Monday, September 12, 2011

Mexican Fiesta @ Hard Rock Cafe - A taste review

I love Mexican food. Always have. When Hard Rock Cafe invited some of us bloggers for a taste review of their Mexican Fiesta Menu, was I thrilled!! I've also always liked Hard Rock Cafe's, particularly their music and ambience. So, Alieana, Madhuri, Suma and I met there one afternoon. 

About the menu - had all the usual mexican fare of tacos, burritos, tostadas and the event being in Hard Rock, there was also a Burger with a Mexican twist. Add some very interesting cocktails to this and you have a winner of a menu. 

It was an afternoon to remember - good food & drinks, great company and nice music. We met there about 1pm, HRC keeps its music mellow till abt 4pm, and then pumps up the volume. When we left the volume was pumped! You get the picture!! 

We met with the Chef, who gave us a brief run down of the menu, understood that 3 out of the 4 bloggers were vegetarians and suggested appropriate menu options for us. And then the food came! And so did the drinks!

We started lunch with the Spicy American Corn & Danish Mozzarella Samosette. This was served with some salsa and a basil pesto dip. The dip alone is worth another visit! The samosette was very good. Little morsels of corn / mozzarella wrapped in phyllo and fried. 

Next, we tried the Tacos. They serve them with grilled chicken, beef chili or cottage cheese. We sampled the cottage cheese tacos. Crisp corn tortilla shells brushed with a tangy / zesty BBQ sauce and filled with your choice of filling (meat or paneer) and lettuce, tomatoes, olives, pinto beans & spring onions. I loved the lively flavor of the BBQ sauce. This was served with house-made guacamole, pico de gallo & sour cream. 

We then moved on to the Burritos. They have a chicken & a cottage cheese version of this as well. Basically a flour tortilla brushed with chili-garlic sauce and filled with lettuce, tomato rice, seasoned cottage cheese, spicy bean ragout, mixed cheese and some veggies. The chili-garlic sauce added a very nice flavor to this dish. The burritos come with a side of fries, guacamole & sour cream. 

After this the tostadas made their way to our table. They have a BBQ Chicken or a Beef Chili. Chef made the chicken for us vegetarians with paneer instead of chicken. It was good. So what is a tostada, you wonder. It is a Mexican Pizza. This was a thin crust base brushed with a chili sauce and topped with seasoned cottage cheese, red peppers, caramelized onions, mixed cheeses & jalapenos. 

By now we were all rather stuffed, but we still had to try the burger and the dessert. The burger was very good, I could just manage a bite! I'd an idea of what the dessert was, so I decided to save my appetite for it!  

While all this food was happening, we also sampled some of the special Tequila based cocktails created for this event - Chapala, Diablo, Ginger Fiasco & Payback. Of the lot I can still taste Diablo & Payback. The other two drinks were good, but they took the back seat! 

The Diablo - black currant infused, with hints of ginger & lime. The Chapala - watermelon based, was nice, but was completely dominated by the Diablo & Payback. 

The other two drinks we tried - Ginger Fiasco & Payback. Off these two again, Payback dominated with the sneaky jalapeno aftertaste and that nice burn. Loved it! The Ginger Fiasco was also good. 

The Payback - kiwi flavored with hints of jalapeno, a definite winner. 

Now came the dessert, chocolate pyramids in white & dark chocolate served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream & a dash of chipotle sauce. The habanero peppers used in the sauce was a good compliment to the sweetness of the chocolate & vanilla ice-cream. 

Wrapping up, I'd say it was an enjoyable lunch and certainly worth a visit. I did feel that the veggies got an overdose of paneer, but that was because we tried all the dishes on the menu. If ordering just a main course, just a burrito would do! This is HRC, their portions are large and the drinks are mixed generously! 

They have valet parking. Check out their website for the promos for this event. The Mexican Fiesta ends on Sept 18th. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a bite @ Hard Rock Cafe, St. Marks Rd. Bangalore. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Au Bon Pain

I first went to Au Bon Pain when I visited my sister in Pittsburgh. I got off the flight & was hungry, so she took me to the Au Bon Pain in the airport. I went wondering what I'd get there to eat. And hoping it would be healthy and not the usual American fare! I had my taste of broccoli & cheese that day. Now, here I must mention that I am not a fan of broccoli (read I never ever ever ate it before & thought of it as spoilt cauliflower!!!). However sis insisted it was great & since I was tired, I gave in, thinking the cheese would camouflage the broccoli. Was I surprised - the soup was delicious!! So, much that I insisted on taking some back for dinner! :) Since then I've always loved Au Bon Pain.

