February 14, 2009

A Taste of Home - Part III

And finally, going from worst to best - here are the three best meals I had in Delhi on this trip:

Flavors in Defence Colony: This one was a tough call. Back in the day, the owner of Flavors, one Mr. Tarsillo Nataloni, treated the brother rather nastily and we decided we would never go back. Fast forward about 10 years - a friend and I are looking for a place for lunch with outdoor seating and her first choice, Blanco in Khan Market is reserved for a private event. She suggests Flavors and I reluctantly agree. Good thing too. She had the risotto (what is it with women and risottos by the way? Is this some new Delhi trend that has completely passed me by?), I had a linguine Amatriciana and we shared an antipasti platter. Her risotto looked really good and she said that it tasted even better. The antipasti platter was really really good. I don't know if the salumi on it was imported or home-made (it wasn't priced as if it were imported and if it was home-made, my respect for ol' Nat just increased tenfold - as a salumist that is, not as a person). The Amatriciana was of course limited by the fact that Nat was using (per force, I'm sure) bacon instead of guanciale and linguine instead of bucatini but I had anticipated that and, within those limitations, it just about hit the spot. The sauce was appropriately chunky harkening to its rustic Roman origin, the sweetness of the onions and the fierceness of the red pepper flakes complemented each other beautifully and the linguine, which was perfectly al dente, wasn't drowned in the sauce. For a garnish, there was a drizzle of olive oil and shredded Romano cheese. All I can say is this - Mr. Nataloni could probably run a restaurant in Little Italy. I mean, he's already got the disposition to match!

Karim Hotel on Matia Mahal: Well, actually it's on Gali Kababian, if you want to get all technical about it, but Matia Mahal will do fine I think. Pretty much every non-herbivore foodie in Delhi knows where Karim's is. Everything that needs to be said about Karim's has already been said so there's little more that I can add. We used to go to Karim's fairly often when I was in college, to get their famous Nihari for breakfast and the place seems to have expanded since then. It's also a lot spiffier - less of the dhaba feel. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. What I can say with certainty is that their Tandoori Raan - an entire roasted goat leg, carved at the table (or not, if you prefer to use your fingers. And we did) is all that. And they probably make the best mutton qorma in the city. 'Nuff said.

Chez Mom's: My mother makes, by an order of magnitude, the very best mutton pulao in the whole wide world, bar none (yes, I'm looking at you Chef Imtiaz Qureshi). I don't know how she does it - I haven't been able to replicate her dish despite scrupulously following her recipe - but she does it, time after time after time. Her hit ratio has to be in the high 90s. If you control for the fact that she is a brilliant cook generally (she has a repertoire that would allow her to go three meals a day for a year without having to repeat herself), one reason for her extraordinary virtuosity with the pulao has to lie with her growing up in Faizabad and Lucknow (from where, incidentally, Imtiaz Qureshi also hails). Her pulao is a thing of beauty - each grain of rice is separate and seems like it was individually coated with the juices from the meat. The spices are perfectly balanced. The meat itself is falling of the bone tender. It's topped with the most perfectly fried crispy onions. She usually serves a raita to go with it - let the record show that I have never, ever eaten that raita. My standing request to her is that on these annual trips to India, my first meal and my last meal at home be her mutton pulao. Thus far, she's indulged me. I just hope that I continue to stay on her 'good' list.

February 12, 2009

A Taste of Home - Part II

And so... on to Delhi. Before we get to the food, I just want to mention that the traffic situation seems to have improved a little bit from a year ago. Last year, it seemed like every time I stepped out of my house I was stuck in a traffic jam. This year, except for one nasty jam on Press Enclave Road in which I spent something like 300 hours, the traffic seemed to be moving for the most part. (And that one jam was exacerbated by the fact that the person I was with was trying really hard to pretend that she wouldn't rather be anywhere but there. Which made it all the more awkward and uncomfortable. Another story – let's move on.)

