Thursday, August 26, 2010

Once upon a time in Tángra

Nostalgia is a strange animal. I had not been to Tángra in a long long time. Long enough for me not to remember exactly when was the last time. 

Chinese community has long settled in Calcutta, even so from the pre-independence days.When you think Chinese - you think Bentinck 'Footwear' Street with scores of footwear shops selling everything from naughty boy school shoes to hi fashion, high heel boots; you think Chinese shops selling similar footwear in Old New Market; you think Jimmy's Kitchen on AJC Bose Road; last but certainly not the least you think Tángra.

The other day when I was just willing away time on the internet, I came across a community blog on the Chinese community called, an interesting one I must say. This reminded me back in the days, Tángra used to be unanimous with Chinese food. People came from far and wide, the foodies came, the ladies came, the revelers came, the well heeled came in their fancy white chauffeur driven Contessas, the celebs came and then even the non-Tángra Chinese came. The last category underscored that this was where the Chinese ate Chinese !

I think I might have only eaten a few times in Tángra during my cash crunch college days. I did not recall much about the place - except for unpaved roads, open drains, and the smell emanating from tanneries mixed with that of Chilli Chicken. Despite the squalor environs Tángra was considered hip. It was creating a niche for itself when the term Tángra style Chinese Food was floated around.

I barely made it through college and some how got a sales job to stay afloat, I finally struck gold when I was able to take the proverbial boat into US of A.  It was bye bye Tángra. I was in the land of plenty, the land of the Big Mac, the  land of huge Grand China Buffets claiming to have all-you-can-eat - 120 items with 42 flavors of chicken. This to a boy from Calcutta was Disneyland of food !

Now Chinese food in USA is nothing like the Chinese food I was used to being from east of Cal. But it was still lots of food and a fixed price of  $6.99 (I don't remember the exact price, so bear with me here). A thorough research of all the 120 items led to part disappointment - yet there wasn't any Chilly Chicken or Chicken Chow-mien. The memories of a Chinese food vendor in office para Dalhousie drifted along as I sat down to eat 13 of the 120 items. The modest young fella did great business selling Chilly Chicken / Chow-mien to hungry office goers. He had 6 items at the most, including the chopped chillies in vinegar and hot chilly garlic sauce and NO it wasn't even all-you-can-eat, it was more like all-you-can-sell :))

Fast forward a few years and I return to be the prodigal son of the soil. The restaurant scene has changed in Calcutta. There are malls, there are restaurant chains, there is Anjan Chatterjee's Mainland China with multiple locations, there is boutique bengali food sold in restaurants yada yada yada ....

Downtown Tángra - choc-o-bloc traffic !

This past Sunday I wondered, if I should give Tángra a shot. Was able to get together two old buddies of mine, all foodies and we headed down the pike to China Town. Took a narrow lane into Tángra and was welcome by a place which didn't seem to have changed much (may be more restaurants and eating houses than before). I was amazed by a particular gesture though, as soon as you hit downtown Tangra, with restaurants lined on either side of the narrow concrete lanes, the uniformed valets of all the big restaurants flag you down, wanting you to stop at their employers. Some times you might have to maneuver the cars to try and not hit them.

The dilemma was to choose between big brightly lit restaurants or small, somewhat dingy eating houses possibly run by a middle aged Chinese Aunt. Not knowing what to expect at smaller hole-in-the-wall places, we settled at a big and very brightly lit restaurant named Beijing.

Beijing was a warmly done up restaurant and we sat down in a corner table, after some deliberation. I was surprised by a first glance at the menu, they were written in big bold fonts, and were at least about 1.5 times as much as even a fancy Chinese restaurant. One could order any dish in denominations of half/full plate.

Beijing Menu, look at the prices :-(

Smaller joint this Golden Empire, may be we should have eaten here ...

Here is what we ordered and the verdict

Pepper Fry Shredded Chicken - arrived barely warm, had to call in the manger and he had it replaced, after initially offering to microwave it for us ! I am not sure if this is just a Calcutta thing or not - that instead of replacing, managers have to first make a re-heating offer.

