What’s coming up in the next few weeks?

Its my first Diwali with S and his family so its been quite hectic for me! I am enjoying all the delicious food and snacks being prepared at home and visiting a whole lot of people. I can also tell you that I am mastering the art of wearing and carrying a saree a little more everyday! 🙂 Its a great experience to see snacks being prepared at home and to realize that each house has their own way of making the same snack or sweet.

Delight in Pink is becoming more of my passion and I love writing regularly. My first and foremost passion remains baking. While I have been baking a lot I just haven’t had the chance to put up some more recipes. I have made an amazing Lemon Mousse Cheesecake, gorgeously rich brownies, a very simple vanilla frosting and a decadent chocolate buttercream. Alongside I have been cooking a lot of mains like Chinese stir fried rice, hot Chinese sauce, Mexican rice, Mexican beans, Vegetable Biryani, Raita, a rich potato vegetable and so much more.

The next few weeks are going to be great! I will be taking more pictures, hopefully, and add them to my recipes. We are also going on a little vacation and I am looking forward to taking my computer and feel inspired in a whole new environment. So don’t give up on me and keep watching this space! Its time to have your own little restaurant at home with my tried and tested recipes! 🙂

Salsa Habanero – Baroda

Mexican food and Indian food are so similar in many ways. They both use a lot of spices, whole grains and dried beans. The use of fresh produce is also prominent, even though a lot of the food has meat. Of course, what I am referring to as ‘Mexican Food’ is actually the more popular ‘Tex-Mex Food.’  It tastes delicious and blends into our Indian palate well. It does surprise me that it is not more popular in India. We have some wonderful restaurants that serve good and more or less authentic Tex-Mex food like Sancho’s in Bombay, which is a huge favorite of ours. I was very happy when I found out there is someone in Baroda who makes authentic burritos and a few other Mexican dishes. S, and so many of his friends, kept raving about his food. He only serves on weekends and I was never there for some reason on weekends.
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I finally got a chance to visit Salsa Habanero, a Mexican Taqueria, a few weeks ago. To be honest, everyone just referred to him as Paco; so when I saw the board for Salsa Habanero, I was a little surprised. The entrance is a cute little metal door, which is a part of the owner’s house. He has created a small open kitchen where you watch while Chef Paco makes your food right in front of you! Such an exciting and wonderful experience! It is always a delight to have a conversation with both Prakash and Rita. I found it very interesting that they are trying to grow Avocados and do grow habanero chilies themselves.  Habanero chilies are some of the spiciest in the world and Tabasco has a Habanero chili flavor. All I can say is, it is NOT for the weak of the tongue. But used correctly (and sparingly), they add so much flavor to the food! Yummm!
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But lets talk about Salsa Habanero and their food. It is every bit as good as everyone had been saying it was! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t had a chance to try it sooner! After a long time, I ate real Mexican food with authentic flavors. It seems like he does use authentic vegetables and spices that are traditionally used in Mexican food. Allow me to digress for a second.  A Taqueria is a small Mexican restaurant that would specialize in tacos and/or burritos. To those who like to try something new all the time and want a large, extensive menu, you will be a little disappointed with the variety offered. But rest assured, once you try the food, there is no turning back. You will keep going for more! Paco offers 3 different kinds of burritos, Nachos, soft tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, a very spicy salsa and a tortilla basket. The burritos are exactly the kind that they serve in the US. Huge and completely well filled. One burrito is more than enough for one person and I normally can’t even finish mine! They are beautifully stuffed with Mexican rice, beans and the stuffing you have decided upon. He adds some cheese and sour cream to it and rolls it up. I wish he would have a workshop where he would show you how to roll up a perfect burrito. I always seem to make a mess when I try to make them at home.
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Next is the Nachos Grande. True to their name, they are grand and loaded with beans, chips, cheese, sour cream and some Pico de Gallo. Delicious and a delightful treat! They taste best when they are eaten super fresh and I doubt you’ll want to share them. The tortilla basket was something we tried recently and really enjoyed it because of all the fresh lettuce in there. The basket itself stayed quite crisp because it was slightly on the thicker side. Had it been thinner, it would have become quite soggy from the entire filling. The soft tacos weren’t my favorite and I didn’t enjoy them as much only because I felt I could’ve done with more freshness in them. We have had the enchiladas on occasion and once you get them heated up perfectly, they taste wonderful! They come packed separately and Rita helps you understand how to heat them up to ensure you get the best out of them. The sauce has a wonderful smoky flavor to it and the beans and rice on the side taste wonderful. Now that I think of it, a lot of his vegetables, sauces and salsa have this gorgeous smoked flavor. I love that about his food! I think that is only possible when you make smaller quantities so you can maintain the consistency and quality of your food.  I almost forgot about the grilled salsa! The vegetable are grilled in it too and lend a gorgeous flavor, but let me warn you, it is spicy! Well, then again, I’m not very good with spicy food so I find it a little too spicy, but I love the flavors so much! It ‘jazzes’ up all the food and I tend to keep a little to eat with chips the next day.
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What I think I love most about Salsa Habanero is that he uses fresh produce. It also makes me content to know that his stuff will not have artificial preservatives. I love the whole experience and the uniqueness of it. Where in India would you find such a concept where the chef is not interested in commercial gains? Paco genuinely seems to enjoy sharing his food and feeding others.  Even though you end up being there for hardly 15 minutes, watching him and talking to him gets you inspired. I love their entire set up and it is definitely the next big concept in food.
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Salsa Habanero is only open for takeaways on the weekend between 6 pm to 10 pm. You must call them beforehand to let them know of your order and then choose a pick up time that is convenient to both parties. If you are from Baroda and enjoy authentic Mexican food, YOU HAVE TO GO HERE! I hate sounding like a groupie but its just so yummy!
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I need to go back next weekend to take better pictures of Paco and his yummy food, at least that is what my excuse is going to be! 😉 I am excited to begin my maiden restaurants in Baroda review with Salsa Habanero. Do let me know what you think about Salsa Habanero.

