Sunday, 22 February 2015

Awadhi Food Festival at Seasonal Tastes, The Westin Gurgaon

I’m no expert on North Indian food, but as a lover of food, I'm always on the looking out to learn more. So when I was invited to review the Awadhi Food Festival that’s currently on at Seasonal Tastes, The Westin Gurgaon’s 24 hour restaurant, I just couldn't refuse. I’ve been nursing a slightly dodgy stomach for a while and I was a little nervous about eating rich, spicy food, but the things you do when it comes to learning more about food :) The risk was worth it :)

From what I’ve read about Awadhi cuisine, it originates from Lucknow and is greatly influenced by Mughal cooking techniques.  The chefs are called bawarchis and the food is synonymous with cooking over a slow fire, also known as the dum style of cooking. And, from my understanding, it is for people who love their meat!

MasterChef Qadir Khan

So off I went, along with two good friends, Sneha (The Kitchen Espion) and Nimi (Matrix Life Magazine). After we enjoyed a few welcome drinks, some thandai and some rooh afza, we got a chance to chat with Executive Chef Deepak Bhatia and Indian Masterchef Qadir Khan, an expert in this style of cooking.  Masterchef Qadir Khan explained to us the care and patience that goes into preparing dishes like raan, kebabs, kormas, nirahi and biryani. He told us that the use of rich spices like cardamom and saffron as well as slow cooking techniques are what makes Awadhi food so special and unique.

Shots of Thandai

Some Gulab Sharbet

First up, we tried some kebabs and grilled meats that are distinct because they are cooked over a Chula. The kebabs were delicious. My favorite was the grilled quail, the Awadhi lamb chops and the kakori kebabs. The meat was perfectly cook, so tender and seemed to literally melt in your mouth. What I loved most was that the spices were so well balanced- no single spice was overpowering. A lot of times when I order kebabs, they are so spicy that I can only taste chilli- my mouth is numbed by the excessive use of chilly :) This wasn’t the case.

Vegetarian kebabs

Grilled marinated lamb chops

Next came the raan and I have to confess that I had a bit of a ‘meatgasm’ moment :) Honestly, I have tried raan only on one prior occasion at Made in Punjab. This raan was a little different, had a little gravy with it. The one I had in Made in Punjab was drier (without gravy, more of a spice rub). I'm not sure which is more authentic, but both are equally delicious. The meat was marinated beautifully and just came off the bone. It was my favorite dish of the evening and I helped myself to several helpings... dodgy stomach be damned! I polished off the rich sauces of the raan with something called Sheermal, a rich, slightly sweet flatbread which had a very delicate cardamom flavour. Something I could probably eat all on its own.

After the raan I tackled the buffet, which was quite a spread consisting of shorbas, kormas, curries, biryanis (chicken, mutton and a vegetarian option too) and desserts. I tried a little bit of everything. The nihari gosht, which I was trying for the first time, blew me away. Nihari is a slowly cooked meat stew that was originally served as a heavy breakfast meal. I'm not sure if it's actually possible for meat to melt, but it sure felt like it did when I bit into it :) And the broth itself was delicate and so comforting. Something I could easily enjoy on a cold winter evening. Note that I'm in no way saying that this is the best nihari I've ever tasted, I'm just saying that I thought it was pretty darn good.

I kept the biryani for the end. I keep hearing a lot of my foodie friends having heated debates about which, between the hyderabadi and lucknowi styles of biryani, is better. After trying the gosht biryani, I can honestly conclude that I am a fan of lucknowi biryani. There is something about the aromatic, almost sweet flavour and delicate taste that isn't overpowered with spice and chilli. 

From the dessert section, I tried the Sewiya ka muzzafer (Hand made sewiya cooked with dry nuts and mawa), Kubani ka meeta (Dry apricot cooked in sugar syrup and finish with saffron and nuts) and phirni. I wasn’t too impressed with the sewiya or the apricot dessert, but loved the phirni, which was rich, creamy and not overly sweet.

[Image courtesy Sneha Lata Saikia]

The Awadi Food Festival is on till 28th February so do go and check it out.

