STREETS OF INDIA AT SWABHUMI,KOLKATA

When I look back to my childhood, spent primarily in cities like Kanpur, Jullundur, Delhi and Baroda beside Kolkata of course I have very happy and fond memories. My love of food from varied places as well as my ability to appreciate and make friends came from being the new kid in school or in the neighborhood every couple of years. Since I was an only child my parents were not keen to put me in boarding school so every time Dad was transferred we would pack our bags and shift to a new city where I was exposed to a new school, new friends and most importantly lots of new food. In those days we did not have as many restaurants as we do today so a lot of food was eaten in friends and neighbor’s houses. One of the most exciting periods of my year would be around Diwali when Mela’s would be held and like most kids they enthralled me.

I was quite excited when Siddhanth Jaitha called me and spoke to me about this wonderful concept called Streets of India! He spoke of Kolkata’s biggest Fashion and Food Festival and the gastronome in me awoke. He said that there would be forty participants each showcasing a few special items which as far as possible would be different from the others. That was enough to get me on board but there were also an equal number of participants showcasing clothes, artifacts, fashion and lifestyle accessories and lots more. Add on great entertainment from folk dances, singers, and a beauty competition with a special tie up with FFACE and lots more entertainment. Zomato was there and held some delightful food competitions like the Zomato Burger Challenge partnering with My Big Fat Belly and another Make your own Ice Cream Flavor with Mumbles Lab and they were a lot of fun for the participants as well as the audience. The entry fee was kept to a nominal Rs.50/= so that there was a wider participation.

I visited on a Friday evening after work and was delighted with the arrangements. Though the demonetization put a bit of a damper on the weekend extravaganza I salute the spirit of the organizers and participants, both ensured enough card payment machines and kept the show rolling. In the end I am told that they pulled in a crowd of over 12,000 people.

Pabrai’s Gondhoraj Lime and Orange Basil Ice Cream. Swati Saraf’s delicious Green Chili Rosogolla , Mumble’s Lab Bournvita Ice-cream , MBar’s brilliant cocktails specially the Basant Neer and Chilli Chicken , Monkey Bar’s gorgeous Pork Ribs , My Big Fat Belly’s fantastic Burgers , Edesia’s great Breakfast Platters and South Indian , Cake by Pooja’s Orange and Chocolate Mousse Cake were some of the delicious goodies that I sampled and enjoyed.

There was non-stop entertainment. Folk artists were performing while we were there and in-between they had a DJ belting out lots of catchy songs. The Food Contests partnered with Zomato were great fun and created a lot of interest and excitement. The fashion and lifestyle shops had everything from designer apparel, fashion accessories, great nick knacks for the house and some beautiful artifacts. There was something for everyone irrespective of age and budget.

I thought I would drop by for an hour an ended up spending the entire evening at Streets of India and really enjoyed myself. I was planning to spend a good chunk of my Sunday there but regretfully I was unwell and could not go and explore and taste more of the delicious fare on offer. I hope many of you managed to drop by and enjoy this unique jamboree. As a foodie I was absolutely delighted by the variety on offer, it was like the biggest buffet in Kolkata !

DISCLAIMER: I was invited by the organizers to visit but the views expressed are entirely my own.

Picture Credits: Suneha Saha

JW KITCHEN , Multi Cuisine All Day Dining

The City of Joys culinary and hospitality scenario has received a huge shot of adrenalin with the launch of the glittering and elegant JW Marriott. The Marriott Group has almost 6000 hotels and resorts in over a 100 countries globally and it’s made a statement entry into Eastern India with the Kolkata JW Marriott. I was privileged to be invited for the opening graced by the Honorable Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the who’s who of Kolkata held in their stunning Ballroom, the largest in the city and was delighted to be a part of JWM’s first foray into our very own Kolkata.

