5 Food Trends You Can’t Run Away From in 2018

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If you’ve had enough of the smoke and fire and bells and whistles popping out of your plate of food, and would prefer to be incommunicado with Avocado (yes, we all need a breather from the Avo craze!), then 2018 is the year for you.

God save the Green!

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Lack of hygiene, increased heart-related problems and growing awareness of inhuman conditions of animals for slaughter is making more and more people switch to vegetarianism and veganism. I truly believe that not all who turn Vegan are doing it for fashion by day, and wearing fur by night. Some genuinely have trouble digesting milk products. And some really do love animals enough to give up eating them. It’s about where you draw the line, right? For example, I can’t bring myself to imagine eating horse meat.

And then there is the ab-mad, protein-hungry world that could potentially be lured into having plant proteins instead of animal proteins, as long as their washboards are intact. So all in all, green proteins seem to be the win-win solution for all. Although I AM a wee bit worried about what this sudden mass attention to plants and plant based products is going to do to the green cover of our planet… Rise of the Planet of The Fish???

For Guts and Glory…

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Food that is gut-friendly is going to take off and so should you! From the Indian Idli to the Ethiopian Injera, from pickled gherkins to spicy Kimchi, from probiotic yoghurts to raw cheeses, kitchens all over the world will be clamouring to bow allegiance to your stomach and serve you gut-friendly, easily digestible, pro-health plates of food. So no more excuses for muffin-tops and meat-beards, know what I mean? 😉

Getting hyper about local food…

Look around you, see anything interesting? How about those little Green Peppers, or those tiny Sour apples, or those luscious Sea Buckthorn berries, or those Filbert nuts that only grow in your part of the world?  Grab those and make a dish out of them. Because these haven’t traveled halfway across the world covered in wax to finally make it to your plate, but are growing locally, often in the wild. Because by picking them up, you are making a teeny-tiny contribution to your local farmers’ and foragers’ well-being, and helping your community too. And, finally because you have the upper hand in having access to something unique, which others outside your area don’t. And that makes YOU unique!

Putting booze on the snooze…

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Finish up all that’s left in the bottles in all that’s left of the year. Because if you want to be in on it next year, you will want to be seen reaching for the Kombuchas and the Lassis and the Grape Spritzers at the bar or at the house party. Alcohol free is the new cool, and the new way to keep your cool. And even your serving water with fresh lime or orange slices, or sprigs of rosemary, in clear glass jugs at your home do is going to draw admiring glances…

Pretty please!

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It’s the return of flower power. No, not a gun-controlled, terror-free, daisy-clad world, but a world of instagrammers who have the uncanny knack of making everything look droolingly appetising and mind-bogglingly beautiful. Maybe it’s a way of helping this bunch by giving them a natural, healthy tool to decorate their frames with. Maybe it’s a way to appease the ‘anti-bubblegummers’ – people who look down on those who love fruit flavours, and go for the next best thing, flower flavours! Or maybe it’s the striking visual of the barely-suppressed sexuality of eating Marigold, the Indian wedding flower, in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding that will be perpetuated in the big fat Indian weddings. But the use of edible flowers to add colour, vitality and fun to food plating, and a more unique and ‘new’ flavour to food and beverages is going to be one helluva trend next year. So next time you’re at St. Regis’s Luna, ask for my special Elderflower Martini. And watch out for Hibiscus lattes at your corner cafes!

Here’s raising a toast to your great, green, clean, gutsy, flowery and YOUNIQUE 2018! Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eat. Drink. Pa Pa Ya. Repeat!

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As a food aficionado in Mumbai, the excitement and challenge is in keeping track of the sheer number of new restaurants, cafes, restobars, nightclubs, pubs, lounges and bistros opening up in the city, given the sudden surge in the restaurant business. Just when you think you are on top of your game and have done it all, out pops another exciting new place to hang out at, another cracker of a dish to immerse yourself in, another cocktail to curl your fingers around and unwind to… This is why, going back to a place you have already visited needs not just good timing, but a very good reason too! And our repeat trip to Pa Pa Ya Colaba, nearly 2 months after its rocking launch party, had both… in plenty!

