Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas & New Year 2014 at Courtyard by Marriott Pune City Centre

Christmas just went by and the whole world was swept with emotions most pleasant. Good food was consumed with gusto. At Courtyard by Marriott Pune City Centre was no different. On December 24, a special Christmas Eve buffet was laid out for the interested Punekar. Quite a few walked in with quizzical faces and went out with happy grins, courtesy the fabulous spread of combination of Indian and continental food.

Starters like Honey Chili Potatoes, Bhatti Da Kukad and Dhuan Aur Sarsoon Ka Paneer wowed us. There were also veg salads like Grilled Veg Antipasti Platter, Crispy Nachos with Guacamole/Salsa/Sour Cream and Venetian Artichoke Corn Salad which were interesting. Fennel, Orange, Rocket, Nigella got my taste buds tingling with its simple dressing. I loved the assorted salami slices which tasted well with the Hard Rolls. The exclusive salad bar looked amazing with the assorted selections like Seafood and Meat Selection (Seafood & Meat Selection), Assorted Lettuce, Dressings, Condiments and Breads. Then there was the usual Cheese Bar and Non-veg Salad Bar. I personally loved the sublime taste of the French Onion Soup. The usual Christmas specials – Roast Stuffed Whole Turkey, Honey Baked Leg Ham with Green Peas and Bacon and Suckling Pig – too were seen.

I saw the Main Course too equally divided in Indian & Continental food spread. There was Barbarie
Duck Breast with Orange Ginger Reduction, Pork Tenderloin with Port Wine Glace Topped with Apple and Apricot, Methi Ki Khush Mehak Machalai, Kadahi Ki Subzi, Gobhi Musallam, Dum Nali Ka Gosht, etc. I choose to dig in to Nutty Ricotta and Prunes Stuffed Chicken Breast with Mustard Sauce which was tempting but not as brilliant as Nazakat Ke Koftey and Tawa Murgh Zor Masala. The creamy dense flavour of Dal Makhani had to be had. Subz Chilman Ki Biryani was another well-prepared rice dish – typical but good. It was a hearty meal which finally led to the desert section with varieties like Exotic Cut Fruits, Chocolate Yule Log, Chocolate Stuffed Gulab Jamun, Chocolate Mud Pie, etc. Each of the desserts completed the meal with aplomb. This Christmas Eve menu came at the price of Rs 1, 200 + taxes per person for non-alcoholic package while the unlimited domestic alcoholic package was priced at Rs 1, 499 + taxes per person.

Now comes the best part for those looking at celebrations around New Year’s. On December 31st, one can attend the New Year’s Eve Countdown Feast priced at Rs 2,999 + Taxes per person and is inclusive of unlimited food and alcohol. It will be on several levels for any kind of crowd wanting to enjoy the moment. Starters will be served at the Cafe & Lounge, with items like Prawns in chilli garlic sauce, Amritsari Macchli, Peshawari Chicken Tikka, Mutton Shammi Kebab, Satay Bar, etc. Variety of Soups & Khow Suey Counter and Bread Display will be at Cafe, L1 and Lounge. Salad Bar, Assorted Sushi Roll Station, Seafood Bar, Charcutiere Selection, etc, will be seen at Cafe & Lounge. You can try the Live Counters like Chaat, Gujrati Tawa, Grill, Lebanese, Italian, Roast, Asian & South Indian at the poolside and lounge. There will be your usual Indian Selection Buffet at Cafe, L1 and Lounge, while deserts like Passion Fruit Pannacotta, Chocolate truffle Cake, Baked dry fruit tarts, Poached pear in red wine with cinnamon and oven baked green Apples in white wine, Selection of Petit fore and chocolate truffles, etc., and Hot Dessert, Ice Cream Station and Crepe Station would be stationed at Momo 2 Go. One can also try the Only Midnight Buffet at Rs 699 all inclusive per person. Several fun events will mark the occasion.