Telephone Number: 09714039119

Website (For menu and directions): http://salsahabanero.com

Biscuitwala Bhaiya at Marine Drive, Mumbai

One of the luxuries of living in India is that people are so enterprising you can count that every service imaginable exists and can be quite specialised. For example, would you ever believe that someone would come to your house on a Sunday to sell  only 5 specialised Indian bakeries’ biscuits? I would never have imagined so.

The first time I met the biscuitwala ‘bhaiya’, it was a very  lazy Sunday morning. S and I were contemplating what we should do for brunch. The doorbell rang and I was told the biscuit man was here if I wanted to pick something up. I was very intrigued. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted something but I wanted to check out this concept as I had never heard of it before.

As I stepped outside I saw a very pleasant looking man who greeted me with a smile and a namaste. He had, by his side, opened up a large aluminium trunk or ‘peti’ which was lined with plastic and filled with biscuits.

I immediately recognised some of the standard Indian-Irani bakery biscuits! He had khari biscuits, butter biscuits and jeera biscuits. Khari biscuits are savory and are a little bit like puff pastry  or filo pastry.  They have many thin layers which are well buttered to create a crisp, light biscuit that gives you a slight snap when you bite into it and crumbles a little.  They taste excellent with tea or dipped in tea. Almost like a Mumbai classic.

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Butter biscuits are small round biscuits flavored with jeera or cumin. They are rich and buttery and are slightly salty.  These go very well with typical Indian tea which is sugared. Jeera biscuits, also called as ‘poor man’s biscuits’, are flavoured again with cumin or jeera and have very little butter. Hence the name, poor man’s biscuit. They are very crispy and leave crumbs add you bite into it.