Schezwan Fish - was hot, nothing to complain about, nothing to write home about either.

Dry Chilly Chicken - BAD - this is not how Chilly Chicken was supposed to be, dry chunks of chicken almost white/yellow chicken (sorry no pics. for this baby !)

Gravy Style Chicken Chow-mein - Standard average fare

In addition to the above we had to drown ourselves in 2 drinks and 2 beers to forget the disappointment called Beijing in Tángra. Total damage: Rs. 1477. Average service, no tips !

We were split that if it was due to our idea to stick to a well-lit-up restaurant here as opposed to a eating house, was the reason, we got what we got ? Now with stats as above, I leave it for the house to decide, any Tángra experiences please share.

PS: Hindi-Cheeni "bhai-bhai", nah not at this Beijing :P

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sweet Child O' Mine !

Bengali Beauties @ Banchharam in CF, Salt Lake City

Not only do I have a sweet tooth, I think have a sweet mouth :)). I find it hard to imagine a meal without desserts to follow. The sweet diet is clearly working for me, still wonder though - why can I not get a few pounds off my frame. Well, at this point, just a couple of pounds will make no difference, so what the heck - you only live once !

There is a certain thing about us inheriting eating habits from our parents, so I got the sweet gene. My dad and I can pretty much storm into a sweet shop and just lunch or dine on a mixed platter of them. My dad's pushing mid-sixties, so he needs to take it a little easy, while I take in the reins . Some say 'Old habits die hard, and Sweet habits never die !'

Calcutta and Bengal in my opinion remain the undisputed leader in all things sweet. The subtlety of most (certainly not all) bengali sweets is unparalleled. I have relatives living in different parts of north and west India and they all swear by bengali sweets and pack themselves bags full of such sweets during their visit to the 'City of Joy' ! The versatility and creditability of the 'chhanar mishtee'  has spread far and wide.

People in Delhi run to C.R. Park for all things bengali including sweets, I am told by Finely Chopped it is Sweet Bengal in Mumbai and am sure other cities have their own brand of bengali sweet-wallahs trying to keep the tradition alive.

From the ubiquitous Chittaranjaner Rosogolla to Girish Chandra'r Sandesh to Ganguram-er Mishti Doi to Shashuri'r haather Peethey to Kaki Maa'r Narkoler Naru to Mouchak-er Jaul Bhaura to Rausho Malai to Raabri to KaNchagolla to Pantua to Shaur Bhaja to Baurdhoman-er Meehidana to Ranaghat-er Langcha to Chhanar Polao to Bancharam-er Abaar Khabo to Ice Cream Sandesh to Putiram-er boNdey; the list is endless. I have had them all.


And the winner is Nalen Gurer Sandesh and Rosogolla.

 And you ask what is Nalen Gur ? Nalen or Notun Gur (Date Molasses) is a seasonal affair. It is a product of the date (khejur) trees.

The following is an excerpt from a short story by

The date palm sap is made into tree types of gur: liquid, grainy and the solid chunks of patali (cake like chunks). The sap is heated in huge karais (woks) over wood or coal stoves and it is only an expert who can gauge the different degrees of cooking to achieve the right texture. The arrival of gur in the market is the signal for the professional sweet-makers to start preparing one of their most popular products, sandesh flavoured with the new gur. This nalen gurer sandesh has a brownish-pink tinge and is very dear to the plump Bengali's heart. at the beginning of the season. Gur is sold in its liquid form, jhola gur. This comes in earthen ports and disappears fast enough. This is somewhat like maple syrup in America, poured over hot luchis or chapattis and as a sweetener in the milk. It ferments easily and so has to be eaten quickly. In rural areas the fermented gur is made into a kind of cheap liquour which tribals and poor villagers drink. It was this same jhola gur which inspired committed following from exceptional Bengalis like Sukumar Ray, our version of Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll. In one of his delightful poems he spun out an absurdly contradictory list of the good things of life, and the very best of the best was bread with jhola gur. The solid patali gur can be stored and used for quite a few months after winter is over, and refrigeration gives it even longer life. The most notable application for its use is in payesh, in place of sugar. The pure nutty sweetness of the gur makes this winter payesh a Bengali gourmet's dream.

