Thursday, October 17, 2019

First timers guide to Ziro Music Festival


One fine day, while browsing through Instagram, I saw a sponsored ad about the Ziro music festival. And in less than a month from that click bait, I found myself travelling for the very first time to North east of India, for my very first camping trip, the very first time I was carrying a back pack, and the very first time I was attending stay on site Music festival.



Ziro, is a village in the valleys of Arunachal Pradesh . To get there one must reach Guwahati, then take an overnight train to Nagarlagun ( train leaves Guwahati at 9 pm and reaches Nagarlagun at around 5 am) and then a 5-6 hour journey along bumpy winding roads through hills and valleys, until you see fields of golden rice fields ready for harvesting.


Bumpy roads, picturesque views . Nagalagun to Ziro

The very first glimpse of Ziro; breathtaking.

The Music festival itself is an open air music festival, with a day stage and a night stage. The day stage begins at 2 in the afternoon, but you have local talents who perform through the morning from 11 am onwards. The night stage begins at 6 pm and goes on till around 10 pm or slightly later.
Once you reach Ziro , you have three stay options of stay . Hotels, of which I noticed the Ziro Palace Inn was the closest , situated a mere 4 minutes from the festival venue. The second is homestays, of which there are few but I met some fun , feisty and enterprising young Arunachali girls and boys, who I hope can change the Homestay scene in years to come. And the third, most popular stay option is camping. In camping too, you can choose to pitch your own tent, the PYOT area is again 5 minutes from the festival venue, you can watch the stage from your tent ! or for newbies like me, you can opt for pre organised camping experience . ours was called Experience destination.
Life is nothing if not a series of adventures.


The first timers guide to backpacking.
Soon after I booked our trip to Ziro, i realised I had never packed a back pack before. I read a lot of blogs on how to pack a back pack, what to pack for a camping trip , how to hoist a backpack on your back, and how to take off a backpack without injuring yourself. I  decided to do some back strengthening exercises for added measure, I mean to carry all that weight on your shoulders ! 
So here's what I learnt . 
1. Along with back exercises, do some core strengthening workout.
2. This particular blog was very helpful on how to pack a back so as to have the centre of gravity right in the centre of the backpack. CLICK HERE
and can I add my two camping essentials - a battery charged power bank , and micellar water ( i didnt need to wash my face for 7 days. micellar water has micelles suspended in soft water, and removes dust, grime, makeup, and keeps skin 90 % hydrated without any facewash or rinsing! save water guys, also if its good enough for the french it's good for you. It doesnt cost much google it)
3. Having been to Ziro, i can attest, carrying a backpack is not a hundred percent necessary. You aren’t really required to hike with your backpack. The journey is from Guwahati airport to Guwahati railway station, then a train journey, then a car journey, and the car drops you almost to your campsite. The walk would be a mere 5 minutes to your tent. and then the bag stays in the tent up until you leave. if you are ok hauling a small suitcase and a small carry bag, for 5-10 min you should be fine . Infact some people were carrying suitcases which were smaller than our backpacks ! 


First timers guide to staying in a tent.
My first thought s when I entered my tent was - Boy am I glad I don't suffer from claustrophobia ! Ours was what is called a three man tent, but there is NO WAY three grown men would be able to be comfortable in there. And in the tent were our backpacks and, as the clothes and other paraphernalia started to unravel, the place got smaller. Here's what I learnt from my first tent experience.
1. It gets fairly dark in a tent. Carry a torch, or better still, carry the battery operated lamp for 360 degree lighting unlike a torch which gives light only in one direction. For more charm carry battery operated string of lights to hang inside your tent. ( especially if you plan to spend quality time in your tent) We just came came to sleep in our tents in the wee hours of the morning, not having cozy cute tents meant we spend more time hanging around the common area and made more friends. 
2. I wouldn't call myself particularly queemish , but , the fact that my backpack had been lying on the floor of the train, under a sleeper class bunker during the journey, and now lay inches away from my face - had me tossing in my sleep. There is no way out of it, your backpack , your muddied shoes , all of it will be within a space smaller than a queen size bed, and shall be shared by another person and their belongings. So, I highly recommend carrying a foldable waterproof shoe bag, in which you can pack up your shoes and keep outside the tent ! Beware of leeches and such, so see that the shoe bag ( even a dustbin bag works ) is closed tightly. For the backpack too you can cover with a sheet, to cordon off the area you sleep from the area that has your belongings. Having all of it hidden behind a clean sheet will make the tent look bigger too. Here's another suggestion - carry a one man tent, which is a really small tent, pitch it near your tent and put ALL your belongings in there ! 
3. Keep your tent dry at all times ! it really rains a lot at Ziro during the music festival time. having foliage or undergrowth around our tent kept the ground really dry around our tent ( unlike other campsites) something like pine needles and bamboo don’t absorb water and keep the area really dry , apparently it’s because they are are taxonomically grass , was what one of the veteran campers explained). Just lay down some foliage around your tent. 

acting all boss babe outside our tent, when in actual, I really dont think I can repeat this 'once in a life time experience'.

