A Photofeature of the evening at ITC Grand Chola [Indiblogger meet]

Have you read my earlier post on the Indiblogger meet? No? Blasphemy i say… 1st go over here and then come drool at the images…. Go on, whatcha waiting for? Ok, you now have my permission to scroll down and enjoy the visual treat… 🙂

Isnt it gorgeous? The beautiful chandelier in the main lobby.

Light oh so bright- The various light fixtures across the hotel and a floor pattern made of square tiles

Tring Tring, you called? The funky vintage telephone that i noticed across several lobbies

Psst.. keep this a secret, shall reveal what it is once opened
 

 

Welcome.. Wrap your hands around em birds and slide open the majestic doors. 
The beautiful door handles

 Which side do i turn? The corridor on the 30th floor, well, it is the 3rd floor, 
overlooking Madras Pavillion Restaurant

Glowing in the dark, ITC Grand Chola at 8pm. Shining like the Royal Palace it is.

 Hello, go on, enjoy the Hotel- the stairs seem to beckon. 
This is what greets you as you enter the Hotel through a side entrance
 Star light star bright, well, these shimmer in the ceiling like little twinkling stars, 
up above the grand staircase is where you find them.
So, wonderinng why I dint place the images in order? That is so you dont sneak away to visit the Hotel leaving me behind. Take me along and i shall give you a mini tour!! Smart, aint I? 🙂

An evening at ITC Grand Chola courtesy Indiblogger

Dammit, I am going to be late.
Was stuck on the flyover in North Usman road for nearly 10mins and I could feel
the clock tick away. I am one of those who would rather be early than late, but
today I knew I was going to be late, albeit a few minutes.  Finally, at 2.20pm I reached the gates, and i was ready to meet the Cholas, err, fellow bloggers. I was at ITCGrand Chola. Having driven past this majestic place a few times, I was eager to
explore and hoped Indiblogger & ITC Grand Chola were going to give us a
tour of the place before the end of the evening.  

As i made my way to the RajendraHall, on the 2nd floor for the Indiblogger meet, I hoped the Kings & Queens were not too angry with my tardiness. Phew, I was welcomed with a smile by what i assume was one of the soldiers at the Palace. :-)) 

 Unlike the earlier meets, I
noticed there were round tables with chairs. Looks like the Kings had become modern after all.. I was asked to register [maybe this was to keep track of all the souls who came late, deserved a punishment], and a secret Wi-Fi sync, I
found a seat in a table with a few familiar faces and said Hi Hello to others [I think I even breathed a sigh of relief to have made it to my seat.. alive].   We were nearly 80 souls, err bloggers that evening. Phew, and
I knew for a fact that Chennai had many more.!! Trying to distract myself, I started looking around the hall, it was huge, and there was nowhere you could hide, except maybe under the table.. lol… Did i mention the tables had a
little flower center piece and a martini glass with candy apart from a small
jar of cookies? Yes, and the cookies were refilled as well. Each of us also had
a bottle of water… 

The evening began with the court brought to order by Mr Phillipe from ITC Grand Chola, subsequent to which their Digital Marketing
team took over. Running us through their “tweetsfortreats” campaign, they went
on to lure us with a whole bunch of prizes to be won that evening- ranging from
500Rs vouchers to accommodation and meals. We were all hooked and done for
right then and there [I knew I was done for..]. The rest of the evening went by with each of us crossing
our fingers & toes hoping to win the biggest of them all [and ofcourse get out of there alive]…

