In terms of eating and exploring stories around food, this has been a relatively weak year. But the weekend which just went by, I think I did some justice to what I truly believe in, and enjoy doing.
It all started with the Taste of Mumbai festival, which was held at the Grant and Wilson Gymkhana Grounds from 22nd to 24th Mar, 2013. Taste festivals are organized globally across major cities with a promise to offer world-class cuisine, demos, interactions with leading Chefs and other events.
I attended the festival on a (really) hot Saturday afternoon. I was initially lost observing the details of the venue (minus the Taste festivities) as after my reading of Ramchandra Guha’s Corner of the Foreign Field, I have started looking at these Gymkhana grounds in a special way. Although the thoughts of the Palwankar Brothers and origins of Cricket in Mumbai quickly faded out soon as I set my sight on some amazing food.
My favorite set of dishes came from the Caperberry stall. Caperberry is a Bangalore based restaurant which is introducing the concepts of molecular gastronomy in India. It is just not a simple extension of the famous El Bulli school of cooking, but rather an experiment with Indian flavors contributing significantly to it.
At the festival they served Assorted Spherifications, Cauliflower Espuma, and Stuffed Morel.
I have been waiting for the spherifications to burst in my mouth ever since I read about El Bulli and the concepts of Molecular Gastronomy. These forms and textures just hit with you a pleasant surprise. I loved the Mango-Feta one with a hint of Ginger, although it seems the public opinion was vastly in favour of the Pani Puri one. When you are having something like this your taste-buds wait with a certain expectation, but the surprise hits you hard, in a delightful way. The Cauliflower Espuma had quite easily the best flavours of the afternoon for me. Cauliflower subjected to a series of Nitrogen induced experiments (or what is popularly called Cryo-Cooking) was a delight to consume.
It was great to have a chat with Chef Abhijeet, the man behind these delightful creations. We had a chat on the different viewpoints about Molecular Gastronomy, with a significant lobby of Chef being not in favor of such techniques, as you play around with natural forms. Chef’s simple reply to the argument was, “ In order to be different and successful, you sometimes need to face a bit of criticism”. As the taste of the Mozzarella Sphere lingered in my mouth, I couldn’t agree more.
I got to taste a few more interesting dishes as the afternoon progressed (check the entire set here). Somehow I had a strong craving for Prawns and I loved the Garlic Prawns from Arola and the Aglio Olio from Westin Prego. Kofuku is one place is on my hit-list as I got a Wasabi-attack after a long time from a Sushi place. Will be visited soon for some Sushi.
There were cooking demos, book launches, and some drinking happening on the sides. I had some good cocktails at the Mai Tai lounge and some fennel flavored beer. In between everything I finally caught up with Sneh and Aditi and tasted some of their amazing breads from The Baker’s Dozen. Do try them out if you happen to visit Prabhadevi.
It was a great event but the name is slightly misleading. As I was chatting with someone the other day, calling it the Taste of Mumbai with no Malwani Seafood, Gujarati Snacky food, or Matunga Idlis is not that correct. Nothing against the festival though, hope they keep doing it every year.
By the end of it I was a bit tired with the heat, but a discussion on the Orange South American Chocolate Fountain tasting like Orange Cream Biscuits we had as kids, and the journey ahead kept me alive.
Disclosure: The organizers of Taste of Mumbai festival covered all the expenses associated with the food tastings mentioned above. For more details refer my disclosure page.
Post the festival I roamed around the Hindu Gymkhana looking at the Cricket match for sometime. Thoughts of Palwankar Brothers were again interrupted by a call my friend Harsh (my partner in Crime). He had been talking so much about this Baklava place at Bhindi Bazaar (which he had tried looking for a week back, rather unsuccessfully), that we felt like we should try once. Rushina had a written a detailed post on this two years back. Given that Harsh is generally so excited about sweets (read his recent post on Baklava and its sister concerns) our journey through the cramped roads of Bhindi Bazaar felt as if it was just a short walk.
I could see the tinkle in his eyes when we were about to reach the store. even my tiredness was all gone when I sensed his energy and quickly moved pass the heavily fragrant attar shops.
We reached the Sweets Palace but unfortunately couldn’t catch-up with the owner, Hasan Bhai. The Baklava was very different from the ones I have had (very high proportion of the filling to pastry), and the Louse Pista was fascinating. Regret not buying the Louse.
After the long tiring day we celebrated the Baklava achievement with a peaceful evening at Tea Centre. I had been to the Tea Centre after almost two years, a long time to stay away from a place I have liked so much in the past.
Looking forward to more such weekends. Hope I keep exploring Mumbai with the same rigour in the days to come.