Monday, August 3, 2015

New Flavors of Gelato at Mama Mia!

Strawberry Balsamic Gelato
I am always up for ice cream, and when Mama Mia, one of my favorite Gelato places decided to get a makeover, with plenty of new flavors on offer, imagine my happiness! So, although it was raining cats and dogs, I braved the weather to get a taste of the new flavors, and dropped in at their Ballygunge outlet.

mama mia gelateria
The place was buzzing with people, even on a day when people were not that keen on going out, thanks to the rain, and a small exhibition of some photos were on the wall, aimed at raising funds for Nepal Earthquake. I looked at some of them, then made a beeline for the man serving the different flavors of Gelato.

mama mia gelato kolkata
Some of their old flavors have been improved upon, renamed, and some brand new flavors have been added to their considerable menu. I was torn between a few old favorites, and some of the new ones, and decided to go for broke and taste the new flavors - all of them!

mama mia ice cream flavors
The Red Velvet was nice, if a bit forgettable, and a rich, whiskey flavored Black Label Chocolate, but while I liked the chocolate, I did not much care for the whiskey flavor - although there's no real whiskey in there, I was assured. The Strawberries and Balsamic was sweet, and not enough balsamic for my taste, but the Salted Caramel Artisanale had the most robust flavor of the lot - I loved the texture and the flavor of this one, with the buttery caramel taking front row, and making me happy.  But the white truffle was stunning - the white chocolate and crunchy nuts came together wonderfully, and I was quite enamored of this one.

sea salt and chocolate ice cream 

But then, there was the Sea Salt and Chocolate, which was rich and dark, with dark chocolate bits which melted on my tongue. A little bit of saltiness added to the sweetness, and the result was a cold, chocolatey mess which can give any chocolate addict a delicious high.

I had to balance out the sugar with their offering of Bombe Fries, and they are currently serving them with an assortment of dips. You can pick your fries, add a sprinkling of flavor on top (peri peri, salt and vinegar, classic salted, or secret spice), and then pick any two from their considerable list of dips, that include different flavors of Mayonnaise, Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce, Ketchup, and plenty more. The fries are part of their new menu, and I particularly liked the crisp ones topped with peri peri salt.

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to Mama Mia! for a tasting by the management. 

Signature Mornings: A New Offering from ITC Sonar, Kolkata

Pancakes at Eden Pavilion
The day dawned dark, and by the time I had reached ITC Sonar, I was already an hour late, and mostly drenched. Hurrying over to Eden Pavilion, the 24-hour coffee shop, I could hear the squelch of water inside my shoes. The buffet breakfast was laid out, and filled with people who were helping themselves to the rather large breakfast spread.

Best Buffet Breakfast Kolkata
So, a few minutes later, and a hasty "yes" to a cup of cappuccino, I walked over to the bread counter, picked myself a chocolate croissant, bit into it, and contemplated my next move while warm chocolate and flaky pastry soothed my soul. ITC now has a new addition to their breakfast, the "Signature Mornings", which is served across all the ITC chain of hotels. The menu changes quarterly, and has a few interesting dishes. The key idea behind having "Signature Mornings" is to source and add local ingredients, free-range items, Indian super foods, forgotten ancient grains, and items which are gluten free and lactose free to the breakfast, intended for those who prefer eating light and sensibly.

Artisan Breads in Kolkata
 In the menu were the Pavilion Bircher Muesli, Buckwheat and Amaranth Pancakes, Eggs Benedict Classique and a Salmon and Milk Clafoutis, and after a brief tussle between the Pancakes and the Benedict, the Benedict won, simply because its got three of my favorite things on English Muffins.
buy fresh muffins in kolkata
 But well, who can stop looking at other things on offer? From the fresh muffins, to the assortment of breads on offer, to the eggs which can be made to order, Eden Pavilion has something for everyone,  and while I picked up a helping of a rather excellent Mushroom Stroganoff, my eyes went to the considerable number of Indian dishes on offer.

South Indian Breakfast Kolkata
 The buffet is a good mix between the healthy and indulgent, and while they have plain rice idlis, there is also an option to get a healthier version of it. There is a huge board on offer, where some of the specialities of the day was written down. I spied the "Luchi - Aloor Chocchori", and before I knew it, a plate of it was placed before me.

