Songkran Festival at Benjarong

It was time for celebrations, ringing in the Thai New Year  in style, food style!  We were at Benjarong where they do few festivals but what they do they make sure to do well. This time was no different. I walked in and was welcomed by a grand entry decoration made with paper- leaves and flowers of all colours, lighting up the place. 


I walked towards our table and found Chef Ramkumar already on it , all set to take me through the Thai culture and Songkran menu. The evening started off with a glass of fresh delightful Thai pears, which was filled with pear pieces, litchi and a hint of lemongrass.This was so refreshing,  especially for Chennai Summers. 

As we chatted away, the salads and soups made their way to our table. We had a mixed fruit salad with a spicy dressing and my soup came in a full Coconut- yes, you read it right. It was made with a blend of three kinds of mushrooms and coconut milk- I couldn’t stop gulping it down. They have a few options for non veg as well, one made wit prawns is said to be a hit. While learning about how different these flavours were when compared to regular Thai food, a plate with an assorted set of starters arrived – mine had two crisp tarts with corn & mushroom mix in it, another was a small bundle and finally the cutlet of sorts all of which were delicious . They were served with two dips- one was a sweet chilli dip while other was a mix of carrot, cucumber in light sugar water. 

Phew, I sure was stuffed and yet I continued to remain curious about what else was in store for the festival menu. For mains I got a portion of spicy thai rice and another was plain jasmine rice served with a Massaman curry [veg version] which had potatoes in it. It is typically made with lamb shanks here at Benjarong, but they had created a veg version for people like me . One last main course was a Noodle dish, with a melange of veggies 🙂

And finally, it was time for desserts. I was given two options- Khad niew moon- two kinds of sticky rice with fresh Mango slices  [that was heavenly], the other was Pang Ji–  pancakes made with coconut and banana, it is served with ice cream and a hint of strawberry sauce.

The Royal Thai cuisine is open for reservations for lunch and dinner from the 15th of April till the 3rd of May 2015.
Address:
Benjarong
146 TTK Road, 
Chennai. 
For reservations for the Festival can be made at 24322640.

Healthy Salads & healthy Drinks at Park hyatt till 28th April

Since it is summer here in Chennai, Park Hyatt has taken the initiative to host a festival exclusively for this season and around World Health day [ Apr 7th]. A season where people want to eat less and keep drinking liquids, a season where we are so drained out that the thought of cooking or eating heavy food makes us roll our eyes and vanish :D. 

While The Dining Room offers healthy salads menu for lunch & dinner, The Flying Elephant offers it for dinner only. 
If you were to look up the world Salad in a dictionary, it says “a cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients” 
Doesn’t sound very appealing right? Well, I for one am a big fan of salads, both warm and cold, raw and semi cooked, so it was an event I looked forward to and unlike many who went “whaaaaaat.. salads… how boring…blech” 

These salads are the brainchild of Chef Megha, who has played around with flavours and purees [ both fruits & vegetables]. To wash them down, there were 5 Healthy drinks as well on the menu. All in all, a good meal indeed by the sound of it.

When the 1st salad landed on our table, we were pleasantly surprised. Why? Unlike traditional methods, this was served in a  beautiful clay plate and the salad looked visually appealing.  Wait, there is one more aspect I need to share with you. Each salad has been put together based on 5 different processes- Tossed, Blanched, Grilled, Mashed and Roasted. 

While we waited for the salads to arrive, a bowl with a freshly baked small loaf of bread arrived. It had a strong hint of rosemary flavour and was really soft on the inside with a sharp crust.  The one thing that I loved was the used of micro greens [something I have seen only on TV cookery shows]

Tossed:  quinoa, avocado, cherry tomatoes, parsley, mint, pumpkin seeds, sunflower cress

Roasted: baby beets, fennel, apple, celery, walnut, orange, arugula, goat cheese


 Smashed: edamame, broccoli, garlic lemon ricotta, pumpernickel toast


Blanched: asparagus, mango, snow peas, shaved carrot, scallions, toasted hazelnut

Grilled: eggplant, chickpeas, dates, honey, chilli, feta, pomegranate, pine nut and fresh herbs

And if you thought the salads were all veg, the non veg options were served on the side- Seared Tuna, Smoked Salmon & Roasted Chicken breast.