First timers guide to Ziro.
The neighbouring villages and town is a treat to walk around. 
We went on a Village walk and it was the most magical day. 
We walked through golden paddy fields, fringed with dark green pines , topped with purple hills in the background and a sky which was a pantone cerulean. And it was all around, 360 degrees , no picture can do it justice, not even Panoramas. And then it started to drizzle, and the clouds came down. Stunningly beautiful ! 
We went to the home of an Apatani tribal woman. I think my happy vibes rubbed off on her and she wanted me to sing with her. We sang Lucky Ali's Oh Sanam , since Lucky Ali would be performing later that evening at the Music festival. 
Don’t forget to visit the weekly market, which happens only on a Saturday , where vendors from neighboring villages come set shop for a day. 
They also have fishing in paddy fields tours but I didn't want to need to have a bath, so avoided that. Also bicycle rides and ATB rides from town . 
They have some beautiful view points and even a lake with Boating nearby. 
The walk through the fields in the rain is surreal

Simple , but so hospitable. The Apatani village woman even gifted me a pumpkin as a gift.

a slight 6 km detour, took us to the lovely sico lake.

Boating at Sico lake.



First timers Guide to Ziro Music Fest
So, there were two things on my mind – What do I wear ? and What do I get to eat ?
So, every one will insist on gum boots, because the rains get fairly mucky (We even made up a muck grading system from 1 t0 10, humour helps when you are slipping and sliding through water logged mud ). So, boots. The most comfortable ones were the Decathlon ones , is what I found out from all ziro goers. I ofcourse spray painted mine , and then stuck stickers on them for added measure. The paint didn’t dry completely, so I stuck some of the foliage from around my tent aswell. You can buy boots at the town near Ziro as well, or an Amazon ( as I did ) but, decathlon ones were the best, according to everyone.
Because the boots keep your feet cozy, you can easily wear shorts /skirts , without feeling cold. Carry a shrug/ jacket for later in the evening.
Here I’d like to add a word about the locals – who are absolute fashionistas. They would beat any Instagramming fashion blogger hollow with their sense of style. Think neon pants with Aubergine crossbacks with matching hair, or Maroon sundress with tan coloured boots, even the girl at the help desk wore a white faux fur lined jacket, and olive green pants. These girls were dancing and jumping heels! Such an inspiration.
Boys, get a nice jacket, a colourful muffler (both to wear and to share ), glow in the dark tees with funky messages (always conversation starters).

We went shopping at the local village market, and bought a local shrug, and kajal. 

Now, the food . First timers guide to eating snails, silkworms, frogs and grasshoppers.
First off, let me tell you, that I am all about bio diversity and conservation of nature, I wear Ahimsa saris which are silk saris made with cultured silkworms treated humanely. And, I would never have frogs in Goa (where it is endangered and Government protected, I have tons of posts on NOT eating Jumping chicken in Goa !), but, when in the North East , do as the North East. Let’s start with snails, escargot is fairly popular the world round, we had the ones freshly caught from the paddy fields, by our own campers, so major foraging points there, also talk about farm to table ! They taste a lot like Tisryo, the mussels I had for the first time in Goa, bit chewy. Next up, silkworms, they were my favourite, they taste like the yolks of hard boiled eggs, not the over boiled crumbly variety, but the really nice flavourful , creamy and yet firm egg yolks. Delish! Frogs then, umm, the variety we had were fried to a crisp, and they honestly tasted like nothing, but texturally were just like potato chips, they should have just sprinkled them with some sour cream and onion flavouring, or even chaat masala. Grasshoppers, and what a joy these were. We were actually asked if we wanted to eat them live! Hilarious! Nervous laughs all around, but what’s life without a little adventure. So, while most of the grasshoppers were deep fried, sprinkled with chatpata masala, and served with a side of an amazing smashed green chilli chutney , some of the grasshoppers were tried while they could still move. As the locals explained, they were not actually fully alive, because it’s not like they could hop off your plate, but they moved their legs around. It sounds like something out of fear factor, it felt like something out of fear factor. I had it, and I couldn’t get myself to chew fast enough, so that I don’t feel moving legs in my mouth.
Ah, moving on. Yes, there is normal food for the less adventurous. There was even a Korean food counter – Mahsitssoya, Khamsamida ! I practiced my Hangul. The roadside stalls and multiple restaurants along the path from camp to festival grounds were a treat aswell.
Apong; the fermented rice wine, served in hollowed bamboo glasses. We had so many, it was almosta water substitute.

