Durga Puja 2016 : Your best Mumbai guide yet!


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Most of you know by now (by virtue of being a Bengali, or being associated with a Bong!) that Durga Puja to Bengalis is more than just an occasion to worship the Goddess Durga as the destroyer of evil and the protector of humanity. This celebration of the goddess mother is quite simply the mother of all festivals in the country. Months of meticulous planning go into things like the theme of the pandal (marquee), food menu of the community meals ‘bhog’, ‘cultural program’ like plays and song and dance performances by community members, or which new saree or outfit to wear  on which day (with complete accessories like jewellery, bags, shoes etc., mind you!) And all this planning culminates into the 4 big days of the Durga Puja… or just ‘Pujos’ for those in the know  😉

274794-durga-devi-3It’s a level of excitement and energy never seen before and never witnessed later, and as a bystander, or a new-to-the-city rookie in Kolkata, you may well feel overwhelmed by everything around you. The mind-boggling array of idols and pandal themes; the loudspeaker music; the inimitable ‘bhashan’ and ‘dhunuchi’ dance moves; the bright, animated neon lights replicating scenes from pop culture; the dazzle of new clothes and jewellery; the smell of flowers, firecrackers, and smoke from the ‘joggo’ mixing with those of Chilli Chicken, Rolls, Dosa and Biryani from the limitless food stalls along every street; the surging crowds out ‘pandal-hopping’ at all times of the day and night; and the never-ending ‘adda’ sessions and reunions with friends, relatives, neighbours, their friends, their relatives and their neighbours too. Yes, it’s a lot to take, but then you never get to be just a bystander, because you invariably get sucked into the immense warmth and earnest enthusiasm of the community around you, and you too join in this thrilling celebration of togetherness, of life itself in a way!

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Living in Mumbai for the last 16 years, I used to miss the ‘Pujo frenzy’ that takes over Kolkata at this time of the year. But not anymore. What started as a small celebration by Bengali goldsmiths to keep alive the traditions in Mumbai, has seen a definitive and  collective flexing of the Bengali cultural muscles in recent years, resulting in more than 250 community Durga Pujas spread across the length and breadth of the city. That may be nothing compared to the 5000 plus in Kolkata, and a point of contention with Delhi-NCR’s 400 strong. But  when it comes to shining biggest and brightest, there’s no comparison to the glamour quotient in and mass enthusiasm for the Durga Pujas that are backed, organised, promoted and presented by some of the biggest ever Bollywood celebrities.

12065496_10156128484000117_8897506200787867502_nIf you want to want to immerse yourself completely in Mumbai’s own brand of Pujo festivities, you’ll find plenty to dabble with this weekend. And if you are confused about where to start, don’t worry, I’m here to help! Below is a meticulously put-together, pin-dotted and trivia-sprinkled Pandal Hopping Map of some of the Durga Pujas in Mumbai that you should, must and need to visit.

So girls, put on your traditional White Saree with Red border, and boys your Pleated Dhoti with Starched Kurta!

Gather up your gang, hire a car (please don’t drive, I beg you!), build up your appetite for plenty of delicious, hot and spicy Bengali food!

And let Follow The Eaten Path’s easy ready reckoner show you a fabulous and memorable Pujo in Mumbai! It’s absolutely FREEEEEE, no tricks, no IOUs. Just click on the location markers for trivia and info, and promise to have a good time, ok? Shoo… off you go!🙂

May these Pujos be the best yet for you!

Dashanzi – the art of food!


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The foodie gossip mills were abuzz with speculation on this new Asian place about to open in the city of Mumbai. But when it did launch, I was out out travelling in the castles and beaches of Spain! Not that I am complaining, but I hear I did miss a very hip and happening launch party with some stellar modern Asian food presented very artistically, in a buzzing art-district setting.

So last week when I had the opportunity to visit Dashanzi at J W Marriott Juhu, I was quite excited to explore this cool, new Asian fine dining destination in town. Bright poppy elements of modern art leaped out of corners and walls, lifting the mood of the dark polished interiors as we walked in, making me feel like I was in a sleek drawing room of a penthouse perched atop a dizzying skyscraper of a rich Japanese tycoon! The stylish bar, with possibly the biggest Gin collection in the country, is quite a vision with a plethora of popular and coveted labels stacked in a deliberately chaotic manner. I remember laughing out loud thinking ‘The bar is my oyster!’😉

Once seated, the dishes start arriving beginning with an elaborate Japanese Rock Garden style presentation of a Sushi Platter, with the gem-like Maki Rolls and Sashimi having way more eye-appeal than taste. But salvation is close by in the absolutely melting Pork Belly that literally falls off the chopsticks, served with a crisp bun called Mantao. And speaking of Mantao, here’s a slightly grisly folklore you will love. Just imagine the plucking chords of soothing Chinese music playing in the background as you read this…

“Long, long ago in a faraway land we now know as China, Chancellor Zhuge Liang, after winning a tough battle, was returning home with his tired, injury-ridden and depleted army. But a mountain river was proving particularly difficult to cross, swift and dangerous as it was. A Barbarian king helpfully asked the Chancellor to follow the Barbarian tradition of beheading 49 soldiers and throwing the heads into the river to appease the river god, who would then let them pass. But the clever Chancellor – possibly the first big foodie of human civilization! – decided to slaughter their livestock instead, filling this meat into head-shaped buns (round with a flat base) and throwing these buns into the river.  The river god, although tricked, was pleased enough at the Chancellor’s ingenuity to let him and his army through. And as a heartfelt ‘Xie Xie’ (thank you in my limited Chinese!) the Chancellor went on to name the bun Mantao, meaning Barbarian’s Head!”

