Sunday, October 31, 2004

31st Annual Village Halloween Parade

Originally uploaded by lools.

The Village Halloween Parade is one of Manhattan's craziest events held every year on Sixth Avenue from Springer to 23rd. This year's theme was "Sweet". Sweet, not just in the literal sense of candy which overflows at Halloween, but in the philosophical sense of letting go - bliss, joy, spontaneity, living in the moment.

Harsha and I joined 2 million onlookers on the streets this evening to catch a glimpse of the 50,000 scarily-clad participants parade on Sixth. We were late to arrive and so ended up stuck deep in the middle of crowds, unable to get a decent view of the unfolding action. But we thoroughly enjoyed the show on the sidewalks, appreciating the trouble to which New Yorkers go to stand out. The Playboy Bunny was the most popular costume among women and Spiderman was a favorite among the men!

Overall, it was delightful to be a part of this crazy party on the roads. The costumes and joie de vivre of all participants and spectators really reflects the creativity and amazing energy of New Yorkers.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Naked Chef really takes off!

Originally uploaded by lools.

This afternoon, while I was strolling around in Chelsea on 7th avenue near 20th street, I found a terrific street vendor who stocks the nicest collection of cookbooks for half the price. I was thrilled to bits to hold and savour a copy of my favourite chef's latest labour of love - Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver. This is all the more amazing because the book is not supposed to be coming out in the U.S until November 3rd!

Jamie's newest cookbook is similar to his previous ones in terms of look and feel but it is ten times richer in content and ideas. He uses the same Naked Chefesque voice to entice beginning cooks as well as more experienced ones to try his simple recipes for the most tasty meals.

To my total delight, Jamie has devoted much attention to the preparation of vegetables as a focal point of meals rather than just side dishes. I also love his section on soups where he has a great recipe for a yummy french onion soup - he even suggested using vegetable stock for this dish. The Top Ten section contains his best recipes ever as voted by his loyal fans online. The apple pie recipe that calls for both cooking and eating apples in the filling looks really delicious.

I'm still devouring every page of the book but my favourite section thus far is called Family Tree. Here, Jamie shows how by mastering a few basic recipes, one really expand one's repertoire as a cook and start thinking about food in creative ways.

The Naked Chef is truly coming of age. From the naughty British boy he was in The Naked Chef, he has evolved to a genuine family man dedicated to the three women in hif life - his wife, Jools, and baby girls, Poppy and Daisy. His latest book is a real tribute to family and the importance that food plays in all our lives.

I can't wait to get inspired by Jamie and cook up wonderful food memories for my family and friends!

Friday, October 29, 2004

My first scary moment in Manhattan

Originally uploaded by lools.

I've been enjoying Manhattan so much that I hadn't really given thought to all the things that could go wrong in this city. Well, today I had my first taste of horror when I got stuck in the elevator of our building for a whole one minute.

One minute, you chuckle? But I tell you, that was the longest one minute in my life. I was on the my way to work this morning when the elevator decided to run amok. I went all the way down from the 28th to the first floor and then the doors refused to open. The alarm bells started screaching loudly and I could feel the heat rising through my body. I started peeling off my heavy coat and sweater and sat on the ground with my hands pulling my hair. If it weren't for the fact that Harsha and another guy were in the elevator with me, I would have totally freaked out. They called the doorman and we were soon rescued.

But this incident has left me a little shaken. I've been thinking all day about what it would feel like to be stuck in an elevator for hours on end. I've been thinking of the folks who got stuck in the subway when there was a blackout last summer and had to walk on rats in the dirty tunnels to get out. Yikes! I realized how very lucky I've been so far to be shielded from these experiences. I've been counting my blessings all day!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Caramelized Pears

Originally uploaded by lools.

August through October is the height of the pear season though you can pretty much find them all year round in Manhattan. At the peak of summer, I love biting into succulent Anjou pears that are bursting with tangy flavours. As it gets colder, I turn to fully ripe Bartletts which work really well in desserts.

