Hong Kong Wine and Dine Fest: Raising a Toast

This article is written by Ajay Jain

Just being offered fine wine and food is not always enough to be able to savour the same. The atmosphere usually makes a big difference. Like the kind you have at the annual Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival.

For starters (no pun intended), the location was perfect: the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade, from where you can soak up the surrounding fabulous views of Victoria Harbour. So was the time of the year: end-October, with a slight yet comfortable chill with no humidity. With clear starry skies above, you can feel a high even before a single sip of wine.

It was a privilege to attend the inaugural night, with beautiful symphonies being performed by an orchestra followed by fireworks. And then the party started. With hundreds of stalls offering the best of wines and cuisines from all over the world, you are spoiled for choice. It is best to walk around and see everything for yourself before making selections. The quality of wines, cheeses and other foods are not something you get to sample easily.

Eating out

This article is written by Justin Rabindra. Justin is a Manager with an Advertising Agency in Delhi. He is also an avid traveler and photographer.

One of the things we look forward to on our travels is the food. A lot of planning goes into which restaurant we’ll go to and what we’ll eat. At Tallinn last year we had German beer for the first time. It was honey flavoured, thick and dark with a sweet after-taste. We followed it up with an 8 pound steak. People were drinking beer off steins that I couldn’t have lifted with one hand. That beef and beer meal alone was worth the choppy ferry ride across the Baltic from Helsinki. Kingfisher ain’t anywhere near making a world-class beer. And with the beef slaughter ban, you can only dream of a juicy steak.

For the majority of Indians food is a source of tension that starts the moment they get on a flight, because most of us are vegetarians. Travel agents automatically tick ‘Hindu meal’ without checking first and that’s miserable for us, because you end up with some bland roti and sabzi and gulab jamun while the guy in the next seat tucks into roast pork and mashed potatos and blueberry cheesecake.
Blueberry Cheesecake
I think you miss an essential part of travelling when you are closed to trying the local fare. We’ve discovered flavours, smells and experiences with food that I wouldn’t exchange for anything. In China at one time, at Huangshan (near the famous Yellow Mountains) we struggled to order lunch at a restaurant – the menu was in Chinese and no one spoke English. We just walked around the tables and pointed to the customers’ dishes that looked most appealing. One guy even offered to let us taste from his bowl of soup, which we politely declined. Turned out the best Chinese we’d ever had.
This photo is a shot I took from the tallest church tower in Tallinn, Estonia, after walking up hundreds of steps.
Justin Rabindra
3 Apr 2010

Kurtos Kalacs, Chimney Cake of Hungary

This article is written by Indrani, an engineer by profession and an avid travel writer, based in Bangalore

What is traveling to a country and not tasting its traditional cuisine! I am highlighting here one Hungarian specialty: the Kürt?s Kalács. Kürt?s in Hungarian language means chimney and Kalács means cake… so that makes it Chimney Cake. How is that for a bite!

Kurtos Kalacs, Chimney Cake of Hungary

Well, this one actually gave us company during over strolls in the streets of Hungary till it vanished into our hungry tummies. At one place in the streets of Buda castle hill, I was lucky to witness how this snack is made. The pre-prepared dough balls of milk, yeast, sugar, flour, eggs, salt, and butter were neatly stacked. I made a quick mental note of the flavoring ingredients there: nuts, cinnamon, almonds, coconut, hazelnuts, walnuts, sugar. However when I queried about the measure of the ingredients, the cooks around were tight lipped about it. The preparation time is more, while actual cooking time of the snack is just ten minutes or may be even less.

The lady in charge rolled flat the balls of dough, she then cut them into thin strips. The strips were then wound over what looked like wooden cylinders; she finally tucked the final tip of the strip under. After brushing with oil, these were rolled over flour and were then toasted over fire for five to six minutes.

We watched it, with full anticipation and eager eyes, changing color from light creamy yellow to light brown to a crispy brown. An irresistible flavor soon spread and that increased our hunger pangs. The lady took them out from the oven and with gentle taps removed the chimney cake from the cylinder. We were then asked what coat we would like to have… ‘chocolate with or without nuts’, or ‘sugar and cinnamon’ or ‘just plain’…more.

