Monday, January 7, 2013

foodie trail: mahabaleshwar


 There are four kinds of memories.
A sad present, where you wistfully look back at a happy past.
A happy present, where you look back relieved of a sad past.
 A sad present, where you dejectedly look back at a sad past.
And a happy present, where you look back contentedly at a happy past.

farm fresh strwberries at Mahabaleshwar

 My earliest memories of visiting mahabaleshwar are foggy, as I was barely 1 year old, wrapped up in my mothers arms as she plucked strawberries in one of the many fields in Mahabaleshwar. Every trip since then to the picturesque hillstation on the Western Ghats  has been memorable, bringing back memories of past holidays. It’s  a mere 2.5 hour drive from our place(125 Km) and almost like a ‘hillstation in the backyard’.

Sure there is a lot to do in Mahabaleshwar, such as boating, and horse riding,chilling at the various retreats, trekking around the neighbouring hills, or checking out the various “points’ but our favourite is eating.


I remember the first time I had the corn patties at Tayab’s next to Kate’s point. A delightful juxtaposition of a crisp exterior,soft mashed potatoes, and a centre of spicy masala corn. I was amazed that such a tiny morsel could pack in such a mouthful of flavours. Would the novelty wear off if I had 10 such patties, I wondered. Yet after I had eaten my way to indigestion, my tongue craved more. Mahabaleshwar is much like Tayab’s famed corn patties,the novelty never wears off. 



Mahabaleshwar is crammed with must see ‘points’- sunset point, sunrise point, suicide point, echo point…. Pretty much every jutting stone with a veritable view to speak of is a point. Each of these’ points ‘ has it’s own entourage of food stalls. But Kate’s point is my favourite. We used to call it Kate as in Prince Williams’ (grandson to the queen of Englands) wife Kate, but the locals tend to call it ‘Kaatein’ just like ‘thorns’ in Hindi. Now Kate’s point is a tricky one to find , and we always have to ask for directions, so once we asked ‘Bhaiya ye kaatein point kaha hai? The old shriveled man answered ‘you mean Kate’s point as if we needed a lesson in the English language.”

 ‘Kate ‘or’ Kaattein’ whats the difference as long as they serve up the best Makai  ‘corn’patties.
The Garden green strawberry farm its called,remember to ask for Tayab, and corn patties, and strawberry cream, and fresh mulberries, and strawberries. 

brimming over with goodness

Mapro is another delightful place to visit. Every time we travel to mahabaleshwar, we follow the road signs to Mapro , shouting out the number of kilometers to Mapro garden .. 10 Km, 9 Km..3 ,2 ,1!



Poinnsettias at the nursery, Mapro Mahabaleshwar


 During the exam preparatory leave, Mapro serves up hearty vegetable grilled sandwiches bursting with cheese, during the summer vacations they offered chocolate icecream with mapro chocolate sauce in warm waffle cones. The Diwali break had us clamouring for strawberry and whipped cream, and the winter brought out the sizzling brownies. A fast food joint in the midst of invigorating air of the hills, what could possibly be more blissful. Mapro makes it’s own jams, jellies and fruit concentrates and every year we land up buying the most atrocious combination of drink concentrates right from ginger, and dates and saffron apart from the obvious strawberry preserves.

my cup of cheer

To burn up all that calories and to add another dimension to our gorge fest we head to Tapola known as ‘mini Kashmir’. Tapola is perhaps the best kept secret of Maharashtra tourism, because it’s a mystery how such a pretty place, close to such a popular hill station such as Mahabaleshwar is still practically undiscovered by the common tourist.
Panchgani, is yet another hamlet close to Mahabaleshwar, and it is famous for its residential schools. I used stare in awe at all the rich kids from these schools as they went out on what was perhaps their weekly day out of school campus. All the smart uniforms and grand stone architecture of the schools gives Panchgani a decidedly Malory towers or St claires look, Hogwarts even. Thelocal market teaming with gaming arcades and all things to lure the rich boarding school residents is also straight out of Ruskin Bonds’ book.

at mahabaleshwar during school holidays

with my grand mother, during college years
you can actually see the years roll by, the young boy is now a strapping man.


Mahabaleshwar holds many memories. Times when we were kids and went with our grand parents and cousins on summer holidays, to the time I went on my first college trip with friends.Some places we visit because of their uniqueness, and some we visit because they remind us of ourselves. All the memories from past visits, have joined to form a warm quilted blanket and I know that I can always head to the hills when in need for comforting. 

 pictures curtesy:Ekalavya Bhattacharya