Media Fam Trip | Jaipur Marriott … memories of a lifetime #JaipurMarriott #roadtrip #travel #Jaipur #India

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”
Arthur Conan Doyle

Jaipur MarriottIt was a weekend to remember, a road-trip to Jaipur that took us for the most beautiful and memorable time well spent. It was an experience that brought whole new meaning to the phrase “little things that matter”. A visit to Jaipur, the Pink City, will always hold the promise of magic. A visit to the Pink City hosted by the Jaipur Marriott resulted in magic, also doubling the joy and memories.

Jaipur Marriott, JaipurIt was also a ‘WEEKEND of EXCESSES’ … excessive pampering, excessive fun, excessive food and excessive care. ‘Little things that matter’ took whole new meaning at Jaipur Marriott. It was a media fam trip that has left us with withdrawal symptoms and nostalgia. ‘Yeh dil maange mor‘ was the common feeling. The Pink City grows on you. So does the Jaipur Marriott and the brilliant team behind it!

Jaipur, IndiaWe were a small ‘privileged’ group of 7, a mix of media, travel and food bloggers, and many of us were meeting for the first time. With us too was the very sweet and chirpy Binisha who was the best coordinator ever. Someone who never stopped charming us with those characteristic dimples, exuberant energy, positive attitude helping make the weekend totally worthwhile. There was of course the team from the hotel … exemplary in every way.

Delhi Baking Company, JW Marriott, New DelhiIt went like clockwork from word go. Picked up from home on the dot as advised, we proceed to the Delhi Baking Company, JW Marriott, New Delhi to meet for breakfast. Couldn’t have been a better beginning! It was a beautiful start with possibly the best croissants we’ve had in town. Ceramic mugs of hot tea, coffee & chocolate, tall glasses of cold coffee and fresh juice did the rounds. Efficient breakfast service, fresh muffins, cupcakes. Then a stunning handmade card from General Manager Rohit Dar, Jaipur Marriott as a pre-welcome with a  box of goodies from the DBC… and off we went.

en route jaipur The promises of a languishing sleep, resting along the way from Ruchira were blown in the wind as we drove. It was non stop banter, mad laughter and ‘eyes popping-jaw dropping‘ information exchanged as we bonded. Strangely enough, most of were meeting for the first time and we hit it off splendidly. En route Jaipur, November 2014First stop en route … a local dhaba on the way for addictively good stuffed parathas and piping hot sweet tea! Yes indeed, the promise of fun days to follow! The next stop was the Jaipur Marriott. A different world from the dhaba, but beautiful again. I love how we can change gears from one world to another in seconds … from croissants to parathas … and much more.

Jaipur MarriottJaipur Marriott Hotel is entrenched with the cultural legacy of the Pink City and sports refined elegance and a contemporary look. The Hotel displays the finest blend of contemporary architecture with subtle ethnic design elements. Plenty of natural light in play with natural elements of water, plants, stone, bamboo offer a peaceful soothing ambiance. With 317 keys and the option of going up to 365, this is perhaps the biggest hotel in Jaipur.

Jaipur Marriott Given the royal treatment on arrival with tilaks, welcome drinks and silk scarves, we were individually escorted to our rooms, checked in within minutes and soon headed for lunch to Okra. I love the name the Jaipur Marriott has coined for this all day dining restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet, supported by an exotic ala carte menu available 24 X 7. Okra offers a wide array of continental and Indian delicacies, the ‘world on a plate’, leaving you spoilt for choice! With bakes from the Jaipur Baking Company adding delicious weight to the menu, go prepared and on an empty stomach.breakfast @ Okra, Jaipur MarriottHeading Okra is the affable and talented Executive Chef Sahil Arora, his vast experience and expertise in heading the team shines through. It is easy to see how popular the restaurant is as it is always buzzing with activity, run like clockwork by an efficient and passionate team. The Sunday brunch appears to be extremely popular. Given the range out on offer, and the sumptuous lunch and breakfasts  we devoured there, it is easy to see why.

lunch @ Okra, Jaipur MarriottChef Sahil brings with him the vast experience and multicultural learning through a rich career spanning various countries and diverse cuisines. His areas of expertise include Japanese, Thai and Chinese cuisine. He also possesses strong skills in French and Italian cooking, the influences visible in the extensive laid out menu. Jaipur Marriott, O2 SpaIt was a long, delightful lunch … after which we retired to our rooms to rest, and then set off for a complimentary spa session at the O2 Spa. Located at the pool side, O2 is a celebration of nature, right from ambiance and décor to the luxury treatments. Rejuvenated and fresh from the spa experience, keeping in line with a pretty paced schedule it was time for Lounge 18.

