Waking up to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts!

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I have always loved doughnuts! What’s NOT to love about these cute, chunky things with a mysterious hole in the centre… dusted with sugar, filled with jam, covered in glaze or stuffed to the gills with custard crème? Bring ‘em on!

The freshest memory of fresh doughnuts from my Aussie past ;)

The freshest memory of fresh doughnuts from my Aussie past ;)

Some doughnut experiences have been more memorable than others. Like the one in Melbourne! It used to be a small, scrubby window right next to Footscray Station. Behind this, a portly Vietnamese lady (she was probably as fond of her doughnuts as we were!) would take a fresh, warm doughnut in her hand, fill it with jam from a dolphin-shaped piping nozzle, fling it briefly on a bed of fine sugar and hand it over to us in a serviette… all that theatre and deliciousness for a mere 50 cents! During those hectic Uni days of juggling classes, group assignments, waitressing jobs and checkout chick woes, these doughnuts played various roles in our lives – as breakfast, on-the-go snack, BYOB house party desserts, night caps, and even self-congratulatory awards on clearing term papers :)

More recently it was a funny episode in NYC. At Penn Station to see off my sister who was on her way to Boston, we decided to have ourselves a little farewell party with an Original Glazed each from the crowded Krispy Kreme store… and in the process almost missed her train! Remembering that mad dash through the milling crowds of the station still gets me chuckling… :D

The queue starts from where I stand... or not!

The queue starts from where I stand… or not!

Now, after several years of that happy-scary incident, Krispy Kreme has landed in my own city, Mumbai. For now, it’s one gleaming factory store that serves you the most beautiful, fragrant, hot and fresh doughnuts, (including an eggless option for just the Indian market) and lets you gawp at the entire assembly line process of how it is being made, right in front of your nose!

Hundreds of Krispy Kreme doughnuts coming off the assembly line, hot into your hands…

And it seems there is no end to Krispy Kreme stories everywhere. On the day of the first Krispy Kreme store launch in the ‘smart’ neighbourhood of Powai – IIT-Mumbai’s venerable and sprawling campus is right next door ;) – I turned up at the venue to see a few hundred people queued outside already. Ok, so I was not alone, big deal, right? Wrong!

With first-n-line Ashish and other crazy fans in queue outside the store

With first-n-line Ashish and other crazy fans in queue outside the store

A bunch of guys had appeared at 11.30 pm the previous night, and had been camping there all night, waiting for the store to open at 10 am! Since he wasn’t going anywhere just yet, I spoke to Ashish, the first guy in queue, and got his story out. An employee of CRISIL, he had first heard of the Krispy Kreme doughnuts when the fliers started popping into their office nearby a couple of weeks ago. He had made up his mind to be the first in queue then itself. Isn’t 12 hours before store opening kinda early to get there?, I ask cheekily. Nope, Ashish replies, not if you want to be the winner of the Golden Ticket that entitles you to a year long supply of free doughnuts! Ok, I agree, that’s incentive enough :)

The youngest fan... and definitely the cutest when she lisps out 'Kissspy Keeem'!

The youngest fan… and definitely the cutest when she lisps out ‘Kissspy Keeem’!

My sis sends some Krispy Kreme love from Bangalore... runs in the family!

My sis sends some Krispy Kreme love from Bangalore… runs in the family!

Yes, there is something special about Krispy Kreme. The Original Glazed Doughnut is the world’s favourite doughnut for a good reason… it is simply THAT good! And my first bite from my own oven-fresh Original Glazed, handed to me as I entered the store, somehow tasted even more lip-smackingly delicious! But why this looooong a wait for Mumbai? Bangaloreans have been gorging on their Krispy Kremes for over a year now, and showing off their 10 spanking stores!

The hugely coveted, closely guarded free doughnut vouchers... as good as gold ;)

The hugely coveted, closely guarded free doughnut vouchers… as good as gold ;)

Peter King, Vice President, Asia Pacific, takes off his tailored suit jacket to stay sane under a 38 degree sun, and replies cheerfully, with a wink ‘Sabr Ka Phal Meetha Hota Hai’ (translated literally it means ‘Sweet is the fruit of patience!’) Impressive! Dollars to doughnuts, I didn’t see that one coming ;)

Impressive was also the large flash mob that gathered out of nowhere and did a high-energy jig to Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’, getting the waiting crowd clapping and cheering along.

Sherry (remember A Band of Boys?) adds a touch of wicked fun!

Sherry (remember A Band of Boys?) adds a touch of wicked fun!

Because I'm Krispy Kreme Happy :)

Because I’m Krispy Kreme Happy :)

I may not have been the happiest when crawling out of bed at an unearthly 7 am to get to faraway Powai for the launch. But I sure as hell left happy. Of course, it had a lot to do with my happy box of doughnuts. But I was happier because, in 2 weeks, I would have a Krispy Kreme store in my own neighbourhood, Bandra – one that I can leisurely stroll to in 5 mins. Happy anticipation!

