I think it was watching the movie “102 Not Out” that sparked our interest in Mainland China. There’s a scene where the main characters all go to this fine-dining place to celebrate a milestone. It looked tempting. We’d never tried this before even though we’d passed by it so many times on our way to other restaurants. Being vegetarians, we, not exactly my husband and I, but a few members of my family, refused to go on the grounds of it serving non-vegetarian food along with vegetarian, being smelly etc. etc. But one fine Sunday we decided to check it out. Everyone else took a safer route and went along with the restaurant we normally dine at. It was just Prasad and I. We called it a date. 🙂
First things first, there was no smell as we entered. It was quite empty at that hour. We were greeted by friendly staff and huge Chinese statues. The restaurant was done up beautifully. I walked around looking at the paintings and hangings on the wall. We went with the buffet. Vegetarian. There were separate tables for vegetarian and Non Vegetarian entrees.
The Eight Treasure Vegetable Soup was a comforting meal in itself. It felt like just what the doctor prescribed for a gloomy day. It perked us up immediately. We both went for another bowl each. And then came starters, one better than the other- vegetable Siumai, corn and mushroom dumpling, crispy vegetable herbal salt and potato hunan style. Even their appearances were a delight, especially the dumplings. I was tongue-tied at how delectable the crispy vegetables were. They were all so tasty just the way they were that I didn’t need to pair them with any of the many sauces that were placed alongside the snacks.
We were almost full by the time we were through with the appetizers. And then came the main course. I’m not a big fan of Chinese food anymore, thanks to Prasad, who has dampened my appetite for it by ordering some bad takeaways. But there, at Mainland China, I found myself taking a bite of everything and simply closing my eyes in pleasure. I was in Food Heaven! Now, back to the main course, the ginger and capsicum fried rice, the vegetable hakka noodles, the vegetable in Chinese parsley sauce, okra and tofu in hot chili mustard sauce, everything, even the stir-fried vegetables were lip-smackingly good! I’m not the adventurous type at buffets. I eat only the things I really feel like eating, but at China, I was trying everything.
The Sweet and Sour vegetable with Crisp noodles was a dessert in itself, but I had my eyes set on the Dessert spread. We were so full by this time that we had reserved space just for one special sweet. But how could we not try the others? They looked so pretty and forlorn! 😦 Good-natured folks that we are, we decided to try them too. 🙂 The mousse, the chocolate biscuits, the Deep-fried milk, Uff! Everything tasted divine, but what left an indelible mark in our hearts and minds were the combination of crispy honey noodle with sesame topped with assorted ice creams and a generous pouring of hot chocolate sauce all over. I said to Prasad that I could cry out of sheer joy!
I felt so bad for the family of 3 seated beside us, none of them smiling, 2 of them immersed in their phones, pulling at their chicken legs as if it were just another meal and not a godsend. I asked Prasad if I were allowed to compliment the chef. He didn’t let me and I’m glad he did so. I would’ve surely embarrassed myself in my over-excited state! Yikes!
We stepped out of our routine, our comfort zone, the usual North Indian Buffet we go to, and gave Mainland China a try… 🙂 It is quite pricey, but it is well worth checking out, at least once. Ha! But I’m sure you will not stop at once!
It was the month of May. We wanted to get away from the heat and our daily routine. We’d heard about Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra on our last trip to Tadoba, so we decided to check it out. We knew the place would be hot, but we were so not prepared for quite literally an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” kinda experience!
Tipeshwar is about 5 hours from Hyderabad, which is awesome. It isn’t as far as Tadoba, but is on the same route. We booked our stay at a newly opened resort right at the entrance to the sanctuary. We left home around 1 pm and reached by 6:30. We would have reached earlier had we not stopped to change our punctured tire. That took us nearly an hour as we had to figure out how to get the spare tire out of the car and find that there was no air in it. Thankfully there was a petrol bunk right opposite to where we had stopped. Our men rolled the huge tire across the highway like a couple of 6 year olds having fun along the way, pumped air by themselves and rolled it right back. We didn’t stop anywhere after the fiasco.
We got onto a rocky terrain after the smooth highway, to make our way towards Sunna gate. There were low-roofed squalid huts, tiny stores that seemed poorly stocked and women walking around holding cans to attend to nature’s call in the fields nearby. It wasn’t a pretty picture. In fact it made me realize how granted we take basic facilities like a comfortable home, a restroom etc. After much driving we finally reached our destination. It was sundown time, yet it was too hot, the air thick and hard to breathe in. It took a while for our bodies to get used to the heat.
