Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A wild and leafy summer: Oliver Bar & Kitchen

There's something about Olive that keeps drawing Skeeter to the place time and again. The ever-inviting ambience? The pleasant and smiling, unpretentious staff? Aye! But more than that the skilled chef! For without good food, a place like Olive at a location like Mehrauli cannot continue to be a crowd puller. Chef Sujan Sarkar bowled Skeeter over with some of his finest creations. He admits that preparing a vegetarian menu which is neck-to-neck with the non-vegetarian one is no simple task. But he takes up the challenge and how! P.S: Chef Sujan Sarkar is sneakingly suspicious of guests that come asking for Pizzas. Agree Olive pizzas are good, but once you move beyond cheese and tomato there's a whole new world to discover.


Here are Skeeter's favourites off Olive summer menu. The amuse bouche (above), a pumpkin cracker, slathered with soft goat's cheese and topped with semi dried tomatoes and garnished with mini sorrel sprouts made for a pretty plate. Up next was the Salt baked beetroot with goat's cheese, wild rocket leaves, orange and apricot puree. The picture below does no justice to the beauty of the plate and marriage of flavours. In India, we are so used to cooking and overcooking our greens (thing what poor sarson ka saag and palak are subjected to: boiling, pureeing and frying!), that we've actually forgotten to keep it simple. Take cue!


The Charred baby gem and summer vegetables came with savoury granola, smoked goat curd, and pickled palm hearts. Fresh, summery and very indulgent. Skeeter could have had many helpings of the charred baby gem, but then there was other delicious food calling out to her. 


A simple palate cleanser: Yoghurt sorbet (below).



On to the mains. There was Fettucine topped in a simple sauce topped with super crisp Zucchini fritters (pic below). There was a decent Green asparagus and broad bean risotto. But what stole Skeeter's soul was a wonderfully crisscross grilled baby Zucchini and creamy polenta (Pave of Melanzane).



Pave of Melanzane
A summer meal is incomplete without king of fruit: mangoes! A Mille Feuille of mango, in signature Olive style (remember the strawberry one?)took care of that. Mango sorbet with a mango and mascarpone cheese mousse. Yum! And though there was no, and absolutely no space for more, the chef insisted we wait for the baked cheesecake, which was a 5-star dessert! It came with passion fruit curd, some rhubarb bits for decor, chocolate soil and sorbet on the side. Divine!

Mille Feuille of mango

Baked cheesecake

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Just Pressed - How Reeta Skeeter survived a one-day juice-only cleanse!

Even the best of health magazines and forums cannot rob Skeeter of her love for fresh, natural juices. Most health experts tell you to eat the whole fruit than squeezing out the juice. They have their reasons (fiber loss and so on) but Skeeter prefers to turn deaf. A hygienic juice bar round the corner? Count Skeets in! In the bits of Western and Southern India that Skeeter has visited, juices are fresh and aplenty, colas are less prevalent and seasonal fruits are a celebrity in their own right. And Skeeter's take is that as long as it is not canned and tetra-packed and so on, is freshly squeezed and tastes good, well, go for it!

Cold pressed juices are a hit with overseas cousins going ga-ga over them. When Just Pressed offered Skeeter a sampler of Cold Pressed Craft juices that they bottle after juicing them in a Norwalk juicer, Skeeter agreed. Now Skeeter's not used to fasting but the thought of giving her system a break with juices was tempting. 

The cleanse

Skeeter started her day with warm honey, lemon water followed by SOAK. A green coloured juice, not very great to look at, it had the goodness of Pineapple, Celery, Cucumber, Spinach, Collard, Kale, Lemon, Ginger and Wheatgrass. Skeeter sipped it cautiously and found that the pineapple, cucumber, lemon and ginger gave it a kick and saved the day. For someone, who's used to starting her day with milky tea this was quite a departure. The no-solids food plan needs a solid will power. Several times during the day, Skeeter would almost reach out for something or the other only to be reminded that she is off solids.