I had lunch at Sartoria at the Priya Complex in Vasant Vihar. They did a good Caesar salad and the chicken soup that I had was pretty substantial and well made. And my friend seemed to be pretty happy with her pasta, which came in an American sized portion in a huge platter. However, in what would become a recurring theme of my Delhi trip, the dessert was a disaster – what was billed as a blueberry cheesecake was instead congealed paneer with what had to be the equivalent of Hershey's syrup.

To make amends we went to the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at the Select City Walk Mall ('least that's what I think it was called) and tried their 'mousse-style' cheesecake. Word to the wise – don't.

Maybe living in a city which gave the world Junior's and Roxy's has made me a cheesecake snob but I make no apologies for that. After all, it's called a 'New York style' cheesecake, ain't it?

I also had lunch another day with the same friend at a place called Azzurro at the PVR Complex in Saket. It's supposed to be a Mediterranean restaurant and it is run by a chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu. When we got there for lunch around 1 PM, admittedly on a weekday, it was completely empty which to me is always a bit of a warning sign. Maybe it gets really busy for dinner – I sure hope it does. She had a mushroom risotto and I had a fillet of sole with lemon butter sauce. The fish itself was pretty good (although I have my doubts as to whether it was actually sole) – light, flaky and full of flavor. From all accounts the risotto was pretty good too (once again in a gigantic serving – what's up with these super-sized portions in Delhi?!). What wasn't so good was the side of mashed potatoes served with the fish. It is described on the menu as a fondant, which is actually a sugar, water and gelatin paste used for icings on cakes and stuff. Well, the kindest thing I can say about the 'potato fondant' was that they nailed the  paste part – dense, heavy and almost totally devoid of taste. When a Cordon Bleu chef can't get mashed potatoes right (especially after pretentiously calling it fondant), then it's probably a portent of things to come. Sure enough, the dessert – a strawberry cheesecake this time – was another disaster. The chef clearly loves his fondant though, 'cause there is a chocolate one on the menu as well.

The lesson as always: when in India, stay away from the cheesecake! Stick with rasmalai or rasgullah or something. Would I heed this lesson? Of course not! And good thing too because otherwise I would never  have rediscovered Big Chill.

Back when I still lived in Delhi, Big Chill was a newly opened ice-cream, coffee and dessert place in East of Kailash. It had already begun to make waves and was giving Nirula's, the then reigning ice-cream and dessert place a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. Well, all these years later, Big Chill has expanded to three stores in Delhi (although the original one in EoK has apparently closed), one of which is in Khan Market and where I, over the course of the next couple of weeks, became a regular. They make a blueberry cheesecake which was far and away the best cheesecake I would eat on my trip and which, I am reasonably assured, is in fact the best cheesecake in Delhi. The cheesecake at Big Chill is wonderfully  light and airy, the blueberry topping is just so and it even has an authentic graham cracker crust. Over the next two weeks, I ended up buying 10 slices and not only were they consistently good but my Dad said that they reminded him of his last visit to New York.

In fact, Khan Market has quite the collection of nifty, hole-in-the-wall gems. I got kababs one day from Khan Chacha's Kababs which were absolutely brilliant (and for how good they are, pretty damn cheap). There is the old reliable Café Turtle of course where I took my dentist and her husband, both visiting from the US, for tea. They gave high marks to the falafel and hummus at Café Turtle and they're originally from Israel so I figure they should know a thing or two about falafel and hummus. It seems that Café Turtle has also become a franchise and have stores in other parts of Delhi. More power to them, I say!

We had lunch, my family and I, at the Host in Connaught Place and I don't know why or how we ended up there. I mean, I've lived in Delhi for over 25 years and I had never been to the Host. Not once. And, as far as I know, my parents had never been to the Host either. The only reason I can think of is that it was late in the day and we were too lazy and tired to walk the additional 100 yards to Berco's. Anyway, we went to the Host and the food was the worst I ate on this trip. The portions were meager, the butter chicken was an abomination – dry and cloyingly sweet, and the tandoori rotis were more burnt than not. But... they had Kalyani Black Label beer! The only place I ever found it. I couldn't find it in Mumbai (it is apparently only a northern Indian brand) and most places I went to in Delhi didn't have it either. So props to the Host for at least getting that one thing right.