sun dried and fried frogs.

nothing like paratha and pickle in the hills. campsite food was excellent . experience destination

BBQ pork, served witha a side of Apong


live and fried grasshoppers

silkworms

chole bhature , campsite food .

lots and lots of momos

snails


First timers guide to leaving your kid at home.
Up until now, I have always been a mom travel blogger, I travel everywhere with my kid. I believe, every place is child-friendly, they may not be parent friendly! As in, it’s fun for kids everywhere, but it’s us parents who can’t handle kids in certain dangerous places. So, here’s what I did to assuage my mom guilt. I left 7 surprise gifts for him, for the 7 days I wouldn’t be there. Simple gifts, from tiffin snacks, to things he could share with his friends. He also enjoyed painting and decorating my boots, and was very proud when I sent him pictures of me wearing the boots. Also, I tried to take videos which I thought he would enjoy, like camping tent ( thankyou peppa pig), hot air balloon, wriggly worms etc, and sent them whenever there was internet. Do not promise that you will call at a particular time, network is patchy, and you don’t want to break a promise you made. When I returned, his first words when he saw me were “ Mama I got Boo Boo ( hurt ) and showed me the scratch on his feet. “ , I replied with “ mama got Boo Boo too” and showed him my blisters and leech marks on my feet. That thrilled him to bits , if you have boys, they will LOVE it! For the next three days he put bandaid on every blister and leech mark. He never once complained about me not being there. Kids, they really are troopers. So, mama, don’t feel guilty for having the time of your life.


the famous yellow boots. Someone actually asked me if they were Thanos' boots. Infinity boots ?


Now, for the last bit- the MUSIC.
I know you are thinking, 2000 words in, she is writing about a music festival, and no word on the music. It’s because I  wanted to keep the best for the last. I think, the one thing that most influenced me about ziro was that I came back with a whole new playlist of songs I listen to now. There was music everywhere, and all the time. Eclectic bands playing everything from Classical Indian, to indigenious musical instrumentals, to psychedelic trance, to genres I had never heard before, bands from Japan , Korea and Lithuania, and then you had the campers having impromptu gigs into the wee hours of the morning, and then mornings when campers would plug in their playlist on the speakers. May be I was in a particularly receptive state, but the universe seemed to speak to me through the music during this trip. And that’s my one tip, keep an open mind. Listen to every genre. I went back and googled most of the artists, and now follow many of their music on spotify, and we are even dancing for a wedding sangeet to one of the Indie bands I heard at the festival. It completely depends on you, how much you take from an experience, just like in life. I was impressed by all the musicians who sang and played their own musical instruments at the camp, so if you do, carry your harmonica, guitar, mandolin.

Party like the locals !


Seeing my increased interest  in Music, my Instagram algorithm suggested I buy a Kalimba, an African musical instrument. Instagram , had suggested I go for Ziro music festival, I think that was a good suggestion, so I went ahead and bought a Kalimba. It’s on its way!
if you wish to read more ( and there's a lot more  - find my hashtag on insta #foodietrailstonortheast )

Saturday, September 21, 2019

How to write about unfamiliar cuisine : Let's write about food


Writing about unfamiliar cuisine : Let’s write about food

In December of 2017, I started a series of posts on food writing for Indian food writers with the hashtag #indianfoodwriting.


I am bringing the theme of food writing back on my blog with this post on writing about unfamiliar cuisine, with insider tips from some of India’s favourite food bloggers.

The Indian food sceneriao in the last couple of years has undergone a slight paradigm shift. We have started exploring a lot of indigenious Indian cuisines, regional cuisines are making a bang with their pop-ups. The other fact is that we are exploring exotic international cuisine, and it is no more clubbed into the broad categories of Continenetal and Chinese, but now we have Italian recipes based on region like Tuscany and Campania, and exotic cuisine like Israeli or Argentinian cuisine.

As food bloggers, we are some of the first to try these cuisines, when a restaurant decides to showcase a new cuisine. A lot of recipe food bloggers are exploring foreign recipes on their blogs. Many food and travel bloggers introduce new and unique dishes to their readers from their travels. So, what are the points to remember when trying unfamiliar cuisine for the first time, and how to write about unfamiliar cuisine?

