Cafes, bad food, social media

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On Friday night, basis KC’s friend’s recommendation, we went to Coastal Reef for dinner. I was exhausted after my TRX class and not hungry since at 9.30 pm it was way past my dinner time. The South Indian restaurant has Mangalore ghee roast chicken on the menu and I was excited because it was one of my favourite dishes while studying at Manipal. I received the shock of my life when the chicken was not dry or roasted but tasted like boiled chicken. Even after the masalas, it was bland. We didn’t complain because I was too exhausted and proceeded to eat a few bites of the tomato pappu (strictly ok) and appams. The server replaced the dish even though we asked him not to but neither of us dared to even taste it because it was the worst chicken we have eaten. The restaurant did not charge us for the chicken. I rated them 1 (the lowest rating) on zomato and tripadvisor and the owner (????) contacted me on fb explaining that their executive chef is on leave and I should visit again. Their staff was just having a bad day. I put this up on fb and a friend who owns a cafe told me that it is ok for a cafe to have an off day.

Here is my problem – Why would you serve BAD food? I understand that nobody can serve an authentic Mangalorean ghee roast chicken in Gurgaon. I am not even expecting it. But it needs to be atleast roasted and not boiled, have similar spices, have ghee and taste good. There is no excuse for serving horrible tasting food. And waiving it off the bill is not a favour, I wouldn’t pay for a dish that wasn’t edible. Your off day is equivalent to a bad night for me. I could have walked into any other cafe, but I chose to eat here. I could have stayed home and ordered in but I chose to spend my money in your cafe after driving for 15-30 mins. Make amends when am in the restaurant instead of contacting me after my review on social media where am very active and have many followers. The cafe owners would like to argue that one bad meal can mar their reputation because of social media. The same guys have no problem using paid social media to influence opinions.

When my regular cafe (Pasta bowl company) screws up one meal, I don’t rant or shout or complain because I understand that they are having a bad day. I understand that their server is new and does not know the dishes on the menu. If they serve great food 9 out of 10 times, am happy. But as a new customer, I probably won’t try a cafe again after a bad experience. I appreciate that the cafe reached out to me because they didn’t have to. Yuatacha (a Michelin starred restaurant) didn’t even bother to reply to my not-so-great experience on zomato. At the same time, courtesy cannot excuse bad food.

As a reluctant host and juvenile cook, I wouldn’t serve my guests bad food and don’t understand why anyone should do the same. Especially, if you are charging money for it and in the food business.


Ramblings on a Sunday afternoon

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Hiya… there is so much to talk about and so little time. Instead of being asleep, I am relaxing with a book and now the blog… Here goes:

  • I gained some weight in Goa (obviously)… too much food and rest and little exercise. So I went for a walk yesterday morning. The plan was to walk for 60 mins but I got 15 mins late. Now, how hard can 45 mins of walk be? Quite hard, actually. After 15 mins I got bored even though the weather was good and I had my ipod along. Thankfully, each round around my complex takes 15 mins so it was a matter of 3 rounds which I pushed myself to complete. I wanted to sleep on my return. Weird… I was supposed to feel refreshed but I was just tired and sleepy. There was no hope for that since it was time for work. All day my legs were aching and I had the Jazz classes today. Now, I am in bed trying to sleep off the pain. But, I plan to go for a walk everyday. I don’t have enough time to work out in the gym… I have been trying but cannot fit it into my schedule. Lets see how the walking works out.
  • Last night KC and I went for dinner to Big Chill in Saket. As I was leaving the Zara store after checking out the new collection (more on that later), the sales guy at Seacret caught me. I tried to avoid him since the products are expensive and I will never be able to afford them… ever. A year back I had been willingly led into the kiosk by a sales girl who showed me this amazing buffer. It was the best thing I have ever soon and I reached into my wallet to buy it. Price ??? Rs 3500… for a buffer!!! I smiled and fled. Yesterday, the guy showed me an amazing eye cream. Price??? Rs 7000… I laughed and told him I was not going to spend so much money on a cream. He persisted… showed me a scrub, night cream etc. And then offered 1 product free with the eye cream. Avoiding these guys is so difficult. I wish they would approach the people who purchase bagful of clothes from Zara instead of poor me- who only window shops there.
  • The new collection at Zara is… nothing new. Same old trousers (which were discounted earlier)… a top I bought  is available at the regular price (in a different color)… the blazer I have been lusting after is available at regular price again… it was discounted during the sale… same old styles… They really need to up the ante or will lose the charm.
  • I will reveal a secret- after watching serials like True Blood, I head over to tvrecaps.ew.com to read about the episode. Crazy, right? Not in USA… where people read about the episode and post their views on it. Their involvement level is higher than Indians. The difference is- in India, we (saas and bahus) identify with the characters in the event (not matter how over the top), in USA, they comment on plots, characters, point out things they liked or didn’t. I am sure producers/writers of the show are reading these comments. After all, it affects TRPs. Also, some actors are popular – they may have minor roles but ‘coz they were liked in some other serial. I guess, the writers/producers would want to increase their roles to increase TRPs. I read the recaps incase I missed out some part of the episode or could not connect what happened previously. Also, some of the comments are hilarious. Like, there are 2 black characters in True Blood… 1 is very popular but the 2nd one was a whiny character everyone was bored with (she has been turned to a vamp now). Some negatives comments against the character (not actor) started a racial war of comments. It was quite dumb actually. But, thats not the point. A lot of people were commenting how the serial ‘Game of Thrones’ is better than True Blood etc etc. I was intrigued. I downloaded and watched the 2 seasons (20 hours) in a week. Yep… thats a lot of TV/laptop. Game of Thrones is about kingdoms and war and maybe supernatural characters. It is based on a book by the same name by George R R Martin. I am waiting for the next season to begin in 2013. Worth a watch. Now I have downloaded Six Feet Under but its taking me some time to warm up to it. 6 episodes down and I am wondering about the tag “Best Serial created”…
  • I had purchased ‘Kitne Aadmi Thay’ by Diptakriti. I follow his blog and ordered the book from flipkart. It is a book about Bollywood trivia… only his blog made me spend that money. Disappointing. I don’t think I am going to finish it. Then I read the next part of True Blood… there is one more but its priced quite high. I will wait for a cheaper version before purchasing it. For the last 2 weeks, I have been hooked to the book ‘Game of Thrones’… problem is that the serial follows the book completely so there are no surprises. Its like I am watching the serial all over again. Hopefully, the 2nd part will be full of surprises.
  • I baked a cake on Rakshabandhan. I had the day off, was craving for something sweet but with fruits and wanted to carry something for my bro in Mumbai. I took the recipe for carrot, pineapple and walnut cake from Anita’s blog-  http://sliceofmylyfe.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/a-birthday-wish-for-the-special-people-in-my-life-with-some-carrot-cake/. Its the best cake I have made at home… yum. My bro also loved it. Here is a pic:

  • Recently some school acquaintances have formed a group on whatsapp and chat all day. Its kinda fun… except most of them have kids… and all of them (except me) like kids. Which makes it very awkward and irritating. Now, I do understand that mothers love their kids and love to talk about them. We all pass through stages in our life which change us- school, graduation, losing virginity (not in that order), post graduation, first job, affair, marriage, kids. Full stop. Each stage is monumental but kids are the most of all. Also, it is the also the last stage. I can’t think of anything more significant… not for me atleast. Yes, I also believe life ends as we know it once we had kids – for better or for worse. What I am trying to say is (and maybe failing) that mother/fatherhood is very significant. I do not deny it and mothers talking about their kids is natural. There are 2 blogs I follow which talk about kids regularly. My problem is when these mothers expect me to follow their footsteps- have kids and love them. Now, to each his own. The mothers cannot understand how someone does not “want” kids and does not believe that they are the best things in life. I don’t believe in universal truths. What is right for someone else is not necessarily right for me. And then these mothers start advising me to have kids. And even male colleagues/friends cross all limits by asking me when I am having kids. Its like everyone is worried about my ticking biological clock (except me). A best friend used to advise me to have kids in every phone conversation. I have stopped answering her calls. I may or may not have kids… its not of relevance to my life right now… but I refuse to follow the stages of life set by society. I will not have kids because now is the time or because I am expected to have them. I am such a stubborn mule that I may end up not having kids just to show “society” that its possible and its normal… and not having kids does make me a half person. I do not need to have kids to feel “complete” or “fulfilled”. Unfortunately, none of the women/men making my life miserable read this blog. I hope they did.
Ta da.. I am off to the Game of Thrones while KC snores away next to me.