[All images by Shalini Pereira unless otherwise mentioned. Please do not use without prior written permission]

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Some Gorgeous Contemporary Lamps

I've realised that I haven't done one of my 'lists' in quite some time and whiling trying to decide the subject matter for said list, I noticed that I've been doing a lot of pinning of pendant lights on Pinterest lately. So I guess a list of my favorite pendant lights it is! Aside from the obvious mood lighting that they provide, a well designed pendant light is a fabulous way to inject a certain style and character in a home. And there are some great designs out there in different styles and materials- basically something for everybody :)

Most of these are beautiful contemporary designs that are closer to the minimal style, but one or two are a little retro/vintage/industrial. A beautifully designed lamp can have such an impact on a space and I love that designers are really experimenting with the materials they are using in their creations.

Hope you like my list. It's not in any order...

1. I love, love, LOVE these hand-blown glass lamps by Niche Modern Lighting. This particular design have such a sensuous feel and their exposed filaments give them a very modern, timeless appeal. These would look stunning as a group over a huge, linear dining table. Definitely on my 'Someday Maybe' list. For me, this lamp is probably a close second behind the And Pendant lamp (see 8), although the Dan Yeffet lamp (see 5) is very close too!

2. Now these organically shaped wooden lamps by Caroll Street Woodworkers, a Toronto based studio. I think they would look so awesome in a minimal interior, you know, white walls, black slate floors and these lamps along with a very modern credenza and maybe an oversized framed B&W photograph? hmm...

3. I think these lamps by Heer Mandel are quirky, contemporary and very interesting. The geometric wooden frame houses the bulb within. Love the simplicity of the design.  I picture these lamps above a light wood table and against a background of white, exposed brick walls. 

4. These lamps by Lambert & Fils Studio are another one of my favorites. They are contemporary and very sophisticated and so simple. 

5.  This beautifully crafted piece is from Dan Yeffet for French company, Collection Particuliere. The lamp is made from marble and brass. I can just imagine a row of these beauties above a dining table. The perfect addition to a contemporary home.

6. Etch Shade Brass lamp by Tom Dixon is a contemporary lamp inspired by geodesic structures. A cluster of these in a grand staircase area would look pretty awesome I think! This is the perfect lamp to add a touch of opulence and luxury while still keeping it modern.

7. The Coco Pendant is a handcrafted lamp made from turned Victorian ash timber and powdercoated spun aluminium shade. The contrast between the wood and the powdercoated aluminum shade is so subtle and I love the lamp's sensual shape. 

8.  The last lamp on my list is my absolute favorite! It's called the And Pendant Light by Bentu Design. I love this lamp because of its minimal simplicity and because I love all things concrete :) It's a study in how two contrasting materials like bamboo and concrete can look so incredible when used together. Another one that is right on top of my 'Someday maybe' list :) 

Hope you enjoyed this list guys. Have a great weekend! For any of you in Delhi, NCR who are always looking out for great finds for your home, drop into the Windmill Design Festival at Ayanagar Village, Delhi. I not going to miss it :) More details here.

[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

India Design ID 2015 Round Up

The Last last two weeks have been a dream for those of us who love art, design and culture. First the India Art Fair, followed by the India Design ID and its satellite events and then the I Haat Delhi festival over the weekend. As you can imagine, it was quite an eventful week!

A lot of crazy deadlines meant that I couldn't attend any of the satellite events I had planned to during Design ID week. I did however manage to squeeze out a day to attend the Exhibition and Symposium on Friday. Big shout out to Vani Ganesh of Perfect Relations, who arranged a pass for me for the symposium. BV Doshi was to attend and speak on the day I went, but sadly he cancelled last minute :(

ID Symposium

The main Exhibition Pavilion included a lot of established names like Valaya Home, Casa Pop by Raseel Gujral, Sarita Handa, Apartment 9 and The Charcoal Project. This exhibition area focused mostly on decor and home styling, while the Design Pavilion focused on Indian Designers & Design and included names like Neeru Kumar, Godrej Design Lab, ThePurpleTurtles and EDIDA 2014 winners. 