I asked a few of my foodie friends and this is what we came up with.
Scroll down to the end for easy pointers, for those who don’t like to read too much text. Continue reading for the unabridged version

First, do not tell the chef, or Home chef serving the dish that ‘This is too spicy/sour/sweet.’ Remember, they are the expert in that cuisine, and maybe the dish is supposed to taste that way. You may say ‘ it is too spicy for my taste’, but the first tip I would like to share is –be appreciative of the cuisine, and that way the chef will be more inclined to share more about the cuisine.

Some dishes taste better in their unique combinations, like Thai green curry with Jasmine rice, can you have it with bread/roti/ friedrice? Sure, you can, but when trying an unfamiliar cuisine for the first time, try and have it in the most authentic, old school way it was meant to be had, to get the complete experience of the combination. Disha Khurana from @aperfectfusion shares her process when attending food tastings “ Say you are attendng a Russian food tasting, your key search words on google or Pinterest would be Russian recipes, Russian desserts, and even major produce that grows in Russia too, as most age old recipes are a result of the produce that is available. These help me form a few questions for the chef before hand.”

I remember the first time I went to Rajasthan and tried Dal Batti Churma, I broke pieces of the batti and dipped it in the dal, then ate a bite of the churma. That brings me to the next point that , some dishes have unique ways of enjoying them, like the bati or the ball dough is supposed to be crushed and mixed with the dal. So, don’t feel embarrassed to either ask other diners, or even the wait staff on how to best eat it. From experience, I have seen that the wait staff are hesitant to point out these to a guest. In foreign countries it could be because of the language barrier, and in India too, if you ask the wait staff their standard answer is,“ You can have it anyway you like.” That is not all that helpful is it?

On our trip to Rome, I youtubed the best way to eat pasta, even though India has a lot of Italian restaurants, but is there a particular way to have pasta, twirl it on a fork perhaps, and what is the best way to enjoy Pizzas ? Watching Italians eat Pasta became my favourite travel past time.
So, if you are writing about a particular food, try and find out what is the best combination to have it with, and any unique way to enjoy it.

Food and travel blogger Roxanne Bamboat of @thetinytaster shares “  Research as well as my own experiences play a role in my food writing. If I have been to said country/region before, then I draw a lot from it. Also If I am not sure about something, I make that clear in my writing. I don’t have much faith in Wikipedia, but I trust talking to chefs and other people whose taste I trust.”

When restaurants have tastings for unique food cuisines, many tend to serve it in a thali format, that allows multiple dishes to be savoured, and also the visual appeal of seeing a whole gamut of colours and flavours in one plate, is very instagram friendly and satisfying to the senses. What is nice to remember is that there is generally a sequence to tasting these dishes, just like coursed meals in international cuisine. For example in Bengali cuisine of Durga pujo Bhog,  the tart date and tomato chutney is had after the main course and before the dessert of payesh  , and acts as a palate cleanser. You can have it at the beginning, but the right sequence of eating a meal, helps the food tell its own unique story. And this is something you want to experience first hand to share with your readers later.

If you are travelling to a new place whether within India or outside of India, as food and travel bloggers, visiting the local markets add a fascinating dimension to your food experience in a foreign land. From spices to vegetables, there are many interesting food stories to unravel and share with your readers.

Delving into an unfamiliar ingredient or spice, can help you write about a particular cuisine better. Be it the different fermented foods of Korea, or the different olive oils of Italy.
Purabi Naha, who shares international food recipes on her blog www.cosmopolitancurrymania.com , and also is an avid traveller shares  “ I gather information from google, old newspaper articles, facebook threads, also watch IGTV and youtube recipe videos. Sometimes I go the extra mile to speak to home-cooks whenever I visit a foreign land. Strangers share the recipe secrets with me happily.”

While ordering at a restaurant serving unfamiliar cuisine, here is what I do. Take a quick look around at the most popular dish ordered at the place, in an Italian restaurant it was this red and white dish, which we came to know was the house special Gnocchi. And while gnocchi has never been my favourite Italian dish, I was glad we ordered it that day. The second tip is to do a quick search of Trip advisor/instagram tags of that place, and see what people have previously eaten there. Look for the asterisk of ‘chefs special’ on the menu itself. While I wait for my meal, I always do a quick read on Wikipedia about the dish, like I did when I first ate Bibimbap. Things like how to mix the dish, any particular order of eating it, what are the best condiments to eat it with.