Wonder what would call someone who is head over heels in love with these sweets, the term is Foodie for food lovers, would it be Sweetie for sweet lovers ?

Had the good fortune of trying some of the who's who of the sweet industry. I present a story best told in pictures as presented below (Note: this is just a start, I am going to get enough sugar in my system by the end of it, I agree sweets are my absolute fetish and they are certainly the way to my heart (this is for all the single girls out there, who are looking for a portly, balding, middle-aged, geekish but sweet young man !)
Mixed Platter
Pot of gold errr... Rosogolla 

Established in 1844 - Were you born then ?
Winner of Madly Mishti for Sandesh category 
Iron Clad Security ...
Closed boxes, scroll to open them ...

Hope these sweets will have your mouth salivating and keep you coming back for more, till then whet your appetite with this video ...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kosha Mangsho ~ My labour of love

Post rated: PG -13
Vegans beware - Can cause possible conversion to being a carnivore !      

"Kosha Mangsho" - is a Coolkata institution. Here in "Kosha" loosely means - pan fried/sauteed, "Mangsho" refers to goat meat. The phrase again loosely translated in hindi could mean "Bhuna hua gosht".

The first step in the right direction is to go to your favorite butcher (people don't change butchers and barbers in their mid-life, its like changing horses in mid-stream) and have him give you the choicest cuts into small cubes (some bone-in, and some boneless).

I did the same - I go to one "Haji Meat Shop"  in CA block market in Salt Lake for my mutton chops, run by one Md. Shahid. You may or may not love your wife, be sure to love your butcher or at least pretend to :)) I greeted Shahid bhai with "Salaam" and made some small talk and after exchanging  "ख़ैरियत ". Time to get down to business now. I asked Shahid bhai for about 1 kg  of "Kochi-Patha" , he gave it a good thought, looked around and showed me a sample of what he claimed the best money could buy. It was about 1.5 kg, he said he would make me an offer I couldn't refuse. But I did. I was stern, under direct instructions from my wife, not to buy more than 1 kg of red meat. Be very afraid of your wife !

Let me take a short detour to a   quote what a friend shared with me a few days ago on Facebook , it went like this - "You are lucky if your wife forgives every time she is wrong about something; Always use tasteful words when arguing, you may have to eat them back; When in doubt, listen to your heart, and then to your head, and then your wife will tell you what to do !" :))

Now returning to Shahid Bhai and his offer. We closed the deal with exactly 1 kg of meat with a small piece of liver and a couple of paayas thrown in to make the deal sweeter !  Price of meat varies more often than the currency index, today's price was Rs. 260 / kg ! (boneless and keema are  available upon request request and is sold at premium prices).  In the era of hypermarkets and frozen meats - nothing still beats quality fresh cut meat and a trip to your butcher ! My order was readied promptly and double bagged. I thanked Shahid bhai and we exchanged "Allah Hafiz".

Now to the harder part - disinfecting by washing with salt, prepping, marinating the mutton cubes with a medley of ingredients - beaten curd with roasted and grounded cumin seeds, red chilly powder, home made garam masala powder, chopped green chillies, some fresh ginger paste, and a liberal drizzling of mustard oil ! Oh yes there is a secret ingredient that has been left out on purpose. It is listed at the bottom of the post - to ensure you read this entire post ;-)

There is no such thing called too much marination, at least not for goat meat - which is quite stiff a meat and the longer the marinade works on it, the better the tissues would break down, the softer the mutton becomes. I had about two hours of marination time available to me, before I would risk being driven out of home for incompetency and late lunch by the wife !

