Category: Food


Pleasure Uninterrupted!

Supreeta Singh

There is no proved data that says they work. But since time immemorial, aphrodisiacs have been believed to enhance romantic inclinations and sexual desire. Some of the most popular items include chocolates, oysters, artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, figs, caviar, champagne, truffles and strawberries. Certain herbs and plants like ginseng are also counted among the foods of love. No wonder chef Davide Cananzi decided to try a new menu at Underground, a place where young lovers come to groove. Items like Argentina lamb patties, celery and caviar mousse, sushi platter, asparagus of cupid and Blue cheese and prunes tart promise to raise temperatures at the nightclub.

“I love storms! People usually close their windows and doors when a strong tempest comes blowing. But I throw open my windows and just breathe in the raging storm, let my hair flow and feel exhilarated. Wine too gives me a huge kick!”
— Priyanka Pal | Model and Actress

“A glass of red wine sets me on the road to romantic daydreaming. Another thing that stimulates my senses is a set of DVD collection presented to me by my friend. It’s a collection of songs by Simon and Garfunkel. It came with a note from Rotterdam that said, ‘old friends know that they think about each other’. Whenever I listen to it, I feel like I am on the moon.”
— Swastika Mukherjee |  Actress

“I am not a very romantic person and material things don’t turn me on. I like the fragrance of a good floral perfume, the dreamy mystery of winter evenings and the slight intoxication of red wine. But above everything else, I admire a sense of humour and intelligence. Women with these qualities are supremely attractive!”
— Abir Chatterjee | Actor

“Spicy Chinese food, a good fragrance and chocolates turn me on. A woman wearing Clinique Happy smells exquisite. And well made chocolate made with pure cocoa is sure to excite me.”
— Girish | DJ

“Good food, intelligence and holiday spots. A few strums of the flamenco guitar accompanied by good red wine, intelligent and stimulating company and balmy weather is a sure turn-on for me.”
— Purbayan Chatterjee | Musician

“What I love is watching the sunset or sunrise with my wife. Amongst the most romantic moments in our lives was when we saw the sunset together at Santorini Island in Greece and the sunrise over the Ganga at Brahma Ghat, Benaras. My wife is strikingly good-looking. But something about the soft rays of the sun make her seem even more beautiful. However, the biggest aphrodisiac is your mind. You don’t really need any food for it!” — Amish Tripathi | Author

Just brew it!

For I have known them all already, known them all / Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons /
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons —T.S. Eliot,The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

 