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The other three varieties that I couldn’t recognize were badam maska biscuit, sugar topped khari and rusk toast. Badam maska biscuit, literally meaning almond and butter biscuits are shaped into small fingers.  They are slightly sweet with a hint of cardamom and lots of butter! No surprise that they are my favorite!! I love them dipped into a hot cup of masala chai! Sugar khari is simply khari biscuit topped with sugar grains.

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Rusk toast is a very hard biscuit which had a lot of fibre. It is slightly sweetish and to be honest I do not enjoy them much.

I asked the bhaiya if he made them himself. He said he gets them fresh from a bakery and goes around selling then on Sundays.  I believed him when he said the biscuits were fresh because they were warm when he handed them over to me. He is originally from Gorakhpur and has apparently been around for years. He normally rings the bell on every floor to see if anyone wants anything.  I would assume he visits a few other buildings in the area as well. He is such a sweet and polite man. I asked him a lot of questions because I was so intrigued by him and his concept, but he answered them all patiently and seemed happy to do so.

I find the whole concept so wonderful and interesting. It is a testimony that we, in India, have so many luxuries.

If you have someone who comes to your doorstep and sells such unusual goods, do let me know! Would love to hear more.

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But for now I’m going to. Spend my Sunday enjoying a hot cup of tea and delicious fresh biscuits!

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Arthur’ Theme, Koregaon Park – Pune

Do you remember your first independent experience in an ‘adult’ restaurant? I do! We had just entered college and were all of 16 years.  The only places we frequented were small cafés or coffee shops or South Indian restaurants.  That’s pretty much all we could afford with our meagre pocket money. But then, someone heard of this really good European restaurant in the ultra fashionable Koregaon Park neighborhood.  We decided to go there but had to plan. We would have to save for a few weeks to be able to enjoy a good meal. So, we decided on a date, 9 weeks from now which was enough time for us to save up. We were 10 people.  10 very excited people!

The day  arrived.  We got dressed up. The girls put on some  make up. We split into groups of  two and got on our bikes. We reached in time for lunch and were greeted by the very well air conditioned air. The restaurant is some what dark and dimly lit. Lots of wood. We suddenly were aware that we are kids alone in an adult restaurant. Such a wonderful, exciting feeling! Its these small experiences that slowly mould your personality as you grow up. But coming back, we all settled on our orders and were completely bowled over by the food! Such beautiful flavors! Their food presentation was a unique experience. It was still a new concept  then but now restaurants have realised the value of good presentation.

Moving to present day, I still order only the same thing. I have come here maybe 25 times over the year but I love what I order so much I refuse to think of trying anything else. My favorite thing  to order here is “Ferdinand”. I wouldn’t dream of thinking about ordering anything else.  I might try something different from someone else’s plate, but this is what I’m most satisfied with.

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Last week I was back in Pune to  surprise my mom on her birthday. We also had some relatives who had joined us and were keen to try something different. We decided to head to Arthur’s for a nice lunch. The ambience has stayed the same yet, it doesn’t feel old. Lots of dark wood with a stone flooring and three large room air conditioners. The air conditioners are awesome because even in peak summer, the restaurant stays perfectly cool and comfortable. We took a nice table and settled in to  check the menu out. For first time visitors, you will find it odd that all the dishes are named after Kings and Queens but thats just the theme of the restaurant. I love that they have descriptions about  all the food and they can make anyone feel hungry!!

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We started off with the onion rings and a French onion soup. The onion rings were crisp and dipped in a lightly flavoured batter. They didn’t seem oily to eat but I was disappointed that they served it with ketchup. A nice paprika dip would have made it more exciting. The French onion soup is almost like a clear soup and is very different from French onion soups elsewhere.  Its packed with flavour  and is wonderfully light. A good soup to begin your meal because it isn’t very heavy on your stomach. Arthur’s Theme serves a basket of warmed bread rolls at your table and they’re wonderfully  fresh.