The marination time was used by taking my wife out for some shopping. Time flies by, 2 hours went by and we returned home to a well marinated "Kosha Mangsho" wannabe ! Now the regular routine of heating the oil in a pressure cooker, throw in whole spices (green cardamom, hand-broken cinnamon sticks, black pepper kernels, and a couple of sprigs of mace). Spices crackle out of excitement, now is when is I added a lot of minced garlic, onion paste made out of about 6-7 small-medium size onions, a blob of ginger paste, some turmeric powder, salt and pepper to taste, some more red chilly powder. Now I almost NEVER listen to any rules when cooking and just listen to my taste-buds whispering into my ears. This time they whispered that I needed some thing else - I found and added a small pack of something called "Maggi bhuna masala" - which is basically a premix of onion/ginger/garlic/oil and a bevvy of spices.  Fried the masala for say 15 minutes and then added the marinated mutton, re-fried for another 15, until the spices and mutton were at peace with each other. Now I covered the lid and pressure cooked for say about 25 mins (or 6-8 whistles - this may seem a lot, however goat meat reminds you life is tough, but goat meat is tougher).

Once the desired number of whistles were allowed for - let the meat stand in the pressure cooker, for another 5-10 minutes, until the pressure eases off and even though your cooker is off the flame, the meat is still being steam cooked !  You will note that no additional water was added to this preparation - the marinade, the moisture in the meat, the salt - all release enough water for the meat to cook in its own sauce.

* Personally, I don't like potatoes in my Kosha Mangsho !

Finally the time to open the lid came and rest is history. La Dolce Vita !

Piping Hot !

Kosha Mangsho Close Up
Rice Bowl
Bowl of Kosha Mangsho
Roti and Mutton !

Kosha Mangsho along with the ubiquitous * Maanshor Jhol * (that is just how it is pronounced - are Sunday delights at most meat eating bengali families).

You can be certain this exact preparation is hard to find outside the state of Bengal. There might be bengali restaurants in other states/cities attempting this dish for "Probashis', but I would only try them with a pinch of salt !

Each household has its own recipe of cooking this Sunday Delicacy. There are many eateries in the city that have made Kosha Mangsho their own. A few are listed below.

Image Courtesy @ Aloke Majumder
* Golbarir Kosha Mangsho @ five-point crossing Shyambazar needs no introduction. I have personally never had the good fortune to try it (will do so shortly). I am told it is stuff fantasies are made of and has even made it's way to  the literary inclusions. So this one has been inducted into the "Hall of fame !".

Image Courtesy: The Telegraph, Kolkata

 * Mughlai Paratha and Kosha Mangsho @ Anadir Cabin.

Image Courtesy: Your highness !

* Oh Calcutta has this signature dish listed on their menu as "Golbarir Kosha Mangsho", giving Golbari the deserving credit.Have tried it and was pretty good.

Now finally down to the secret ingredient...

It is grated green papaya. Did you know - It has tenderizing qualities ? I added a small bowl of thinly grated  green papaya to the marinade !

Not to give myself a pat on the back, but what the heck ! Try this recipe out some time and thou shan't regret.

Shabba Khair !

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sabya comes home

Sabya and Me (NO - this is not a Photoshop job, this is the real deal !)
A rude nurse, an even crankier doctor, bad food @ the food court of a swank mall. The day could have only gotten better from here on out. And so it did.

Sabya, as he is popularly known in the fashion fraternity, was to raise the curtains on his flagship store, this rainy afternoon right here in CoolKata !

The address was 545 Lake Road in South Cal. A locality with an attitude no less than that of Southside of Boston.

Is it a mere coincidence that south of Mumbai, south of Delhi, and south of Calcutta are all defined as posh localities with people from these locales considering themselves holier than thou ! No offense meant - brothers and sisters of South Calcutta. It is the age old rivalry of South vs. North, that resurfaces every now and then ;-)

Moving on now. Below is the store captured from the outside.

Believe you me, when I say this is a store to be experienced in flesh and blood. No blog/post/article can do justice to it !  You are welcome by dimly lit environs, retro fittings, time pieces (old wall clocks) every where - some give you time, others give you goose bumps !  The store has a smooth aroma as you enter, it is almost as if soft rose petals were showered on you as you walk in.