Culinary Experiences

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KC and I have tried out a couple of restaurants and cuisines recently.

  • Kashmiri Kitchen: Located on MG road, it is a place we have passed by quite often. Located among the furniture shops, it looks quaint and cute. We have not yet tried Kashmiri food and decided to try out. Also, the reviews online were good. As we entered, there was a strange unpleasant smell. It was empty on a weekend. We asked for a recommendation and ordered chicken gravy made of red chillies. They were out of rotis and we had to order rice. The chicken tasted like the one made at home… the rice was a different kind.. small, sticky. We finished off everything but the food was strictly ok. I don’t know if it was the cuisine or the restaurant… I don’t think we will try Kashmiri food again.
  • Barbeque Nation: I have to been to the BC in Bandra and Thane. Getting a table in Gurgaon is impossible. It needs to be booked atleast 24 hours in advance. We landed up (after an hour of searching for the place) on a Sunday almost a year back and were told it is packed. Recently, we got a table on Sunday afternoon. The kebabs are very, very good. Generally in buffets like this very common and ordinary (and sometimes crap) dishes are part of the menu. Not in BC. After the kebabs, there is little space for main course and yet the menu is exhaustive. The price is around 600 bucks per head (approx) which is very reasonable.
  • Andhra Bhavan: Every state has a representation in Delhi. There are bhavans with canteens. The canteens serve the cuisine of that state. Andhra Bhavan is the most famous one. People flock here for the cheap and good food. We went there last Sunday. There was a long queue outside. We entered in, paid at the counter for the food and were seated immediately. I kept telling KC that I would have the Hyderbadi chicken biryani. I was disappointed when he only paid for that. I mean, a girl can change her mind… right? KC had a veg thali. The biryani was amazing. I love biryanis and have it quite often. Most of them disappoint me. A perfect… my perfect biryani has to have loads of flavoured rice… spicy… with gravy…. the chicken has to be small and full of flavour. Most of the time the chicken is bland… it feels out of place among the rice. Other times, the rice has no flavour. The biryani I had was perfect. The sambhar was so spicy. It cost us total 300 bucks. So cheap. A must visit if you are in Delhi
  • Mozart Cafe: It is located on Golf Course Road in South Point Mall. There is a store in the mall that I visit once a month. Mozart Cafe is located in the basement and has an outdoor seating. We went there today since I wanted to try a new place. The outdoor seating was useless even though there was a breeze outside. Since it is in the basement, the breeze does not reach there. We were seated inside. The food is expensive… everything at 300 bucks and above. We ordered a risotto with sun dried tomatoes and parmesan. I asked the waiter if veggies could be added. He said “Yes… but we will charge 50 bucks extra”. WTF!!! Nobody has said that EVER… I have never been charged for getting veggies added to a pasta/risotto. He then went to ask his manager and returned saying “We will charge it”… or something of that sort. When the risotto arrived it has veggies and ultimately I was not charged for it. Strange!!! But it ruined my experience. The risotto was good… very good. I ordered a creme brulee for dessert. Ok, I decided the dessert first and was waiting to finish main course to order it. Its an ok dessert…. not bad.. but not something I would have again. It has a custard and there is a caramel layer covering the custard. I did the breaking the


New Car… Yippie

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We just returned home with a new car… but more on that in the next post. This post is NOT about the car.
I have a box of cherries at home. They were purchased on the weekend… it is too much for one person but the store guy was not selling them loose. I started looking up recipes to make something with them and have saved some. Due to lack of time I could not buy the necessary ingredients and the cherry dessert will have to wait till tomorrow.
During the search for a recipe, I came across one for chocolate macaroons. It is extremely simple and made with ingredients at home. I came home and within half an hour had a plate of beautiful, tasty macaroons. They are not typical macaroons- for that I would have to make 2 parts and filling in between.
They are more like cookies… but soft and gooey.
I am posting the recipe below… will have to search where I copied from.