By Sayandeb Chowdhury
If you are brave enough to suggest changes in an Eliot poem go ahead and substitute the ‘coffee’ in the above lines with tea and you will probably get an idea what the ubiquitous leaf meant in the daily life of the Calcuttan till about ten years ago. Tea was the preferred beverage at home. Families had tea together at breakfast or in the evening. Visitors were treated to tea. Tea had that strange quality about it — it was served during happy, celebratory occasions as well as when messengers and local uncles brought bad news home. Tea warmed up the esophagus in the first case and soothed the soul in the second. Tea was a romance, a daily one too… as much as it was a rite of passage from the parlour to the bedroom! And the kind of tea served at parties or at get-togethers or even when kith and kin came home defined the average Bhadralok retainership of residual Englishness, which was increasingly found deficient in Bengali genes. The better the quality of tea and the farther the shop it was secured from, the rarer it sounded and heavier was the air with the aura of the uber Brit.  In other words Calcuttans, especially Bengalis had 3-Ts dominate them for at least a century now — Tagore, tea and travel. Whether tea’s preeminence is lost is a different story because for now we need to concentrate on where in this fable does drinking coffee stand.
This is a curious case by all means because even ten years ago, going for a coffee meant nothing unless it meant going to a friend’s place. The braveheart and the bearded teenager, especially those who could gather all the assorted paraphernalia of the aspiring intellectual, would take a bus or metro to the Coffee House at College Street (you could say Albert Hall and earn a few brownie points), get baked on the way on a typical Calcutta summer (which, incidentally lasts every year for just nine months) and have their cup of infusion or plain coffee. If you still insist that coffee is what you went to Coffee House for, you were probably a bumbling ruffian, because no one even pretended to do so. But by jove and the baked beans, the Coffee House coffee, notwithstanding the rarified Marxian smoke around and dramatis personae of the chef-capped waiters, was great coffee to boot! And it still is. But by no means is it great enough to force you to take the perilous journey across the city on a weekday, past its dubious charm and petrol. So the finger-long cups of steaming coffee that coffee house served really cheap remained somewhat of a forlorn romance for many who could not go all the way.
This was then the picture of a city on slow move till the nineties headed to a chaotic closure. But suddenly things changed. Along with the new millennium came to this city the ‘coffee joint’ phenomenon with this promise of relief from the Y2K hangover. Y2K was soon dismissed but these clean, air-conditioned and sanitised places, the Barista and the CCD, stayed on and booked a place in the city’s daily life. Going out for coffee was suddenly in and people no more met people at home because no one wanted to serve the home tea at home. Members of the Homo sapiens met fellow members from the same species often, randomly and more often than not without rhyme or reason so they could head for the nearest CCD. So future and estranged lovers met here and so did the new age protestors and old age conformists.  CCD multiplied like Spielberg’s Gremlins and populated malls and street corners with a vengeance. After some setback, Barista hit the marguee. Teenagers, of every hue and humour, armed with new money (exhorted from their parents) and new attitude (borrowed from their TVs) flooded the hubs. Even toddlers were overheard enquiring about the nearest CCD joint once they were done with breast milk and Horlicks.
All was well? Not anymore! Blame the internet or the millennial propensity to get bored with things and places every six months, some of the converts to the Art of Coffee Drinking were  soon asking for more. They wondered if this was all that coffee drinking meant. And the assembly line places, devoid of character and persona, attracted new converts but lost on old loyalists. The other reason, as a survey showed, was that a generation who grew up on CCD and Barista, has now outgrown it. They are in their mid-thirties, have money to spare and need a quiet place to spend with lovers, wives and husbands — not the loud, headbanging variety of music and ambience that most of the teenybopper places proudly expounded.  CCD and Barista saw the writing on the wall and some of them, as a coffee consultant explained, morphed into lounges.
But in the last one year, hearteningly, Calcutta has seen a steady entry of high-end cafes that seek to redefine coffee and tea drinking in the city. Café The (spelt Te, as in ‘te-nor’, meaning tea) is an early entrant among this new breed. The classy café housed on the ground floor of the spanking ICSSR at Ho Chin Minh Sarani is decidedly anti-coffee but makes up more than it takes away with its variety of teas, sourced from an exclusive exporter, that ranges from the fine Darjeeling First Flush to the more exotic Hot Butter Apple Tea. It also serves specialty cuisine, from the European streetside sandwiches to more demonstratively Continental hors d’œuvre of the day. It also makes a meal out of Tagore’s choicest cuisines sourced from his travels abroad. Café The, explains Bitasta Chakraborty who looks after the marketing, is meant to be a quiet, elegant place for the well-heeled,  urban sophisticate who prefer a good meal and some great tea after a session of Paraguan cello played upstairs at the ICSSR auditorium.
Swiss born Coffee World which debuted in September last year at Ballygunge, positions itself as a fine-dining café where an entire family can come and spend a long time to savour its goodies. Coffee World here also houses the Cream and Fudge Factory thereby creating space for a variety of stuff that’s available and more often than not the kids prefer the ice cream while their parents go for the coffee. The niche for this particular stop in the tony neighbourhood is the post-dinner customer who drops by to have a coffee after a hearty meal at one of the restaurants. And this is just not a weekend fad anymore. Sources at Coffee World said that the response has been tremendous and they are looking at more outlets in the future apart from their express format which is already present at South City.
New entrants also include Picadally Square and The French Loaf which face each other across Lansdowne Road near the Minto park crossing. Both of them position themselves as bistro and not café and offer a range of European bakery and street food, from Belgian waffles to mudslides, from pancakes and pizzas to creppe and sundae. Again, they cater to a wide range of customers and are now scouting for space in the south of the city to expand.
Only last month came Mocha, the high-end coffee chain from the Mumbai-based F&B major Impressario. Mocha has selected a notable old building on a lane off AJC Bose Road opposite Jimmy Kitchen’s to open its flagship outlet. The two-floor coffee, hukah and dining den is a designer, atmospheric place with mood lighting and trendy interiors and has the potential to become a game changer much in the way that Mochas elsewhere have been. Mocha is clearly aiming a more high end, matured client who are here more than just for a cup of quick cappuchino. Mocha claims that its coming to Calcutta is a sign that the city is ready for the upper echelons of coffee. 
This surely marks the maturity of the industry which felt shy of serving more than a few varieties some years ago. A decade back, cappuchino was new and opting for a latte instead of a cappuccino was counted as a mark of one’s straying away from brotherhood of the new converts. Now, mix formats, designer cuisines, comfortable dining  sofas and expansive lounges mean that no one type of coffee would dominate a conversation for long enough. And more importantly, tea is getting back as a lifestyle beverage.
Let them grow up and cohabit and let there be more places where grown up Homo sapiens can feel comfortable, where families are not pariah, where one can be oneself and not feel old, where being overweight is not a health issue, where the jukebox catalogue is longer than Paris Hilton’s wig.