The rooms (tents) made of canvas were spacious and clean. Since it was hot outside, it was hot inside as well, despite the fully functional ACs in every room, but I did not mind. I sat and read and wrote and slept whenever I could, as the kids were with their cousins in the other room. When the power went out, which was quite frequently, the Generators were turned ON. Food was delicious and healthy throughout our stay. With so many kids in the group, the cooks even customized our food to suit our varied tastes, without bickering. I don’t know if the exceptional Customer service was because there weren’t any other guests in the resort!
Our Walk in the morning took us through barren lands, cracked open, yearning for Rain water. A couple of workers from the hotel accompanied us along with a house-dog (There were a lot of Dogs at the resort, but they were a harmless sort. They barked at the wild boars, which were a menace. Take care of your shoes and snacks though!) We crossed ploughed fields, climbed atop a mountain full of dry teak trees and leafy tendu trees (that are used in making beedis. Apparently the fruit is a delicacy around here). It felt a bit breezy atop the mountain. Madhav walked bravely and earned the affection of the staff, who kept calling his name and going out of their way to help him cross the slippery dips and climbs. The way back was a bit scary and exhausting, but everyone enjoyed the adventure, even the less-prepared ones wearing slippers instead of shoes. On our return, we tried climbing the machaan (a wooden platform used for viewing wildlife). Madhav and I struggled while Medha climbed like a monkey. She kept going up and down, up and down.
Our Safari into the jungle was HOT! It was 3 in the afternoon and the Sun was overhead. We were loaded with quite a few bottles of lemon juice and water, but we realized, that pretty soon we would have a shortage, no, a crisis at hand!
We drove through rocky roads, ascended hills, turned curves and everywhere the landscape was barren- bald trees and parched soil. We could spot the birds and animals easily. Usually I suck at sighting, but this time I pointed out all the creatures left and right. We saw the usual monkeys, Peacocks, spotted deers and nilgais. Indian Rollerbirds with their blue, wide wingspan became a hit with the adults and kids alike. They were everywhere and provided such cool bursts of color amidst the brown and muddy landscape.
All we did inside the jungle was park our vehicles by the Tipeshwar lake and waited, for hours. Kids began getting restless as they weren’t allowed to talk or get out of the vehicle, play or eat snacks as that would make them even more thirsty. They took turns and sometimes squabbled over whose turn it was to see through the binoculars we had. There were herons and peacocks and other birds by the lake. Nilgais and Spotted deers could be seen quenching their thirst too. A few jeeps left, but we were told to wait as the tigers would come out for water. And they did, just as it was time for us to leave. There were 3 cubs and a mama tiger who all came, one by one, to take long swigs from the lake and just loll beside it. All the animals, except a few birds, had vacated the premises by then. All of this happened quite far from us. I had to zoom in through my camera to see them. Although we enjoyed the sight of the Tigers and were reluctant to leave, I felt that we were more worried about whether we would have enough water to drink till we reached our hotel! We asked other people if they had any water to share. Some lent us, some didn’t. And when it was time to leave, our guide brought us a bottle from somewhere which we simply gulped down. fighting over whose turn it was to drink! We’d lost it! I feel so ashamed of myself just thinking about it now.
We made our way back in the dark. It was Medha’s birthday and the men had gone and bought a cake, so we got Medha to cut it during dinner. Someone said the cake looked a bit funny. Tipeshwar is not a big city to house a fancy bakery, of course the cake would look and taste funny! But Medha was happy she got to celebrate her birthday in the jungle with her cousins! Thank God we were fine the next morning, despite all the things we subjected our bodies to!
What a rough night it was! Medha dozed off right away. Madhav slept with his grandparents in the other room. Somehow I couldn’t sleep, so I just read. It felt like there was a knock on the door every few minutes. I thought the dogs were just playing. Then I heard the wind howling. It was picking up its intensity, almost pushing open our locked doors. Then came the thunder. I thought our tents would be blown away or get burnt due to lightning. I simply read on…. Then I heard Madhav’s voice. “Mama”, “mama” he called out. I ran out, all panicky, my wildly-beating heart in my mouth, assuming his tent had blown off and that he was getting drenched in the rain with his grandparents! But…
He was just having a good time while the grandparents were out checking what was going on! That kid! I was worried sick! After a rough night through which we hardly slept, I thought our safari in the morning would be cancelled, but it hadn’t. It was 5 when we were woken up by the staff. We were late! There was quite a throng of visitors already lined up by the gate to the jungle! We got ready and left. And then we were told that one of our jeeps had broken down and there was just one. We thought of taking our Fortuner inside, but decided not to. The roads were not suitable for our car and we didn’t have a spare tire. All of us, that is 6 adults and 5 kids, squeezed into a single jeep and crawled into the jungle once again. It looked beautiful in a bent-but-not-broken kinda way! The rain that had scared us last night hadn’t ruffled most of the jungle’s feather! Everything still looked dry and barren, but there was beauty in it, or maybe, it seemed to me to be so. I understand that nature goes through these cycles called seasons and now it was time for summer, peak summer that too.