February 10, 2009

A Taste of Home - Part I

It's been a couple of weeks since I got back Stateside from my annual pilgrimage home to India. As vacations go, this was actually a lengthy one – nearly three weeks 'in-country'. As with any vacation, this one had it's highs and lows but at the end of it all I had got to spend some quality time with perhaps the only five people in the world who love me unconditionally (even though, thanks to some spectacularly bad math on my part, two of them got less than 48-hours of the total, but that's groveling for another time) so it was all good.

The great thing about long vacations in India is that you get to eat a lot and culinary terms this trip was a particularly varied and rich experience. Here, in a semi-chronological order, are the highlights of that experience:

Let's start with Mumbai and lunch at the Renaissance Hotel Powai's buffet. We went there on a Sunday, which the brother, in an effort to lower expectations, told me was a slow lunch day. It must have been because the Renaissance clearly had its B-team on duty. The food and the service were, in a word, sad. Except for three things. The first was the Rahra Mutton, which was qualitatively so much better than the rest of the spread that I am wondering if it might have been stale – you know, leftovers from the night before when the alpha chef presumably still had the con. Then there were the Gol-Gappas (or pani-puri, as they call them in those parts), which were crisp and golden brown; the 'pani' was salty and tangy and the proper sewer green color. Finally, there was Nikita – the sous chef at the chaat station. I have never, in all my years, seen a female chaat maker before. It is easier for me to imagine a female president of the US than a woman in India making chaat professionally. That has to be the last male bastion left. I did double takes and triple takes. I stared. (The fact that Nikita was rather good looking and had a winsome smile is entirely besides the point.) Just for having the testicular fortitude to put Nikita on the chaat station the Renaissance gets a place in the highlight reel – even though their food generally sucked.

Yea, even Nikita's chaat unfortunately (the gol-gappas, although at the same station, were made by a different dude 'cause Nikita was on a break at the time, I think).

We had dinner at Mainland China in Andheri (I think) that night in order to sate my Indian-Chinese cravings. The service was prompt and courteous; the food was good; we ordered too much; a jolly time was had by all – in other words, it was your typical family outing to the neighborhood Chinese restaurant. I only mention it because it would be the only Chinese food I would eat on this trip. And for the fact that I discovered the secret to restaurant style crispy spinach upon my return (it's somewhat of a speciality at Mainland China apparently. But that's another post).

The best food I had in Mumbai were the bread pakoras that the brother's mother-in-law made for breakfast the next morning. Ab-so-lute-ly spectacular. They were crisp to the point of being crunchy on the outside while the filling inside was moist, almost gooey. They physics of how such a thing is possible is a bit of a mystery to me. They took me back to my childhood and my school canteen and the Moonlight sweet shop in Munirka, New Delhi. I ate at least half-a-dozen of those bad boys, maybe even 10.

Before I go on to the Delhi leg of the trip, a quick word about the Rajdhani Express, which I took from Mumbai to Delhi (my first train ride in six years! As the bro' and his wife will testify, I was as excited as a 6-year old!) – they feed you a lot on that train. I mean like all the time. It seemed like every time I turned around, there was a dude standing there with a snack or a juice or soup or tea or coffee or something! Amazing.

And the staff on the train was unfailingly polite, always ready to accommodate requests – for extra coffee, extra sandwiches, extra blankets, extra ice-cream, you name it – and always with a smile. And they had like six(!) choices for the dinner entree – vegetarian or non. If non, then eggs or chicken. If chicken, then Indian or Continental. You don't get that kind of choice in first-class on an international flight! The next morning, as the steward started to rattle off the seemingly endless choices for breakfast, I actually had to stop the guy and ask him to get whatever he thought best (he was so pleased he got me idlis and veg. cutlets!).