Energiser : Apple, kiwi, lime, spinach, celery, honey

Energiser : Apple, kiwi, lime, spinach, celery, honey

Watermelon Smoothie : watermelon, yoghurt, honey

Bello : Banana, spinach, coconut, cashew, coconut cream

I seem to be missing a photograph.. 🙁 The final drink that we tasted was Skin Tonic : Romaine lettuce, cilantro, lime, pineapple.. 

Prices – INR 450+ Taxes per salad 
Address
Park Hyatt
39, Velachery Road, Guindy, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600032
044 7177 1234
URL: http://chennai.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

Disclaimer: The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember these were just my views!! Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit 🙂

Kundrakudi Murugan temple, Kundrakudi

The day we landed in Karaikudi, we made a list of places we wanted to see in and around here. Among the places were two temples, one being Pillayarpatti Pillayar temple and the other was the Murugan temple. We hailed a cab and the cabbie told us we can do both in half a day and figure out plan for the rest of the day as we go along. 

We agreed, and proceeded towards the Pillayar temple. Once done there, we headed towards  Kundrakudi. Along the way, again, the driver and my friend went on about the movies this temple was featured in, including one that I knew of- Emdan magan starring Bharat, Nasser, Saranya and vadivel  where in one scene Saranya pretends to do angapradharshanam around this temple to cover up a lie she told her husband Nasser who lands at the temple to check on her.. quite a hilarious scene that is. 
 Coming back to the temple, as we got out of the car, I noticed the temple was atop a small hillock and there were steps carved in the hill painted red and white. Near the bottom of the hill was a small shrine for Lord Ganesha [ Muruga’s brother]
We climbed up, pausing here and there to click pictures. The view of the town below was beautiful- there was plenty of greenery all around. The day was busy, there was quite a crowd making their way up the steps with us. 
The temple houses Lord Murugan Temple with his wives Lord Valli and Deivanai. The Murugan statue is set up with six faces and hence here Lord Murugan is called as “Lord Shanmuga”, the meaning is Lord Murugan with six faces.  Another thing we noticed here was that the Navagrahas were placed differently. usually they face the direction they are meant for, but here they were all facing the Main statue of Lord Muruga.
We spent a few minutes enjoying the cool breeze and lovely view before making our way down. Also housed near the bottom of the hill, on the right side was another temple, where Lord Muruga is called Lord Palani Murugan. In this Palani Murugan temple the main statue is not fixed on floor, but is set on a table of sorts. Apparently, this Idol is taken to Palani every year during the Thaipoosam festival.   
Some of the work on the pillars and atop the temple was beautiful and so colourful as well. As we bid adieu to God and made our way towards another new place, we could feel the sun blaze on our back.. 

Ciclo Cafe, Chennai

While driving by Kotturpuram high road, I spotted this new place on the right side. Decided to check it out on my way back and all I managed to catch was the name and the sign board that resembled that of L’amandier. On digging around, I came to know it is a cafe launched by TI cycles. 
“Ciclo” means cycles in Spanish & Italian. Since both these countries have a rich cycling culture and there are quite a few small eateries associated with cycles, inspiration was drawn from that and Ciclo cafe got its name. TI Cycles has partnered with Absolute Speciality, the same company that handles L’amandier cafe to manage food here at Ciclo Cafe.   

Time went by and one Saturday, a friend suggested we go check out the place. we landed there around 11am and were shown to our table upstairs. Along the way, I noticed there was a clock on the wall in the shape of a cycle wheel, and then there were light fittings made with wheels, along with a full cycle on a window. the seating areas are split between the rooms, and the sofas are fairly colourful and comfortable as well. 
On one side of the room is the kitchen and the along the corridor is a spot for the coffee machine. 
We made ourselves comfortable and spent a few minutes going through the menu [that resembled a newspaper]. We ordered a sandwich with grilled vegetables while my friend ordered a crossanwich [ sandwich made with a croissant] along with a cappuccino with a side of fries. 
Our order arrived promptly within 10mins and we devoured them leisurely. The sandwiches were fairly large portions, the fries were hot & umm, served in a small cycle rickshaw of sorts. The place slowly filled up, we also noticed a large group arrive and occupy the table near ours [ under the lights with cycle wheels on them]. Skipping the desserts, we asked for the bill only to be pleasantly surprised. It was quite reasonable, about 700 odd bucks for the 2 of us. 
Walking downstairs, we spent a few minutes oggling at the range of bikes displayed before stepping out. 
Ciclo Cafe
No. 33/47, Gandhi Mandapam Road Kotturpuram
Chennai
Phone – +91 44 4204 8666
Timings – 11 AM to 11 PM

