New York Diaries – Junoon

 

Eating choices in New York are limitless…….  Want a 15-course tasting menu at the latest trendsetting restaurant? A plateful of Chinese dumplings? The City has thousands of places featuring cuisines from around the world.

I was in New York last month, visiting my daughter Ria.  She had a lot of fun stuff planned – including a visit to Junoon, which is the flagship restaurant of star chef Vikas Khanna.  I am a big fan of Vikas and couldn’t wait to dine at his restaurant.

Junoon serves a 3 course ala carte meal.  The Menu was innovative and diverse with exotic sounding dishes like Tandoori Octopus, Saloni Macchi, Eggplant chaat etc.  Classic dishes with a contemporary take…..it would be difficult to decide.

Since we were sweating from the New York heat, we quickly ordered the refreshing Mumbai Margarita.   Then came the appetizers.  Eggplant chaat was amazing —-crispy round eggplants with yogurt tamarind chutney; And the Murgh tikka was tender and delicious, simply melting in the mouth.

For the entrees we chose Malabari Shrimp curry and the Murg Lababdar.  The Shrimp curry was easily the best we have had…literally to die for!  The Murg Lababdar was good but not excellent.

 

The grand finale was Ma’s Rice Pudding with almonds, puffed rice and caramelized bananas.IMG_6206

All in all Junoon was a nice dining experience and we enjoyed the couple of hours that we spent in its elegant dining room.  Thank you Ria for taking me there!

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A journey through Spain – II

Every region in Spain has its  own distinct cuisine and specialties.  Our journey took us through Madrid, Cordoba, Granada, Valencia and Barcelona.  At each stop, we enjoyed some delicious food along with breathtaking scenery and historical sites.

I was amazed at the variety of olives available in Spain….they are versatile, flavorful and nutritious.  They can be cured  with garlic or herbs or they can be stuffed with peppers,anchovy, tuna, bacon!  Yummy!!IMG_2323

In Cordoba, we enjoyed the beautiful architecture of  La Mezquita….this is an amazing fusion of a 16th century mosque with a Catholic Cathedral built right in the center.  I had some of the best food of  our trip in Cordoba, which is also the main producer of Olive Oil in Spain.  Fideua, which is a main course dish made of noodles and cooked in broth,  was so delicious that I was licking my fingers. when it got over!   When I complimented our waiter and asked him how  Fideua was made, he quickly ran inside and got a brand new paella pan as a gift for me.  I was struck by the warmth and hospitality of the locals.

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The best fideua

The best-known Spanish dish, a stew called paella (pie-AY-ah), originated in Valencia.  Valencia was our next stop and we could not wait to sample the Paella there.  Though there are many variations, paella is usually made of a variety of shellfish (such as shrimp, clams, crab, and lobster), chorizo (sausage), vegetables (tomatoes, peas, and asparagus), chicken and/or rabbit, and long-grained rice. Broth, onion, garlic, wine, pimiento (sweet red pepper), and saffron add flavor to the stew.

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Seafood Paella in Valencia

Arros Negre  is a Valencian and Catalan dish made with cuttlefish(or squid) and rice, somewhat similar to seafood paella.  The dish’s dark color comes from squid ink which also enhances its seafood flavor.  Needless to say, once I heard there was squid ink in the dish, I did not go near it!

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Arroz Negre

Valencia apart from its amazing paella, is also the birthplace of Horchata which is a sweet, milky,  nut or grain based beverage. Ria and I loved this refreshing drink , which is very nutritious as well.

Another refreshing drink was my cappuccino with orange rind! It looked so good that I did not want to spoil the perfect way it looked by drinking it! 

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Cappuccino with orange rind

Our final stop in Spain was Barcelona which falls in the Catalan region, and has its own specialties in food.  The mainstay diet here  is typically Mediterranean, with an abundance of fish, legumes, and vegetables, the latter often served simply boiled with a drizzle of olive oil.  Some very exclusive restaurants serving the most gourmet food can be found here.   One of the things we enjoyed here was the cheese fondue with pesto  (Catalan style).

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Cheese fondue with pesto

Finally it was time to fly back and end our memorable trip.  Spain will always hold a special place in my heart for its gastronomic delights!

 

 

 

 

A JOURNEY THROUGH SPAIN-I

I had a great time in November!  First was the excitement of Diwali and then was a road trip through Spain with my children. The fact that my son, Karn, is in Barcelona for 3 months was the incentive which spurred us to do a road trip through this beautiful country.  My daughter Ria was also able to get leave to join us from New York.  We began our adventure in the grand city of Madrid.  This vibrant city with its friendly people, historic sites, beautiful parks and great restaurants was the best place to start our travels.

