Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chef In a Box

Ever been there? - Reaching home late, wanting to eat at home, but hunger forces you to order in, instead? Or having trouble getting out of that soft blanket in treacherous cold or leaving the air-conditioned room in sultry summer and having to gather, wash and chop ingredients before you put together a meal and then gobble it down?


Chef-In-A-Box is the solution to all of the above; and they came to Skeeter’s rescue on one such day by asking her to try out their offering. They've tied up with a couple of home chefs and bakers who prep the recipe, gather measured ingredients for you, deliver to your doorstep and all you have to do is cook them per the instructions.
Skeeter has heard raving reviews of Shreyaa's Kitchen and since they have a tie-up with Chef-In-A-Box, it was one of the obvious choices! Skeeter picked the Veg Khow-Suey for her mains. Considering it is one dish that requires quite a few diverse ingredients to have at home, before you think of making it, even though Skeeter knew what was coming, it was a delight to see everything prepped, packed and sent over. 10 ingredients, no less! Garnish as well! Skeeter asked for the egg to be omitted and they did so. The cooking bit was a breeze. The taste was spot on (salt, spice, all in place)! The only low point in the entire process was that the gravy thickened a bit too much upon adding chickpea flour. Skeeter had hot water handy and salvaged her Khow Suey dinner. The quantity was enough for two, and depending on your appetite, even three can easily share this one! 




The second recipe that Skeeter tried was Rich Dark Chocolate Pots, a dessert by Chocooze, which was a cool four-ingredients dish. This one was again a breeze to make and requires three hours of minimum refrigeration. With minimal effort required to put this one together, it was a hit, and tasted swell! Skeeter chose two big pots instead of four.


What needs improvement? Same day delivery needs to be introduced. More chefs/home cooks need to be added for greater variety.

Price:

Khow Suey from Shreyaa's Kitchen (Serves 2): Rs 410
Chocolate pots from Chocooze (Serves 4): Rs 455
One has to order a day in advance, so yes, this is not one of those instant services, but convenient for sure. 
Where to order? www.chefinabox.in

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Bombaykery

Amid tons of bakeries opening up at an eye-popping speed, few leave a mark. Bombaykery is one that caught Reeta Skeeter's attention, for reasons more than one. Let us unfold them one at a time.

The concept

Bite sized desserts. Need we say more? You fix that craving of yours and you can't possibly get greedy as it is all over in a bite. Or two! A bite whose taste lingers on, long after it is over. These desserts also make for perfect picks for a get-together at home, as you continue to sip wine and talk late into the night.

The treats

Here are Skeeter's picks from their kitty!

This absolutely fab Passion Fruit Tart with a mini macaron (Rs 60). Looks pretty, tastes better! Move away lemon tart, you have competition!


The Belgian chocolate fudge studded with nuts and dusted with more chocolate (Rs 30 a pop with minimum 6 pieces to order). Best had under the blanket with a book in hand and Jasmine tea on the side!


Bite sized baked Kala Khatta cheesecake (Rs 60) with an enticing blueberry and blackberry compote. Love their raspberry cheesecake too!


And I'd save the best for the last. Skeeter loves her savouries more than dessert and these nigella and sesame seed studded cheese sticks (Rs 200 for a jar) are perfect tea-time accompaniments! 

And while they promise to pop-up at yet another food fest 'near you', you can always order from their home kitchen. You can find their number and menu here

Here's to many food adventures ahead. Happy 2016!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Marou - Ba Ria Single Origin dark chocolate

Skeeter hoards chocolates. Marou is in the stash currently and to share over here is a) possible and b) necessary. Marou is a Vietnamese, single origin chocolate that is made from cocoa beans sourced from family owned farms in that country. Today, Skeeter shares about Marou Ba-Ria 76% single origin, dark chocolate. The packaging is stellar and before moving to the taste profile, Skeeter but can't help elaborate a little. Peel off a tangerine and gold wrapper, to reveal a gold foil. Peel the M - for Marou sticker and you find yourself staring at a gorgeous bean-to-bar chocolate. The M - for Marou embossed on the bar is every inch elegant. A few lines of the wrapper were imprinted on the bar, but that didn't bother Skeeter much. The bar is scored in different sizes and shapes (a big rectangle in the mid, some triangles, and even diagonally elsewhere). It has an uneven sheen.


