Category Archives: travel

The Italian Dream

Bellissimo!! One of the few words that I know from the Italian language and one of the first words that came to my mind when I had a lunch at The Pasta Bowl Company. The food and the place are simply beautiful.

If you are looking for the best Italian meal in Gurgaon, The Pasta Bowl Company (TPBC) is the winner hands down! Located in the Cross Point Mall, TPBC also scores additional points because of it’s central location, proximity to the Galleria Market and a comfortably accessible parking.

 

 

It had been more than a year since I had been hearing about TPBC, (and all good) but somehow could not visit the place. This time when my friends and I finalised TPBC as the venue for lunch, it was a happy happy day.

On a weekend, as I sat gazing different food pages on social media, I came across this Instagram post on the official handle of The Pasta Bowl Company introducing the late lunch menu ‘Cucina Con Amore’ which means Cooked with Love. So I dialled up my friends number and we decided on the ‘happy day’. The new menu offers a three course meal for late lunchers especially aimed at the corporate sector.

We arrived just around noon. I believe it was such a great choice of time because it made the place look beautiful with the natural light peeping in from every possible opening. The brick wall interiors just give you a sense of calm and you can not ignore the huge clock on one end and small sports cars on the opposite end. TPBC also have an open kitchen which gives you a good view into live cooking. A very special and cute attraction is the fresh grown basil right on the kitchen shelf.

 

 

We started with the ‘Primo’ which was Bruschettas and ordered the Pomodoro and the Funghi E Olio Di Tartufo. The latter had pesto sauce and cherry tomatoes. For me anything with authentic pesto is a winner. Additionally, If you also add Truffle Oil to the dishes on my plate, you are not an ordinary winner but you are a champion. Both the Bruschettas gave this place a head start in the championship. TPBC is known for using ingredients imported from Italy. This can be experienced through the Truffle Oil Bruschetta. The chef made sure that the truffle oil is used in right quantity and does not over power your taste buds. We were left wanting for more.

 

 

Then came ‘Secondo’, that is the second course, offering a choice of pizza or a pasta. I ordered the Pizza Ortaggi Siciliani and my friends ordered the Fusili Bianca. Both theses dishes took me to Italy for a while…… They were not the usual Italian food that we are used to in India with cheese overload. The pizza had a very different shape and was topped with fresh and colourful vegetables. It was both a visual and a gastronomic treat. The Peperoncino Chilli stood out distinctly both in taste and appearance. Whenever I think of the meal at TPBC, I always think of freshness. It was just the way I experienced as I enjoyed my meal!

IMG_20170621_131740_090

Coming back, the Fusili Bianca made me change the way I cook pasta at home. It was very light and mild on flavours. The Parmesan, cream and parsley were added in quantities which allowed me to relish the texture of the pasta as well. The pasta and cheese were very well balanced. The objective of cooking pasta highly rich in cheese has now taken a back seat for me.

 

The final stages of foodgasm had almost set in as I flipped through the menu to see what is next. Dolce Vita (Life is Beautiful and luxurious) when desserts are on the way……Ah!! The third course named ‘Dolci’ offered a choice of Cannoncini and Panacotta della Stagione. My mouth is watering as I write about the Cannoncini. The texture of the lemon cream was amazing. You could feel the flavour bursting on the palate slowly and in a smooth manner. What surprised me was  the taste of the Brioche because I was not expecting it to have that delicious taste and was extremely soft. The Cannoncini brought out the kid in me as I relished it in a manner I have enjoyed cream rolls during my childhood.

IMG_2614

Hold your breath to read about the most delicious dessert I have had in a long time. The Panacotta della Stagione which luckily for me was the Mango Panacotta. With every bite I took I wanted more of it. I wish it was served in a magic plate that would refill every bite of it. The gooey texture, the right temperature and the appropriate amount of sweetness made it very very delectable.

IMG_2616

The entire experience of eating here became more interesting when you have Chef Om and his team ready for a chat on everything Italian. We also had a chance to learn a lot of Italian words and one word that comes to my mind after the lunch at TPBC was ‘Grazie’.

An ‘Impromptu’ evening

Not always is an impromptly planned evening such a wonderful experience as this one turned out for us.

When in Gurgaon, we all are quite used to the routine pattern of lifestyles. From the start of the day where we can see the suave and the crisply dressed millennials deboarding the cabs and boarding the elevators, to the regular exchange of emails throughout the day. It is all in the routine. Lately, even the patterns of recreation have become robotic. Most of the office goers take a flight down the office stairs and land up for a couple of drinks. A few decide to drive across the ‘valley’ for some ‘leisure’ time.