The wicked ‘we’ chose four different flavors, our minds scheming to take bites from each other’s chimney cake. Decency held us back from grabbing the rolls from her hand. With a polite ‘thank you’ and payment done we were on the streets merrily biting in to the delicious crispy cakes! Heavenly! I say!


21 Nov 2011


Best Breakfast in Chicago – Lou Mitchell’s Meatloaf

This article is written by Rishi Sankar, an avid traveler and writer from Trinidad

In Trinidad, I never grew up with meatloaf. Why would we – this is a purely European derivative “dish”. In Trinidad – who ate ground beef growing up?? Definitely not anyone I knew – it was expensive and you couldn’t make it into a curry – the only place you would have any sort of ground beef, was in a meat pie or pastelle. For me, meatloaf is like the western version of fried rice – any sort of nonsense can be tossed into it – however it is rare to find quality.

The one thing I have confirmed – I love great meatloaf and frankly I haven’t found a better meatloaf than what they serve at Lou Mitchells.

Lou Mitchell’s is one of those great cultural icons and an amazing breakfast spot. It’s like the Chicago version of the Old Breakfast Shed in Port of Spain.

It’s all old school here

  • Long lines
  • No credit cards
  • The same waitress you had 30 years ago
  • All good signs

As for the food – I would recommend this to any Trinidadian/West Indian person for the following reasons

  • Meals are massive – this is a complete belly full place
  • Prices are extremely reasonable
  • A huge breakfast menu – Omelettes come in their own omelette pan/skillet with a HUGE side order of potatoes – their is no scrimping on anything on the menu
  • All their meals are fresh and the juice is absolutely “fresh squeezed” – no Tropicana dogshit!
  • The coffee is awesome and endless/bottomless – whatever you want to call never ending
  • All service comes with attitude and picong … example below
      • Rishi : <Look at map and 4square on phone> How do I get to Wrigley Field
      • Waitress : How would I know … I’m a Sox fan
      • Rishi : But you live in Chicago
      • Waitress : Ask someone else  … !!<runs off to get another waitress, who is a Cubs fan obviously>

As for the meatloaf …

The meatloaf at Lou Mitchell’s

There were three slices of meatloaf under the mushroom gravy and fries … I could barely finish half of the damn thing. Did I also mention that you should walk with your own Lipitor?

This was all I could eat before asking for the doggie bag

The decor is your classic American Diner …


  • My advice would be to go for there for late Brunch – the lines early in the morning will be super long and you won’t enjoy that experience, especially in the depths of winter.
  • Get there at 1:30 or 2pm. They close at 3pm.
  • Get the Meatloaf or some form of omelette – if it is your first time. If you’re Canadian – stop complaining about the portion size … we will never see a portion like this in Canada … ok … maybe only in St John’s, Newfoundland.
  • The negative reviews on this place – are all wrong! Don’t read those – just get there a little later. Douchebag food reviewers complaining about “I ate there 30 years ago and it’s not the same now” … 30 years ago, there was no internet … do I complain about that?

Rishi Sankar

11 Nov 2011


The Ultimate French Concoction

This article is written by Rupali Dean. Rupali is a noted travel & food writer based in Toronto, Canada

Foodies like me can’t help but marvel at the most sensitive palates and the diversity and abundance of food available in France. That said it’s also because in France chefs are not only respected but worshipped too, so much so that even streets are named after them! The cuisine certainly belongs to its chefs who are constantly improving upon the past resulting in professionalism par excellence.


My first trip to Paris a few years ago, had left me gawking at every pastry window, thinking one required super natural powers to make such perfect gems, after graduating from a cooking school , I realized it’s not that difficult after all! Interestingly during the second empire, Jeanne Souchard, Ernest Laduree’s wife and daughter of a famous hotel-keeper in Rouen had the idea to mix styles hence the café and the cake shop gave birth to “Laduree” one of the first and finest Parisian tea rooms. The menu runs the Gamut from Traditional Croissants, Pretzel, Sandwiches, salads, and short crust pastries to the best Macaroons in town. At “Dalloyau” too, the pastry chefs make pastries that look like jewels and taste like ecstasy. Macaroons are a specialty here with flavours like velvet-black currant, liquorice, raspberry, lemon, morello cherries to name a few.


