Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Travelling with infants and toddlers

I love travelling, and a very major part of that is because of the wanderlust gene we inherited from my dad. He has been an extensive traveller, and as a family we have always endevoured to create indelible family memories, wether it is our van turning over on the way to nahaan, or the partridge cooked on an open fire ( the best bird meat I have ever tasted) or the tree house we later played in Nahaan. 
ofcourse we were old enough to be able to make those memories. 
But what about travel when we were younger? 
when we were babies and toddlers?
Mom reminisces about travelling with her sisters , and carrying me inside a 'PP bag' a bag with P's drawn on it. She has vivid memories of travelling with my brother and me alone from India to London, and both of us toddling our way in the heathrow airport. 
And while neither of us have any memories of the bus journey to aurangabad, or our first international flight , but the memories are absolutely special for my parents, and this is all I have to say; travel with your kids when they are young, they may not remember it, but I guarantee you will have an adventure of a lifetime. 
Travelling with a baby is a herculean task, filled with unknowns and unpredictables, and with Murphy always trying to undo your best laid plans, travelling with a kid is never boring, and here three women who have travelled and lived to tell the tale, tell the tale in their own words.

Shivani Handa Yereddi

Since Siddharth & I both love traveling, that is the only way of life that Shaurya is familiar with. 
In fact we celebrated his 50th flight recently :) 

The greatest gift my parents gave me was the gift of travel and for that I will always be indebted to them. Travel provides an education far richer than any book.  

People tell me oh but he won't remember anything what's the point? The point is, I love traveling. I need it. I find in it a joy which very few material things can give and that's what I want to share with my son. 

A lot of people often ask me, but isn't it tough with a toddler? It takes a little bit of planning but it's quite manageable. 

Shaurya, there's so much to see, to love & to appreciate in this world. 
"Oh, the places you'll go!"

Three things to always keep in mind when traveling with toddlers, snacks, toys and a medicine kit :)
He eats pretty much everything we do, other than spicy food. Loved the Japanese ramen and the coorgi chicken.
I think my most memorable experience has been the Japan Disney world. I wanted one day of the trip to be just for him, and he had such a ball seeing the Disney floats, going on the Dumbo ride and also made a friend in Mickey.
The worst experience is when airports you're traveling from don't have childcare rooms especially when you need to breastfeed your baby.
Ok I have a specific worst experience. I traveled with Shaurya to Bombay when he was 3 months old for my sister's wedding shopping.
I was shocked that most of the malls didn't have child care rooms. Especially a place like High street Phoenix mall. As a result I kept shuffling between the car parking and the stores all day long just so I could feed him and change his diaper. An absolute nightmare. Hopefully now more than 2 years later, more and more places are realising the need for a child care room.


bags packed and ready to go!



globe trotting toddler

Going places

Rachna Mone

Travelling with an infant! yes...it can totally b done! We both love to travel, and our little one has travelled to two international destinations before turning 1. we travelled extensively during my pregnancy as well, and even undertook a major road trip, life changes post delivery, but this was one aspect which we are happy to continue with our little one.
* imp to choose a place that is either good weather for being outdoors and still resting in the stroller through the day or a resort that allows the entire family short (or lengthy) naps when needed.
* the biggest stress is food for ur baby right? less than 6 months old and breast fed then its a breeze (check out public breast feeding policy of the destination country and remember to carry an appropriate cover up to make urself confident and comfortable). started solids - baby food makers available online that aid boiling and blending are great! baby cereals r also great/instant option...and banana is the safest yummiest on the go food always! parents can opt for an all inclusive package which may be even more relaxing😉.
* its sensible to make a small kit of things to be used for ur baby on flight that can b retrieved from ur hand luggage and b handy during the flight,specialy take off and landing. kit- water sipper/milk/formula,2 diapers,small pack of wipes,small shawl and jacket,fresh romper, fav small toy.
*packing tips - pack 3 rompers a day,swimming nappies,sunscreen (banana boar 50spf water resistant sunscreen is total value for money ,does a superb job),squeeze toys(for bathtub and beach fun),essential medicines (paracetamol,sinarest, nasoclear,thermometer,bandaids,savalon,ors,cotton), floating tube,swimwear, winterwear/thermal wear .
my packing essentials for anaaya: 
regular and swimming diapers .
sunscreen.
few squeezy toys and a couple of small books.
wet wipes and hand sanitizer.
spoons and lightweight covered bowls.
toothbrush and paste.
shawl.
some plastic/disposable bags.
medicines.
homemade snacks.
car seat.
worst experience while travelling- Delhi airport had a terribly unequipped baby care room with no furniture to sit, or no nappy changing mat/table/surface. the wash had no soap..as i was travelling wth a 6 month old alone it was v challenging.
so many memorable experiences!!! 
from her first speed boat ride to holding a starfish! feeding a giraffe to seeing dolphins! first christmas to first bday!!! its fun to travel with her....