It was not only time to try out the plethora of reinvented, modern Asian dishes, designed by Chef Sahil Singh and his team, who have made Asian food look, taste and feel fashionable and fun. It was also time to reconnect with someone who, right from the time we first met at a food event, has been like a soul sister to me – the ever-bubbly, no-nonsense Punjaban Sonali Priy Kapoor 🙂

And oh boy, reconnect we did! Endless conversations on quirky date nights, crazy diet plans and laugh-riot anecdotes continued into the wee hours of the morning with plenty of singing and dancing thrown in for good measure. And the food? Here’s a closer look at the amazing dishes from the 16-page menu, that floated in from the kitchen with flourish…

 

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Pa Pa Ya’s claim of ‘high-energy dining’ is something that trickles through in many different ways, and is so much a part of the experience that you can’t really separate your own excitement from the energy around you. It is evident in the pops of colour, the loud electro pop music, the playful presentation of dishes in quirky bowls, tubs and platters, and the deft use of molecular gastronomy that heightens your experience, right from the signature amuse bouche of Watermelon Cubes in a Savoury Foam to the theatre of the giant fiery Chocolate Ball dessert. And yet, it does not muck around with a classic like the Slow Cooked Lamb Rendang, served with the flakiest Roti Prata from the streets of Singapore, which takes about 8 hours to get from the fire to your plate, but only a few seconds to make its way into your heart.

That’s what makes Pa Pa Ya a repeat offender… a place you would want to go back to for more! More of the fragrant pot-pourri of Asian dishes, and more of the comfort food you just can’t get enough of! And, of course, many more crazy nights like this one 😈

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Ooh La La! A French restaurant in Mumbai! (Flourish)

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You often hear people say that you can ‘see with your mind’, or ‘listen with your heart’ or ‘feel with your soul’. I believe them.

In fact I would take it a bit further and say that you can ‘smell’ something dangerous, ‘touch’ someone with your creativity and ‘taste’ the rain in the air before it comes pouring down. Try it, if you haven’t already!

But, ‘eat with your eyes’? Never been too sure of that one. It’s not just about getting past the literal meaning, erasing graphic visuals of eyelashes dipped in a soup or, worse, a forkful of Chicken Tikka Masala NOT heading towards your mouth… Ouch!

It’s also about those dramatic guys at Dans Le Noir who believe that dining in complete darkness enhances your experience of the food, because in the absence of visual clues from your eyes in a zero-light setting, all your other senses of touch, smell, hearing and taste become acutely sharpened to compensate for and boost your overall dining-in-the dark experience.

But then again, I would never say no to a beautiful bowl of Muesli like this one, 

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Pic courtesy Camille Styles

glistening with shiny spring berries, a mix of toasted nuts scattered liberally on it, and a blob of promisingly sweet creamy yoghurt resting gently on the top… even though Muesli is one of my most hated things to eat!

And then there are those dishes or cocktails served in smoking cradles and bubbling baths that look like something out of your dreams, but turn quickly into nightmares in your mouth…

Such are the conflicting thoughts that go through the head of a food reviewer such as myself (I hope and pray I’m not alone in this!) when trying out a plethora of dishes at a new establishment. Most of them stick to the middle section of the palate range based on which part of the globe they are in, albeit with a few rebellious nudges and touches here and there. But some start off at two extreme ends of the spectrum – too purist or too experimental. And then there are places like Slink & Bardot, the new French restaurant in the city of Mumbai, that are just delightfully unpeggable.

The curiously-named Restaurant and Lounge (ask the irrepressible and charming co-founder Nick Harrison for the story behind the naming 😉) is housed in a restaurant that has seen several changes of hands and paint and cuisines, but never so elegant in design or so plush in feel. The service is surprisingly intuitive and the servers very well-informed about the complex, multi-component dishes. The menu promises French dishes in small plates that are easy to pronounce AND easy on your pocket. (A tail-coated Frenchman somewhere in the world just shook his head in disgust at such a slight… ‘French and affordable? Merde!’)

And the food… beautiful to your eyes, flavourful to your nose, textured and nuanced to your palate and so good that you spontaneously want to give Chef de Cuisine Alexis Gielbaum a big bear hug… just don’t scare him off please because I want to go back for my next round and try out all the other fabulous secret recipes that he has up his sleeves that I got a delicious little peek into!

Here’s a look at some of the dishes and cocktails at Slink & Bardot. Drool, and then make a beeline for this beautifully-appointed cottage at the edge of the sea, and the Sea-Link!

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With Chef Alexis and Gaurav Sharma and Dolly Bose in the busy but pristine kitchen

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With the charming Nick Harrison, Suprio Bose, Dolly Bose and Gaurav Sharma at the lively bar

 

Riyaz Amlani and team Impresario, twirl your hand in a flourish, and take a deep bow, as the French would! 🙂