Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Birthday Food Trail

There is so much to update all you guys on!! Now I know none of you has really been waiting with bated breath for me to get back to my blog (except maybe this really nice girl called Nafisa who actually mailed me asking where in hell's name I was :D). Nevertheless, I will proceed to tell you how exciting my life has been in the past few months... and you will agree that blogging really HAD to take a backseat!

  • I discovered this awesome TV series called 'The Vampire Diaries' and watched 3 seasons back to back! That's a total of 66 episodes. And if you are making faces about vampires and equating it to 'Twilight' already, I will personally come and kick your shins. Watch it. Its wicked, funny, crazy and has a breakneck speed to its plot! Not to mention, the sexiest men on Television...
  • I have been making multiple trips to Chennai on work, eating a lot of the awesome Chennai sea-food, and along the way, managed to put together our first big South TV event successfully :)
  • Attended a full-on Delhi type wedding in the winters and had soooo much fun! The sarees, the clothes, the jewelery, celebrating Karwa Chauth, rehearsing for Sangeet performances... obsessing over hair and make up, matching shoes and bags, and of course - dancing like crazy to Bollywood numbers! Radha on the dance floor, anyone?!
  • Went for a friend's rocking birthday party and woke up in her house with very little memory of the previous night :P Hehehe... ok, not all that bad, but trust me when I say it was that kind of a fantastic party. 
  • Met up with one of my favorite film bloggers - the wonderfully witty, sweet and namkeen, intelligent, beautiful Dolce and Namak who was in Mumbai on her first Indian trip. And what a great time I had! I had gone with trepidation wondering if one lone desi girl and 4 goras from Canada would have anything common to talk about... But I really shouldn't have feared. Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood, food, filmy gossip, we covered everything and there was still so much we could have rambled on about!All aided by a wonderful meal at Zaffran...
  • Planned a fantastic Bachelorette trip for a very dear college friend (now colleague) in Goa with 6 other utterly fabulous girls. And what a Hen party it turned out to be! But but but, what happened in Goa, stays in Goa. Sooo... my lips are sealed ;)
  • And in the midst of all the above excitement was my husband Sid's birthday.
Now all those who know me personally, know that the husband is a weird creature. Mine in particular. He doesn't drink (not even wine), doesn't smoke, doesn't like meeting people, and warns us every year to not make a big deal about his birthday. Yet, who doesn't like a special birthday? So you can imagine what a tough time I have every year trying to plan something that doesn't involve drinking, people or loud music.

This year, inspiration struck. The hidden genius within me awoke from its sleep and came up with a foolproof plan. Now what's the one vice that Sid has? Its his love for food! Ok, you might say its not a vice really. But hello, we are talking about a man who will finish a full meal of 5 rotis with dal and veggies, and then just because someone is offering hot rotis, will proceed to eat 5 more. Yep. Vice.

So my genius plan - A Birthday Food Trail! The 3 days leading up to Sid's birthday on Monday was to be declared the Birthday Gourmet Weekend. The idea was to research restaurants we have never been to, that serve food that Sid would love, and take him there for a surprise meal.

Sounds simple, right? Nah. Sid is a foodie but his true love is Indian food. So Italian, Chinese, Japanese, everything went right out of the window. The deal was to look for places that serve authentic regional Indian cuisine. AND to keep it a secret. Phew.

SATURDAY LUNCH: So the Food Trail started on a Saturday afternoon with lunch at Purepur Kolhapur in Vile Parle. Yes, authentic, fiery Kolhapuri khaana. As usual, the party consisted of me, Sid and our close-as-family friends G&A. And man, were we in for a treat... Sid was gobsmacked. He had never even heard of the place and kept guessing where we were headed. And even after we arrived at the little, inconspicuous eatery, he didn't know what to expect.