(sorry for the mobile short hand language, but it's all that I can manage with a very active 14 month old) 

Karuna Sud
I always love to travel  and explore. Lucky to have found a partner who enjoys it as much and now with a baby its more hard work to travel but we won’t give it up anyhow!
I have observed that most parents get super hyper when it comes to travelling with babies and kids especially on international flight! If you plan it well, then it can really be managed and you no longer have to wait for them to grow up before you can continue exploring your passion for travel.
Baby on Board – Firstly check the flight details and check their website on allowance for baby luggage. Ideally you will be paying less for babies under 2. Most international flight allow easy to fold strollers. But do read up about your destination and if its stroller friendly? Else you will be carrying a useless piece of equipment. Next – Ensure it’s tagged correctly! Ours went missing in a connecting flight!
 Keep the Meds handy – Now with a baby ensure you carry a copy of his / her vaccination card plus any other test reports you may think is needful. Have all your OTC medicines ready especially common cold cough and fever. I prefer to make list of medicines and prescribed dosage after consulting with out pediatrician. this should be in your baby bag and always in your reach.
Check for the kids play area – Long flight at odd hours cannot always be avoided during international travel. Our Flight to KL was at 12 am. So to keep K busy we found a small yet super awesome play area at the Delhi International Airport. She had not yet started walking independently then but she was very enthusiastic to walk holding my hand or with support and enjoy all the rides! She crawled all over the place and it helped to tire her down! No points guessing that she slept through the 6 hours flight!
More than real toys, mine is happier with stickers, tapes or just random catalogues on flights as she loves books. Keep small yet simple toys and hand them over one at a time only to keep it exciting. If there is a favourtie toy, don’t forget to carry 2nd favourite for the return in case it’s lost.
We took our first International trip to Bintan Islands in Indonesia in August 2016 and Kenisha was then just 15 months old. Our journey was quite tiring – starting with a 6 hours flight from Delhi to Kuala Lumpur, connecting flight of 3 hours flight to Singapore and then immediately rush to catch a Ferry to Bintan Island straight from the airport. Door to Door, we were travelling for close to 20 hours! 
at the play area in the airport.

My two cents about travelling with baby; dont do it for the child, do it for yourself. The baby wil not remember anything, and yet will definitely learn about adjusting to different climates, and food and changing routines. Travel for all the reasons you always wanted to, and just let your child see you in an environment of relaxation, one where you are not making breakfast and dinner, or rushing to work, or worrying about picking up after baby, or making beds. 

travelling with a small baby or toddler needs planning, as well as an adventurous soul. to see the world through their eyes, while they stop and stare at things, we spent the wee hours of the morning staring at the crystals at the swarovski store when my son was 14 months, we made friends with people we would not have otherwise spoken to, children are the ultimate icebreaker, go to the same places where you went without kids, and notice the difference.

AS PART OF MY 5 YEARS OF THEFOODIETRAILS.COM THIS IS ONE OF MY CELEBRATORY BLOG POSTS. 

A heartfelt thankyou to the awesome moms who contributed, and the awesome dads who are equal participants in the joys of travellng with a kid. 

You may also like to read 

what to pack in your beauty travel kit

why I began my food and travel blog

5 of my most popular blog posts

packing tips while travelling with a toddler

tips to go brunching with a baby





Thursday, June 8, 2017

my top 5 most popular blog posts in 5 years

When a child turns five, it can make any mom nostalgic and as I was look back on the years gone by, I decided to go through more than a 100 blog posts . I realized that some blog posts had been more popular than others and here I share the behind-the-stories which led to these blog stories.

