Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sharing a Dream: A Moment of Joy

My father does not know what I do. When I read cookbooks, he finds it funny. When I show him a complicated recipe I have mastered in theory, he smiles, pats my head, and walks away.

I am seven. It is difficult to explain what I want to do, but I know what I like doing. I want to cook and eat. Flavors fascinate me. Spices make me happy. Seeing the butcher cut meat is intriguing, and I know why curry cuts cannot be used for making Manchurian chicken.

They need to be small and boneless to be in the Manchurian chicken. Otherwise, it would not be cooked right.

I know that because I read a lot of cookbooks. But then again, mother doesn’t like me cooking. She yelled at me last night when she realized I was trying to turn on the gas the other day, and ordered me out of the kitchen. My grandmother tried to protest, but my mother yelled at her too.
I don’t like it when people yell.

* * *

I am eight. Still in love with cookbooks. Still wanting to cook. Still banished from kitchen. Thankfully, grandmother is smart enough to make me do small work. I have a small knife to cut vegetables now. My grandmother cuts potatoes in different ways, and tell me why. You cannot cut them the same way, because that way, they won’t cook right. Everything needs to be uniform. 

Balance. Harmony.

I tell my father about my dilemma. He takes me out to dinner sometimes. Or a quick meal outside. Mostly cutlets, if we are in a hurry, followed by a few sips from his bottle of Gold Spot. I like Gold Spot.

‘Taste everything’, he says.  ‘Taste and remember what you ate. Think what you ate and how it was made. That makes you appreciate what you are eating more.’

* * *

I am eight and three fourth. My father told my mother to stop barring me from the kitchen and let me cook. I boiled water today. I took a pan, filled it with water, put it on the gas, and let it heat. The water started to bubble in front of me. I was enthralled.

Too soon, ma turned it off. But it’s a start! I will cook! I look at my father with shining eyes, and he looks right back at me! We grin at each other, because we know it’s a start.

* * *

I am thirty. I can not only cook, I make a living eating, cooking, and talking about food non-stop. After a considerable amount of time, I found what I liked doing the most, and I was helped by the one person who believed in me. My father. 

There are times when you have shared a moment like this with your parent or child(ren). See more such at Kellogs Chocos Facebook Page, and share your moment of happiness. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Bombay Brasserie, Quest Mall, Kolkata

Bombay Brasserie Kolkata
When it first opened its doors in Quest Mall, I had been to Bombay Brasserie, and consumed a rather sumptuous lunch one afternoon. So, when I received the invite to try out some of the food from the restaurant, I could not say no. As I seated myself, the server placed a bottle in front of me. 

Shikanji at Bombay Brasserie
The Shikanji was poured into a glass for me, and served with a straw, and it was nice and tangy, and good for someone in the need of extra stomach space to polish off what they had on offer. One word about the drinks here - I am a die hard fan of scents like khus and rose, and therefore, had asked the good people there to make me something with those ingredients.

Murg Badaami shorba
But then, a bowl marked 'soup' was presented to me. The Murg Badaami Shorba was mildly flavoured, with bits of chicken and almond flakes. I am not much of a fan of nuts in my soup, so this wasn't really my thing.

Khus Cooler

The Khus Cooler was exactly my 'thing' - a thick layer of khus syrup lay at the bottom, topped with ice, soda, and sabza seeds (sweet basil seeds). You need to mix the drink before consuming, and I have to say, if you like the taste of Khas, this will be your next best friend. The basil seeds add a little pop, and I gulped this down thirstily.

Papad Basket
They served us a tiny basket of papad, and guess who went for the sabudana papad first? Although others like masala and potato papad, this is my thing, and I loved the crunch. A dip is served with it, but I like my papad without any frills, thank you very much!

Gunpowder potatoes

The Gunpowder Potatoes is one of their signature dishes, and by the time we could consume it, it was lukewarm (thanks to the cameras flashing all around), but the podi coating the potatoes was nice, although much less spicy than I had expected. The potatoes themselves were creamy and cooked to perfection.

Murg Soola
I was more of a fan of the Murg Soola, which was spicy and perfectly cooked, with a squeeze of lime and some green chutney. I wanted to drink something rose-flavored at this point, and requested the server for it.

Paneer Ke Tukrey
Meanwhile, the Paneer Ke Tukrey was a mild, tasty affair, with cubes of creamy paneer flavored mildly with spices, and quickly grilled. S on the vegetarian end loved this.

Andhra Chicken
Andhra Chicken was similar to the Gunpowder potatoes - the coating was more or less the same podi we had consumed earlier. It was tossed with some curry leaves, and tasted nice, although the chicken pieces were slightly dry.