The fact that Lalu Yadav screwed up Bihar is probably indisputable. But that in the railways, he's found a calling is probably equally indisputable. Maybe the Indian Railways would be willing to teach the staff at the Renaissance a thing or two about customer service.

September 17, 2008

R.I.P - David Foster Wallace

david_foster_wallace David Foster Wallace - novelist, philosopher, journalist, humorist and one of the best wordsmiths to put pen to paper died on September 12, apparently having committed suicide by hanging himself.

In his fiction, Wallace was considered the heir of Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo and in his essays and observational pieces, he could be a combination of Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman. He could write with equal felicity about tennis, porn or food. He was published in the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker and in Playboy. His breakthrough novel, Infinite Jest was named one of Time magazine's 100 Best English Language Novels.

I first learnt of Wallace from a 2004 Gourmet magazine article about the ethical complexities of boiling alive lobsters for food. I remember thinking at the time, 'this is an odd article for a food magazine.' But that was the subversive genius of Wallace - he could write a philosophical screed on the "whole animal cruelty and eating issue" in a food magazine. I'm sure that when Gourmet commissioned him to write the article, they were expecting a standard issue travelogue , not a footnoted, annotated essay, which as Slate writer Troy Patterson puts it, "ranks as a must-read for anyone even thinking of having dinner."

Since we all think of having dinner at some point, here is the article. Hopefully, it will make us think also of David Foster Wallace.

Godspeed, and farewell.

June 01, 2008

The Best Biryani in New York

sangam awningResize Wizard-1 Omigod! I think I may just have eaten the best biryani there is in New York City! Sangam is that proverbial hole-in-the-wall restaurant (it only seats six) that serves fantastic food from a limited menu. For most such places, the hype usually overshadows the food, but for Sangam, believe the hype, man (or at least get there fast, before the hype does overshadow the food).

As for the hype, here's what you need to know. I actually found and ate every last grain of rice of the biryani that we got on our last visit, literally - including a few that had fallen off my plate and on the table (much to the disgust of my date). I gnawed at the lamb bones. I even ate the frikkin' raita! I thought of my Mom.

In addition to the biryani (of which there are lamb, chicken and vegetarian variants), Sangam makes a Nargisi roll to die for. My only grouch is that they use ground chicken instead of lamb or beef. And for dessert, there is phirni, which, no exaggeration, will take you back to Birhana Road in Kanpur.

They have some vegetarian dooh-dahs - samosas, veggie rolls and the like - which are probably quite good too (I have no idea, 'cause I didn't try them - see no reason to).

Here's the kicker - Two people can eat there for under 30 bucks! The biryanis go for $7 - $9 depending on what you get, the rolls are $8 for a pair and the phirni is $3. And... on weekends they're open till 2 in the morning!

Someone please wake me - this has got to be a dream.

Apparently Ishrat Ansari, one of the co-owners started the restaurant because his wife made the biryani for some friends, word spread and soon they were deluged with requests for more. I say, good call Ishrat.

Sangam, 190 Bleecker St., New York, NY 10012. Ph: 212.228.4648. Open 1PM - 11PM M-T; 1PM - 2AM F-S.

May 22, 2008

Crowning Glory

In the land of the Long White Cloud, just west of the Half Moon Bay, around campfires and in the warmth of the kitchen hearth, they tell the legend of the Wild Rose of Aotearea, a beautiful and noble queen who was a fierce warrior, a graceful chanteuse and was known for the indomitable courage of her convictions. A free spirit living up to her name, she thought that each day was a present and wanted all people to be the very best that they could be every day of their lives. So in honor of this mythical queen and the land whence she comes, here is a dish worthy of royalty.

You will need:

For the roast and the rub:

Two 6-8 rib racks of New Zealand lamb

2 tblsp olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 tblsp each: fresh thyme, parsley, mint, chives and oregano - all chopped. Also, a sprig of rosemary, chopped.