IMG_2026

Apart from these usual places, there are very few places in Gurgaon that come under the “WOW” category of Gurgaon’s nightlife. Impromptu is one of them. Definitely not your average run of the mill place, Impromptu is a rare find of space and a little gem in the middle of Gurgaon. As I crossed the roads of Golf Course Road and entered the place, sexy is what came into my mind. That’s how the place is. It’s so chic and tastefully done with subtle lights at the entrance, the cool interiors clubbed with outside sitting makes it a win win!! A bonus is the huge flat screen make you want to sit there for hours. ( Cricket lovers!!)

My partner and I were super impressed and wondered why we didn’t try this place in the past 2 years. It was just our type of the place with the coolest music playing and most importantly at the right volume. Helped us have a good conversation over some amazing drinks and food.

Our first order was cocktails and we went with the quintessential Italian Martini and a cocktail called Rusty Nail. The Rustic Nail was made using a Drambuie. It was the first time that we tried the Drambuie. Drambuie is a liqueur made of Scotch whisky, honey, herbs and spices. The service was very polite and not at all overbearing and all our food was ordered as suggested by our server Vikram.

 

We started with the Soya Kebabs which were very delicious and tender. We also ordered a Shish Taouk which was a chicken dish inspired by Lebanese cuisine which was followed by a Crunchy Caprese Pizza (not salad but pizza) which was quite different loaded with cheese. The best pick of the evening was the Keema Pao so flavourful and probably competing with soya kebabs 😉 We would definitely recommend this dish to everyone. Rich in flavours and the soft pao was a delight. It was almost 1130 when we ordered the dessert. Time passes so quickly when you are having fun no??

Dessert included their house special which was flourless chocolate cake with ice cream. It melted in the mouth and was extremely extremely soft. Thank you Impromptu for a great evening. This is a place that shouldn’t be missed and I would go there again and try their buffet which runs all week.

Cost on the Pocket – Rs. 2000 for 2

Where – Vatika Towers, BLC-143, Golf Course Road, DLF Phase 5, Sector 54, Gurugram, Haryana 122002

Turning 30 in the land of the namesake

When you find your calling….

It redefines you. It redefines your purpose, your attitude, your perception. Exactly what I experienced last winter.

When you find your calling??

It took me four years to arrive at this one destination. I do not regret that it did not happen four years ago for me. I believe I was not wiser than today to make the most of it. And surely one is expected to be more wise at 30.

December 2016 I finally took the plunge. I am usually not very upbeat about birthdays and even if it is the 30th. However, everyone around me was quite excited about my 30th. I decided to do it my way. I booked myself for Vipassana at Bodhgaya in the same week in which I turned 30.

‘Be Careful What you Wish For’

New Delhi to Bodhgaya are connected by railways as well as airways. You can take a train to Gaya which takes approximately 15  hours. I have always loved train journeys and have always wanted for more of them. My excitement of going for Vipassana almost went a notch higher when I realised that I was getting ready for another train journey. The journey that was supposed to end in 15 hours lasted for 29 hours.  Someone has righlty said ‘Be Careful What you Wish For’. I spent some time clicking a few pictures around the station and how could I have not tried a few eateries around the train station.

 

Vipassana at Bodhgaya

Vipassana is a Buddhist form of meditation which has its roots in Myanmar (erstwhile Burma). It was revived in India by S.N. Goenka who is fondly referred to as ‘Goenka Ji’. This technique was practised by Gautama Buddha about 2500 years ago.

It is ten day meditation course wherein the participants are required to practise complete silence and refrain from any activities such as reading, listening to music, consuming intoxicants etc. The millennials need to take note that mobile phones are not allowed during the ten days.

The campus in Bodhgaya is located at a 45 minutes drive from the railway station and is very near to the Magadha University. Going from Delhi it was a transition from an urban concrete jungle to an ocean of greenery. I was able to spot butterflies and that too in different colours throughout my stay at the campus. Break during the lunch were spent strolling amongst the woods like I have done never before. Breakfast time was one of the most serene and beautiful morning times I have seen in a long time. Foggy, moist mornings with Goenka Ji’s recitals echoing all around the campus were pure bliss.

IMG_20161212_064303_HDR

A day at the Centre

Our day used to start at 4:30am. We were woken up using the prayer bells. Breakfast was served at 6:30am after the first session of early morning meditation. The second session led us to lunch which was served at 11:30am. The last meal of the day which somehow turned out to be my favourite was served at 5:30pm. This was one level of discipline I have never observed in my life. The day had 12 hours of meditation which ended with a televised discourse by Goenka Ji.

I am sure if this routine is incorporated as a part of our daily lives, it would transform us in ways more than one.

My Learnings

The centre at Bodhgaya is within touching distance of the Bodhi Tree where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment.  There was some energy at the centre that made me feel that I was so close to the iconic location which has no parallel in this world. Fellow participants who had attended the course at different locations earlier agreed to my observation .