Rosy Gulabi Sharbat (L) and Rosy Vanilla Sharbat (R)
At this point, the server placed before me not one, but two drinks. One was a Rosy Gulaabi Sharbat (left), and the other was a Rosy Vanilla Sharbat (right). The gulabi sharbat was mostly a rose soda, topped with dried rose petals. The vanilla one had a light vanilla flavor merging with the rose, and it was quite interesting.

Tarkari Masaledar
For our main course, we were served an assortment of dishes. There was a Tarkari Masaledar, which was spicy and went well with the simple Hare Pyaaz ka Kulcha. The kulcha was nice, but nothing to write home about.

Hare Pyaaz ka Paratha
On the other hand, the Paneer Sirka Pyaaz was a crowd pleaser, with pieces of paneer cooked in a thick, tomato-based gravy, with pickled onions cooked with it. More than the paneer, we loved the pickled onions, which added a burst of sourness.

Paneer Sirka Pyaaz
The kaali dal was unremarkable and underseasoned, and I was really not a fan of it. I wished for a bit of smokiness added to the daal somehow. It would have made it different.

Kaali Daal
The Chur Chur Paratha was a gorgeous, fluffy dish. After cooking, this paratha is smashed, so that it disintegrates and the layers separate. I peeled off bits of this, and soaked it in the Salli Chicken

Chur Chur Paratha
The Salli chicken is nice - it had all the things I wanted - a tangy gravy, mild flavors, and a generous bit of fried potatoes added on top. I like Parsi food in general, and Bombay Brasserie is known for this dish.

Salli Chicken
The Ulta Tawa Paratha, however, was a revelation. Thin and cooked on the underside of a tawa, much like what I have seen in Lucknow, this had a strong flavor of saffron, and it was decadent, to say the very least. I paired it with

Ulte Tawe ka Paratha
The Dhungar Maas was a thick, spicy meat dish, topped with a single Mathania red chilli. The heat was addictive, and paired with the paratha, this was the star of the show. The mutton pieces were soft, but held their shape well, and of course, I snagged the fried chilli on top.

Dhungar Maas
We were beyond full at this point, when the manager came in, smiled, and said, "wait, we still have the biryani!". There was a collective groan from the table, but no one got up, so, seeing that as a good sign, the server brought out the vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions. The biryanis are kept under 'dum' and we watched, fascinated, as the server popped open the top of the Nawaabi Gosht Biryani.

Mutton Biryani Bombay Brasserie
The biryani was light, with small pieces of meat, cooked till soft, and fluffy rice. I liked the fact that the spices were present, but not overwhelming.

Nawabi Gosht Biryani
I think we all have a separate dessert stomach, and that is what I am sticking to, because there is no other way for me to explain how I consumed a piece of the Chocolate Kurkuri which were crunchy and chocolate-laden, and perfect for dipping into the cold vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Kurkuri
I have an eternal fascination for Jalebi, and these were crisp and served with a thick rabdi which was creamy but not overly sweet.

All the dishes we had were part of their a la carte menu, but the good news is, Bombay Brasserie Kolkata has a set meal offer for lunch right now, where some of the dishes are featured on their changing menu. The menu for vegetarians is 499/- plus tax, and 599/- plus tax for non vegetarians.

meat dishes bombay brasserie

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to a meal by the management. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

American Whiskey Tasting and Cocktail Making Session with Shatbhi Basu at Afraa, Salt Lake

I have to tell you a secret - I love women who know their whiskey. I remember meeting Shatbhi Basu back in 2013 when I attended the first tasting session of hers, and boy, she made cocktails which made my head spin! I really did not want to miss out on another class with her, and I love her, because there is something new to be learned at every session! This time, the American Whiskey tasting session was held in Afraa, and apart from the usual suspects (Jim Beam, Jim Beam Black, Maker's Mark, Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniels, and Gentleman Jack), we had a secret entrant to the list.

Of course, once at Afraa, Salt Lake, you really cannot avoid nibbling on their delicious cheese platter, smearing a bit of the brie on a piece of flatbread, or nibble on a cheese straw. I do the same, to prepare myself for the tasting.

Did you know, unlike Scotch, which takes decades at time to age, the maturing process of Bourbon Whiskey and Rye is much less, because of the humid, and hotter weather in America? The warm weather is perfect for quick expansion and contraction of the liquor, which pushes it in and out of the barrel it is contained in, ensuring that the process of inserting the flavors into the liquor is much quicker.

Buy Jim Beam Honey India
As the different whiskeys are set before us, we are led through the bright brashness of the Jim Beam, then the slightly harsher Jim Beam Black, the caramel flavors of Maker's Mark, the rather mature tones of Woodford Reserve, the blast of banana from the Jack Daniel's, which is pronounced even further in Gentleman Jack. The surprise entry is Jack Daniel's Honey, the whiskey liquor made by the company. It is really sweet, with strong flavors of banana and honey, and reminds me of the Banoffee pie for some reason.