A few days later I was invited by the Management for a preview dinner at JW Kitchen before the property threw open its doors to its guests. I had been looking forward to the evening as I have stayed in a few of their properties but that did not however prepare for my absolute surprise for the JW Kitchen is absolutely beautiful. The interiors are modern and elegant but without compromising on the feeling of warmth and hospitality. The imposing glass façade lets you enjoy the natural light during the day and is all things bright and beautiful. The modern and cosmopolitan design paired with rustic textured touches creates a harmonious balance and you find that you are immediately relaxed and comfortable. The open interactive kitchens are beautiful and it always delights the gastronome in me to be able to see the Chef’s at work in their element.

The team headed by Executive Chef Raheel Ahmad are passionate about their craft and want to showcase their art. They go out of their way to understand their guest’s palate and customize dishes accordingly. Chef Ahmad is one of JWM’S finest Chef’s and his dedication and passion to serve up the best of cuisine was apparent during our conversation. He loves to innovate and promises to explore local markets and produce along with serving up Malaysian, Vietnamese, Middle-Eastern cuisine as well. Chef’s Raheel brings to JWM almost two decades of global and national experience. He won the prestigious Marriott Global Chef of the Year Award in 2013. However when you speak to him he comes across as a warm , down to earth person whose passion for food burns bright and this is great news for all the epicures of the city.

JW Kitchen serves a world-class buffet featuring Indian, Continental and Asian favorites and a fabulous Dessert Studio. I sampled their Buffet which was very very good, I eat out often so I usually stick with A-la-Carte but this time I am glad I had the buffet. It was one of the best I have had in Kolkata in a while.  With four interactive hubs it has a wide variety on offer. The first hub houses South-east Asian cuisine, including freshly steamed Dimsums, and grilled and pan seared Asian skewers. The second station has Western comfort food on offer- a mix of Mediterranean, European and Italian. The third hub has a selection of Indian , it has an upscale ‘chaat’ station for all our ‘phuckha’, ‘jhaal muri’ and ‘tikiya chaat’ cravings. The indian starters and gravy dishes were also really good. The Khade Masale ka Ghosht and the Chicken Kebas were exceptional. I have a feeling that the fourth hub The Desert studio is going to create quite a stir. It will houses an Ice cream station & soft-serve machine, a first in any star property in the city. Also on offer is a Mithai shop, for the traditional Indian sweets. In addition to these 4 interactive kitchen hubs, there is a Cold station & Antipasti bar serving tapas, mezze, selection of international cheese and cold cut meat where you can toss up your own salad or prawn cocktail. I absolutely loved the Cheese and Cold Cuts that were there and if there was not so much on offer I would have happily made a meal out of them alone.  Not to forget, there is a pickle cart with an extensive variety of ‘achaars’ and ‘chutneys’ that taste as good as they look.

The all-day dining also offers its patrons a A-la-carte selection. Signature Dishes include Indian dishes such as Chingri Malai curry and Chooza Makhni ; Western ones like Classical Mamma Rosa ; wholesome salads like the Scottish Salmon with Quinoa and the perfect deserts to end the meal like Berry Classico which I got a chance to sample and it was absolutely outstanding. Also on offer are bowl meals like the Burmese Khow Suey.

A wide selection of beverages is on offer all day long – flowering tea, jasmine tea, green teas. I am told that their Masala Chai is prepared with their secret recipe and served in rustic earthenware pots. I look forward to trying that once it’s a wee bit cooler. Personally though I am more a Coffee person so the lure of their Caramel Cappuccino is calling out to me. However that evening I was in the mood for a cold beverage and so I asked them to surprise me. I was served up a glass of a delicious watermelon mocktail that was very refreshing and I loved the subtle hint of ginger in it. So perhaps you should ask them to surprise you too!

Overall I had an outstanding evening filled with lovely interactions with their wonderfully dedicated Team. The food was excellent, service was impeccable and the ambiance undoubtedly one of the finest in the City of Joy. I look forward to visiting often. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of the JW Kitchen Experience!

