#NutCracker – A Happy Place if You Love Food


The Name NutCracker always makes me as happy as a child on a swing. It immediately brings to mind  fairies, magic, Christmas and all happy memories. Now Imagine a place that would do this all year round, and even better imagine if you find it in your city. Well, that’s what happened to me – I found a really cute little cafe that serves up delectable fresh fare and which I can easily say I am in Love with.

Local Fresh Ingredients, form part of the menu and each dish has a twist. Why you must go there is because some items on their menu are unique and  even regular items on their menu, have a stamp of unmatched quality.

Starting with the humble Cheese Toast, this one reminded me of the Jon Favreau Cheese Sandwich scene Chef Cheese Toast Scene

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Sorghum Salad

I like to think of this as the Mumbai Winter on  a plate. The salad dressed with a spicy dressing has strawberries, ponkh, sweet potatoes and pomegranates. It is like they decided to put every thing good about the Mumbai winter on a plate and serve it to hungry food lovers like me. I have already been back twice to indulge in this fearing the end of the seasonal produce. Hope you can make it too.

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The Kejriwal

I must confess eating the Kejriwal anywhere else apart from the Bombay Canteen feels like cheating. This one however is starkly different from that one. A generous Mushroom Filling and Cheese on the top. I definitely enjoyed it.

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Avocado On Toast

This is a recent love affair that has begun. I am actively looking for Avo on toast everywhere, and let me tell you very few places offer it, and do it well. This one comes with a dash of hummus on toast.  Makes for an indulgent yet healthy brekker. Good fat, protein, carbs and all that jazz 😉

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Nutty Spaghetti

This seems like a regular aglio olio on the face of it, but what really blows your mind and takes you by surprise is orange rind in the spaghetti. I have had some interesting variations of the aglio olio, with coriander, green chillies, onions but orange rind is such an unexpected flavour, that it gets my vote.

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The Eton Mess  waffle

Another seasonal special is the Eton Mess Waffle. The Eton Mess is one of my favorite desserts simply because it offers such an array of flavours and textures and has such a DIY air about it – it seems like you are eating so many different desserts at the cost of being guilty only once. The Waffle here is tops like everything else about the place – Soft in the middle and cruncy on the side. Pieces of meringue, strawberries and banana generously strewn. Oh happiness your name must be this waffle

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The Seven Layer Cookie

 

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Often when I have eaten here, I have been unable to leave enough space in my tummy for this mad dessert. However, I tried it finally after two years of unsuccessful attempts and realised what the big deal about this cookie is. It is served with a fresh butter scotch ice cream and I dare you to not go mmmmmmmmm! when you have the first mouthful. The Cookie is a happy concoction  – Nutella, White Choc, Dark, Cookie base and frankly I don’t know what all the seven layers are, except that this is Sinful but worth the muffin top.

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The Cafe is predominanly vegetarian but serves eggs. My first stumbling block was convincing my hard core non vegetarian  partner to come with me to Nut Cracker, after that he has happily suggested it himself. Good Quality and Great Food always wins. Another amazing perspective is that the restaurant uses fresh local produce and it is lovely to see it becoming a trend and cool. We actually get to eat fresher food. They also serve fabulous Coffee, so I can safely say that It is on my Happy Place List.

New York at Christmas


 

There is something about being in New York that makes me feel that I am in the middle of a Rom Com or in an episode of SATC. The whole city has an air of familiarity, but at the same time, promises adventure and discovery at every step.

 

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I experienced the last leg of Autumn and the first leg of Christmas  as I found myself in New York in the first few days of December. The leaves were flaming orange, and yellow , the Christmas Spirit Engulfed the air. Special Shows, Large Christmas Trees, Special Display windows all over the city. They made me forget that I was walking around in 4 degrees temperature. I find 21 degrees difficult to bear, so one can only imagine what Antarctica this would have meant to me.

Here are a few things that you Must Not Miss if you are ever in New York at Christmas. While Fairy Lights, Carols and Happy faces beckon you at evey turn some need undivided attention

Watch George Balanchine’s Nut Cracker at the Lincoln Center

The story of the Nut Cracker is what we have all read in parts or religiously as we were growing up. You will realise how familiar the music is once you listen to the various pieces that are part of the ballet. This was my first ballet and it was enchanting to see dreamy sequences come to life. You see a 12 ft Christmas Tree become 40 feet whilst the dream world of Marie comes to life. While there are several versions of the Nutcracker  –  The George Balanchine production of the Tchaikovsky ballet is the most celebrated one in the US and a must do thing around Christmas. The Snow Flake Sequuence and the Waltz of the Flowers were my favorite, I’d love to hear about yours too.