As Eliot said in the same poem: (Let there be) time yet for a hundred indecisions/And for a hundred visions and revisions/ Before the taking of a toast and tea (or coffee)

Enjoy the ‘khattu mithu’ flavour

Agnibho Gangopadhyay
It was as if you have been invited to a Parsi wedding, with two patriarchs ensuring you have a good time and indulge in gastronomic delight. Zubin S Songadwala, the Parsi general manager of ITC, Sonar Kolkata wanted to introduce Kolkata to the amazing world of Parsi cuisine. For that he flew in ace chef Parvez Patel, a friend and a restaurateur, to Kolkata, who gladly teamed up with Songadwala. Together they have conjured up a homely, laid-back ambience in this festival called ‘Parsi Culinary Treasures’, sharing anecdotes, details and histories related to the cuisine. Kolkata would get a chance to soak in Parsi delectables till September 19 at the Eden Pavilion restaurant in the hotel.
Parsi cuisine is an example of the palimpsest that is India. The whole fragrant spices and nuts of Iran mingled with chilly, malt vinegar and jaggery of India, the accent on meats hugged the vegetables of Gujarati cuisine as the diasporic Zoroastrian Parsi community got assimilated to the Indian sub-continent. The resultant flavour can be best summed up by the word, ‘khattu-mithu’, the tangy, sweet-sour vein in the cuisine, informed Parvez. It is feel-good food at its best. This is amply captured by the menu that Kolkata would sample.
Salli Murghi, Patra Ni Machi (Pomfret in green chutney steamed in banana leaf), fish curry, the iconic Mutton Dhansak (a Sunday must), Atheli Murghi, Dhun Dar Patia (a palette of white steamed rice, yellow dal, spicy-sour-sweet prawn gravy — to be had on auspicious days of ceremony and rituals), Mutton Picnic (cooked with baby potatoes and baby onions) would enthrall one and all when it comes to non-vegetarian proclivity. These go with excellent rice concoctions like Gosh No Pulav Masala, Khichdi (Yellow Rice) or simply the long-grain steamed rice.
Parsis are very fond of snacks, so  sumptuous starters and egg-based snacks are the aces of Parsi cuisine. Egg, infact, is a Parsi favourite. The steamed chicken coriander kabab (the Parsis call it kavab), the deep fried Mutton Kavab, the Marghi Na Farcha (chicken fried in egg batter) and the Chutney Na Pattice (Mint-Coconut chutney, wrapped in potato batter and deep fried) are the clean winners. Akuri (Scrambled eggs with finely chopped onion, tomato and coriander) is the basic egg dish that can be had with rotlis (whole wheat breads/chapattis), wafer or bread. Your search for a quick, tasty, filling breakfast may end here.
Vegetarians need not worry about their main course. From Tarkari Nu Stew to Kharo Papeto, the Masala dal to Titori, excellent dishes of potato, beans, various other vegetables and pulses can give their non-vegetarian counter-parts a run for their money.
Among the desserts, the Lagan Nu Custard (made with milk, eggs, nutmeg powder, vanilla essence and topped with chironjee seeds) and the sev (roasted vermicelli and chironjee fried in ghee, sweetened and topped with dry fruits) take the cake.
The hosts dedicated the feast to the small and dwindling community of Parsis and there are 600 of them in Kolkata. This fantastic and gratifying festival, warmed by personal touches, is a small start when it comes to paying respect to a minority in this city of multi-cultural heritage.

Food for the soul

 

Farah Khatoon
The month of Ramadan is commonly associated with abstaining from food but sehri and iftar are the two buzz words of this holy month. Sehri is a low key affair but iftar is a different story altogether. After going without food and water from dawn to dusk, the pious break their fast with iftar. Indonesians call it buka puasa, it is berbuka puasa in Malaysia and sungkai in Brunei. Iftar is quite a feast and is a favourite with all.
The fast is broken by having khajoor (dates) and drinking water after hearing the evening azaan, a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of Islam. Once this traditional fast-breaking is complete people can eat any food. Different regions include different foods in their iftar fare. In Southern states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala, nonbu kanji, a rich filling rice dish is eaten for iftar. The dish is quite like  porridge and is cooked for hours with meat and vegetables. In the Kolkata and the northern states, the plate is full of fruits and fritters.
Everyday is like a festival of food and the markets come alive with different stalls selling delectables. From small road side stalls to restaurants, iftar food is available everywhere. While fruits form a significant part of iftar, fritters made from potato, brinjal, onion and other vegetables fill the platter. A delicious attraction for iftar is haleem, a dish that is made from different kind of pulses and meat. This high calorie dish has also high nutritional value and is everyone’s favourite, Muslims, non-Muslims alike. Served in every eatery this popular dish is made with chicken, mutton or beef.
Sweet dishes also find a place in Ramadan. While sewai is exclusively for Eid, firni finds a place in the platter during Ramadan. Made from milk and rice powder this dessert is served in small earthen bowls and remains a hot favourite throughout the year. Being a community affair, iftar parties are organised to build better bonds.
The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It teaches Muslims to feel for those who are less fortunate and also encourages actions of generosity and charity. The biggest attraction in an iftar party is that everyone is welcome to the spread no matter who you are, rich or poor, friend or foe. So, join this feast before the month gets over.

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