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All Things Apple at Theory, Mumbai

When it comes to creativity, the chefs at Theory have mastered the art of innovating! Last week, I attended a dinner at this beautiful eatery in Lower Parel. Guess what I ate? A especially curated four course dinner with apples as the main ingredient. All things apple – yes, we ate and sipped on apples throughout the course of the dinner.

The evening was kick-started by Theory’s Chef de Cuisine Clyde Comello and Chef Simarpal Singh Virdi with a salad making demonstration. Soon after, we dived into the sumptuous menu that had not only excited our palates but also intrigued us with the creativity and ideas behind this curation. We tasted delicacies with US Apples on our plates and here’s all that we gorged on.

First Course: Curried Carrot & Apple Soup

Second Course: Poached Apple with Goat Cheese

Crunchy endives with red wine poached apples, drizzled with red wine reduction served with gratinated goat cheese and hazelnut.

Salad and Sangria

Third Course: Apple Gnocchi

Pan seared apple gnocchi served with cinnamon glazed butternut squash, sage butter and burrata.

Chicken Roulade with Apple Jus

Moist chicken roulade stuffed with mushroom forestiere and gruyere on  a bed of peronata and brandy apple jus.

Fourth Course: Desserts

Apple cheesecake with burnt butter ice cream/Apple baklava with vanilla ice cream

     

The evening was hosted meticulously by the lovely FBAI team, US Apple Export Council (USAEC), and the staff of Theory. So, the next time you pick up US apples, you’re going to think of this menu and perhaps get inspired to experiment with this versatile fruit in your own kitchen!

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Staycation at Aamby Valley

They say travel isn’t just about the destination, but about the journey. Truer words haven’t been spoken and I all the more relate to this each time I take a trip. My trip to Aamby Valley was another testimony to that very idea. The route to the beautiful Aamby Valley was a sight to behold. The scenic Sahyadris come alive during monsoons and our road trip began on a sunny morning, followed by a light drizzle as we stepped into the Western Ghats. Soaking into the green glory of the hills meandering across the Expressway to Lonavla, I was not only dreaming of my staycation but also looking forward to this ride as well. The journey turns even better when you’re in good company and my fellow bloggers and FBAI and Hotel Sahara Star teams made sure of that!

The lake at Aamby Valley City

After a pleasant 3 hour ride, we reached destination Aamby Valley and we couldn’t have been more excited! The façade, the greenery, the architecture – everything of this beautiful city looked promising! We spent three days here, packed with fun and activities, good food, and scenic surrounding. Here are a few reasons I absolutely loved my staycation and why you should consider planning one too!

Nature trails

Into the woods

Who doesn’t like luxury travel and being pampered to bits! Add a dash of natural beauty to it and I’m smitten! And that’s exactly what happened at Aamby Valley. Here I was staying in an Australian Chalet – my own wooden cabin the in midst of greenery, with views of dark clouds hovering over mountains and trees reaching out to me on my sun deck. The setting was so refreshing from the usual concrete jungle that we’re so habituated to, that I felt it was all too surreal. We roamed around the city in golf carts and the days we felt a little adventurous, we’d walk around under tall coconut trees, gardens and the huge artificial lake in the middle of the city.

   

Architecture and design

A peek into my Australian Chalet

We were allotted the luxurious Aussie Chalets. The view from the balcony, the sometimes sunny, sometimes rainy days, the picturesque hills and trees just made this staycation an experience of a lifetime.

Aamby Valley has various kinds of accommodation available – from the opulent Australian or Spanish chalets and Hermitage villas with an open air Jacuzzi with a view to the romantic Cabanas by the lake and the rather humble town plaza tent-styled villas. We were treated to the best of views and greenery as we took a guided tour of the whole property, while it drizzled and added to beautiful vibe of the place.

Hermitage – cottages amidst clouds
Jacuzzi with a view
Private dining area of the Cabana Suites by the lake
Evening tea in my chalet

 

Cabanas by the lake

Foodie’s paradise

Salads galore at Woodpecker

With an array of restaurants, Aamby Valley City is truly a food haven. Whether you like experimenting with your food or jump at the sight of an extensive breakfast spread or love the idea of learning the nuances of various cuisines and try chefs’ specials, this place will not disappoint you! From an elaborate breakfast buffet at Woodpecker to the incredible Indian cuisine at Namak, day 1 was just a glimpse of what was in store was all culinary enthusiasts in the house! The Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine at Mabruk was a delight along with the wonderful middle-eastern setting and belly dancing at the restaurant. That dinner was a night to remember!