A beer/ soda can

For the stuffing (optional, but why the hell not?!):

A link or two of sausage (or the trimmings from the Frenching of the ribs, if available - see below).
1 onion, chopped
4 cups of mixed mushrooms

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 can chicken broth

2 tsp dried thyme

2 tsp dried sage or marjoram

2 tblsp butter/ olive oil combo

Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:

2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp honey

1/4 cup finely chopped mint

2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil


Form the crown roast by bending each rack of lamb in a semi-circle and tying together end-to-end, fat side out, at the base and at the center, with twine. Or you can get a prepared crown roast. If this is a DIY project then you will probably need to
'French' the ribs too. In that case save and grind the trimmings to be used for the stuffing.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.

Rub the lamb with 1 tblsp olive oil. In a bowl, mix all the rub ingredients with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and apply to the lamb, pressing hard so it sticks to the meat (you know, actually
rub it in!)

Place the crown roast on a roasting pan, stick the can of beer in the middle to help the roast hold its shape and put the whole thing in the oven for 30-35 mins (130 deg F/ 10 mins per pound).
Remove from the oven, transfer to a plate, tent with foil and allow it rest for 15-20 mins. This is critical!

In the meantime, if you're making the stuffing, now would be the time to do so. Sauté the onion in a medium hot skillet in a olive oil/ butter combination for about 4-5 mins or till onions are soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms, season with salt to draw out the moisture and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add sage and thyme, cook for a minute or two and add the accumulated juices from the roast and the chicken broth. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, add the parsley and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

To prepare the sauce, combine the white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey and chopped mint in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and mix in the extra virgin olive oil. You might even give it a pulse or two (no more!) in a food processor.

To serve, cut the string away from the roast, remove the beer can, place the stuffing in the center and serve with the mint sauce.

Carve at the table and you might just get some!

April 04, 2008

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict has consistently been one of my favorite brunch options. For a hearty mid-morning meal, especially when said mid-morning arrives after an ill-spent liquid night, there are few things that are better. Having made many variations of the basic recipe, I consider myself to be a bit of an Eggs Benedict connoisseur. So when Rearset's (much) better half requested my recipe, I was only too happy to pontificate.

There are conflicting histories as to the origins Eggs Benedict - one version, according to the December 19, 1942 issue of The New Yorker, involves the Waldorf hotel in New York, a Wall Street type called Lemuel Benedict trying to cure a hangover and ordering "buttered toast, crisp bacon, 2 poached eggs, & a hooker of hollandaise."

On the other hand, Elizabeth David in her classic 1958 book French Provincial Cooking says that the origins can be traced to a French dish called œufs bénédictine. But then the French believe that all great dishes originated in France so take this as you will.

Whether it was an irate New York broker or a French farmer, I am just glad that someone invented it. On to the recipe, or rather my version of it. This makes one serving.

You will need:
  • Two eggs - at room temperature! Give up the nasty habit of cooking eggs straight out of the fridge!
  • An English muffin, split into half.
  • The traditional recipe calls for Canadian bacon or ham, but I prefer Pancetta. Use as much as you like, but at least enough to cover the muffin halves.
  • A few leafs of Spinach (why leave the Florentine out of the fun?!)
  • A few tomato slices
  • White wine vinegar
  • Hollandaise sauce*
  • Parsley and/ or chives to garnish

Here's how you make it:
In a wide, deep sauce pan bring to a fast rolling boil enough water to completely submerge the eggs. Think like you're cooking pasta - there should be enough water for the eggs to swim around.

Butter the muffin halves and place on a plate - they will form the base of the dish. Render the Pancetta in a medium-low pan till it is heated through and beginning to crisp around the edges. Place on top of the muffins.

Next, the tomato slices, which go atop the Pancetta. At this point hit it with some coarsely ground black pepper. Next up, the spinach.

Blanch the spinach for about 30-seconds to a minute in the water that you already have boiling for the eggs. Remove and 'shock' the leafs in an ice bath. This stops the cooking immediately and keeps the spinach nice and green. Put the spinach on top of the tomato.

