Thursday, September 29, 2016

Travelling with toddler :packing tips

I was never one to crave worldly possessions, for me exotic travel, enriching life experiences, tantalizing food trails, are my objects of desire; and yet I found myself wishing I had a particular bag.

Not a hermes, but Hermione’s bag. That purple beaded bag, which was just a nifty sling bag but which held all assortment of stuff for her two friends and her, from clothes, to shoes, socka and even an invisibility cloak. I have never wished harder for the power of the undetectable extension charm, than when I was packing for baby foodies first international travel.

We are travelling with my 14 month toddler babyfoodie, and having myself and everyone around me up the wall, I finally have written down my packing essentials, in the hope it will help other travelling moms.

While packing can be daunting, I divide it according to the toddlers day which is , eat, poop,play, bath time,sleep.

Eat :
a.Travel food : small knick knacks, I am carrying home made carrot cake, and chocos cereal, for anytime finger food. But you can carry whatever your toddler likes. Just keep it simple and non messy.
b. sippy cup for water
c. sealed milk carton /juice carton/fruit yogurt carton: just a single helping .since it is sealed I hope it wont be a problem on flight
d. milk powder: baby-foodie has whole milk now, but considering that will be difficult to carry and may get spoiled, I am carrying a carton of lactogen 3. Plus he has a midnight feed, and it is much easier to constitute the milk powder from boiled cooled water, than wondering about the milk scene at 2 am in the morning. I plan to carry 5 scoops of dry powder in a measuring cup, so that he can have milk on bpoard the flight as well. much easier to ask the flight attendant for hot water.
e. A few small containers: these will be to stock up food and fruits in the morning breakfast area, so that baby foodie has handy snacks through the day.

this guy loves his chocos cereal, carry some of your child's favourite snacks. sugar rush be damned!

Poop/pee time:
a.       Diapers: he uses 3 /day since he is partially potty trained, but I am calculating 5/day and a few extras.we are going to a place where it might be difficult to purchase diapers, and thus the overthink.
b.      Wet wipes
c.       Leak proof bags to pack soiled diapers
d.      Diaper cream
e.      Potty chair: now this one was the tough call. The chair is a bulky duck shaped chair, with a neck and snout and hand bars. This meant a whole bag just to pack in the chair. We debated not taking it, debated buying a smaller more travel friendly potty chair, but ultimately decided to take the original along. More on the adventures of the potty chair once we return from our holiday.

yes, I am planning to chronicle our first international travel with wax crayon illustrations.

Bath time:
a.body wash
b.towel one big two hand towels
e.mosquito repellent lotion

a.       Trunks
b.      Tube
c.       Hand tube
d.      Air blower (optional) to blow up the bigger tubes.
e. his grandmom has got him a life jacket too!(p.s.)we will be in a water villa, thus the overcautiousness)

Sleep time:
a.       Favourite blanket and pillow

Calculating three changes per day. repeated every three days. Which comes to 9 sets of clothes.some extras. Plus two night clothes, if it’s a short trip and three sets of night clothes if it’s a longer trip.

aqua themed clothes for the little one

A water proof crocs variety for the beach
Another set of shoes.

Stroller or babywearing ?
Major debate on this as well. but we are planning to take both. Here is why. We start travel in the wee hours of the night and I feel baby wearing a sleeping child will be more conmforting to him. but we have two changes of flight with a 6 hour stop over. 6 hours of carrying an energetic toddler is going to be tough. He loves his stroller, and even though it is 7 Kgs, it can double up as a strapped in chair in which to feed him, at the airport, or even in the hotel room. Even if it buys us an hour of sanity, I am ok lugging around an extra 7 Kgs. (that’s the idea, but more on it once we return from our travel).
We went to a fancy restaurant once, and they didn't have any high chairs. baby foodies's stroller came to the rescue. we had a hands free dinner .

No toys!
I believe in baby foodie engaging with his surrounding. That is the whole point of him travelling. He is a curious kid, and new places will keep him curious. He can look through the inflight magazines, play with empty cups on flight, run around the hotel room, play in the sand, and engage with his surroundings. Plus one less thing to pack. (he has no favourite toy yet, but if he did I might have carried that along)

Well , this is only our first travel, so hopefully I will keep editing this post as we go along. But any and all suggestions are invited in the comments below. 

some helpful posts I read along the way :

my post on travelling with my 10 month old

Cafes of Goa, part 1

Panjim of late has gotten itself a bean bag filled with new cafes.This week we review two of the new beans on the block, Black vanilla and mad hatter’s tea café. While one is owned by a big hospitality company which already owns three food and beverage outlets in Panjim, the other is a small enterprise by a woman entrepreneur ,her first venture into the world of F and B.  

