Indian food blogger

“It’s tough to find a place not to like in Switzerland.”
Michele Bachmann

SwissMade GrandTour PAB 2 1000Here’s part II of the Travelogue of our Swiss Made Grand Tour. A 7 day road trip that led us 1000 miles through four language regions, over five Alpine passes, to eleven UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as two biospheres and along 22 lakes. A tour that promised to provide a concentrated insight into Switzerland, with exquisite scenic views and cultural jewels.Hosted by Switzerland Tourism, and organised by NDTV Good Times, it lived up to the promise and delivered much more! An experience of a lifetime, the first part here!

NDTV PromoAs we move from road to TV, the Swiss Made Grand Tour is now on air {beginning 21st October 2015 on NDTV Good Times}

SwissMade GrandTour PAB #SwissMade #GrandTour #NDTVGoodTimesAs we moved from Vaud towards Interlaken, the beginning of German influenced regions of Switzerland, the landscape changed, and with it our comfort levels. We were HAPPY!!SwissMade GrandTour PAB #SwissMade #GrandTour #NDTVGoodTimesThe architecture, the countryside, and the energy, all becoming less reserved and more robust, much like the energy in the team. Our comfort levels changed as dramatically. From virtual strangers to back slapping buddies, here onwards the road trip was just a bag of laughs. The camaraderie shone, madness ruled, the laughter never ceased.

The bunch of us who went to Switzerland #SwissMade #GrandTour #NDTVGoodTimes The good part was that the three of us, food, travel and auto blogger, were always on time. 7am would see 3 bright, fresh faces at the breakfast table, no matter what! Talk about Swiss precision and clockwork etc. We were often running late as a team however, yet picking up from the last post, we made Gstaad in good time. There we were treated to the quintessential fondue pot, in the best way possible! Imagine sitting on a hill slope, in idyllic surroundings, panoramic views of the Alps, crisp fresh country air, cow bells echoing in the background, stirring a pot of the yummiest fondue ever?

SwissMade GrandTour PAB #SwissMade #GrandTour #NDTVGoodTimesGstaad is famous in India for the rolling greens in the backdrop of the Alps where a great deal of Bollywood is shot. Thing Gstaad, think Yash Chopra. Fresh Alpine air, lush pastures and herbs ensure that the cheese you find here is the best possible. A visit to the Gstaad Cheese grotto, a virtual monument to cheese, endorsed that.SwissMade GrandTour PAB #SwissMade #GrandTour #NDTVGoodTimesWith over 3000 wheels of the best cheese, some very rare, are stored in -8C conditions. Descended a very steep bunch of stairs into an old converted water reservoir, it was a ‘Cheese, I love you‘ moment!SwissMade GrandTour PAB 2 #SwissMade #GrandTour #NDTVGoodTimesRows upon rows of neatly catalogued cheese wheels, beautifully piped music, library like shelves, this was cheese heaven. The only reason we eventually ascended was because -8C does eventually get to you if you aren’t warmly clad. We weren’t! It was 35C outdoors, and we hit the road to Interlaken where we planned to have dinner.

Mereingen, SwitzerlandDrove into Interlaken at 11pm to a city that was clearly in holiday mood and wide awake. Quick pizzas later we headed for very quaint Meriengen, our stop for the night. Crawling into bed at well past 2am, groggy eyed, I was up and out at 6am because of the steeple I could see from my window, the bell that chimed every 15 minutes. SwissMade GrandTour PAB Meiringen It was the quaintest towns ‘I’ve ever seen, one where I probably shot the most in the least possible time. Walked down the main street….SwissMade GrandTour PAB MeiringenThe city was waking up, very gently, not a soul in sight. Before long we were at the breakfast room. Such a warm woody country feel to it, such a vast display of rustic Swiss collectibles beautifully showcased, lace trimmings, natural light … just so pretty.