I recently came across a recipe for caramelized pears in Everyday Food magazine that is extremely simple and produces amazing results every time. Follow instructions and once the pears are cooked and the sauce is of your desired consistency, heap on a generous dollop of vanilla icecream and enjoy!

Halve 4 red Bartlett pears lengthwise; remove cores. Place 1/3 cup granulated sugar on a plate. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Press cute side of each halved pear in sugar; place cut side down in skillet (fit will be smug). Cook until beginning to brown. 7 to 8 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water. Cover; simmer until pears are tender, 5 to 10 minutes (depending on ripeness), adding more water if sugar begins to burn. Remove pears from skillet. If liquid in pan is thin, simmer until thickened to a saucelike consistency; if it is thick, add more water. Serve sauce over pears.

Serves 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The art of food

Originally uploaded by lools.

We were shopping for furniture in SoHo yesterday when we popped in at Dean and DeLuca's flagship store for a quick snackito. I was totally enamored by all the fine foods on display and was kicking myself for not having ventured to this high-end gourmet retailer before. I asked Harsha to pay for our snack while I took a lightening tour of the space, making a mental note of everything I wanted to buy when I came back.

Food is undoubtedly the hero here. From the grocery section to the olive bar, food is so beautifully and tastefully displayed for sale. It helps that there's no shortage of space in this SoHo warehouse-turned store. The white marble floors and tile walls don't distract from the focus on food either. I can't imagine anyone walking through and not succumbing to a freshly baked Quiche Lorraine, a slab of Tomme de Savoie or an exquisitely wrapped box of Mini Apple Truffles.

I love their section at the far end of the store that is dedicated to kitchenware and cookbooks. Harsha is always amazed at how I can spend hours and hours just browsing through various cookbooks, reading recipes of all things! They have some of the finest coffee table type cooking books that I'm dying to get.

All in all, Dean and DeLuca is one of THE places for the finest cooking ingredients in Manhattan. Why settle for the first bottle of extra virgin olive oil, the first black truffle or the first aged balsamic you can find when you know you can always buy the very best at Dean and DeLuca!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Colourful twist on southwestern

Originally uploaded by lools.

Bobbby Flay of Boy Meets Grill fame is one of the most celebrated chefs in America. His show is never on when I usually watch Food TV, but the few times I've seen him, I've been totally wowed!

Mesa Grill, Bobby's restaurant in Manhattan that serves southwestern cuisine, has been around for over thirteen years but is still considered one of the best restaurants in the city. Mesa means "table" in Spanish and also refers to the flatlands that are characteristic of the southwestern part of the U.S. Bright colours and unusual architectural elements lend a distinct character to Mesa Grill. My cousins, Ravi and Sahana, introduced us to this place and now it's on our list of favourites.

Last night we dined at Mesa Grill with Rebecca and Madhu, who've also just moved to Manhattan from the Bay Area. We sipped Cactus Pear Margaritas while we complained about the bitter cold that has been beginning to envelope Manhattan.

On the recommendation of Shivani (who also counts Mesa Grill among her favourites in the city), I ordered the goat Cheese "Queso Fundido" with roasted green chile sauce and blue corn tortilla chips. It was certainly a delicious way to enjoy fondue as an appetizer! For my main course, I was delighted to have a totally gourmet vegetarian option - yellow corn crusted chile relleno, filled with wild mushrooms and goat cheese, and served with a salad of grilled vegetables. Kudos to celebrity chefs like Bobby who really get creative in selections for vegetarians as well!

Dessert was warm chocolate cake with dulce de leche filling..yummmmmm.Need I say more?You've got to check out this place when you're in town next!

102 5th Ave, New York, NY 10011

Tel: (212) 807-7400

Friday, October 22, 2004

Booting up in style!

Originally uploaded by lools.

The best part about winter is that I get to wear boots so often. No other footwear comes close in terms of style AND comfort.