And in true Indiblogger style, we
had the “60 seconds of fame”, where we had to introduce ourselves, speak about
our blog, and just about anything else we wanted to ramble on. Some were crisp
& to the point, while others were quirky and well, there were a few, rather
one who decided to give us a History lesson on the Cholas [was there going to be a pop quiz? *nail biting moment*, Just then I a “go to jail” flash on the screen and nearly jumped out of my seat in fear..eeps]  During this, there were a few who won
vouchers [Ratzzz for having hit 15000 ft to Himalayas carrying the bag that she
received from Indiblogger, another person for an NGO activity, and so on.. you
get the drift…] We then were up on our feet, tapping em to Gangnam style and playing musical chairs… Run Run run i say!! was this a dry run for the jail punishments? ….
What followed next was the
highlight of the evening… Um, after a brief fuelling ofcourse.. more like stuff up the pig before you slaughter moment… gulp… It was time for
HIGH TEA [now, i’ve never really understood this concept, it is neither lunch
nor tiffin, it is more like samosas & chai, satiate your hunger just
enough, but leave you wanting more..go figure]
There was quite a spread- potato
bonda, kachori, vazhapoo vada, Mexican empanadas with salsa and different kinds
of sandwiches. Wait, there is more.. An island in the center of the hall with
mouth watering dessert platters- Chocolate cake, cookies, tarts, meringue,
chocolate, dry fruits & nuts…. Need i go on? It was quite an elaborate
spread and delicious one at that. I got an opportunity to meet and  interact with the  Chefs, hear their experiences with ITC Grand
Chola and of the menu that evening. As i looked around for coffee or tea, i
noticed there were these tall containers with colorful liquids- Fresh Figs
& Almond shake, Cucumber & celery juice, Banana & honey shake,
Fresh lime juice, Watermelon juice and one more. I chose Figs, and it was
yummilicious. A few opted for tea, and got to experiment with the wide variety
offered.  There was Tea and Coffee in the
main hall as well, along with cookies. 
Allowing myself to drift away into la la land, I let myself be amazed at how well organized the
entire thing was, Kudos to ITC Grand Chola. Ok, lemme not digress. The next task.. err activity
was to form groups of 10, come up with a team and enjoy a tour of the place with
one of the guides [ITC staff], and along the way come up with a story as well.
We were the Raja Raja Cholas, and the story theme was Tintin and Cholas meet,
or something of that sort.

We dint win the best story or anything, but we sure
had a blast on the tour, guided by Gaurang [who’d hurt both his palms on a motorcycle
accident that morning and had not even taken the day off.. how about that!] He
was chilled out, knew every single sitcom we mentioned and we had a whale of a
time, walking around the premises, for nearly an hour. [was there going to another high tea? at the end many wondered]

ITC Grand Chola is HUGE, even
Huge is an understatement- spread across 8 acres, with 600+ rooms, multiple
restaurants and bars, a cigar room, beautiful spa, a majestic swimming pool
near the gym, the place is magical indeed. While standing near the pool, we
felt like we were on top of the world, the city seemed to be down below.

The attention to detail, the
rooms, the swanky lobbies, the resident lounge, the meeting rooms, the
facilities & technology that has been incorporated are all fit for a king,
well, for someone who loves luxury and comfort. The pictures will tell you what
am talking about… 

And then, we were back in the
main hall, curious to know what next! I had wondered what we would be doing for
5hrs [the event mail said 2-7pm], and there we were back in the hall, as the
clock stuck 6.45pm. Who’d have thought!  A
few minutes spent on sharing our experiences of the hotel, and then came the “Let’s
see who won what”.[i kept waiting for someone to point their sword towards me – you there, come up here, you were late werent you, buhahaha.. off to gallows with you”]

Instead, prizes were given out to the Best team, best tweeter and
*drum roll please*, yours truly won a prize as well “best photographs shared on
the move”… Woohoo… Who’d have thought indeed? No blood shed, no tears rolling down cheeks…Me with my Blackberry, but
well, it was fun… I won a 1night 2 day stay at ITC Grand Chola and was/am
mighty kicked about.  Wait, that was not
all, ITC Grand Chola was giving out a prize to everyone who was in the hall,
how cool was that? We were each given a small piece of paper that had our prize
in it. We had to redeem it for a voucher and that was our return gift. Again, i
got lucky, I won a meal at Madras Pavillion for 2.. Woohoo once more!! 

It was one awesome evening-
Lovely ambiance, amazing people, good food and a fun meet!! Thanks @indiblogger
for giving us this opportunity and thank you @itcgrandhotels for being such
wonderful hosts!!  

Quick facts about the Hotel:-

The
architecture is based on the Chola temple architecture; influences from
Brihadeeswara temple & Gangai konda chozapuram evident in the
designs all along the place and there were not one or two, but 4
entrances.