Some of the stalls and booths were beautifully set up and I have included images of these. Others, I felt tried to crowd too much in and it was impossible to navigate through. One big issue I had was that a few design booths and stalls didn't allow visitors to take photographs. Come on guys, we are giving you free promotion! Besides that, if having your designs copied is an issue, take a leaf out of Coco Chanel's philosophy. For her, copying was the greatest compliment you could give her besides the free publicity. Besides, she had the confidence in her product to know that even if it was copied, it would never be the same as the real thing. And if having your products photographed is still such an issue, please put up a sign stating very clearly that photography of your stall is not permitted! I saw a lot of visitors and students trying to take pictures only to be scolded. I believe this platform is one based on the idea of promoting design and sharing ideas and this attitude is the very antithesis of that idea.

This was the set up by Krea and I absolutely love their contemporary furniture that has a mid-century modern feel. They have some beautifully designed chairs and benches- a couple of pieces that have gone on my 'someday maybe' list :) Their flagship store is in Sultanpur, on MG Road and I am planning a visit soon.

I totally fell for this black wall of distressed antique frames. Cool how they work so well together in spite being different shapes, sizes and shades. Something to ponder on maybe? 

Cute and eclectic as always, Nur's display was fun, playful and very whimsical, which pretty much sums up their range of products. I liked their colorful rugs and doormats and their quirky cushion covers.

Saw these cute and colorful seats, part of the Retyrement Plan range of occasional furniture by Anu Tandon Viera for Godrej Design Lab. They are made from discarded tyres and colorful ropes. That pouffe/table is so going on my wishlist :)

The AKFD design booth was another set up that I loved. The minimal grey backdrop was the perfect foil for their contemporary designs that offer a fresh take on traditional Indian crafts. My favorites were their Lamp designs. 

The Neeru Kumar design booth has some truly beautiful textiles for the home ranging from cushion covers and rugs to framed wall hangings. It was delightful speaking with Neeru, a pioneer who has made a huge impact on the Indian Textile scene. 

Look who I bumped into! My senior from IED, Hardik Gandhi, who is the founder of DesignGandhi, India. He and his colleague, Ritika Nanda of Mother Gone Mad Design Studio displayed their works in furniture and custom lighting in this booth.

'When ideas crystallize- ThePurpleTurtles

The Trends Pavilion included installations of designers interpretations of color and color trends forecasting. There were a few interesting installations, but honestly, and at the risk of sounding very stupid, I found this pavilion the least visitor friendly. This is why... 

When I visited, all I saw were various installations where it was obvious a certain color or set of colors were being used. However, I think to properly explain this to visitors, there needs to be a few people at each installation who are knowledgeable about color and can explain these trends to the visitors. 

Secondly I think it would be nice to also have a few color themed collage-like displays (moodboards?), kind of like the ones you see in decor magazines. I think this is also a really great method of conveying color and colors that are trending. 

This is just my own little opinion, and I'm the first to admit I'm no expert here.

Finally, the outdoors spaces also had various installations by designers like Martand khosla, Mukul Goyal and Alex Davis. Now here is where I was a little disappointed. I really felt like the outdoor spaces should have been utilised more. What I would love to see more of are bigger and bolder installations that have a sense of scale. Things like an installation that could also be a kids play area- where art and design meet the built environment. Otherwise it's just art for arts sake.

This installation was along the lines of what I was hoping for. Visitors could go in and experience it as well as its relation to the surroundings. But it was very small in terms of scale. 

This on the other hand was more of an arty sculpture, and while I liked it, and it was certainly interesting, I think it may have been more relevant in an art fair.

There were a number of F&B stalls as well, from Guppy by ai to Dunkin Donuts, Elma's brasserie and Coast Cafe, to name just a few. I really hope that next year (keeping in mind the lovely weather we have in February) more of the F&B stalls are outside. I love the idea of an outdoor food courtyard, a place where maybe kids can run around and people can chat. It would also give the food stalls more space for seating, something that became a bit of an issue during peak lunch hours at the Design ID. 

An incredibly refreshing raspberry soda from SodaBottleOpenerWala... 
all it needed was some vodka :)

Loved these chili tuna rolls from Guppy by ai, the tuna was fresh, the rolls were crispy on the outside and bursting with flavour. I wasn't too impressed with their chicken curry with sticky rice though.