From tasty tapas to superb seafood and traditional roasts, Spanish food is all about making the most of the best local produce. One of the first things I noticed here was that locals are quite casual about their dining hours.  Lunch was served late and dinner even later.

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The variety of tapas (small plates of snacks or appetizers) is just amazing!

The quality of their meats and seafood and freshness of their breads make for some amazing food.  The Spanish are obsessed with  Jamón.  Jamón is a dry cured meat specific to Spain and is served in very thin slices, with an amazing texture to it. It should be somewhat glistening, but not oily or greasy. There are 2 types of Jamón – Jamón serrano (ham from the sierra or mountains) and Jamón ibérico (ham from the Black Iberian Pig).

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One of the best snacks that can be found all over Madrid is the Jamón bocadillo, which is a small crusty bread roll cut lengthways, filled with a few slices of Jamón.  This can be enjoyed with Sangria which is very freely available everywhere. 

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A trend in Madrid has been to revamp old market sites as new, fashionable eateries. The food on offer at these places is of high quality, there’s lots of variety, and it’s surprisingly affordable.   Mercat de San Miguel which was built in 1915 is a must visit for foodies.  It was quite close to where we were staying and we decided to walk there for lunch.  There were a number of stalls selling a variety of  local produce, as well as dishes to be eaten at the market itself.  The food was fresh and ready to eat.

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It’s one of those places where you can spend as little or as much as you want to, but either way you’ll be guaranteed to have eaten some of the best food that Spain has to offer. Fish, meat, Jamón, cheese, fruit, vegetables, bread, coffee, cakes etc – it’s all here.

 

Tapas for dinner in Canada

Last weekend I was in Canada for my sister’s birthday.  The weekend was a lot of fun, starting with the fact that my sister did not know that Ria and I were going to be present for her special day.  The look on her face was priceless when she saw us!   Keeping the surprise was very difficult for me,  given that my sister and I talk everyday!  No birthday  is complete without good food and there was plenty of that as we celebrated  her birthday in a fancy restaurant which served Asian fusion food.  The next day, my niece Anvita, volunteered to make Tapas for dinner.  Within an hour she had rustled up an impressive array of finger foods for our dinner.  Zucchini logs, celery boats, mushrooms topped with goat cheese, coconut shrimps and sauteed asparagus with Chorizo and olives….it was delicious.

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She paired this with organic elder flower cordial with a hint of rum.  It was a grand finale to a great family weekend.

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Originating in Spain, Tapas are a great way to entertain.   These are small plates of bite sized delicacies and work as an informal alternative to a dinner party.  Legend has it that tapas started out as pieces of bread used to cover drinks to save them from flies.  Soon people started becoming creative and began serving little nibbles along with them. A Tapas party is a very hostess- friendly party…you can do away with forks, knives and plates!

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Coconut shrimps

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Mushroom topped with goat cheese

 

 

Travel, leisure and food in India

A trip to the homeland in April has kept me away from this blog. But I am back feeling refreshed and satiated with some of the best food! My first stop was in Delhi to catch up with family. …nostalgia, laughter, and  some great home cooked food made for some amazing times. Achari chicken, mutton do pyaza, kadhi, stuffed eggplant and karela….yumm! We ate out at some delightful places. One of the restaurants that my niece wanted me to try out was the Barbecue Nation.  Each table here had a live grill so that diners could cook their kebabs the way they wanted!  The menu had exciting dishes like paneer tikka lajawab, seekh kebab , Cajun spiced baby potatoes, BBQ prawns, chicken tandoori, etc.

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From Delhi to Mumbai, the food trail continued strong. The vibrant and pulsating city of Mumbai has some of the finest restaurants. Alongside these fine dining places, are street side stalls selling food like pao bhaji, vada pao, ragda pattis for which Mumbai is well known for.  My friend, Pramila and her son Rickey, took me to a small and quaint place for dinner called Imbiss, just off Colaba Causeway.

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This restaurant serves strictly non vegetarian German fare and its catch phrase is The Meating Joint!  This meat lovers delight serves exotic meats like quail, guinea fowl, turkey and emu amongst others.  I ordered the Pork Schnitzel accompanied by a gravy boat of mushroom sauce to pour over the crispy schnitzel. It was tasty and sumptuous.

 

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I will definitely have to get back to healthy food to lose the pounds which I added!