The tasting

It is a hard snap to begin with. Good signs! In the mouth, earthy flavours are experienced at the onset and the guessing game begins as the chocolate slowly melts and reveals fruity notes. There's a certain tang which is the signature of Ba Ria - slightly sour, which reminds me of a raspberry or an unripe, tart cherry. The finish is smooth and long. And that's chocolate heaven. Ba Ria gets a thumbs up!




The brand story


Marou is the labour of love of two Frenchmen - Vincent and Samuel, who have used French techniques and indigenous Vietnamese ingredients to make Marou, from the bean to a bar. They work closely with Vietnamese cocoa growers to source the best cocoa beans (Ba Ria is sourced from the hills of Ba Ria province). They collect cocoa from five regions in Vietnam. The colour of each wrapper is similar to the colour of the cocoa bean it is made with. And that indicates heaps of thought behind the packaging! They have raised the bar for Vietnamese chocolates certainly, considering Vietnam only produces 0.1% of world cocoa.

Where to look for Marou in India?

http://www.houseofmandara.com/

Price: Rs 790 for 80 grams.

Brand website: http://marouchocolate.com/



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Kayastha Khatirdari pop-up

How do you describe a meal that you’ve wanted to experience for the longest time? Well, one can only try. Skeety’s special meal was at food writer Anoothi Vishal’s well-known Kayastha pop-up aptly called Kayastha Khatirdari which she prepares along with her family at home, showcasing food of the community. The evening kicked off with a round of drinks to warm up to old friends and make some new ones. And what else can you do but enjoy when you are in the company of a lawyer, a quizmaster, a home chef, a tea sommelier, an architect and many more such. The meal hosted at the newly launched Delhi Pavilion (erstwhile Baywatch) at WelcomHotel Sheraton, Saket.


The amuse bouche was kulle ki chaat. A trademark of Old Delhi chatwallas, this version is how it is made at homes by Kayastha families (with distinct use of smaller chickpeas). A cucumber was hollowed and stuffed with the chickpeas, lemon juice and the notoriously famous chat masala that the Old Delhi kulle wallas use. An individual platter of aptly portioned starters was made up of Mangode or moong dal pakodis, Kalmi Vadas and Vegetarian Shami Kababs. With every morsel, Skeeter tasted a different note. Mangode came with an added punch of whole coriander; one has to taste it to believe what a simple addition can do to the humble snack. The Kalmi Vadas that Skeeter is used to in her plate of chaat in Old Delhi, is not a patch on what she ate at Kayastha Khaterdari. These were crisp and stiff on the outside revealing a semi-soft interior on biting. They were not-excessively oily from all the frying, neither tough on the tooth. It Skeety could go on about the texture, but they tasted superlative too. They were spiced to perfection and the lentils combined with the spices complemented with the correct frying technique and temperature, made them a delight to the senses. The star of the appetizers, however, were the Vegetarian Shami kababs that melted in the mouth and had a supreme meaty flavour, derived from lentils again. These were delicately spiced and salted to perfection. Although Kayastha food has a lot of meat based preparations, many Kayastha ladies eat vegetarian fare and these preparations are their inventions/ adptation of meaty dishes to vegetarian ones.