 

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They do not allow pictures inside, though I managed to sneak one little one at the end, because I just had to walk away with a memory of the lovely experience I had. I got fairly decent tickets at 125$ with a good view. But I was still sitting up on the first floor, I was in the 4th ring.

 

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Make a Date With the Rockettes

The Christmas Spectacular at the iconic Radio City Music Hall is also one of those amazing experiences that simply add to the Christmas Spirit . I watched this after the ballet, so while the productions are very different, this one had a more relatable charm to it, whilst the ballet was etheral. 14 years of convent education had done enough to excite me about any reference to Christmas. Christmas combined by the awe inspiring synchronised dancing of the Rockettes guarantees an awesome show. It is called the Spectacular so expect nothing else. Here I got better tickets in about 110$ so i sat closer to the stage 🙂

 

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This was my favorite song and I spent the next few days singing it while I explored the city.

Check out Rockettes New York At Christmas

 

The Rockefeller Tree

The tree is considered the epicentre of New York City’s Holiday Celebrations. Right from the time of the Great Depression, while workers stood to collect their wages, the Tree has metamorphosed into a symbol that heralds the onset of the holidays. In recent years the lighting of the tree is a celebrated event that is also telecast Live. The 1999 tree was 100 feet tall, the one that I saw last year was 94 feet making it the second largest ever. Honestly it’s difficult to get a good glimpse as everyone wants a picture with it, just like I did. I chose to go during the day and avoid the night.

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The Christmas Markets

The parks turn to bustling markets where you can buy Christmas decorations, gifts or simply hang out to soak in the vibe. I spent a good afternoon at the Bryant Park market watching people skate and enjoy the holidays shopping. You have some amazing stores from around the world and New York and is an ideal place to shop for souvenirs and Christmas goodies.

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I also visited the Columbus Circle Market. What I enjoyed most at both these markets was people watching and sipping divine hot choclate.

 

The SnowFlake on Fifth Avenue

Another New York Icon is the Snowflake on Fifth Avenue. It is put up by the UNICEF and is dedicated to vulnerable children across the world. I can only think of this song when I look at it

“O Star of wonder, star of night. Star with royal beauty bright”

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Coffee Up and Stay Warm

The best thing about the cold is Warm Drinks. And No better Warm drink than Coffee in my book. I am not a fan of regular American Coffee, so I did extensive research on where I must have coffee in NYC. I sampled the following and was not dissapointed at all. The Blue Bottle next to Bryant Park, Blue Stone Lane Coffee in West Village  Toby’s estate next to Flatiron, and Third Rail scored high on my list! I would recommend these to any coffee lover at the drop of a hat

 

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Other Things to Do

High Tea at Bergdorf with a dash of Central Park.

While you admire the iconic window displays at Bergdorf Goodman, it will do you good to go up to the restaurant and enjoy their High tea as you look out into Central Park and at the right time of the evening you can see the sun set on the buildings and it is truly a Rom Com movie sight. The tea and the spread is not bad too. It was a lot of food, and I had time to kill and they do not hurry you at all. So i would say indulge and be a lady and channelise that inner Carrie in you. The tea including tips would cost you about 75$

 

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Walk down Brooklyn Bridge

A clear day with the occassional chill that kisses your face, the close to a mile walk is never boring for a New Yorker so for a tourist you can imagine the charm. This was my second walk and a much longer one, because we walked from Eastern Parkway, over the bridge till Seaport in Manhattan.

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Walking remains the best way to discover a city, but I was a huge fan of the Kick app. it simplified the metro and also worked offline, which is great because no matter where in the world you are connectivity in the subway is weak.

This was only a short list of what exciting things one can do in New York around Christmas. Would love to hear from you, if I must add to this list. Hopefully some day soon I will be back at Christmas and I will be sure to use those notes then 🙂

 

 

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Palermo – More to it than the Godfather


Palermo is a charming city in Sicily, and an overnight train ride away from Naples. We were keen on a Sicily leg to our Italian holiday, and between it’s mafia  connection and love for all things sweet, our decision was made. We spent two days in this charming capital city and took back a lifetime of Sicilian memories.

