When all else fails, CHEESE.

​When all else fails, Cheese ! 

It’s been raining non stop, & the weather’s so nice & cool. Perfect for a day long Baking session. I made grand plans for the day! 

First up, kneading the bread dough, as it would take the longest to ferment. That done, I left the sourdough to ferment. Then got on with marinating some chicken, which I later planned to bake along with thin slices of potato, onion, cream & cheese. Marination done, I turned to the fermented dough, shaped & scored  a lovely french baguette, & put it in the oven to bake. 

Within 20 minutes the aroma of freshly baked bread was wafting through the kitchen. So now it was the Chicken that had to go in, to bake. Layers of thinly sliced potatoes, onion, chicken, herbs, cream & cheese were all set to bake & turn into a magical dish, which would later be devoured while listening to the pitter patter, sitting by the french window. 

I poured myself a glass of wine, & settled for a bit, waiting for the chicken to be ready in another 20 mins….

And then….BAM ! πŸ˜‘ *power cut * 

How could I be SO naive & optimistic about this ‘Baking on a Rainy Day Plan’ ?! 

This is #pune ! Even 10 mins of rain, results into hours of powercut ! Hmmph… 

But I wasn’t gonna let my plans be ruined, just bcoz this brilliant ‘Smart City’ decided to cut off power suply! 😏 

So out came the next best thing – the Cheese Board ! 

Now how can you go wrong with a Cheese Board & Wine ?! 

* That’s why I always say – Stock up your groceries smartly * 

I had all the essentials of a Cheese platter ready, & all it took was a little assembling. 

So within minutes we had – Olives, Parmesan, Gruyere Crisps, Mild Cheddar, some Fruit Preserves, Spanish Chorizo, & the lovely fresh warm baguette ready, for a candlelight evening by the window, listening to the pitter patter of the rain, sipping wine & having an awesome evening. 

Well played ‘Smart City’….But I’m smarter than you πŸ˜πŸ˜ŽπŸ˜‚

Iberico Salchichon (Sausage) – Delightful memories of Spain.Β 

Are you a fan of Cured Meats ? 

I surely am !  I absolutely love the intense flavour of cured meats like Chorizo and Jamon ( -salt cured Ham- pronounced as ‘Hah-mon’)

Just a tiny bit goes a long way in jazzing up your meal instantly. 

For those who are new to the technique and art of Curing meats, here’s a little info about the process of curing – 

To put it very simply, ‘Curing’ is a technique of flavouring & preserving foods, such as meats, fish, vegetables & fruits. 

The aim of curing is to draw out moisture from the food by adding Salt, Sugar, Seasoning and such other natural preservatives, to increase the shelf life of the food, and store it year round, for consumption when certain fish/fresh produce or not available or in season. 

Dehydration is the earliest form of food curing, which also includes processes like spicing, pickling, cooking, or smoking. 

Curing decreases / completely draws out the water content from foods, thus making it inhospitable for the growth of microbes that cause food spoilage. 

On my recent visit to Spain, I got a chance to sample various types of cured meats, be it in their original form as a quick nibble between meals, or in Sandwiches, Rice dishes, as a flavour enhancer in Salads, and very prominently as Tapas and on Cheese platters, served with Drinks. 

There are literally thousands of types of cured meats, all over the world. 

Some are made using a single meat such as Pork, some with a combination of 2-3 different meats (eg- pork, beef, deer, wild boar etc) or even offal. 

Some sausages also use a combination of spices like Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Pepper, Coriander etc, if the meat is to ‘Gamey’.

The one that I particularly liked, & bought in huge quantities to take back home, was the ‘Iberico Salchichon’. 

(Iberian/) Iberico Salchichon/Sausages are made from the famed Black Hoofed Iberico (Iberian) Pigs, native to Spain.

 They roam free, and feed on leaves and acorns. Extremely flavourful (& needless to say, quite expensive !) these are quite the delicacy in Spain. 

The pork is dark red and marbled with delicate fat, creating an intense flavour and melt in the mouth texture. 

Unlike Spanish Chorizo, which is infused with a lot of garlic, smoked paprika & other spices, (which btw, is also Truly delicious! ) this Salchichon uses only Salt & Pepper (sometimes Oregano) for curing. With a simple curing solution of Salt & Pepper, these sausages are filled in natural casing (read- beef/pig intestines) & are hung to cure in the cool mountain air for several weeks/months. 

Sliced thinly, this delicious treat can be served with a crisp white wine, some cheese & crusty sourdough bread. 

Makes for a perfect gift for someone who loves cured meats & wines, & even to bring back home, and stash it for the days when you want to sit back and enjoy these, while reminiscing about your beautiful Spanish vacation. 😊

World Tapas Day ! 3rd Thursday of June.Β 

Its World Tapas Day today !

Which reminded me of this amazing meal I had in Madrid on my birthday last year. 

I went bar hopping ALL DAY….every day πŸ™ˆπŸ˜‚ & totally fell in love with the tapas bars in Spain. 

The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish/Portuguese verb tapar, “to cover”. Before the 19th century, European roads were in bad condition. Travelling was slow and exhausting. Most people could not read or write, and Spain was no exception. 

Inns, called posadas, or bodegas, grew along the roads, offering meals and rooms, for travellers. Since few innkeepers could write and few travellers read, inns offered their guests a sample of the dishes available, on a “tapa” (the word for pot cover in Spanish). 

In fact, a “tapa” was (and still is) a small portion of any kind of Spanish cuisine. What we commonly refer to as ‘small plates’ in restaurant. 

A tapa in Spanish cuisine, is an appetizer, or snack. It may be cold such as mixed olives and cheese or hot such as chopitos, which are batter fried squid. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. 

There are literally thousands of types of tapas, and they very from region to region, depending on the produce and climate. 

The Sassy Spoon, Pune.

​The year has started off with a bang, with some big names coming to Pune.

The much talked about Sassy Spoon from Mumbai is now at Koregaon Park, lane 7, where Jimmy Hu and Brooklyn Shuffle once used to be.

This casual, chic resto bar is tastefully done up, with each section offering a different decor and ambiance.

The air conditioned section with its high ceiling , dim lights and muted tones, a winding staircase leading up to a huge book wall is charming, and impressed me much more than the al fresco section, which is a bright, cheery place with a fresh colour palette. (but honestly felt more like sitting in a Doll House) Yeah… I’m not really a fan of Baby Pinks and Pastels and Doll House kinda colours and decor.

That section is infact their Patisserie called ‘the sassy teaspoon’.
The Bar menu comprises of some promising drinks like Berry Chilli, The Very Berry Khatta, Jack and Ginger, to name a few.
The one drink I had, and thoroughly enjoyed was the ‘Morning Brew’. Espresso, and Whisky spiked with Vanilla and Orange Liquer. This is one drink, I’d go again for.
The food menu is a mix of different cuisines, a bit of Asian, Indian, Mediterranean.
Of all the dishes I tried that evening, my favourites were –

Cajun Spiced Prawns, sitting in a puddle of spiced garlicky oil and a crusty bagguete to mop it all up, is quite nice.
Tenderloin Jerky, Pork Ribs with bbq sauce, are decent on flavour and texture, but not really the best I’ve had.
Savoury Pumpkin Tart with Goat Cheese was quite a pleasant surprise. Buttery tart shell with a lovely smooth velvelty pumpkin filling and a salty goat cheese topping to cut through the sweetness of the pumpkin.
Twice Baked Ementhal Souffle served on a bed of tangy Green Apple salad, and candied walnuts is definitely worth a try.
Now for the the major let down that evening –
Chicken Burger with Wasabi Mayo. (Read – tasteless crumb fried chicken patty, with a dry bun, absolutely No wasabi flavour….rather, no other flavour at all !

McDonald’s would manage a better burger (and those who know me, know well, how much I dislike it)
Another one in the list of let downs, is the Pulled Pork Poi. Underseasond, dry, tasteless and very disapointing indeed.
Desserts from their Patisserie, ‘The Sassy Teaspoon’ looked good on the display counter, but failed to impress on the flavour aspect.

None of the desserts we sampled that evening – Red Velvet Cupcake, Sassy Stacks, Sticky Tofee pudding or the Macarons made me go ‘Wow’ !
The only one I really really liked was a tangy, refreshing Raspberry Sorbet, of which I would gladly have seconds.
In my honest opinion Sassy Spoon seemed like a mix bag… and maybe I had higher expectations.
* the bloggers table was hosted by Sassy Spoon *

‘Bubble Bee’ – Aundh, PuneΒ 

​So…all those instagram pics & posts, all that hype Everywhere on social media dragged me to this place, ‘Bubble Bee’ at Aundh.
My experience in one word..? ” Meh ”
I really didn’t understand what all the hype was about. It’s just (below) average waffle with (below) average toppings and hardly any choice.

They were serving only 2 types of waffle base (atleast that evening when I visited) – Chocolate & Red Velvet.

I chose Red Velvet… so was obviously looking for Cream Cheese to go with it.

But all they have is Whipped Cream and Coffee Cream.
And top it off with either ferrerorocher , kitkat or fruits .
So I had an underwhelming combination of Red Velvet (?) Waffle with whipped cream and 1 Ferrero Rocher cut in half, which basically does NOTHING to enhance the falvour.

Had it been crumbled on top, or mixed with the cream, there would have been a textural and flavour twist to the otherwise boring whipped cream.

At roughly 150….170/- something, for that waffle, I have better options in town.
As for the bubbletea , I’ve had toooo much of it while in southeastasia … and this one does not match up at all !

So if you go there expecting that taste and quality, then I’m afraid it’s going to be disappointing.
Tried the Green Apple flavour with Passion Fruit flavoured Pearls. (Juicy ‘Boba’….not the chewy starchy tapioca pearls I was looking for)
At 120/- for a small glass of overly sweet (premix) drink, it was some more disappointment for the evening.

The flavoured tapiocapearls , are not even close to the real slightly ‘chewy’ pearls you would expect in a bubbletea.

These are like juicy, liquid filled globules (boba) that instantly burst in your mouth.
They do have a ‘jelly’ variation instead of the boba pearls, but will I go there again just to try that out ? ummm… I doubt.
Ohh btw… Waffles and Bubbletea are the only 2 things served at Bubble Bee. 

Nawab Asia, Baner (Balewadi High Street)Β 

A very well known place for its North Indian fare, Nawab Asia has been around and has still managed to have the same popularity it enjoyed a decade ago. 

So it’s no surprise that this popular restaurant from Camp, which now has an outpost at Balewadi High Street (BHS) gained the same huge popularity just within couple months of opening. 

I was invited for a tasting to the BHS restaurant recently, to try some of their signature dishes along with a few new additions to the menu. 

With a mix of modern and traditional decor, detailed wooden panelling, bright red chandeliers along with other traditional elements adding to the bling, this place sureley creates a perfect ambiance for an evening out. 

Nawab Asia primarily known for its North Indian fare, also serves Asian/Chinese cuisine, which is more popular with their drinks. 

Their drinks/cocktails are however not their strong point. The one’s I had that evening were a little underwhelming, but the food more than made up for it. 

Popular dishes on their menu are – 

Awadhi Seekh Kebab, 

Zaffran Chicken, 

Tangdi Kulfi -which is a mix of creamy, cheesy marination with aromatic spices and the smoky flavour of the tandoor. 

Daal Makhni with Butter Garlic Naan is absolutely bang on, and definitely recommended. 

Meat lovers can opt for their Butter Chicken or Baalti Mutton, which tastes best with a crisp layered paratha. 

Though I’m not a big fan of Indian Sweets, the Paan Kulfi made in house is a dfinite winner, and I would happily go back for seconds. 

Very happy to see their classics and signature dishes still going strong, and pulling in huge crowds. And it’s pretty evident from the packed restaurant I saw even on a weekday!   

Next time you’re around BHS, do give this place a try ! 

The Bar & Eatery – Koregaon Park, lane 7

I was recently invited for a review to a quaint little place named ‘The Bar and Eatery’ in Koregaon Park, lane no. 7

To be honest I had never even noticed this place while passing by that street, because it’s really small. Blink and you miss kinda entrance, and no bright signage,could be the reason.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the place, because I hadn’t heard much about it from anyone else either.

The 1st impression as I entered the place, was a good one though. A typical relaxed, laid back kinda place where you catch up with friends for a drink post work, or on a weekend. 

The ambiance is lively,  but without being too noisy and chaotic. 

So far so good, I thought, and moved on to check the drinks and food menu.

We started off with a superb Mai Tai which is easily one of those drinks that I could have a pitcher of, alone, on a Sunday brunch or a warm summer evening (I wish I could have a pitcher…but not really posssible, since their drinks are quite potent ! ) 

Speaking of potent drinks, their lovely Paan Shots would totally top that list , coz it’s potent and how! 

For the Beer Cocktail lovers, a mix of Watermelon juice, Red Bull and Beer , called the Watermelon Limon Beer is a good choice.

The Bar and Eatery offers amazing deals on their drinks, and the Happy Hours stretch all the way to 9:00 pm ! on All days ! Yayyy !!

Over to the food – 

The menu is a bit too long, considering the place is a typical watering hole where you want a short and to the point food menu. But well, they have included a bit of everything to please all types of palates and appetites.

The Beer Bacon Cheese and Chicken Soup is an absolute stunner ! All my favourite things in 1 bowl !  A well balanced cheesy, boozy soup with bits of chicken and bacon and some more crispy bacon strips on top, is every bit hearty and satisfying. An absolute delight on a cold winter night.

The vegetarians can opt for the Tomato Basil Mozzarella Soup, which has chunks of mozzarella that melt into the soup giving it a chewy cheesy texture and the freshness of basil. 

Paneer, Corn, Mushroom Salad is a good option for healthy vegetarian munchies with drinks.

Their most popular bar snack, the Ultimate Fries which are generously drizzled with cheese sauce and herbs are best eaten really hot, else they tend to get very soggy and unappetizing. 

Asian Tenderloin Salad, Salmon & Cream Cheese Bruschetta , Teriyaki Chicken Skewers are all good accompaniments with your cocktails.

However if it’s something more hearty and filling you are looking for, I would most definitely recommend their Daal Makhni or Butter Chicken which are so rich, creamy and flavourful. Served with Paratha, Rice, Papad and Salad, which makes it a complete meal. 

The Pasta and Burgers are not bad at all. But they were the lesser favourites from that evening. I prefered the Indian food combos for the mains.

And if you have a Sweet tooth, The Bar and Eatery has some delish desserts for you. 

*Warning* They serve Massive portions of Dessert ! 

Serradurra, which is a Portuguese  dessert made up of layers of fine biscuit crumbs and cream is lovely, and has the taste and texture similar to a tiramisu. 

The Baked Yogurt set and served in an earthen pot is a lovely dessert with a slight tangy aftertaste of the yogurt, and the sweetness of a crackling caramelized sugar layer like that of a creme brulee. 

So next time you’re around Koregaon Park, wondering where to go for a drink, (and good food as well) , The Bar and Eatery is a decent option for sure.