Vivanta by Taj, Madikeri Coorg: An Experience best Experienced

Welcome

Welcome

Hey, you got a minute?

I’m in a meeting. Can I call you back, Kay?

No, no it’s super urgent! Please step out of your meeting for a minute.

Oh ok, one second…. What’s wrong? Is everything okay?

Yes! Listen… I’ve found this super cool restaurant, we have to go…!!!

Kay, I was in a meeting!!! -_-

Yes, but this place serves Masterchef type food!

As ridiculous as the above conversation sounds my family and friends have come to expect this from me and more importantly, they find it normal.

You have to try this place out, you have to taste this, you have to buy this measuring cup! These are statements that I use all the time. I find something good and all I want, is to share it with the world to the extent of going to the restaurant or shop and buying and delivering the goodies to my family and friends! I’d make a pretty good PR/sales person, I think!

Don't miss the food on the way to Vivanta

Don’t miss the food on the way to Vivanta

Now what excites me the most is finding things when I least expect them and on a family holiday to Coorg; a holiday I was excited about but not really expecting to blog about, the minute we stepped into Vivanta by Taj, Madikeri Coorg I knew this was something to share. It’s an experience best experienced.

Having stayed at Taj properties around India I expected what I’ve always experienced, good food (not outstanding) and staff who did their jobs well. But what I got at Coorg was exceptional food – the breakfast buffet – the best of all the Taj properties and the staff – AMAZING! Each staff member went beyond their ‘job’ to make the guests’ stay unforgettable.

They take the extra step to make your stay comfortable; the food is made with care and interest, even the property is treated like it’s a home. All of this contributes to a beautiful and humble experience. I was watching MasterChef Australia and Shannon Bennett humbly explained this – When the customers come in they are putting down X amount and it’s our duty to ensure we give them value for the money they are spending, hence the high standard. At Vivanta by Taj, Madikeri Coorg I felt like I was given the best experience and I liked the fact that the place did not take their already established name for granted.

I felt like I was in another world, everyone smiling, relaxing and having the time of their lives. And it’s the staff accompanied by the food, the place and the scenic beauty that make it beyond, for lack of a better word, awesome. Words fail to capture the excellence of our experience. I’ve always believed that the person cooking the food makes the food that much better or worse; it’s their love and interest that pours into the dish, which is the tying ingredient. Here at Vivaant by Taj Madekeri Coorg it’s the people, I firmly believe, that make the experience outstanding and whole!

It’s a must visit. If I could, I’d drag you there myself. I loved my stay there so much, I want you guys to experience the beauty of a relaxed holiday and it’s right in our backyard.

We left Coorg – tummies filled, minds relaxed and happy.

Around the Vivanta property

 Around the Vivanta property

Must try at Coorg: The local cuisine at the Taj and at the Coorg Cuisine, Jaivik Greens coffee and the coffee & honey grown and cultivated on the Taj grounds. Spices and Vanilla from Coorg Greens.

Must do: Biking, trekking, zip lining, pottery and other activities offered at the Taj. Tour of the coffee plantations.

Special thanks to the staff: Gautam K Bosha, Nithin Subbaiah, Deepak Pradeep, Chef Ali, Chef Johnson, Ritesh Bhatt, the guys from Muddy Boots – Jilbin and Robin and everyone at Vivanta by Taj, Madikeri Coorg.

 

Traditional Coorg food at the Coorg main market

Traditional Coorg food at the Coorg main market

***This is not a sponsored post***

Putting on the Chef Whites

I can't believe I'm wearing Chef Whites!!!

I can’t believe I’m wearing Chef Whites!!!

I’ve been waiting, eagerly waiting; to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard… words and thoughts spilling out of my head… but thanks or no thanks to some unforeseen hindrances I’ve had to wait, wait to tell you about my time in a professional kitchen!!!

“Oh what an interesting Idea! They are letting non-professional cooks into their kitchen. That’s a nice gesture. Should I give it a go? No, no… What do I know about a professional kitchen? OK, I’ll just design the menu. You know, just for fun, I won’t send it in. Ohhhh I like my menu. Should I send it in? Ok let’s show mum and Tan the menu, let’s see what they say… ohh they love the menu. Fine, it’s settled then I’ll send it in.“ – This is the shorter, less painful-to-read version of my train of thought for a few months till I finally decided to throw my apron in the ring to be part of Café Zoe’s One Night Stand Chef.