Finally, the eggs! Add about 3-4 tbsp of the vinegar to the water. The acid helps the egg to coagulate quickly into a pretty ball instead of turning it into egg-drop soup! When you're ready to add the eggs to the water, turn it down to a simmer (you don't want the egg bouncing around in there), break the eggs into a bowl and then gently slide into the hot water. Depending on how runny you like your yolks, give it 3-6 minutes. Fish out the eggs with a slotted or mesh spoon and set on top of the spinach.

Spoon on the hollandaise sauce, hit it with some parsley and/or chives and serve.

One quick note - As hard as it to imagine, there is a method to the sequence of piling the muffin - put the tomato on top of the muffin and you will have soggy bread. Put the wet eggs on top of the wet tomato and it will slide off.

*Hollandaise Sauce
Beat 3 egg yolks in a double boiler over barely simmering water. Make sure that the water does NOT touch the bottom of the bowl that the yolks are in. Do NOT let the water boil or it will scramble the yolks. When the yolks have thickened add a tablespoon of lemon juice and beat again till the mixture has doubled in volume. Now slowly(!) add half a cup of melted unsalted butter while continuously beating the yolks. When all the butter has been absorbed, fold in a dash of cayenne pepper and beat again till the sauce becomes glossy and smooth. You can hold the sauce over warm water or in a thermos for about an hour but ideally, it should be served immediately.

March 20, 2008

It's All Stir Fry

All Stir FryFood. There's a lot to be said for it. Especially when the quality – in terms of taste and, um, presentation – and the quantity – unlimited is best, are both available in spades. Then you can really shovel it down. Okay, I'm getting a bit carried away.

To return to the neighbourhood of the point, yesterday, a bunch of colleagues decided to head out for lunch. Nothing eye opening about that, of course. But we decided by a quirk of fate (20 minutes waiting at Lemon Grass Cafe) to chow down at the Noodle Bar. As restaurant moniker's go, by the way, that one sticks out as a truly creative one. It must have taken days, failing which, a committee of thousands of creative geniuses to come up with that one.

Anyway, we duly chewed our pencils up, ticking off the ingredients we wanted for the big wok job. I've already forgotten its given formal name, but in essence, you pick the veggies, meats, noodle variety, condiments and sauce(s), and they stir fry the lot (and a lot it is) and serve it in a serious looking bowl.

The thing is, most of us, took in the first forkful (or chopstick full in my case – and proud of it, I might add (you would be too, if you were clumsy, not especially motor-coordinated and still managed a full meal with smooth, slippery fake porcelain chopsticks)) and remembered wistfully, the lovely Gordon House Hotel and its glittering star, All Stir Fry. I've been there over, and over. And I love that place. And I'm about to tell you why.

The concept is simple. They have three glassed-off stir fry counters, manned ably by a trio of wiry chefs (neither of whom are in that pic, though). Outside the glass is a salad bar of sorts, with noodles (usually ramen and flat) at the corner, veggies in front and meats on the other side. You take a bowl (red ring say you're a <sneer> vegetarian and a black ringed bowl says all's right with your world) and fill it up. Or, if you're smart, you take two noodles (yes, just two noodles) and fill just a wee bit more than half the bowl with stuff, veggies first and take it to the chefs. There's a fair number of sauces on the board classified by how strong they are and you're free to experiment with them, including asking the stunned chef to add three or more sauces together. Plus condiments if you like. The result, somehow, is always extremely hot, extremely fresh and very tasty food.

Start a meal with their most excellent crackling spinach and a beer, follow it with a quick wok. Which is involved, involving and very satisfying process I just described. You can go back for as many bowls as you like. And while wasteful, should a particular bowl turn out not to your expectation, you can always skip and get a more appealing one. I've never once visited them without hurrying to the services halfway through to loosen that belt one notch or two, and I've never once managed to put together a combination that I didn't like. Even as I write this, sunbursts of flavour are going off in my head – I've taken many a long wok in there – the devil's sauce and its fiery arrogance, or the marginally milder burn of the mongolian sauce... I think I need to go back for another fix.