When I learnt that they were opening in Bangalore I was thrilled. I've been to their outlets in Mantri Mall, Eva Mall, Richards Park & Cunningham Rd. Au Bon Pain has recently opened a cafe in Koramangala at the Sony signal.

Parking there is going to be difficult, but for folks with offices around there, you just got a place to go to for healthy meals! Can you believe in this day & age, they actually do not serve any fried food in their restaurant. Yeah, you read right, no fried food at all!! Interesting isn't it?

We were invited for a preview lunch to the Koramangala cafe. We started off with the soups from the soup counter. They have a different soups every day - 2 veg & 2 non-veg. They provide small glasses, so you can try all the soups available & choose the one you like best. Here's a picture of the soup counter -
Au Bon Pain offers a variety of breads for sandwiches - farmers, focaccia, baguette, whole wheat among others. Veg & non-veg meals are prepared on different counters. Here's a view of the kitchen -
We tried the chicken pesto sandwich on the farmer's bread & a hummus & olives sandwich on a jalapeno bagel- both were good. P being a biryani fan tried the chicken biryani and wasn't very impressed. Considering this is a bakery cafe, biryani might not be the best item to choose from the menu. Au Bon Pain has a variety of salads, baked goods & assorted desserts. I loved the cinnamon roll from the bakery and the espresso mousse (- simply divine) from the dessert section.

Oh, how can I forget the coffee! Really good stuff! And at Rs.20/- very good VFM too! They also had a cold coffee and some iced teas. And all of them reasonably priced too. Well, all items are reasonably priced and made fresh. This is one place I'll be going back to often.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, eat well & eat healthy! 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chili Biscuits and a Food Blogger's Day at HyperCITY

Fellow food-bloggers Madhuri (Cook-curry Nook), Suma (Cakes & More), Bridget White Kumar (Anglo-Indian Recipes) were asked to come to HyperCITY for a Food Blogger's Day. They had also asked that we come prepared to make / bake something at the store, so I carried with me a batch of chili biscuit dough. Once, there I realized I could have gathered ingredients from the store & put together my recipe!

Now, about HyperCITY. I've been to both their stores in B'lore - Whitefield & Bannerghatta Road. First impression - wow! so much space & so like walking into an US super market. I loved it. They have a wide variety / range / selection of groceries, provisions, utensils, appliances, home-wares and electronics. Here, I must honestly confess I was all agog about the wide variety of vegetables, diary & groceries that I just just quickly peeked at the other sections only. There prices compare very favorably to other stores for speciality products like mascarpone cheese (this is one item I remember, because I am always looking for it!). 

So, we walked through the vegetable & groceries sections and picked up what we wanted to make our stuff, and returned to the demo area. After a few hitches this was all set up. Bridget made some no-cook trifles, Madhuri made an eggless 5-min microwave chocolate cake, Suma made a 2-min microwave brownie & I made the khara (chili) biscuits. We interacted with the customers and amongst ourselves and had a fun time! Thank you HyperCITY for having us over. I'll surely be a regular shopper here!! 

Oh... you want the recipe for the biscuits? Do try it, this is a simple recipe even for novice bakers. Chili or Khara biscuits as they are known in the local bakeries is a hot favorite at home. P loves eating them straight out of the oven. This is my mom's recipe with a few additions thrown in by yours truly! Well, I did say I never follow a recipe, didn't I? 

Maida - 1 cup + 4a tbsps (see notes) + flour for dusting 
Butter - 3/4 cup 
Castor sugar - 2 tsp 
Salt - 1tsp 
Ginger pwdr - 3/4tsp 
B.pwdr - 1 tsp 
Yoghurt - 2 tbsp
Green chili - 4-6 

Mint - 10-12 leaves 
Curry Leaves - 10 leaves 
Onion - 1 med 

Sieve 1 cup maida, b.pwdr, salt, sugar, g.pwdr 
Chop onion finely 
Mince green chili, mint & curry leaves 
Cream butter till smooth 
Tip in yoghurt beat till blended 
Sprinkle 2 tbsps maida over the onions, mix well 
Toss dusted onion, curry leaves, mint, chilies & mix on low speed 
Add flour a little at a time & combine till all flour is added 
Transfer to a lightly floured surface & knead gently to bring together 
Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness 
Cut into biscuits
Bring the remaining dough together & repeat till all the dough is used up
Place on ungreased cookie sheet
Bake @ 200 deg cel for abt 10-12 mins or the sides turn golden brown 

Notes - 
Please note that depending on the oven, the bake time will vary. So, keep an eye on the cookies and pop them out of the oven when the sides turn golden brown. For every cup of onion you'll need 4 tbsps maida for dusting. 1 medium onion should be around 1/2 a cup. 