Black Vanilla: strategically situated next to Crossword book store, this cute and cozy café calls itself a boulangerie as well. The newest venture by Bernard and Bennett, the ones who own enroute and Barrels and Bones, they even have a loyalty card, redeemable at any of their outlets. Artistic paintings of the Eiffel tower, French style windows, and fresh baguettes for sale add to the French appeal of the place. The tree shelf bearing books as leaves on it’s branches is a particularly lovely sight, and a treat for book lovers and writers.
They have a host of salads, burgers and open faced sandwiches. The black pepper beef sandwich was recommended . I found the beef quite tender but the marinade had not managed to flavour the meat,the leftovers infact tasted much better the next morning, because of the increased time for the flavours to actually marinate. The prawn and calamari Caesar salad is perfect for a quick lunch on a hot afternoon. The only grouse is that they do not have any crispy croutons in the Caesar salad, hopefully that can be easily remedied. The desserts unfortunately did not pass muster. The red velvet roll, was infact just a red coloured sponge cake. The average Goan who loves to eat out has now evolved enough to know the difference between a sponge cake and a red velvet cake. The cheese cake had a lovely dense creamy cheesy aftertaste, the white chocolate top was inspired, but I felt it was not value for money. They have a nice, if not an extensive cold as well as hot coffee range. The cold mocha was refreshing, with balanced flavours of coffee and chocolate, but I wish it wasn;t served in a coffee mug. Coffee mugs just make me think ‘hot’ coffee, I prefer my cold beverages in tall, transparent glasses. But that’s just me.
Pros: great location, cozy ambience, ample parking (opposite the road), open till 11 pm.
Cons: average desserts, limited seating,expensive.
that book shelf and lantern spell all sorts of coziness

beef open sandwich

caesar salad

Madhatters tea café: situated in the bustling road just off 18 june road, this one is on a one way, and is best located through google maps. The place is still a work in progress, with a menu which has maggi and simple sandwiches as the highlights. The quirky theme is what gets people in the door, and the theme carries forward in the posters from alice in wonderland, a photo booth complete with photo props like hats and tea cups. Given the mad hatters love/hate relationship with time, there are a number of alarm clocks and table clocks which add to the ‘mad and quirky’ décor. Yes, there is room for improvement, but one can’t help but realise that there is a personal touch in most things at the café.
Food wise, this place is a work in progress, they yet don’t have a fixed menu. All the teas are loose leafed, which is a major plus, considering even the five star ‘tea lounges’ in the city are serving tea bag tea. I ordered the chamomile tea, and it came in a transparent tea pot, I could actually see the chamomile flowers infusing the hot water. The visual in itself was calming and I feel a large part of the tea appreciation experience. The pot comes with it’s very own 3 minute hour glass, and watching the sand slip down while the tea brews into a warm sun kissed auburn shade is an experience I haven’t seen in any other tea café in the city. The tea itself is poured into transparent cups, which works great with the green teas and infusions, but I would love to see some quirky porcelean cups brought from antique thrift stores at the madhatters, especially while sipping on black teas or milk teas. They have about a dozen odd number of teas, which in itself is not many, but since Goa is still waking up to the tea revolution, it is a start. The food as I said is very limited, and I just tried their club sandwich, which was average.The place is aimed at the young, aspirational college goer, and thus the prices are affordable, but I feel given more thought and time, this place could very well stretch out to the more experienced , mature customers, who are knowledgable as well as love their tea.
Pros: quirky name and concept , affordable, use of loose leaf tea.

Cons: limited menu, hassle to find parking.

time is running out, an hour glass, some brewing chamomile tea, and a copy of alice in wonderland kept me company.

a kettle shaped takeaway menu , carries forward the theme

cool posters on the walls

some hat inspired photo props at the photo booth

Monday, September 26, 2016

The day we met Hillary Clinton, Kim Kardashian, and ET

We were in Times Square, yes that big ostentatious, overly lit, overly crowded, and some might say overly hyped place in possibly the whole planet, but I was loving it. On our stay in new york, we visited Times square almost every night, especially if it waqs a late day at work, we just decided to meet in times square directly from work, and then we would figure out dinner plans. Right from work to dinner, well yes, the Sephora store On tomes square is where I freshened up my makeup with all the try me make up products. And it wasn't just me, every New york woman had had the exact same brilliant idea, and the shop attendees didn't mind one bit. 