This time we were well prepared with lots of water bottles, but we weren’t as thirsty. We waited a long while by the lake again, but this time had no chance. Someone said they spotted the Star male (the sole male, the father of the cubs we saw) in another location. We went there but he had left by then. We were a tad disappointed, but It’s all a matter of luck we know. We got back to our rooms, got ready, settled our dues. (About 45,000 for 3 rooms for 2 nights i.e 7500 Rupees per room per night inclusive of food. ). The jeeps were paid separately- 950 for permit, 2000 for drivers. We had to pay for 3 jeeps as the fourth one had broken down. We thanked the folks at the resort wholeheartedly and left.
Tipeshwar is so close to home, we will surely pay a visit in the cooler months.
A Zen-like Place awaits you amidst the bustle of Secunderabad. Opened this year (or maybe the end of last year), Urban Eatery occupies a wide area of the shopping street of Trimulgherry. I doubt whether they’ve been advertising much; I’d never heard of it until I saw it! If I wasn’t paying attention while we were out shopping, we would’ve just zoomed past it.
The moment I entered the eatery I was struck by how spacious, how cool, how minimal the design is with huge, clean, open shelves; the not-so-extravagant, but cozy seating arrangement; the aesthetic display of desserts (including the traditional Indian Sweets) with a few books placed around thoughtfully, for those of us who love Books just as much as (or maybe more than) Food.
I knew I’d come back again; If not for the Food (which I loved just as much), at least for the Ambiance. “Tranquil” is the Word I’d like to use here.
The First time around, we just had Coffee and Doughnut. They have a Coffee Day Dispenser and the Cappuccino tasted just like the one that’s available at CCD (For those of you who are not aware- Cafe Coffee Day) and the Doughnut tasted good (I didn’t mention ‘great’, please bear this in mind). Their desserts could use a touch of flavor- appearance-wise they are drool-worthy, but their taste and texture need to be improved upon.
So far we love their Veggie Soft Roll (sliced open and filled with the yummy gooey goodness of Cheese and Veggies), Urban Omelette (packed with veggies and the right amount of spice and taste) and Waffles.
Kids loved the making (the butchering?!) and the taste and pop pop of Magic Pops in the Stone Cold Red Velvet Ice cream they chose.
These are the ones we’ve tasted so far, and we’ve been there thrice already. We will be going back to try the hodge -podge of other delicacies they serve like Pizzas, Chats and Burgers. And why not? The Food here doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket!
I’m glad we found a quiet corner for ourselves, so close to home. It is a place that floods us with sweet memories of San Diego. We don’t have to try too hard to imagine that we’ve just walked into a bakery by the beach there. Now if only the huge glass windows looked out to the Deep Blue Sea and the White Sandy Shore instead of a jam-packed road, then we’d be in heaven, right here, in Secunderabad!
Thinespo has been on our radar for quite some time now. We’d been there once, to pick up our food and had almost decided to eat right there, outside, in the soft glow of pathway lights and under the awning of a clear night’s sky. But we had other plans. So we promised ourselves and the kids (Medha simply fell in love with the place!) that we’d go there again, maybe for breakfast?
“Thinespo”- a term in Telugu (a South Asian language) apparently means “Eat and Go”. But don’t just eat and go! Eat-Unwind-Savor-Pay-and then Go! Thinespo is a place to hang out with friends and family, let kids run about to their heart’s content, have a romantic dinner outdoors (like they show in the movies) and enjoy some great food too! Doesn’t that sound amazing?!
The Pizzas (Popeye Pizza and another one whose name I can’t recall) we’d ordered were surprisingly thin but truly delicious! We fought over some leftover slices too, can you believe it? We didn’t even suffer from the bloated feeling we normally experience after we eat at the usual Pizza places. We simply HAD to dine there.