All dressed up and waiting to be served

All dressed up and waiting to be served

Concept: – A non-professional cook who is passionate about food is given the opportunity to create a menu and work in the Cafe Zoe kitchen.

Date: 14th April 2014

Menu:

★APPETIZERS★

• Roasted onions & baby spinach salad with goat cheese mousse, walnuts & spicy orange dressing

• Crispy calamari mini sandwiches with spicy mayo, carrot & beet chips

★MAINS★

• Grilled aubergine steak with garlic yogurt, spicy tomato relish, pine nuts

• Honey lemon & spicy paprika chicken with creamy polenta, asparagus

★ DESSERTS★

• Chocolate Tart with homemade caramel ice-cream

• Friands drizzled with cream and fresh honey

It took me a while to wrap my head around the entire experience. Never in my wildest dream did I expect to wake up one morning and get ready to go prep for dishes that were created by me, in a professional kitchen! Imagine going from cooking and blogging for little over a year to cooking and prepping in a professional kitchen!!!! This one I did not see coming.

Finally I stepped away from the table and moved into the kitchen. A learning experience, a fun experience and an experience that answered a lot of questions I was too nervous to address when I realized how much food was the career I wanted.

So here it is, I’ll answer those question now… Would I have been a chef had I realized my passion for cooking a bit earlier? Yes.

Am I glad I did not realize my passion early on? YES. Why? Simply because had I become a chef I would never have started a blog or gotten to be a part of all these amazing experiences. I would have loved my job as a chef but I doubt I would have appreciated food and cooking as much as I do now. I doubt I would have been as passionate as I am.

So a big Thank you to: Chef Viraf – Thank you for your guidance and help.

The Zoe team – You guys rock! Thank you for all the help, support and encouragement.

Special thanks to Tarini, Jeremie and Viraf, your generous and gracious gesture made this experience possible.

And a big big big THANK YOU to everyone who made it to Café Zoe for dinner on the 14th. I could not ask for a better bunch of people to call my friends.

And to my family, you guys ate these dishes multiple times at home; when I was testing them out and then showed up at Zoe and devoured them all over again. Nothing I say will adequately express how much I love you!

Foodie Days

The Cook-off is about to begin!

The Cook-off is about to begin!

I went half expecting it to be an exhibition. I went because I wanted to buy some cheese and I knew The Cheese Collective was putting up a stall. I went thinking if nothing else, at least I’ll have a Sunday out with my family. I did not go thinking; I’m going to come back with a bag full of goodies, a belly full of food and a fantastic experience! It was a relaxed day filled with food, cooking, a live band, old favourites and new discoveries… A beautiful Sunday!

I’m talking about Mumbai’s Farmers Market by Karen Anand that took place last Sunday. If you’re an obsessed foodie like me you’ll agree that the city’s food experiences are getting better by the day and this farmers market is proof of just that. The next time the market comes to your city take your family & friends and make a fun day out of it!

Here is a list of what I enjoyed –

My New Discoveries:

  • RAW Pressery – I loved the BUILD juice.
  • Bean Therapy-Artisan Chocolates – My favourites are the Himalayan Pink Salt, Mysore Coffee and Cocoa Nibs. They also have a very interesting Blueberry and Panko flavor.
  • Mystic Kitchen Colors – Strawberry Butter, delicate balance of sweet and salty, perfect on toast or brioche or plain ;)
Bean Therapy - Artisan Chocolates

Bean Therapy – Artisan Chocolates

These guys have been on my radar for a long time, it was a happy surprise when I saw them at the market. Finally we meet….

  • Gourmet It Up – Can’t wait to try out a ‘Gourmet It Up ‘experience.
  • Sushi Koi – I’m craving more already… Spicy Tuna and California Rolls here I come!
  • Sassy Spoon – Brownies & Cookies and I got a goody bag from them too! How sweet!
    Sushi Koi!

    Sushi Koi

    And Old Favourites:

    • The Cheese Collective – The most subtle Blue Cheese, perfect for beginners sold by the most wonderful Cheese Monger – Mansi Jasani.
    • Between Breads – Burgers and Bacon Fries, life is good! This is the place I go to and recommend for that burger fix.
    • BusaGo – Those yummy Chicken Momos…  If I wasn’t so full I would have eaten everything on the menu.
    Mansi Jasani of The Cheese Collective

    Mansi Jasani of The Cheese Collective

    There was a lot more but this is what I managed to fit-in in 3hrs! I’m going back and maybe I’ll bump in to you there! Stay tuned to The Treat Truck FB page for more pictures of the farmers market.