The hotel has a total of 10 food & beverage centers, including Peshawri [Northwest Frontier cuisine], The Royal Vega [vegetarian restaurant], Ottimo [Italian cuisine],The Madras Pavilion [a 3course meal kinda resturant], Cafe Mercara[coffee shop],  and then there was Nutmeg[gourmet shop], Cheroot Lounge[ Drinks & Cigar lounge], Pan
Asian, Modo Mio, The Pub and Tranquebar[this was originally supposed to have been an all women pub]. 
 
There are in all 6 swimming pools… The Presidential suite is over 4000 sq ft of space with its own private pool and valet. From what i gather, there are nearly 4 categories of rooms, one wing dedicated to women entrepreneurs and travellers. 
Oh and the Elite rooms come with allergen free, pure air etc etc…The pillars are fitted with RFID sensors. Rooms are operated using an iPad, you walk in, plonk on the bed and everything else can be controlled using the tablet. Meeting Rooms are not only functional, but swanky- especially the one called “Tanjore” . Kaya Kalpa– their spa is said to be the largest of its kind… 

ITC Grand Chola
Mount Road [next to Alexander Square building, opp Maruti center]
Guindy,
Chennai- 600032
Phone: 044 2220 0000

Recipe- Zucchini & Broccoli Rice with Corn

I was home alone and that meant I could go woohoo and cook whatever I wanted.. No maid No cook, rather neither had showed up that day. For some it might have a moment of panic but not for me. It was such a liberating feeling, to know that the house was all mine..

Opened the fridge, rummaged through what was in it and found the bag of goodies- zucchini, broccoli, and one big corn.. That was all I needed.

The Rice-
1cup rice (I used normal rice but you can use Basmati rice)
1/4 zucchini chopped up
1/2 broccoli cut into florets
1 tomato
2 cloves
2 cardamom
1 small stick of cinnamon
1/2 green chilli ( this one was big)
Butter- 1tsp
Salt to taste

How:
1. In a pan dry roast the spices and tart them aside
2.add a wee bit of butter and fry the green chilli
3. In a rice cooker add all the ingredients and allow to cook
4. In about 25-30 mins the rice is ready

Options- you can add herbs/ garam masala/onion- garlic and just about anything else to the rice..

The Corn-
Quite simple- I broke the corn in half, added a bit of turmeric powder and salt and let it cook in the pressure cooker for a food 20 mins

Lunch was served and it was delicious!!

Saraswati puja, chandi homam and ilai sapaadu

Today being Saraswati Puja, it was a special day in the Navaratri celebrations, it was also the day of Chandi Homam for Sringeri swamigal [since he was in Chennai, it was organised at the Sudharma, the place where he was staying]. Ggramma was up early and pushed us to shower and give a book for the puja.. We did and then I waited for them to leave for the temple so I could get down to work and my routine. It was decides that we would do lunch at the temple and so there was payasam, Sunday and appam made at home as prasadam..
I have seen the Chandi homam couple of times in Sringeri- back in the days gramma along with others used to carry a tray with material that were used for the puja.. This time top she took a silk cloth, some turmeric and coins to put in the homam (havan) ..

Around 1pm, I changed into a saree, wore
the customary bangles etc, braving the sudden downpour headed to the temple. I reached just as
the Chandi homam was winding down – saw the elephant all decked up
blessing kids and adults; an a horse that had been a part of the pooja..
Few minutes later, spotted he grandparents coming out of the dining
hall. She immediately went inside and asked if there was place, luckily
there was 1 seat and I was asked to go grab it.. Normally am not top
fond of these elaborate spreads, especially with the Avial and sambar.
But today, menu was different and food was good and simple..