Luchi Aloor Chocchori
 I am a sucker for Luchi, and the potatoes were cooked to perfection, just how Ma makes them. I forced myself to stop after a few, and decided to try some healthy juices from the Pavilion Pure cold pressed juice bar. They use cold pressed juices, which are churned at a slower rate, preventing oxidation, and preserving nutrition. They have different kinds of vegetables and fruits on offer. The adventurous people can try a glass of fresh wheatgrass juice, which is kept in a glass pot, and snipped off as required.

Pavilion Pure Juices
 I asked for a glass of carrot, ginger and amla and it was simple, refreshing, and quite tangy. I could feel the pulp from the carrot in the juice, and I gulped it down, because its good for me. I added a shot of pure ginger and amla for an extra dose of Vitamin C.

Cold Pressed Juices Kolkata
 And of course, who would not want to eat the bacon? I was quite insistent on getting some slices of soft bacon, and they have the option to crisp up your bacon or fry the sausages on offer, if it is requested. I declined eating the eggs, but rather decided on another chocolate croissant, and waited patiently for my Eggs Benedict. These dishes are to be ordered, and they would be served to the table.

buffet breakfast kolkata
 And yes, they make a beautiful Benedict, which is healthier, because the hollandaise is lightened up considerably, but you can barely tell from the taste. The slices of lean ham was covered with a pair of poached eggs, which were a bit too overdone for my liking, and did not ooze out the golden yolk when cut into. However, there was a considerable bit of ham, so I was not going to complain.
The breakfast buffet at the Eden Pavilion is available till 10.30 am and it is INR 850/- plus tax per person.

Eggs Benedict ITC Sonar
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at Eden Pavilion at the kind invitation of the management. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Aloor Jhol: Potato in a Thin, Spicy Gravy

Potato in a Thin, Spicy Gravy
Aloor jhol is a very  simple, completely vegetarian recipe, and is one of the dishes my grandmother loves to eat. In my case, its slightly different. When I have sniffles and a bad fever, I want many things that I generally crave, but rarely have the time or energy to get up and cook for myself. But then, there is the Aloor Jhol, which I wangled out of R's mother because when my grandmother had it for the first time, she actually smiled, and it is simple, and cooked under half an hour, if you have things ready. So, I decided to make a big truckload of it, and then consumed half a big bowl, just like that, while watching The Big Bang Theory episodes on my computer. It actually took me one and half episodes to make this, so I am assuming that's 30 minutes in your book, since an episode is 20 minutes' worth.

To make Aloor Jhol, I use about 500 gm. whole medium-sized potatoes, unpeeled. I wash them thoroughly, prick them with a fork, cut them in quarters, so that they cook quickly, then either cover them with water and place them inside a microwave safe bowl and micro on high for 10 minutes, or put them in a pressure cooker, and then when the pressure is full, drop heat, simmer for 5 minutes, and then turn of the cooker, letting the pressure go down naturally, and the lid open by itself. You can, of course do this part over the stove top, but well, for a cranky big baby like me, that was too much time. Once done, remove, and mash mildly with the back of a spoon or a spatula - there should be plenty of chunks. Do not throw away the water - that's the material for the gravy.

Meanwhile, make a paste of an inch of ginger and 2-4 whole green chillies. The heat depends on your taste buds, that is, if you are a wuss, add one. If you think yourself to be a bit of a tiger, add sixty two. Also, make a paste of 2-3 tomatoes, so that the result is about 1/2 cup's worth. Don't add water to the tomato while blending if possible.

Indian potato curry
Heat a couple of teaspoons of oil. Add a large pinch of hing (optional), a large pinch of paanch phoran (substitute this with a mixture of cumin and fennel seeds if you don't have that in hand), a couple of bay leaves, and 2-3 whole red chillies. Let this mixture heat and splutter slightly. Drop in the ginger and chillies, and give it a couple of halfhearted stirs, before introducing the tomato. At this point, I turn the heat down to a simmer, and then leave the kitchen premises for 5-6 minutes, or until the tomato does not smell raw any more. Throw in about half a handful of cilantro stems and leaves, chopped, and stir for a minute or so.