Different kinds of American whiskey 
Here is a fun thing to know about American Whiskey - what you might call Moonshine, or White Whiskey, which is the freshly made, or slightly aged and filtered rye or corn whiskey is making a comeback in the form of Jack Daniel's Unaged Rye, or Maker's White (Rye). This form of whiskey almost went out of fashion with the rise of Bourbon whiskey, but it seems that people now want to go back to their roots, and have what they were originally making back in the days, because that's all the rage, apparently.

Jack Daniel's Honey
One of the things that stuck with me was a quote from master distiller Jeff Arnett. The man has been associated with Jack Daniel's for a considerable period of time, and he believes that making whiskey is like making tea. "It doesn't take forever to bring out the best flavors. The hot water helps draw them out perfectly, just as our hot summers do our whiskey!" I think that makes a lot of sense when it comes to whiskey distillation.  

Whiskey Cocktails India
We sampled some of the whiskey based cocktails - the Tom and Jerry was light and refreshing, and perfect for the weather. We were served some nibbles as well, and the Chicken Wings were pretty delicious. For the vegetarians in the crowd, there were some Vietnamese Spring Rolls too.

Chicken Wings
The event was attended by several celebrities from Bengali film industry as well as many wine and liquor enthusiasts. Shaheb Chatterjee was one of them.

Shaheb Chatterjee tollywood photo
And of course, no evening can be complete without a photo of the photographer, along with the lady of the hour!

Shatbhi Basu Poorna Banerjee
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee attended the Whiskey Tasting Event at the kind invitation of Beam. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Envy 1000 Body Spray Rush and Nitro Review

Buy Envy Deodorant India
Envy 1000 Body Sprays are priced at 180/- for 140 ml. They are available online at Flipkart. These sprays are quite different from normal deodorants, because these have no gas in them. But they claim to perform better than deodorants with gas in them. They are sold by the brand Vanesacare.

About Envy 100 Body Spray: Like a gushing river of exhilaration, this invigorating fragrance takes over your senses and provides you a sublime push of confidence to go ahead and make things happen.

Envy 1000 Rush Body Spray
Envy 100 Body Spray Rush and Nitro are available in sturdy metal packages, with a plastic cap. They feel heavier than normal perfumes, and have about 1000 sprays worth cologne in them. The packages are really travel-friendly, and I have carried them around without issues in my bag.

Unlike many other deodorants, these do not have gas in them, so, when sprayed, they do not make that hissing sound, or cover you with a cloud of smoke (which I don't like much), but, rather, target specific areas. I generally spritz them on my underarms and torso, and use as needed. They are excellent to spray on fabric as well.

Envy 1000 Nitro Body Spray
Envy Nitro body spray has a strong, fresh scent, which I can describe probably as 'aqua'. It stays on for nearly 8-9 hours easily, and although I carry the bottle in my bag just in case, I have not had to reapply it for the first 12 hours at least. The scent is strong, and I have a fascination for scents which tend to be on the masculine side, and this is exactly that.

Envy Body Spray India
Envy Rush body spray has a spicier, and definitely more exotic scent. I prefer using this one because it stays on for 8 hours easily, and has a scent which is quite masculine. However, this perfume is also, for the lack of a better word, extremely refreshing to smell, and both my father and I like it. I have seen that the scent for the no-gas liquid deodorants tend to stay on longer, and they linger on my clothes till they are washed. That is definitely a good sign.

I am quite happy with both Envy 1000 body sprays. They are reasonably priced, easy to use, lasts me long, and has a nice, lingering smell. I am quite happy with these, especially for those who like fresh, clean scents.

Disclaimer: PR Sample.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Asus Zenfone2: My Current Favorite Phone

Image courtesy: Flipkart

Today’s smartphones are truly wondrous – from shopping to checking mails to taking photos, you can do virtually anything on your phone, and I have been a fan ever since I bought my first on. I am always on the lookout for cool new smartphones, and recently, the Asus Zenfone2 caught my eye. I bought it for a family member a few days ago, and it is rapidly becoming a favorite.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the Asus Zenfone 2 is its size – it is not too large or too small – and I don’t have to squint my eyes to see what’s going on. The display is clear and large, and the 13.97 cm touch screen is perfect for watching videos and reading books. I downloaded an e-book reader, and started reading a few books right away.

The phone itself is ridiculously thin, and the design is super sleek. Although I am no expert, I have to say, it looks really cool! The version I bought comes equipped with Android Lollipop, and has a 2.3 GHz Processor, which makes surfing and operating the phone really smooth. The phone has been in use for more than a month, and it performs great!