It was quite sunny when we made our way into this restaurant (It is easy to miss this place if you drive too fast). We sat on the patio while the kids hung outside, on the lawn (and sun-bathed!). The fans and the comfy chairs made extra sure that the sun didn’t cook us slowly. No… Really, It was pretty comfortable even on a sunny afternoon. You can choose to sit indoors too, though that’s not something I went there for. (Come on… there are a ton of restaurants for that and only a few that have outdoor dining area and serve great food too!)
We ordered a couple of omelets and burgers for us adults and Garlic Bread for the kids. They must have only just fired up their kitchen, because the place had that hungover look about it after the day before’s birthday party. At noon, the staff was still cleaning up the tables, but when the food did arrive, we just dug in right away! The Thinespo Fluffy Egg whites I ordered just drove us wild with its appearance and texture! We’d never seen Eggs cooked that way and wondered how the chef whipped up something so fluffy!
It felt as if I was spooning up a dollop of ice cream or something and tasted melt-in-your-mouth good! The Garlic Bread slices topped with vegetables and cheese were crispy and the kids gobbled them up pretty quickly. My mother-in-law (who doesn’t eat eggs) was delighted to dig into the Vintage Veg Burger (Ooh! So much veggies in this, she squealed with delight!). Even I found the delicate patty in my Thrilling Tiki Burger to be refreshingly different from what I’ve always eaten. There was a home-cooked feeling about everything we tasted.
I thought Egg Florentine stole the show with its varied textures in one single plate and delicate flavors of Eggs, Spinach and Bread. This will be the first thing I order the next time around!
Prasad was pretty bummed about not being served hashbrowns on the side, but I didn’t mind one bit. I thought the Florentine deserved to be on the plate all by herself, like a queen! Doesn’t she look pretty in the picture above?! 🙂
Anyway, we simply HAD to try the desserts. The Dessert stand was the first thing to greet us as we entered Thinespo and the cupcakes and pastries, casually displayed, looked too tempting to skip!
So we ordered a couple, one a chocolate ganache with fruity flavors and a red velvet cupcake for Medha, who simply wanted to try it because of its fancy name!
If Egg Florentine stole the show, it wasn’t a piece of cake (no pun intended) for her! The desserts put up a good fight for our appreciation too! Medha (who isn’t too fond of sugary treats, except candies!) just didn’t want to share a bite with any of us and the chocolate frosting on top of the slice of cake was unlike anything I’d tasted in India! We cleaned the plate in seconds! Mmmm… The whole experience just flooded me with fond memories of our breakfasts in the US.
We have finally found a good, no Great Breakfast (Lunch and Dinner too, but especially Breakfast!) place in our part of the World… Thank God!
With Love as Sweet and Decadent as an extra-chocolatey Chocolate Cake,
If visiting Tadoba Tiger Reserve has been one of our best vacations so far, then booking our stay at Jharana Jungle Lodge for the duration will remain one of the best decisions the guys have taken till date! Jharana was the epitome of hospitality through and through.
It is located close to the Park’s Navegaon gate and because it is at such proximity to the jungle, it is refreshingly quiet. The presence of a marsh nearby attracts birds of a wide variety into the premises. When you’re there (and if you’re there to truly experience nature and wildlife and not to dance to the tunes of a DJ or listen to loud music! Apparently MANY people look for ‘entertainment’ in a resort!) you’ll be relieved to hear the birds chirping and cooing and the occasional grunts and roars of a Leopard or a Tiger. You’ll wonder at the presence of a multitude of stars in the sky, which, strangely, aren’t visible in the city.
The rooms are exquisite, tastefully furnished. It looks as if the owner hasn’t scrimped on a furniture here, a fixture there, just to save some money. No, don’t take me wrong… They aren’t flashy or extravagant; Each room is done in a way that the guest feels welcomed, with cozy beds and comfortable couches, tiled ceiling and spacious bathrooms. Let me warn you, there are no TVs! And that’s what makes it special, according to me! It forces the kids to come up with innovative games to keep themselves entertained and makes the adults spend more time with one another.
There were no other guests at the resort, much to our surprise and delight. We had the whole lobby, the dining area for ourselves. There were games like Carrom and Chess Boards beside the lobby. And Badminton and Cricket Bats too. The kids took turns playing and even the adults couldn’t resist joining them.
Food, prepared specially for us, was simple but delicious at all times. It was mostly Dal and Vegetable Curry, and sometimes a Paneer gravy, all served with fresh Tawa Rotis and Rice. We always ate to our heart’s (and of course to our tummy’s) content but it never felt like over-eating. Dessert was served every night and one afternoon we were treated to Chinese fare as well. We asked the staff to prepare fried goodies when we felt the urge to eat some. And they didn’t charge us extra for such treats. (Do make sure to carry plenty of snacks or special foods you may need as it is hard to find stores nearby.)