Many foodies prefer to be surprised by the experience. They love to try a cuisine without any previous pre conceived notions. They let their own tastebuds guide them .  Jade from @thatgoangirl shares “I usually don’t write about a new cuisine, or talk to the chef if it’s the first time I’m trying it. I try and make sense of the flavours , and find words to describe them myself. And then I watch videos, or do a little research on the ingredients, so that the next time I try it, I am a little more familiar. I try not to talk to anyone, because I’m an introvert. If I am writing about the second time I am tasting a cuisine, I mention about the first time I tried the cuisine in my article.”

Sometimes you come across a cuisine which is very similar to Indian cuisine, for me that was Mexican cuisine. The first time I had a burrito, I exclaimed this is just like rajma rice, wrapped in a roti! And that’s exactly what I wrote. Enchiladas were like Indian Gujiyas , and my Dominican republic blog post is all about how similar cuisines from half way across the world are to us. Making unfamiliar cuisine more acceptable and familiar for our readers, is part of a food bloggers job, so drawing on similarities between different regional dishes, or even international dishes is a way to entice your readers to try something new.Vernika Awal from www.delectablereveries.com shares “ I make sure to study before a meal… what fascinates me is how in India we all use some similar basic spices in all kitchens and come up with different flavours based on the geography.”

The last point is, about bringing your own identity and life experiences into play while writing about foreign cuisine.  How a Native Australian will write about Australian cuisine, will be very different from a first generation immigrant to Australia, and also from a tourist visiting Australia for the first time. Stay authentic to your palate, because many of your readers , follow you for your take on the food, and not necessarily for a Wikipedia narration of your experience. Mudra Keswani from www.thesuperchatori.com shares “Bhopal being a small city .. it was extremely difficult to learn new things, it’s when I was doing my trainingwith Marriott that I learnt from people in the food industry. Doing the food tastings, and the chefs explaining the dishes to me was valuable experience.I hosted 8-9 chinese food festivals and learnt that the cuisine is huge in itself, for example Cantonese is very different from Sichuan."

Now, a bonus point. When writing about a foreign cuisine, try and pepper your writing with words and phrases from that language. What is the word for spicy in Malyalam? What is the word for cheesy in Italian? Is there a particular word to describe good Kimchi in Korean ? don’t be afraid to use words like ‘chatpata’ , and ‘masaaledar’ in your Indian writing. In Bengali the pungent flavours of Mustard, that seem to rise like heat  and come out as steam from your ears and your nostrils , is called ‘jhaanj’ . and if all else fails, do not forget to show your appreciation to the chef as well as in your writing, by using the word for delicious in the local language, badhiya hai in UP, to wadiya hai in Punjab, chaan aahe in Maharashtra , to bareh asa in Konkani , to ‘mah sit ssoyo’ in Korean .
As promised here are some pointers.
1.       Don’t be judgemental of the cuisine, go with an open mind.
2.       Read up about the basics of the cuisine, the major industries and food ingredients of the cuisine, a simple google search or even looking at pictures on pinterest or instagram will help you to anticipate what the food will look like, and take better pictures, write better.
3.       If visiting a new place, try and visit the local market, or even supermarkets.
4.       Don’t be embarrassed to ask question. To the chef, to your foodie friends who have tried the cuisine before, or even talking to locals .

5.       Read blogs, see youtube videos , after you have tried the cuisine, or visited a place, or before writing your own recipe, to see what has already been said.
6.       How is the food eaten, what is the best food pairings with it, are there any cultural or traditional customs to the meal/food, any interesting trivia about how the dish was first created. Anything to make the cuisine come alive for your readers.

7.       Use simple, familiar words to describe your experience. Many of your readers /watchers may never have tried the cuisine too, so make it a little more familiar for them.
8.       Stay true to your own palate, if it is not something you would have again, or if it is something which is too slimy, gamy, smelly for you, share your experience, because most of your followers want to know your authentic experience, but never diss a cuisine. Remember to be respectful of the place and people serving you.

9.       If you are attending a restaurant tasting, or writing a recipe, but have visited the place before, or have tried the cuisine before, draw on your previous experiences to make your writing more layered.
10.   Use local words. Unfamiliar words paired with unfamiliar cuisine, adds to the exotic feel of your writing. Also being able to say delicious in the local language will earn you brownie points from the people who served you.

Hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. Do like, share and comment. And feel free to read the other food writing posts under #indianfoodwriting. Lets write about food !