Foie Gras (pronounced fwä-grä) aka French for ‘fatty liver’ is a rich and buttery gourmet delicacy made from the liver of a duck or goose. For the French, it is not just a familiar ingredient, but an intricate part of the historical and cultural heritage of the people. Pate with Melba toast accompanied with Solera sweet wine from the Champagne region makes a winning combination. You cannot talk of French food and not mention the cheese, the most popular being the delicate and salty Camembert which tastes best with the Baguette (France’s best bread!). My personal favourite cheese however is the reach creamy and flavourful Boursin, absolutely stunning and tastes great with almost everything.


It is no secret that one of the best cuisines in France occurs in some of the finest wine regions. In Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Provence, Touraine, the wine is as common in the cooking process and is cheaper than water. Interestingly in 2010 Atout France published a survey that concluded that being accommodated at and sharing meals with winegrowers are top of the wine-tourists priorities after wine, visiting wine purchase, cellar and museum visits and exploration of landscapes.
Beautiful Bottles of Beaujolais
Indeed Gastronomy is an integral part of the French cultural heritage as much as the arts!


• Exploring France involves all your senses.

• Not stuck in its ways, but focused on modernity.

• A new generation of chefs are making their own passionate, original and flavoursome cuisine.

• Bistronomie is the latest concept.

• Know-how and tips are passed down from mother to daughter through the generations, maintain the tradition of “eating well” with the family!


France is the first country to be honoured by UNESCO for its national food and cuisine. In order to honour this living heritage of French Gastronomy, “Fete de la Gastronomie”, a food festival has been created which will take place on the first day of Autumn each year across the country!

Rupali Dean

28 Oct 2011


Pass the curry, please!

This article is written by Cyrus Dadachanji, an avid food journalist, storyteller, non-fiction film and TV scriptwriter, researcher, advertising copywriter and poet, based in Mumbai

If you thought dining out in London meant eating Fish ‘n’ Chips, you’re in for the surprise of your life!

Welcome to London. A bustling, throbbing megapolis that is a delight for the senses in every sense of the word. If you love food, this is the city of your dreams. Name any cuisine and you’ll find it here. Not surprpising that the humble Indian Chikken Tikka has been voted as the most popular dish in Britain. That in itself says a lot for the adventurous nature of the British palate, tired of being brought up on a diet of bland roasted food. The new mantra in London seems to be… the more exotic the better. And restauraunteers have taken traditonal British hospitality to its logical end, falling over backwards to cater to these newly evolved tastebuds. So, let’s go on a gastronomical tour de force of London’s restaurants, one cuisine at a time.

When in Britain… well if you followed that dictum, you’d probably end up eating almost everything except British food. However, food represents the nature of a country and its people, lets tuck in to a little Brit grub, to begin with. Britain lives in its pubs and that’s where you’ll nvariably find the best pub grub. Check out The Anglesea Arms near the Ravenscourt Park tube station. This is one of the few pubs to have a Michelin star (which is the highest rating for resaturants in Britain). You can have a good meal for around 12 – 15 £. With dishes like calves’ liver, which melts in the mouth, the food is nothing short of adventurous and consistently good. Try having two starters instead of a main course and you’ll never be disappointed. Not for nothing has the Anglesea Arms has been voted s one of the best Value for Money establishments in the city. If you’re in the mood for some excellent roast duck, drop in at The Chiswick, near the Turnham Green Tube station. It’s a modern sort of restaurant with a pleasant amibience and an excellent selection of of new world wines, making it the perfect place to sup one evening.
While Mackintosh’s near Turnham Green station is a great place to take the kids along Try their Eggs Benedict and Curried Potatoes for a hearty Sunday Brunch. You can give the kids bowls of pasta to mess around with – and the restaurant stocks crayons so they can draw on the paper tablecloths! Stick to the food here and the ales; don’t experiment with the cocktails. Of course, in most British resturants, you’ll find the typical pot roast, steak and kidney pie and the ever popular fish ‘n’ chips or kippers (mackerel)… but there are many more culinary delicacies waiting to be discovered.

“The nice thing about dining out in London however is that there are restaurants to suit every budget, even among what may be called speciality resturants.”