    In other news: The Treat Truck celebrated its 1yr anniversary on the 30th of Jan. A big Thank You to everyone for the love and support! :D

Beginning the year on a savoury note

Dips and all

Dips and all

 

 

 

 

Parmesan Crusted Prawns with 3 Dips

Ingredients:

For 12-15 large prawns you will need:

  • 50gm parmesan, grated
  • 75gms flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Oil, for frying or use a fryer, if you have one

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                       Method:

Ok, this should be fun! Create a production line. Heap the flour on one plate, the beaten egg in a bowl and the grated parmesan on another plate. Place a big clean plate at the end of your production line for the end product.

Now you know how this goes… coat the prawn in the flour, then dip in it in the egg and finally coat with the grated parmesan and place on your clean plate. Do this one at a time to avoid making a mess! Once all the prawns are coated deep fry in hot oil till golden brown. Place the cooked prawns on a paper napkin to soak up the excess oil.

For the dips:

Mayo Dip:

  • 2tbsp mayo
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • A squeeze of lime
  • A pinch of freshly cracked pepper
  • Sour Cream and Mustard Dip:
  • 2tbsp sour cream
  • ½ tbsp mustard
  • 2-3 squeezes of lime

Method (same method to be used for both dips):

Place all your ingredients in a bowl and mix well. That’s all there is to it! The dips are ready! Taste as you go along add more of the same ingredients or add your own ingredients to tailor the dips to your taste.

Chilli Oil Dip

  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • A few pinches of finely chopped green onions (spring onions)
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil, enough to cover all the ingredients

Method:

Place the chillies, garlic, lime zest, green onions and salt in a very small saucepan. Pour over enough oil to cover the ingredients. Heat till the sides start to bubble; then take the dip off the fire. Serve warm.

The Table Is All Set

The Table Is Set

I know we are well into 2014 and it’s a little late to wish you but, Happy New Year!!! :)

I won’t lie I’ve had plenty of time and opportunities to get back into the kitchen and back to blogging but I didn’t. I was being lazy and ended up in the kitchen on two out of the 14 days I set aside for cooking. On one of the days that I pushed aside laziness and went near the cutting board; I sliced off the tip of my finger with a knife that, in my words, ‘Cuts like butter!’… lol! That’s what you get when you chop in laziness. I am happy to report that the food I was cooking survived and so did I, with finger fully healed now… :)

Laziness ultimately took a back seat as passion fought its way through and I started jotting down recipes and ideas every time I came across an ingredient or watched a cooking show or saw something that looked like food! I’m jumping at all and any cooking opportunity I get now… I can’t wait to see if my ideas will be successes or not.

Now let’s talk about the prawns for a bit. I got the idea for these parmesan prawns while watching a show on food trucks. It’s a must try recipe so don’t let the simplicity of it fool you; when you bite into this deep fried wonder the salty-crunchy parmesan crust crackles and gives way to that sweet-luscious prawn… So get into the kitchen and start cooking!

2013 was a superb year for The Treat Truck and that’s thanks to all of you Treat Trucker’s out there. Thank you for your support! Let’s tuck into 2014 together :D

Hitting Pause

It doesn't get better than this...

It doesn’t get better than this…

I’m hitting pause. I’m going on leave. I’m taking a break. For the first time ever I’m not happy about going on leave but, I have to. There are a ton of things happening and I don’t want The Treat Truck to seem neglected.

But, I’ll be back soon. I’ll head straight into the kitchen and I’ll cook up enough to feed a village with exciting new dishes, savoury (I promise) and sweet (how can there not be sweet!). I hope you miss me. I know I’ll miss you :)

Stay tuned to the FB page for updates on my foodie life, I’m only taking a break I can’t possibly stop eating now, can I? ;)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Treat-Truck/144440575718765?ref=hl

For a cause…

Immunity Building Juice

Immunity Building Juice

Cancer Patients Aid Association’s (CPAA) Rose Day is an initiative that was launched in 1994.To know more about this awesome day check out the website http://www.cancer.org.in

Rose Day 2013 is fast approaching (22nd September) so let’s lend a helping hand in any way we can.

Why not start with a small movement; a movement involving food to help anyone we know who is fighting against cancer…

So when  Joan Shenoy (Aunty Joan to me), CPAA’s then Director Communications & Chairperson, approached me to start a small movement among The Treat Truck readers, I was beyond happy and visibly honored to be a part of this day in any way I could and I am sure, dear reader, you feel the same way.