SwissMade GrandTour PAB Reichenbach FallsCars packed, we headed to first to the world famous Reichenbach Falls, famous for the apparent death of fictional hero Sherlock Holmes. A steep ride up in the funicular and we were greeted by the legendary falls, and breath taking views of the countryside below. Meringues at Meiringen #SwissMade #GrandTour #NDTVGoodTimesThen much to my delight, a visit to the Frontal Bakery in the town of Meiringen, famous for being the inventor of the ‘meringue’. I’ve baked a few meringues in my life. Even though I am not a huge fan of this sweet bake, the ones we had here were the best I’ve ever had, especially the one above!SwissMade GrandTour PAB Meringues at MeiringenI was a convert. Also because of the delightful way in which it was served! Wow!! Art on a plate! Sadly, it was time to leave. Yes. Again. We had more ground to cover, loads to see.

SwissMade GrandTour PAB Ballenberg There was more history to come by way of Ballenberg, the Swiss open-air museum. What an absolutely fascinating idea and place to put together, literally a stroll through the past. Just amazing! So much culture, history, tradition and such great grub.  SwissMade GrandTour PAB BallenbergOut of Ballenberg towards Grindlewald and it was my turn to grab the wheel. Yes time to drive and I loved it. Ballenberg, SwitzerlandWith views like the one above, saturated greens sweeping the countryside, wooden fences, bales of hay, wooden chalets. Took me the initial ten minutes to rewire the brain, the uber patient Neha by my side and soon it was bye bye camera, hello car! The next few days were quite the best as I drove in the mountains {first for me again}, through tunnels where 16 wheelers thundered by at high speeds like in video games, to sudden glimpses of shimmering blue waters.SwissMade GrandTour PAB GrindlewaldWe stopped by at a sunset in Grindlewald and it was STUNNING. The valley below with rolling greens, clouds playing hide and seek with the mountain tops, tourists stopping by to take infinite selfies, then one call from the rest, we zipped towards the very stunning Swiss Alp Resort Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof.SwissMade GrandTour PAB Grindlewald It was like stepping into ‘Heidi’s’ world. What an ah-mazing hotel! Early morning views of the sun kissing the Alps, of typical Swiss wooden chalets, of Neha sipping her first cuppa coffee in the balcony at 5.30am, of Sid racing up and down the stairs, then brewing me a cup of coffee.SwissMade GrandTour PAB GrindlewaldThe next morning, I was met by the very sweet Bettina from the local Swiss tourism board, my driving companion, to explore Interlaken at leisure, maybe shop a little {there was no time for the latter}.

SwissMade GrandTour PAB Lake ThunWe spent ages languishing by Lake Thun watching elderly retired gentlemen soaking up the sun, playing with remote controlled sailboats and ducks lazing around like there was no tomorrow!

SwissMade GrandTour PAB Lunch by Lake ThunLunch was overlooking the beautiful Lake of Thun. You have to love the Swiss for the great ambiance that goes to make food an unforgettable experience. Azure blue skies, shimmering water, gorgeous summer flowers, the odd seagull swooping down, the toot of the boat, sailboats being tethered…perfect atmosphere for a lazy afternoon meal. Tall delectable desserts later, with pictures to share, siesta might have been a good idea, but no rest for the wicked as Mandy gave us ‘the look’.

SwissMade GrandTour PABHerded back into cars amidst some very lame protest, we headed to yet another beautiful city, Lucerne, via the Swiss capital Bern. Yet not without stopping to enjoy the golden sunset that enveloped the countryside. It was a moment not to be missed, captured on film by the super efficient crew, and me on my cell.SwissMade GrandTour PAB Enroute to LucerneSwissMade GrandTour PAB Lunch Drive to LucerneIt was that part of the day when gold swept the countryside, cow bells echoes gently through every valley, the sky kissed the countryside and all was well with the world. The drive from there on was the best ever. Narrow country roads, high speeds, stunning countryside, lofty views from atop, we literally nosedived into Lucerne.