Sunday, April 14, 2019

Summer Holiday in Kenilworth Goa




Summer vacations in Goa is a fantastic way to spend some quality time together as a family. as a mom and travel blogger, I get a lot of requests for suggestions for places to stay in Goa.
The reason why I recommend Kenilworth resort and spa in South Goa are plenty .

first off, it is a beach side property. in the summer heat, you dont want to be travelling long distances to get to the beach, and also even a half an hour at the beach in mid morning is enough , having a beach side property allows you to go to the beach multiple times in the day. a morning walk, and then mid morning water frolic, a sunset picnic.

The beach near Kenilworth is a 'live beach'where you can sea real sea creatures. because of the uneven sand at the beach, pockets of sea water form litlle beach ponds, and we were able to see small live fishes, moving starfishes and crabs and even wriggling sea shells . all of which was very fascinating for my son.

The next must have at a summer vacation destination is a swimming pool. the swimming pool at Kenilworth is the second largest in the state, it has a water slide as well! and plunge pool bar where we enjoyed colourful drinks.
we loved that the pool is near the kids outdoor play park. and between swims, he could get up and go and plaay in the sand pit, or play on the swings and slides. Even though the property is very extensive , the fact that all the leisure activities are well clubbed together was a boon for a parent.













Another thing that I look for in a summer vacation destination is indoor play area. Goan summers can be extremely trying, and i loved the kids play room at Kenilworth. with so many books, toys and activities to choose from my son had a great time there. they have a baby sitter there as well, so if you wish you can leave your child there as well. i was pretty engrossed in putting together a puzzle at the kids area myself, and loved just hanging out and being a child with my son.




Dining Options are an important criteria while choosing a summer vacation in Goa. while we love to explore the state of Goa, during summers I realise that the heat can be too much, and more often you might find yourself dining at the inhouse restaurants in the resort itself.
Kenilworth has a number of dining options. The 24 hour coffee shop, they even have a poolside dining making it convenient to sip and dip, also they have an award winning italian restaurant called Salute, named after the Italian word for cheers.
This place does fabulous Pizzas, and every kid loves that, we had the 4 flavoured pizza , which made it really convenient to try various flavours, also it suits kids as well, since they may want multiple different toppings. we started of with a basket of bread , and grilled fish for my son, and we indulged in wines and proscitto . I know the picture quality on the meals is not great, but that's a fault of the lighting and you just have to take my word for it when i say, it is one of the more authentic Italian dining experiences in Goa, and the meats and produce is really top quality here.
Chef Davide was cheerful and hospitable, and delightful with my son. they got along like a house on fire, and chef Davide shared his vision of making Salute an easy dining experience loved by people of all ages, especially kids.


Chef Davide of Salute, Italian dining restaurant at Kenilworth resort and spa , Goa

One of the highlights of summer vacations is getting up late in mornings, and while they have a breakfast served till late at the dining room, i loved getting the kids specials right to our rooms. This picture of breakfast in bed with dad and son sleeping, is one of my favourites. its in contrast to all the other lifestyle bloggers who post #breakfastinbed, and how it changes once you have kids.
Kenilworth has a new wing of rooms, and these rooms have especially great views from the rooms. the balconies are well appinted with a view of the sea, and honestly , you could spend all morning just having breakfast in your room.


Not only did we have breakfast in bed, but we also stayed in the air conditioned luxury of our rooms, binge watched TV and ordered room service for lunch. The fish and chips was extremely well done, and we had goan fish curry rice, papad and salad to make it a fun family meal for three while we watched movies on TV.
Spending a lazy afternoon indoors, is what my idea of a great sunday summer vacation is. vacations can be tiring for parents, with kids on high energy and i always feel I need a vactaion , after my son's vacations are over.
I appreciate that at Kenilworth, there are multiple entertainment options for kids, an outdoor chess area, cycling , archery , swimming, they even have a dance floor... and not needing to step out of the comfort of the resort is a huge plus while choosing a place to stay.

room service that is prompt, delicious and served in style  at Kenilworth resort and spa


windows that overlook the sea and gardens
attention to detail. check out the crab towel art.


another fun summer time indoor activity is making bubble baths, no not for romantic or even leisurely soaks. bubble baths are super fun for kids, and you can make bubble snowmen, or even bubble castles or just have a splashing good time in the room itself . and the best part, mommy doesnt need to clean up afterwards (thankyou housekeeping) 




our stay was made extra special and comfortable by Suman from the front desk office.


breakfasts are equal parts healthy and sinful. breakfast donuts , smoothie bowls , fruits and fruit juices.

want to pack up a beach side picnic to watch the sunset ? kenilworth does it in style

summer vacations are not just a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with your child, but also with your spouse. with a luxurious inhouse Spa option, at Kenilworth, you can opt for foot massages by the pool, and keep one eye on your children as they enjoy the play ground and swimming pool. both of which we were able to watch over , even as we enjoyed some we time.