The fact that this comes with 2 GB RAM minimum (which can be expanded to up to 4 GB) makes it a gamer’s paradise. Those who know me are aware of my love for gaming, and this makes gaming so much easier. I hate lag, and this one promises to not make me wait while I am fishing my heart away in Hay Day, or running before monsters in Temple Run.

The Zen UI of the Asus Zenfone2 has a smart interface, which I could customize in a flash.

There are two cameras in this phone – a 13 megapixel camera in the back, AND a 5 megapixel front camera. Being a selfie-lover, I am quite happy with the front camera, which is clear and quite good.

The storage of this phone is massive – up to 64 GB. This makes it very easy for me to store my music collection in the phone, and I like the sound quality – it is clear. The headphones provided with it is easy to use and quite sturdy.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bun Plus Bun Festival at Flurys, Kolkata: 20th June to 5th July, 2015

Arjun Chakraborty and Nilanjana Chakraborty at Flurys
"The Bun plus Bun festival has a nice ring to it, right?", S notes, and surreptitiously puts another roll on her plate, longingly looking at the butter for a second before digging into the soft, fluffy Mexican coffee bun, the Papparoti, topped with a layer of dark coffee-flavoured sugar. The yeast has raised the dough wonderfully, and M and I look at each other, approvingly, biting into yet another bun.

Bun plus Bun Festival at Flurys
We are at Flurys, Park Street, where Chef Vikas Kumar reigns. 'I wanted to showcase buns, you see. They remind me of my childhood, and I think bread is a very intimate part of most of our childhoods, so I wanted to showcase buns'. The speciality buns can be picked up from the counter, or you can have it as part of a meal - there are plenty of buns to choose from.

Masala Buns and Chicken in a Blanket at Flurys
Priced at 55/- each, these are called the 'speciality buns', and I am guilty of revisiting Flurys to pick some up on a later date. Some of the buns are paired with the beverages, like the Boston Bun, which the chef advices to have with a cup of Darjeeling. Although I am not  a fan of coconut, under the frosting, the bread is wonderful. The Pao de Queijo, made with tapioca flour, is a great choice for those who want to go Gluten-free.

Pao de Queijo
The Devonshire Cream Bun, however, is my favourite among the sweet ones - a long roll studded with dry fruits, it is slit lengthwise, and cream is piped into it. I brought one home, and heated it up last night to consume. To my delight, that fluffy cream collapsed into a heap of melting goodness, and I tore off parts of it, and slathered it with the molten cream. For a hungry girl at midnight, it was a beautiful meal indeed.

Devonshire Cream Bun
The Chicken in a Blanket is a thin layer of bread, wrapped around a chicken sausage and baked. Similar to 'pigs in a blanket', this seems to be the favourite of the table, and is consumed quickly. 

Chicken in a blanket
At this point, all of us are stuffed silly from the bread overdose, and when Vikas comes out to ask what we would like to eat, a collective groan can be heard. Nevertheless, at this point, Nilanjana Chakrabarty asks for a half-portion, and we follow suit.

Karachi bun kabab
There are five options to choose from. Sadly, vegetarians get only one option - the Meaty Mushroom burger. The Karachi Bun Kabab comprises of a split masala bun, containing a thick patty of minced lamb kabab, which has a fine texture, and a bit of tang is added from the minty chutney it is smeared with.

Goan Sorpotel
I, of course, go with the Goan Sorpotel. The version Chef makes here is tangy, with bits of pork, and a fiery red chilli on top, which, naturally, is munched down. Served with the Poee bread, which has a delicate sweetness from the addition of toddy to it, the sourness of the meat dish balances the sweetness, and before I know it, my plate is empty.

Chicago Hot Dog with Everything
M had asked for the Chicago Hot Dog with 'Everything'. The pork sausage was smoky and succulent, topped with a generous helping of a slightly sweet lamb chili, mustard, cheese, pickles, and served with the fries. I prefer my chili hot so this does not catch my fancy, although I won't mind more of those sausages.

Viennese Coffee at Flurys
Of course, the food extravaganza for me must be washed down with a cup of coffee - in my case, the Viennese, because I need a jolt of caffeine to my system. We sit and chat with Arjun Chakrabarty and Nilanjana Chakraborty - a lovely, and exceptionally talented couple. I have grown up seeing films of Arjun Chakraborty and later, have heard him sing, and meeting him in person is always a pleasure. Nilanjana, jewellery designer and tarot reader, meanwhile, is a fantastic person to know. The Bun plus Bun festival is on till the 5th of July at their Park Street Outlet, and the buns are available at different outlets around Kolkata.

Boston Bun
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at Flurys at the kind invite of the management.‎