Ingredients:
– 2 egg whites
– 1 cup ground almonds
– 3 tbsp cocoa
– 1 and half cup powdered sugar

Method:
– Preheat oven to 400 degree F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. I did not have any so used oil. I think parchment paper would have been better. I used a muffin tray since I did not want the batter to spread out and become one flat cookie.
– Mix all the ingredients till it becomes a cohesive mixture.
– Fill a large bowl with cold water and wet your hand before rolling the mixture into small balls.
– Arrange on the tray and bake for 11 mins.

KC was not happy with the soft texture. I prefer it soft and gooey rather than hard. I kept licking the batter off my fingers… it was that tasty. I don’t know why they are called macaroons… maybe because they cannot be termed as cookies.
Yum!!!


Food… more food… and then some more

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For KC’s b’day we went to TGIF for dinner. He picked the place. I was not too pleased about celebrating at a regular haunt. So, I picked the restaurant for my b’day. It was Tonino located on Mehrauli road. We have passed by the place many times and it looks extremely quaint from outside. Online reviews said that the food is good but expensive. The restaurant serves authentic Italian food. It has seating outdoors, indoors and on the terrace. We were seated outside since it was not too hot but a more pleasant weather would have helped us enjoy the meal. The area is surrounded by trees, plants and lamps are hung everywhere. The ambience is as good as Olive (Bandra and B’glore). The menu is not very exhaustive and we ordered chicken sausage with mash potatoes as starters. They were ok. We have had better sausages at Potpourri (Inorbit Mall, Vashi). We used to visit PP everytime KC was in Mumbai- sometimes every week and have only the sausages. We have not tried anything else there.
Anyway, for main course we ordered a sphagetti in red sauce with veggies. After 10 mins of waiting, the waiter told us our food will be ready in 10 mins. WTF!!! Thankfully, it was a b’day dinner and we were in no hurry to reach home (though it was a weekday). On a regular day, I would have been very irritated. The thing is when KC and I go out for food, our aim is to eat food… not lounge around or spend time together. We can do that at home. So, when service is slow it can get bugging. Anyway, the pasta was ok. We have had better (Amici Cafe in Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj food court and Select Citywalk mall serves the best pasta). We ordered a melting chocolate with amretto and ice cream for dinner. It was yummilicious. There was a chocolate covering (a little on the bitter side made with some kind of flour) with melted chocolate inside (not too sweet, not too bitter) and ice cream and amretto on the side. I loved that the outer covering was bitter and balanced very well by the chocolate and ice cream. A very unique dessert. I would visit the place again only for the ambience and maybe dessert. The food is strictly ok and a dish costs 600 bucks which is pricey.

Today, we went to Drift for a Sunday brunch- its something we have wanted to do for a very long time. Drift is a restaurant at Epicentre which is the cultural center of Gurgaon. Plays, musical shows, workshops etc are conducted here. It is equivalent to Indian Habitat Center in Delhi. We had dinner there few months back and loved the food. The brunch is from 11 am- 3 pm and covers b’fast as well as lunch. It was an exhaustive selection- juices (Tropicana), cold cuts of meat, breads, cheese, bakery items, idlis, eggs, waffles/pan cakes, sausages, grilled pork, noodles, rice, chicken gravy, mutton gravy, honey potatoes, sandwiches, parathas (all kinds), fish, noodles, pastries, fruits etc. Everything was there. I don’t think I could have asked for more. I just wish they had fresh juices instead of packaged ones. We ate so much- we were full all day. No kidding. I thought I am going to burst. Amazing. Must try.


B’day celebrations

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This post has been in draft for 3 days now… finally, found the time to post it.

