Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bonds and Waist-Lines that Grow with Travel

This year began with an annual trip with my mom that has become a tradition. I wonder how the concept of a mother-daughter trip came about? When did we take our first trip? Of course I have no memory of the very first trip with just the two of us, but having my mom at hand, she reminded me that it was when I was 18 months old. We went to the US, apparently to maintain our green card status. That was news to me, I had a green card - what? Of course my parents gave up on the concept of living in America and decided that India was a better place for them and me. I am glad they did or I would be an ABCD (abbreviation for American Born Confused Desi) with an American twang (not that there is anything wrong with that).
More recently, most of the trips we take are in Europe as that is easiest for both of us. We meet in the middle, she flies from Bombay and I from New York. We like to go when the hoards of tourists have left. Food is a big motivator for us, trying out different kinds of cuisine and seeking authentic places to eat - we go where the locals go. My mom is a big fan of the Michelin-starred restaurants, so with each trip comes a few grand multiple course experiences that are very memorable. What's great is that we both have the same interests and preferences in travel. She does all the organising and researching that is always spot on. This is great because usually when traveling with my husband or friends that is my role. I guess I know where I get it from, but it is always nice to just show up and know it is going to be great (thank you mom). What I bring to the table (or so I would like to think) is the execution of the holiday once we are there. I talk to the locals to figure out what is the best place to eat, drink and visit. I am quite proficient in maneuvering through a language dictionary, be it English-Spanish or English-Portuguese. We make a good team and I always look forward to my annual 'girl trips'. So far we have been to Spain, Portugal, Austria, Budapest, Hungary and Italy together who knows where we will go next year? Open to suggestions.
Below are few pictures that are focused on food in Spain which is where we were this year. I have also detailed the names of restaurants that were memorable and exceptional.

El Club Allard (Madrid): We had an amazing 7 course meal. The food and service was spectacular.
Mercado San Miguel (Madrid): A cute market that had many stalls with the most scrumptious tapas, we wandered from stall to stall taking many little bites.
Cava Baja (Madrid): This is a street in Madrid right off Plaza Mayor that is packed with tapas spots. Extremely lively with everyone spilling into the streets. Any place you walk into will be fantastic.
Bodega de Santa Cruz Las Columnas (Seville): A corner spot right near the cathedral that had a lot of local flair. The best Patatas Bravas were devoured here.
Hotel parador (Granada): This was the laziest meal we had. Located near the Alhambra, it is the perfect place to spend an afternoon post sight-seeing. The meal started with olives and red wine, Soup and Paella was the bridge to the end of the meal which was  an amazing medley of cakes and ice creams.    

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Silence Below Thirtieth Street

I took the day off work today to help people who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. I did not have to go very far. Twenty blocks south of where I live was a totally different world, it felt like a war zone. There were hardly any people on the streets and the national guard was out delivering food and supplies to shelters. There were policemen at every intersection as the traffic lights were not working. I was humbled by the few shops that were open, they were giving food and water to people who needed them at no cost. Among volunteers were elderly people, children and even the people that had been affected directly. It felt like everyone came together to help. As I walked down the road people asked me if I was ok or if I needed anything. I felt a sense of togetherness and pride; it made me very proud to be a New Yorker.

I hope we recover soon, please volunteer if you can. There are many people that are stuck in their homes with no food, electricity or water. Many of them are senior citizens who cannot fend for themselves and need help. It has been a rough few days. The streets below thirtieth made me see how vicious nature can be.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Movies - it is Just Like the Movies

On sunday night all I could think about was movies depicting attacks on New York City; waves that come crashing down, engulfing the city and leaving it in ruins. This week my life felt like one of those movies. Sandy was approaching; the thunder, rain and lightning created a perfect symphony in the sky. I was sitting in my living room looking out of the window listening to the winds howl. I'm glad the Hurricane struck at night as it would have been much scarier to see her wrath in broad daylight.

Over the past few days I've seen many pictures of streets, subways and entire boroughs submerged in water. Friends & colleagues who live in Jersey and Lower Manhattan have no water and electricity. Surprisingly though, I still can't fathom it. I feel like an outsider looking on. I worked at home through the Sandy after-math on Monday and Tuesday. I was back in the office on Wednesday as I don't drive or use public transportation, the submerged subways and roads did not come in my way. My fridge was stacked up with supplies, I was one of those who bought water and canned food just in case; I even filled up my bathtub with water. I see the devastation around me and am thankful for not being affected by it directly. I am sure New York will feel and remember Sandy for months to come. It still feels a little surreal to me. Below are some pictures that I took this week.  