 

  

   

Foodies have a special place in their hearts (read stomachs) for thalis. The extravagant lunch at Manuhaar – the vegetarian thali restaurant at Aamby Valley was delectable yet homely. The good news is, this spread is soon coming to Mumbai – Manuhaar opening soon at Sahara Star.

For the adventurer

Aamby Valley City has so much to explore. Not one day of our staycation had a boring moment. Our days were packed with adventure activities. Day 1 was all about water sports – from the exciting speed boat and jet-ski to the relaxing kayaking in the lake and aqua bus ride.

All set for the speed boat ride
Off we go…

Day 2 came with a dash of adventure too – from zip-lining across the valley and going on a bumpy but gorgeous jungle safari to competing in paintball, reverse bungee, riding and ATV, we were pumped up all afternoon!

Paintball ready!
Sail Bridge

Now, I don’t know how to sum up my experience of discovering Aamby Valley and its offerings! There’s so much to do and explore in this beautifully planned out city that you’ll be spoilt for choice. Whether you want to spend a quiet evening amidst nature, swinging by the lake, soaking in the beauty around or you want to try your hands on adventure activities and enjoy water sports, there’s something for everyone. So, go #DiscoverAamby!

Negroni Week – The Bombay Chapter


Negroni Week, presented by Imbibe Magazine and Campari was launched in 2013 as a celebration of one of the world’s most iconic cocktails and as an effort to raise money for charities around the world. From 2013 to 2016, Negroni Week grew from about 100 participating venues to 6,000 venues around the world, and to date, they have collectively raised nearly $900,000 for charitable causes.

This year Negroni Week takes place from June 5-11, 2017, when once again, bar and restaurants will be mixing classic Negronis and Negroni variations for a great cause. To participate, each bar signs up for it, chooses from a list of recommended charities, and makes an immediate donation to that charity.

The Bombay chapter of Negroni Week at Razzberry Rhinoceros kicked off last evening and guests and cocktail enthusiasts tasted three renditions of the classic Negroni – crafted by Rojita Tiwari (Drinks & Destinations) and Master Bartender, Nitin Tiwari. The three variations were created to add a local touch to this international drink and to keep offer a fusion of Bombay flavours with a hint of global finesse. The three variations that you can try at Razzberry Rhinoceros in Juhu through this week are Cutting Chai Negroni, Crawford Sour, and Gola Negroni.

PS: In case, you were wondering, a classic Negroni cocktail is made of one part gin, one part vermouth rosso (red, semi-sweet), and one part Campari, garnished with orange peel. It is considered an apéritif.

Riding solo in Pondicherry

If you’ve ever dreamt of travelling solo, Pondicherry is a dreamy place to begin with. The French Riviera of the East had been on my bucket list for a long time, before I recently ticked it off. I finally took the trip I had been planning for a year. And it was awesome on so many levels.

Riding solo in Pondicherry

From the 3-hour road trip from Chennai to Pondicherry, and humming to unfamiliar Tamil tunes in the local bus, to riding solo to Auroville, an afternoon of book shopping and café hopping, to ordering way more food than I could finish, Pondicherry made me fall in love with its vibrant and quaint streets, its food, its breezy vibe and the local culture.

Sitting alone at the Promenade by the sea, against a bustling street with a crowd that could put Marine Drive to shame made me realise how much I enjoy going to new places and exploring them bit by bit, unknowingly drawing parallels or picking out differences with my beloved Bombay.

Here are some of my favourite things about Pondicherry and why I loved this cultural and historical haven so much.

For the love of nature

Every place has a rhythm. Pondicherry has one that will make you a part of its tune. Before you realise, it will be envelop you in a sense of calm. For someone who has spent most of her adult life in an urban setting, Pondicherry is naturally beautiful, with a nonchalance and charm only a coastal town is capable of.

On my way to Matri Mandir, Auroville
A park in White Town, Pondicherry
Rock Beach, Pondicherry

For the colourful streets

Strolling through the streets of Pondicherry, you will find every colour you have ever known — hues that will draw you in and encompass you in with a sense of unadulterated joy.