Skeety was already in a food wonderland when there was an onslaught of platters mounted with Bedmi Pooris and bowls full of Urad Dal. The Bedmi pooris were again different from the ones we’re used to. Skeety has seen many a cook make this and the general preparation goes like this: Bedmi flour (coarsely ground) dough is filled with a thumb impression of the pitthi (spiced stuffing made with dal and coarsely ground spices again). At home, we call it pitthi poori as well. The maharaj who used to come home or even the halwais Skeeter encounters in Old Delhi quite often have this fast yet rhythmatic movement of filling them with a thumb of pitthi, rolling them and dunking in a hot wok of oil. The joy to watch them puff up is something else. Skeeter being Skeeter would only take those that puffed up like a balloon. Anoothi’s Bedmi pooris were a revelation: soft, thicker than normal and smeared generously with the pitthi and not just a thumb in the center. They went so well with the homemade pickles (green chilli two ways and tangy karonda pickle) that you’d not need anything else to gobble  them down with.  But there were the kacche kele ki machli, a mock non-vegetarian preparation of raw bananas, cut like fish which was interesting; kathal ki sabzi or jackfruit, a very homely and unique preparation and the Urad dal that had a tiny yet strong hing tadka sitting somewhere on the top of the bowl underneath slivers of golden fried onions. Thought it seemed like a simple dish, to do the Urad Dal right is an art; and this comes from not-an-urad-fan, so there! There was a matar-ki tehri too. The meal ended with a quiz that had the guests bundling up in teams and there was makhane ki kheer (lotus seed pudding) and lauki ki launj (a barfi made from bottlegourd) to end the evening on a sweet note.


(The Kayastha Khatirdari festival is on at Delhi Pavilion till 27th November)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ziu, Sangam Courtyard: High on Thai

Vegetarian Thai food is often hard to come by, especially when you are in Thailand. Things are changing for the better in that land, albeit slowly. And when Skeeter heard of Ziu, a progressive Thai restaurant in Sangam Courtyard at R.K.Puram (Delhi), a reservation was instantly made. Run by Gurmehar Singh Sethi who is the chef-owner of Ziu, the kitchen is in expert hands. Gurmehar hails from Delhi but his Nobu and Le Cirque background sets the bar high for Ziu. Before ordering her meal,Skeeter quizzed Gurmehar about the fish sauce substitutes where required,  and was told they use fresh Soybean paste (flown in from Thailand) to make the vegetarian Thai food at Ziu. Needless to say, Skeeter was sold.

The meal
Looking at the menu at Ziu, one may detect some regular Thai menu offerings but prepare to be amazed. They treat the way they serve you, differently, and that sets them apart. Tom Yum soup (Rs 295) was a hearty portion, easily devoured by two. The flavourful veggies came seated in a polished coconut-shell bowl with a hint of smoke enticing you; the spicy and sour soup was poured from a little jug over the veggies at the table. Subtle and flavourful, this soup grows on you. You can adjust the spice levels with bird’s eye chilli powder and chilli oil that is served on the table.

 
                                                                   Tom Yum Soup

Skeeter ordered a Som Tam salad (Rs 295), next, quite unsuspectingly. Sipping on her Pineapple cooler that was served in a flute glass (champagne style) with a hint of chilli Skeeter was amazed to be greeted by a bowl of hitherto unknown ‘fried’ Som Tam salad: Juliennes of raw papaya and carrot fried in rice flour batter to a perfect state where they retained the softness yet were crunchy to bite in. These were tossed in a light dressing, adorned with cherry tomatoes, and could certainly make a hearty lunch with a bowl of Tom Yum.

Pineapple cooler (left); Virgin Mojito (right)

Som Tam Salad

A hungry table of two ordered Kanom Krok (Rs 295) and Meing Khum (Rs 255) next. Kanom Krok were wondrous coconut crème brulee bites filled with sautéed tofu, galangal, super finely shredded kaffir lime leaves in a finger-licking good tom kha and chilly lime dressing. Skeeter could volunteer to be the brand ambassador for these. These were washed down with a Virgin Mojito with Ziu’s twist of freshly shaved coconut swirls. One can’t resist those! And the Meing Khum took us by surprise. Skeeter forsees people writing about it as Thai version of Indian Paan. But the similarity ends there. These were the most incredible palate cleansers-cum-salad. Wild pepper leaves were stuffed with chopped lime, chilli, fried garlic, shallots, peanut, ginger, toasted coconut and tamarind jam. Skeeter will ask for extra tamarind jam and a notch higher chilli level, when she visits Ziu next. And the presentation was appealing too! Besides, the portion is generous for a table of two.