There was carrot curry, white pumpkin koottu, carrot & tomato raita, potato curry, appalam, coconut rice, vada, boondi laddoo and a tamarind chilli based pickle.. Instead of boring standard sambar there was a mixed vegetables sambar type, followed by rasam and curd.. Oh, there was Jagger’s based payasam as well.. It was good and I enjoyed it, probably because I had also not had any breakfast but for a soon of sundal at home..
We then spent a few minutes talking to a few uncle’s and aunts before heading back home 🙂

Fortnight Menu at The Crown, Residency Towers, Chennai

Chennai hasnt been this lovely in a long
time.. The weather was just perfect, we were sitting outside, near the
infinite pool, and the gentle breeze kept us company through the
evening. We were at The Crown in Residency Towers, Chennai. They have
introduced a new menu, limited items, but quite a few choices for both
the Vegetarians & Non vegetarians, an experiment they were running
for 2 weeks, a fortnight, and one that had received a response far
better than what they had anticipated.
Chef
Shaktivel who chatted with us on and off told us he was quite surprised
at the response, especially since they had thought it being
Dussehra/Navaratri, crowd might not be that much. But, they were
pleasantly surprised. This menu had been introduced at The Crown in the
20th Floor & Southern Aroma on the Ground floor … 
Vegetarian
meal was priced at Rs500, while Non veg was at Rs600. What did it
include? Soup, Main dishes, Desserts and one drink [
Gin/Vodka/Rum/Whiskey] and this menu is on till the 28th of October
So, there we were, the 3 stooges- Deepa,
Shadir and yours truly, all set for an evening of fun and good food…
Well, we were not disappointed… but did learn a few inside
information..  🙂
Ok,
time to get down to business, err food that is. While we waited for
Shadir, we decided to order a drink, both of us opted for something with
Vodka, and it was quite good, just that our drinks had a lot of orange
peels, which kept clogging up the straws and i requested the waiter to
strain the drink, which he did promptly. 
Our
evening began with an elaborate selection of starters [ mind you, it is
not part of their Fortnight menu and was offered to us from the main
Crown Menu].. the 1st round was Indian starters –
Stuffed mushrooms- which were
absolutely yumm- well, i do love mushrooms in any form and these were
cooked to perfection. The tandoori paneer &
cauliflower were good, and so was the Hara bara kebab. One other item on
our plate was  potato patty of sorts, it was a bit bland and had a
funny dosa dough texture. The chef told us they used chickpeas flour for
the outer coating [ as a policy they dont use cornflour or any starch] 
Oh, how can i forget, we also got to taste some delicious baby corn
starters- cooked with tomatoes, curry leaves and spring onion, it was
gooood
Then came the platter of continental
starters- bruschetta with Basil & tomatoes which was good and
simple, stuffed zucchini – i loved this one and finally a slice of
tomato with a mozerella slice on top and a basil tucked between. It was
alright, nothing great. 
Shadir was having a feast, with his plate piled on with a wide variety of meat starters, and he seemed to enjoy them all.. 😉
Phew..
we were quite stuffed, and so requested the chef to bring us just a
sampler of the main dishes. We had quite an interesting chatting session
with the Chef. He was curious about how we write reviews, especially
since  we were not catering students or had catering backgrounds. We
explained how we wrote reviews, clarified any doubts we had while at the
review and the main aim of writing the reviews. Shadir also showed a
sample of his blog, explaining the post, style of writing, purpose of
the blog and so on. Even though some questions from the Chef surprised
us, we were glad to have had this open chat with him.. Showed that the
review mattered to them, a lot. 
And
it was time for the main dishes… They arrived in style, laid out in a
make shift table next to our seat. There were 3 types of Indian Bread –
Garlic naan, plain naan and stuffed kulcha . Alongside were 4 side
dishes – Dal makhni [my favorite],  Rilli milli sabzi [with mixed
vegetables], a paneer gravy
and one more mix veg gravy. We also got to taste Vegetable Biryani,
served with onion raita. I enjoyed the Garlic Naan, Daal makhani and the
biryani was not bad. The Paneer was  bit rubbery, and the other dishes
were a bit salty [tangy and pulips]… 
Oh  boy, we couldnt get enough of the
lovely view and the amazing breeze. As the chef spoke to us about
Desserts, we nodded happily, requesting they bring one of each, while we
sat back and enjoyed the breeze. The ambiance is to die for, especially
in a city like Chennai, and combine it with pleasant weather, and you
are in heaven…. 
First
to arrive was a long white plate with different desserts neatly laid
out- There was an apple crumble [yumm, need you ask], mudpie[ was it
made of bitter chocolate?], Kala jamun[ cut into 4 pieces and served on a
spoonful of rabdi] and finally, the Cheesecake with blueberry sauce..
No two ways about it, my favorite was the apple crumble… There was
also a rasmalai, which was fresh and divine, but i am not a big fan of
this dessert. And last but not least, came the brownie sizzler served on
a single slice of pineapple[ the big puzzle that went unanswered was
why the waiter placed a small cube of salted Amul butter as he placed
the brownie on our table and why we dint get chocolate sauce and the
whole drama]
 
