Travelogue | Pune on my mind … another trip down memory lane

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
Anita Desai

Pune DiariesThe sweet Cookaroo stopped by the other day to meet Coco, our little cocker spaniel. She carried some Misal Pav with her. Misal Pav is a traditional Maharashtrian dish usually made with sprouted moong dal/lentils, served with a local bread, pav. Like a blast from the past, the flavours took me back to a visit to Pune a couple of years ago. We were a bunch of food bloggers en route to Baramati invited to visit the Four Seasons Winery. That trip was special as we hit it off well. A common factor tied us together… food! Wine too actually.

Four Seasons Vineyards, Baramati, Pune, India With a burgeoning number of affordable hotels in Pune, it’s worth a visit especially if you go in season. Also known as the Queen of the Deccan or Oxford of the East, the cultural capital of Maharashtra offers you a glimpse into a different side of India. For me, the old world charm tempts me to go back. It’s a city I’ve been to a few times, the first visit almost 5 years ago. At the time, Pune was awakening to the IT scene, and change was noticeable.

Pune DiariesIt was a visible energetic young IT crowd versus the retired services crowd that chose Pune as the destination for their sunset years. Zippy cars wrestled for road space with vintage fiats, heralds and ambassadors, old Parsi couples strolled with oblivion as chatty groups of youngsters raced by queuing up for the seasons fresh Alphonso ice cream. The city embraced the past with ease as it marched into the promising future.

Pune DiariesPune is now both a holiday destination and a bustling business hub. For me as a tourist, the old world charm still rules. A stopover at the Mall Road is a must. It is fascinating to see the old Badhani Waferwala still holding fort with glitzy cafes springing up around. Cheese & Widow Wafers sell as much as burgers and pizzas!

Four Seasons Vineyards, Baramati, Pune, India As times have gone by, the city has grown. So have hotel options including several affordable budget hotels in Pune. It is amazing to see the variety of properties you can choose from these days from 3 star hotels in Pune to high end properties and resorts. The city has them all!

Dabeli, Pune DiariesFor a foodie, Pune offers some of the most fun food, especially street food. That brings me to Misal Pav. Bedekar Tea Stall is famous for its Misal Pav and is quite a star attraction. If you are even more adventurous, then do try some ‘real’ street food too, quite literally off the street!. The sweet lady in her make shift cart pampered us with goodness. She made us the most yummiest Vada Pavs ever, so typical of this region.

Pune Diaries Pune is quite warm during the day. We guzzled down loads of fresh coconut water. Few steps down the road, and cartloads of summer fruit greeted us … strawberries, mulberries, fresh figs and more. We bought them by the kilos the day we were due to fly back home. It is near impossible to find such luscious gorgeous fruit back in the plains of North India!

Pune DiariesWill quickly touch on a few spots around Pune which were memorable. The Turf Club for its nostalgic ambiance, a legacy that the British left behind. And as I mentioned earlier, a quick trot up and down the Mall Road of course. I discovered a small shop tucked away in a corner selling vintage collectibles! My spoon collection took wings!!

Shinde Chhatri, Pune DiariesAnother beautiful spot to stop by is the Shinde Chhatri, a memorial dedicated to the 18th century military leader Mahadji Shinde of the Maratha army under the Peshwas from 1760 to 1780. With exquisite architecture and intricate carvings, it is one of the most significant landmarks in the city reminiscent of the Maratha rule.

Four Seasons Vineyards, Baramati, Pune, India And if you have a couple of extra days, might I suggest a day trip or so to the vineyards that surround outer Pune? We visited the Four Seasons Winery in Baramati and it was a fantastic experience. Just one look at the images and you know the promise a visit to the winery holds!

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

Food Diaries| Bong Connection: Nolen Gur Rice Kheer & traditional delicacies in Kolkata #Indiancuisine #fooddiary

“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.”
Jonathan Safran Foer

Nolen Gur Rice KheerNolen Gur Rice Kheer meant yet another trip down memory lane! Our trip to Kolkata some time ago was delicious. For a non fish lover, I was a little iffy. I needn’t have been. There is so much, and so much more Bong food has to offer, that Kolkata grows on you. There is good food everywhere. Since it’s relatively inexpensive, it’s quite easy to over eat as well! From Ballygunge Place to Bengali sweets galore, to the best streetfood {puchkas forever}, to nostalgic ancient Jewish bakeries {Nahoum & Sons}, and then to good old Flurry’s, the city has it all and more!

Kolkata, IndiaBengalis and food go hand in hand. They are a passionate community. Tight knit, artistic, energetic…and food obsessed. You just need to begin talking about Bengali delicacies in Kolkata on any social media channel, and the response is absolutely amazing!  Bongs from across the globe will come and join with gusto, large heartedly share ever little Bong food detail, discuss recipes, the origins, how they make it at home … and if you are lucky, even invite you over for a meal!Kolkata, India Just recently the husband was in Kolkata and I mentioned Nolen Gur to him. The ‘foodie habit of asking for ingredients are specific‘  now runs quite deep, and I can take the credit for some good training. Each time Mr PAB goes anywhere I just have to mutter a few edibles that would be nice to have. Literally a million phone calls later, I know he’s coming back with his bags full of things to cook!

Nolen Gur Rice Kheer 3Winter is THE season for Nolen Gur as it is available for a very short window through the cold weather. A number of Bengali Sweets in Kolkata during this season find Nolen Gur featured within –  nolengurer shandesh, korapaaker sandesh, kanchagollas, gurer rosogolla, nolen gurer payesh. So I was really excited to receive my stash of Patali Gur {the solidified version of Nolen Gur}. Nolen Gur Rice Kheer I had my research done before hand, and the simple yet flavourful Nolen Gur Rice Kheer was being stirred the next morning. The flavours were subtle, teasing the palette very gently yet so characteristic of this jaggery! They shined through!

Nolen Gur Rice Kheer Authentic Bengali cuisine in Kolkata is easy to find, and posts a formidable list! This list is infinite, both sweet and savoury. I asked a very sweet Bong friend to list her favourites. Here we go in no particular order … Chingri malaikari {prawn curry with coconut}, Ilish bhapa {hilsa fish}, Shukto {mixed veg}, Doi maach {fish curry in yogurt}, Mishti doi {sweet curd}, Nolengurer shandesh {sandesh made with jaggery}, Aloo posto {potato with poppy seed}, Paatishapta.

Kolkata, IndiaSo you know what to order next time you visit Kolkata. Do make sure you drive around the city too. Iconic yellow ambassadors, Victoria Memorial, the flower market which begins at dawn. The colonial architecture is jaw dropping. Roads and roads of ancient classic European style buildings, roads well planned … yet sadly all but forgotten. It’s almost like you are in Europe until you wake up to the traffic and cacophony around you. If only the buildings were well maintained, if only!

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

 

Travelogue | Jaipur… a trip down memory lane #India #travel #Jaipur

Atithi Devo Bhawah” Maharaja Jai Singh II

Jaipur, IndiaWriting about my trip into Old Delhi not so long ago evoked considerable interest. India has such a diverse and vibrant map, that it’s fun to talk about what the country has to offer. Sometimes getting off a recipe allows me to pursue something I enjoy otherwise, travel through India. I’ve done a fair bit of travel across the length and breath of this beautiful land. It’s a wonderful feeling to share a few bytes!Srinagar March 2014 We spent precious days in Srinagar in March last year, probably our most memorable trip in a while as we flew into the beautiful valley. Srinagar was truly ‘Paradise on Earth’. Soon after, bitten by the travel bug yet again, we headed for Leh, another absolute gem but so different from anything you can think of. We couldn’t get enough of it, and will hopefully go back there someday!Leh, Kashmir 2014

Leh, Kashmir 2014India is as diverse as diverse can be. Every nook and corner has something special to offer. Living in the NCR makes travel to cities like Agra, Jaipur and Amritsar quite easy to visit. Just a road trip away, it’s time to dive into one of my favourite cities to explore – Jaipur. With good expressways that lead to a city ready for international tourists, if you drive to Jaipur, make sure you take a breakfast or tea break at one of the dhabas en route!En route Jaipur, November 2014Winter is generally high season and even though there are a number of budget hotels in Jaipur, getting a reservation is quite difficult. Book in advance if possible, especially if you plan to be there during the festival season.  We visited Jaipur a couple of months ago as guests of the JW Marriott. While this might cater to slightly high budget guests, there are a number of affordable hotels in Jaipur as well.

Jaipur MarriottWith festivals like the Jaipur Literature Festival held annually since 2006, there are a plethora of hotel options available. If on a shoestring budget like friends of mine who visited in November last year, the best option would be bed and breakfast hotels in Jaipur.  Once comfortably settled in, the city is yours to enjoy.

Jaipur Marriott, O2 SpaWe had a really nice tour guide and taxi that the hotel provided. What ensured was two days of fun, fun and more fun. Jaipur is a beautiful city with the awe inspiring architecture, so well looked after too. Heritage around every corner, it is really well planned. The Pink City as Jaipur is also called, is truly ready for the global tourist, and is a photographers delight!

Jaipur , the Pink City courtesy Jaipur MarriottSpots not to be missed … to begin with , the City Palace. It can knock your breath away. Beautifully maintained, clean, embellished  doors in the central courtyard for every season, puppet shows, some souvenir shops too. Interesting bric a brac, old buggeys, family trees all delight the visitor.

Jaipur IndiaJust outside the city palace is Hawa Mahal, an architectural marvel. Dated in history, it’s a beautiful facade that has hundreds of small balconies and windows that allowed women in purdah to sit within and watch processions in the days of yore. The Hawa Mahal has a fascinating facade, while interesting shops dot the street around. Clothes, quilts, leather, silver, accessories, souvenirs … but don’t forget to bargain as you can get easily fleeced!Jaipur IndiaYour next stop should be Amer Fort sitting atop a hill. Just the drive up to the fort will amaze you. Precision of architecture, huge bolstered walls made of heavy rocks, beautiful landscape. One is filled with wonder at how something so gigantic and perfect could have been constructed so many hundred years ago. Yet another well maintained historical building, and it is heartening to see so many local tourists visiting the fort over weekends.

lunch @ Okra, Jaipur MarriottHow can you visit a city and not eat? If you are looking for fine dining, head straight for the JW Marriot. With four classy restaurants, there is something for everyone there. The 24 hour coffee shop will leave you wishing your stomach was an endless pit. The choice blows you away, with the freshest best food. If it’s Indian you crave, the Saffron is highly recommended. Make sure you try a signature smoked butter chicken, silky smooth saffron paneer, finger licking good maa ki dal and garlic naan. Also make time to stop by the Jaipur Baking Company at the hotel as it churns out the best freshly baked goodies money can buy!

Spice Court JaipurIf you are out in the city, and would like a quick meal stop then the Spice Court will not disappoint. We had the best famous Lal Maas at the beautiful Spice Court. The restaurant has a colonial feel to it, and offers a nice laid back atmosphere. No one seems to be in a hurry. For the sweet tooth, just alongside is a patisserie which offers the great desserts. Enter it and for a moment you get transported to a Parisian cafe.

Jaipur, IndiaWe hit the best local food joints too, and we couldn’t get enough of them. Must tries include pani poories, local word famous ghewar and of course the kachoris. Go with an appetite because the kachoris in Jaipur cannot be found elsewhere. Rawat ki Kachori has the best {read BEST} kachoris in town. Eat a couple, pack a few …you will not regret carrying back ‘the taste of Jaipur’. It one of the only ways to keep the holiday alive after you leave the Pink City!

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

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