Scrunched boots are all the rage these days. At lunch, I usually check out the shoe stores near work and love admiring the different styles and colours that are on the shelves. If you want to window shop online, check out a fabulous selection at Victoria's Secret.

Women in Manhattan can't seem to resist splurging on shoes. All my girlfriends admit to having a soft spot. I don't feel like being left behind (excuse, excuse!), so I'm joining the bandwagon and buying a few pairs of fancy boots this winter!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Gateway to Asian culture in New York

Originally uploaded by lools.

I just discovered an organization called the Asia Society.
My friend, Sujatha, invited me to go with her to the launch of Strobe Talbott's book: Enagaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb.

Strobe's speech was very insightful to me and I learnt a lot about Indo-American relations. I hadn't realized what a key role Bill Clinton had played in bringing the two countries closer after the relationship plunged to an all-time low when India conducted nuclear tests in May, 1998. It was reassuring to hear from Strobe that outsourcing is a non-issue and that the the economists at the Brookings Institute (which he heads up) agree that it actually creates a net positive effect on all parties involved.

I'm really looking forward to going to upcoming events, especially a screening of "The Chess Player", a rarely shown Satyajit Ray classic.

If you're interested in Asian art and design, check out the society's new microsite on "Asia in New York City". It has lots of cool features, interviews and guides.

725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street)
New York, NY 10021

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Modern Greek in the West Village

Originally uploaded by lools.

Mediterranean food. Small plates. Great selection of wines. Cozy ambience. All these wonderful things come together at a West Village gem called Snack Taverna.

Just off Seventh Avenue at Bedford Street, Snack Taverna is a modern take on traditional Greek cuisine. Almost like Oliver's Twist on Greek Food for those familiar with The Naked Chef.

Their cold spreads were delicious with the freshly made pita bread. The simple salad of tomato, cucumber, feta and olives on a bed of crunchy greens was quite outstanding as it was drizzled with a sherry-fig vinaigrette. If you try just one vegetarian dish, make it the moussaka. Snack Taverna has a light and fluffy version (made with eggplant and potatoes) which literally melts in your mouth. It has an unusual sweetish flavour, almost like caramel custard which makes the dish very unique.

The small plates are very filling so don't go overboard when you order ;)

63 Bedford St
New York,NY 10014
Cross Street: Morton Street
Phone: (212) 929-3499

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Dinner parties

Originally uploaded by lools.

As the weather in New York takes a turn for the worse, my preferred way to spend Saturday night is at home. Cozy dinner parties are so much fun to organize!

We had a small group of friends over last night. Inspired by the produce at the Farmer's Market, I cooked up a five course meal - all vegetarian, of course. Harsha paired each course with a fine selection of wine. Here's what we served:

course 1
"last of the summer peppers" pepperonita crostini
brie and fig jam on toasted baguette

course 2
roasted beet, arugula and fresh goat cheese salad

course 3
butternut squash soup with toasted pumpkin seeds

course 4
wild mushroom risotto with black truffle oil
cotes du rhone

course 5
caramelized pears with vanilla ice cream
choice of fonseca tawny port, baileys on the rocks or poires mathilde liquer

Let me know if you want any of the recipes, I'll email them to you.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Soup for the soul

Originally uploaded by lools.

I'm a HUGE soup fan. It's getting colder in Manhattan these days and I all crave at lunch is a never-ending bowl of heartwarming soup.

I really miss the San Francisco Soup Company and their fabulous selection of soups, especially vegetarian ones like their famous Southwestern Corn Chowder. There are a few places I've found near work that offer soup, but I'm yet to chance upon an establishment that's entirely dedicated to soups.

There's the Fifth Avenue Epicure (Fifth at 19th) that has a decent selection of soups but my big complaint with them is that there are very few healthy and veggie options. Chop't seems to have soups at lunch as well but given their focus on salads, soups for them are quite an afterthought.