It is part of Italy, but has a different vibe to it compared to the rest of it. This could be because of the Byzantine influence. An overnight train journey took us to the city of Palermo from Naples. Its refreshing to wake up to a train ride that brings to you some breathtaking views of the sea.

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View from the Train

 

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Palermo bylanes

We stayed in the most gorgeous Air BnB in the centre of the city – L’Olivella it is very close to the Teatro Massimo. It was strategically placed and we were actually able to walk to most places we wanted to go to. The hostess was really helpful and sets up the most divine breakfast with a whole host of Sicilian treats. If any of you do decide to visit Palermo I would strongly recommend that you check L’Olivella ‘s availability and grab it, if it is available.

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Breakfast at L’Olivella

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The Living Room

About 400 metres away is the Nicest Coffee shop in the whole of Palermo called Ruvol0. For the 3 mornings that I was there, that was where I headed for my morning cuppa, to find a Sicilian gossip conference on as early as 6 am. You have a view of the Teatro Massimo and an array of Sicilian delights to choose from.

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Sweet Treats

Opera Dei Pupi (Opera of the Puppets)

Puppet theatre is quite popular in Italy, we saw it on the promenade in Salerno as well, but the piece de resistance was definitely the Opera Dei Pupi that we saw in Palermo. It has been been listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. When we saw it, we understood why. The marionette was entirely in Italian, and was an enactment of a “Orlando Furioso” a complete pot boiler, it had its share of conflict, romance,metaphysical, fantasy, humour, war, and even though we did not understand the language, it was exaggerated enough for us to get a sense of what was happening.

 

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More than anything, the quality of production is mesmerizing and leaves you enthralled. it transports you to the middle ages and I was in awe of the sheer brilliance. It was nice to see a lot of local families and even children enjoying the show. I really wish that I had understood the language to enjoy it more and laugh at jokes.

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Sugar Rush – Sicilian Treats

Casatta was born in Palermo. This was reason enough to pay obeisance to this city and brave a bus ride (with no ticket) to Pasticcerria Oscar to eat the best Casatta in the city. A sponge cake, moistened with juices, layered with ricotta, and covered with a shell of marzipan. It is sweet and has an array of textures, and a delight for all the senses.

 

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Casatta at Oscar

Cannoli Siciliani was the next dessert, we simply had to try here. It gets it’s name from Cannolu meaning Tube, and it looks like one with a filling of Ricotta or Mascarpone. You may have eaten it with a creamy filling, which could be custard but that’s only because people did not have the right ingredients in that part of the world, and over a period of time, it became the norm. The dessert is distinct to Sicily and I would say make most of it while you are there, as it’s not easily available all over the world.

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Cannoli

 

Brioche Con Gelato, or the Italian Ice Cream Sandwich. This has to be the best use of a Brioche. In most gelataria’s you can make your own Ice Cream sandwich. Choose your gelato flavors and the kind man at the counter, will make your own sandwich. Just the kind of breakfast / snack that calls out to me. It was an indulgent discovery, and a happy one. You cannot take your sweet time with it, because you are managing the melting gelato, and trying to balance that you have enough Brioche left till the very end. However, these are the kind of problems that I love to have.

 

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Brioche with Pistachio and Strawberry Gelato

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Almond Granita

If you have a sweet tooth like mine, there just aren’t enough meals to do justice to the Sweet haven that Palermo is. Never mind the sugar rush, but old favorites and experiments with new ones have to be made.

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Palermo being the capital of Sicily, had a huge Mafia presence, and that’s what the city is famous for. However, we noticed stickers in our building and a few of the restaurants that we went to, that said “AdioPizzo” , meaning  “Goodbye Pizzo” .

 

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We went to Antica Focacceria San Francesco, a restaurant that was established in 1834, while the food they serve is delicious and they are famous for that, they are in the news more because they were one of the first establishments to refuse to pay “Protection Money” . Focacceria owner Vincenzo Conticello became a local hero.

 

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The iconic Restaurant Facade

The restaurant is very famous for it’s Lamprodetto, but apart from that they serve a lot of snacks as well as pretty decent vegetarian fare. I indulged in the “Involantini di Melanzane” Eggplant Roulades, with cheese in a tomato and pinenuts puree. I could understand the hype around the restaurant. Good food, and history always go very well together for a tourist.