An interesting installation in the F&B area of the Exhibition pavilion

This was the third installation of India Design ID but the first time I attended. I spent most of the day there, dividing my time between the Symposium and the Exhibition spaces, with a break for a delicious lunch which I enjoyed at the Guppy by Ai & SodaBottleOpenerWala stall. It was a great day that was enlightening and informative. The India Design ID is a great  way for designers and design enthusiasts to source  products for the  home and it is also an amazing way to interact with design icons and experts in the field.  The  events were very well  organised and  the exhibition  areas well  laid out. I'm looking forward to next years event.

[All images by Shalini Pereira. Please do not use without prior written permission]

Thursday, 5 February 2015

India's Definitive Design Week is Almost Here

OK, so... we’ve had our fill of art, with the India Art Fair, an incredible 3 day event which ended last Sunday. Now it’s time to get our quota of design! The India Design ID 2015, India's most definitive design week, is just around the corner. It's scheduled to kick off from Feb 9th and is a weeklong celebration of all things design, covering Architecture, Interiors, Product Design and more.  

The India Design ID has 3 main parts- Firstly, the exhibition, which starts next weekend, 13th - 15th Feb, which will involve, the exhibit areas where visitors can view the finest in home decoration and design. Secondly, the symposium, which will involve discussions and lectures by eminent designers. The third aspect of the India Design ID are the satellite events which involve events across the design districts of Delhi, areas known for their ‘hip’ design vibe.

All in all, this event is going to be a dream for all of us who love design and are interested in a dialogue and discussion on design, where it is and where it’s going. If you are planning to attend, you can find all the details on the India Design ID website.

I am going to be there, with an eyes open and ears to the ground to get a scoop on the latest trends and the latest happenings in the design world… hope I see you there! 

Oh and if this wasn't enough, the I Haat Delhi festival is also taking place on 14th & 15th Feb at the Garden of Five Senses. It's a festival that is bringing together Delhi's food, markets, music and art like and it sounds like a blast! 

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Art Meets Coffee & Glimpses of the India Art Fair 2015

I love this time of the year in Delhi. If you love art, culture and design, then this is the place to be for the next few weeks. It's peak season for all things cultural here in the capital, and there is such a buzz around with festivals, art & design fairs and food bazaars taking place almost every weekend. Last weekend saw the 7th edition of the India Art Fair being held at its usual venue, the NSIC grounds. I try and visit every year and each time I'm impressed by how much more vibrant it is. It's quite a spectacle and an amazing place to see and be seen. And it's so much more than just art! You can really get a feel for Delhi street fashion style, from artists, to art students and the hip and happening of the capital's social scene all strutting their stuff :)

This year I was invited by Le Meridien Delhi to attend an event titled Barista Meet Artista, where Dutch born barista and latte artist, Esther Maasdam worked in sync with Indian visual artist, Sohan Jakhar to create some interesting and signature coffee art inspired by Sohan's designs. I was quite amazed with Esther's steady hand while making tiny and intricate designs in coffee foam. It was quite an interesting experience and quite a novel concept by Le Meridian Delhi. A nice way to combine food and art. I was glad I could attend. 

After the event, I ambled around, soaking in the feel of the fair. There was some incredible art on display and it was nice to take it all in. Food also made a big contribution to the Art Fair, and this year there were so many Pop Up restaurants from Lodhi- garden restaurant, to Elma's, Sodabottleopenerwalla, Guppy by Ai and La Bodega, to name a few. I had a quick bite at the La Bodega pop up stall in the VIP area and loved their Chicken Cipotle tostadas. The first time I visited the fair, a few years ago, it felt like the fair more about art and sales and it didn't feel like a festival. This time it was a celebration of art and the fact that so many restaurants made their presence felt, meant that it became a great place for a days outing with the entire family. 

There were so many positives at this years fair and I look forward to a bigger and better show next year. Negatives? I won't go into issues like restroom facilities (a perennial problem at all events such as these) but I would like to see some performing artists like mime artists and perhaps even some live jazz by contemporary Indian artists. There is so much open space around the tented areas where people were sitting around and talking, and performing art would have made things so much more lively. 

All things said and done a very successful event and and I can't wait for next year!

[All images by Shalini Pereira. Please do not use without prior written permission]

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