SwissMade GrandTour PAB LucerneLucerne, my favourite city, is a very popular tourist destination in Switzerland. If I had just one city to visit, it would probably be this one.We stayed in the heart of the city, and were fortunate to see it in every light. It’s a city that charms.SwissMade GrandTour PAB Lucerne

SwissMade GrandTour PAB Lucerne Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Every building has so much character, rows upon rows of heritage buildings, the wood bridge, clock towers, the castle that inspired Disney, ducks, flowers, dogs, cobbled streets, cafes, trams, sailboats, and bikes. You name it, they have it.SwissMade GrandTour PAB Mount PilatusSo much to do, so little time. Early morning we hopped onto cable cars to scale Mount Pilatus, Lucerne’s very own mountain. The very sweet and lively Colette introduced us to Pilatus – maker of weather, dragon’s lair, home to giants and grave of rulers. It’s one of the most legendary places in Central Switzerland and one of the most beautiful. On a clear day the mountain offers a panoramic view of 73 Alpine peaks. You must hand it to the Swiss to make every mountain so easily accessible and yet keep the country environmentally friendly!SwissMade GrandTour PAB Mount PilatusWe raced down at dizzy speeds on the Fräkmüntegg, Switzerland’s longest summer toboggan run, and then the rode with the new cableway “Dragon Ride” to Pilatus Kulm. There tried our luck with the Alphorn {miserable fail for Rachit & moi, full marks for Neha who suitably impressed, surprising pass for Sid}. Grabbed a 5 minute lunch, then hopped on to the historical Pilatus Bahn, the cogwheel train that was engineered way back in 1889!

SwissMade GrandTour PAB Pilatus Bahn

SwissMade GrandTour PAB Mount Pilatus Back in the city in a short while, it was time for something quintessentially Swiss – Chocolate! So Swiss, so fine, smooth, sinful, addictive. They spoil you with delectable bites with every shot of espresso. We were about to be spoiled further.

Experience chocolate for the first time” read the sign on the door as we giddily swung into boutique Max Chocolatier located centrally on Lucerne’s Schweizerhofquai. What a treat to the senses. Relying on the phenomenal flair for nuances and aromas, the chocolatiers blend cocoa, temper chocolate and handcraft exquisite confectionery just above the boutique. Based exclusively on natural raw materials, we were treated to an assortment of freshly made chocolate, pralines, truffles and seasonal specialties – each a work of art, though gone in seconds! With pairings like mango we could have stayed here forever….SwissMade GrandTour PAB Lucerne…but the old city beckoned. Bathed in the gold of the setting sun, fascinating was the word. Turn a corner from the main street overlooking Lake Lucerne and there you are, in the middle of the most beautiful half timber buildings, painted fronts, that date back several hundred years, window art, wooden doors, cobbled streets, stone fountains.SwissMade GrandTour PAB Old City, LucerneSince the city straddles the Reuss River it has several bridges, the most prominent of them the wooden covered Chapel Bridge. Originally built in 1333, it was almost destroyed completely by a fire in 1993 by a discarded cigarette. Restored since, it still has a series on paintings within that depict Lucernes history. SwissMade GrandTour PAB Chapel Bridge, LucerneIt runs by the Wasserturm, a 13th century water tower, and together the two make the most famous landmark of this stunning city.

SwissMade GrandTour PAB Lucerne 3Also famous and iconic is the St. Leodegar {Hof Church} founded in the mid-8th century, part of the monastery which in turn founded Lucerne. A Gothic church preceded the existing German Renaissance building, but was largely destroyed by fire in 1633. Only the towers, St. Mary’s altar and a few religious objects remain in the existing 17th-century building. SwissMade GrandTour PAB Dinner LucerneWe literally dined under the stars. It was a delicious meal, peels of laughter, yet nostalgia in the air. The trip was coming to a close! Time flies and how when you’re having fun. It was time to head to Zurich. End of the trip. SwissMade GrandTour PAB Einsiedeln Abbey

SwissMade GrandTour PAB Einsiedeln The brilliant hosts still had more for us – a lunch stopover at the most stunning Einsiedeln to have lunch and see the Einsiedeln Abbey enroute.SwissMade GrandTour PAB Einsiedeln Abbey

The Benedictine monastery  houses the Black Madonna, and is an important pilgrimage point for over a 1000 years. We were privileged to get a tour by the very charming resident Father Philippe. The interiors were awe inspiring – baroque style architecture with gleaming white, gold and pastel frescos, marble altars, and organ music echoing through the abbey, and the history of the abbey fascinating. {I took a quick video of the interiors on my cel}

SwissMade GrandTour PAB Einsiedeln AbbeyThat Abbey houses an age old library. There too books, religious and historical, over a 1000 years old, the interiors in white and pastels, with Baroque inspiration here too.SwissMade GrandTour PAB Einsiedeln Abbey LibrarySo much to take in, and we hit the road for the final leg. Not without a jump into the lake for Sid though. It was then that we realised how much we were all going to miss these days. NDTV Good Times and Swiss Tourism were fabulous hosts who offered us the most awesome Swiss experience ever – best food, best roads, best architecture, best people and the best scenery! The cutest dogs too!SwissMade GrandTour PAB to ZurichGood things come in small packages, and we lived to experience just that! Well, we were also pretty awesome company!!

SwissMade GrandTour PAB to ZurichCome share our experience! Catch the show on NDTV Good Times beginning 21st October.
{There is a repeat at 5.30pm this evening, 25th October 2015}

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

‘Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”
Dr. Seuss

HIGH Ultra Lounge, BangaloreJust last week I flew down south to Bangalore invited to review High Ultra Lounge, a Brigade hospitality property perched ‘above the world’  at 421 ft at the World Trade Centre. Keeping me good company was Pawan Soni of Indian Food Freak, a thorough gentleman and a man full of food tales! The visit to the property was literally one of being on ‘top of the world‘, fascinating and intriguing!
Bangalore City It was certainly wonderful to be back to the garden city, a city I spent several years of my childhood in, one I visited last in the 1990’s! Bangalore is beautiful. A feeling of nostalgia hit me when I landed at the swanky new airport, gulping in breaths of fresh, cool air. It was good to be back!
Bangalore City The launch of High Ultra Lounge made a visit possible when the hosts generously flew me down for an evening to review their property in the heart of Old Bangalore. What added to the magic was the prospect of meeting the fab bunch of Bangalore food bloggers. I’ve been fortunate to interact with them virtually over the years; a real interaction was full of promise!
Bangalore City From HIGH Ultra LoungeHigh Ultra holds loads of promise. Prime property soaring high above beautiful Bangalore,one of the highest in India {possibly after one in Mumbai}, the concept is dynamic, fun and energetic. If the aim is to get people to sit up and notice this happening place, it isn’t going to be difficult. We had the pleasure of getting a first-hand sneak preview and guided tour of 10,000ft of creativity, the brain child of Nirupa Shankar, Director, Brigade Hospitality, executed under the direction of Vineet Verma, the Executive Director.
HIGH Ultra Lounge Divided into 4 neat areas, well thought out, aesthetically planned, youthful, light, fun, energetic, ‘TIMELESS’ is the word they concur with. Timeless was the thought behind the planning and layout, and it’s been done beautifully. Each area has it’s own character, whether the High View,  High Mix, High Edge {my personal favourite} or the High Dine.
HIGH Ultra Lounge I love the attention to detail, the colour coding, the lighting that can change according to mood and occasion, the avante garde feel that flows through almost effortlessly. What strikes you is the way they’ve been able to seamlessly weave the feel through the entire space. Clever planning ensures that any one area or lounge can be completely secluded or cut off from another. Little things like sound proofing, camouflaged entrances, personalised spaces and relaxed touches are spot on.
HIGH Ultra Lounge Head for High Mix and Guru, the man in charge, charms you no end. Swiftly mixing innovative mocktails and cocktails, he pleases men and women alike. From Guru’s Love Potion to an outstanding Guava Worcestershire sauce concoction, he soon had the crowd eating drinking out of his hands.
High Edge, High Ultra Lounge, BangaloreFrom High Mix we went on to High Edge which was my favourite of the four spaces. With an almost Titanic like appeal, the edge juts out over the city. Done in warm yet searing bright orange upholstery, it is an exclusive lounge with a cover to seat 50 … yet an expandable capacity for many more. I loved the functional seating, the creative use of space the colours, the lighting, the ambiance which makes each area special.
HIGH Ultra Lounge 6Then came the highlight of the evening and we were led to the helipad. Voila! A Valentine Day special, a table for two set out under the stars. Going at Rs1 lakh for the evening, it’s as special as can get, the bright lights of the city 400ft+ below! Here’s the lot of us clicked by the very talented High photographer who shot in pitch dark {but for the candlelight and 1 lamp!}

Ultra High BangaloreIt was finally time for a sit down dinner at High Dine, open air, whimsical,   beautiful surroundings, heady music, wonderful cool nip in the air.  Pan Asian cuisine is  what flavours the menu here. The kitchen is headed by executive Chef Zhang Hao who was a pleasure to interact with, energetic, affable and with infectious energy!

HIGH Ultra LoungeWe were treated to an extensive menu of modern Pan Asian cuisine, delicious in every bite. My favourites included the sweet corn with coriander butter, sweet potato with teriyaki reduction and the grilled tofu with the Korean chili sauce {it was outstanding} as was the crab stick tempura.

HIGH Ultra Lounge

Fresh crabs, melt in the mouth texture and light as air, boy were they good! The fried snapper with thai sauce, and fried chicken with mint and thai basil added to the variety.
HIGH Ultra Lounge The camera was soon abandoned. We chomped our way into the mains. and were treated to a Thai green curry {finger licking good}, massaman lamb curry, fish in laksa sauce over steamed rice or soba noodles. There were generous, well seasoned sides of stir fried veggies, veggies with sambal oelek etc.
HIGH Ultra LoungeDessert was plenty of fresh fruit and a tender coconut ice cream {though I am still quite sure there was litchi in there somewhere}…the texture leaning more towards a sorbet though, yet delicious as can be. There was also Banoffee Pie which was well made and indulgent!

HIGH Ultra Lounge Thank you High Ultra Lounge for the fabulous pre-launch experience. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the concept. Before long, this is going to be a must visit destination for anyone headed for Bangalore and Bangaloreans alike. Bravo!!

World Trade Center,
Brigade Gateway Campus,
26/1 Dr. Rajkumar Road,
Malleswaram West,
Bangalore – 560 055
+91 80 4567 4567

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

“Cuisine is the tactile connection we have to breathing history.History and culture offer us a vibrant living society that we taste through cuisine.All cuisine is a reflection of the society from which it emanates … in the end cuisine is the result of culture”
Clifford Wright

Blue GingerIt’s been a while that the Bloggers Table got together and what could have been a better, more beautiful place than Blue Ginger at the Taj Palace, New Delhi. A beautiful hotel, steeped in culture, a landmark among Delhi hotels. The interiors are enchanting, and the Private Dining Room which hosted the boisterous and chatty group of us, stunning.

Taj Palace, New DelhiBlue Ginger takes its’ design cue from the influence of the French-Colonial aesthetics that still suffuse Vietnamese society. A private dining room seating 12 is located off the main hall. The center-piece is a mother-of-pearl inlayed dining table and a beaded chandelier- amazing works of hand-crafted art in them.

Bento BoxIt was an invite to sample a Business Bento Box Lunch, at the Blue Ginger, the Delhi handle of a series of Vietnamese restaurants the Taj runs in India. A call to experience the brand new culinary journey of the unexplored land of Vietnam at ‘Blue Ginger’, the capitals contemporary Vietnamese restaurant.

Blue Ginger  Executive Chef Rajesh Wadhwa joined us briefly to introduce us to a lessor known cuisine. He spoke about the influences on the cuisine, local, Thai, Burmese and French of course as Vietnam was a French colony. He also spoke about the challenge of incorporating vegetarian food into the menu in India as the concept of vegetarian food is practically non existent in Vietnam.

Blue Ginger The lunch was FABULOUS … though I definitely over ate. We expected to eat out of bento boxes, and that the portions would be controllable! However, the management decided to spoil us and took it upon themselves to have us sample everything the menu had on offer.

Blue Ginger, Taj Palace, New DelhiWe ate non stop, we talked non stop, sometimes guffawing loudly, enjoying the company and the ambiance of the beautiful interiors. Just as well that we were in our own private room which meant we didn’t disturb other patrons with our incessant chatter. First to appear was the amuse bouche, a sweet little bite laced with sriracha that gladdened the heart.Blue Ginger 2 I chose the vegetarian first course as I am a very partial vegetarian! It was brilliant!!  Fried tofu, tangy well balance fresh mango salad and spring rolls. Individual helpings of dipping sauces, lime and a chili mix were on hand and the first course went down in a second.

MenuWe reached out and dug into Sangeetas‘ peppered lamb morsels, served again in salad leaves. It was nice! The salad was common to both courses; maybe the spring rolls too. The grilled chicken was really nice, seasoned delicately and succulent. Never easy to get it so perfect, and Ruchira next to me made neat wraps of it in the lettuce it was served with, expertly dipping into the sauces … making a delicious meal of it.

Blue GingerThe palette cleanser made us swoon … a neat soft melt-in-the-mouth sweet tamarind sorbet! Who would have thought? It was refreshing, teased the palette  and was outstanding! A beautiful new sorbet flavour to consider if you ever have the opportunity. … We marched on to the main course!

Blue Ginger The crispy lotus root was ‘pièce de résistance’ ! It stood out and how. Very close to a well made ‘aloo ki tikki’, it was reminiscent of Delhi’s street food. A crisp outer coating, finger licking good flavours and a sticky sweet and sour sauce that clung on to it! Excellent and worth going for seconds! 

Blue Ginger Then came more food, and more. Lemongrass scented braised lamb shanks, a reflection of the French culinary influence, and were succulent and falling off the bone good! Then, along came stir fried lobster, edamame beans, sticky rice, noodles, spicy vegetable red cari {really nice}.

Blue Ginger It’s never easy to develop a parallel vegetarian course from a cuisine that doesn’t offer anything ‘vegetarian’ but the chef and his team achieved it. A challenge no less, and a result quite remarkable. I think I forgot to mention the baguette! That was excellent too, one of the best I’ve eaten, and once again a reflection of the French touch!

Blue GingerThe dessert brought forward a loud cheer, as we were served petite portions of 3 different desserts. Chocolate Bombe with Coffee Mousse with Amaretto Chocolate SauceLemograss Ice-cream, and Ginger Coconut Caramel Custard. The coffee mousse was really light as air and was dug into first, and then left for the end.

Blue GingerI enjoyed the lemongrass ice cream too … refreshingly different and connecting well to the flavours of the far east. The caramel custard was slightly overbaked as it wasn’t wobbly and light. It was my least favourite of the three. I was happy to return to the coffee mousse.

Blue GingerI have always liked the concept of a bento box. I think it’s a brilliant way to offer a business lunch. With such a varied and well balanced menu, there is enough and more on offer for both vegetarians and non vegetarians at Blue Ginger. The flavours delicate, lilting, caressing and beautifully understated, yet quite intense,  my first ever Vietnamese meal couldn’t have been better. Thank you Blue Ginger for hosting us.

The other bloggers at the Taj Palace that afternoon were
Sid @ Chef at Large
Rekha @ My Tasty Curry
Himanshu @ White Ramekins
Parul @ Shirazine
Sangeeta Khanna @ Banaras ka Khana
Ruchira @ Cookaroo
Mukta @ Bake-a-mania

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

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