ACTIVE was similar minus Pineapple and Wheatgrass with the added freshness of Lettuce, Parsley and Cilantro. Both filled Skeeter up and put her off food too! Too much of green, healthy stuff does that to you Skeeter guesses. 
PUMP, Skeeter's favourite of all the juices, was made up of Coconut Water, Pineapple, Apple, Aloevera, Orange, Mint and Lemongrass. A very refreshing one this. Lifted Skeeter's mood and spirited and gave her the energy to keep going with the cleanse. 
JOLT was next. The kind of juice you'd have at a health bar. Carrot, Apple, Celery, Cucumber, Beetroot, Lemon and Spirulina were there in this bottle. If you are a health freak, this one will leave you happy and satiated. 
BOUNCE made for a pre-dinner snack. It had Carrot, Orange, Apple, Pineapple, Lemon, Turmeric and Chia Seed. Bounce was good and had the sharpness of the fresh turmeric root. Something Skeeter is used to having all through winter. 
By now Skeeter was used to a fasting body and mind. She could have really skipped CHARGE but then there were heaps of praises all over social networking sites and blogs for charge which is made up of Coconut Meat, Almond, Vanilla, Honey, Cashew, Cinnamon and Chia Seeds. It was filling and akin to a gluten free milk-shake spiked with cinnamon. A complete meal.
VERDICT: A very doable and delicious cleanse. The next day, Skeeter felt light and nice AND motivated enough to take this cleanse up once every now and then!
P.S.:The thing to be noted is that these bottles come with an expiry date (3-days) as they have no additives whatsoever, so do drink up maximum by the second day of receving your cleanse set. And Just Pressed can do custom juices as per your preference as well. All the best!
The only downpoint is the hefty pricing( which Skeeter guesses many may frown at): Rs 1600 for a one-day cleanse. But hey, you pay that kinda money (or more) for one meal at a restaurant eating unhealthy carb-laden food. Why not spend one such amount on your health?

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Made in Punjab

Any offering from the house of the legendary Jiggs Kalra cannot be ignored. So when Skeeter came to know about Made in Punjab she had plans to go there and sample the grub. After a much delayed visit Made in Punjab fare was finally sampled and how!
For starters they've done away with the tradition of serving 6-8 kebab pieces on a plate with a little garnish on the side or a bowl of chutney placed in the center. Spectacular presentation followed up by quality food is the USP of Made in Punjab. Spearheading the venture is Zorawar Kalra, son of Jiggs Kalra (who has donned the mentorship cap for the restaurant and the chain). Zorawar thinks big, aims to break and has broken the Mom and Pop shop concept that ruled the Indian dining scene for a long while and is making quick strides in the industry. He knows his game and is good at it.


The grub
Skeeter started sampling the chef's Degustation menu with shots of World's Heaviest Lassi (thank heavens they were just shot glasses). Bursting with flavour, the saffron infused lassi (Rs 220) had bites of heavenly peda in it. Skeety wouldn't mind being on a repeat mode for this shot. Next came a refreshing bite of the Palak patta chat (Rs 145). A chat with some greens in it: Crispy fried spinach topped with chilled creamy yoghurt, tamarind chutney, pomegranate pearls and a hint of masala. The next arrival, Dahi puchka chat (Rs 145) is again a winner. A sensory delight. The two things that could accentuate this dish to another level would be a spicy chutney or masala and aata puchka as opposed to the suji (semolina) one they used. But understandably, the aata puchkas when filled with yoghurt would have a lesser life. They wilt away way too quickly. 


If Skeets had to point out the most pretty dish on the menu, the Beetroot Di Tikki (Rs 315) would take the honour. It came seated in a kishti (boat) with droplets of sauce denoting water on a black slab. Pretty neat! Skeety did not try the Bhatti da paneer (Rs 315) but anyone from the land of Punjab would have fond memories of food cooked in a bhatti or a tandoor. 


The Tandoori Guchchi (Rs 550) was done well. It came stuffed with cheese. Morels or Guchchi are very close to Skeeter's heart. You can either make a dish or break a dish using these. There is NO grey area.This one was a big, fat, flavoursome morel and the paneer enhanced the texture of the dish. 


Then came a Kiwi chuski or kiwi iced lolly, a palate cleanser to prepare Skeets for the main course. Yummy and refreshing! 


For the main course there were crispy Mirch Paranthas and Dal Made in Punjab (Rs 315). Both, done to perfection, but what really stole the show was the Guchchi Pulao (Rs 595) and the Burhani Raita (Rs 150). Morels have to be treated well to be appreciated by diners. A great dish this, came in a jar, looked great, and tasted very well. Skeeter would've preferred the Morels in the Pulao without the cheese stuffing (a personal choice as Morels have such a robust and earthy flavour that they don't really need help from other ingredients). The Burhani Raita was a stunner. Skeeter is a self-confessed garlic fan and makes Burhani raita at home quite often. There are two ways you can do it: raw or fried. Made in Punjab fried some garlic flakes and tossed them into creamy yoghurt. The Burhani raita married the flavours of the Guchchi Pulao pretty darn well.