I do believe they now have a much bigger menu, but frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. Didn't someone already say that? Well, it applies.

Dessert? Forget it. There's never space. And they do have lovely fortune cookies that say things like, 'You're about to get lucky.' As in what? The trouser tops will suddely turn elastic and you could squeeze in a bowl or two more? Sigh, that would be nice, come to think of it.

I do believe a restaurant review is supposed to include stuff about staff friendliness, knowledge, ambience and so forth. Well, let me see. Staff is nice. They bring the menu to you. And fresh bowls when you finish the last one. And the beer also. They know where the wok bar is. Ambience. That's good too. There's place to sit. A green wall with lots of woks mounted on it. High windows so you don't look out and focus on putting the stuff away. I cannot remember the music, but there must be some. And yeah, the Quick Wok costs Rs 300.

All Stir Fry LogoAll Stir Fry | Online Menu
The Gordon House Hotel, Battery Street, Colaba
Council Hall, Mumbai - 400039
Phone: 022-22871122

Images mooched from mars-world.com

March 19, 2008

Back to the Basics 08.01 - How to Hard-Boil a Freaking Egg

Since we have already confessed to a man-crush on Anthony Bourdain, who better to tell us than the man himself. From his “Les Halles Cookbook” (2004, pg. 69, Bloomsbury, New York):

“Put your eggs gently into a small pot filled with cold water. Bring the water to a rapid boil. As soon as the water is boiling, shut off the heat and put a lid on top. After 10 minutes, remove the eggs and slide them carefully into ice water to cool. When cool? Peel. Here’s how you know if you’ve done it right: If the egg is cooked through, the shell peels of cleanly, and the yolk is not surrounded by an unsightly gray ring. Gray ring? Try again.”
Couldn’t have put it better myself if I had tried.

March 11, 2008

Welcome to A Grain of Salt, a blog (mostly) about food and all things related

Over the years, I have realized to my great joy that I am, in fact, a foodie. There, I said it. There is no shame in it. When you begin to rhapsodize about the crunchiness of pig's ears or the bitterness of fried neem leaves, you might as well 'fess up. I have also realized, to my greater joy, that most of my closest friends are foodies. And so when one the closest friend of them all, brother really, and a successful professional and blogger to boot, asked me to write a food blog with him it seemed, it was one of those forehead-slapping 'duh!' moments.

And then laziness took over and we let the thought stew for a goodly bit. But here we are at last, and not a moment too late I say. The blog will be driven, at least initially, by rearset, whom you've already met and me, Kaultilya.

But WTF will you two write about, you ask. Hmm, let's see... share a recipe, or talk about technique, or diss a restaurant, or rave about a beer (or ten) or confess our man crush on Anthony Bourdain or protest the objectification of women using the Hooter girls as a case
study – I don't know, it will be pretty free form.

So welcome again. And remember to Take Life with A Grain of Salt

October 15, 2007

King's beer: I'm lovin' it

Kings Beer 3A very dear person just returned from Goa, bearing the sweetest of all gifts from that lush land... King's Beer. As I noted in this post, King's is one of the nicest beers I've ever tasted. Kautilya and I, were in Goa on a college trip, sometime in 1995 or so. We left our classmates to go have a gander at this island thing. As luck would have it, he and I arrived at the ferry literally minutes after the one we wanted to catch had pushed off, headed for its umpteenth trip across the lazy Mandovi. With not much to do, we found a run-down shack near the jetty and ordered a beer. He only had local brew – Kings. I am happy to state the forty minutes (or was it an hour) were spent in a happy state, tasting a really, really good beer, enjoying very good company and great scenery in lazy, lovely old Goa.

Of late, though, King's has become really hard to find. This person, evidently, spent a fair while searching for my five bottles worth (heck, I even love the shape of it, now echoed by the almost equally elusive Kingfisher Stubby).

Well, I'd like to thank her for taking the time to look for it. Oh, and I just wanted to let you guys know that I'm going home to five super-chilled bottles of the stuff. Yippee!

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