Wait, there is more. For those wanting more and others who missed the previous outing, they canst 2015, which will be Rs 1,199 + taxes per person inclusive of a glass of sparkling wine and Rs 1, 499 + taxes per person inclusive of unlimited domestic alcohol. Here you can start with Veg Salads like Grilled Vegetables Marinated In Pesto, Panzanallea Salad, German Potato Salad, or gravitate towards Non-veg Salads like Mix Seafood with Pommery Mustard Dressing, Oriental Chicken Salad, Chicken Chat, Roasted Lamb with Tzatziki, etc. There will be your usual Cold Meat Platters with assorted items and the Cheese Platter. Be healthy with the Chef Salad Counter with dishes like Assorted Lettuce, Marinated Boccancini, Marinated Feta, Marinated Artichoke, Marinated Palm Heart, etc. Try going towards the Chaat & Sushi Counter. Get surprised with the Food from Hot Kitchen – Buffet consisting of Indian & Continental dishes, Hot Action Counters (Egg, Pasta, Shawarma, Oriental Stir Fry, and Roast). Feed your sweet tooth with French & Continental Pastries, Indian Sweets, Breakfast Pastries and even Pastry Action Counters like Waffle & Pancake Station.          
come for the New Year’s Sparkling Brunch on January 1

In short, Courtyard by Marriott Pune City Centre will not just wow you with food and events on New Year’s Day but also the day after. Located near Jehangir Hospital, it would be a good idea to contact them soon for a party within your budget and for the entire family. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Nivedita Saboo & Shouger Merchant Doshi rock 5th Pune Fashion Week

Designer Nivedita Saboo with actress Lisa Haydon in one of Saboo's creations
The fifth edition of Pune Fashion Week saw some amazing names scorch the ramp at Ishanya Mall from December 19-21 with their interesting collection. Amongst the designers to make their mark were Pune’s very own Nivedita Saboo and Mumbai-based Shouger Merchant Doshi of Zanaaya Couture. While model-actress Lisa Hayden was the shining star for Saboo, actress Shriya Saran looked amazing in Shouger’s creation.

Model in Nivedita Saboo creation
Nivedita Saboo, as usual, challenged herself to do something exquisite. This time, she came up with “A Rendition of the Raj”, a collection which was the interpretation of colonial India. The contrast of the cultures came here in an interesting fashion. Myriad elements of the eras showcased the culture of yesteryears in the western silhouettes and traditional indian drapes. The result were some beautiful creations with great fabrics. It’s an amalganation that was never seen before. The show had Miss Diva Universe 2014 Noyonita Lodh open the show in a ash grey Chantilly lace gown, while actress Lisa Haydon was the perfect show stopper.

A Shouger Merchant Creation
Shriya Sharan with Shouger Merchant
Called Urban Melange, Shouger Merchant Doshi’s collection for PFW spoke about opulence via the Indo-western outfits. The traditional aspect was a kept strong, making it ‘Trenditional’ in her terms. The range was for every occasion, from smart casuals to evening gowns and dresses. The colours were as vibrant as possible and seen on fabrics like satin, georgette, nets, etc. Of course, it had to have the usual detailing to make it work of art. The collection became better with Rejuvenate jewels by Sushma Mehta Shah – a unique handmade designer couture costume jewellery designer.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tales of the bard

Works of Shakespeare came alive via a theatre workshop – Bringing Home the Bard held at British Library last month. Facilitators Shivani Karhadkar & Saket Raje spoke about it. 

William Shakespeare is a name commanding utmost respect in world of English Literature, but the young especially have truly not got the gist of his genius. The British Library made sure youngsters between 12-20 age group fall in love with The Bard with its theatre workshop called Bringing Home the Bard: Works of Shakespeare by Shivani and Saket. Here, the world of Shakespeare was revealed to the young ones and helped them understand him better. It was under the guidance of Shivani Karhadkar, a theatre facilitator and Saket Raje, a theatre teacher.  

What made you take up the topic of introducing Shakespeare to the youngsters?
Saket Raje: I recently attended workshop at Adhishakti, Pondicherry, organised by Royal Shakespeare Company and British Council named ‘Bring home the bard’. The idea was to make William Shakespeare’s text simple for students and interpreting his text. We learned new techniques of handling Shakespeare’s plays and working on staging of these plays in different forms. The second motto was to conduct such workshops across India. I think youngsters are more open-minded and if they are aimed at the this age, then it will be more simpler for them to understand Shakespeare.
Shivani Karhadkar: I have been an avid fan of Shakespeare since an early age. However, I had a fear of presenting this archival language. But when I attended the workshop by Royal Shakespeare Company, it showed me ways that I could present the works without making it difficult. It was then I realised I could remove the same fear from the minds of youngsters and make them feel comfortable with his works. We tried to introduce the works to the children in a manner that makes it totally interaction-oriented and lively for youngsters.