Thankyou for joining us on a virtual tour of our holiday. top reasons to recommend Kenilworth for a summer vacation in Goa ; proximity to beach, indoor play area, large swimming pool with water slide, outdoor play ground, outdoor activities like cycling and archery and cricket on the sprawling gardens, wonderful hospitality, lots of eating options. you literally dont need to step out to experience all the things of a perfect beach holiday.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas Cake memories and a simple recipe


For the longest time , I didn’t associate the traditional Christmas cake with a Christian celebration, but an Armed Forces celebration. Part of it was because I grew up as an Army kid, travelling around the country, as my father got posted from Delhi to Punjab, to Maharashtra. And no matter what part of the country we were, we would always have Christmas cake. It all begins during Diwali. Again, I am not sure if it’s an Armed Forces tradition, or just a North Indian tradition (because I don’t see much of it now that I live in Maharashtra and Goa ), but people loved gifting boxes of dry fruits along with an equally large box of fire crackers. The fire crackers were sent back, since we didn’t burst them , green Diwali and all, the pistas were devoured even before the wrapping came of the other dry fruits. An Army Diwali  means not just one box of dry fruits, or two, but entire regiments and battalions of dry fruit boxes. And so at Diwali, my mother would get all the left over dry fruits chopped, and soak them in Rum and Brandy bought from the Army Canteen. So you see, the two main ingredients of baking a Christmas cake; rum and dry fruits were present in abundance in almost every Armed Forces home. Also the entire chopping of what seemed kilos of dry fruits needed an army of workers, again something which was a privilege we enjoyed in the defence colonies. It’s easy to see, why I thought Christmas cakes was something of an Army/Navy /Airforce tradition rather than belonging to a religious celebration.
In the Armed forces, people of different region and religion , all seem to be mixed and moved around the country like a bag of pot -pourri, and all that you have in the end is a fairly homogenous group of odds and ends. And so here we were, Bengali hindu Brahmins, baking the most fragrant and indulgent Christmas cake, a recipe my mum learnt from another Armed Forces wife.
Cut to now, and it’s been over 15 years since my father left the Army, and yet , year after year, Ma makes  5 , sometimes 6 batches of Christmas cake, the prep for which begins at Diwali, and the cakes begin baking by first week of December all the way to mid January, depending on who needs to be gifted the cakes.
Even after baking them, the cakes are carefully wrapped in silver foil to keep the aromas in, and lovingly watered with rum every few days. There is a Bengali word they use for it ‘cake Moje jabe’ , I guess it means the cake will mature, or marinate in its juices. And in the last 16 years that I have been out of home ( I left home at 18 to stay in the medical college hostel, and then various hostels across the country , Goa and Madurai) but I have always received my Christmas cake , wrapped in silver foil and a red ribbon.
This year too, one of my mother’s patients who live in the UK, but come visiting their home in Goa every year, decided to fly down to Pune ,  to show their daughter to my Ma, who is a paediatrician in Pune. And Ma handed over my Christmas cake to her, to deliver it to me in Goa. Didn’t I tell you, this cake has travelled to places. Its travelled to Kolkata, and Dhanbad, and places overseas like Dubai, Mauritius , Canada, wherever her friends and family are.
The Christmas cake recipe, however , I have never tried making myself. It’s like Santa; we never told our parents, we knew they were Santa, because that would just take the magic out of it. If I start making my own cake, Ma might stop sending me hers, and part of the magic of Christmas is the gift of Giving, I don’t want to take that gift away from her!  However , I do make Christmas cake pops from ma’s Christmas cake.
 The cake, unlike the store bought Christmas cakes, is thrice as studded with dryfruits than an average cake. So as one goes to slice a piece, the knife invariably hits a candied orange, veers off track, then hits a walnut and then skids off another route, until you end up with a craggy piece of cake and lots of crumbly cake bits.
Now here is a short and simple recipe for Christmas cake pops.
Crumble Christmas cake, or gather all the crumbly bits together and make little balls of them, add a little condensed milk/honey to bind if needed.
Melt dark chcoclate, add a little butter for gloss, add cinnamon powder , nutmeg powder and ginger powder to the chocolate mix. And what I love to add is oil based orange essence, and a few candied oranges . the smells and flavours of Christmas cake should reflect in your chocolate coating. I melt my chocolate in the microwave, going 20 seconds bursts until melted, but you can do it over a double boiler.
Now drizzle the chocolate over the cake balls, or if you are feeling fairly dangerous, you can stick a lollypop stick in the cake pops and roll it in melted chocolate. But I warn you the christamas cake is more dense and heavy than an average cake pop, and you’ll only drop it in the melted chcoclate.
These cake pops would have been the revamped version of rum balls I presume. But funny thing, while we were allowed to have Christmas cake matured in rum , we weren’t allowed to have Rumballs as a kid!
Recipe also of candied Orange peel.
Peel oranges,sundry the peels for a few days. In a pan take ½ a cup water, bring to boil, add ½ cup sugar, add the diced dried orange peels. Simmer till sugar syrup evaporates. Keep in an airtight container.