Jaipur Marriott Lounge 18An interesting concept this one. The lounge was conceptualised as an experiment of sorts and is a transitional lounge. By day it’s a lounge for the business traveler, well equipped and stylish, or for friends to get together, unwind and sit back. By night it transforms into one of the most successful nightclubs that Jaipur hosts. With a DJ zone, ample room inside with a spill-out next to the pool, it’s a concept that has even party goers from the NCR heading for a weekend break. Playing  exclusively house and techno rap, the lounge invites DJs to play there over weekends.

Jaipur Marriott Lounge 18 2 We enjoyed an informal earlyish evening there. Sangria, Pomegranate Cosmo and other cocktails did the rounds along with some well thought up mezze platters. With a great assortment of cheese, fruit, cold cuts and crackers, the cheese platter was addictive and is a great addition to the menu as well. Finger foods galore poured in from both Saffron and Okra…and we were pampered once again! Just when we thought we couldn’t have another bite, along came dinner!! Keeping us great company were GM Rohit Dar, Lovesh Sharma, Director of Sales and Marketing and Sudeep Sharma, Director of Food and Beverages. It was a lovely relaxed evening.

Jaipur Marriott Lounge 18 The best end to the day was dessert – the most divine apple crumble with an in house cinnamon ice cream that was to die for! The pictures don’t do justice as the light was dimming quickly, with the bouncers now taking position, queues building up outside and the music beats going up. One peep outside and the lobby was filling up with the young and restless headed to the club! We called it a night as we’d been on the go since early morning.

Jaipur , the Pink City courtesy Jaipur MarriottUp early the next morning, it was a filling breakfast at Okra again, before we headed off into the heart of the Pink City for a day tour. Such a beautiful day, such wonderful company! Looked after like royals once again, accompanied by the ever sweet Ankit from the  Jaipur Marriott and a city guide from the hotel, we fell in love with Jaipur. So much heritage, a city steeped in culture, and so well maintained.

Photo courtesy Maneesh Srivastava @ Mystic Foodie Mantra

‘The Jaipur Gang’ – Photo courtesy Maneesh Srivastava@ Mystic Foodie Mantra

Jaipur CityIt was a day well spent, with most things on our to do list touched on. No shopping as such as Jaipur markets are largely closed on Sunday. We did buy the worlds best ghewar at LMB, some bangles at the City Palace etc.

Around JaipurIt was a long tiring day and heading back to the comfort of the hotel was like coming home! Tranquil surroundings, familiar feel and faces, a special gift bag in our rooms to greet us, we couldn’t have asked for more. A little rejuvenating rest later it was off to a much awaited dinner at Saffron, the contemporary specialty Indian restaurant that offers signature dishes from North India and Hyderabad. Saffron is headed by the enthusiastic, creative and talented Chef Paramjit Singh Oberoi.

Saffron, Jaipur MarriottIt was a nice surprise to see the set up outdoors at the poolside. Interestingly, Saffron opens into a deck along the poolside and is ideal for hosting  small private parties and get togethers. The hotel has been thoughtfully designed and the flexibility to use additional space alongside restaurants, the banquet halls etc is praiseworthy! Little wonder that ‘Weddings by Marriott’ is a concept that has become really popular here.

Saffron, Jaipur Marriott Chef Paramjits enthusiasm and creativity soon had us eating or rather overeating out of his hands. Melt in the mouth outstanding mushroom galouti kebabs,  chicken tikkas, garlic prawns, crisp crumb fried paneer, mutton kebabs,  and plenty more. The poolside ambiance was beautiful yet low lighting meant I abandoned my camera pretty soon. Dinner was set to be served indoors, but given that the party was flowing so well outdoors, an impromptu decision was made to shift the service out poolside. I love the flexibility of decisions, the informal camaraderie and the ease with which the team works.

Saffron, Jaipur Marriott Dinner was outstanding with possibly the best raan {leg of lamb} we’ve had, to a signature smoked butter chicken, , silky smooth saffron paneer, finger licking good maa ki dal and garlic naan to die for. On the side were a plethora of pickles and preserves that Chef Paramjit has learnt from his mother – garlic pickle, amla murabba, ginger murabba. And yes there was dessert too. Award winning crisp brandy schnappes with gulukand ice cream. Also phirini tartlets and an ingenious tomato halwa. Live ghazals played in the restaurant within, while light piped music filled the air outside. A fitting farewell dinner for a pampered weekend.