Why do people thing reading Shakespeare is tough?
Saket: People tend to focus in a negative way, only towards the language aspect of the literature. The performance part is completely ignored. If this notion is addressed systematical and people’s misconceptions are clarified, then there is higher probability of people enjoying his plays. 
Shivani: Shakespeare wrote in the archival language. And that language is certainly difficult to grasp in a single reading. He often wrote his works as poetry. We have so little time nowadays and the reading habit is so rare, that Shakespeare is certainly difficult for most. In some cases, I think it’s a prejudice that has taken root in many minds. 

How did the pairing up happen?
Shivani: Saket and I have been co-actors and colleagues for the past four years. We have also attended the Royal Shakespeare Company workshop together. We have also done a lot of productions together for Mystique Studio of arts. 
Saket: We have staged many plays together and have also achieved many state & national prizes. Some of our recent productions were Mirad A boy from Bosnia, Macbeth, Ajacha Baki Itihas, At the Ark at Eight.

Your personal favourite Shakespearean work?
Saket: I cannot chose one play, as Shakespeare has written many plays under different genres. It will be a never ending list of plays - Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Othello, Twelfth night, Julius Cesar and so on.
Shivani:   Each & every work of the Bard is unique and wondrous. I recently directed a production of Macbeth, and it  was an eye-opener. Every word or line has something to share. I have many favourites like As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, King Lear, Titus Andronicus, The Taming of the Shrew... the list in unending. 

Photo Credit: 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Food Talk With Shipra Khanna

Masterchef Indian Season 2 winner Shipra Khanna speaks about her new book The Spice Route at the 2nd Pune International Literary Festival.

India and food is quite synonymous and Indian cookery shows rule the roost on television. Amidst all this jazz, we have Masterchef India which has its unique way of bringing out the best in amateur cooking to the forefront. Shipra Khanna won the Masterchef India 2 (and our hearts) with her unique style of global cuisine. After the win, she started her own restaurant, starred in her own TV show, toured the world and so on. She was in town recently to talk about her new book The Spice Route at the 2nd Pune International Literary Festival and also be a part of the special Masterchef Australia show.

Shipra Khanna
We, of course, begin with the talks of the new book she has launched – The Spice Route. Shipra narrates, “I was thinking about which way to go and wanted to do something different… just like I do with my cooking. I wanted to do something which people could read and cook as well. And that is where the whole thought of the book came from and it was compiled together very well.”

These days, it is about marketing the book to reach a wider audience. She is clear about these factors. “When I won Masterchef, everything I did or got on the plate was well-appreciated. And the basic funda of life is that if you do something from your full heart, it reaches out to people and is well-appreciated. And that is what I have done in the book. I have put in my travels, the Himachali recipes which the Himachalis wanted, etc. I put everything together and people just loved it.”

One always feels that there is an X factor which takes one from mere passion for cooking to the desire to prove yourself in that field. For Shipra, this passion for cooking made her enter this competition. “I think I am just born with culinary skills. It is god’s gift. I can’t think beyond it. I don’t have any training in this field. Whatever I learned is from my family and god made me just cook.” She prefers calling her experience in the Masterchef India competition as a spinner in her life where everything just happened. “I remember a lot of the experiences but there is one of them which I can vivdly tell. We (that is the final six or eight of us) had to get a ticket to Hong Kong. We were down to the last three and had to cook something from the entire banana tree. I don’t like bananas at all. But I quickly made a pie with different ingredients. There was kiwi, apple, chironji and stuff like that. I won and got the ticket. It was a spinner as the full tree had to be incorporated in the food.”
Speaking about the special Masterchef Austrialia show, Shipra adds, “I am going to shoot for a special show called Masterchef Travel. It is the culinary journey all over Australia and I am travelling with Cox & Kings. Whoever will be booking with them, I will be taking them on this culinary journey.”

Every chef worth his or her salt has a favourite cuisine. Shipra reveals, “I love baking like cakes, desserts, etc. I also love French cuisine as lot of baking is involved. This cuisine brings out the best in me as they bake stuff like breads and croissants You need to put in a lot of technique, efforts, hard work and then you get the result.”

In future, Shipra Khanna wants us to expect a lot from her as she is doing a lot of things. “A couple of my new books are coming out. I started with my YouTube channel and I am also doing this show to Australia. I am doing a couple of TV shows and a couple of them are already on air.” Here’s to some sumptious cooking!