We stuck around for a while longer chatting with the Chef, while he explained their menu, plans for the coming festive season and new changes we should expect to see soon at the restaurant. He also gave us a small tour of Southern Aroma before bidding us good night. 
As always, it was a fun evening… the 3 of us spoke about the others who were missing, and of how each experience is different, interesting and amusing…. 
Would i recommend you visit The Crown? Absolutely. Apart from today evening, have been here couple of times earlier, and all my experiences have been good.. Make sure you go on a day like today, sit outside, enjoy the lovely ambiance while sipping on a drink and enjoying some good food.
Address:
The Crown
20th Floor, The Residency Towers, 
#115, Thyagaraya Road, 
T. Nagar
Chennai- 600017
Ph: 044 28156363

Disclaimer:

This was part of a CFG Showcase that I attended and was conducted by Chennai Food Guide.
The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience.
Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time,
so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while
visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  🙂

Good Food, Good company and a Good evening with Girls

After the fun evening at the French Loaf Cake event, Cafe Pascucchi and Rajdhani, the ladies were alive and excited about the next meeting. This time, it was to be Dinner at Crimson Chakra.. After a few 100 messages, discussions, debates, tangent conversations, we finally decided to do dinner at Crimson Chakra, Khader Nawaz Khan road… 
The date was set
The venue was fixed
Now, all that was left was for the girls to turn up… What started out as a big group dwindled to a handful, but the 5 that were there at dinner can vouch for the FUN EVENING that it was… 🙂
There were 4 of us, plus Jenny who was going to have her 1st Tender Coconut Souffle… *bring on the drum rolls i say*
After a bit of furore, we finally ordered, cancelled, re-ordered and probably confused ourselves as much as the staff at the restaurant… People were asking for items that were served in Adyar outlet and not here.. Ooh and Aah,and a bit of oh my gods… Finally, we ended up ordering enough food for an army [a battalion i would say…]
Since i was sniffling and coughing away, i was the only taker, err, sorry Deepa & I were the only takers for the Mushroom with smoked cashewnut soup…

Some of the starters were –
Curried Mushroom and Corn Sacks -well, we actually thought it was a main dish or a gravy of sorts.. was yumm.. almost like fried kozhukattais.

Fried Baby Corn in curry leaf batter – we had this with the 2 chutneys on the table, and though i couldnt taste much[thanks to the cold], it was atleast hot..

Potato and friend spinach salad that was Jenny’s main– came in a huge white bowl with 4 petals from the Banana flower on each side…you know, vazhapoo.. [spinach- yumm, rest of the salad was a bit too tangy- mayo? sour cream? wonder what it was]
Now, moving on, yes… we did move on… only further ahead into the evening, ordering the mains– 

Smoked rice [Damn you Aswin Rao…. you were there in the evening with your crack ups]- yummm
Cheese crepes stuffed with ratatouille basilica  [Basilica kept reminding me of Chapels and Cathedrals… lol… the dish was fairly cold, and so we requested it be heated and then it was good… was served along side a portion of boiled veggies]
 

Paneer Paranthas – i gave this a pass, was feeling quite full.. 

Vegetarian Lasagne – was good, perfect for the cold… Just wished i could have tasted all the flavours.. [blaming on the cold once again]
and now, finally, wait, keep your drums, trumpets and jing-juckus ready…. Dessert time…. All heads rolled into one, we ordered 1…2…3…4…wait for it…5 elaneer souffles ( and then came the order for another 4+1 parcel… by 2 of the women]
with that, all plans of hitting Amadora came to a crash, and we walked out with a big grin on our faces… But not before aunty gave us each a bag full of delicious looking tomatoes [some of which was made into divine soup feeding my cold]
Until next time.. Here’s to more fun and frolic!! 