A simple, innocuous - 'Store opens at 4 pm' sign welcome us just outside the store (you can see the sign just behind the security guard in the above picture). I wasn't sure if one needed an invitation pass, or had to be a Page 3 celeb to gain entrance to Sabya's launch vehicle in the city.

As they say, sometimes good old cockiness gets you ahead in life. I was cocky enough to walk up to the huge double doors of the store. With both hands in my pocket and looking straight ahead in order to give an impression of being some one real important, with a buddy of mine in tow - I walked right up to the entrance, the security guard did not challenge my authority and thundered - "Eyi Mondol daurja ta khol !" - I am assuming Mondol was the guy responsible for letting people in, and he promptly unlocked the double doors from inside !

What I saw inside, is going to be forever etched in my memory.

The pictures on the wall will take you back in time, so will the numerous wall clocks. I really wonder where did he source all this retro collection from. Auction shops at Russell Street, may be ?

It was a sight to behold, he has created a theme, which is both old world and contemporary. The place exudes a lot of charm and says a lot about Sabya - his sense of style; his passion for all things old. Like my friend added - the store 'fed' all your senses - one has to smell, see, feel, hear and taste this store. Smell the fragrance; See through the diffused light and shadow, Feel the ambiance, feel the fabric and the walls, Hear the piped music, Taste the wine (only on inaugural day for a select lucky few ;-)

As if to remind you that you are still in the present day and age and have not traveled back in a time warp, there was Norah Jones playing in the background to keep us company.

Display Gallery

Cafe Sabya

Sabya comes across as an elegant young man, with his feet firmly on ground. Very unlike and uncharacteristic of a celeb. He gave a fine example of his simplicity and hospitality. The above picture was taken in a back-room of the store, which was converted to a  party room for the afternoon - with wine glasses on the table, pistachio nuts, almonds, and cookies as accompaniments. While Sabya was talking to and surrounded by a group of giggling women. I was taking in the environs in the background, he noticed me and asked from a distance - "Would you care for some wine, back there ?"  I am not really smitten by celebs in general, but this was an extraordinary moment, I replied - "Are you talking to me ?". Sabya said "Yes, would you care for some wine ?" Now being the smart Alec that I am - "Sure, do I look like the kind of person, who would say no to some free wine ?" - I quipped. Sabya smiled and the women around him giggled once more. Not sure because I had said something funny or simply at my smug comeback ! I got my wine all right, so all's well that ends well :))

Anyhow, I took the opportunity to walk up to Sabya, shook his hand and introduced myself as an independent blogger and grabbed the opportunity to click a picture with him, thus the large, self-promoting snap above !

The humility/grace/poise with which Sabya greeted and treated me and other guests in his store, it makes me admire, not just his creativity, but him as a person. I guess there is a certain thing about people who work their way up to success, as opposed to ones being born with it.  Thank you Sabya, and may your venture in the city find success.

Best wishes and cheers !

- newkidontheblog 

Below are some more pictures, that were taken during my solitary Sabya experience.

1,2 - Cha-Cha-Cha

Warning: This post is likely to transport you back to the late 1970's - the year of the release of the bolly/holly thriller - Shalimar a.k.a  [Raiders of the sacred stone] starring - Rex Harrison, Sylvia Miles, John Saxon and our very own "Garam-Dharam pa ji".

I was introduced to this 132 year old eatery in north-central Calcutta by a friend who had caught a glimpse of this otherwise forgotten hole in the wall. It sits on Bidhan Sarani (very close to the Scottish Church College); also opposite from the ancestral home of Swami Vivekananda.

I found some trivia about this eatery penned by one Goutam Mitra on The text below has been reproduced as is: (click here for the original write-up). You will need to scroll about half-way down to see the review.