I pass this crane everyday as I walk to work and there it was standing to greet me post sandy  

We snuck into Grand Central just before the storm started; the policemen thought we were journalists thanks to the big professional camera my husband was carrying. I have never seen anything so amazing as Grand Central without a person in it. Of course we were discovered and promptly escorted out (oopps)

On Tuesday evening we took a walk to Central Park. We could not go inside but this shot gives you an idea of how beautiful, clam and serene the park looked. I wish I could have gone inside. It looked like being in a fairytale land.
The famous crane that we saw so many images of all through the week and all over the world. It is now a tourist attraction on 5th Avenue.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fall-ing In Love .... All Over Again

Manhattan in the Fall is when it is at its best. Every year when the leaves begin to change I marvel at the beauty of the city. The falling leaves give you a warm feeling inside, there is a skip in your step and a smile on your face as you take in the cool crisp air. I was in Central Park yesterday and I could not get over how beautiful it looked. There were people everywhere trying to capture beautiful moments with their loved ones; making the best of the gorgeous colors. I fell in love again with Manhattan as I do very year in the Fall. Below are a few pictures I took along the way with the camera on my phone. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Filtering The Noise Away

When life moves at a hundred miles an hour one must filter out the noise. Times Square is a place where the world moves at a pace that you can barely keep up with. People bustling, cars honking, everyone in your way tripping over one another. It is difficult to find any semblance of tranquility there, yet I did. I saw a woman dressed as a bride staring at the lights in front of her. It seemed as though for a moment she had filtered away the noise in the noisiest spot in the world. I was lucky to capture her tranquility even if it was just for a second. A moment later her friends gathered around her, popping champagne. She had just gotten engaged and her picture was splashed on all the screens around her. I quickly left her in her whirlwind taking with me the one moment where she was alone with her thoughts.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Just Do It ....

Every now and again I think of my blog that has not been touched since March. I have these grandiose ideas of what I will write about, what pictures I will post. These ideas stay in my head and I get too lazy to put pen to paper or more like finger to keyboard. Talking about pen and paper; I wonder if we will loose the term 'pen to paper ' in the future? I remember writing nonsensical letters on reams and reams of  paper when I was thousands of miles away from my loved ones. I had folders (the paper ones) for each person as I would receive as many letters as a I wrote. There was a certain satisfaction in writing on paper with a pen.... but I digress into the nostalgic world of the 'written' word when I should be focusing on my motivation (or lack there of) to post on this blog. 

Coming back to Just Doing It. "It" sometimes feels too big. Starting "It" as a result becomes too much of a daunting task to take on for the moment and 'It' gets shoved aside - to be tackled another day. Every task no matter how big or small has to start somewhere. So with that in mind on a Friday morning just before my weekly conference calls start I decided to 'Just Do It' and I write a little about just that. It is a start that will get me to choose a picture that goes along with this little blurb and if you are reading this then I guess I just did 'It'. I should make this a ritual before my Friday morning conference call every week.  I must put pen to paper and get more regular at posting on my blog and spying on my pictures and thoughts.
Nothing says "Just Do It" like a frozen peanut butter chocolate pie with a generous dollop of cream.
I know I shouldn't but what the hell.. every bite is like a piece of heaven :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bahamian Beach Bliss

If you are looking for a place where all you do is lie on the beach, read a good book, eat, sleep and drink - the Bahamas is your answer. This is the perfect mid winter break. The greens and blues of the sea and sky just takes your breath away. Nassau has some fun snorkeling and if you are interested in diving it is a great place to discover underwater beauty. We tried to stay away from the touristy places. Few delicious eating spots we discovered were: Cafe Matisse, Blu Bar & Dune. Also if you are looking for luxurious relaxation be sure to check out the One&Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island - it has the most pristine private beaches. For breakfast make a trip to Compass Point where you will experience Eggs Benedict & crepes that will tickle your taste buds. Our trip was all about hopping from one beach to another, while swimming with the fishes and eating tasty food. I came back relaxed and ready to take on the world. Below are some pictures, for more you can click on -> Bahamian Beach Bliss.  

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Taco Night

The beauty of Taco's are that no matter what you do - you can NEVER go wrong, it always tastes yummy. Taco's are also lots of fun; specially if you are having people over because there will always be something for everyone. Who can say no to avocado, sour cream or hot salsa. I am sure there are a few but we'll focus on the ones who like to indulge. Below is a summary of how we made the various components. I am not going to give specific measurements because there were none - it was all about tasting & adding a little bit of this n' a little bit of that. One thing I discovered that was absolute magic were Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce - this sauce has just the right amount of smokiness and spice. It is magical; I will definitely be experimenting with it more often.

