Thursday, October 15, 2015

The St Mary's wine and dine at SWG, pune

We were meeting after a little over 15 years, and realised that even though so much had changed, we were still the same in so many ways. St Mary's alumni met once more and just like the last times "meet and greet"this time to the event had a lyrical name "wine and dine". much was the same like the last meet (read about it HERE ) and yet much was different. For starters, the name of the alumni has changed from the previous "Old girls association" to a more encompassing "St mary's alumni association" keeping in mind that in the 150 years the school has branched out into what would have been an "Old boy's association" as well.

This time the event was at Stone water grill, Pune.

Free flowing wines curtesy Fratelli, platters upon platters of sumptuous starters, friendly service, some retro music, and a cooking class as well, made for a lively afternoon of wining and dining.

apple mocktails the ideal thirst quenchers

time to raise a glass to St Mary's

indo japanese fusion food. loved the individual plating

mushroom galouti kababs, melt in your mouth inventiveness

the live counter dishing out Pastas to order

Platters upon platters of food was passed around. we had seared prawns, and pizzas with exotic veggies, a grilled chicken pizza, mushrooms, liver pate, and unlimited wines and mocktails. 

the organisers, did a splendid job of bringing the decades of students together.

the allumni were seen in eye catching jewellery, and soothing summer colours 
some fun with props

sweet and sinful end to a fabulously curated meal

the school colours of blue and white was still the hot favourite, just like the last event.

We congratulated each othe ron how well we young moms had kept the ravages of age at bay, and I am sure that's what all the young grandmoms as well as a few great grand mothers amongst the alumni were saying to each other.

Chef Shailendra held an interesting cooking session. he made a Miso soup with apples and figs.

Here is the recipe in brief: Saute garlic, ginger and galangal in equal portions. Add chopped lemongrass and a birds eye chilli for Thai inspired flavours. Add Miso paste for Japanese inspired umami flavour. Add vegetable broth and deglaze. to balance the spice from the chilli and the heat of the ginger and the salty Miso, add natural sweetness form apples and figs. Diced apples and figs were then added for good measure.finish with a healthy amount of coconut milk. The dish was plated up to look lipsmackingly good.
How did it taste? well like a Thai tum kha version with chunks of crunchy apples!
Chef Shailendra is immensely talented and introduced fruits in a healthy soup, a neat way of getting your kids to have fruits i say.

The miso and apple soup. chef shailendra

dont we look fab

Drinking to the schools long life :)

And thus, another great event came to an end. There is a fashion show next at Poona club. until then I am going to savour the memories of the wine and dine with good food and friends, at stone water grill.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Durga Pujo Pandal hopping 101

Come Mahalaya, and every person with even a single Bengali chromosome gets into the pujo frenzy. For all those without the said genetic makeup it may seem like much ado about nothing, so here is a low down on what makes for the major part of Durga Pujo; Pandal hopping.

This is the advanced course in Durga Pujo, for the beginners course in the hows and whys of Bengali Pujo festivities , check out my post HERE

What is a Pujo Pandal; Groups of people decide to get together and form a committee, or ‘sangsad’ if you will, these people then decide to set up a sarvajanik pujo; YES sarvajanik is in the name itself, so everyone and anyone is invited. These sarvajanik pujos will then have a Durga Protima, housed within an elaborate Pandal, there will be a bhog lunch served everyday, a variety entertainment program organised every evening, apart from this there will be stalls of shingara and rolls, the balloons and childrens bow and arrow sets, and various activities through the day.

That’s a lot to take in. so what goes into defining a good PUJO you ask?
I give you the pujo grading scheme

First comes Pandal decorations: You may have heard the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover” well it doesn’t apply here. The cover, or the pandal decorations is what draws the crowds from far and farther. Inspired by Thailand the whole place may be converted into pagodas, or a replica of belur mat, or even caves of the Himalayas to signify Durga Mas sasural (Lord Shiva's home). The only limitation is your imagination and how much ‘chada’ or revenue you have collected.

an elaborate pandal facade 

a vertical road to heaven facade,complete with street lights and potholes

the award winning oujo of loha patti in 2011 made with stained glass figurines

Second, but in no way less important is the Protima itself: The idol itself. Now what is important to understand is that Ma Durga is not only the revered Goddess among Bengalis , she is also considered a family member, thus, unlike a Goddess where you would not dare question her choice of attire, here every thing is debated and discussed.
  “ki mishit mukhta ta hoeche” (she is looking so sweet/cute) a term you may not necessarily use for someone wielding 10 weapons which could kill you in a swat. Or “ki gaudy decoration, golden jama, kaash er kaaj ta e korte parto..” ( such a gaudy golden colour, why could they not make her wear the white bamboo decorations…)
On and on it goes , discussing Mahisasurs 6 pack abs, to the mice at lord Ganeshas feet.

the whole protima done in purple, notice the 6 paqcks on the two asuras, this one had not one but two asuras!