Those who know about Kolkata City will surely agree that this hotel used to a landmark in Bengali life of North Kolkata! Started as humble roadside dhaba ( simple eatery where ethnic food is served) in 1875 by great grandfather of Mr.Bishwanath Patro, an Oriya businessman, for the Taxi Drivers of North Kolkata, soon earned fame among Bengali gentlemen that this place provides excellent food, Mutton cooked in Punjabi style with paratha. It became very famous that many aristocrats, theater personalities, movie stars, doctors,and students started getting their meals from there.
The hotel was just a shanty and located just next to the paternal house of Swami Vivekananda (the famous sage/ saint of India). It was shifted in front of Swami Vivekananda's house to fix a statue of Swami  ji next to their house after 20 years of long request from Ramkrishna Mission.(see picture). It was rebuilt as an air conditioned facility and fancy chairs. I too have tasted their food many times in my child hood. It now has completed 136 years of it's existence! Bravo! and kudos to our Bengali palate, this is going to continue in years to come. - Goutam Mitra

Now, do not go to this place expecting fine dining, exquisite service or any such banal element of eating out. This place serves just food and that's all they do. We reached there close to 9 pm. It is a three-storeyed eatery, with the ground floor exclusively reserved for carry outs. A narrow staircase leads you to a small floor space with low-ceiling dining room on the first floor, which has been fitted with three air-conditioners, hard at work. The place was busy as a mill canteen from the 70's. Two erudite looking men with french-cut beard kept a watch from behind the counter; closer observation revealed they were the cashiers.

All tables were full - we gingerly approached the bearded men and were assured that it would only be a few minutes for a table for two. I patiently stood in a corner next to the cash counter, waiting for a table. In the meanwhile a waiter hollered from the second floor and we were ushered in to a dining room pretty much a replica of the first floor sans the french-bearded men.

Chacha's menu

We sat down and without wasting any time, and after only a cursory glance at the menu card; quickly ordered - based on the advice of my friend who took me there. I got a Fish Fry and a Fowl Cutlet, while my buddy got himself 2 Fish Fries to begin with.

The fish fry was relatively small, but easily the best fry I have had. This does reinforce that  best things in life do come in small fried packages. The crust was neither too thick nor thin, yet flaky. And surprisingly this Fish Fry had fish in it ;-) unlike most places where there is more 'masala' stuffing than actual fish. The fish fillet too was moist yet flaky, well marinated, not too spicy, just right with shredded green chillies embedded into the crust. The round thing next to the Fish Fry on the plate was the legendary Fowl Cutlet - made with minced chicken blended with 'khara masala' and deep fried. The crust was unique almost fluffy like a 'Poori', the taste raised all my tastebuds. All this was served up with a generous helping of onion-cucumber and 'Kashun-dee' !

Half eaten English Fry
It was 9 pm in the night, but I was a man on a mission; not willing to stop quite yet. Got myself another order of a Fowl Cutlet and English Fry ! English Fry was an oblong shaped fry, different only in shape; almost identical in taste.

The fries were Rs. 53 a pop, and the Fowl Cutlet I believe was priced in the mid-forties. The deep fried dinner started to settle in and we agreed it was time to hit the road. Amongst the two of us, we rustled up a bill of Rs. 253 - not bad for a Sunday dinner !

People around us were ordering Chinese, Tandoori, Biryani, Parantha and Mutton. Chacha's lately has dissolved into a mult-cuisine restaurant - a fad these days. But we stuck to their specialty. Now was time for some dessert.

We were in Kolkata's Sweet Meat Valley namely Ram Dulal Sarkar Street (a.k.a Beadon street). This stretch has no less than 5 'Mish-tee-r dokans' only within a few meters of each other - including the legendary Girish Chandra Dey and Nakur Chandra Nandy famous for their invention of the 'Golap-pati-sandesh'. These were 10 bucks a pop !

 A fresh consignment of 'Golap-Pati-Sandesh' (not in picture) had just arrived and I got 6 of them for take-away ! It is sad to see even a traditional store such as this has ventured into 'Mango, Strawberry, even Kiwi flavored' sandesh. Being no fan of them flavored variety, probably made just to suit the the global bengali palate, I passed on them.

The store by itself looked gloomy; lit up by white lights, but I were to learn later the 'Golap-pati-sandesh' were to kill for.