Guacamole: 3 ripe avocado's + juice from 1 lime + 2 tomatoes + 3 jalapenos + cilantro + salt + 1 onion -> chop it all up and mix well; taste and add what you feel is missing

Slaw: This concoction was the brainchild of my darling husband. Chop purple cabbage, add to it a mixture of: light mayo + agave nectar + pepper + little soy sauce -> again taste and adjust; since everything else was spicy we made the slaw a little sweet to balance it out. Make sure you don't soak it in the mayo mix.

Fish: Marinate the fish (I used Tilapia) in a marinade of tomato from the Chipotle pepper sauce + salt + lemon juice + 1 tablespoon minced garlic for 30 minutes. Heat some oil on a saucepan and add the fish + all the sauce it has been marinating in. Finely chop 1 Chipotle pepper and add it to the pan. Reduce the heat and let it cook on a low flame for 10 - 15 mins. When almost done increase the heat for 1 minute to reduce the sauce;  flake the cooked fish it with a fork and it is ready to serve.

Other Stuff: lime, cut cilantro, sour cream and soft taco's

Now all you need to do is build the taco. On the soft taco add the fish + slaw + guacamole; sprinkle the cilantro, squeeze some lime and dollop on some sour cream, fold in half and take a big scrumptious bite!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Gemini Who Is Trying To Stick With It !

I am a person who can rarely stick to one thing for a long period of time. I need a new project or shall we say a little focus (change) to my existing one. I LOVE to eat and cook, so I decided to Spy on some of my recipes while capturing and documenting my cooking. Lately I have been trying to be healthy, but my palate yearns for tasty food. Below is a recipe for stuffed peppers & tomatoes; I have kept the fat out and the flavor in. Hope you give it a try.

Vegetables: 1.5 Purple Onions, 3 large Tomatoes, 3 large Green Peppers, 1.5 Tablespoon Ginger Garlic paste, 3 stalks of chopped celery, 3 Green Chillies chopped 
Spices: 0.5 - 1 teaspoon each of Garam Masala powder, Cumin powder, Coriander powder, Turmeric powder, a pinch of Red Chilli powder, 1 Tspoon of panch poran (optional), 3 curry leaves, Sriracha to taste
Meat: 1 pound minced chicken   
Other: 0.5 cup uncooked brown rice, salt to taste, 1 tablespoon oil
1. Cook the brown rice - I do this first as brown rice usually takes a while to cook
2. Dice the onions and green chillies
3. In a large vessel heat the oil, add the panch poran & curry leaves till they start sputtering
4. Add the cut onions & green chillies to the above, stir till the onions turn light brown
5. While the onions are cooking cut the tops off two tomatoes remove the pulp and set aside
6. Add ginger garlic to the onions, stir for a minute, add all the powder spices and the pulp from the tomatoes - let it simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally
7. While the above is cooking cut the tops of the peppers and the tomato removing the seeds / pulp to make hollow casings; keep aside
8. Add the mince chicken to the tomato mixture; mix well and cover to let it cook; make sure the heat is on medium so that it does not burn
8. When the chicken is almost cooked add salt & sriracha (depending to level of heat you would like) to taste
9. Add the cooked brown rice & chopped celery to the chicken mixture. Let it simmer for 5 minutes or till the chicken is cooked
10. Turn the oven on to 355 F
11. Fill the tomato and peppers with the chicken - brown rice filling
12. Place on a flat surface and cover the peppers & tomato with foil
13. Bake covered in the middle rack of the oven for 20 -25 till the tomato & pepper softens a bit 
14. Garnish with coriander or sriracha or mint leaves (whatever is in the house !)

Variation: Whisk in a bowl -> 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon sriracha & a dash of soy sauce. When the pepper / tomatoes are almost cooked remove the cover, add one spoon of the mixture on top of each and put on the top rack of the oven at 375 F for 5 minutes or till egg mixture cooks.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Let the Sunshine In

I hate dreary days in Manhattan. I can take the rain and I can take the cold but both together are the worst combination ever. In India when it rains it is beautiful. You smell the fresh mud as the monsoon cools down the sizzling hot ground. In New York when it rains all I want to do is curl up in bed and do nothing. My bones get lazy and efficiency is at an all time low. Today was such a day; the rain was annoying and slushy. This day reminded me of how great it is when the sun shines. This took my thoughts to Portugal and the time I spent in the Algarve - the southern most tip of Portugal. In the Algarve the weather is perfect; you lie on the beach, swim with the fishes and take long walks. The sunsets are gorgeous; I have never seen so many colors and beautiful cloud formations ever in my life. On dreary days like this I look back to the lovely experiences that the sun has given me and I know even though it is hiding behind those clouds today, it will come out tomorrow or the day after and bring back the warmth; until then I seek it under my covers in bed.