Take a bowl, and add a teaspoon each of turmeric powder, red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder. Add to it half teaspoon dry mango powder (optional), and half a teaspoon crushed black pepper. Don't miss out on the black pepper, it gives the dish a lovely peppery glow. Add some water and make a paste, and add it to the tomato mixture. Cook till the water evaporates mostly, add the potatoes with at least one cup of the liquid in which the potato was cooking. You can up the ante, or reduce it, as per your wish. Also, if you think the heat is STILL not enough, add more green chillies or pasted green chillies now. Let the potato cook in the gravy for 10 minutes, then give it a hearty stir, add salt, and remove from heat. Just before removing, add another half handful of cilantro, because you really cannot ignore the cilantro here.

aloor jhol 
I have eaten aloor jhol solo, with luchi, puri, paratha, rotis, steamed rice, pulao - you name it. I have to say, nothing beats a bowl of this in front of you when you have sniffles - the kick from the spices is just what my taste buds need to recover from all the antibiotics and other medication. I would like to say, you are free to experiment here - you can use other vegetables instead of potatoes, or make this dish with two-three vegetables, and that turns out to be absolutely fine too! I have done this with a combination of potato and peas, potato and squash, as well as potato and raw papaya, and all of them turned out pretty neat. 

Bid adieu to dandruff with Kaya’s new Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with Scalp Purifying Factor

It’s finally time to move past the scorching heat of the summer and welcome the rains. But monsoon also brings with it an abundance of hair woes. Excessive dandruff, dry hair and itchy scalps are the most common concerns that crop up during this season. Dandruff, apart from being a social embarrassment, also marks the beginning of more severe problems such as scalp infections. This season, Kaya introduces their latest offering - ‘Anti-Dandruff Shampoo’ that will help beat the monsoon blues and keep your hair healthy and dandruff free.

Dr. Sangeeta Velaskar, Vice President and Head, Medical Services and R&D, Kaya India, said, “The humidity present in the air during the monsoon cause bacteria and fungi to multiply. Additionally, repeated exposure of the scalp to wet and dry weather conditions lead to a compromised scalp barrier, a major cause for dandruff. Piroctone olamine is a highly effective antimicrobial acting againstMalassezia species, which controls and prevents the re-occurrence of dandruff. It is also important to moisturize and soothe the scalp with ingredients such as vitamin B5 and Seaweed Extract.”

Specially formulated for daily use, this shampoo gently removes dandruff and simultaneously protects the scalp resulting in nourished, healthy and dandruff-free hair. Kaya’s Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is priced at Rs. 390 for 200 ml. The product is available across all Kaya Skin Clinics, Kaya Skin Bars and can be ordered online through Kaya’s portal (

Disclaimer: Press Release.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The New Menu Additions at The Bridge at The Park, Kolkata

24 hour open places in Kolkata
The Bridge at The Park Hotels has a few new items added to their menu starting this month! The menu additions were carefully curated from the response received at different food festivals, and then, the bests were added after a considerable amount of consideration. Small portions of food, salads and soup have been added to the menu now, and some of them are quite nice.

Broccoli Soup
There are a considerable number of soups added. Vegetarians would find the vegan Broccoli Soup with sunflower toasties quite intriguing, while I preferred the subtle comfort of the Clear Chicken broth, served simply with stuffed Cappelleiti, little pasta packets filled with nubbins of chicken.

Chicken broth 
I was quite happy to see the Chicken Shahtoosh, green chili, coriander and red onion puff pinwheel, spicy, crisp, with a spicy kick from the green chillies in it, and longed for a drink to go with it. Thankfully, a good cup of coffee was placed in front of me just in time.

Chicken Pinwheels
I  enjoyed the Calabrian Seafood soup at the South Italian food festival last year, and the Chicken Calabrian Spaghetti with emulsion of stock & extra virgin olive oil was a light affair, with the spaghetti generously drenched in broth and olive oil, making them moist yet not soggy.

Calabrian Spaghetti with Chicken
The non vegetarian food lovers can rejoice in the glory of lamb shanks, cooked to perfection and studded with rosemary, or can move on to the more traditional Indian dishes, or find something lavish straight out of the tandoor. I was especially looking forward to some of the new pizzas, some with parma ham and rucola, or the marinara pizza with squid, prawn and bhetki fish.