Alright, back to present day and prettier things, like the charming little Steamed Dimsums, the beautifully tender Edamame Tofu served on a grill rack, and the Bombay Duck with Togarashi Mayo that looks like a fascinating Sea-Urchin on a rock! Very pleased with the eye-appeal, we power on towards the main course, pausing occasionally to sip on our crisp Asian Gin n Tonic and Chamomile Negroni, both very smooth and refreshing. And although the Lamb Chops are a tad dry, the simple deliciousness of the Miso Baked Silver Cod and the aromatic Chilean Sea Bass n Rice Hotpot make me promise my ‘taste buddies’ a return visit, or two!

The sensorial experience continues as a chef purposefully pushes in a trolley full of painting paraphernalia, rolls out a white mat covering our entire table and promptly takes to splashing different coloured fruit and chocolate sauces and nuts and crumbs in an exciting demonstration of live food art. And then as we watch breathless, the chef raises a large chocolate ball filled with frozen icecream, still spewing clouds of smoke from the liquid nitrogen inside, and drops it to crash and splatter, creating a beautiful pattern on the table mat, and prodding us into digging our spoons into the spoils as we marvel at the construction and deconstruction of the dessert.

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Dashanzi, true to its namesake of the posh, cosmopolitan art district in Beijing, is a sensorial experience of modern asian art, both in edible and non-edible forms. And while it’s true that not everything is on point, the beautiful flavour and texture combinations of most of the dishes (and we had plenty to eat!), and the quirky pops of Asian art, make it a place definitely worth experiencing and soaking in. Of course, the magnificent Gin bar helps too!😉



Why Should Sundays Have All The Fun?


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With the way things are going in the queen of suburbs Bandra, Saturdays and all other days of the week are fast catching up with the Sunday hallmark of lazy-easy-sleepy-foodie days. It all started with the cafe culture, those beautiful little social pockets where anything from casting for movies to marriage proposals to business startups are signed, sealed and delivered. Then Olive, the good ol’ Olive that has always been a trendsetter when it comes to food, fashion, flair and feisty pub nights, starts a Saturday brunch that every Bandra-ite worth his/her Pan Roll takes willingly to. And then comes along the All-Day Breakfast culture where you walk into an Indigo Deli, say, and chow down their best-in-town Eggs Benedict anytime of the day, and pretty late into the night too!


Pan Rolls… one of the staples of a Bandra Bakery

Today, with more and more bakeries opening their doors in the bakery paradise of Mumbai (Nostradamus may have said the number of bakery-cafes will outnumber the Catholics in Bandra by 2018… Any bets? 😜)  the legend of the Bandra bakeries takes on a shiny new avatar, with light bites and desserts available all day, all week, with room for everyone from the huge Poetry by Love and Cheesecake to the decidedly posh La Folie to the popular Theobroma to the tiny Spring St. Bakery. And the fact that all of them are co-existing with the still-flourishing old-timers like Hearsch, Andora, American Express, A-1, and of course, big-daddy Candies simply means you will never go hungry in any corner of Bandra… Now isn’t that a noble thought?

One new bakery to join the Bandra bakery bandwagon is the Boston Cupcakery, having created a frenzy of sorts with their delicious, steeply-priced cupcakes in Lokhandwala and Thane. But this outpost at the pretty corner that used to be Bru World Cafe is not just serving up their already-popular cupcakes, macarons and cupcake shakes, the recipes of which have been  perfected under the hawk-eye of Pastry Chef Erik Larsen from popular American TV show Cupcake Wars. This time around, there are savouries and salads as well, thanks to the tireless research and copious trials by lawyer-turned-chef Prangi Jain, the most obsessive of the five very young and very dynamic stakeholders in this venture.

And what this enthusiastic, business-savvy bunch of entrepreneurs brings to Bandra is a breath of fresh air in their slightly left-of-centre, and pretty bold, offerings. From a wholesome Roesti Waffle to a spicy and surprisingly good Keema Pav to the flavour bomb of the Thai Peanut Salad, the dishes are more than just casual light bites and will make for a good lazy brunch, as ours turned out to be in the company of Teddy, fellow-blogger Suprio Bose and cafe co-owner Yash Modi, bang in the middle of a Saturday! And if you are willing to wait a while for your coffee, the Cafe Medici with orange zest is delicious, especially when paired with the ab-defying, decadent Snicker Pastry!


But what’s a Bandra cafe if not more than the sum of its food? Keeping with this unwritten rule, Boston Cupcakery too has a lazy, laidback ambience, set in a cottage-style space with plenty of outdoor seating, so you can catch up on gossip, work and wooing at leisure, any day of the week. Or stop by after your jostle-jog-walk along the seaside promenades to quell those monster hunger pangs. Or pooh-pooh those little peckish feelings away that invariably creep up around 12 noon, 4 pm and 7 pm… is it just me??? Or indulge on your cheat day with your personal trainer in tow, just to show him how a dessert-happy heart is that much easier to motivate! 😋