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Showing posts from 2007

A Milestone (of sorts)

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Since moving here I wondered if I'd always stick out like an obvious foreigner, or if eventually at least some of the time people would treat me like a "local." There have been a few small instances, but yesterday something happened that made me feel like I'd truly arrived.

I got shooed away from a store by someone! It was one of the myriad of curio/handicraft/rug stores that are constantly inviting tourists to "come look." They are filled with carved wooden Ganeshas, tacky souvenirs, and overpriced rugs. Anyway, I was sitting on a railing in front of the store waiting for Debbie wearing a cheap cotton FabIndia kurta. After I'd been idling there for a while, a guy came out of the store and made the "tshh tshh" noise you make to get someone to move out of your way, and made shooing motions with his hands. I was being shooed away from his store!

I was shocked, I'm used to having to tell them that no, I'm not interested in looking at his ru…

Dinner

Ok, I've decided to stop whining, shut up, and cook. Here's the dinner menu from night before last, we had our friends Anita and her sister Ranjita over for dinner. Ranjita's about to leave for a chef's job in the UK, so we wanted to have a nice dinner before they left. Here's the menu:

Spicy thai chicken [Ranjita]
Crostini with goat cheese [Debbie]

Cold seasonal vegetable salad [Anita]
Sauteed haricots with caramelized garlic [Charles]
Polenta and mascarpone [Debbie/Charles]

Prawns poached in lime and garlic buerre monte served with roasted pineapple green chili salsa fresco [Charles]

Fresh strawberries in chantilly cream [Debbie/Charles]

L'Origan Cava
Indage Sauvignon Blanc

Bread, Goat Cheese, Mascarpone from Herbs-n-Spice, Indiranagar
Pineapple, Fresh Green Beans, Garlic, Prawns, Strawberries, Limes from Russell Market
Fresh Cream, Butter from Nilgiri's Brigade Road
Fresh green chilis, onions from the vegetable guy a half block from my house

Bangalore Thanksgiving

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This will be our first Thanksgiving in Bangalore. Mostly we're enjoying not have to deal with the consumer nightmare that you get in the USA from Thanksgiving to Christmas, but I do have some nostalgia for traditional Thanksgiving dinner. So imagine my excitement when I saw the following menu for Thanksgiving lunch at work (edited slightly for formatting and grammar):

Thanksgiving lunch from Erica's kitchen.

There will be:

Waldorf salad
Exotic salad
Leek & Mushroom soup
Cream of chicken soup
Bread Basket

The Highlights:

Stuffed Turkey
Mashed potato
Zucchini
Broccoli
Green beans with puff pastry
Cold cut platter

And to top it all

Fruit pies
Vanilla Ice cream

Our staff worked hard to put together as close to a traditional American Thanksgiving menu as possible, and I think they did the best they could to communicate that to the caterer. I think the problems are that 1) the caterer has no one who's ever experienced an actual Thanksgiving dinner, 2) they couldn't get a lot of the thing…

San Francisco

We arrived in San Francisco later than expected due to airline delays, but got met at the airport by Sarah, and immediately whisked to the B&B we were staying at. This is the second time I've stayed at "The Parsonage" at Haight and Laguna, and it continues to delight. We had the garden room, which is tucked under the stairs and has a private entrance and a sofa bed - both very convenient for us and our friends.

After freshening up we caught a cab to Quince - one of our favorite restaurants in San Francisco, and in my opinion the best pasta in the Bay Area. I see that the latest Michelin guide has awarded it one star, so it's likely to be even harder to get in from now on. Ah well. It was too dark to take photos without a flash, and too nice to disturb everyone else so there are no photos. Rather than the tasting menu, since there were three of us we each ordered three courses from the menu and shared. I ordered a couple of half bottles of wine, and life was good.

T…

Claremont

From Cleveland we flew to Claremont to visit her sister and her family. We had two tight connections in Chicago and Denver, but the trip was uneventful. Debbie's sister met us at the airport and we drove to their place.