My preferred place to grab a bowl-o-soup and get back to work is Craft, conveniently located right opposite our building. Though they are not entirely dedicated to soups, I do relish their gourmet soup of the day selections. This week alone they've offered Potato Leek, Curried Lentil, Carrot and Roasted Tomato. The soups are always topped with special touches like chopped tarragon or finely shredded parmesan and come with delicious breadsticks.

Craft is the brainchild of Tom Colicchio (of Gramercy Tavern fame), a famous NYC chef, and won the 2002 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in New York City. You should check out Craft the next time you're in the mood for some soup to warm your soul...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Dashing Diva

Originally uploaded by lools.

I had an outrageously enjoyable manicure today at Dashing Diva, a nail spa and boutique in the heart of Greenwich Village. My friend, Shivani, suggested that we catch up over cosmos and manicures at this much talked about nail salon and I gladly accepted her invitation.

The place is painted in shocking pink and has a very modern design aesthetic. I was amazed by the 200 plus shades of nail polish on display! They even had shades of blue and black which I have never seen before. And for those into the artifical variety, there was a wide selection of fake nails with designs ranging from the classic to the totally punky.

Being in rather indulgent moods, we decided to splurge on the All-Out Diva Manicures. We sat at adjoining nail stations and yapped away while our Korean nail specialists worked their magic on our nails. I've had many manicures, but this was the first in which my hands were dipped in a paraffin bath. Shivani explained that paraffin helps seal in the moisture and makes the hands as soft as soft can be. I also enjoyed the citrusy exfoliation and the relaxing arm and hand massage.

My only regret is that they weren't serving cosmos today. Apparently it's only a Thursday or Friday evening promo. Shivani and I will be returning soon for cosmos and perhaps the Spoiled Diva Pedicures next time around!

Dashing Diva is located at 41 East 8th Street, between Broadway and University Place, near NYU and a short distance from Union Square and SoHo.

Monday, October 11, 2004

17th btw Broadway and Fifth

Originally uploaded by lools.

I've gotta love Manhattan. Where else in the world can I choose from Middle Eastern, Californian or Japanese cuisine for lunch and not worry if I change my mind for one or the other as they are all located on the same block!

At lunch time, I usually head towards the general direction of Union Square on Broadway. I enjoy window shopping while I decide what I'm in the mood for. The good news is that I'm never short of excellent options if I stick to just one block - 17th between Broadway and Fifth. Here are my favourite lunchtime eateries:

Rainbow Falafel
Undoubtedly one of the best falafel places in town. Always rated among the Top Ten Middle Eastern places in Manhattan. I usually get their lemony tabouleh and falafel without the pita - yes, they cater to carb-watchers!

Unbelievabaly fresh salads. The dazzling array of possible greens and ingredients combinations can get you a bit dizzy. I usually get mesclun greens, tomato, cucumbers, onions, feta and raisins "chop't" with a simple vinaigrette all stuffed in a whole wheat lavash. Delicious.

This is my favourite stop on the block, perhaps because I'm so into Japanese these days. It's a pretty basic Japanese self-service cafe but they get very creative with their sushi (eel wrapped in fresh mango etc) and have a very flavourful vegetable udon soup that I love. Every time I go there, I'm kicked with the Hello Kitty biscuits proudly on display for sale. I guess I've never quite understood the fascination even adults retain with that cutesy character! Ennju has a fantastic selection of hot and cold teas to calm the nerves.

As you can see, I'm beginning to fall in love with Manhattan...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Blue Ribbon Bakery for brunch

Originally uploaded by lools.

Brunch is a very Manhattan thing to do. There are a ton of great places to choose from and they serve eggs right till 5 pm. Where else in the country does half the population rise only after 2pm on Sundays!

Frankly, I've been a bit slow to warm up to the whole brunch thing. Firstly, I'm not really "in the know" of the best brunch places. Secondly, waiting in line for over an hour sometimes is quite a drag. And most importantly, I'd rather be out on the golf course or tennis court in the early afternoon rather than sitting down to eat yet again after the previous night's indulgences.