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Lampradetto

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Involantini di Melanzane

 

 

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Other things to do in Palermo

There is history everywhere, and like most of Europe, just walking around will have you marvel at the architecture and the sheer beauty of the city. Buskers, cafes and historical buildings are in every corner. The Normandy Palace, is another place that is simply marvellous. It is grand and very different from the kind of architecture you see in the rest of Europe. The Byzantine influence shines through. Street Food tours are popular, and you can eat almost every kind of meat, possible and also buy some sicilian crockery as you walk in the bylanes of Palermo.

 

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One more thing to keep in mind, is to definitely buy a day pass, if you intend to use the Bus. Your ticket is not checked on it, and definitely not sold. So either you buy it at the station, or a tabachi and that is closed on Sunday. We found out the hard way, and because we were too chicken to risk a fine, walked most of Sunday in Palermo, which I do not regret considering all the Sweets I ate.

I am certain we will go back to Sicily some day, when we will go to other cities like Catania  and Taormina, a  stop over at Palermo will be inevitable for all the original goodies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

E.A.S.T for Culinary Travel – #FoodComa


South East Asian Cuisine for a lot of us growing up was simply Chindian – Manchurian, Fried Rice and Hakka Noodles. That, till our palates evolved and we realized that theres a world beyond Chindian. For a seasoned palate, and a lover of South East Asian food E A S T at Sahara Star is definitely a must on your list.

True to it’s name – East Asian Spice Trail at Sahara Star Mumbai serves up an array of flavors from this region. Your introduction to it starts right from the plate. The edges of the plate have the countries of South East Asia, whose cuisine the chef whips up. You know when a restaurant has given so much thought to their plate, the attention to details with the food would be impeccable.

 

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Japanese Sushi 

My most favorite item from the meal was the Avocado Sushi. I loved it, especially because the flavour of the avocado with the Cheese was perfect. The best part was that the rice wasn’t as heavy as it tends to be in most sushi, but while the texture was still a bit chewy, and sticky, it had the right amount of lightness to it. The best part about that? You can down several pieces of it, while still having place for the rest of the yummy food on the menu.

 

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Vietnamese Rolls

Not only were the Vietnamese Rolls gorgeous, they were also one of the healthiest starters I have eaten. Instead of oily spring rolls the Vietnamese rolls  are a much better option. The rice paper rolls, light vermicelli noodles and vegetables, were a different take for my palate. Frankly one I prefer over a greasy spring roll!

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Wholesome Thai

Raw Papaya Pad Thai

While I have often seen the Raw Papaya Salad, and Pad Thai noodles as different items on menus, this was the first time I had tasted the Raw Papaya Pad Thai. Needless to say the twist is friendly to the palate.

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Thai Green Curry

Thai Green Curry, tops my list of comfort foods. There’s something about that mix of lemon grass, coconut milk and all those delectable spices that makes it a happy food for me. I have eaten some thick, not so great curries in my time, but at E A S T I must say, that the Curry is extremely comforting and delicious. Not a fan of the ridiculously thick curries one tends to have more often than not. This was the perfect consistency to wolf down with Sticky Rice.

 

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Dessert Trail 

My Favorite Dessert of the evening was the Coconut Pandaan Jelly. It is impossible to be satiated with just one. Served with toothpicks, you should ideally pop the whole piece into your mouth. The best part of the jelly is the amalgamation of the two flavors that complement each other perfectly. This is again such a light item that it is impossible to keep count of how many you may have wiped off.

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The menu also has some western desserts, because we love our Chocolate Mousse, and Tarts, but the clear winner and what I would go back for is easily the Coconut Pandaan Jelly

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Eating Out is a delightful experience, and when the eating experience transports me to different places it only adds to it, and makes it even more special. My meal at EAST felt like a culinary holiday with samples of different cuisines of South East Asia. Being Vegetarian I am happy to discover variety in food at restaurants, as I truly believe that very few  speciality restaurants do justice to it and EAST got my vote.

I would love to hear what your experience was at EAST, and if I have missed out some item on the list,  do ping me. I should get ready for my second inning at the restaurant soon.

 

 

Finding #Coffee in #CuttingChai City


My quest for good Coffee, in this Tea drinking city, has seen me go through several cups. More bad ones than good. I realized that there was very little of the good brew out there. Those who are addicted to Coffee, will know how disturbing a mediocre or bad cup of coffee can be, and also know the sheer bliss of the perfect Cup.