My most popular blog post is one on Bengali weddings. Interestingly I called it bengali wedding part 1, this was in the very early stages of my food blog and I was optimistic that I would be covering Bengali weddings galore, and decided to write them in numerical order. in the past five years this is my only post on a bengali wedding, and guess what it isn't actually about the wedding food. the story goes like this... it was my mum's cousins wedding, who actually is as old as me, I would have loved to attend but, as explained in my previous post, Igot only 10 days off in 18 months, and that included any Saturdays or public holidays. which meant I would not be able to attend the wedding. As a blogger, content and 'content generation' is paramount, so I begged my mother to take a few food pictures and send me a little info, so that I could put up a a blog post. the day before the actual wedding, one has the aiburobhaat, or the day a girl has her last 'official' meal in her own home, and is served the choicest of food items. It was this ai buro bhaat which mum proxy covered for me, and it went on to be my most popular blog post according to google analytics. GO FIGURE! anyhow, read the blog post here bengali wedding part 1

My second most popular blog post was one that I expected to be a block buster. My interview of David Rocco, the delicious Italian celebrity TV Chef whom I just happened to run into in Goa, and pestered for an interview. the entire story ofcourse is on the post itself, but what most dont know is, that after a number of phone calls to and fro to his publicist and manager, I managed to get a slot early morning. It was also the morning I had a surgery of a 4 month old baby. the surgery was for 11 in the morning, and I drove 20 km to Panjim from Mapusa, and back to work, and it was a brilliant day, because not only was my interview a blockbuster, my surgery on the child went exceptionally well. a day when I would have had to choose between my profession and my passion, and I decided to juggle both, and managed to swing both, is beyond exhilaration. I am not sure how many would understand it, but it was a tremendous moment, one which I did share with David Rocco, after the interview was done. read my fun interview david Rocco interview


My third most popular travel post has been about my babymoon. I was obsessed with the idea of babymoons , I read every article and blog there was on the subject, while I was pregnant. I literally scoured the internet and found very few Indian travel bloggers writting about babymoons. for one you needed to be pregnant to be writing it, and i guess food and travel bloggers were either young or unmarried to be babymoon blogging, who knows why. but there were very many great resources on what to do and what not on a holiday while you are expecting, and I loved putting it all together and even though we had a very short staycation, we made the most of it. the blog post was later extensively posted by the Alila Diwa resort in Goa, and boosted the popularity of the post even on their own hotel blog. It was a fun experience, also one where I felt like I was writing about a topic not many had written before about, and it felt brilliant . read the post Babymoon


My fourth popular post, is again a huge favourite of mine, and I can understand why it is so popular for many food writers/food critics, or would be food writers and restaurant critics. It was at the end of one year of writing my newspaper column called 'Goa on my Plate' , it was a proper hard copy newspaper column and I loved the fact that I could hold my words in my hand. I could see them in print, and see them in onather persons hands. they also came with gorgeous professional pictures by the newspaper photography team, or the PR agencies. The articles got edited by the newspaper too, so I didn't have to bother much on spell checking my work. It was also very different from writing a blog. The lessons I learnt are in a funny presentation and I absolutely loved writing it. I always wanted to write for publications, but of late I have realised the tremendous growth, opportunity and satisfaction that a blog can provide . Read one of my favourite blog posts here : food writer

The fifth in the order of popularity, is another interview. this time not of a celebrity chef, but of a social media food movement in Pune, called Pune eat outs. now Pune eat outs is a facebook group, in which people share their experiences and reviews of places they have eaten in ,  homechefs and avid foodies get to interract with restaurant owners and in general it is a meeting pace of all pune foodies. I know of only Pune, but I gather every city in the country has a food group like this, and almost each one has a following. But I saw the organic growth of this group first hand. I saw it grow metastatically, and with tremendous crowd participation, so much so that it has tumbled out of the confines of online meets to offline celebrations, even collaborationss, and has spawned an entire army of other food groups . I wanted to delve into the minds of one of the founders of these succesful onlune food groups, and Aniruddha Patil turned out to be a friend, neighbour, and fantastic person to know. interstingly this interview was not conducted in person, but was typed out as an FB message , and even though I had not met Aniruddha back then, the interview was still a big hit. Read about the why and how of Pune eat outs HERE

It's funny how the internet works, or may be it is the SEO, search engines which have popularised some of my blog posts more than others, or maybe it is the brilliance of the content itself. was it my own inadvertant marketing skills? Was it something I did right? you tell me. I would rather have my readers tell me why they loved a blog post and shared it with friends, because suffice to say, I just write , even after 5 years of food blogging, I am yet to figure out what 'works' and 'what doesn't'. My advice to fellow bloggers would be to stop worrying about the numbers, and concentrate on the experience, because writing the blog post, and sharing it is in itself a very satisfying process. The numbers, the followers, the adulation all follows.

this post os part of my five year celebrations, to share with all my readers the journey till now.

the beginning

travel kits


    




Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The beginning

I was doing my fellowship at Aravind eye hospital in Madurai, which allowed 10 days of leave in my 18 month tenure; so you can imagine how precious each of those days was.
I cashed in one of those precious days to visit Kanyakumari with my mom.
Our plan was to drive down early morning to reach the southern most tip of India by early noon, have a lunch somewhere nice , then spend the evening sightseeing, and again having an early dinner and setting back.
Food of a place was always intrinsic to my experience of a place.
Now Kanyakumari, is not only the southern tip of India, but is also the meeting point of three water bodies, the bay of Bengal, the Arabian sea and the Indian ocean, they even have a point where you see the three waters mixing in various shades of blue, green and grey. I was looking forward to seafood delicacies, and set out googling the best places to eat in Kanyakumari. Maybe a local place for the freshest of crabs and prawns, or even one of the sea facing resorts which offer a mindblowing view of the brilliant sunsets that KanyaKumari was famous for. Something classy, or local, or kitschy, or just plain ‘do not miss when visiting ‘ kind of places.
But I couldn’t find anything!
We had less than 24 hours to make the most of our visit to a place, we may never be visiting again, and I couldn’t find a single website to help me.
Sure there was trip advisor, but it just rated restaurants, there was no way of knowing which were the local favourites, which ones were iconic, which places were off the restaurant list, such as shacks and market places.
We ended up eating chicken biryani, at a restaurant our cab driver suggested.
A few months later I cashed in another of my precious leave slips to go to Munnar and Thekaddi with my then boyfriend and now husband.
This time we were better prepared.
I realised there might be others like me who go on whirlwind trips, who don’t have time for the ‘slow vacation’ who don’t have the luxury of ‘ lets go there and figure it out’. I was a working professional , who loved travel, who loved eating out, and who needed it all to work out such that I got the best moments on my vacation.
So I decided to document my trip to Munnar, and it was the beginning of my food and travel blog.  We spent a lot of time searching for a place which made appams. We finally found it on a cart, near the bus stop, which serves freshly made appams in the evenings. I didn’t want the next traveller to struggle to find an appam place the next time they visited. read my first travel blog on Munnar HERE
Whenever we planned holidays or vacations, the meal times acted as pitstops. It started with “We will stop here for a tea break, then srive here for lunch, followed by a great tea break at this place …”sometimes even the dishes were predecided, lets have mapro cheese grilled sandwiches, then drive to the lake, have strawberries and sweet corn cutlets …
I figured there may be more people like me, who felt that the food of the place was as important as the sight seeing. Who realised that the whole experience at the trevi fountain would be incomplete without an Italian Gelato , or journeying to the statue of Liberty, meant having the fanous ‘hamburger’ the Americans had invented, and Hyderabad food trail meant scoring the best biryani.
The journey was not easy however.
Remember the precious leave slips? Yes. It wasn’t like I was a backpacking youngster who had a rich inheritance to bank roll her travels. I not only did not have the luxury of wealth ( we got 10000 a month stipend, of which 3000 went in lodging expenses), I didn’t even have the luxury of time, since my leaves were limited.
My travels were few and far between. How does a travel and food blogger , blog if she doesn’t travel ?
Low on money and low on time , I was still keen on pursuing my passion for food and travel blogging, even as I pursued a gruelling professional life as a doctor.
Since then I have worked in a private hospital, where , again, we did not have public holidays and none of the bank holidays, neither was Saturday a weekend. We even worked through independence day.  I now have my own clinic and I work through all holidays as well, because those are the days when patients can easily come into the clinic. I am a doctor first, and being available is paramount to my providing service.