The vibrant streets of Pondicherry
A cafe near Aurobindo Ashram
Nostalgia on the streets – a cart of CDs
Handmade beauties on the streets of Pondicherry
Pretty in pink – my ride in Pondicherry

For the love of food

We all know about the abundance of bakeries and French delicacies in Pondicherry. But if you’re the kind of traveller who loves to try new cuisines on your trips, Pondicherry will happily surprise you. There are so many cute little cafes to try that you’ll run out of time. Some of the places I managed to visit were Cafe Xtasi, Auro Pizza, Tea Road Restaurant, Villa Shanti, Baker Street, Gelato Factory.

A beautiful encounter with Quiche and Sables at Baker Street
Prawny Pizza at Café Xtasi, White Town
The refreshing and gorgeous Lemon Sorbet at Gelato Factory
Breakfast bliss
There’s no dearth of food choices in Pondicherry

For the love of books

Pondicherry is paradise for book lovers. I stumbled upon lovely bookshops and book fairs during my short stint in this quaint town. Freeland Bookstore, on the way to Auroville, is a beautiful little store to stop by for your dose of bookish joy.

Freeland Bookstore near Auroville
The interiors of Freeland Bookstore
A book fair right outside Chamber of Commerce, Pondicherry
Now who can say no to that!

For the love of cosy nooks

Some street nooks in Pondicherry look like they’re straight out of storya book – a storybook I’ve always wanted to live in. So, for the eternal day dreamer in me, walking through the bylanes of Pondicherry was a treat in itself! Sometimes quiet, sometimes quirky, these streets are so full of life!

Pretty bylanes of Pondicherry
Gelato Factory, White Town

For the love of cliché

I believe in exploring the unexplored, but how can one not go to the tourist spots of a city? They’re popular for a reason and we must acknowledge that. And so I did! Here are some clichés that need no introduction and that make Pondicherry what it is.

Gandhi Statue near Rock Beach
Auroville – Matri Mandir

Puducherry Museum

I love museums in general, but this one will be my forever favourite.

While walking to the Promenade on my first day in Pondicherry, I noticed two men following me. I halted at a distance to substantiate my doubts. I wanted to be wrong. To my dismay, I wasn’t and they walked past me only to stand at a distance and wait for me to take the lead once again. I did and walked towards a crossing and stopped again to see where they’re going.

They had probably seen my phone from behind and the Google maps I was using, knew where I was headed, and so they took the calculated right. Now, I was in a fix because that’s was I was headed. Nevertheless, I took the left.

And thank God for museums! I quickly went in to get rid of my stalkers and spent about 40 minutes there – coming out relatively relieved and a little more informed.

The 3 days of solo travel in Pondicherry not only introduced me to new places, idyllic cafes, good food, colonial stores, book shops and the town’s unparalled vibe, but also opened new vistas for the traveller in me. It filled me with a sense of achievement and excitement every night when I returned to my hotel room and looked at the maps to plan the adventures of my next day. So go take that trip you’ve been planning and say yes to adventure!

PS: This piece was first published in Hauterfly.

SulaFest – A long weekend under the Sula sun

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A long weekend of wine, music, good food, and good vibes at the ‘wine capital of India’. Attending SulaFest 2017 meant a road trip from Mumbai to Nashik – and thus began the ultimate party with friends, music, conversations and picturesque views. The road to Nashik is replete with pretty scenery and stunning photo worthy spots – crossing ghats, winding roads, hills, and a lot of greenery.

This February, the 10th edition of SulaFest set benchmarks for festivals in India with its incredible artist lineup, food & drinks, and above all the great vibe that it’s known for! And here’s all that I loved about this magical festival amidst lush and beautiful vineyards in Nashik:

The setting:

Set amidst the lush vineyards of Sula, the 10th edition of SulaFest was pure magic! With its sustainable art installations, vibrant decor, SulaFest Bazaar, and three amazing stages, SulaFest was a sight to behold!