About JW Kitchen   

Phone : 033- 66330000

Open 24 hours.

Breakfast: 7:00 am – 10:30 am; Lunch: 12:30 – 3:00 pm; Dinner: 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm

Buffet charges: Lunch: Rs.899++; Dinner: Rs.999++ all days

 

DISCLAIMER: The Culinary Commentator was invited as a guest of the management for both the Opening and a Preview Dinner. However the views expressed are entirely their own.

Picture Credits : Suneha Saha
JW Kitchen - JW Marriott Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bodega Cantina-Y-Bar presents Dia des los Muertos

Dia des los Muertos or Day of the Dead is an interesting holiday celebrated in Mexico during November 1 & 2. Even though this coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul’s & All Saint’s Day, the indigenous people have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones. In most villages, beautiful altars are made in each home. They are decorated with candles, flowers (wild marigolds), fruit, peanuts, plates of turkey mole, stacks of tortillas and big Day-of-the-Dead breads called pan de muerto. The altar needs to have lots of food, bottles of soda, hot cocoa and water for the weary spirits. Little folk art skeletons and decorated sugar skulls, purchased at open-air markets, provide the final touches. Local folk believe that happy spirits will provide protection, good luck and wisdom to their families. People clean tombs, play cards, listen to the village band and reminisce about their loved ones on this day.

Dia des los Muertos and its Sugar Skulls have long fascinated me and I was excited and intrigued when I received a call from Bodega inviting me to a bloggers meet to celebrate Dia Des Los Muertos- The Day of the Dead from 31st October to 5th November 2016 for the first time in Kolkata with Gusto, Bacardi & Jameson as their alcohol partners. We were promised a grand Mexican experience with games, music and lots more, paired with amazing alcohol and great food with a special customized menu exclusively for the festival as well as the regular a-la -carte one.

We were invited on Halloween Night and on offer were eight new cocktails such as Calabera Hombre, Marigold Martini, Frozen Avocado Margarita and Corpse Reviver along with twenty new dishes such as Chicken Mole, Andalusian Marinated Olives, Champiñones Al Ajilo, Pista Machengo and Chickpea ‘n’ Spinach to name a few and four desserts such as Churros, Dolcé Delicé, Crème Catalana, and Chilli Chocolade Mousse exclusively curated for the festival.

We reached Bodega for dinner and what followed was an evening of pure adulterated fun, wonderful cocktails and great food. By coincidence all the bloggers who attended were members of our very own Kolkata Food Fanatics and it ended up feeling like a mini meet up, full of warmth and laughter.

To get down to business the cocktails were brilliant. They were beautifully presented and perfectly balanced by Bodega’s expert mixologist Uttam Singh who was mixing up a storm behind Bodega’s bar. I ordered Calabera Hombre which had citrus flavors which I am partial to and it was fantastically presented in a beautiful skull shaped cocktail glass. The other bloggers ordered various other drinks so I got to taste the Corpse Reviver which was a killer cocktail and I loved the syringe full of alcohol that was sent with the glass with a further serving of alcohol to push into your drink or have as a shot! The Ultimate Sangria was delicious as well. I did not sample the other cocktails personally but my fellow diners seem to be in “high spirits” over them so they must be spot on.

Chef Sagar Chandra cooked up a plethora of amazing food for us. The Sticky Pork Belly Bao was to die for and the bao itself was simply perfect pillowy soft and delicious. The Pescado Fritter was my other favorite the texture of the dish was beautiful … a perfect batter with flaky fresh fish. It was really good with the dip that it was served with. Next were various tacos. I found the Lal Maas Taco rather spicy but for those of you who like spicy food I am sure this dish will be a winner. The Crispy Fish Taco and Pork Pibil Taco were both really delicious and went very well with our cocktails. The Mushroom Fonduta was a treat for mushroom lovers and a must order dish for them. The Tortilla Chips with assorted dips was a great munch and I really liked the dips they served us. The highlight for me was Muertos Rancheros a rather simple rustic dish of a flatbread with beans , salsa and eggs on top but the eggs were skull shaped and everyone flipped for the presentation.