Next stop Nalin Chandra Das and sons - a 160 years old sweet-ery. This place was brighter and more welcoming that the previous and recently renovated.

After reviewing the display, we settled on 'Abaar Khabo' - an interestingly named (each famous sweet shop has their own recipe for it) , this one was about quarter of the size of a golf-ball, stuffed with a medley of pistachio and cashew. I tasted one of this and liked it enough to get half a dozen of them for take-away.  The store boys were again trying to push the 'Orange, Mango, Strawberry and Kiwi flavored' varieties, but we declined the offer at it's onset.  The second take-away choice was for my chocolate loving son - Chocolate Sandesh. We were told it was made of pure chocolate with a centre of liquid chocolate filling. I was to find out, it were true. My son quite enjoyed the bizzare combination of chocolate and 'chhana'.

There was a funny incident at this store, I was clicking away with my camera phone when  I was asked by one of the store boys where was I from ? I told him I was very much from Kolkata and have been born, raised, stayed, lived and blogged right here !  Our taking pictures got the attention of the store manager and he came up to us and requested us to try their Butterscotch Ice-Cream Sandesh, he insisted that it was a new addition to their menu; a must try and it would be on the house ! Both me and my buddy were offered one each of the wonderfully moist and cold - Ice Cream Sandesh, with a butterscotch crunch filling each bite !

And who said, people in Kolkata don't smile at strangers, or better even don't offer free dessert to customers !  To some this might mean that the City of Joy is stuck in the 80's - a city of yore, I would say it with aplomb that I am proud of such gestures. Only in Coolkata !

Sweet dreams, sleep tight and don't led the bed bugs bite !

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's fair time @ EZCC

This week, we just completed 5 years of living in Salt Lake City. Truth be told there is no place quite like home, and home is in Salt Lake, often referred to as Bidhannagar - christened after it's founder Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy the late chief minister of Bengal.

Come fall and winter Salt Lake is almost the culture capital of Kolkata - with its numerous fairs, film festivals, durga puja, musical soirees and all things cultural.

Even though we are still far from fall and winter, the fairs have started trickling in; also in preparation of Durga Puja - the state and the city's most elaborate festival. One such "Bengal Handloom and Handicraft" fair was in town this weekend and the wife wanted to visit. These fair are organized at a couple of different locations around the satellite township, this was one at EZCC Complex - Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre on Broadway (yes that is the official name of the wide stretch of road that connects the Central Park to the EM By-pass).

I myself quite like these fairs, as it presents myriad forms of art, confluence of cultures, opportunity to  shop for household knickknacks and neat little stuff that you can never find at retail store outlets. It is also a socially conscientous event, buying here means you are directly dealing with the cottage industry and the craftsmen are both encouraged and are able to sustain this form of art.

Enjoy the pictures taken @ the fair and * Do not miss the video *

Your pictures and fotos in a slideshow on MySpace, eBay, Facebook or your website!view all pictures of this slideshow

Monday, August 16, 2010

Breakfast @ Flury's

Date and Day: Friday the 13th,
Venue: Flury's @ Park Street

Flury's was lucky enough to survive the Towering Inferno on March 23rd earlier this year. While scores of other people were not so lucky, people lost their belongings, their homes, their jobs, most of all their lives. The story was covered by the media for days and weeks to come. There were horror stories of people jumping to their deaths, there were unsung heroes in form of local lads who rose to the occasion and saved valuable lives, stories of anxious inhabitants waiting by the road side holding their heads in despair. I hereby pay homage to the families who lost loved ones, in this dastardly fire. 

It was the worst fire in the recent history of Kolkata. It underlined a number of things - illegal construction, poor or negligible maintenance of an otherwise heritage  building, complete apathy towards fire and safety norms. Unfortunately in India - things have their own way of trudging along, people complain, but they live on - without doing much about changing their surroundings, except may be complain. Now the owners, were chased down by the police and remanded in judicial custody. What happened to them since, were they held accountable, how are they being penalized ? Your guess is as good as mine. I am sure legal proceedings are on, and hope that law will take its' own course.
As for myself - I was at Flury's the morning of March 23rd, having breakfast with my son. If I remember correctly, we left just before noon. Later in the day I heard about the fire on all the news channels on the TV, it was surreal.