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The stunning view of the vineyards from the Tasting Room

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Music:

Amphitheatre, Atmasphere, and Tropical stages set the mood for the ultimate musical party at SulaFest. While Day 1 was all about Indian artists like Kabir Cafe, Nucleya, Raghu Dixit Project; Day 2 saw a mix of Indian and global musicians like Dubioza Kolektiv, Dana Ruh, Loco & Jam, Shaun Moses, etc; and Day 3 just raised the bar with international bands and icons, including the headliners – Infected Mushroom. While the headliners’ final act did set the stage on fire, my favourite and most memorable performances at SulaFest were definitely – Hilight Tribe and Afro Celt Sound System!

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Infected Mushroom LIVE at SulaFest


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Food & Drinks:

What made my palate most happy at SulaFest was not only  a plethora of food options, but also gourmet food and drinks for the discerning fest goer. Special mention to the exclusive cocktail workshop session (only for media) with Bruno Vazan, brand ambassador of Volare and Antica Sambuca.

Not to forget, the signature cocktail of SulaFest – ValenSeco, a mix of Sula Seco Rose and RAW Pressery’s Valencia Orange was such a refreshing drink to sip on during performances, or paired with food. Did you try it?

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Bombay Food Truck at SulaFest

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Fashion:

Well, SulaFest was buzzing with amazing street style and the best of fashion on all three days. Sula Vineyards even showcased a few of the best ones on their social media platforms during the course of the fest.

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Tinkering around Little Italy at Sula Vineyards

The vibe:

When you tune in to the rhythm of the vines, it’s set to take you on a trippy ride! And that’s what SulaFest ’17 did – took us on a wonderful musical ride, and gave us three memorable days of fun and frolic under the Sula sun! Were you there too?

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An Aperol afternoon at Olive Bar & Kitchen

ASPRI Spirits hosted an Aperol Brunch for the city’s discerning drinkers and foodies at Olive Bar & Kitchen in Khar West. Reflecting the mood of the afternoon and true to the invite guest code, the guests turned up in attires with a hint of orange.

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Cocktail menu with a glass of Aperol Spritz at the bar counter

The brunch commenced with a glass of Aperol Spritz – 3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts Aperol and 1 part soda in a wine glass, garnished with a slice of orange!

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Apart from Aperol Spritz, there were other Aperol cocktails on the menu like Aperol Seltz, Aperol Sour On The Rocks and Aperol On The Rocks.

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Aperol On The Rocks

Exile – A Memoir

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“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Controversy’s favourite child – Taslima Nasrin, the writer and woman believes thoroughly in Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s words and more than anything else, her life has been about fighting for freedom of speech. Her memoir, Exile is nothing but an account of her struggles while in India. Her journey in India has been replete with constant resistance since our society at large isn’t too comfortable with a woman voicing her opinions, owning her body or speaking against religion and patriarchy.

Whether one considers Taslima Nasrin a literary icon or not, one cannot deny that her life has been nothing short of phenomenal. She never shied away from speaking her mind or expressing her opinions on religion or society. She hasn’t visited her country for the last 22 years now and has been leading a nomadic existence with the label of anti Islamic. ‘Exile’ is the moving and shocking account of all that happened during her stay in India – Kolkata, Hyderabad. It is filled with nostalgia and remains of her childhood while contrasting with the gory details of her encounters with death (mob attacks, verbal attacks, bans). It’s a story of fear and courage, of determination and failure, of tears and heartbreak, of home and belonging…

The book chronicles her journey in India – a country she holds dear and feels at home; Kolkata, the city that makes her nostalgic, the people who make and mar her. One thing that this woman holds the promise of is honesty and blatant truth. And her words live up to that legacy.

Read it to get some insight into the life of a woman who did not bow down to the whims of patriarchy or religion or politics, and stood her ground for what she believed in. It’s reflective and evocative, and to say the least – leaves us disillusioned with our world that is incapable of being a safe haven for its artists.

– Yashnashree

Verse Voyage

If you know me even a little bit, you’d know I’m equally passionate about writing and travelling and believe the two can change the world in more ways than one. So, when I heard about The Poetry Club’s ‘Verse Voyage’ – it tickled the poet and traveller in me, in one go. The journey I was about to set on meant going on a road trip with strangers, camping, writing, reading, learning, and just being surrounded by words.