For mains, we ordered Princess Jasmine, Ferdinand and a paneer shashlik. My mom’s favorite is the Princess Jasmine which is basically two vegetarian cutlets served with a red  sauce on a bed of potato mash. The cutlets are quite hearty, seasoned well and cooked to a crisp on the outside. The tomato sauce that comes with it is quite tangy and flavored with herbs. The sauce is a little too tangy for me and I would have preferred it if it were a little less sour. The potato mash was smooth and complemented the sauce well.

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The paneer shashlik comes on a bed of herbed rice and is covered with a tomato sauce. I think the tomato sauce of the  cutlets and the shashlik is quite similar. The paneer was slightly chewy but not a lot to complain about. All in all, the dish tasted quite nice and the flavours worked well together.

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Ferdinand is grilled capsicum, tomatoes, mushrooms and paneer in a beautiful orange gravy. It comes with a side of herbed rice.  The sauce is creamy and explodes of beautiful herbs dancing on your tongue. I have tried so hard to  think how the sauce could be made and all I have come up with is that it has a light tomato base and cream in it. Its not spicy at all yet you don’t miss any of it.

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Arthur’s Theme has some of the best staff in tge city. They are polite, courteous and attentive. I can’t stress the importance of having such servers and how they can make or break your restaurant. It also  helps that someone is always behind the counter. I have never had any reason to complain but I’m sure they would  handle all criticism extremely well.

The prices have gone up from when I remember them, but it’s still quite reasonable for such good food.

For providing me with beautiful memories (its also the first place that S and I went to when he came to visit me in Pune) consistently good food, introducing me to new delicious fusion cuisine and for maintaining good service, I give Arthur’s Theme a 4.5/5.

Kakori House, CCI – Mumbai

When I Googled ‘best biryani in Mumbai’ Kakori House came out on top. As much as we would have loved to go, it was a little to far and the Kakori House outlet at the CCI was closed that day. We ended up going to another place for Biryani but at the back of my mind I knew it had to try the biryani at Kakori House.

I had my chance when we wanted to grab a quick bite after seeing a play at the NCPA. CCI was walking distance and it sounded perfect! We reached Kakori House at about 9:30pm. We knew we were pushing it because closing time was 10 pm. Or rather, the time for the last order was 10 pm. S and I were probably 2 of the 8 people there that late. We were hungry and were praying that we would have hot food at our table in as little time as possible. Fortunately our server was quick on his feet and got us the menu quickly.  We already knew we wanted the Vegetable Dum Biryani but needed to order something else too. A quick look told us something not too heavy but just enough to satisfy that little bit of hunger that would remain after the biryani would be a wrap.  We settled on an Adraki Paneer Tikka wrap.

What impressed me was that the roomali roti was whole wheat. It is the first time I have heard of a roomali roti being whole wheat! Anything whole wheat always makes me happy. We did tell the server we were super hungry and he said he would get the food as soon as possible. True to his word, we had the wrap on our table in about  10 minutes.  I normally enjoy eating paneer at a place where they have meat specialities because they marinate the paneer and potatoes very well just as they would do for meat. So I was quite excited to eat the paneer wrap. The wrap was quite filled up and the Adraki flavour was mild. The whole wheat roomali roti was very chewy and I did not quite enjoy  it. I would have liked the paneer to have more flavour and for the roti to have been slightly less chewy.  Maybe with fewer layers to the wrap.

With a disappointing start to our meal, I was hoping that thebiryani lived up to the hype. The veggies in the biryani were cooked just right where they had a slight bite and the biryani was lightly flavoured. It tasted of delicate spices like Saffron and nutmeg. All in all it was cooked very well and had very Mughlai flavors.

The experience at Kakori House wasn’t mind blowing and I have a feeling that their vegetable curries and rotis would have been a better bet.  I guess I will have to try it again and write another review for it!

I would give Kakori House a 3 out of 5 for their well cooked food yet it had a bit of a missing element. To next time there for a better rating, hopefully!