Mads, the pics are on the phone I shall post them in a couple of days! :) 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bisi Bele Bath Masala Powder

I promised myself that I'd blog at least once a week in 2011, actually that was a New Year resolution. Hmm like all resolutions, that too went out the window right at the start of the year!!!  Oh, I have reasons a-plenty  - in Jan I wasn't in the pink of health, in Feb / Mar I was traveling lots & in April - I wanted to blog, but there were some problems with my account and I wasn't able to.  Nice enough reasons, aren't they? That brings me to something else - for a while now I've been trying to scale up this page & haven't been very successful. So, after much goading from one of my favorite blogger friends, I've decided to shift to the another domain. Yes, I'll certianly give you all the details once I make the transition. 

Now, what was this post about? Oh, yes, Bisibele Bath! A nice one pot meal which is sumptuous by itself. Of course there's always someone like me for whom no meal is complete without thayir-chadham (curd-rice or yoghurt with plain rice) and pickle!!! This post however doesn't detail how to make Bisibele bath, but rather how to prepare the masala powder for it. 

My recipe is from various sources - friends, neighbors & family and with a few tweaks from me. My husband, who's never been a fan of this dish, now absolutely loves it - provided I make it with this masala powder & not something store-bought. I usually make the powder in this proportion & store it in an airtight container. I've been meaning to post this recipe here for a while now, and I just never got around to it. Why, you ask? Pls look above!!! I misplaced this little bit of paper on which I'd scribbled this recipe & though I searched high & low I couldn't find it! So, I made a small batch of powder one day, and made the dish & hubby says "Have you used some store-bought masala, this doesn't taste like it usually does!!". That day I decided that when I find that elusive paper, I'd post it immediately!!! So, here it is!!! I've been rambling on rather a bit, haven't I? Okie.. on to the recipe then!

When I say "cup" in this recipe I don't mean that you should use a measuring cup & measure out exactly. Use any cup, katori, tumbler, measure, just keep in mind the proportions and remember to use the same container to measure all the ingredients. 

Bengal gram (channa dal) - 1/2 cup
Urad dal - 1/4 cup
Coriander seeds - 1/3 cup
Cumin - 1/3 cup
Cloves - 1 tbsp
Cardamom (bada elaichi) - 3 pieces
Cinnamon - 1-2 inch piece
Star anise - 2
Mace - 2
Marati-moggu -  2 tbsp
Red chili (Badige) - 3/4 cup
Red chili (Salem) - 1/2 cup
Asafoetida - 1 tsp
Jaggery - 1 tbsp

Roast channa dal to golden-brown in a non-stick kadai, transfer to a wide plate
Roast urad dal till is turns brown, transfer to plate holding channa dal
Roast badige chilies, and then the salem chilies separately
Transfer to individual plates
Roast hing (asafoetida) till it puffs up
Roast jaggery to remove any moisture
Place coriander seeds in a microwave-safe bowl
Cook for a min, 30 secs at a time
Remove from microwave & transfer to a new plate
Repeat the previous 3 steps for the cumin seeds
Place all the other spices except red chilies and asafoetida in the same bowl
Cook for a min in the microwave, 30 secs at a time
Remove & transfer to a different plate
Allow all the ingredients to cool
Grind in a mixer to a fine powder

You might wonder why I've used two types of chilies in the recipe. The badige chili gives a very nice color & fragrance but is not very spicy, so to increase the spice level of the powder, I've added the salem chilies. Now, if you'd like your powder more or less spicy, then tweak the salem chilies to suit your requirement. Usually there is a good quantity of dry coconut added to this recipe. I've never liked bisi-bele bath with coconut. Ours is a less-to-no-coconut kind of household. So, that might be it. If you'd like to have your powder with dry coconut, add 1/2 cup to the ingredients, roast this individually & grind along with other ingredients.