Dear Diary.. time does fly by


Dear Diary,

Am back.. It has been awhile but feels like I was writing in you only yesterday. Two whole months have gone by and we have survived the days and nights.  But there are moments when am just blank and  I end up having a chat with Granpa – enquiring how he is doing now, does he get to watch TV, has he met his brother/sister and aunts/uncles/cousins.. If he gets to eat all that he loves or the diet is different and weird. 

Gramma is alright, she is being strong. Her life and day has changed completely, nothing seems familiar anymore. She doesn’t do her daily puja, doesn’t spend too much time in the puja room, doesn’t keep milk for God like she used to… Gosh, the list is endless. I take a shower and light the lamp in the puja room, I keep fruits for God…. I am the one turning off all the lights, locking up and winding down before we hit the bed. I sleep with gramma and I sleep in Thatha’s place… Every night is a bit of a struggle before sleep takes over. We talk about how thatha would curl up on his side, how he would wake up the minute gramma made the smallest sound, or if she was getting up to go to the loo, drink water. He would be up with her, be the one to go out fetch the vessel that holds the milk packets. 

Gramma is not the bold/am not scared of anything kind. She will not go out of the house once the sun sets unless one of us is with her, she will lock up all the doors and sit in the hall with TV on if she is alone, and she generally hates being home alone… 

My life has gone through some changes as well, but am back to finding my ground and getting into a rhythm. I am home early in the evenings, I don’t go out late in the night or if I do, mom/uncle come stay over. I have come to terms with the fact that I have moved out of my own space. I recently bought a wardrobe and was quite excited as I filled it up. 🙂 

I know there is a bigger plan in the offing… So, I have made peace with life and am happy about it.. 

Well, that’s it for now.. Talk to you soon.
Love
Aarti

Revamped menu at California Pizza Kitchen

California Pizza Kitchen is back, no they did not go anywhere…. 🙂 They are back with a new revamped menu.. There are drinks, there are starters, there are pizzas, there are pastas and of course there are the lip smacking desserts. The place has managed to maintain standards and taste over the years . I still remember my 1st visit here, it was 2 years ago.. 
Oh and they have also introduced a few offers, one of which is the Rs249+ each for the 9″ pizzas [Available: Monday to Friday 12PM to 11PM]



I was here the nth time and discovered a few familiar faces [ one of who had recently joined here from another restaurant]. I quite like their range of food- esp the thin crust pizzas. Infact, my last visit was during their Pizza festival which had me overwhelmed with the wide array of flavours. This time around, I ordered the Summer breeze [a cool refreshing drink made with orange, peach,  mango, lime juice shaken and served with a good portion of crushed ice] followed by a portion of the Thai Crunch salad [ which has Thai the Tostada Pizza [ which is a hot & cold pizza, with a generous splash of lettuce & tortilla chips on top] and then came the sinful Capriciossa pizza [ pomodoro sauce three cheeses, tomato, artichoke & mushrooms were the toppings on this one]

We were stuffed, else we would have happily tried few more options. But we did order up two of their finest desserts – Tiramisu and Sticky Toffee pudding- they were yummy indeed.. We sat around yapping a while longer, talking about travelling, destinations we could hit before finally making a beeline for the door. 

Whilst we were there, we noticed a long table filled with teenage kids celebrating a birthday party. Nice, good to see people thinking outside the box when it came to birthday bashes! Next time you are looking for a casual place to catch up with your friend, one that is not too crowded or noisy, you should head over to Phoenix to CPK [ it is located almost at the end of the complex, near the children’s play area]

Address:
California Pizza Kitchen
Phoenix Market City, Velachery
Chennai 
Ph- 044 65108888

Disclaimer: The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember these were just my views!! Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit 🙂