Flury's temporarily moved it's base to The Park Hotel, inside their cafeteria called The Street. Both Flury's and The Park are owned by the Apeejay group of companies. I had a birthday cake order for my son's birthday on 28th March, which I wasn't sure if they would be able to honor. However the manager at Flury's informed me that the order would be duly honored as they were up and running. Their bakery is actually located off site right behind The Park, which was in no way effected. Stephen Court has sprung back to life sans many of it's older residents who took the leap of faith and lost their lives.

Anyhow, so there we were, back at Flury's. It has moved back to its original location at Stephen Court. My partner in crime (a friend who I call Z) made it in close to 11 am. We sat down and made ourselves comfortable on one of the tables in the west wing ! The waiter immediately asked us whether we wanted 'Mineral Water'  (a term associated with all bottled water; with our without minerals in it) or 'Normal Water'. Normal water as we are told is filtered water whose source cannot be traced. We replied Normal Water almost in chorus to the waiter's query. The reason - BUDGET ! You may want to note they sell only 1 particular brand of 'Mineral Water' @ Rs. 80 a pop ! You can step outside Flury's and and buy the same bottled water at a beverage stand for Rs. 25 or so.

Agreed - this is fine dining and they sell Omlettes for Rs. 200, Cappuccinos for nearly Rs. 100 - you are not just paying for the food, you are paying for a heritage called Flury's. But still, bottled water at Rs. 80, call me a cheap sake but that is stretching it !

Now don't get me wrong - I am not a Flury's hater, I am an ardent fan. We always get our son's birthday cake from Flury's; each year of the last five years since we relocated to CCU. Flury's is the stuff memories are made up of, and there cannot be a price tag to that !

Moving on. Flury's is known for their all day breakfasts with fried eggs, sausages, bacon, hash browns and OJ (Orange Juice - canned not fresh), Darjeeling tea or Cappuccino could be your choice of beverage. Beans on toast as their menu claims is also one of their heritage item.

We decided to order Chicken Mustard sandwiches (they were for Rs. 100 each, sounds like a steal !) on whole wheat bread. On ordering the sandwiches the server asked us "Sir grilled ?", pat came the reply "Yes !". I got myself a Cappuccino, and an almond cube pastry - my wife's favorite. A rich and creamy pastry layered with almond bits on all sides. To me, this could be the way to Nirvana. Almond cube is a bargain at Rs. 35 ! I love all their other cubes as well - Orange Cube, Pineapple Cube, Vanilla and Chocolate Cube.

The first cup of Cappuccino that was served initially was only lukewarm, not piping hot as it should have been. I called the server and complained, and guess what I was asked - if I wanted it microwaved ? I rejected the offer and asked if it were possible to replace it with a freshly brewed cuppa ? With some hesitation the server nodded. He re-appeared within a few minutes with my replacement deal. I promptly took a sip - and this time - I nodded in appreciation. This could have been the end of it, but the server had to explain. He started saying that this coffee was prepared exactly like the previous one, and that Cappuccino had a tendency to cool down quickly yada yada yada... unless consumed immediately. He was now pushing the envelope - I had to reply sarcastically and said this - "Well, may be I was lying or better even just didn't know better", this embarrassed the server somewhat and he replied - "No sir, No sir ...." and retreated into the crowd !
I feel especially the expensive joints owe it to their customers to have a certain consistency of quality and it's ok if they fail, so long they replace with a "No questions asked" policy.

The chicken mustard sandwich gave me no reason to complain, the whole wheat bread was lightly toasted, generously buttered, with cubed chicken drenched in mustard sauce ('Kashun-dee") 

Finally no visit to Flury's is complete without their Chicken Patties, which is easily the best in town and has a lot of chicken in it !

And here are some pictures from the visit !

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
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