Third is the food available: There is the Bhog, which is uniformly good in most places, but the procurement of said Bhog varies. In some places they expect you to buy a coupon and stand in a queue and be served buffet style “ki crass, jata! mone hochche rationer line e” (crass !is this a ration line ,that we have to stand in line, that too buy our food coupons!?) , in others you haqve to stand in a line, but don’t have to show said food coupon, in others its still done the traditional way, a proper sitdown lunch served to you on plates made from dried leaves.

Food does not end at the bhog either. There are stalls of mishti , chicken roll, mutton chop, crab cutlets, prawn curry, mughlai porota, rosogolla, and something for the vegetarians as well.

bhog served in disposable plates, sign of the times

kosha mangsho, mughlai porotha, served on dried leaf plates.

kheer kadam and malai cham cham, there is more to bengali sweets than rosogolla

Fourth is the variety entertainment at the pujo: This to some is what distinguishes a good pujo from the great one, who performed on ashtami night? So did you have Shantanu Moitra performing, or an upcoming musician who has worked as an assistant to Shantanu Moitra performing, this is what will reel in the ‘chada’ money. “pay up, we are planning to call a fantastic dance troupe all the way from Kolkata, a second runner up from Indian Idols season 3, and a rustic band of Baul folk singers from the interiors of west Bengal…”

added fun and entertainment when family members are part of the Drama production

Chunuchi naach, a wonderful way to be part of the festivities.

Fifth is the crowd quotient: As youngsters, this is what matters most, where are all our friends hanging? Where are all the cute college girls and the dude guys in their kantha stitch kurta pajamas and bong swag going to be? Now a days, we check out the sari quotient of the Pujos, who is wearing what, how many banarasi saris did you spot at a particular pujo, or the number of Dhakai Jamdanis, and ‘heavy silks’ at the venue. It gives you a rough estimate of the social standing of the attending people, a great hunting ground for prospective brides and jamais in the marriageable age. A great place to source what are the fashion trends of the season as well, right from jewellery to handbags.

nothing says bengali pujo like men in kantha kurtas

This concludes the five point grading system to a pujo pandal. If you feel out of depth amongst your Bengali friends or if you happen to be a Bengali but your genetic make up is being questioned because you don’t seem to be in the ‘pujo spirit’ , just choose any or all of the points above and quote knowledgably

“ The Pandal decoration of this pujo is remarkable, but the protima was spectacular in the previous one. Yesterdays variety entertainment was absolutely fatafati, and the chicken rolls were to die for….” 

want to read more of my Durga OOujo blogs?

This is me getting nostalgic about Pujo

This is me explaining the Bhog lunch prasad that's the highlight of Durga Puja

This is my childhood growing up celebrating Durga Puja outside Bengal

Monday, October 5, 2015

The man with whom Pune eats out: an interview

Aniruddha Patil started to chronicle his food experiences in Pune 10 years back, and that has lead to the facebook group with over 13000 memebers and counting. Pune eat outs is a thriving community of foodies, restaurateurs, home chefs, media personnel and food bloggers which completes 10 years. So what does it take to maintain a diverse facebook group and what is the secret behind the success of Pune eat outs?
A free wheeling interview with the man behind the PEOple; Aniruddha himself.

  1. It has been 10 years to PEO, what made you start PEO?
It started as a passion for food. Till 2009, In principle I could boast of visiting almost every eatery / Thela / a fine dine in Pune.  I started sharing these experiences which were well appreciated and as they say “Kaarwan Judata Gaya”. ( I started the journey and people joined in)

  1. b. What do you think is the single greatest strength of the group which has made it a huge success lasting 10 years?
The undiluted focus and respect for food.