Claremont is a very pretty little college town. Broad quiet tree lined streets, few pedestrians, a pretty downtown with coffee shops and a Saturday farmer's market. We spent the time playing with her niece and nephew (great kids and very fun to be with. Robin is into drawing, especially fairies, and Arlo is a cute talkative four year old.)

We went out for Mexican food with her brother-in-law's parents (who are fascinating people, well travelled, well informed, great conversationalists) the kids got tired and bored so went home early and we had a nice walk home. The food was forgettable, but the company was memorable. I took a few pictures that I may post later.

The next morning was Saturday, and we walked downtown for coffee and the farmer's market. Fair t…

Cleveland

From Krakow to Cleveland we flew LOT the national Polish airline. First we flew from Krakow to Warsaw. The domestic terminal in Krakow was an open empty concrete floored space kind of like a warehouse, but it has a spare modernistic feel that made it comfortable. Before living in Bangalore I would have thought it was kind of primitive and boring, but now it stands out in contrast to the international airport in Bangalore as a paragon of cleanliness and efficiency. Not adjectives historically applied to Polish facilities in my mind!

Anyway, the flight from Krakow to Warsaw was on a 64 seat turboprop. I love turboprops so it was a treat for me. Next we jumped from Warsaw to Toronto on an unexceptional two class jet flight. LOT business class is nothing to write home about, but it was comfortable and the alcohol was plentiful. We had a small adventure in Toronto. When flying from Europe to the US via Toronto you actually clear US immigration and customs in Canada. Our luggage was supposed…

Krakow

Krakow is great, very old European. Old buildings, old streets, old churches, lots of history, great food. We stayed in a B&B in an old apartment house. It's a small city, you can walk everywhere, but there is a great transit system. Trams and busses go everywhere and they're cheap!

The food is about as diametrically opposite of Indian food as it's possible to be. Every meal revolves around meat. Pork, beef, game, you name it. Spicing is very simple, and sauces are often heavy with fruit. As for vegetables, well cabbage is a vegetable, right? So are potatoes aren't they? The first morning we went to a cafe, the menu entirely in Polish. We had sandwiches - toasty multi-grain bread, fresh tomatoes, fresh cheese, preserved meats - it was heaven. Then we had espresso, dark thick Illy espresso with rich golden crema. Ahhh...

Around the world!

We're on our way around the world. Two weeks ago we were in Hyderabad, visiting the Google Hyderabad office while Sarah gave her talk at IAC. After that we went to Aurangabad to visit Ellora and Ajanta caves, then back to Mumbai for a day.

Next stop was Zurich, and the Google office there. Zurich is a beautiful city and the opposite of India in just about every way. The city is spotless, well organized, punctual, and quiet. If a pedestrian stands at the side of a crosswalk, cars stop to let them cross. The public transit system is ubiquitous, inexpensive and convenient. There are great restaurants, wine and especially CHEESE. Raclette and fondue are national dishes.

Now we're in Frankfurt, visiting Debbie's old friend Eric, and her ex girlfriends Diane and Debbie. Last night was a neighborhood restaurant with apple wine (cider), sausages, pork and lots of potatoes. We're about to leave for the flea market.

Pictures to come.

Coffee Flame

Most of you know that I'm a fanaticsnob about a lot of things, but especially about coffee. On a mailing list I'm on I've been participating in a small discussion about coffee in India, with particular emphasis on a comparison of the relative poorness of coffee chain baristas in the US versus India. Mostly low key harmless fun, until one of the list members forwarded part of the discussion to an off list friend of his who considers himself a coffee aficionado. He forwarded his friend's reply back to the list, and what follows is my response with comments added for this blog in italics.
A few thoughts, from an off-list friend, on the coffee discussion thus far.

He's quite sold on the coffee (and the pizza) in Napoli. Something to do with the water and the volcanos and some such.____________________
Yes, a few.