The staff went out of their way to create novel experiences for us. Once they set up Tea/ Coffee outside the resort, beside a lake, a fallen tree-trunk serving as our makeshift table. Then there was snacks by the light of a bonfire and a candle-light Dinner beside their new swimming pool. Ah! What more can one ask of a vacation!
Conversations, stories shared by Rahul (the Manager) at the lobby after a Safari and Yogesh (the Naturalist) over a Beer beside the crackling fire, were the icing on the cake. They are such passionate people- talking about the wildlife (especially Tigers) like they’re discussing the traits and oddities of members of their own family and answering our questions, clearing our doubts about the inhabitants of the Forest, the rules that are in place to protect them- their enthusiasm just rubs on people who listen to them talk. I spotted Medha soaking up everything they said.
Once, when there wasn’t much else to do, we decided to hike to the Tribal temple atop a hill nearby. We were asked not to bring the kids along, as the terrain isn’t kid-friendly and there are chances of coming across a Bear or a Leopard, but who would we leave them with? We decided to go, accompanied by Yogesh and another boy from the resort. If it gets too difficult, we can always return, we told ourselves…
We met the guard who watches over the entrance to the Buffer area before the Navegaon Gate to the Tiger Reserve, who asked us to be extra careful as he’d seen a Tiger nearby just a while ago.
We walked ahead carrying sticks and making noises. We were entering thick jungle and as we walked/climbed, dry leaves crushing beneath our feet, we watched out for snakes. The hike wasn’t strenuous; It was just uncomfortable, with the path being slippery and the sharp branches of vegetation poking or brushing against us. The kids were brave enough to walk, with help, of course, but I felt so proud of them! We stopped to pay respect to the Snake-God, whose awe-inspiring idol stood, keeping a watch over the terrain.
Then we spotted a cave frequented by Tigers and its droppings closeby. We were probably being watched by the Big Cat himself, as we marched on, scared but excited.
So glad we decided to do the hike anyway, because the views at the top were stunning, especially of the setting Sun. We sat on stones and logs and relaxed as we munched on pieces of Watermelon packed by the staff. We did this for quite sometime.
Soon, it was time to head back. To the Resort. And the next morning, towards home. We’d had the best best vacation so far! Oh! Did I mention that already?! Yeah, whatever! Still…
PS: Just don’t buy the Coffee Table book on Tadoba called Tadoba – The Inheritance, at the Resort. Even though it is good, with beautiful photographs of the flora and fauna of the Park, it just isn’t worth paying Rs. 2000 (30 USD) for, especially since the copies were received free by the Resort from the Forest Service, as we found out later!
(Rooms cost us Rs. 7000 (100 USD) per couple per night. We ended up paying Rs. 26,000 (384 USD) for 3 nights, including food and other expenses)
One of our favorite family pastimes (actually, this one tops our list of favorite pastimes!) is to dine at different restaurants every Sunday. We mostly go for a North Indian Lunch Buffet, but occasionally we do try other cuisines like Rajasthani or Gujarathi. Nothing beats the taste and variety of Food offered at the Rajdhani Restaurant in Banjara Hills, which serves both Rajasthani and Gujarathi delicacies on a Thali (or a platter).
The friendly staff here makes you feel at home; Until the meal is over and the bill arrives, one almost forgets that he is eating at a restaurant and not at a relative’s home. They abide by their slogan of “Atthithi Devo Bhava” (The guest is equivalent to God) and treat their customers so.
A smiling employee applies vermilion to your forehead at the door, another brings a traditional decanter filled with water and a bowl to help you wash hands right at the table, someone else comes to find out whether you wish to eat the Jain or Non-Jain version (The Jain cuisine is completely vegetarian and also excludes onions, potatoes, brinjals and garlic, according to Wikipedia). We picked the Non-Jain variety.
Rajasthan, the word means “the Land of Kings” and its food with its generous use of Ghee (clarified butter) is fit to be served to the Royalty. Ghee is extensively used in the preparation of even the simplest of Dals, to the making of special desserts (apparently, they aren’t even called desserts in Rajasthan, as unlike the desserts which are served at the end of a meal, Rajasthani sweet dishes are served before, during and after the meal) like Malpua or Gulab Jamun. And that explains the reason why we walk around feeling full the rest of the day after having gorged on traditional Rajasthani food.