a compilation of great food places by the PEOple of PEO

  1. How did the concept of a peo card come up, and what were the biggest hurdles in trying to get the card accepted amongst restaurateurs and PEO patrons?
PEO must get into a model to sustain and excel from here. I spend close to 6 hours every day on PEO related activities. For it to remain what it is, I need to take it up full time and hence it needs to have a revenue model. I thought of many ideas but this won because it’s something in which the card holder benefits the most, the restaurant gets a knowledgeable customer who will praise or castigate a restaurant with all the honesty and of course I get the support to try out new things with PEO.
The challenge with restaurants was to convince them about how different it will be from other loyanties. However it was a lot tougher to get nod from the PEOple, but once the experience from early adopters started coming in it became easier. However my biggest challenge even today is to let every member know about the cards and how it works. I am sure we will change this next year.

friends of PEO , PEO card
  1. d. Have you ever thought of starting a restaurant? What would your dream restaurant have in terms of concept and cuisine?
Oh , Every Single day. I have been associated with a few ventures in the past and have tasted the waters. Even today, I do consult restaurants for food and it gives me immense pleasure and confidence as all of these places are known for their food in Pune. (Can’t name them as per my agreements with them). About my dream concept and cuisines, I will prefer to talk a little later but for sure it will have touches of India.
  1. Share the strangest/funniest posts that you have seen on PEO?
Many, especially the ones starting with “Admin, Please delete if irrelevant”.
Then there are pseudo attempts to push blogs in Posts which are not in line with the group norms
There have been posts / messages that almost accuse/ credit me of being a restaurant owner, rather owner of multiple restaurants.
Usually it’s not the post bit the comments that make a thread funny / interesting and I love the diversity we have there
  1. Your favorite memories and moments related to the group?
Again a plenty … Here are a few..
  1. I love Every Single restaurant review that’s well written and talks of a personalized experience. Love the positivity behind the thought of sharing.
  2. The PEO meets from announcements to execution still give me Goosebumps even after 10 years
  3. All the newspaper coverage we have received. The latest and detailed one in Lonely Planet was special for me.
  4. Meeting someone some 1500 Kms away from Pune who knows PEO and recognizes and compliments you for PEO.
  5. I met my wife on PEO
  6. There have been instances where a few restaurants altered a few practices owing to feedback on PEO.

  1. What are the things you hope to achieve with the PEO banner in the coming years?

  1. I want PEO to be a platform that allows the user to share their experience without any influence or bias and I am more than sure that every restaurant owner will more than happily oblige to work on the constructive feedback. This should result in a closed ecosystem which helps restaurants do well so that their customers are happier.
  2. No system or algorithm can make up for a personalized recommendation. A lot of times a simple thought is easier than the complex applications. I want these natural recommendations to continue.
  3. Of course, PEO should continue to become a platform that gives faces to places and helps people bond better.
  4. How about having the PEO food awards by the PEOple?
  5. There are ideas which should be executed in near future but guess we will wait for it for now.

Answer in one word: what food item comes to your mind when I say:
1. Pune  -  Vohuman Cheese Omelet
2. Italian - Pasta
3. North India – Sarson ka Saag
4. Southindia – Sambar and Chuttneys
5. Fusion food – Indian way to make Chinese
6. Desserts – Cheese Cake
7. Chocolate – Must have nuts in it …Say Hershey’s with almonds..
8. Monsoons – Coffee
9. Homecooked – Masala khichadi
10. Mom’s special – Methi Garlic Subji and Various Daals.
11. Wife’s speciality – Cheese Omelets
12. Home delivery – Mutton Biryani
Pasta at olive :photo credit Kainaz writer bokdawalla of Kenzy's Kitchen Korner 

Vohuman's cheese omelette .photo credit Varun Khanna of PEO group

Answer in one word: what pune Restaurant comes to mind first when I say
1. Childhood favorite - Supriya (Camp)
2. Indian cuisine - Aadrika and Dravida’s (North and South Indian)
3. Italian cuisine – Olive
4. Pan Asian cuisine – Malaka Spice and Baan Tao (Can’t choose one)
5. Great ambience – Baan Tao
6. Great Drinks – Euriska and Effingut. But for me it usually is Home with my Bar
7. Great Music – High Spirits Cafe
8. Favourite cafĂ© – I can sit in almost any. It’s more like my office. But used to love Costa

kebabs from Aadrika photo credit Ritesh tiwari of PEO group

Baan Tao , photo credit Amrita Gadre Kelkar of PEO group 
Malaka spice, photo credit Ketki Kulkarni of PEO group 

Even though the post is about Aniruddha, the pictures used are from the various contributors of PEO, because the 13000 odd contributors is what makes this food community so special.

If you wish to read more posts on Pune by me.
here they are