1) I don't put a lot of emphasis on the beans. Of course you do need the right kind of bean and the right kind of roasting for the kind of coffee you're m…

Eating Bugs

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First let me say that Bangkok is fabulous. I love the city, I love the people, I love the food. The only thing I don't really love is the heat. The street food scene is amazing. Fast, cheap, and so very tasty. You see all sorts of things. Pork leg that's been simmered so long the skin is meltingly soft, served with braised chard and a hard boiled egg, over rice. Pad Thai made individually for you in seconds as you watch. A line down the block waiting for the best yellow curry rice in Bangkok. A cart with half a dozen different kinds of fried bugs and truck drivers stopping in the street to pick up a bag of crispy fried whole frogs.

Yeah. That. We found this cart on the way to the big food market area, and had to try them. We got a bag, 10baht worth of fried bamboo worms (a kind of caterpillar/grub) and fried pupae of some kind (I think they're silkworms.) The flavor is sort of nutty, and the texture is just crunchy. The vendor puts the bugs in one of the ubiquitous plastic …

It's raining now...

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This is the view from my office right now.

I've always wondered what a "monsoon" was. Living in the US and reading about it, they always sounded exotic and a little scary. Having grown up in Hawaii and experienced the rainy season there, I imagined the monsoon must be that much more intense, and last that much longer.

Well the monsoon here is more intense, and it does last longer, but most of the time it reminds me of the rainy season in Hawaii. It rains most days, and it's usually a gentle warm rain that stops after an hour or two. But every once in a while it really rains.

Rain so hard you can't see across the street. Rain so hard you're soaked before you can open your umbrella. Rain where two wheelers scurry under overpasses, and cars pull over. Rain where everything pauses for a few minutes and the entire world is rain.

It's Gonna Rain

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Last night Debbie and I went to a movie. Going to a movie here is interesting. You have reserved seats, and you often have to buy tickets as much as a few days in advance. Movies are very big entertainment and you don't just go see a popular one on the spur of the moment. We wanted some mindless entertainment so went to see "Die Hard 4." For the record Die Hard 4 was quite satisfying. You go to Die Hard movies expecting non-stop over-the-top action that strains your suspension of disbelief past the breaking point, and to see Bruce Willis be the everyman tough-guy that saves the world. It was all that. We did burst out laughing when right after one of the nearly endless ridiculous fight/chase/explosion scenes they stopped for the intermission. Indian movie houses still have intermissions.

But none of that is what prompted me to post.

After the movie (around midnight) as we were leaving we noticed little knots and clusters of people just standing around. Some of them semed t…

Prawns Poached in Butter

We had a lovely dinner locally organized by someone who has read my whining about food in Bangalore and proceeded to put together a huge chinese banquet at a local restaurant for me, some other foodies, and various friends and family.

It was a lovely evening, and we met a bunch of interesting people, but the best part was that he and his wife offered to show us around Russell Market! Now we knew that Russell Market was where all the serious food people went to shop, but it's intimidating. There are lots of vendors for each kind of food, it's crowded and noisy, and it's hard to tell who to ask for what.

Debbie got a guided tour at 8am (I had to work!) and as a result she got introduced to purveyors of chickens, seafood, and veggies. She brought back a veritable cournocopia, including some HUGE whole fresh prawns.

If I can't find good "french" food here, then by god I'll make it myself. So the menu for last night was whole fresh prawns poached in lemon-garlic …

Ninth Street Espresso

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After satisfying my beer craving, the next thing I went in search of was a good espresso. I was surprised to discover that despite the large Italian population in NYC, that finding a hard core modern espresso was a bit of a challenge. Names that I found were "Casa" on 9th Ave at 40th, Ninth Street Espresso (at Avenue C), Via Quadronno 73rd St near 5th, and few others. Casa was close to the hotel so I tried it first. Apparently it's now a muffin shop. Sigh. Strike one.