Rajdhani apparently has 72 different rotating menus with 22,464 delicacies from Gujarat and Rajasthan! Phew! But I go for their Dal baati churma, a dish that opened my eyes (and my palate) to the rich cuisine of Rajasthan, thanks to our friends, Vinay and Vandu. I first tasted this dish (or a combination of 3 dishes- Panchmel Dal, Boiled and baked balls of whole wheat flour called the Baati and a sweet powder of broken baati and jaggery called the Churma) at their housewarming ceremony, and I was hooked. Every chance I got, I asked them to prepare this delicacy.
Now, whenever we eat at a Rajdhani (I’ve tried and loved the one in Dubai too), I joyfully look back on the days spent in the US with our best buddies.
Coming back to the Rajdhani in Banjara Hills, the folks here take hospitality up a notch (did I mention that already? Well…). Like an aunt or grandma that adores you and can’t stop asking you to eat “just a little more”, here, the waiters smilingly do the same. Or, they ask you whether you want a bit more Ghee on the already rich-looking Khichdi (a preparation of Rice and Lentils) and pour some, if you show signs of yielding. One even suggested I slather a bit of butter and Jaggery on my tiny Bajra (pearl millet) Roti, roll it up and eat. And when I complimented on its taste, he slathered more butter and jaggery on another Roti to enjoy some more. I was too happy (or too dazed?) to complain!
All of us took a nice long siesta at home afterwards, which did nothing to bring down the sluggish feeling we had. A walk around the neighborhood in the evening helped a bit.
I guess (and hope?!?!) there’s nothing wrong in indulging in some good food sometimes, right? After all how many lifetimes do we get! Yeah yeah… I see ya rolling eyes!
(By the way, the meal costed us about 350 Rupees per head)
We live in a beautiful neighborhood, far from the noise of busy streets, completely surrounded by huge Neem (from the Mahogany family) and Teak trees. And that’s why we’d never felt the urge to take our walks anywhere else but here. For a change, we decided to go to Kasu Brahmananda Reddy National Park this Sunday, early (or as early as possible on a Sunday, with a couple of kiddos) in the morning. Kasu Brahmananda… Oh Forget it, KBR National Park is in one of the prime locations of Telangana, India, called the Jubilee Hills and is about 390 acres in size (according to Wikipedia). We paid Rs. 20 per adult and Rs. 10 per child to enter.
I’m glad we went there. It almost felt like we were walking in the midst of a Forest (almost, because of the walkways and a lot of walkers and joggers). It reminded us of one of our favorite spots in Tucson, US, called the AZDM (AriZona Desert Museum). Just like in the Desert Museum, the trees had markers with their names on them. And there were boards everywhere explaining how the flora and fauna are useful to us and how we should do all it takes to protect them.
“Let us all promise to be eco-friendly ALL THE TIME!”
Medha walked the whole 2 km distance while Madhav covered half the loop; For the other half he had to be strapped to the stroller while he ate a bun (Food is not allowed inside, but we sneaked in a few snacks for the kids!). They both enjoyed spotting squirrels and peacocks and imitating the sound of peacocks. Peacocks. They were everywhere. They stunned us with their rich royal-blue bodies and feathery skirts trailing behind. I couldn’t capture their majesty on my camera, as the guard didn’t allow me to carry my bulky camera inside! (I wonder why. Seriously! Everyone carries a cellphone these days, don’t they?)). I had to make do with a cell phone, which I hate using for clicking pictures (due to its limited flexibility). We did have a good time there though and plan on visiting again.
We had worked up quite an appetite by then. Usually on weekends we go for lunch buffets. But this time we wanted to try something else, so we picked WOFL, listed on Zomato as a good place nearby. WOFL is a tiny eatery tucked in Banjara Hills, not too far from Jubilee Hills. It is easy to miss if one is not paying close attention while driving.
We hadn’t eaten Eggs and Waffles in a long long time, so we were too excited (especially the kids and I. Prasad, not so much. He kept bickering about mosquitoes as we sat outside in an area whose decor brought to mind outdoor European Cafes. I was least disturbed by a mosquito and so were the kids). I kept clicking pictures even before the Food arrived. I’m sure the other guests found me crude and not sophisticated enough to be dining at a swanky place. But that didn’t stop me! 🙂 I can be pretty shameless when I need to get my work done!