Coming back to the Times square, so as I said we used to meet at times square, and as previously mentioned it was overtly crowded. thus we set a meeting place, the H and M building. for one this place has a huge sign board , you can't miss it, it's easy to see three blocks down as well, for another it has free wifi, and the third -clothes and the perennial sales at H and M.

That moment in H and M , when I go hey I have that Shirt!! and yes, I click a picture with a clothes hanger. :D

One of the first stops on Times square was at the Ben and Jerry's icecream store. don't mind that it was stilll winter and as from above picture you can see I was wooled up suitably, but I had heard that bollywood song "paune barah baje..." the mignight tryst with Ben and Jerry's , and I wanted my fan girl moment. They had some really funky flavours, I opted for the tonight Dough starring Jimmy Fallon, which had two flavours of cookie dough, a chcoclate chipa nd a peanut butter variety. loved it!

two scoops of icecream , while I shivered even in my woollies.

To get away from the cold, we used to try and find interesting things to do in and around Times square, and there are no dearth of such places. one of the most fun was the Madame Tussaud's, a super tip is to get the 10 dollars off coupons the man is distributing right outside madame Tussaud's, it really works! another tip, befriend a couple/family, whose pictures you are willing to take and who will take yours as well, otherwise you are left with no couple pictures.

Kimmy and me.

Charlie chaplin just can't figure out what's so funny!

Riding off with ET .

selfie with future Madam President (hopeful)
 The following two pictures I am just going to hash tag 'debate night'. in honour of the presidential debates that are going on presently in the USA, as well as the multiple debates Pawan my husband and I have, on almost every single topic, every single night :D

I met the Man and the icecream on the same day, this happens only in America, and more specifically only on Times Square.

Hey Jimmy, did you know I just ate an icecream named the tonight dough? 

Reliving his boxing days.

Fan boy moment
 We were in the Big Apple, and nothing says touristy like eating at applebees. we had their much recommended Tacos, they are far from the original, with their pre fried taco shells, but really tasty. It's amazing the number of combo meals America has to offer, and up-sizing your meals. we see it Macdonald's in India, but here they have taken upscaling to a whole new level.

loaded with cheese, and deep fried tacos, don't be fooled by the little bits of carrot sticking out, this starter is a must must have at applebees.

in school we studied permutation and combinations, i mentally tried to calculate how many, unique combinations we could try on our multiple visits to applebees, with their 2 for $36 plan. we never did return to eat in another applebees, we didn't repeat any food eateries in our entire month's stay. so stay tuned for more food and travel stories from New york.

mashed potatoes, steak and brocolli, yes, the picture could have been better taken. But believe it or not I got selfconscious taking food pics .

 Oh and a foot note: I really do have that shirt from H and M, bought locally in India no less. this picture is from my trip to dominican republic read more about it here

Thursday, September 22, 2016

brunching on the beach @ Labrise, Candolim

The monsoon showers are almost over, and Goans are being gifted with some brilliant sunkissed mornings, and fun days at the beach once more. The perfect way to celebrate the sun on a Sunday, is heading over to La Brise shack, which is strategically situated facing the sea, on Candolim beach, and yet unlike most of the shacks, it is a permanent structure, with good cover in case it rains, a dining experience akin to the starred resorts, as it belongs to the Novotel Resort Candolim.
So, one gets the best of both worlds; the unstructured, casualness of a shack, while the food, music and ambience have the comfort of an indoor restaurant.
We were warned that since it is a shack kind of establishment, a high chair would not be available and other baby friendly/child friendly amenities may be missing. We were happy to note availability of high chair, a small air conditioned section, a small green area for cricket, badminton and the like, as well as beach games as well.

Apart from a roof over your head, you are in an open air seating, which can get pretty warm in the afternoon, suggested seating is under a fan, but the music can be loud.
The food begins at 11 a clock in keeping with the breakfast to lunch concept. You have a grazing bar, to choose popcorn, nachos, dips and such. A salad bar where you can toss your own salad, or sample the chicken tikka salad or the arugula, feta and mandarin salad, which was my favourite. The salads are seen chilling out in their own swing. A fun and casual way of serving the salads.The salad in a jar is also a great concept, unfortunately the lettuce greens had gone limp from the heat, something to be expected in this weather.

The fare is casual dining, and you even have a counter making maggi.the chef manning the counter was prepping the maggi quite akin to making pasta at pasta counters; using veggies and chicken , egg or toppings of your choice. But they stuck to the original flavours of the maggi tastemaker for seasoning, thus not veering away from the much loved taste of ‘meri maggi’.