I realised that I had to write my food blogs during my medical conferences. I travelled to Hyderabad, and the two blogs I wrote during that time are my most favourite, I also won the best paper award during that conference the APAO-AIOS conference.
The next year we went to Agra to collect my certificate and it led to another food trail in Agra.
I even travelled with mom to China where she attended a conference , and I managed to get a peek into Shenzhen way of life.
I was already a super specialist, trained in extremely minute surgeries, in children as young as ten days old, and yet I was excited at the prospect of eating sea weed and hopefully snakes in Shenzhen. read about my China blog post, also my first international food travel blog HERE
My medical colleagues understood little of it, and my blogging friends even less so.
By that time my food writing got me a satisfying post as a restaurant critic with Navhind Times, a local Goan Newspaper. I began to post a few blogs about Goa as well, since not only did I live here, there were people who would love to read and plan their trips depending on what I had experienced.
For every travel I plan now, writing a food and travel blog, or two is upper most on my agenda. I do copious amounts of reading and note taking, whether it was for our Mediterranean cruise on the MSC Splendida, or the surprise birthday gift of a trip to Kashmir or my dad’s 60 th birthday in the Maldives, or my 30th in Istanbul.
It has been a slow and organic growth, my blog.
With the intent of helping people realise the kind of foodilicious holiday they could expect from their destination, I have loved this lipsmacking journey and I am far from done.
My work, my profession is poles apart from my passion of food and travel blogging, and as I look back on the last five years I think that has added to the mystique.
How do I manage?
I blog about my staycations, because I rarely have the luxury of travelling far from home. I blog about my work vacations, be it for my international fellowship to Newyork, or my surgical expedition to Dominican Republic. I blog when on holiday with family, I blog about my families holidays, I blog for the love of food and the love of travel.
Does it pay to be a food and travel blogger? Yes, it does. As the lines from Batman go “ if you are good at something , never do it for free.” But food and travel blogging has given me much more, it has given me a greater understanding into the world of hospitality, and how hard people work to make our stays memorable, it has given me a better understanding and respect for fellow travel and food bloggers, who create worlds with their content, they make people drool, and dream about different cuisines and different destinations, and that is a worthy profession as any. It has also connected me to a robust generation of new age travellers, who balance work and life , who follow their heart as well as their head, and even if it has them doing cartwheels at times, it’s worth the journey.

This blog, has been a gift , for  all my readers, but also for me. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

travel kit tips from wanderlust women


I come from a line of wonderful wanderlusting women; women who are gorgeous inside out and look ravishing in every travel picture they share, online or with their friends. 

One is a grandmother to a toddler and an internationally acclaimed speaker on childhood asthma, the second is a teacher who is considered a rockstar by her students,the third is a gynaecologist and mother of two teenagers, and the fourth is in the blooming best of her twenties with the flush of youth no makeup brand can emulate. 

As part of the fifth birthday of my travel blog, I asked my mom, aunts and cousin to share their travel kit pictures and their travel essentials. 

Here is a treasure trove of great information, amazingly versatile products for
 age group ranging four decades. take your pick !


BARNALI BHATTACHARYA 

Most of my travels are work related where I squeeze in some exciting moments, and sometimes it is a pure holiday. 
The travel make up kit remains more or less same. But since when work related it's to deliver a talk, I wear saree hence I put in my red bindi and some safety pins first! Imagine a no bindi traditional saree look or the saree slipping while on the dias!
The rest of the kit is essentials first, tooth paste tooth brush, face wash(one which removes eye makeup too!), sun block, moisturizer, face care (day and night). 
Presently I use products from little bottles which are leak proof and occupy very less space.
 Bobby Brown remedies for day and O3 Age lock at night. These products change from time to time. But whichever I am using at that time, I swear by them. If it's a long trip then take my undereye care, been loyal to No7 for sometime. I carry a shower cap as sometimes they are not available in the hotels that I am staying at. I carry a hair grip and a rubber band. 
A complete face cover up after moisturizing is BB for me, Mac's Prep+ Prine BB SPF 35 is fantastic.
At night or for that special photography session make apply Nars face illuminator. 
I have to put my black kohl, feel insecure without it. 
I carry to pencil lid liners a blue and a green, just in case I want to feel glamorous. 
I carry a pink and a cinnamon brown lipstick, both matte, long lasting, Mac's. 
Between the two they can go with any coloured outfit. 
For perfume I carry Pleasures ( Estée Lauder), if off to a beach, a little pack of talc!
Since I travel twice a month, and have been doing so for over a decade, I do it quick. 
And oh yes my travel kit is partially see through so that I can access products quick if in a rush!



sunning in Maldives

asthma talk in Mahapedicaon


CHAITALI SARKAR

My idea of holiday is to chill at home doing nothing!!!

But whenever out on a holiday, some essentials would be  
  Agelock Vit C serum,bODY SHOP  Oil of life gel cream for day along with LotuS matte gel sunscreen, an SPF 50 loose powder, Maybeline Colassal kajals in black, blue, green & their mascara, lip pencil & current fav lip colours in pink & cinnamon.

 Maybeline Total Clean preferable over Loreal Gentle make up remover, that empties its bottle before you reach your first destination!

Night pampering would be Body Shop Oil of life cream or Forest Essentisls Soundarya serum. Boroline for chapped lips & Body shop beautifying oil pre sleep & post bath!! And of course, keo karpin sandal body oil. 

Hair care would be of L'Oréal X tenso shampoo, mask & serum.