Prasad ordered a Mushroom Omelette while I chose the Greek Omelette (expecting to gorge on my favorite Feta Cheese after a long time. Sadly, there was no Feta Cheese.). We ordered a plate of Scrambled Eggs for Medha and Hashbrowns for Madhav. Madhav isn’t big on eating Eggs; We thought we’d share bits from our plates with him. We also ordered a Cafe Latte, asking the waiter to bring it as soon as possible since I was starving.
The Food didn’t take much long to arrive, but the sides we ordered, like extra Bread slices took forever to. I thought everything was delicious and homely, but Prasad said HE could have done a better job with the Eggs (He’s capable enough!). The Belgian Chocolate and Blueberry Waffles stole the show! They were just the right texture and taste and everybody dug in and cleaned up the plates!
I thought the food was a bit pricey and the portion-size too small.
We’d go back there again for the ambiance and the Food; I want to try their Pan-cakes next time. The waiters looked well-dressed and stylish, but a big part of their attire was missing- their SMILE! They looked like they were forced to do the job. I hope the owners work to improve their customer-service; Then I’m sure the restaurant’ll earn a 5 rating, one better than its current 4 on Zomato.
I’m a big fan of Cupcakes. Have always been one. Back in Dubai, I frequented shops like Mister Baker, Cheesecake Factory and Starbucks to try their cupcakes. My best friend Israt had once bought some yummy cupcakes for me from a shop called Sugaholic. I loved it!
When I moved to Switzerland, I had a hard time finding a nice cupcake shop, until my friend, Aniko, suggested a place called `The Little Shabby`. It’s a tiny cafe that specializes in cupcakes and coffee. They used to have 2 branches in Switzerland, one in Winterthur and the other in Schaffhausen. Unfortunately, the branch in Winterthur, got closed recently.
Little Shabby is owned by 2 sisters who bake their own cupcakes. You’ll find different flavors every day. If one day they bake Mango, Chocolate and Lemon flavors, the next day it is Blueberry, Red-velvet and Vanilla. They are super-delicious and super-pricey (5 US Dollars / cupcake), but they’re well worth it.
Along with the cupcakes, they also sell baking tools like paper cups, baking pans, cupcake decorating items, piping bags etc. Once every week my husband, Mike, and I treat ourselves to a cupcake and a hot cup of coffee or cappuccino after a long walk around the city. He likes to try different flavors while I usually stick to my favorites, red-velvet or chocolate. As a special surprise, Mike ordered their 4-tier cupcakes arranged with a beautiful fruit-cake with lemon for our wedding in Switzerland. I was in seventh heaven!
I decided I had to bake my own cupcakes. I wanted to be that mom and aunt who bakes the best cupcakes! With this urge and a full-fledged support from my husband, I planned my first bake.
I found this recipe for a simple vanilla cupcake with vanilla icing. I modified the measurements to suit my requirement.
I shopped for some baking equipment like a piping bag set containing nozzles of different sizes, cupcake papers (these papers can be used directly in the oven), sprinkles for decorating, vanilla essence, coloring agents (blue, red and yellow) and plastic spatulas from a supermarket called Migros.
To bake about 10 cupcakes, I used the following:
200 gm All purpose Flour
100 gm icing sugar (You can add more if you want it sweeter)
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
100 gm butter
2 drops of vanilla essence
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 175°C. In a bowl, sift the flour; to this add salt, baking soda and baking powder and keep aside.
Step 2: In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer. Try to keep the speed as low as possible.
Step 3: Once it starts to become smooth, add the eggs, one at a time and the vanilla essence. Whisk it thoroughly until the batter gets smoother.
Step 4: Pour the mixture into paper cups. Fill only halfway to avoid spilling over the sides
Step 5: Bake for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, I used the following:
200 gm butter (Softened i.e, kept at room temperature and not frozen)
200 gm icing sugar
2 drops of vanilla essence
2 drops of coloring agent
Step 1: With a mixer, beat the butter and sugar till it gets fluffy. Add vanilla extract and color. If the frosting is too thin, add extra sugar and if it is too thick mix in a bit of milk.
Step 2: Once the frosting is done, pour it into the piping bags* and decorate the cupcakes. Top them with your favorite sprinkles.
*I used simple round nozzle to get this design.
The cupcakes were delicious. The cake had the right texture and taste and the frosting was yummy; only it wasn’t as fluffy as I wanted it to be.