After talking to Aunty Joan this is what I found out, there are two super recipes that are not only easy to make but will help in the fight against cancer.

Get your ingredients ready and let’s make either the ABC Juice – Apple, Beetroot and Carrot Juice…enhanced with a squeeze of lemon and a mint leaf, this juice helps in building immunity or we could make Pumpkin Soup – Yellow veggies help to fight cancer too.

Try Donna Hay’s Roasted Pumpkin Soup (recipe available on the net) it’s easy and delicious. You can leave out the pouring cream in Donnay Hay’s recipe or substitute it for milk, but add the milk carefully to get the consistency of soup you want.

So here is what we are thinking… let’s band together, on the 22nd of September, by making either of the above two recipes or both, if you like, and take it to anyone you know who is fighting cancer. Let’s give a helping hand, small as it maybe, let’s make this 22nd of September count.

Illustration courtesy Tanishka D’lyma. 

Kumquat Crème Caramels

Simple Ingredients

Simple Ingredients

It’s been an exciting time here at The Treat Truck, with Chefs being featured, radio host Hrishikesh K interviewing me on his show and most recently I was at a dinner hosted by Tourism Australia for Chef Matt Moran of MasterChef Australia fame!

As I sat down for the dinner hosted for Chef Moran and intently listened to him talk about how he began cooking when he realized at 15 that he and school did not get along and so they made ‘A mutual decision to quit each other’. He spoke about how fresh produce excites him and how everyday he is still learning.

Listening to him I was excited about one aspect – I’ve only just begun and I have so much more to learn! So I am going to keep growing & learning. I know food will always excite me, just like all things ‘food’ excite the Chefs featured on my blog! I can’t believe I found my passion and the route, the Lord guided me through, to get here is one I would never trade for anything.

The support and love I’ve received from friends and obviously my family have been amazing and humbling, to say the least. It’s been fun. Super fun. And I’ve been enjoying every minute of it.

Since we are celebrating I wanted to make something simple yet fancy but most importantly I wanted to put the focus back on the food! So when I found Kumquats at the supermarket I could not wait to put them to use. So here is my take on the classic Crème Caramels.

Creamy, Silky Creme Caramels

Creamy, Silky Creme Caramels

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 – 10 Kumquats or the zest of 4 large Clementine oranges
  • 500 ml milk
  • 60gms castor sugar
  • 250gms granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

 

 

Method

Step 1

Cut the kumquats in half and scoop out the pulp, if any of the white pith is left behind gently scrape if off with the back of the knife. Discard the pulp.

Step 2

Blend the kumquat skins and castor sugar in a food processor till you get a wet-ish powdery consistency.

Place the kumquat and castor sugar mix in a saucepan, add the milk and warm together, stirring occasionally. Bring to a gentle simmer and turn off the heat, cover your mix with a lid and leave to infuse for 1 hr.

Step 3

While the milk is infusing make the caramel. Sprinkle a thin layer of granulated sugar on the bottom of a heavy-based pan. Once the sugar melts sprinkle another layer. Continue this method till all the sugar is melted and has turned a deep brown colour. Swirl the pan to help the sugar melt consistently but do not stir or you will end up agitating the sugar molecules causing the caramel to crystallize.

Pour some caramel into a ramekin and swirl immediately, coating the bottom of the ramekin. Repeat for 3 more ramekins.

Step 4

At this stage turn on your oven to 190 C.

In a big bowl lightly beat the eggs, egg yolks and the vanilla extract together and the strain over the orange infused milk. Gently whisk the mixture together until well combined and strain the mixture into a clean bowl, to get a smooth mixture. You can double strain if you think the mix is not smooth enough. With a spoon remove the froth and ladle mix into the prepared ramekins. Fill the ramekins to the brim.

Place the ramekins in a deep roasting pan and fill the tin with hot (not boiling water) so that it reaches the outside of the ramekins by about three-quarters of the way up.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the sides are set and the centers are wobbly.

Tips:

  • Preheat your oven earlier if it takes time to heat up.
  • A good way to know when the custards are done is to poke the center of the custard with a knife, if the knife comes out with the custard coating it you will know that it is done.
  • Do not overcook or under-cook the crème caramels or you will end up with an egg-y tasting dessert.

Check out the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Treat-Truck/144440575718765 the RadioOne interview with Hrishikesh is up now; go have a listen. Pictures of Chef Moran & me along with the four course dinner we had will be put up on the facebook page in the days to come.

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