Thursday, December 24, 2009

Farmer's Brunch: Heartland Haryana, Hissar

A bunch of guys with Jeeps headed to the Heartland of Haryana, Hissar. Haryana has the GT Road, the Punjabised version of Haryana with Panipat Karnal, Ambala and there is the real Wild West Texas. Jhajjar, Beri, Rohtak. That’s a lot of Ghee, Beedis, and Blankets for entertainment. We were traveling in a Honda CRV, a Bolero and the good old trustworthy MM550 very nicely modified to suit the terrain.

We drove in the still of the night, stayed at the Hunting Lodge as friends, Sanjay, Abhijeet and others fondly called it.A Hunting lodge is a place which lacks a womans, touch which makes it a home. Next morning at the crack of dawn, we were dancing with the wolves. And at sunrise when the shadows grew short and the birds were resting and the canteens ran dry we got, Hungry. We headed to the Chuck wagon; in this case it was a Haveli at village Dabra. Abhijeet’s maternal grandfathers place. The 40 feet high door with metal and wooden embellishments spread open to a wide courtyard, the sun was strong mouth was dry. From the corner of my eye we saw the gringo whose forefathers have been serving seven generations of the Haveli and it’s Household.

We waited before breakfast, in the large and high ceiling drawing room with rafters which were over 107 years old the Haveli is 107 years old. The photos of Risaldars and Risaldar Majors of the Royal Bengal Lancers, though the carpets are plush and the toilets are modern. The haveli is an old building with modern amenities. We were very hungry and the Gringo called out.

I entered I was dismayed at the simple and frugal spread, few rotis, butter and pickles. When I focused better and dug in, the simplicity and the natural taste overwhelmed me and all of us. There was Missi Roti, with Cow’s milk and butter made from cow’s milk. Served with Kachri Chutney (a cross between cucumber and small melons), also used to tender game meat and pulverize table meat. The pickles, simple and delicious, a relish of Carrot, Turnip and Cauliflower also a pickle of fresh green chilies. Delicious. More Rotis rolled six of us wolfing them down the gringo is doing a marathon from the kitchen to the dining room, we are eating and eating.

The accompaniments, a raw and rudimentary Laadoo (a course sweetmeat, as the Haryanvi’s call them), a plate of Pinniis (more sweets) and some caramelized Gajar Halwa or Carrot pudding. You can run but you cannot hide from the Gringo who is serving us. The Food is delicious we all have nearly 6-7 rotis each, with milk that taste so light smells wonderful. Nothing that I have ever eaten, back in New Orleans, sorry in Delhi.

Amidst the feasting the old timers in Abhijeet’s family uncles and grand uncles tell us stories of the Old hunting grounds of the British India which transport us to the Rudyard Kipling’s India, The Hunter in the Sola Hat. Truly, you have to have, a simple and hearty meal and enjoy the simple pleasures of a simple meal, sharing stories laughter and mirth.
So good , not put on like a commercial Haveli of Rajasthan and quite far from the Bhoppa’s and Bhoppis serving the French in the Neemrana hotels, masquerading as the true Indian experience of this simple meal . Of course it did not cost us anything other than Goodwill Hunting ! Thanks Abhijeet and Sanjay. (Two photos of the haveli are courtesy Randeep. Thanks).
So whats your simple meal story ?
So long!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The 1600 Calorie Brunch : The Claridges, New Delhi

My Dearest wife Praveen is egging me by changing my environment and habitat from Street Food my natural Habitat to not only expensive but very expensive Brunch options. The latest is the 1600 calorie brunch at the lawns of The Claridges, In fact the Trilogy of the British Raj hotels in New Delhi all make very innovative use of the lawns, my previous blog has already mentioned about the Cavalry Dinner at the lawns of The Imperial (apart from wonderful winter lunches), The Brunch at The Claridges in the current post, The Economic Summit at The Ambassador in the upcoming post.

Yes, these three hotels The Imperial, The Claridges and The Ambassador (now a Taj Hotel), exude a certain character of an era. Although they are in different segments, they have a common thread and heritage about them. I got to visit all three within a month, with of course a little help from my friends! Cavalry Dinner (by the subsidy of the Cavaliers Association or perhaps The Imperial, drinks and Dinner for two @ Rs 2000/-) The Brunch @ The Claridges, wholly sponsored by Dearest wife Praveen, who induces me to a good life, otherwise I would have been a highway journeyman.

Now for the lunch which is largely food porn for my street hungry eyes, we started with a glass of wine, perhaps a dry Grover, with platter of cheese , tried six types of cheese, though ineptly laid out and served, cheese appreciation presentation will take a few light years to evolve (a loaded statement from a journeyman). Swiftly followed by Grilled Jumbo prawns and roast duck rolls with chives and plum sauce. Nice prawns, hint of prawn smell and the duck though heated under a lamp, elegantly called the salamander was cold and smelly (as in smelt of duck). Now interspersed with a bloody red Bloody Mary, impeccable service I must say (they spoil you). A slow sampler, of salmon, tenderloin steak, bratwurst (from the Grill). The Grill is very accomplished and the main attraction of the brunch, the eggs station was well unemployed. Sampled, bheja tawa fry, brains on a griddle with a varqi paratha umm okay. What got my heart and my vote apart from the service was the prawn and vegetable tempura with a lovely soya, ginger and wasabi mix (they brought the wasabi and the celery for the bloody marry from the main hotel kitchen on my request) and the appam with the stew, a humble dish but well done.

A quick round of a Mojito (too alcoholic), requested for a virgin Mojito …. Good. Deserts were ordinary, an apple turnover, Vanilla ice cream and Hershey’s kind of chocolate fudge, the hero was badam halwa made from only crushed badams and garnishes. I was too full to even look that way. At Rs 2200/- plus taxes it’s a trifle expensive. It’s a large spread , however, not a patch on the brunches at the Taj and Maurya Sheraton. The Sun and the service….. Oh yeah the service, makes up for everything.

Well personally, Buffet spreads vs. Ala Carte. In a buffet I am a sex crazed monkey, but with the ala carte I am the strong steady Husband or boyfriend at best. I am satisfied with what I have, I enjoy life at my pace and enjoy the dish of life. While in a Buffet, glimpse, ogle, a tit here and ass there at the end of the day could not savor anything tried to grab everything came bloated and unsatisfied. Well, yeah I am Ala carte, and steady kind of guy. I think Dearest wife is secretly testing me by exposing me to the big bad world of Buffets. I like them but I rather stick with Ala carte and her. A beer and a steak any time.