An egg counter which serves up scrambles to omelettes, again plays well with the brunch concept.
A live barbeque counter which is the highlight of the spread. Succulent pieces of mutton chops and pork spare ribs, have been cooked to perfection. The pork fat rendered down till the fat is a gelatinous melt in your mouth consistency, and the caramelisation on the Goat meat was spot on.This is a do not miss counter, infact visit multiple times during the brunch.

The burgers were a let down. The beef too dry, not cooked to a medium rare. The chicken slider was dry as well. the potato veggie burger was surprisingly the best. But since you can build your own burger, I suggest extra cheddar cheese, more mayo, and double serving of caramelised onions, with two burger patties of your choice, or three, to make a jumbo burger tower. Get creative.
The goan dishes on offer were average, so was the south east Asian fare.
The dessert counter is served indoors since the weather can be quite unforgiving to pastries. The usual suspects of cakes, waffles, a chocolate fountain and the like. loved the addition of fresh cut fruits , served to order.
The sunny surroundings make you reach out for a drink and they have plenty of options. Both in carton juices, mocktails, and cocktails. Fresh juices or tender coconut water by the beach would have been ideal.
The brunch goes on till 4.The beachnic, is literally that, a beach side picnic; a fun way to spend time with family and friends at the beach.
Food: 3.5 plates
Ambience: 4 plates

Service: 4 plates

to read more about the history of brunching , read here

flavours of the pan asian @ Malaka spice , Goa

I guess this article should start with a disclaimer. Malaka Spice is one of my favourite restaurants in Pune, where I grew up. It was where I took my husband when he first visited the Maratha city; not to a puneri restaurant selling missal pav and vada pavs , but to an idyllic haven of lanterns under a banyan tree , in the heart of a bustling city in one of the posh localities in Pune which served inspired south east Asian cuisine.
Malaka Spice is not a chain of restaurants, atleast not yet. It has it’s flagship restaurant in Pune, two more outlets in Pune itself and to the brilliant luck of Goans, Praful Chandawakar has chosen Panjim as it’s first out of Pune venture.

Ambience: now for me I have a nostalgia attached to the Malaka spice in Koregaon park, which is the Caranzalem equivalent in Pune. Unfortunately with the DP road still under construction, setting up a restaurant in Caranzalem presently is not possible. Malaka spice is situated on the ground floor of hotel Grande Delmon, in close proximity to all the main arterial roads of Panjim. No they do not have their own parking, and yes it can be an issue. But head in and they have the ubiquitous flowered tuk tuk, which marks the entrance of malaka spice everywhere. They also have the star shaped lanterns and a high ceiling to give the feeling of open air dining like in Pune. What has always impressed me the most though are the eclectic art work displayed in the restaurant which is up for sale. It is a way to generate sales for artists and the artwork changes over time and sometimes they have a little flea market up front aswell.

Food: eating at Malaka spice is unlike eating in any other oan Asian restaurant. Do not reach for the familiar spring roll or the dimsums, do not order a thai green curry; ask a veteran. For the pleasure of my readers, let me recommend my all time favourites. Start with the top hats, they are the Asian version of Pani puris. A crispy cup filled with chicken or vegetables and moong sprouts , drizzle a few of the accompanying sauces, my favourite is the thai sweet chilli sauce. This dish is all textures, crisp , crunchy, chewy and crumbly all in one mouthful. The veg version is as good as the non veg version. Then move on to the famed lamb chops, or the mutton murtabak which is a Malaysian version of baby mughlai parathas.

The menu has all the favourites from the past, but also a whole new section of Pork and beef options which are not available in the Pune outlets. Serving beef and pork in Goa is a testament to the universal cooking and eating behaviour in Goa, as well as the religious and cultural tolerance that Goans are famed for. Malaka spice is perhaps one of the only restaurants I know which brings out an interesting array of vegetarian dishes all specially curated under the “saawan shravan “special. How unique is that!

This is a place that is not only sensitive to people’s religious bent when it comes to food, but also really believes in serving food that is locally sourced and seasonally available. With a farm located on the banks of river Bhima, in Maharashtra , they try and use as many of the fresh vegggies which grow organically on this farm. “If broccoli is not available in the local markets, I do not serve it. If there is a fish ban, I do not risk the lives of fishermen just to serve fish at the restaurant.” The guys at Malaka spice endeavour to serve fresh brilliant food, nuanced with south east Asian flavours.