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While a lot of factors contribute to that perfect cup, ranging from the quality of beans, freshness of milk, mood of the barista and so many other variables like these. What really matters to me is how good the beans are, when they were roasted and definitely no “Low Fat” Milk. Once you have tasted coffee made from freshly ground beans, it is difficult to make peace with an instant mediocre brew.

I have put together a list of the Best 4 from my experiments with Cafes and here they are…

Zen Café

The Coffee at the Zen Cafe in Lower Parel, is as smooth as silk. There’s something about the way their coffee is made that makes you always want to have the second cup and on several occasions I have. I tried to find out from where they source their coffee, because there is a distinct lightness, yet thickness of coffee and lack of acidity in it.

Their beans are a combination of Origin X — a carefully profiled small batch roast of award-winning high altitude organic coffee from the Balmaadi Estate, perched within the O-valley region of the Nilgiris and Espresso X—a unique blend of Balmaadi arabica and the world’s first Q-graded Fine Robusta from Sethuraman Estate, Chikmagalur

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Their baristas are experts, and whip up a mean cortado, cappucino or even an affogato. Their coffee art surprisingly stays intact for a while as you sip the cappucino that’s covered with a velvety microfoam. It surely gets my vote for one of the best cups in the city. It’s a basic coffee menu, no frills but damn good coffee.

Suzette

A meal at Suzette is unlikely to ever be a disappointment, thankfully for me the same is true of their coffee as well. They use a super premium 100% arabica coffee blend with a medium dark roast only assembled and roasted for them. If you like a cappucino then the richness of taste comes from the best milk in the market Pride of Cows. It is my first choice for a meal out in Bandra when I want to end it with coffee.

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BAD Café

The BAD Cafe that opened earlier this year, opened with the claim of serving the best coffee in town, and they have pretty much lived up to this claim. They source their beans from down south for robust flavors. What makes their brew truly special is that
their coffee is brewed from beans which come from the first point of coffee farm, that are handpicked and aged with care.
They have an exhaustive coffee menu, and perhaps the most robust one in Mumbai. I like their cappucino the best. I have tried a few of their coffees and they have something that will reach out to the passing coffee drinker as well as the aficionado
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BAD innovates with fit and complimenting flavors, which go beyond enhancing the taste and feel of the brew! In fact they have also started retailing their coffee. You can get them in two variations. Yin and Yang**

 

Matunga – Filter Coffee

Just the way one is unlikely to drink Bad Filter Coffee in Madras, the same holds true in Matunga as well. I know I can blindly order it and not be dissapointed. The strength of the decoction may oscillate a bit but more often than not you will treat yourself to a damn good davra of coffee. I’ve had coffee at Arya Bhavan and  Madras Cafe and both have been damn good. Familiar comfort of Filter Coffee and all the happiness that comes with it.

Filter Coffee

 

Apart from the ones I have listed above, the coffee at Le 15 Colaba (They use Blue Tokai) and the Pantry is also pretty good and definitely worth a try. All these cafes surely know the importance of sourcing the right beans, with attention to the quality of the roast, the freshness of the roast and of course the quality of the milk they use if they are whipping up a cappucino or any coffee with milk.

Since I moved to Mumbai from the intensive Coffee Drinking City Chennai, I realized that much like the Sambaar, the coffee palate was also different here. Everytime I cribbed about the coffee, very few people got it. I prefer drinking my coffee at home, because there will be no disappointment, but I like to have a second cuppa outside once in a while.

If I have missed out any place that serves a good cup of Joe, do share that with me, I would love to discover it. While I am no coffee expert, I lack the patience for a bad one, and will make a trek for a good one, so hit me with your suggestions.

** About Yin and Yang

Yin: A rooted emotion, dark texture and cold effect strike a balance with the chaotic and expansive human body, making it calm and centered.
 
Yang: A creation that empowers and energizes you to achieve activity, execution and sustenance with the fire of creativity.

 

Eating & Climbing through #Florence


While Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and can be really inspring and intimidating when you visit it, I  bring back memories of uphill climbs that made all the florentine food we ate guilt free, more than anything else. Oh yes! When you walk 17 kms a day, everything on the menu is allowed and you can indulge without guilt. We ate at some of the iconic places in Florence and discovered some new ones. I share some of my memorable meals, and hope that I am back again soon in this lovely city that celebrates Art and food with equal fervor.