The course had 100 participants from all over the globe. I mean it when I say that. Africa was the only continent which was missing. Would have loved to have had a complete grid though. It was such a privilege for me to have participants who had done the course at various locations almost a dozen number of times but were back again. Such is the power. Their belief and faith was not only extremely positive but also very re-assuring.

We did not speak a word to each other but it was the faith that was the common thread. It helped us strike friendships and connect with people after the course ended. I am lucky to have met wonderful and inspiring people with so much to learn from.

IMG_20161213_114941_HDR

Jim, Petr, Azar and Me

I will not be able to do justice to the course by trying to write what I learnt and gained from it. Firstly, it is just not possible to explain the feeling and I also believe that every person would gain differently from the other one. Everyone has to have his own judgement independent of any perceptions.

However, there are two things which I would love to conclude with and highlight from my experience. While I was preparing to leave from Delhi, I felt it would be a kind of retreat from the world and its worldly concerns. No doubt that was true but this was the closest I could have come to myself and understanding myself.

Last and most important, one thing that Goenka Ji always reminds us and which has been eternally etched in my mind is ‘Annica’. This is one word to describe how I have started living my life – everything is temporary and it shall pass.

Annica.

It’s that time of the year again…

 

‘Winter is coming…’

‘Winter is coming’ and it’s that time of the year that we foodies look forward to. Time for food, feast, fun and food fests.

With every passing year and with my growing love for food, another thing that is growing is the size of the hoodies and pair of jeans that I have to buy for this year’s winter. My love affair with food has now come a full circle. Palate Fest Delhi 2015 was my first visit to a food festival since I started dating food. This year, I was very lucky to be present in  Chandigarh, The City Beautiful, as the curtains on the Lloyd Palate Fest 2016 were raised.

img_20161014_1405011

the perfect set up…

The lush green environs of Leisure Valley in Chandigarh proved to be a beautiful set up for my date. Perfectly placed in the lap of nature, basking in the nascent winter sun and each other’s love, it was just my food and me.

We walked around, enjoying each other’s company and clicking a lot of pictures as well. I have always believed, a thing of beauty is a joy forever, and love turns out to be really beautiful when you have fallen for food. I would like to spread this joy through this photo diary.

The line up at the fest had some really interesting names such Dera by The Taj, Browse – the in house bakery at The Lalit, Kylin, Uncle Jack’s, Keventer’s Shakes, Casa Bella Vista and more. In addition, the music was like an icing on the cake with Astitva doing the closing act.

Casa Bella Vista

In my opinion, the prettiest set up was done by Casa Bella Vista.

img_20161014_142131_hdr

Casa Bella Vista

img_20161014_2317081

img_20161014_215713_hdr_wm

Asparagus Pizza by Casa Bella Vista

Magic Wok

Among the other pretty places was the Magic Wok. It provided for a huge space and with lot of colors and a vibrant decor.

Keventer’s Shakes

And there was Keventer’s Shakes and they reminded me of the historic war cry ‘Dilli Ab Duur Nahin….’

img_20161014_144921_hdrimg_20161016_2134031

Browse – Hyatt Regency

Browse, the in house bakery by Hyatt Regency had some lovely desserts to offer. With the sweet tooth I possess, they were one of my personal favourites. From croissants to brownies to Danish pastries, Browse was a good experience.

img_20161014_221230_hdr

Danish Pastry by Browse

A few more special moments

As the evening set in, I decided to take my parents to meet my first love. Beautifully lit up, it was a typical pre-winter evening which we experience in ‘the North’ around Dusherra. My photo diaries have a few experiences which might just make the viewer a bit envious.

img_20161014_205217_hdr

Dilli Ab Duur Nahin

After this lovely weekend, I am ready to hop on to the next bus to Delhi and as I said ‘Ab Dilli Duur Nahin….’ Definitely not. Come November and Palate Fest now comes to Delhi. I wait to take all of you along on my next date in Delhi very soon. Stay Tuned and ‘Keep Eating, Keep Clicking’.

 

In search of a Peace of Food

We usually toss a coin to decide between two extremes. Batting or bowling, leaving or staying and many more such dilemmas. Success and Failure, however, are on two opposite sides of a coin which both eventually lead to the same decision – ‘Travel’ .  You succeed, you travel to celebrate. You fail, you travel to make peace with it. Eventually, both ways you have stories to tell. After a long hiatus on the blog, I return with stories to tell.

No prizes for guessing the hero of my story. Food. The story is based in the picturesque town of McleodGanj- a suburb of Dharamsala in Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh. There is a lot more to tell about the history of the place, but my story takes you around the cafes in this beautiful town. What to eat and what not to eat. There is a slim chance that you will find the latter recommendation though.