A Plateful of Sass!

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‘If you don’t like my pie, you are not welcome next time!’

Coming from the co-owner of an upscale restaurant, that’s sassy! And that’s one of the reasons why The Sassy Spoon at Nariman Point stands out amongst many other restaurants in the city that offer modern European food in an elegant setting. Cheerful, bandana-ed Chef Irfan Pabaney was probably only half-joking when he said that. Because the food that he and the ‘Cordon Bleu-d’, pretty co-owner Rachel Goenka put up at this toasty restaurant is bold in its flavours, happy in its portions and unapologetic in its quirkiness!

The 'awesome twosome' of Sassy Spoon - Chefs Irfan and Rachel

The ‘awesome twosome’ of Sassy Spoon – Chefs Irfan and Rachel

But Sassy Spoon is more than the sum of its Chefs and their prized experience of working alongside some pretty big Indian and International chefs. There are undertones of personal wacky food experiences and inspirations here. There is a playful pulse on the city’s taste buds – mixed metaphors just belong here ;)  And at the centre of it, there is an enormous amount of… heart! With all that going on, chances of your NOT loving the food are pretty slim, what say?

But Irfan and Rachel don’t leave things to chance. Yes, they are quick to experiment with flavours and textures. But these experiments are very often vetted by foodie friends, famed gourmands and food aficionados of the city… and sometimes, by people like me who live to eat, and tell it like it is.

Take for example the humble Goan Poi, a traditional bread from Goa, freshly baked here and now the hero of the bulked-up sandwich section. Like others, I loved the cute little Pita-like bread pockets, especially the Crumbled Cottage Cheese with Sriracha Mayo filling. But the Crispy Chicken filling felt a bit incomplete… some fresh salad leaves? Or a sauce maybe? Chef Irfan agreed, and promised to tweak it into shape…

The traditional Goan Poi with Crispy Chicken filling

The traditional Goan Poi with Crispy Chicken filling

Then there’s the Mac and Cheese. Hang on, before you run for the door, at least give the big, cast-iron skillet one last look. Because this ain’t no ordinary Mac and Cheese here.

A twist on the Mac n Cheese... Mince, Spaghetti and Smoked Scarmoza

A twist on the Mac n Cheese… Mince, Spaghetti and Smoked Scarmoza

Skillet hot Mac n Cheese with queso and water chestnuts, straight from the oven!

Skillet hot Mac n Cheese with queso and water chestnuts, straight from the oven!

It could be a Minced Beef Spaghetti with Smoked Scarmoza waiting for you on the gleaming, distressed-wood table. Or a Goa Sausage topped with Mac and Queso, served bubbling from the oven. Enough to get you back from that door and dig in.

The South African Bobotie, aromatic and fluffy

The South African Bobotie, aromatic and fluffy

And then stay on for maybe a South African Bobotie or a Spinach and Feta Flatbread. So, is the Bobotie any different from spicy Biryani in Mumbai? Is the Flatbread any different from a fresh, crusty pizza slice? Not really. But do they taste good and make you roll up your sleeves and jump in? Oh yes!

A hearty share-platter of Sambhal Spiced Roast Chicken with Ginger Rice.

A hearty share-platter of Sambhal Spiced Roast Chicken with Ginger Rice.

Fresh, crunchy and loaded Flatbreads.

Fresh, crunchy and loaded Flatbreads.

And that’s exactly what the chefs would have you do. Call the cuisine ‘eclectic European’, call it ‘country-style’. But if it makes you want to eat more, and come back for more, then the chef’s job is done! Well, almost… because Rachel feels her job is not done until she has filled you to your gills with her glorious desserts from a proud, 3-page dessert menu. I only had space for one, but I ended up trying FOUR desserts – the Seven Textured Hazelnut and Chocolate Cake, (which is the best sin to sin on, methinks!), the intense Lemon n Thyme Cheesecake (I love lemony desserts and liked the sharp lemon hit), the Plum and Almond Tart (homely and nice) and the signature Sassy Stacks (light Red Velvet squares, perfectly paired with a mugful of… Cappuccino Foam!)

Red Velvet Squares paired with a Cappuccino Foam make the Sassy Stacks a go-to dessert

Red Velvet Squares paired with a Cappuccino Foam make the Sassy Stacks a go-to dessert

The Seven Textured Hazelnut and Chocolate Cake... divine!

The Seven Textured Hazelnut and Chocolate Cake… divine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good food done. Now ready to pick one up and take off? ;)

Good food done. Now ready to pick one up and take off? ;)

What I like about Sassy Spoon is its openness. Not just the openness of space, with a high ceiling, and a giant wall full of pre-loved trunks that make you want to grab one and set sail on a cruise ship! It’s also the openness with which the Chefs view food per se, listening to what people want and like, taking in honest opinions, giving it a bit of their own cheeky personalities, and thinking up palate-pleasers that leave your tummy tickled pink! Mixed metaphors again? Well, blame it on the sass here!