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The Best Pizza and a Breathtaking Panorama

We earned ourselves the right to unlimited calories, or so we thought after our uphill climb to enjoy some of the most splendid views of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo. While you can choose to take a bus, or take a taxi we decided to climb up having no idea how steep that climb actually was. Wear walking shoes, those wedges aint gonna make the climb any sweeter. I must add however that it was well worth the climb as we basked in panoramic views of Florence and a David replica. I feel they made it really tacky so that we appreciate doubly the glory of the David Statue in Uffizzi.  We were lucky we reached when it was still bright and managed to stay until dark. The Piazza is crowded and people tend to buy their food and drink and prop themselves on the stairs, to enjoy the view. The panorama across the Arno – dome and belltower of the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio’s clock tower and various church steeples  – is probably the photo of Florence that you often see and it’s important that you have your own 🙂

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The View From Piazza Micheangelo

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View from the Piazza

Famished and tired, we simply walked back and ended up at Bevo Vino a little place we saw as we climbed down the steps and were making our way back to our hotel. It’s in the funky San Nicolo neighborhood, which you have to pass by to get back to the Arno, and the Ponte Vecchio. It is a Wine Bar, and the Mister decided to have the Peroni Rossa Beer. The pièce de résistance was the pizza which was the day’s special. We still sigh when we think of this Pizza and hope that we will bump into this somewhere. Otherwise we may just have to go back to Italy for this. Sunk our teeth into this gorgeous piece of food art, seemed like a margherita, topped with fresh roquette and succulent fresh Buffalo Mozarella.

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Pizza from heaven

When the Wait is Worth it – Trattoria Mario 

Our next meal that I think of often was at Trattoria Mario. It is run by three generations of the Colzi family it is famous for it’s Florentine home style food. It’s a comfortable walk from the Duomo on Via Rosina. This was one line we were glad we waited in. It is open only for lunch and shut on Sundays, no skipping lines and all you can do is hope people ahead of you drop out!

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We waited about 45mins to get a table, albeit one that we had to share with a group of people and another couple. Very udipi-esque in that sense, and had the same no nonsense, eat and leave kind of vibe. Very chaotic and lively in a way. Lots of screaming, it’s hot, and a lot of locals eat there. Gets my vote.

Apparently here everyone eats together and when Fabio Colzi calls out your name you get to your table, sharing it with strangers, but with a common goal, of eating authentic florentine cuisine. I was impressed with was with the way he  pronounced my name “Soowaathi” , which was amazing, as my name tends to be quite a tongue twister for most foreigners.

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See the Chaos Behind?

 Trattoria Mario’s Ribollita  is world famous and luckily for us it was on the menu. It’s a vegetable soup soaked in bread, and frankly is a wholesome meal by itself. That is the first time I had it, and I have not seen it on too many menus since.

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Ribbulita

The second item on my list was the Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Ravioli in a fresh tomato and basil sauce. The Ravioli was generously filled and the sauce itself is one of the freshest I have had, I can still taste the flurry of flavors in my mouth.

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Stuffed Ravioli in Tomato Sauce

Their olive oil I had read is so good, that they supply to restaurants, so we ordered that with some bread. The bread of course in true tuscan style is not with salt, but the olive oil is seasoned  well. When you do have the olive oil it’s easy to understand why they supply to others.

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Coffee & Gelato Scouts

In between all this, I managed to have coffee at three of their coffee shops.

Scudieri which is right opposite the Duomo, a perfect spot for dessert, or coffee before or after you make the trek up. We decided to go before. Ordered a regular Cappucino and a Macchiato. The second spot that we tried was the Roberto Cavalli Cafe – Cafe Giacosa. I indulged in a Cafe Completo which had espresso, hazelnut and chocolate. Their hot chocolate is wickedly rich and good too.

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Cappucino at Scudieri

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Cafe Completo – Cafe Giacosa

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Hot Chocolate – Cafe Giacosa

Gelato at Grom is probably a must. I’m not a fan of chains and retail but Grom seems different and the gelato is definitely does not seem mass produced but a lot more fresh and natural. We managed to sample 5 flavors. Madagascar Vanilla, Chocolate Extra Noir, pistachio (always) Hazelnut and Coffee. If I could have 2 flavours again, it would be the hazelnut and pistachio!

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Pilgrimage to the top of the Duomo.