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‘Verse Voyage’ was nothing short of sheer magic! A weekend of romancing with poetry, exploring its nuances and depths, sharing our own stories in verse. I never knew I’d enjoy meeting new people and listening to their tales of love, laughter, heartbreak, passion, life, and more…

Here’s why I loved this experience so much (with some treat for your eyes) –

In the lap of nature:

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Located in the coastal town of Uttan in Maharashtra, ‘Verse Voyage’ took us to a quaint campsite in Maharashtra and let us breathe in its rustic yet charming glory.

Who doesn’t love spending time amidst nature – surrounded by greenery, flowers, garden benches, and the chirping of birds. I think we all need to cut off from our mundane and urban daily lives and leave behind the chaos once in a while so that we can listen to our hearts and minds more clearly, clutter free from the magnetic pull of this materialistic world around us.

Needless to say, poetry breathes freely in nature and it is believed when we spend time in natural surroundings, the poetry within us gets a better chance to flourish.

Poetry workshops:

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Interactive workshops, sessions on history of poetry, forms, followed by writing prompts and readings made this such a wonderful experience. I discovered a new side of me – the poet who could write on prompts rather than someone who wrote when an idea strikes. I tried to develop this into a habit and even took #TheDirtyThirty challenge in April (out of the 30 days, I wrote on 23 :P). Thanks to the courage gathered at ‘Verse Voyage’!

Camping:

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The very experience of camping under the stars is unparalleled and something that should be on a traveller’s bucket list. Well, I ticked mine off again as we stayed at the beautiful White Collar Hippie campsite. After our poetry workshops, the evening at the campsite was a magical experience with live band and an open mic for all present. Performing to a crowd of campers that night, I felt a rush that often puts a smile on my face. Star gazing as the night passed by, feeling the nip in the air, discussing and reading poetry never ceased till late in the night.

Sea love:

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The first evening, all of us walked to the beach nearby to watch the sunset. We sat by the rocks and looked at the sky as the setting sun splashed myriad hues of pinks, oranges, and purples across the sky.

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The next morning, we set on a boat ride – singing verses of Faiz, our voices riding on waves. Here, I felt at home – with this bunch of poets who drew strength and words from their vulnerabilities.

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Making new friends:

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Meeting new people is an inevitable part of a traveller’s life. But not all acquaintances turn into beautiful memories. I met some amazing people on this trip and I’m so glad that poetry brought us together and that’s what still binds us.

 

Note: The Poetry Club just announced the second edition of Verse Voyage. Go, explore a new place and while exploring poetry: https://insider.in/event/bandcamp-presents-verse-voyage-2-a-poetry-workshop-nov-26

 

For the love of Bombay

Sea

 

Of my favourite yellows and polka dots

Of long walks and finger knots

Of rains and evening mist

Of those sensuous eyes and lips that kissed

Of shared coffees and glasses of wine

Of you and me and of souls entwined

Of holding hands and endless chats

Of warm puppy hugs and street cats

Of breezy nights and silent shores

Of throbbing beats and emotions galore

Of letting go and holding on

Of sunny days and breaking dawn

Of happy tears and and all things nice

It is but a slice

Of love, life, truth, and otherwise

~Yashna

***

June 2016 marks FIVE years of my affair with this city of Bombay!

Bombay gave me what I came here looking for – the taste of freedom and an independent life, the luxury of choice, interesting encounters, some friends for life, gorgeous sunsets by the sea, and a place that I now call home.

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I know it has been said ‘n’ number of times that this city is one of the finest examples of diversity and truly a melting pot of cultures, but you HAVE to experience it to believe it. Bombay lives up to all its clichéd titles – the city of dreams, the city that never sleeps, the high paced city. It is all this and much more! Some days, its chaos is cacophony. On other days, it soothes you like a melody. The traffic and speeding vehicles running parallel to the sometimes calm, sometimes agitated sea draws one. The stillness of the sea sometimes gets lost in the noise of the street. At other times, the tranquility overpowers all the clamour. Some days, it cajoles you like a love struck lover. On other days, it takes the role of a stern teacher. However loving or abusive your relationship is with this place, it’s bound to leave a mark in your life. I have not only danced in its rains but also taken in its seething toxins. Believe you me, when I say that I’ve been charmed by the sheer swagger of the city that I still love to call Bombay.

College Lane

“All cities are mad: but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful: but the beauty is grim.”

~Christopher Morley

Marine Drive

 

 

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