                                                                      Kanom Krok
                             
Meing Khum

Saving more appetizers for another visit to Ziu, Skeets hopped on to the mains of Tofu Song Krueng (Rs 525) or Pan seared tofu cakes, topped with wok tossed seasonal vegetables. What caught Skeeter’s fancy were the tofu cakes and what made her wary was the standard wok-tossed line written in menus. Soon enough, she was proven wrong. The hearty tofu cakes were encased in a crunchy peanut coat and the wok-tossed vegetables (like morning glory) had her craving for more.

                                                        Chef-Owner Gurmehar Singh Sethi at work

Saving more appetizers for another visit to Ziu, Skeets hopped on to the mains of Tofu Song Krueng (Rs 525) or Pan seared tofu cakes, topped with wok tossed seasonal vegetables. What caught Skeeter’s fancy were the tofu cakes and what made her wary was the standard wok-tossed line written in menus. Soon enough, she was proven wrong. The hearty tofu cakes were encased in a crunchy peanut coat and the wok-tossed vegetables (like morning glory) had her craving for more. The burnt garlic fried rice were the perfect accompaniment.
Tofu cakes (left); burnt garlic fried rice (right)

But the true test came in the form of their Phad Thai noodles (Rs 295), a make or break for Skeeter. And these didn’t disappoint either! They tossed in oodles of veggies with the noodles, and everything blended together with a lovely homemade tamarind sauce. Besides attention to freshness, they use home grown microgreens and herbs in their dishes and that gives them an edge too!
For dessert, try their coco-nutty twist on the classic Tiramisu, if you find even a wee bit of space left in your tummy bag and you’d dream of the meal when you turn to bed. Skeeter did!

                                                          Dreamy dessert: Coconut Tiramisu                      
Meal for two: Rs 1800
Address: Sangam Courtyard, Major Somnath Marg, Sector 9, R K Puram, New Delhi. 
Phone: 011 26180711

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Skeeter’s day out at Asian Hawker’s Market & The Grub Fest in Delhi


With three food fests happening simultaneously in town, Skeeter was a busy girl. Busy eating, ofcourse! She could do justice to two, and here’s what the experience was like. The first stop was Asian Hawker’s Market at Select CityWalk. A well-curated one with a choice of space that already has good footfall on weekends; they did a smart job! True to the name of the festival, there were oodles of noodles, pot stickers, dumplings, satays & Sushi aplenty. Spicy Sushi at En made Skeeter happy and the Asparagus cream cheese roll at Guppy by ai has always been her go to favourite. These were washed down with a Cucumber n Kaffir lime cooler at Pan Asian.


Spicy Sushi at En

video
Takoyaki

Absolutely fabulous Cheese and pepper Takoyaki at Yumi Yum Cha were savoured with Orange & Kaffir lime cooler in the cutest takeaway bottle ever! Fantabulous veg pot stickers at Jade were had too. Dessert was again at Yum Yum Cha: Mango Mochi icecream. Couldn’t have ended better! Free entry was a winner. Everything was pegged between Rs 100 & 500.


The Grub Fest was entertainment of another kind. This time round its bigger and better. Delhiites like Skeeter would have to make a trek to Gurgaon (well almost), but once you are in, you thoroughly soak yourself in the ‘foodie’ spirit of the city. To reach the grounds, one enters through the Grub Market. Skeeter suggests to have a look on your way in and pick up stuff on your way out. At the grounds, there are an array of restaurants, cafes, bakeries, food trucks offering some great grub. The waffles at Eggjactly were okay, Momocha's soupy jhol dumplings were yummy, Bombakery is dessert bomb; try their Nutella cookies for sure! Bombakery is also offering single origin coffee on the grounds and it is just what you need when you get a little tired with all that walking! 


Eggjactly food truck

There's SodaBottleOpenerWala, Social, Smokey's, The Backyard, Lalit Food Truck, Duzoku tribal kitchen, Budweiser, Olive Bistro, Chaayos, Chai Thela to name a few. While there visit Grub Stories, a multi-storey travelling restaurant, with chic design and interiors, offering a terrace bar which provides fantastic views of the ground. Sunset is marvelous from up there! Skeeter didn't try any food there, though. On her way out she picked honey twigs (honey measured in a sachet for one serving!), cold pressed juices at fabulous offers, cold pressed edible oils and a lot more!