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The Duomo

It is indeed an experience that I will cherish, climbing up the duomo, to the top of the Cupola. It is 463 steps, there’s no elevator and it really is a narrow spiral staircase. It is an adventure, and easily an exercise in bonding with fellow human beings and patience. Sometimes the path to go up and the path to come down is the same, so it is an excercise in co-ordination and god bless you, if you are on the heavier side. Very few windows can leave you claustrophobic, but you get through it all to enjoy a view of the cradle of the renaissance.

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View from one of the little windows

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The Final Steps Up to the Cupola

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But First let me take a selfie up there

These are only a few activities that I enjoyed in Florence. It really is the tip of a whole world of history, art and culture waiting to be explored. These are some of my favorite experiences from my trip. If you are reading this, I hope that it helps you. I would also love to hear about your recommendations, so that I am all geared up for my next trip!

#Goa – Sunsets, Beaches & Food


 

 

Goa for me translates into being a walrus on the beach and indulging in some great food, even though I am vegetarian/ eggetarian. While I think the sea food maniacs have a different kind of greed in their eye when they think of Goa, I have made an effort to scout some memorable meals / places which are absolute delights. They ensure that I am planning a trip back before I finish the one I am on.

Here are a few of my favorites, and why I think they are fabulous

Antares 

Having read about Master Chef finalist Sarah Todd’s new restaurant Antares in Goa, it was first on my list to try. I made bookings as soon as we decided to travel, and requested for a table with the best view. While amongst many things that were handed on a platter, this wasn’t , in spite of a booking about 3 weeks ago, I still had to wriggle my way in. I would say however it was worth it. We spent about 4 hours there. The best time to get there is about 5.30 pm, so that you can bask in the sunset

 

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View from the best seat at Antares

 

 

The drinks are a highlight . The “Summer Abroad” is especially a hit to cool down – Gin, Cucumber, fresh ginger and lemon as is the Bourbon Sidecar, which has whiskey, triple sec and lime juice.

I started with the Braised Spinach, Bulgur Wheat, soaked currants, pecan and blue cheese small plate. While I loved it, I wish the pecan pieces were a bit bigger, I would have liked more crunch in the dish. It can also serve as a main, if you are someone with a small appetite.  We also had the Pesto Cappelini, which was pretty good. The highlight however was the dessert for me. We had Sarah Todd’s famous iced nougat with pistachio, cranberry and pomegranate. I am afraid I have not watched the show very regularly so I don’t know if she made it on the show. However, as I prefer non chocolate desserts, this was an delight. The various flavors and textures make it a sensory delight.

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Pesto Cappellini

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Iced Nougat

 

It is a perfect spot for hours of unwinding, and priced at par with a fairly premium restaurant in Mumbai.

Coffee and Breakfast 

While I am seriously considering carrying my coffee stash when I travel, because as I am growing older, I am getting more and more impatient with bad coffee. I found my answer at ArtJuna. It is the most delightful place, with beds for swings, open air and a calm and serene vibe to the place. I feel in most of these places, the food tastes better simply because it is fresher.

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Best Cappuccino in Goa

Their Coffee is excellent, strong, fresh and full bodied. Their croissants, fresh and buttery as they come. It is as amazing as the ones we get in Suzette at 9.00 am in Mumbai. It did not need a speck of the butter it was served with.

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Croissant

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Muesli and Fresh Fruit

Their pesto omelette is different, a first for me. It has a fresh, green flavour. I never thought that the combination would be as yummy as it turned out. Also I was wondering why I did not discover it before. Shakshouka is a hell of a portion served with some fresh bread.

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Pesto Omelette

La Plage

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From La Plage – Ashwem

One day has to be written off to La Plage. It is on the Ashwem beach, and right outside you can rent a bed under the shade for as less as 100 bucks. We like to go there early and just chill at the beach before going to enjoy a fabulous meal. I noticed that they had overhauled their menu, since the last time I had been there. I love this about restaurants that I like, because it keeps me from getting bored.

I treated myself to a Crunchy granny smith apple salad, with kale, celery and walnuts in rasberry vinegar. The icing on this cake though was the avocado and curry leaves mousse – I thought a radical combination and something I never thought would work so well together. We also had a chocolate thali, I will let the picture below do the talking for it. However, I found it way too intense with all the chocolate. I prefer the fruit thali that I had eaten there the last time I was there. I thought it had more variety and distinct flavour. This was simply Death By Chocolate.

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Crunchy Granny Smith Apples with Avocado & Curry Leaf Mousse

 

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Chocolate Thali

So these are some of my favorite go to places in Goa, and yours? Would love to hear about them and take notes for next time.