That aside, I am beginning to enjoy the brunch offerings at the different places we've brunched at in our first few months in Manhattan. Today we visited the Blue Ribbon Bakery & Cafe, a charming little restaurant in the heart of the West Village. (Note to self: Are there any restaurants in the West Village that are not ooooozing with charm?) We were seated downstairs in the cozy brick cellar. We didn't mind that at all since it's been a pretty gloomy day anyway.

The waiter arrived with a basket of fresh bread of many unusual varieties - mushroom and ham, raisin cinnamon and regular french. Given how ravenous we were, we quickly polished off the basket even before we could order orange juice and coffee! Harsha ordered steak and eggs which he said was quite delicious. It reminded me of our holiday in Argentina when he had steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Radhika and I ordered poached eggs on a tomato and jarlsberg melt on a large slice of challah bread. Anila had the egg salad sandwich and Sunil picked the poached eggs with bacon and shrimp. I hadn't heard of challah bread but learnt from Radhika that it is a type of Jewish bread that is made with a lot of eggs. It was very tender and rounded out the flavours of the poached eggs perfectly.

We loved the cozy atmosphere in the cellar so much that we plan to return for dinner soon. I read on that they have a fabulous selections of wines and cheeses. And that the cream of tomato soup and the stuffed mushroom ravioli pillows are standout dishes.

33 Downing St
New York, NY 10014-4748
Cross Street: Bedford Avenue
Phone: (212) 337-0404

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Fun with plums

Originally uploaded by lools.

At the Farmer's market today, I also bought a few pounds of fresh plums that I forgot to tell you about.

They're absolutely delicious on their own, but given the quantity I bought, I'll have to use them in various preparations all this week.

I typed "plum recipes" into Google and got a bunch of ideas. Here are some things I plan to do with my little plums:

Make pizza with a twist by broiling sliced plums, goat cheese, walnuts and sage on top of a whole wheat pita bread or pizza crust.

Poach plums in a red wine and serve with lemon zest.

Blend stewed plums and combine with yogurt and honey for wonderful cold soup.

Add plum slices to cold cereal.

Maybe make some plum jam if I have any leftover at this point!

The joys of fresh produce

Shopping at Union Square Farmer's Market
Originally uploaded by lools.

Food network, the celebrity chefs, food magazines, food blogs, foodies...just about everyone into food in a big way extols the virtues of cooking with locally produced fresh vegetables and fruits. They make it out as though buying produce from the grocery store is a crime when you can support local farmers and enjoy the bursting flavours of seasonal produce instead! I'd have to say that I'm beginning to agree.

I spent a few hours at the Union Square Farmer's Market in Manhattan this morning familiarizing myself with vegetables I'd only read about thus far. Though I like to consider myself a decent cook, I'm yet to use vegetables like fennel, kale, rutabaga, turnips, brussel sprouts and beets in simple ways to prepare delicious everyday meals. A great write-up on fall's produce in the recent issue of Fine Cooking, my favourite food magazine, intrigued my curiosity to use these vegetables on a more regular basis.

I was tempted to buy a little of everything but finally settled on a big bunch of beets, some arugula and fresh goat cheese. I remembered a Jamie Oliver recipe for Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese.

Here's the recipe in case you feel like making it as well:

Pre heat oven to 325 F. Wash the beets thouroughly. In large mixing bowl combine beets with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil to seal. Place in oven. Bake 40 minutes, until tender when pierced with a knife. When cooked, remove from oven and let cool. Rub with cloth to remove skins. Slice beets into quarters. Combine with arugula and a light lemon and extra virgin olive oil dressing. Dress the salad with chunks of fresh goat cheese.

I promise that you'll find the flavours of the roasted beet, the sharp arugula and the fresh goat cheese combine in a spectacular way to have you craving for more. And perhaps you will be inspired to seek out your local farmer's market next weekend.

Sunday, October 03, 2004


Originally uploaded by lools.

