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Travel back in time with Cafe Samovar

17 Aug

Ever wondered what would it be like to somehow travel in time and experience what Mumbai of the 70’s would be like? Well, you don’t need any time travel devices or creative dreams. All you need is to visit the Café Samovar in the Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, Fort.

Located in the creative hub of Mumbai, this Cafe is a small, intimate and a cozy affair. The entire café is a long narrow corridor with two lines of chairs and tables arranged on either side, the wall of the gallery on one side and the views of the sprawling green lawns of the Prince of Wales Museum (through a steel mesh) on the other side. Cozy cane lamps dangle on the ceilings and seasonal decorations (kites around the kite festival, rubber boots for monsoons etc) complete the ensemble. One thing that really strikes you is that time has stood still and nothing has changed here. The mode of payment here is still cash, there are no air conditioners, they still have those old style fans and the seating is like the restaurants in the olden days.

The Jehangir Art Gallery

The Jehangir Art Gallery

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An Afternoon at Amethyst Cafe, Chennai

24 Jul

On my recent trip to Chennai, my friend Sridhar introduced me to a coffee shop that I can only equate to being an oasis in a desert. After spending an entire morning outside in the Chennai sun (whose heat you actually have to experience to believe it) I was at my snappy best, when Sridhar suggested that we visit the Amethyst Café.

Amethyst Cafe, Chennai

Amethyst Cafe, Chennai

This Café is built-in an old building (was earlier a mill) and situated right in the middle of a bustling section of the city. However when I walked in into the Cafe, it felt like having time travelled into an another era altogether. This café has been beautifully designed as a colonial style building in the center – with round tables & wicker chairs, and a huge garden all around it. The gardens are beautifully designed with numerous trees,  smaller zen gardens, fountains, numerous birds and even has an in-house cat.  Though the café is right in the city center with traffic all around, somehow this café seems insulated to all the noise, chaos and general city sounds.

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A Cuppa coffee at Madras Cafe in Chennai

21 Jul

Earlier this year I found myself in Chennai for a quick 3 day trip. With no specific agenda, the highlights of this trip were meeting with my two friends – Deepa and Sridar, making a new friend – Lavanya (Deepa’s adorable 3-year-old daughter who only spoke Tamil), loads of shopping (no – no gold and no sarees) and loads of amazing coffee. With Deepa as an amazing host and Sridhar as a perfect guide, I saw and tasted a small slice of this city.

A cup of filter coffee. Pic courtesy - wikipedia

A cup of filter coffee. Pic courtesy – wikipedia

While I loved a lot of things in Chennai, my absolute favorite was and always is the filter coffee (pronounced as “filter kapi”).  Traditionally north and west India (where I come from) have been more tea drinking areas, whereas South India has always been a coffee drinking area. Now with a huge cultural shakeout within India, coffee has traveled and made home in a the taste buds of a lot of us (me included) but somehow no one has ever been able to replicate the taste of an authentic filter coffee here. So  it is no surprise that whenever I am in Chennai, the first thing I ask anyone for is – my cup of “filter coffee”.

So what makes the taste of this filter coffee so unique? First and foremost – the beans. The most commonly used beans are robusta (grown locally in South India) and mixed in a certain proportion with chicory. Secondly the method of preparation. This coffee is prepared using a simple filter which is specifically designed for the preparation of this coffee.

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Top 10 Unique and Unusual Things to See and Try in Dubai

29 Jun

Writing about my Dubai visit (November 2012) has been a lot of fun, and with each of my posts’ I have kind of revisited my entire vacation. However as all good things come to end, this is my last post for that particular Dubai trip. Though I am sure I will travel there again, but for now I couldn’t think of a better way to end this series than with a post on some of the unusual things to see and do in Dubai.

So do read on for my list of the most unusual things that you must see or do in Dubai –

  • Try flavored / normal camel milk – We saw this in a department store and just had to try it. It was slightly salty, very filling and is apparently very healthy. Though I must admit that I can’t drink this everyday. 🙂
Try Camel Milk

Try Camel Milk

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Top 10 Unique and Unusual Things to See and Try in Dubai

29 Jun

Writing about my Dubai visit (November 2012) has been a lot of fun, and with each of my posts’ I have kind of revisited my entire vacation. However as all good things come to end, this is my last post for that particular Dubai trip. Though I am sure I will travel there again, but for now I couldn’t think of a better way to end this series than with a post on some of the unusual things to see and do in Dubai.

So do read on for my list of the most unusual things that you must see or do in Dubai –

  • Try flavored / normal camel milk – We saw this in a department store and just had to try it. It was slightly salty, very filling and is apparently very healthy. Though I must admit that I can’t drink this everyday. 🙂
Try Camel Milk

Try Camel Milk

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Must Try Fast Food Places in Malls in Dubai

27 Jun

Shopping in Dubai offers everything that any other fun activity does – there is that thrill at the sight of beautiful new things, an adrenaline rush at finding something that you have always wanted (that too after a major hunting exercise) and the sheer joy on the swipe of the credit card for a purchase well made. During our trip to Dubai we indulged in this activity quite a bit, well to be honest, we spent 6 days in various malls and still didn’t see it all. While such mad non-stop shopping is fun, it also entails long hours and frequent energy breaks; and such breaks mean it’s time for some food and coffee. Since we spent a lot of time in malls, we got a chance to try out quite a few new eateries here, especially fast food chains, cafes, ice creams etc.