Next I tried Ninth Street Espresso, took the A to 14th, then the L to 1st. Walked about a half mile to 9th and Ave C. This place had wooden benches out front with bikes chained to the rail and kids with messenger bags smoking out front. Looked good. Insidethe "house rules" said things like "no half-regular half-decaf" and the menu was reassuringly brief, with the magical words "all coffee drinks are made triple ristretto." This looked very promising.

First, a single espresso. The…

Hop Devil Grill

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I landed at JFK, took the subway to my hotel, showered, changed and went in search of the thing I miss the most - a good hoppy ale. As I walked out of the hotel a dykey bicycle courier checked me out looked me in the eye and said "Nice hair, guy." Right then I knew - I was with my people.

I'd done a little homework, and it seemed from what people were saying that "The Hop Devil Grill" in the East Village was likely to have what I wanted. I walked in to a place that a couple dozen taps along the wall and twice that many bottles ranked above them. Lots of familiar names - Stone Pale Ale, Stone Arrogant Bastard, Mendocino Brewing Red Tail, Sam Adams, Rogue. I mentioned I was in search of an intensely hoppy IPA and the barman smiled and pointed at the one hand pulled tap.

"Have you tried Hop Angel? Intensely hopped, cask conditioned, hand pulled IPA - and it's local. Brewed in New York." He was speaking my language. If I had specified my dream beer th…

T'Chi

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Lots of people have been saying "Oh you have to try T'chi!" whenever I mention I like chinese, or that I liked some other place. So last weekend I tried it. We were... disappointed.

Many people, people whose taste in food I trust, have told us that T'Chi is one of the best, most authentic, chinese restaurants in Bangalore. After our experience at Nanking, some of them have explicitly told us to suspend judgement till we tried T'Chi. So it was with a sense of heightened expectations that we finally went to try it.

First we had to find it. The location is described as "Edwards Road at Queens Road." No problem, we hop in an auto and tell the driver to take us to Queens Road. He obliges, treating us to a mini-tour of Shivajinagar on the way. He has no idea where Edwards Road is, of course, and apparently neither do any of the people we ask walking down Queens Road. We continue slowly cruising down the road looking for a sign. What non-Bangaloreans may not rea…

Saigon Restaurant

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I just posted about Saigon Restaurant on Bangalore Metroblog. You can read the review there, but I wanted to add a few details here, one invidious comparison, and a description of my trip to the kitchen.

First the comparison. Normally I wouldn't go out of my way to compare restaurants in Bangalore and San Francisco because, well, in most cases there is no comparison. With the obvious exception of all the many and varied forms of indian cuisines (especially south indian - karnatakan, keralan, chettinad, andhra, etc.) with very few exceptions (Shiok, Grasshopper, and recently Nanking) the restaurants we've been to in Bangalore don't really compare to similar style restaurants in San Francisco.

Now I know this isn't really fair. San Francisco is known as one of the restaurant capitals of the world, being compared in the same breath with New York City, London, and Paris. But locals like to tout Bangalore as one of India's "foodie" cities and so we had (and have…

aire helado de parmesano con muesli

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parmesan frozen-air with muesli

This dish was a tour-de-force. A styrofoam box was carefully placed in front of each of us. We were directed to unwrap it, and sprinkle the "muesli" on it. When opened, the box contained - air, sort of. It was a very light frozen foam, almost a snow. I suspect the use of liquid nitrogen, but I can't prove it.

The foam tasted intensely of parmesan, while the "muesli" looked and tasted like muesli, it was clearly not like any other muesli you'd ever had. Each of the elements had been distilled to its essence. The dried fruit having an intense fruitiness, and the crispy brown flakes having a delicate nutty sweetness. Both worked well with the parmesan.