Steak & Kidney Pie

For those who like their food lightly flavoured, with a hint of herbs, London has a fine selection of European and French restaurants. The nice thing about dining out in London however is that there are restaurants to suit every budget, even among what may be called speciality resturants. What’s more, most resturants, especially the Continental ones create an ambience of sophistication, blended with authentic décor. So tuck in your serviettes messeieurs and take a seat, while the aromas of Europe tease you and the food tittilates your tastebuds. But be sure to book a table well in advance, for some exclusive restaurants have a 6 week waiting list!

Granita, near Angel Tube Station all the makings of a terrific restaurant. The ambience is perfect, the service, impeccable and the food, simply divine. A mouth watering menu is backed up by perfect service. If you’re a vegetarian and wondering wheteher you should step in, there’s a good range of vegetarian dishes that are equally inspiring. But just make sure you call up and book a table, because Granita is very popular with the people in the neighbourhood.

Step out of London proper to the neigbouring borough of Kent and you can dine under the stars, with a gurgling brook serenading you as you tuck into your meal. Welcome to the Haxted Riverside Brasserie near Haxted, Edenbridge (main line). Few restaurants can beat the Brasserie in terms of ambience, service and the quality of the food served here. What’s more, the locale and the climate give your appetite the boost it will need to knock off the huge portions. Back in the city, The Abingdon is a trendy bar and restaurant nestled behind Kensinghton High street. The bar is spacious with seating at round tables and the ideal place for a drink if your table is not ready. The restaurant has quiet booths which are very comfortable and intimate, but still alow you to see what’s going on around you. The menu changes regularly, so you never know what you may find on your nextt visit. For starters, try the mussels mariniere and carpaccio of beef with a walnut dressing. The Abingdon has an exotic menu which includes Grilled noisettes of lamb with mustard sauce, brochette of scallops and squid with lemon tagliatelle and rabbit pie. They have a lemon creme brulee and rice pudding with berry compote on the desert list and both are simply out of this world… as is most of the food served here. So, if you’d like to taste European food, as it really should be cooked, the Abingdon is your best bet.

Have food, will travel: Egypt

This article is written by Meenakshi Bhalla, a Businesswoman  and a travel writer, based in Mumbai, India

Of course travel entails physical movement from one place to another. But some of the most experiential ways to travel is of course the culinary travel, one of my most favourite ways to see and smell and experience the new cultures.

Macaroni Bechamel

Egypt was a delight of a discovery if the cuisine appeals to the palate, like it did for me. Egyptian cuisine consists of the local culinary traditions of Egypt and makes great use of vegetables and sprouts of many kinds. Probably because of the rich Nile delta that produces large quantities of high quality crops.

Bread forms the backbone of Egyptian cuisine, consumed by all classes is largely accompanied with beans. Bread was central to all food in Egypt, just as much as the roti or rice is as a staple to India. Infact an interesting anecdote was narrated to me about breads in Egypt – more than an occasional fight has broken out over bread, leading to fear of bread riots in Egypt. So yep bread is serious business there. Very central to food consumption.

Egyptian Kushari

The one dish that caught my fancy so totally in Egypt was Kushari made of lentils, rice, macaroni, chickpeas and tomato sauce and yummy fried crisp onion shavings as toppings to add the right crunch to a tasty wholesome meal. For a vegetarian this dish is full of goodness and nutrition, tasty and has a delicate flavour, very close to home grown food for me:)The other favourite of mine was and is the fresh herbs mixed with spicy tomato salad (almost like the salsa) which is stuffed in aubergines and then baked or deep fried in butter. Lip smacking yummy! Mulukhiyya is another popular green soup made of finely chopped leaves, coriander and fried garlic that gives it the bite needed for the locals to feel the food. I find the garlic to be over powering and hence not one of m most favoured among the many dishes I absolutely loved there.

While I was there and did not partake in the non veg fare I could see that non veg food is a way of life there just as much as eating fresh vegetables is. In many nations I have seen people slant one way or another but in Egypt the Egyptians eat in a balanced manner, the kebabs and the koftas are accompanied with a healthy helping of veggies and salads that make for wholesome food.

The other dishes that blew me away so completely – the famous rice dish! It’s a dish where spicy rice is stuffed into vegetables like bell peppers. Absolutely divine and melts in the mouth experience. Then it can also be prepared with rice and tomatoes which in turn is rolled in grapevine leaves and is unmistakably tangy in taste. The same preparation had a variation – can be made in cabbage leaves if you cant deal with the tanginess of the grapevine leaves (I prefer the cabbage leaves) – I found this dish delectable. It is time consuming labour of love, but the ultimate result is a craft and precision that allows for a gastronomic delight.