Argentina Food Festival – A Tango with your Taste Buds!

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This year, the Latin Americans have really played with our hearts, haven’t they?

Earlier this year, they tugged at our heart-strings through the goofy Blue Macaw named Blu in Rio 2 – an adorable movie set in the vibrant, dramatic and colourful backdrop of the Amazon.

Just a few weeks after, it was the real-life drama of the FIFA World Cup that first divided our whole nation into ‘blue-white’ and ‘yellow’ – rooting for the Argentina and Brazil teams – and then united us in shocked grief because neither team lifted the cup! :(

And now, just a few months after, it’s a different kind of drama unfolding here… a drama bursting with the passions of the land that is Argentina! Those who have experienced the magic of the Tango, watching it (remember Al Pacino in ‘Scent of a Woman’? watch here!) or doing it yourselves, will know the beauty, grace, power and precision that it embodies. The food from Argentina is no less… it’s a Tango with your taste buds!

The passionate and powerful Tango!

The passionate and powerful Tango!

With an Argentinian Food Festival in town, Teddy and I, having failed miserably at Tango lessons with J J Rodriguez, decided to explore other things Argentinian, and hopefully enjoy them much more ;) So we headed straight for Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, and kicked off the evening on a quiet note with a crisp and fruity Chardonnay from the Mendoza valley of Argentina.

An evening of discovering Argentinian food!

An evening of discovering Argentinian food!

A crisp and fruity Chardonnay from Argentina's premier wine region in Mendoza

A crisp and fruity Chardonnay from Argentina’s premier wine region in Mendoza

But then, in walked the good-looking duo of Argentinian Chefs, Executive Chef Daniel Godoy and his assistant Agustin Bogado, from Alvear Art Hotel in Buenos Aires, and turned the tables… well, not literally ;) An animated conversation followed on food, culture, movies and, of course, football, and slowly the disappointed face of dear Mr. Rodriguez faded away…

Realising that we are true food adventurers, and eat pretty much ‘anything that moves’, Chef Daniel suggested we try tasting portions from the special menu, so he could take us on a culinary journey into the very fibre of Argentina. We were only too happy to go with the flow :)

And flow it did! The journey started with the traditional Empanada – a crescent-shaped pastry parcel with savoury fillings, sometimes sweet like our Karanji or Gujiya. These flaky dumplings with beef mince filling left Teddy smacking his lips… and asking for a few dozen more!

A deep discussion of how to make the tricky Parsley Sponge and the unique Cancheta!

A deep discussion of how to make the tricky Parsley Sponge and the unique Cancheta!

Chef Daniel’s take on the Humita, a classic Argentinian dish, was a first for me… and made me fall in love with the humble corn all over again! Set before us was a pretty mélange of fresh corn in a cheese paprika sauce, a slice of corn on the cobs, AND little salty, crunchy pods of Cancheta – a traditional un-popped popcorn, made painstakingly by first soaking for days, then deep-frying to give it that lovely brittle pop!

The Calchaqui Valley Humita, Chef Daniel's take on a classic and delicious dish

The Calchaqui Valley Humita, Chef Daniel’s take on a classic and delicious dish

The Chef’s favourite Quinoa Risotto followed, topped with a beautiful, green Parsley Sponge. And then came a hearty Fillet Mignon, served with the traditional tangy-sweet-spicy Chimichurri Sauce. Teddy liked the name so much, he got stuck with it… or rather I did, because the 3 boys got together and officially named me ‘Chimichurri’!

Fillet Mignon served with the traditional Chimichurri Sauce

Fillet Mignon served with the traditional Chimichurri Sauce

Finally it was time for dessert… and instead of one, we got a spectacular platter of desserts, made specially just for us! A Pumpkin Confit. A Dulce de Leche Icecream. An Alfajor – the traditional dessert of Shrewsbury-like cookies sandwiched with a dark Dulce de Leche paste. Crumbly bits of white Meringue, small dots of Vanilla Crème Anglaise, a large blob of Goat Cheese Sorbet and crunchy clusters of Almond Streusel. Every bit as great to gawp at, as it was to eat!

The spectacular dessert platter!

The spectacular dessert platter!

Just as we were about to demolish the dessert, Chef Agustin sheepishly announced it was his birthday! So a little candle was plonked on the mound of the Dulce de Leche icecream, and we had ourselves a little private birthday celebration – a birthday of someone who we had just met, who comes from the other side of the world, brought close to us through the magic of food!

Chef Agustin's Happy Birthday!

Chef Agustin’s Happy Birthday!

Yes, it’s the magic of food that unites, but it’s also an intangible connection, an invisible thread, that links Argentina and India in a secret bond. Some would put it down to similar customs, others to similar palates, weather patterns, love for colours, festivals, politics? But I think it’s just one young man, and our shared love for him… Messi! ;)

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