 And not to forget ear buds for perfecting make up, tweezers, mirror with magnification, nail polish remover & the nail paint used, wads of cotton & wet wipes,nail cutter, safety pins, rubber bands, grips, scarves for a bad hair day, set of threads & needle, yes of course threader too. Rayban & an extra pair of reading glasses!! Pleasures by Estee Lauder of course!! 

And packed not in pouches, however attractive they are. I lay them out in empty saree boxe😂, easy to locate & retrieve.


vacationing in Venice


KAKOLI KUMAR

I love to travel and the family tries to squeeze in two holidays a year. most of my holidays are for over a week, and I prefer to carry all most of my products. I swear by vaseline petroleum jelly, as well as body lotion and would never leave without Maybelline's colllosal kajal. 

Creams, cleanser, tonic, compact are my essentials.so is a nail clipper , nail file and tweezers.
Make up- kajal in various colours , mascara, liner, highlighter, eyeshadow, lipstick.

 I carry my shampoo Loreal Absolut repair and conditioner L'Oreal extenso. Perfume has to be Jadore by Christian Dior. 

I am very particular about makeup removal and never ever forget to pack extra cotton and tissues, make up is essential, but removing it is even more so! 

Contact lens paraphernalia, anyone who wears contact lenses would agree with the me here. I carry an extra pair of monthly disposable contact lenses in the event I lose my pair.
i carry a separate bag for accesories as well.

strolling the streets of Spain

family holiday Sikkim




VASUNDHARA SARKAR

I love cosmetics, I wont lie. But my hair is my crowning glory, on a holiday I prefer to carry my straightening tongs as well as my hair care products, so that I never have a bad hair day.

1. Moroccan oil smooth conditioner and repair shampoo - for all sightseeing  
2. Kerastase thermique heat protectant - before hair styling 
3. Makeup revolution London - basic eye shadows, highlighter, blush - all in one 
4. Perfumes - Estee Lauder 'pleasure' and Gcci 'bamboo' limited edition 
5. Lakme sunscreen powder
6. Body shop night cream 
7. Hand sanitizer, handy M&S cream 
8. Lotus herbal spf 50 sunscreen 
9. Serums: Kerastase elixir ultime hair serum and clinique ' revitalizing serum'.
10. Multipurpose earrings - S,M,L size 
11. MK rose gold watch, prada sunglasses - basic black sunglasses 
12. Black Lakme eyeliner, Mac ruby woo lipstick, lakme absolute lip post-production (magenta magic), loreal exclusive collection (delicate rose)
13. Maybelline colossal mascara
14. Plum black kajal 
15. Loreal lip and eye makeup remover 
16. Gillete satin care - for shaving 
17. Lakme foundation

disney princess




Honestly I had lots to learn from the ladies . here are some of the take home messages.

1. carry stuff in individual see through pouches.
2. always pack essentials like bindi and safety pins, cotton to take off makeup, tweezers and shaving cream, depending what your 'essentials' are.
3. multipurpose your lipsticks, carry some great shades, one compact colour palette, and BB creams which can double as sunscreen.
4. dont forget hair care
5. dont forget makeup removers.
6. carry a perfume which suits your signature style.

read these fabulous tips about staying fresh on long distance air travel HERE 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Goa on my plate : review , Habanero