If you think India is delight for the sweet toothed,think again, India has competition! I went into a pretty similar halwai shop (like our very own Chappan Bhog or Ghasitaram) and the result was I brought back kilos and kilos of fabulous sweets from Egypt into India through customs! The deserts are to absolutely die for! Their pastries and puddings dripping in honey, soft and gentle, tatse that makes you want to over indulge and give 2 hoots about calory intake! Mahallabiya is the Egyptian version of Indian kheer (milk pudding) , Asbusa is like a lovely flaky cookie to have with a good cup of coffee, Asabi gullash has lots of nuts, spices and syrup , these are little finger food snacks and is …yum. Baklava is made in ghee and is horrifically rich, sinful, divine and demands a second helping! As you can tell the food in Egypt is wide varied and something you fall in love with very easily. Basbousa another favourite of mine – a semolina cake coconut based (and to think of it I am not really too fond of Indian coconut based sweets but loved this Egyptian sweet!) with almond, vanilla, rosewater. The true test of good food is when a vegetarian like me endorses that food:)

If I don’t stop writing right away, I will be adding more weight to myself just thinking about all this food. So! My closing thoughts … while all that you have heard of Egypt about its mysticism and what not is true but the real Egypt lies in the food – give me my last morsel from Egypt and I will reach jannat!

Meenakshi Bhalla



Which five restaurants are best for brunch in New York?

You might wake up with a hankering for pancakes and bacon after a night of exploring all the world-class nightlife that Manhattan has to offer. But what you’ll get is something far more sophisticated because New York’s fine dining reputation doesn’t only apply to dinner. Try Artisanal for superb cheese-related dishes and Balthazar and Brassiere 8 ? for modern French brunch. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay will cook you a spicy omelette at Mesa Grill, and you’ll taste some of the fluffiest blueberry pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company and Restaurant.

1. If you love cheese, then you’ve found your paradise at Artisanal. This sprawling, dimly lit bistro with buttercream yellow walls and red-checkered floors is where people to go when they want to nibble on baskets of airy gougeres and dig into pots of gooey fondue at the tightly packed wooden tables. It’s the quality of the French-style food, from hearty leg of lamb to charred hanger steak, that salvages Artisanal from becoming a kitschy fondue joint and instead makes it a delightful restaurant you will want to return to again and again. Weekend brunch isn’t for the calorie conscious-the cinnamon sugar dusted beignets are impossible to refuse.

2. Balthazar Restaurant, a warm, noisy French bistro, was once a hot spot of the 90s and is now a reliable standby. It’s always been a transporting experience, though-from the sunshine-yellow walls to the European crowd devouring steak au poivre, duck confit and other “I must be in Paris” staples. The brunch is among the best in town; the smartest calls are the pillowy brioche French toast and baskets of baked goods.
3. Food Network fans know chef Bobby Flay as the red-haired chef who is a master of the grill. Today, he’s practically an empire, with multiple restaurants under his helm, cookbooks and numerous television appearances. But Mesa Grill, which opened in 1991, was his first restaurant, and above all else, Flay is the king of all things spicy. Dishes such as sweet potato hash or scrambled eggs chiliquiles (paired with a spicy bloody mary of course) will test whether you can handle the heat. The service can be clunky, but your focus will be on the food.

Food Network burgers are among the best

4. Modern French cuisine has never tasted so good as it does at Midtown’s Brassiere 8, where the contemporary restaurant offers its own twist on classic French dishes. On Sundays the restaurant hosts a buffet, but you can order off the breakfast or brunch menus when you sit and order as well.

5. Opening in 2001, Clinton Street Baking Company and Restaurant has become known as the spot for blueberry pancakes in Manhattan. Sure, the brunch lines are long, but the husband and wife team behind the restaurant follow pancake month-an entire month dedicated to introducing new pancake flavors. A bite of almond frangipane or Japanese pumpkin pancakes in February will immediately cause you to forget about your wait.

Pancakes at the Clinton Street Baking Company and Restaurant