The main course followed and though we were stuffed we all tasted most of the dishes which were served up as a one bowl meal …. Nasi Goreng , Lamb Tagine ,Chicken Mole , Chorizo Fried Rice all of which I had exactly one bite of as I was too stuffed by then, All the dishes were good but the two that stood out were the Lamb Tagine with Cous Cous which was lovely as well as the Chorizo Fried Rice which we all really liked. The simple fried rice was perfectly pared with the smoky intense flavor of the chorizo and the richness of the egg yolk of the egg on top. All mixed together it was absolutely delicious.

Dessert followed and tough we were in food coma we all shared the two lovely desserts. A Chilli Chocolade Mousse that was rich and dense with the gentle teasing warmth of chilli that one got. I would have loved some more of the raspberry sauce on the plate because I feel it would have created a lovely bouquet of flavors sweet, salty and citrus. The other dessert was from their regular menu and one of their signature desserts. It’s called Sunday Movie Night and is so innovatively plated that it seems almost a shame to dig in but the lure of chocolate is too much for most of us so dig in we did. Chocolate, Popcorn, Caramel, Peanut Butter … it was a total blockbuster in every sense.

There are drinking games, adult piñatas, great music and fantastic decorations to add to all the fun.  This is one outing you will regret missing if you don’t visit Bodega this week so head out and celebrate life.

To Urvika Kanoi and Team Bodega …. Please take a bow we had an absolutely wonderful evening and look forward to coming back often.

DISCLAIMER : The Culinary Commentator was invited for a Bloggers Meet by the Management but the views expressed are entirely their own.

Picture Credit : Suneha Saha
Bodega Cantina Y Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

SMOKE HOUSE DELI , KOLKATA

Good food and great friends are the perfect combination. Throw in some delicious cocktails and a festive mood with Diwali being around the corner and you have an absolute winning hand. The Kolkata Food Fanatics had their monthly meet at Smoke House Deli, Kolkata and we had a super fun evening.

We ordered from a delicious list of cocktails and picked the Tangerine Mojito and Melon Sangria. The citrus flavors of the Tangerine Mojito were really refreshing. The Melon Sangria was made with musk melon and white wine and I really enjoyed its crisp notes. A refreshingly different sangria and wonderful for those who don’t want something too strong. From the mocktails I sampled the Orange Tamarind Tango and it was lovely.

Then followed a whole lot of starters. B-B-Q Chicken Wings and Lamb Kibbeh were the stars of the show for me. Absolutely delicious and I look forward to going back for more very soon. The Seafood Cake was also nice and subtle and liked by most people. For the vegetarians there were Paprika Puffs with Wasabi Salsa, Jerk Tossed Potato Wedges and SHD Assorted Bruschetta all of which were nice but not extraordinary. I felt the Wasabi Salsa was a bit of a letdown because there was barely any punch from the wasabi in it. Three salads followed – Oak Ash Chevre with Californian Orange , Soba Noodle with Asparagus and Minted Zucchini and SHD 3 Bean Salad. The Soba Noodle Salad was the one that I liked best. The other two were nice enough.

Two varieties of Pizza were served next, Sun Dried Tomato with Artichoke & Cheddar and Nicoise Style. Both Pizza’s were thin crust with generous toppings and I enjoyed them both. By now we were pretty full but our mains were due and the dish I was waiting for was Sautéed Tenderloin Strips & Shitake, this was served up on a bed of mashed potatoes and was excellent. Perfectly cooked, juicy strips of tenderloin with earthy shitake mushrooms and the mash made for a mouthwatering dish. I absolutely loved it as did all my co-diners who ordered the same dish. The great part about eating in a big group is you can share and taste far more dishes. I also sampled the Leshun Chutney Marinated Red Snapper which was nicely done and the fish was fresh and perfectly cooked and the Five Spiced Chicken which was quite good. To be honest however the Tenderloin Strips stole the show in my opinion. It is certainly the dish I would go back for.