Habanero Goa is the newest addition to the Tex Mex chain of restaurants , with branches already in Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad. Situated in the calangute Baga stretch, where many a restaurant has mushroomed in the bylanes, this one is situated in a lane called milky way, find it on google maps, or call for directions.
Ambience:
Valet parking, something of a rarity especially in the calangute baga area, followed by a garden like setting complete with lanterns hung on trees, and posters quintessentially Goan , like the cashew fruit and the river ferries, help set the mood of the place. Colourful tropics , is the word that comes to mind with the stained glass lanterns over the tables, and the backdrop of the bar. The restaurant has a three tiered seating, it has an AC section , a rooftop seating as well as a garden seating. A stage where live events take place over weekends and a microbrewery which hopefully will open by the end of the month are added attractions.
Food: This place is famous for the Tex Mex, so while they also serve a few other continenetal, sea food grills, and pizzas , it makes sense to come try the Tex Mex cuisine. So what is Tex Mex cuisine?  Well Mexico, and Texas share a long border, the one Mr Trump, hopes to create a wall over, so that America stops being influenced by Mexican culture. But that already happened a few years ago, with the Texan and Mexican cuisine taking over the taste buds of the world.
Most of the cuisine was about trying flavour combinations tpgether, like the famous Texan chicken roasts got a chipotle rub, and a fiery meaty dish was born, worthy of summer BBQs. The chipotle marinated chicken at Habanero, with a lipsmacking hot and spicy marinade is worth trying as well.
Even the story of Nachos is fascinating. Named after the Mexican man Nacho, who at closing time , found three Texan women come in to his diner , situated on the Tex Mex border, and ask for lunch. He was all out of Burritos and had only a few tortillas available. He cut these roti like corn tortillas, fried them, and topped them with everything in the fridge, like lettuce, tomatoes, olives, lemon wedges, and topped it off with cheese. It was an instant hit, and when asked the name of the dish he said “Nacho’s special” . the Macho nachos at Habanero are something of a meal in itself. The tortilla chips are really outstanding and the addition of beans is what makes them a complete meal with legumes, salad and chicken.
Try the sesame lime shrimp tostada, for beautifully cooked prawns. The fajitas which come with a sizzling plate of grilled veggies and meats, as well as cold dressing and additions, is fun to construct. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the menu, and I wouldn’t hold it against you if you did, try the samplers. A sampler plate has a burrito (without rice) , bean and rice,soft shell tacos, cream cheese, crisp tortillas, salsa dip, and is big portioned to share with your friend .
The churros were the highlight of the meal. The best till date in Goa. Many restauranteurs have previously complained about the heat and humidity not allowing for great churros in Goa, and yet we went to Habanero on the muggiest day of March and these were perfectly crunchy, justthe right amount of sweet, and served with chocolate sauce for the match made in heaven.
The down side of the meal? The guacamole lacked spice and verve, the tres leches was not moist at all as they serve the leches on the side, and only the Uno leches , non the tres. The fish in the en fibil, is a basa, a fish not deserving of a Goan seafood menu.                
A word on the service which is extremely hospitable , by Goan standards, and one of the reasons could be the hefty service charge. Hefty because most Indians barely dish out 10 % of their meal in tips, and the internationally accepted 15 to 18 % in itself is difficult to ensure in even five star restaurants. But remember well paid staff, means good service.
Rating:
Food: 4 plates
Ambience: 4 plates
Service: 4 plates
Go here for:
Macho nachos
Churros,

Chipotle chicken

Monday, May 15, 2017

Kashmir by any other name

“And over there is Azaad Kashmir”, pointed Jameel , the driver of our rented taxi.
We were on our way to Gulmarg, when the rolling hills dappled with forget-me-nots and butter cups seemed to blur like water spilt over a painted landscape.

Azaad Kashmir” the words set off warning bells in my head; ‘The-driver-might-be-a-terrorist’ kind of bells.

 Kashmir had been like a woman caught between two lovers, namely India and Pakistan. Crystal blue lakes interspersed with dense forests of Chinar, valleys gurgling with springs and snow-capped peaks majestic against the skies; it was easy to see why Kashmir was so passionately fought over. The last skirmish between the jealous lovers, had led to certain areas of Kashmir being captured by Pakistan. These areas were called ‘Pakistan occupied Kashmir” by Indians, and ‘azaad or free Kashmir” by those who believed that Kashmir belonged with Pakistan.

You can understand my alarm, when I heard our Kashmiri driver refer to ‘Pakistan occupied Kashmir’ as Azaad.

Jameel reminded me of the horses of Gulmarg; tall and brown. Who knew what feelings of hate and discontent he bridled in?  But such a description would hardly be of any help to the police, if the need arose.

Green or grey? I tried to guess the colour of his eyes in the mirror     
  
 I realised my unsuspecting husband continued to sleep in the passenger seat. Beyond my reach, and yet a knife swipe away from our driver, if he decided to turn into a freedom-fighting Kashmiri ‘mujahideen’ .

I took out my phone with the intent of sending my family back home a message to explain my predicament, but we had no signal!

With no way of reaching out to my friends, or my husband, I resorted to hostage survival skills 101.
 Engage your captor in conversation; “What is the best time to visit Gulmarg? “
Use flattery; “The meat here is so tender!”

Personalise and use emotion “We are on our honeymoon in Kashmir.”

 Mounting paranoia had me nervously chatting, and while on the outside it seemed like friendly touristy banter, it felt like waltzing in a land mine.

 “where are you from?” he asked.

Goa.

“Goa is lovely, India has many beautiful places.” He said.

I bit back the urge to add, Kashmir is part of this beautiful India too.


 For that day I let the borders dividing two nations blur, I was content in Shakespeare , “what’s in a name, Kashmir by any name …

...........