The beef medallions are like mini steaks cooked to a juicy medium rare , the teriyaki marinade on the tepanyaki beef skewers were spot on. From subtle flavours to big bold punchy peppers, there are quite a few flavours to choose from. The pork spare ribs in a sticky bbq glaze may be vying for the best seller list along with the lambs. my absolute revelation were the curry prawns. curry leaves, flavoured scramble egg, and deep fried prawns have never been such great food buddies. I tried this dish the next day at home.they are ingenious in their simplicity and firworks in terms of flavour combination.

They have a wide variety of wines to choose from, from the nashik valleys to more distant vineyards. The cocktails were delicious enough to have seconds, or even thirds of.

Malaka Spice established 19 years back, was the dream of the husband wife duo, they scored the south east and brought their own twists to the classics , thus it is an ‘inspired’ style of cooking. The curries and rotis and rice and noodle dishes may not bare perfect resemblance to the way you might have come to expect, but while visiting keep an open mind and an eager palate and I am sure you will not be disappointed. For mains, we had my favourite Jhala roti, which is these yellow lacy thin and crispy crepe type rotis. But unlike the original , these are made in an eggless format and crisper than the originals. Let the gravy (either kari kapitan or the thai red curry) get soaked in the roti and turn it moist n soft, and you have a textural dish of crispy jhala roti along with moist curry soaked roti. Very much like appams, but in so many ways very different.
For desserts they have non Asian choices, like the magic chocolate lava cake, again an inspired version of the original, or the date rolls with icecream.

To experience more from Malaka Spice, they have the ‘buffet on the table’ on all weekday lunches, with almost 15 dishes course by course, for 499. And the Sunday Chandon brunch which includes unlimited Chandon sparkling wine, for 600 Rs plus taxes.

Few places make you comfortably nostalgic as well as the excitement of discovery , as the food at Malaka Spice.  

Food: 4/5 plates
Service: 4/5 plates
Ambience: 3.5/5 plates

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Rice paper modak rolls: recipe

Ukadiche modak; long before I could say the name properly, I was in love with the steamed modaks which are traditionally prepared for ganesh chaturthi in Maharashtra/Goa. Having lived a fairly large part of my childhood in Pune, there was no dearth of neighbour hood aunties cooking and gifting us this tedious to prepare but absolutely wortht he effort sweet .
Ukadiche, essentially means steamed. The modak itself is the actual closed lotus bud shape of the steamed dumplings.
This year I was determined to try my own Ukadiche modak. that is when I read up the recipe. it called for rice flour and dough making and rolling, and filing and steaming.
I began by making the filling of the modak. fairly simple. take two cups of freshly grated coconut , begin by lightly roasting it, until the oils just begin to seep out, then add ground cardamom, nutmeg, and a cup of ground jaggery to the mix. I like my filling quite sticky and wet. so i didn't cook it for too long. it hardens to a sticky consistency as it cools.
the traditional shape of modaks. 

fried modaks. tasty, but the steamed variety are my favourite.

with this filling made I first experimented with a few fried Modaks which were madef rom a half wheat flour and half refined flour dough.
But, I was yet to move on to the Ukadiche modak , when I hit upon the brainwave; why not use vietnamese rice paper?

Rice paper or Banh Trang, is a staple of Vietnam. it is pretty much the same this as the Ukadiche flour, since it uses rice flour as base and is a stemed version of the rice flour.
to make one ukadiche modak would take the better part of the morning to make, and from what I have heard it isn't the easiest
although I love Ukadiche modak, I used to find the rice flour outer shell sometimes too thick and gelatinous. after eating the yummy filling, i invariably left the thicker parts of the modak, especially the top where the ends of the modak are gathered to make a crown.
But rice paper takes just 15 seconds to soak in water, leave on a dinner plate for a minute to soften and then a nifty roll, and voila , there you have it - rice paper modak rolls.

rice paper: I bought a commercial variety available almost anywhere in India now.

how to roll: place filling at one third part of the rice paper, in the center. fold the top third of rice paper over it. fold the sides of the rice paper. to make a a neat package. rol the rice paper until it covers the filling completely.

the rice paper modak rolls are ready to eat.

 but add a bit of desi ghee over the rolls for a more authentic modak taste. I served it with my favourite soy caramel dressing. Heat two parts soy sauce to one part sugar/honey, for a sweet and salty dipping sauce.

happy ganesh chaturthi.
Serve these ready in a jiffy rice paper modak rolls and win over the old and the new generations with the much loved flavours of the ukadiche modaks, and the elegance of rice paper rolls.