And based on my experiences, below are a few of my recommendations that you must try whenever you find yourself in any mall in Dubai 🙂

Just Falafel – This is an all vegetarian fast food chain with a menu consisting of all kinds of falafels (of course) and French fries, hummus, dips, salads, drinks and desserts. Also, their falafels are from around the world i.e. they have falafels in all the following flavors – Indian, Mexican, Greek, Japanese, Emirati etc etc. By the end of my trip this turned out to be one of my favorite places in Dubai (also a vegetarian’s delight) and I literally tried everything on their menu, though Mexican and Greek were my favorites. You can find out more about them at http://www.justfalafel.com/

Just Falafels

Just Falafels

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A Food Guide to Pushkar

24 Feb

Pushkar is any vegetarian and budget traveler’s food paradise. 🙂

The majority of the travelers visiting this town are foreigners and they live here for long periods of time. But the entire town is a temple town, hence any form of meat and alcohol is strictly prohibited. This has resulted in all kinds of cuisine being available here in their pure vegetarian avatars. This town is really small and for all practical purposes just one long winding road, but the number of eating options in terms of places and variety is just mind-boggling. And all this is available at dirt cheap prices.

So it’s no wonder that when a foodie like me landed in this town what happened – well I literally ate my way through the streets. My friends, Sonal and Partha had been to Pushkar a couple of months before us and they had spent about 10 days exploring this place and its hidden food gems. We tried their recommendations and found some of our own too. We were literally eating every 30 minutes here.

Since I loved the food here so much, I  am now listing the same below for everyone who is visiting this amazing town to try out and enjoy. Since I was busy eating and now reminiscing while writing, the descriptions are quite short. Hence take this as a teaser and visit Pushkar for your own experience. 🙂

  • Pohas – Every morning all along the roads people come with carts and set up street side  poha stalls. Poha is a kind of flat rice which is cooked with vegetable likes potato and peas and served with a garnish of fresh tomatoes, coriander etc. This simple dish served in a newspaper for just Rs 5 is the most amazing poha that I have ever eaten anywhere in India or at home. This is a must try for at least one day breakfast. 
A Poha Stall

A Poha Stall

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Swensen’s Ice Cream

14 Nov

Ice cream is my major weakness and I just can’t resist it whenever I travel. There is just some kind of an in built mechanism in me that just has to try coffee and ice creams in all new places that I travel to. So when we were going to Bangkok, my friend who had recently returned from there asked us to try the Swensen’s ice cream.

Swensen’s is actually an American ice cream chain that started in Thailand about 24 years ago and this has been a major success here.

Swensen Ice Cream Parlor. Photo courtesy -http://youdefineyou.blogspot.in/2012/10/hello-thailand-2-swensens-ice-cream.html

Swensen Ice Cream Parlor. Photo courtesy -http://youdefineyou.blogspot.in/2012/10/hello-thailand-2-swensens-ice-cream.html

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A Lunch date with May Kaidee

12 Nov

Anyone who is following my blog since a while, will now know that I keep hunting for vegetarian / vegan food wherever and whenever I travel. So when we were planning to visit Bangkok, some friends recommended the May Kaidee’s place to us as a must visit.

Initially we were quite skeptical because vegetarian food in Thailand is quite tricky (in some places that we visited they said that fish and shrimp paste is also vegetarian) but for some reason we decided to go and give this a try. And I am so glad we did.

May Kaidee’s is an institution in itself where vegan Thai food is concerned in Thailand and May’s story is a complete Cinderella story. This place was set up 20 years ago by May (pronounced as Mai), an extremely poor young girl who loved food but couldn’t follow her dream due to the family circumstances.  But after getting an opportunity to move to Bangkok to help her aunt cook in her vegetarian restaurant, May began to create her own tasty traditional Thai dishes that substituted meat with vegetables. And this was a huge success. Today the food at May Kaidee is some of the best vegetarian Thai food you’ll ever find in Bangkok.

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Being vegan in Phnom Penh

6 Sep

In quite a few countries being a vegetarian traveller is tough. To top this, being an Indian vegetarian traveler (one who doesn’t eat any kind of eggs, fish, sea-food or meat) is even tougher. While it’s a challenge to get food, its even more difficult when people don’t even understand what we eat. Hence when we planned our Cambodia trip, we were very mentally prepared that we will not get any food. However we were pleasantly surprised to find these two really nice places that served tasty “vegan” food to us.

1. Boddi Tree Umma (http://www.boddhitree.com/) – This is a small restaurant just outside the Tuol Seng Museum. We went to this place for lunch and by then had pretty much lost our appetites (after seeing the sights of torture in the museum). However this place just pepped us up – both with the ambience and the food. This place is named after a tree under which Buddha “saw the light” and has a beautiful courtyard seating as well as an indoor seating. This was started in 1997 and supports Khmer kids and families in difficult situations. They have a good selection of curries and sandwiches and the price is very reasonable. We tried the Cambodian curry and fried rice, which were super tasty and we were so busy eating that we just missed taking pics of the food 😦

Boddi Tree Umma

Boddi Tree Umma

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