As a nice touch we got to keep the wrapper and the muesli bag. The entire presentation was slightly reminiscent of the snacks you got served on an airplane. The styrofoam container, the little zip-loc baggie of unidentifiable bits. The pun being enhanced by the "elbulliaire"…

brioche frito shangai

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Fried Shanghai Brioche

These were tasty little fried puffs, just about what you'd expect from the name. Brioche-like dough filled with crab, cilantro, green onion, and sesame oil. Very yummy but if there was something astonishing about it I missed it.

People who couldn't have seafood got a "mozarella puff" that looked entirely more interesting. A base of what looked like a steamed mozarella flavored dumpling, split and topped with some kind of foam. For all I know it was actually the foam that had the mozarella flavor, and the dumpling was a puff of something else.


won-ton campestre

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rustic won-ton

When I first arrived and toured the kitchen, I noticed bright green foam being spooned into bowls. I was mildly curious but hey, it was just green foam. Well, it was a whole lot more (and less) than "just green foam." The green foam is an intensely flavored basil foam, but the real star in my opinion was the won-tons. They appear to be nothing more than small dumplings floating in broth in a small cast iron pot.

The won-tons are an unlikely star. Basically they're small pillows of parmesan flavored dough, poached in a good strong chicken stock, and filled with... nothing. They weren't so much "filled" as inflated. You pick them out of the stock with a special slotted spoon, dress them with a little foam and pop the whole airy confection into your mouth. The flavors of chicken, basil, and parmesan are simultaneously ethereal and comfortably rustic.

We ate every bite, and sipped the stock as well.


horchata/trufa

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"horchata" - truffle

The "horchata" I'm familiar with from Mexico is a sweet rice drink flavored with cinnamon. Apparently in Catalonia, horchata is made from the milk of the "tiger nut." This dish came as a yin-yang of Catalonian horchata, and a clear truffle consomme. We were instructed to alternate spoonfuls of each side. The slightly rough sweet pale creaminess of the horchata contrasted with and nicely complemented the thick smooth dark savoriness of the truffle. The nut itself was fibrous and crunchy but otherwise not to my taste.


croqueta líquida 2006

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liquid croquette 2006

Croquettes are possibly the most overdone menu item on your typical trying-too-hard pretentious menu. El Bulli may be pretentious, and they certainly try hard but their croquette could hardly be described as "overdone." Reminiscent of the spherical olive, this was a thin gelatinous shell around a rich warm meaty liquid. Garnished with just enough crusty bits to justify the "croquette" label, this was tasty and fun. Very satisfying if not transcendent.


Indian Wedding

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Bride and Groom
Originally uploaded by Charles Haynes. Debbie and I recently attended our first Indian wedding. My friend Girish (who worked for me in the US) was getting married here. We took the night bus up from Bangalore to Shimoga, spent three days there including two full days of wedding stuff, then took a regular day bus back. It was an incredible experience. I loved watching how they prepared food for 2000 guests...

fondant de frambuesas con wasabi y vinagre de frambu

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raspberry fondant with wasabi and raspberry vinegar

This arrived as a small whitish raspberry with green wasabi at the top like a stem or small leaf, and a teaspoon of red liquid. We were told to eat the raspberry, then drink the liquid. The raspberry had a firm shell on the outside, leading you to think that maybe it was another freeze dried confection, but no! Once you put it in your mouth you realize that it's a fresh raspberry, but it's HOT! You then drink the liquid which is a raspberry vinegar which nicely complements the sugar shell of the raspberry. "Fondant" in French means "melting" so I think of these as "melting raspberries." Another dish that made me laugh with delight.


bombones de mandarina, cacahuete y curry

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Bonbons - mandarin orange, and curry peanut.

These were... bonbons as advertised, but not like any bonbons I'd ever had. One was a flat round golden brown disk, the other a yellowish cube decorated with gold leaf. We were told to eat the flat disk in two bites, but the cube all at once. The flat round one was like curry flavored peanut butter in a thin buttery shell - maybe cocoa butter? The cube made all of laugh. You pop it into your mouth, bite down, and your mouth is filled with liquid! It's tangerine juice and the bonbon shell practically evaporates. What fun!