Of course with our dessert course due despite our bursting bellies we heroically ordered. My choice was my old favorite at SHD , the Bitter Chocolate & Orange Ganache Torte served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. I loved it ,Chocolate and Orange are one of my most loved flavor combinations. My co-diners also ordered the Philly Cheese Cake which I feel was not as good as it usually is. The service was warm and attentive and the SHD Team took great care to make our evening a happy one. My thanks to all of them.

It is always wonderful to catch up with my foodie family the Kolkata Food Fanatics. I love the madness and fun that we have whenever we meet. Hope all you folks had a Happy Diwali ! Cheers to yummy food and wonderful friends.

Picture Credits : Suneha Saha

Smoke House Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

MRS.MAGPIE CAFÉ , SALT LAKE, KOLKATA

When your favorite café in the City of Joy opens up its largest new branch on the eve of your birthday and you are a part of the launch party with a number of dear friends and fellow bloggers it’s like a mini-birthday bash in itself.

Mrs.Magpie is my “happy place” it’s where I like to go to both hang out and celebrate with my friends or cheer myself up if I am down in the dumps. There is something about the vibe that just makes me happy. I was therefore delighted when Mrs.Magpie a.k.a. Sohini Basu first told me about her latest venture. I was allowed (yes allowed) a sneak peek a few days before the launch after much pestering with some pleading thrown in as well. Curiosity does kill this cat ! However the wait was absolutely worth it. The youngest member of the Mrs.Magpie family is simply beautiful. Located opposite City Center 1 in Salt Lake in the lane just beside the Vodafone store it is a lovely haven. You enter and see the striking shop window display with their fantastic cakes. You push open their now signature door and step into a happy world filled with beautiful cup cakes , heavenly hot chocolate, yummy marzipanimals and so much more.

The launch was a lively affair with wonderful live music and a happy buzz created by family, friends and well-wishers accompanied by some delicious finger food.  Yes their signature cupcakes were there too and we all ate ourselves silly and had a whole lot of fun! The food was great as always pizzettes , chicken cheese balls , fish fingers , three cheese vol au vents , chili cheese toast along with the delicious cupcakes were served to all the guests. I ended my evening by devouring my little piggie marzipanimal with great gusto.

My favorite section of the new café is the kid zone. An entire section with swings, slides , a little ball pool , a huge play kitchen and toys for kids to play with while the mothers can sit on the tables alongside and catch their breath but still keep an eye on the little ones. Kudos to Sohini for this sensitive and thoughtful touch.  It’s these special touches of hers that make Mrs.Magpie so very loved by its patrons. My only complaint is that I am too old to qualify to play in the kid’s zone!

Their A La Carte and To Go Menus are available daily and I would recommend the Ham and Cheese Quiche with a cup of their sinfully good Hot Chocolate now that the cooler months are here. They also have a special liqueur flavored cupcake as a monthly special that I always trip out on. The Mutton Sandwich and Club Sandwich are also pretty darn good if you’re hungry rather than nibbly.

Now my family and friends in Salt Lake will no longer envy the fact that I live fairly close to the first Mrs.Magpie (near Vivekanad Park) and rather remind me that they too have a Mrs.Magie in their neighborhood. Here is wishing Sohini , Suneha and the Magpie Team all the very best and hoping for many more Mrs.Magpie’s in the future. My apologies for the delayed post but I have been shifting house so blogging had to take a bit of a break but I am back now …. Hungry and raring to go… so bring it on!

DISCAIMER : The Culinary Commentator was invited by the Management for the launch of Mrs.Magpie,Salt Lake but the views expressed are entirely their own.


Mrs. Magpie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato