Blogging has brought me several pleasant surprises. It has put me in touch with like minded people, some of whom have also become good friends. It has widened my microcosmic view of food, to embrace world cuisines and at the same time given me a macro insight into the rustic delicacies of my own country. That is true of things beyond food too. It put me back in touch with the person I was - the one that got lost somewhere in the pages of my diary - creative and impulsive!
It was a happy day when I opened my inbox and found an invitation from Rushina. The invitation was for a get-together with some of the best food writers in India and some wonderful food bloggers, some of whom I knew already, at Grand Hyatt's newest restaurant "Fifty Five East" on Friday, the 13th!
Rushina is the food writer behind the blog 'A Perfect Bite' and works as a food consultant through her company of the same name. She is a well established freelancing foodie and a vibrant, warm person. My first interaction with her was a request for something I needed from her. I cannot reveal right now but you will soon know it, I promise! Her persona came through then but I just could not wait to get to know her better.
I reached the venue well in time and was delighted to find three of the invitees already present.
Atish Tripathi, one of the foodies said he would do a podcast. He is an animator and it showed, for sitting across him I could guess that his pen was flying over deftly across a pad and out came caricatures of Snigdha and mine. He, I think was the most organised taster I have come across, actually sampling a bite of almost everything! I started my evening with a strawberry cream flavoured iced tea at his recommendation.
Snigdha is a young lady who works with Rushina and also writes at "Life On Simmer" about most things other than food. That's of course because things are simmering. She promises to soon get back to the purpose of her blog, i.e., food!
They were already busy tucking into some tasty looking dolmas. I found a recipe that seems to be somewhat close to what we had at Cafe Fernando. Interesting! I loved it. We also treated ourselves to some mini pita breads served with chickpea hummus. I am very partial to Middle Eastern Cuisine so naturally these appetizers worked perfect for me.
Slowly the rest of the foodies trickled in one by one. I was stoked to meet Vikram Doctor who writes for Economic Times. You can read his indepth research based food writing at "On My Plate." It thrilled me to know that he had visited my virtual space:D. There were also other food writers who work for various leading papers. Mr.Javed who writes for DNA and another gentleman whose name I could not catch despite being told twice. And then food took us over and I just conversed happily without knowing him by the name. I also could not interact much with Shanky but you can hop over to his blog 'Lotsa Food' and know more about him.
What I loved best was meeting fellow bloggers like myself who ran a one man show of researching, cooking, styling, photographing, writing and editing. It was a matter of pride to meet the professionals and joy to meet the amateurs. And what struck me was that bloggers are now being heard and being reckoned with. It's good news for those of us who have been blogging for the fun of it and find ourselves receiving small rewards by way of recognition as connoiseurs of food! The time that we put in into our precious spaces does not go in vain after all. A large number of people depend on blogger reviews in order to know more about places, food and many other things. Let me introduce you to the merry little group.
Shaheen runs one of the most widely read baking blogs in the country and, It seems a miracle that her petite frame did not carry any evidence of the delicious cakes and desserts she bakes as "The Purple Foodie." She has successfully converted her passion into her career with 'Le15', a gourmet patisserie in Mumbai. She also promised me seeds when her basil plants start sprouting:).
I met Simran, the face behind Bombay Foodie about a year back. She and Alka were the first food bloggers I met face to face. She writes recipes, reviews restaurants and shares my love for reading. She also volunteers to bring some of those hard-to-get ingredients when she goes abroad! Now, isn't that really nice?
Lulu gets her name from a certain stubborn, spunky and chubby little girl. Remove 'chubby' and add to that good looking, savvy and smart. Yes. You get the picture! She blogs about everything under the Mumbai sky, sometimes cooks up a quick meal and professes her love for the city through 'Lulu loves Bombay'.
We were a motley crowd that day! Each of us from a different field, united by one common bond, Food! Poonam, is an actor, a home baker and recently became a daring baker. Read about her tryst with baking on 'Homemade Happiness'.
I was pleasantly surprised to meet Jyotika, a fellow blogger from my neighbourhood. Her 'genre' is different from all of us though it is about food. Only Jyotika visits friends who have her over for lunches/dinner, snaps their dishes and showcases their recipes on her blog - Follow My Recipe. A double whammy this one, what say?!
Apparently a lot of men take their food very seriously! Whoever told us of the way to a man's heart certainly was not kidding. The number of men outshined the ladies at this do. The professional food writers for all leading newspapers are men. Javed seemed to be more experienced than all of us.
Kalyan who loves good food calls himself the knife. Rightly too, for he dissects all kinds of joints in Mumbai with gusto and vigour in a blog titled most appropriately! As ... guess what??? "Finely chopped." Better serve him good food, Mumbai! He is not going to be easy to satisfy! I must mention that he has the cutest hand out cards that I have ever seen, all thanks to his better half.
The Nonchalant Gourmande aka Nikhil made his foray into blog world recenly. He is seemingly casual but vividly observant. Catch up with him as he dishes out a rustic sambharia and a gourmet arrabiatta sauce with equal ease.
I wondered what this boy was doing at a foodie gathering! Well, turns out that looks are pretty deceiving after all. This young man, named Nitin, runs a food portal called ifoodee and organizes seminars on topics related to the food industry. He also keeps you informed about various sales happening in the city. A distraction for a shopaholic like me!
Gaurav Jain, reviews the big and small eateries in Mumbai when he is not busy adding finishing touches to the first ever animated Indian Superhero! He does a lot of writing, in his blog and for other publications. Check him out at 'Eating Out In Bombay'. He and Kalyan take you to every nook and cranny of this city in their blogs!
Lastly, the man who made it possible for the meet to happen. Anupam blogs at sips and bites, works for Grand Hyatt. He did promise us some good recipes! Thanks for a wonderful evening, Anupam! I could not still find his blog!!
Like I said earlier I loved the simple starters and the well made dolma. I prefer bland food so the chef's recommendation of a lightly flavoured vegan Thai soup found my favours. The dessert section suffered for lack of choice for vegans. I did work out a fruit salad topped with tasty fig compote but could not relish it as the fruits were diced into large chunks. Forking one chunk meant that I could not close my mouth or speak for the next five minutes!
Regarding food, I really wish "Indian" meant going beyond 'malai' or 'paneer'! Our eateries still need to recognize that there is a burgeoning community of 'guilt-free' food lovers. A banquet should cater to the needs of all kinds of eaters, but vegans, I find are a neglected lot.
I notice that in the South, restaurants, irrespective of the number of stars, embrace North Indian Cuisine in their menu. Sometimes even outshine their North Indian coutnerparts in terms of dishing out their cuisine, the same cannot be said of restaurants here. A fancy name does not make up for amateurish, hashed up South Indian food. Whatever the star, if an Indian multi-cuisine restaurant cannot serve good Indian variety on the menu, it does not make for a good profile.
Regarding ambience? Excellent!
I found the lights glitzy but then this is a glamorous place. Some glitz is pardonable:).
The wooden urns and barrels placed around with Indian spices made the kitchen area appealing.
The service was quick
The plates were being cleared efficiently between courses. The chef approachable. The bar well stocked. The air conditioner turned to a cool but not freezing point. The people around seemed satisfied. What else can one want in terms of being looked after? Here is a glimpse into what makes the restaurant unique - it is the open kitchen.
Handis holding Indian dishesTurns out that one of the reasons Rushina invited me was that I am a vegan, so I could give her my perspective! Advantage, Sunshinemom!
Labels: Fifty Five East, Food Blogger Meet, Food Bloggers, Grand Hyatt, Restaurant review, Sunshinemom, Tongue ticklers