We ordered 4 thalis - Chicken Fry, Chicken Dhangari, Mutton Fry and Mutton Masala meals. We also ordered one whole masala fried pomfret on the side. The Chicken and Mutton Fry meals were divine! Spicy with just the right flavour of spices. The Dhanagri masala seemed a bit raw to me. But the coconutty, grainy texture was really nice. If the masala had been cooked/fried a bit more the dish would have really stood out. The pomfret was also excellent. And so were the Tambda and Rassa served with every thali. These palate cleansers were actually so yummy that we all drank up every drop from our bowls. Sid's plate was wiped clean and the smile on his face just could not be wiped :D Needless to say, his Birthday Celebrations had started on a fiery note and he was soooper excited.

SATURDAY DINNER: Next stop was dinner at the newly opened Arsalan in Khar. Now all 4 of us love Bengali food. But Arsalan promised to be different with its Mughlai Bengali touch... I was intrigued and Sid just heard Biryani and went into spasms of joy :D

Arsalan really lived up to its reputation. Light, delicately flavoured Kolkata-style Biryani, the most delicious Rezala and Champ, and pretty decent Kababs and Mutton curry. If you haven't eaten at Arsalan yet, pls do! Though the Biryani may not be what you are used to in Mumbai, it was exactly what we loved about it.

ARSALAN (The cute orange cow in Sid's hand was a gift from G&A)

SUNDAY NIGHT: Now came the big moment! This was the night we would bring in Sid's birthday. So it had to be special, have a great ambience, obviously great food, and some place Sid had never been to. After much research we zeroed in on - Neel at Tote on the Turf. And it was the perfect choice. Sid didn't even know there was a restaurant at the Racecourse and he was thrilled that it served Awadhi food.

This was really one of the highlights of our Birthday Food Trail. Beautiful ambience, great service and very good food. G and I ordered Aloo Panch Phoran for starters (What? We are potato lovers!), Sid & A ordered some Murgh Afghani and Karachi kababs. All starters were served with 2 delicious chutneys.

For the main course we ordered Murgh Baradari Korma and the yummy sweet and sour Seb ki Sabzi. Sid and G of course refused to touch this Kashmiri Apple Curry after one bite - they both hate sweet in their main course... But I polished off the whole dish!

We finished it off with some amazing Angoori Rabdi and Rabdi Ice-cream. At the end of the meal, my only regret was that I couldn't try some more of those intriguing dishes on the menu... Have gotta go back soon!

NEEL at Tote on the Turf

MONDAY DINNER: Now Sid is Punjabi but being born and brought up in Hyderabad, he loves himself some South-Indian yumminess! So of course, the Food Trail had to end with Banana Leaf - a vegetarian South-Indian restaurant chain that has newly opened close to our house.

In spite of it being a weekday, this place was packed when we arrived and we had to wait for 30min for our table. This despite me trying to make a reservation over the phone :( It was noisy as hell and there was complete mayhem everywhere...

But at least the food was worth it all. We started with some unique starters like Kanchipuram Idlis and Coorgi Idlis along with Pepper Rasam for everyone. The Rasam, sadly, was too tomato-ey without any other flavour profile. The idlis were great though... We also ordered Masala Vadas. Lemon Rice, Tamarind Rice, Appam and Veg stew, Idiyappam, Malabar curry and lotsa other stuff! The one thing I really wanted to try - Pulissery, was sadly unavailable :( Of all the dishes the stodgy, thick Idiyappams were an Epic Fail. But the rest of the dishes were pretty good. Luckily, everything that the birthday boy ordered, he loved!

And the meal and the Birthday Food Trail ended with some good ol' filter coffee...

So that was the story of the Grand Birthday celebration! This was such a huge success, and Sid was so occupied with wondering which restaurant I'm taking him to next, that the birthday blues never managed to make an appearance! So I think this will now become an annual affair. And hey, who doesn't need a reason to just go out and try such yummy food at different places every day?! So yaaay!

Before winding up this post, I would like to mention that I wouldn't have been able to zero in on all these wonderful Indian restaurants without food bloggers like Finely Chopped who via his blog and via Twitter makes everyone aware of the best eateries to visit and recommends the best dishes so that you and I can have a fail-proof meal :)

Aaaand.... If my happening, exciting life lets me, I will blog more. Now if only I could drag myself away from all those TV series I'm addicted to... Sigh!