Dessert was Crispy jalebis with rabri (Rs 225). Crispy jalebis planted in a glass filled with rabri were a delicious end to the meal. Just the right amount of sweetness (unlike the overtly sweet that we are used to) and crisp to perfection. P.S.: Skeeter was invited to review Made in Punjab. Thanks Zorawar, Sonali, Varun and MIP team for a memorable afternoon and great food.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lay's Football favourites: Apple Chilli Flavour product review

Family and friends call Skeeter a marketeer's delight. A new product that hits the supermarket shelves has to be picked and tried by Skeeter atleast once. All these nudges from the family time and again led Skeeter to the idea that these products could be showcased on the blog too! Hence launching Delhi Foodies' Zone product reviews today. Here, Skeeter will showcase what she likes and what she doesn't. Hope you will like reading such posts off and on.

Product

Skeets brings to you the delightful Lay's Football favourites: Apple Chilli Flavour. It is one of the three limited edition flavours on offer. The other two being Cheesy Jalapeno and Tangy Herb. Skeeter is yet to try those. One bite of the Apple Chilli ridged potato crisps justifies the flavour(come to think of a thousand products whose tagline doesn't match the taste). This one's HOT with a strong hint of apple flavour (which the ingredients list reveals comes from the dried apple juice powder). It is tangy and yeah 'No one can eat just one' :-)  Packed with a punch it gets a thumbs up from Skeeter.


Packaging and price tag

The mustard/deep yellow pack comes with football icon Leo Messi holding a chip and the doodles of apple and chilli make for attractive packaging. They are available in Rs 20 and Rs 10 packs of 52g and 26g respectively. Pick them up and munch on!

P.S.: One can vote for their favourite flavour and get a chance to watch Messi play Live!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Artusi Ristorante: An Italian sojourn

If there's another country whose citizens are as passionate about their regional food as India Skeeter would vote for Italy. Though Italian visa has not been stamped on Skeeter's passport yet, Italy remains in top five of the travel bucket list. Till then Skeeter keeps satiated by sampling Italian culinary offerings in Delhi. Let us be frank. Skeeter was a wee bit shy trying out Artusi Ristorante simply because Diva is practically next door. Ritu Dalmia introduced Skeeter to Italian food (as she did to most of you Skeety believes) few years ago and Skeeter has NEVER gone beyond Diva. Not a wink.


An invite to sample food by Artusi kept sitting in the inbox. There were heaps and heaps of praises in the social circles. Skeeter was growing restless and finally gave in to the temptation. Artusi is a quaint restaurant with limited covers and welcoming interiors. It features food from Emilia Romagna region in Italy and is named after Pellegrino Artusi, one of the founders of Italian cuisine, who penned the first Pan-Italian Cookbook. The owners are Gurpinder and Oscar Balcon, a well-travelled couple who globetrotted before settling in India. Oscar tells that a lot of the food featured on the Artusi menu is just like his mother would prepare.


One walks into the restaurant through a bar that has a deli corner too. The bar is designed such that one can overlook passers by on the street through a full sized glass wall while enjoying their drink. Very European. The lighting was a bit harsh but it could in no way dampen the experience.
The first thing that would strike one is the freshness of the ingredients used. The Rape e Noci salad came first. Roasted deep red beets, water cress, crunchy and juicy green apple slices and walnuts dressed in goat cheese, finished with croutons and balsamic made for a pretty plate and pleasing palate. Emilia Romagnia happens to be the place where the first Balsamic vinegar was aged. The region is also famous for its Parmesan cheese and Parma ham.


The Tomino came next. An Italian cheese roundel (a very generous portion that) melted over a bruschetta that was drizzled with fragrant truffle oil. There were sauteed mixed mushrooms (Skeeter's favourite Enoki too!)for company. It was a dish that relied on the star ingredients than anything else and worked very well for Skeeter. By now Skeets was very full but she had to sample the pasta and so she called for a small portion of Paglia e Fieno Aurora. This handmade white and green angel hair pasta was a treat to the eyes and was set in a pink sauce with shallots, mushrooms, tomatoes and cream. Skeeter cannot even begin to write about the freshness of this one. The pasta was al dente and the sauce beautifully complemented its texture. A must try.


The meal ended with Artusi signature dessert which was what pulled Skeeter to this Ristorante in the first place. The Panna Cotta Fichi e Mandorle. Panna Cotta with caramelized figs and fig sauce in a lush pool of caramel and beautiful almond slivers. As Skeeter writes this post she cannot but help think of when she will get another bite of it. Soon, very soon.




Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maharashtrian street food comes to Delhi: Vada Pav


Indian street food never fails to impress. Skeeter tries to record whatever she eats and one of her street food favourite is featuring in Delhi restaurants these days. It is the mighty VADA PAV from Maharashtra. 
For the uninitiated this fuss-free snack is made using a pav(bun) from the ladi pav which is slathered with a red chilli-garlic chutney and a piping hot vada is placed in it. Something as simple as that, served with a fried green chilly tossed in salt. The accompanying green chilly is a MUST. The vada pav is incomplete without it. It is Maharashtra's answer to all the crappy, tasteless frozen burger patties used in international chain of restaurants.

vada pav in delhi
(On the right: Vada Pav seated in an aluminum pan at Soda Bottle Opener Wala, Gurgaon)
Have the vada pav for breakfast or a meal on the go when in a hurry or as an evening snack. It is simple, tasty and not healthy but worth every bite. It used to cost something as low as Rs 5 in Maharashtra quite a few years ago. 
Skeeter bumped into old pal, the Vada Pav, one afternoon when she went for a very quick lone lunch at Dhaba by Claridges (DLF Place, Saket) and was impressed. It tasted very well but not like the one she used to eat in Maharashtra. The Dhaba Vada Pav costed a bomb (Rs 195) and came with the chef's special chutney. They serve two Vada Pavs in one portion. So a portion of the Vada Pav plus a soft drink set Skeeter back by nearly 500 bucks, which is a lot, but for want of her favourite snack in the comfort of a mall and sitting in the hometown it was forgiven.
Next, Skeeter came across the old pal again at the swanky Cyber Hub of Gurgaon at a Parsi eatery called Soda Bottle Opener Wala(will write more about it soon). This one stunned the senses and was a winner hands down! For one, it tasted JUST LIKE the one Skeeter was used to having during her days in Maharashtra. The fried green chilli on the side, rolled in salt was perfectly done. It costed Rs 65. There was one pav as opposed to two at Dhaba by Claridges. It came seated in an aluminium pan and just that. An innovative take on plating as rivalled to all the fancy stuff we are used to these days. They did not fancy it up, nor did they provide some innovative chutney, they simply let the food do the talking. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 
Oh and if you ever go to Maharashtra, do try the Joshi vada pav. :-)

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Dimcha joins the Delhi dimsum brigade

When Skeeter heard fab reviews from friends about a new 'Dimsum' outlet in GK 1, N block market, she trotted the trail and reached Dimcha (Dimsum + Yumcha=Dimcha). The place lives up to its name and has a Thai brother upstairs that goes by the name Dao. While Yauatcha may be the dimsum hotspot of the town right now, Dimcha is steadily climbing the ranks. The dimsums here are great and the fact that it starts getting busy by 8pm is but a reminder of its popularity. Skeeter has been to Dimcha only once and doesn't really like to write about a place before she visits a place more than once, but Skeeter promises to add more to this post sooner than you think!
Dimcha gives the feel of a tea house or a Yumcha cafe where you order dimsum and tea and savour them over some invoking conversations. Here's what Skeeter had and what one can look forward to:

The steamed Vegetable Chive dumplings (Rs 235) came first: Water chestnut, celery and chives seated in a green pastry cover and steamed to perfection. Two pearls of pomegranate topped this dimsum and gave it a rather elegant look. The food does need to look inviting for sure and it did! A delicious deal.


Next came the Vegetable Char Siu buns (Rs 255) which were steamed bun dimsums with a lip smacking filling of barbecued veggies and minced ginger. You will fall in love with this one.
The asparagus Cheung Fun (Rs 325)was a relevation. Skeeter liked it better than the ones she's had at Yauatcha and they really stole the show. A rice noodle roll steamed to perfection with an aptly seasoned filling of asparagus and shiitake mushrooms, topped with light soy sauce. Take a bow!

Skeeter also enjoyed the Lo mai gai or the Lotus leaf parcel with sticky rice and veggies(Rs 255). Glutinous sticky rice with mock duck (which was strangely missing or too scant to be noticed), veggies and shiitake mushrooms (that lent a mock meat flavour anyway) come wrapped in a Lotus leaf. These made for a meal in itself. A Cantonese Yumcha classic, these are worth pigging, Skeeter says!


Besides, they have a range of tisanes (flower petal/herbal teas) which one can enjoy with the dimsums. Try the Rose bud (Rs 175) and the Chrysanthemum tisanes (Rs 175) and come back and thank Skeeter for the reccos! The teas are reasonably priced and make for a perfect pair with the dimsums. 



Dao

Skeeter also tried the Yam Phak Ruam Mit Krob (Rs 325) or the exotic crispy vegetable salad in a hot, sweet and sour dressing (Rs 325). The vegetables coated in a light tempura batter were fried and tossed in a tangy sauce. Another green bean salad in the most scrumptious peanut sauce was a Skeeter favourite. 


Having said all that, some things need attention. The tisanes stored in plastic jars were not pleasant to the eyes, considering they've spent reasonably in doing up the place. They need to invest in some nice looking jars for the tisanes. Skeeter also hopes they maintain their food quality for her to keep going back and enjoying Yumcha.