                                         video
360 degrees view of the fest





Monday, September 21, 2015

Ek Bar - Once upon a time (a preview)

Delhi has a new bar dedicated to the drinking culture of India and Skeety visited to get a feel. It is kitschy, it is sassy and it is a neighbourhood bar called Ek Bar by AD Singh of Olive in partnership with the very talented Chef Sujan Sarkar. Ek Bar is located in Defence Colony and the place gives a carnival-like vibe with a giant merry-go-round installation just above the bar. One walks in at Ek Bar to witness eager bartenders doing their shaking jig and that sets the tone for the evening. 


City of Nizams (right)


Drinks

All drinks have an Indian touch. They are re-imagined in the Indian way. You can sample, murabba, amrak (starfruit), gondhoraj lime, Indian spices and such in your drink. The names of the drinks are quirky and Indian: Murabba Mule, Platform @ CST, Sher Singh, Susegad and more.

Mogito-6 (right)
At Ek Bar you decide what mood you are in and pick a card (menu) accordingly. There's A,K,Q andJ. Choose your drink and get going. The bartender who came with Skeety's drinks had a story to tell with each of them, making the experience superlative. Our welcome drink was the Royal Indian touch. Nitin Tewari, Skeeter's bartender for the evening told 'Punch' is derived from the Sanskrit word which means five and was first made in India in the 16th century using five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. When Britishers came to India they enjoyed the drink and took it back to their homeland from where it became popular globally. At Ek Bar, this Punch is served in an intricate teapot that comes with cups to depict the community drinking culture in India.  The Mo'g'ito 6 is Ek Bar's take on a mojito. In India, most pronounce it wrong and hence it is deliberately misspelt at Ek Bar. The story behind the drink goes thus: If Mojito was made in India, it would have our local citrus fruit Amrak or starfruit. And Amrak is sold in Old Delhi during winters, so the bartenders added 6 spices to this drink that they procured from Khari Baoli spice market in Old Delhi. This drink could do with less ice, though! 
All drinks are claimed to be made within two minutes and the ingredients like shrubs, bitters, juices are all homemade.
The Royal Indian Punch (left)
Ek Bar - Granola Bar (right)
 The City of Nizams is gin & tonic, done the Indian way. This bright yellow hued drink comes with  Gin, turmeric, orange syrup and tonic water. While fancy icecubes may be the way the world is going, at Ek Bar, this drink had Katori shaped ice in it and inside the icecube was a blade of mace. As Skeety sipped her drink slowly, the mace broke out of ice to lend a hint of added flavour.

Nitin Tewari, mixologist at Ek Bar 




The grub

The Ek Bar Granola Bar is joyous. It is made of Jhalmuri, Avocado and imli gel with frozen Dahi Bhalla ice-cream on the side. This one sets your mouth on fire and Skeeter would go back just for this. It goes very well with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Fresh local Burrata comes seated on a bed of tomato kut and is topped with a coriander and walnut chutney crumble. The freshness of the Burrata is stunning and the tart-sweet tomato kut beneath only adds to it. What is really good about Ek Bar is that they have engineered the menu that is full of nibbles and finger food. Skeety always wanted a place where she can just snack, drink and be happy and Ek Bar is just that. 
The Veg Thali is just a name. It is essentially appetizers put together to form the Thali components. In the Thali, mushroom galouti hot dog was innovative, beetroot and peanut coin was okay, ricotta stuffed bhavnagiri mirchi packed the punch, rawa fried paneer was different from the tikkas that the vegetarians are dumped with, rajma hummus was fresh and creamy and the charred roti made a perfect accompaniment. They have a cheese Thali too and Skeets would want to go back and try that some day. End your meal on a sweet note with some carrot halwa cake and savoury buttermilk icecream. This combination was delightful and reminded Skeeter of her garam halwa-thandi malai winter eating ritual.


Where: Ek Bar, D-17, Defence Colony (corner building near petrol pump).

Note: The place opens for public on September 23rd. This was a preview on invite.