Jaipur Baking Company, Jaipur Marriott 600Time to bid adieu next morning, and we stopped by briefly at the Jaipur Baking Company. Led by Pastry Chef Anil Dutt, whose parents were incidentally great cooks too, the JBC has a drool-worthy menu on offer. The patisserie counters are magical, the baguettes and sourdough breads freshly baked every morning. There is even a candy counter at this bakery and  café which overlooks the pool. If there was one thing I missed, it was a visit to Chef Dutts bakery to see him at work. I would love to stop by and help him in his kitchen some day. I guess that’ll be another story!

Outside Lounge 18, Jaipur Marriott, Jaipur.Thank you General Manager Rohit Dar and your entire team for looking after us superbly. You have left us rejuvenated, in love with Jaipur and with a lifetime of fond memories.

Restaurant Review | SodaBottleOpenerWala, Khan Market …. a second branch of the quirky Irani Cafe, this time in Delhi #parsicuisine #SBOW

“The belly rules the mind.”
Spanish Proverb

SBOW Khan MarketSodaBottleOpenerWala, Khan Market. It was just going to be a matter of time. When AD Singh opened the now almost iconic SodaBottleOpenerWala in Gurgaon it made waves across the NCR. Soon there were groans from folk across Delhi, pleading for a branch in their part of town. With many iconic Irani cafés, a quintessential experience of a near extinct culture and cuisine, downing shutters of late in Mumbai, one might have wondered why Delhi would even consider a rebirth here. Then again, this is AD Singh & Olive …he got it spot on! Again.

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon You know I loved the first SBOW that opened closer to home in Gurgaon. I never stopped talking about it. Recently we heard whoops of joy from the Dilliwalahs. A Bawaji joint was opening in the heart of Delhi, and they were loving it! What better location for an iconic Delhi Parsi Cafe than the iconic Khan Market, vibrant and bustling. Tucked away in the heart of Khan market, Olive pays tribute to the dying legacy of the Irani café … bringing it to life in style!

SBOW KhanSBOW at Khan is located on the first and second floor off a long winding food lane, very old world charm. Quite unlike the Cybercity venue which is very retro, French cafe street feel on the outdoors, set amidst new architecture. The feel within is the same … chaotic, crowded, bustling, colourful, quirky, eccentric and real world Irani café. Up the steep stairs in Khan Market and you are once again ushered into a different world. Framed pictures in sepia and black and white from generations of Parsis unknown, actual antiques, quirky quaint mirrors, quotes so reflective of this small tight knit community. Barni glass jars, tiffin carriers, taxi meters, cuckoo clocks, tin boxes…paraphernalia galore, it’ a feast for the eyes!

SBOW Khan Market

Photo Courtesy Lavina Kharkwal

It was a cozy small get together at the launch … food enthusiasts from across the NCR, AD Singh in gentle attendance, drinks and food flowing non stop. Such a fun opening menu brought together by an ace team , drinks did the rounds with the heady Bawaji Nu Thullu and Raspberry Soda amongst the most popular, with the Shikanjiben following a close second. It was time to abandon the camera and nonsensical light headed banter took over!

SBOW KhanWith drinks can food be far behind? The menu sees several new additions and make overs from the first branch. My absolute favorites in starters were Mushroom on Khari, Breach Candy Awesome Okra, Tareli Macchi, Chicken Baida Roti. The egg lovers didn’t stop ranting about the Dukkar Galli John’s Famous Egg Sandwich, and couldn’t tear themselves away from it either. Everyone ate lots. LOTS!

Berry Pulao, Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, GurgaonSoon came main course. Main course? I was stuffed already but one look at the Berry Pulao, a lamb berry pulao at that had everyone grabbing forks again. It is the best offering from SBOW and one not to be missed. It’s a must try on their vast and intriguing menu. Add some Bhendi Bazaar Sheekh Paratha and Kolmi Fry and this gastronomic Parsi journey is even happier. Did I mention the sweetest and funniest young stand up comedian Danesh Irani? That too. He had the captivated audience roaring with laughter with ‘The Last Parsi’ written by Meherzad Patel.

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon

SBOW Khan 5Dessert anyone? I groaned as I was ready to burst but can you keep the fingers away from the delicious to the last crumb 5 Star Brownie? Not possible at all. Also impossible to resist is the Toblerone Mousse which is smooth, silky, indulgent … divine. Glass scraping good stuff. Another very interesting dessert addition is the Bun Maska Jam. Pillowy soft white buns smothered with butter and jam send you right back into a nostalgic journey into the past. Yes they’ve got it spot on. Again! SBOW KhanSoda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon It’s a celebration of a cuisine that faced possible extinction and exposure to a community which is very small and largely unknown for it’s cuisine in North India. Ad Singh with his wonderfully talented team has given Delhi a memorable foodie destination, not once, but twice over! Kudos to the team behind this legacy … very talented and quite unassuming Mohit Balachandran from the food blog Chowder Singh who’s been active with Olive for several years, Head Chef Kulbeer, Cuisine authenticator and Parsi Chef Manager Anahita Dhody

Don’t miss a post Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Baking | Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {Gluten Free}… New Zealand Avocado Season Launch #cake #glutenfree #healthy #wholegrain

“I ♥ Avocados”

Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {gluten free} & the New Zealand Avocado Season Launch, New Delhi with Masterchef Kunal KapoorAvocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {Gluten Free}…a cake inspired by so much avocado goodness that we saw at the New Zealand Avocado Season Launch. Last week saw loads of avocado recipes churned out by the very talented and sweet Chef Kunal Kapoor at the New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi.

Celebrity Masterchef Kunal Kapur said “New Zealand Hass avocados are an amazing healthy and versatile wholefood that contain the good fats needed to maintain a healthy heart. They interestingly blend with everyday Indian meals and the soft buttery texture and nutty flavour goes really well with many traditional dishes such as Bhel Puri and Tawa Pulao. They also blend seamlessly with curries”.

 New Zealand Avocado Season Launch with Chef Kunal KapoorIt’s always interesting to see what the chef does with food, creating innovative recipes, often off the beaten path. He put  avocados right into the heart of Indian cuisine, the pairings quite unexpected and intriguing. I loved the idea of a New Zealand Avocado and Cheese Parantha, New Zealand Avocado Bhel Puri, New Zealand Avocado & Cucumber Soup, AVAVZA Avocado & Vanilla Srikhand and a New Zealand Avocado and Kiwi Lassi. Other recipes included New Zealand Avocado and Chicken Kebabs, New Zealand Avocado and Coconut Stew, New Zealand Avocado and Tuna Cheese Toast,New Zealand Avocado Tawa Pulao , New Zealand Avocado & Coconut chutney.Avocado

Health benefits of New Zealand Avocado

Beautiful skin The vitamins & antioxidants in Avocado can improve your skin from the inside
Energy & vitality The iron, niacin and vitamin B6 in Avocado support energy levels and help to unlock energy from your food
Healthy heart The good fats and omega acids in Avocado help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels
Nutrient booster Avocados help your body absorb more nutrients from other foods they are eaten with
Protection Vitamin C in Avocado contributes to  protection of cells from free radical damage
Healthy digestion Fibre in Avocado keeps your digestive system in shape

With Chef Kunal Kapoor & Chef Sabyasachi Gorai at the New Zealand High Commission for the Launch of the avocado season, Oct 2014It was an interesting and fun evening, with loads of good company too. Two of my favourite chefs I recently spoke about were there – Kunal and Saby, or formally Master Chef Kunal Kapoor and Chef Sabyasachi Gorai. Also present were a great bunch of foodies. The evening disappeared amidst non stop banter, laughter, fine avocado based bites, and choicest NZ wine.AvocadoWe came away with an avocado each. I swapped my normal green one for this ripe one because I fell in love with the pinkish red hue. It seemed a good fit for Pinktober too! I had an idea in my head after all the avocado talk! Back home, my ripe and ready to eat av headed for a gluten free chocolate cake; a cake where the New Zealand Avocado and Indian buckwheat flour aka kuttu ka aata met. Fab pairing!

Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {gluten free}The cake was yet another experiment. A delicious one. I was fairly confident it would work, but you really never know until you slice it, nibble at a few crumbs etc. It was divine. Fudgy fudgy fudgy. Sinfully chocolaty too; a fallen chocolate cake.

Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {gluten free} I substituted 50% of the fat {butter} with the mashed avocado to reduce the fat content and add some fibre, iron, niacin etc. The  Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {Gluten Free} tasted even better the next day. Maybe the flavours matured. It was fudgier, the chocolate taste was deeper, and it stayed as moist as moist could be. The crumb is delicate because the only flour in here is a gluten free buckwheat flour, or ‘kuttu ka aata‘ as locally called. Handle it with care!

Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {gluten free} Try this if you like. You can always use almond meal to keep it gluten free, or use whole wheat flour to keep it healthy and whole grain. It’s been a while since I’ve used plain all purpose flour, and I’m not in a hurry to do so! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I might skip the butter altogether next time.

Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {gluten free} Well now I’m going to keep my eyes open for more avocados as I have a few sweet and savoury ideas brewing in my head. Avocados are not commercially grown in India. They do grow down south in a few private gardens as I remember seeing the beautiful fruit hanging off trees when we went on a midnight walk while attending the IFBM in August! Until then, it’ll have to be New Zealand avocados for me!

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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