This was my entry to the world Nomad travel story writing competition. In a mere 2500 characters, including spaces, it was tough to tell a story which inspired emotions, as well as propogated dialogue. For this blog I have put some of the pictures from our Kashmir holiday. It is a beautiful place, and through my interractions with not one but many of the locals there I realised that they have a very hospitable nature, as any place which depends heavily on tourism should, they also love Indians, but just the way Italians would love Indians, or Americans would; as tourists to their land. Welcoming and hospitable and yet mindful of the differences. Or was it all in my head? Was I over thinking and over analysing the presumed conflict? 




that's me trying to get a picture of the driver in the mirror !


The above story is a true narrative, and even though we were not on our honeymoon it was a mere 6 months since the wedding, and I did use the ploy to get out of what I presumed was a sticky situation.

To read a more detailed and fun foodie take on our trip read HERE 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Grand Mango Mania at Grand Hyatt Goa

Indians have a love of mangoes that can only be termed manic, and the Grand Hyatt in Bambolim Goa has taken it to another level of devotion with their Grand Mango Mania, all of May.
Executive chef Mark a Long, sous chef  Prasad Metrani and his team have taken the Mango on a whirlwind trip around the world and paired it in eclectic combinations among exotic cuisine, to create a culinary experience nothing short of Genius. 

We began the meal with a cold spiced mango soup. Imagine your favourite alphanso aamras, paired with mexican jalapenos, and topped of with a south east asian thai red curry coconut sorbet. The absolute burst of flavours, the crunch of the jalapeno chunks, under the soothing smooth touch of a mango aamras, all tied together with the umami sorbet, had us oohing and aahing.


But we were in for a surprise for our next course. The salty prosciutto, aged parmegiano , paired with chunks of mango,arugula and cucumber flowers was in a word sublime. it honestly looked too pretty to eat. it is the kind of dish which gets featured on magazine covers, and on instagram posts by Gastroart with hashtags like #platedtoperfection . again the flavour combinations were spot on. The thin slivers of ham placed cheek and jowl with tropical mangoes, and just letting the produce shine without any excess handling or pretentious dressings was a masterstroke.


The raw mango slivers in a thai inspired salad with crispy calamari rings was the next course but it surrendered to the perfection that was the previous two dishes.



for our main course we had a chicken dish , a seafood dish, and a vegetarian dish. each one splendid.

It was the first time I was having a sous vide meal. Sous-vide, the term made popular by Masterchef contests , is a method of cooking where the food item is vacuum sealed in a bag and then cooked in a temperature regulated water bath which cooked the food evenly and retained moisture. The sous vide chicken here was cooked for over two hours, beautifully frenched legs of meat were then finished of on the pan in a mango teriyaki glaze.



The sea food main course was a perfectly cooked crispy skin fillet of sea bass, which was vertically plated in a pyre of portobello mushroom , a nest of curried spinach, all surrounded by an inspired mango mustard Kasundi sauce. for a bengali , mustard and fish are a match made in heaven, and to add a twist of mango to a classic combination was impressive. Did it work? yes it did! The sweetness of the mangoes, balanced of against the bitterness of the spinach, and the earthy mushrooms against the sting of kasundi.


But the prize for the most innovative use of Mango goes to the vegetarian mango gnocchi served in a laksa inspired broth, with a crispy noodle bowl. Italian gnocchi meets far east Laksa? Well apparently in a match where Mango played Padri.

That's when the heavens decided to join in, and we were greeted with unseasonal showers in the middle of summer! We sat staring at the torrential downpour complete with thunder and lightening. 

The wait for the desserts had me pacing to the open kitchens, and I could see a lot of hustling and bustling, and boy were we treated to a grand finale!

A tempered chocolate dome was flambed into submission by whicky and Mango flambe, giving way to a deconstructed mango pennacota, which had bits of chortcrust biscuit, some sponge and add to that the melted chocolate, and warm mango oozy goodness.

Watch the video on facebook page The Foodietrails.

The other one was again pretty like a spring garden in full bloom. fruits and flowers and micro herbs, peaked out from underneath coconut meringues of different colours, cream and crushed pistachio to come up with the Mango eton mess. 

The curated meal or any of the stand alone dishes are available the whole of May 2017 at the Verandah at Grand Hyatt Goa. you can request for the menu at any of their other restaurants aswell.

Cocktails and mocktails are part of the fray aswell. white rum infused ripe mangoes, and whisky infused with raw mangoes, play base notes in this orchestra, allowing the flavours of mango to subtly blend in the cocktails.



Baby foodie too enjoyed a moango pulp vanilla icecream creation, aptly called the Mango delight.


Read more about Mangoes read HERE

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