My friend suggested I add fresh cream in the frosting to make it more fluffy and creamy, instead of using only butter (that is half portion cream and half portion butter). I am going to try that for my next batch. I’ll let you guys know if it works. (Please do tell me if you have any suggestion…)
I have to got to nail this…
(‘Cause I will be baking cupcakes for the guests at my sister-in-law’s birthday party next month. Don’t tell her this… :))
I love Eat Street. It has a bunch of eateries to suit every palate, from “Sultan’s Biryani and Kebabs”, that specializes in Mughlai cuisine, to “Wok of the town” that serves Indo-Chinese food. And there is a Subway and a Pizza Hut too, which means, there’s something to eat for everyone.
But what attracts me to this place isn’t just the food, but the whole dining experience. It is an open-air food court and a Fair, beside the Hussain Sagar Lake.
I always enjoy relaxing there with my family, a slice of Tandoori Paneer Pizza in hand, gazing at the opposite shoreline, all lit-up and dazzling, throwing colorful reflections on the lake. The cool breeze and the excited chatter around makes one forget that we are just a hop, skip and a jump from the bustling main road.
When we were last there, I took the opportunity of our visit to practice some Night Photography. At first I kept clicking pictures without paying much heed to the shutter speed, that is, the time it takes for the shutter to open and close to capture a picture. If it closes too fast, not enough light enters the camera, which means, pictures shot in the dark appear darker. By allowing the camera’s shutter to close slowly, more light can be allowed to enter.
Prasad suggested I needed to allow my camera to focus before pressing down the shutter release button, so that I reduced the shutter speed.
I tried that, and the pictures slightly improved in their quality, even though they still appeared grainy.
I dream of the day when I am taking pictures like a pro and using this post to show where I’m coming from!
I have read in photography websites and books, that a good photographer never uses the flash and makes do with whatever light is available, because using a flash adds an unnatural light to a picture. I get it, but sometimes I just don’t care about what the purists have to say! If breaking a rule means I get a good picture, then break a rule I will!
I did get some good pictures when I (Finally!) turned on the flash.
By the way, I believe it is very VERY important to capture the everyday fleeting moments before they are lost, than to fret over the quality of the pictures or the minutiae of Photography!
We had thoroughly enjoyed the food and the ambience at the Spice Garden Restaurant on our first visit and were going back for more.
Back in the US, especially in Tucson, where we lived, there were pretty good Indian restaurants, but they weren’t strictly vegetarian. That meant the restaurants paid more attention to the dishes containing meat, or so we used to feel. It always felt like we didn’t have enough variety and that when we paid for a buffet, we were covering the expenses for preparing non vegetarian food, which we didn’t even touch. In India it is so different. We have so many purely vegetarian restaurants to choose from, that serve banquets fit for a King, that we are spoilt for choice here!
Being a foodie family, that’s what we are found to be doing most weekends, trying new restaurants.
As I was saying, we went back to the Spice Garden once again, ’cause we LOVED it the first time around. This time too we weren’t disappointed.
We were served a welcome drink called Spice Green, which was, like the name suggests, Spicy and Green. We adults loved it but not the kids. When I asked the waiter what went into its making, he said something along the lines of “Sprite and Cough syrup”!
“I’m sorry, Cough syrup?”, I asked.
Again, he repeated something, very fast, that sounded like “Cough Syrup”. I don’t think it was Cough syrup, why would anyone put Cough syrup in a juice? At a fancy restaurant? Maybe I should have asked someone else for clarification. That didn’t occur to me then!
The soup was served. I chose Sweet Corn over Tomato soup. There were a good number of Salads to try.
The starters were the real stars of the “show”! They were served at the table itself, hot and crispy. There were Cheese Balls, which surprisingly the kids didn’t like, but we did. And Paneer Tikka and Aloo 65, each appetizer tastier than the other.
I was busy trying to figure out the best way to capture their beauty with my camera, than focusing on finishing my plate, that I was soon served an ultimatum by my husband – Eat first or be abandoned!
Even though the mouth-watering starters filled up most of the space in my tummy, I decided to give the main course a try, as everyone else was raving about the dishes.
The Kids loved the Pasta and Coriander Noodles. I loved the buttery Paneer Masala with Roti; Vegetable Do Pyaza was a pleasant surprise, since it didn’t look appealing, but tasted nice.
Even if I feel full, I can’t resist digging into a dessert. Kova Puri looked and tasted delicious, while Heera Jamun looked so cute like tiny marbles that I had to pop a couple into my mouth, even as my tummy began protesting because it couldn’t be stuffed anymore!
I didn’t TOUCH the Saffron Phirni, no, really, although it looked tempting and came in a clay bowl. I just thought it looked cute paired with a scoop of Butterscotch Ice cream.
I fed them to my dear husband! 🙂 (Psst…. The family dustbin!)