Sunday, December 9, 2018

How to plan a beach picnic in Goa


It was our five year wedding anniversary , and living in Goa, i wanted to do something special .
while many opt for a destination wedding in Goa, living in Goa, meant we had a chance at a 'destination' ever afte beach picnic, is a great idea in Goa, especially given the fabulous weather from November to February. 
Given that I am a planner and list maker, planning a beach picnic, was not the mere task of packing a basket and headingout the door. 
here is my checklist of things to consider while planning a beach picnic.





first: I decided to check on how the world of instagram was planning their picnics, and so i did a quick hashtag search of #beachpicnic and #picniconthebeach. you can even pinterest your way around this one, or even google up some images. 

Second , decide which beach , both sandy and Rocky beaches work well , but choose one which is not over crowded. Beaches like Calangute and Baga can get super crowded, and you dont want a sea of gawkers, while ypou attempt a romantic-ish beach picnic. choose from Morjim and upwards, or Uttorda and betalbatim southwards.

Choose time of day, it depends on the tide. Choose a receding tide time, you don’t want to have waves wash away your picnic ! a quick word with the lifeguard or the shack owner at the beach will give you an idea if the tide is receeding or rising.
I prefer one hour before sunset. The golden hour prior to sunset is perfect for a high tea picnic. Also as the lights dim, you can place tea lights or candles in jars, or put torches into the sand for an extended picnic. but if you want an afternoon , mid day picnic, try and carry an umbrella, or pay a price and get one from the beach shacks, though they can be very huffy about it. buy a few drinks from them and they might agree. 



Get lots of towels and blankets, not just the one to lay down, but enough to wipe yourself after. The sand gets everywhere. 

Get lots of beach bags. No plastic bags please! They look ghastly! But you need bags for the food drinks, to keep beach ball n play things, n cutlery n food.Try wicker baskets, or large beach bags which you can fold around the edges to make baskets ( like i did).


The wind can make the beach mat fly, so find weights at each end. Think pineapples or coconut shells or beach rocks as weights. or even buckets filled with sand and a candle lit within it. try the battery operated candles, the wind cant blow those off.


Next is the food, think mini sandwiches, mini burgers, cookies, everything finger food. Nothing too fancy and needs cutlery. nothing which make your hand dirty either. i quite like the idea of keema biryani, or something else which tastes good even if not piping hot. 


bespoke, personalised desserts with our names on it, a cheese cake, a fruit tart and brownies, all with our nicknames. personalised luxury at Kenilworth Resort and Spa , Goa


Add a snack, main course and a dessert . Three courses add excitement . it can be a simple case of tea with biscuits, followed by a light sandwich, followed by donuts . the surprise element as different courses come out of the beach bags is great. i know some people like to barbeque atthe beach, but honestly, some beaches dont allow it, it can be difficult to put up, and the food takes longer to cook. 


Drinks, in Goa carrying alcohol is prohibited on the beach. Carry cans if you wish. A flask of tea is perfect and even canned juices in fancy glasses. Mix alcohol in the fruit juices and you won’t get in trouble with the beach guards. try mocktails and premixes, and colourful cocktails. bottles of wine however, might get you in trouble with the authorities. 

Entertainment : think Music, play it on your phone or a portable device. sand making buckets , or even a beach ball is fun. carry a book if you are having a picnic by yourself.


Last but not the least. Pick up everything when you leave! 
Hope you had fun reading this quick guide to packing a beach picnic. let me know if you have ever been on a beach picnic before. 

A huge round of thanks to the Food and beverage team and the housekeeping team at Kenilworth Goa.

We set up this beach picnic in Uttorda beach, the Kenilworth resort has multiple F an B options and one of them is the 24 hour coffee shop which can help you pack your own picnic lunches, which you can enjoy by their poolside, the second largest pool in Goa, which also haas a sunk in Bar. Some delicious surprises are planned for their christmas brunch as well as New Years eve dinner, so do go check those out as a grand celebration before the year ends.