It was KC’s b’day on 7th June’12. I have always tried to make each b’day special since we have started dating. I still remember in 2008, he was in Gurgaon around the b’day. His company had sent him for training here. Only problem was that he had to go to Baddi or some place like that on 7th June. I pleaded with him to return on 7th which he did despite all the traffic but at midnight. Technically, on 8th midnight. I had placed candles in the balcony, made lemon iced tea and arranged for a cake. It felt nice to do that.
But the best one was in 2009. I was in Gujarat and flying down to Mumbai. KC was in Mumbai itself. We were married but I used to stay in the company guesthouse when I came down twice in a month to Mumbai. Getting to work was more convenient and all my stuff was there. Also, I was not planning to move in with his parents so it made no sense to stay over. I had contacted his friends, his mom and arranged for cake. Everyone was going to surprise him at midnight. Once I landed at night, KC asked me to meet him for dinner. This was tricky. I had never refused to meet him and turning him down would have made him suspicious. If I did meet him, he would not go home before midnight and the plan would be screwed. It was tough call but I turned him down… told him I was exhausted and wanted to sleep. We were going to meet the next day anyway. At 10.30 pm, I bid him goodnight and pretended to be asleep. At 11 pm, I left for his house at Vashi and was met outside his house by his friends before midnight. We surprised him with the cake and he was pleasantly surprised. That was also the first time I spent the night at his house.
Last year, we didn’t do much since his b’day was on a weekday and we had decided to celebrate over the weekend. Our b’days are only 4 days apart so there is always the option of celebrating them together. This year, I decided to do the cliche… bake him a cake. I searched online and came across recipes of delicious chocolate cakes. It broke my heart that I could not make any of them ‘coz he is not very fond of chocolate. He likes fruit cakes like pineapple or mango or dry fruits. Blueberries oe strawberries were out. I came across the red velvet cake on Maria Gorreti’s blog. It also had cream cheese icing. Perfect. I have been meaning to try out cream cheese icing for months. The unsalted butter and cream cheese have been waiting in the fridge for 3 months now. It was decided then. The plan was to bake the cake on 5th late evening/night before he came home. I was thinking of cooling it and leaving it overnight at a friend’s place to keep the surprise. I was supposed to frost it on 6th evening/night before he came home from work and leave it at the friend’s place and pick it up around midnight.
The plan got screwed…
Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups (250 grams) sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (15 grams) regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large Eggs 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
METHOD..
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.
Butter two – 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pans and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl sift the flour, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
In bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
In a measuring cup whisk the buttermilk with the red food coloring. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
In a small cup combine the vinegar and baking soda. Allow the mixture to fizz and then quickly fold into the cake batter.
Working quickly, divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 25 – 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 – 8 ounce (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1 – 8 ounce (227 grams) tub of Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (115 grams) confectioners’ (icing or powdered) sugar, sifted
1 1/2 (360 ml) cups cold heavy whipping cream (double cream)
METHOD…
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese andmascarpone cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat until smooth. Using the whisk attachment, gradually add the heavy cream and whip until the frosting is thick enough to spread. Add more sugar or cream as needed to get the right consistency.
Mistake I made:
  • Put the batter in one pan instead of two ‘coz it could fit into one pan.
  • Followed the gm measurements instead of using cups. I have a glass which can be used as a weight for different ingredients- water, maida, sugar etc. Has always worked for me. Not this time though.

The cake was cooked on the outside and bubbling under the surface. I threw it away and started on another one with a different but similar recipe. This cake turned out to be perfect. I used 2 tins- heart shaped and round shape. I don’t have 2 of the same kind. In between, while pre heating my microwave for the 2nd time it conked off. No kidding. It has happened before but works fine once it cools. I waited for an hour for it to cool and then put the cakes in with fingers and toes crossed. By then it was 11 pm. Thankfully, the cakes turned out well but KC was home and well aware about the goings on. It is very difficult to surprise someone you live with.
If the 2nd cakes would have been a disaster I would have been up baking next day at 6 am to avoid excess work in the evening.

Cake: 
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 cups of sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tbsp liquid red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and lightly flour 2 or 3 round 9″ cake pans.

Sift flour and salt together, set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Mix until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Mix well after each addition.  Add the flour mixture to the bowl alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Blend in vanilla.In a small bowl, mix the 1 1/2 tbsp red