Food – 8/10
Ambiance – what ambiance? oh you mean the restaurant ambiance– 7/10 lol
Price -7/10
Location:
Crimson Chakra is located in Khader Nawaz Khan Road above Bang and Olfsen Showroom, right next to Espirit showroom and 5Senses complex..
No. 7/11, Khader Nawaz Khan Road,  Nungambakkam , Chenna
Ph: 9786655845, 64500500

PS: to all those who dint make it.. boohooo… we missed you… not.. buhahah… ;o)

The Joy of Giving… The French Loaf cake event

On the evening of CFG’s 8th Anniversary Celebrations, Mr Mahadevan, one of the guests announced their Longest Photo cake event .. This was part of the Joy of Giving week. Last year, they had done the same event, except the cake was based on movies of yesteryear. This year, it was a tribute to Isaignani Ilaiyaraaja… 
Not only this, but he announced that 100kgs shall be set aside for Chennai Food Guide members, given to us for FREE… The event was slated for 2nd Oct , at Express Avenue Mall.
As decided, we all met up at the mall at the venue of the event, and were excited to see what was ahead of us.  We got to meet a few new faces, and interact with other friends as well.. In total, we were about 30 of us, we walked around the entire length of the cake, trying to spot the movies we had seen, heard of and the ones that were completely new. We waited patiently sweating away, listening to Mohan, Parthiban, Srinivas, Sriram, Mr Mahadevan, Chef Bhupesh, and Gautam Menon speak about the event. It was amazing to hear the announcements of cake being sold, people who bought them, and the money contributed to Ekam Foundation. Few members from CFG got the chance to speak to Raj TV, while the rest of us generally hung around having a good time…. 
And then, it was time to cut the cake….. Few minutes later, we were all trying to fit the huge cake box into plastic bags… but only after checking out what movie was on the piece we received. Even though it was free for us, we went ahead and made a contribution to Ekam… What a beautiful feeling to give to those in need.. Apart from the little deeds that we do, we thank Mr Mahadevan of Oriental Cuisines for this lovely opportunity as well… 🙂 
 I had Pillai Nila on my cake… Not heard or seen this movie…
Subsequent to the event, the group waltzed lingered around, catching up, taking photographs, and winding up with a burppilicious dinner at Rajdhani…

Food, Fun n Friends, Whatte party it was…

Finally, the day we had all been waiting for came and now it has gone… Damn, feels like it was only yesterday when we all met and were bouncing off the idea of hosting a celebration of sorts… 

The chaos, the activities, the anxiety, the blog posts, the what not have all come to an end now…  It was one hellova evening at Residency Towers- Town Hall on 29th September. 

People were excited, buzzing about
Balloons being filled and going up on the walls and doors
The banners being rolled out
Projectors and screens being tested
Emcees wondering what their script was…. reading, re-reading
Amidst all this, we managed to taste some yummy treats brought by a few members….
————>  Tasneem Aunty brought us a dessert made using Colostrum
————> Yalini with her mom’s aloo tikkis and her cute cupcakes
deserve a big round of applause… We all needed these to keep us going till dinner time.

We had all met each other only a few months ago, ok, maybe a year. But it felt different, not like any of the other events i have been a part of.. why? we were family. Yes, that is the word- it felt like a family gathering. We were all pitching in without being asked, we were all contributing without being forced, and we had a whale of a time.

The Quiz
The Stand up show by Aswin
The presentations
and the Launch of Chennai food guide website & mobile app [ grrr that it is not available on iOS or BB yet.. but nonetheless a proud moment indeed]
Oh, how could i forget the food and the after-party!! ;o)

It was one evening i shall remember for a long time to come!
This was also one evening, when my camera stayed put inside my bag but for these 3 clicks…
and a smile stayed put on my face through the evening….!!

How could i forget? we got cool goodie bags- A Chennai food guide mug, Cookies from Yalini and a coupon from Gormei Market… *drum roll*… icing on the cake, err goodie bag was the rich chocolate Cup cake from Priya’s Feast  🙂

As CFG walks into its 9th year, here’s wishing the group an amazing interesting fun filled productive journey ahead!