"Modern. Luxurious. Ultra-feminine. An unexpected blend of black violet and lush white flower blossoms, touched with sensual musk, sandalwood and amber." I was totally enchanted by this description of Kenneth Cole's latest eau de parfum for women on Nordstorm's website but also put off by the high price.

So you can imagine my delight when I walked into Taj Kashmir New York Inc (a perfumes, colognes and cosmetics store on Broadway in the Chelsea area) and found Black retailing for almost half the price advertised on various retailers' websites! The shop is full of interesting beauty accessories from silver earrings to fancy belts. TKNY is owned by Indian/Pakistanis but the sales folks are Indian, Mexican, Chinese and Korean. I was pretty impressed by their knowledge of women's perfumes and their ability to pick out various fragrances for me depending on my preference.

Next time you're looking for perfumes, ditch the duty free shops and head to Broadway in Chelsea instead. I'm sure that Haleem or Kamal will entice you to pick something nice smelling that you haven't dared to try before. And at their amazing prices, it's a great way to try out many different perfumes!

Taj Kashmir New York Inc
1164 Broadway
Btw 27th and 28th
NY, NY 10001

Saturday, October 02, 2004


Exotic cloth wall hangings at Mamlouk
Originally uploaded by lools.

Middle-Eastern places are all over the country these days and they're definitely a hot favourite with the desi crowd in Manhattan. Last night we dined with my brother-in-law and his buddies at Mamlouk in the East Village.

What I loved most about the experience was not having to do much at all. Having ordered the $35 six-course prix fixe menu, all we had to do was relax and have a great time chatting and laughing with friends. Our table was located in the lower level of the restaurant where they pack in as many groups as possible so it's a cosy ambience indeed.

The prix fixe menu changes every night but usually consists of appetizers, a salad, a veg option and two non veg main courses. I was plesantly surprised with the quality of the vegetarian food including terrific pita bread and a variety of cold spreads. This was followed by a minty and tangy fattoush salad and then a cheese filled pie which melted in our mouths. The entree was a vegetable moussaka served on a bed of rice which was very flavourful indeed. Of course, the best part was dessert which was a just-out-of-the-oven baklava. The only disappointment for our group was that they didn't serve hookahs so we headed to Horus, a few blocks away.

211 E. 4th St. (East Village)
between Avenues A and B

Friday, October 01, 2004

Lychee Martini to die for!

Originally uploaded by lools.

The Mojito at Le Colonial. The Lemon Drop at The Redwood Room. These were my absolutely favourite drinks in San Francisco. Here in Manhattan, I've finally found my drink of choice - it's the Lychee Martini at Nobu.

I wrote about Nobu a while back on this blog - it's one of Manhattan's most sought after restaurants. Folks wait months to get reservations! I usually rely on my tried and tested method - show up and try my luck! Somehow it's always worked for me. Believe it or not, we got in yesterday as well. Not at Nobu Next Door which is supposed to be the first-come first-serve part of the establishment but at THE Nobu itself. I'm sure it was because everyone else stayed home to watch Kerry and Bush go at each other!

I won't write much about the fantastic Japanese food but I have to tell you about the Lychee Martinis I sipped on throughout dinner. They are to die for!!! They were the smoothest, most perfect martinis I've ever had. Even the lychees, which are usually canned and lifeless in these type of drinks, were fresh and incredibly succulent at Nobu just like their sashimi.I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was "oohing" and "aahing" after every sip! I'm so thankful that I passed on my original order of the fig martini after the waiter raised his eyebrow, suggested it might be a bit too sugary and recommended the lychee one instead! It certainly seems to me that the bartenders at Nobu have perfected this tres trendy drink that was born at the Buddha Bar in Paris.

In case you feel like shaking up some vodka at home, here's the recipe:

1 measure (50ml) premium vodka
2 tsp fresh lychee juice
1 lychee, peeled and stoned

Shake together the vodka, lychee juice and ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the peeled lychee.