But then the chef brought out a plate of Bikrampuri chicken kawsha with paratha, and I was distracted. A spicy hot affair, a bowl of plain yellow dal was served along with the dish to balance out the heat, and the meat was quite tender, and the paratha was flaky and light - which was great because I found a piece of soft potato which had to be mashed and wrapped with a piece of paratha before consumption.

Bikrampuri Chicken
For dessert, there was a simple Madagascar Molten Chocolate Cake which was quite nice, if a bit too sweet for my taste buds. The fact that there is oozing chocolate is always a good sign though.

Molten Chocolate Cake
The platters are available round the clock at the 24/7 hour coffee shop, and you can order the dishes a-la-carte. The Bridge also has good breakfast and lunch buffets, and you can check them out too.

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at The Bridge at the kind invitation of the management.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Yellow Straw, Kolkata

Kolkata Juice Chain
I found The Yellow Straw in Chandni Chowk Region one fine sultry summer evening, while I was on my way to a watch shop, huffing and puffing from the exertion, and cursing myself for not drinking enough water. The little shop on RN Mukherjee Road looks small from the outside, but go inside, and you will find a little space to sit and play games once you get up the stairs. Happily enough, I had consumed a fabulous strawberry shake that day, and gone forth my merry way, but well, when one of the store's owners invited me and a few others over for some fresh seasonal juices and shakes, I nodded my head, and followed him down to the outlet once again.

Kolkata Juice Bar
The Yellow Straw is Kolkata's first juice chain. They have an assortment of juices - from pure juices (one fruit or vegetable only), to a combination of their choice, to customizable choices that can be asked for by the customer - the list is quite large. The owners are two young entrepreneurs, Piyush and Vikram, and they decided to make juices with slow rotation juicers, which does not heat up the juice, and that helps in less oxidation and getting more nutrition out of the fruits being pulped.

Yellow Straw Dalhousie Region
So, taking in the quirky décor, we seated ourselves, and looked around. The place is neat and packed with fun games - you can play chess, checkers, pick up sticks and other games for absolutely hours in the end. The guys don't mind - in fact, they encouraged it. I picked up a pack of sticks, scattered them, and went to work.

Yummy Tummy
 The Yummy Tummy juice is an assortment of fruits - I got the distinct taste of mausambi and pomegranate as well as some apples. They try to keep as much seasonal fruits as possible, and this combination is supposed to be a full meal. It is pulpy and quite filling, and I ask if I could have small portions of the next things that are about to come.

Chilli Cheese Toasties
 The Chilli Cheese toasties come on a sharing platter, and within seconds, it is gone. There is a generous amount of chilli-laden cheese which is quite a lovely sight.

Skin Glow
 D had ordered something called a Skin Glow, and it is a dark red affair, rather Gothic to look at, if you ask me. But its quite nice, with beets and apples and a tiny hit of ginger to spice things up.

Corn and Spinach Snackies

The Corn and Spinach Snackies are little golden crackers topped with a little bit of well-cooked corn and spinach, sprinkled with some cheese. Its easy to forget how many of these you are consuming, especially if you are too busy talking to your friend.

Mean Green
Daring soul that I am, I venture towards the Mean Green after reading the words Spinach and Celery on it. This is more like a cold soup than a juice - its quite savoury, and has a considerable amount of celery, which, for some reason, makes me want to have a Bloody Mary later.

Cold Chocolate Shake
 To be fair, the chocolate shake was nice, but it just paled in front of the juices before. This was sweet, with a good bit of cocoa in it, and although it was fine, it lacked.. something.

Sweet Chilli Potato Toasties
 The Sweet Potato Toasties were served at this point. Now, these were intriguing us from the start, and the layer of potato on the toasties has a great combination of tamarind, cumin, which is quite nice, especially for those who like street food, because this has streetfood written all over it.

mango shake
 Of course, the piece de resistance was the mango shake. This is part of their special  menu on mangoes, which will stop with the mango season getting over soon. This contained chopped mangoes, mango ice cream, butterscotch bits, and nuts - between the four of us, we could not finish it (alas!), and hung our heads in shame as we were about to go. But, I have to say, I did win a game of pick-up-sticks, so these things don't hurt me any more. 

pick up sticks

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at the Yellow Straw at the kind request of the management.‎