renowned City & Guilds London. With its wide selection of authentic breads, desserts and savouries, conveniently located Lavonne in Bangalore promises to serve up happiness with every slice!