The Tibetan Government in-exile is headquartered in McleodGanj. Very appropriately I will start my story from a couple of places serving authentic Tibetan food.

Tibet Kitchen

Located very close to the main McleodGanj Square, Tibet Kitchen serves one of the most authentic Chinese and Tibetan food in Mcleodganj. It also has a few Bhutanese dishes to offer. I ordered a Chicken Datse (also known as Datshi) with Tingmo Bread (pronounced as tee-mo) and Fried Chicken Momos. Try almost anything at this place and you will not return disappointed.

My feel: Spend a good time with your family and do not miss a view of  the hustle bustle at the square from their balcony.

img_20160924_194230_hdr

Four Seasons Cafe

Stand outside this place and you will feel a whiff of warm fresh air kissing your face. The warmth comes from the lady who runs this place. I loved the facade of this cafe which had a very sweet four column window and a small door. Interiors are all orange and well lighted and a symbol of the religious / spiritual inclination. Do not miss the cute little book shelf in the cafe.

My feel: Sit and catch up with an old friend on cold winter evening. 

img_20160923_193652_hdrimg_20160925_194304_hdr

Tibet Quality Bakery

I intentionally did not save the bakers for the last. I reserve that space for my favourite cafe. Located right next to the post office and right in the middle of the Jogiwara Road stretch, this was my go to place every morning. Trying new cakes just became a routine start to the day and how I miss it still. Special mention to the Coffee Walnut Cake for the very gooey and homely base and the Rum Raisin, amongst many that I tried. Get the Rum Raisin cake warmed for drool worthy results. If I had to choose a favourite, it would be the latter. This bakery also sells Yak Cheese during winters.

My Feel: Just keep eating without worrying about the calories

img_20160924_1008031

img_20160923_153116_hdrimg_20160926_103604_hdr

Woeser Bakery

I would rate this one above the Tibet Quality bakery. It is one of the most quaint places you will find around. You are bound to fall in love with this place. Cute and quaint. The lady who runs this place has a kitchen where she bakes all her desserts and in that kitchen itself she has placed two tables for the customers to sit. She will continue with her work as you relish the lovely desserts she has to offer. Interestingly, she is a self learned baker and has learnt the entire art by watching videos and through the internet. She has not attended any classes and trust me, you would probably taste the most fresh cakes at this place. Please do visit and do order the Home Made Cappuccino for sure.

My feel: Take ‘her’ for a coffee to Woeser Bakery

img_20160924_203329_hdrimg_20160926_155555_hdr

Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen

For all those driving down from Delhi to McleodGanj, this one is home away from home for all of you. This one is a replica of The Big Chill Cafe. From the decor, to the menu, to the presentation of the food, this place seems highly inspired from the Big Chill Cafe. This place is highly recommended for their breakfast, in addition to the Italian they offer. I did not try the breakfast but after some interaction with a few people around I was recommended that Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen near the square, on the road towards Dharamkot has a better breakfast to offer. I would recommend their Gnocchi Pasta and fresh fruit juices.

My Feel: Hog.Period.

Seed Cafe

My search for that peace of food took me to the Seed Cafe. Quite a peaceful place with very interesting decor. Mr. Morrison to welcome you and Mr. Hendrix to sing along inside. At this location, that part of the story unfolds where you would want to ditch your gang and sit at a place without being found. I would also suggest you to be alert enough to spot this cafe as you walk around in McLeodganj. For those privileged ones reading this post, you can find this at a distance of 1 kilometre from the square, as you walk from the square towards the Dalai Lama Temple Road.Sit and read. Sit and do nothing probably.

My Feel: The Hide Out Cafe (“Don ko pakadna mushkil he nahi, namumkin hai…”  if Don chooses to hide here)

Illiterati Books and Coffee 

img_20160926_130814_hdr

*Drum rolls*  And my favourite location on the sets of my story was this cafe full of books and lots of food. Illiterati was started by a Belgian almost about 3-4 years ago and an year ago he had to leave India and go back. That is when, Nalin who hails from Dharamsala and his friends decided to continue running this place. Whether you sit in the balcony staring at the Dhauladhar Ranges and sipping coffee or you sit inside in the company of hundreds of books, you are bound to find this place cozy and fall in love with it. Not only the place, you will also fall in love with Bhai Saab. The cute little Dachshund.

My Feel: Sit all day. Coffee. Read. Write. Chill

These were my favourite seven places to visit in McleodGanj. However, other than these do not forget to indulge in the randomness associated with the hills. The little joys the hills offer in the form of Maggi stories, Chai stories and more. Snippets from my joyous time.

Moral of the Story: Whether success or failure, life is all about living in the present, enjoying the small joys that life brings your way.

Live in the present and eat, you never know tomorrow the food might turn stale 🙂

Ciao!!