Friday, June 22, 2012

Soiree at the Casa Baptista, Khotachiwadi, Mumbai

This is a long overdue post and I must apologise to all those to whom I promised I would write this. As I said in my last post, this year I have had the good fortune to eat some truly amazing  meals and what you see in this blogpost is a tribute to one of them and it's designer, progenitor, cook, maitre'd, server, and host - Andre J Baptista.

Andre was my student at the CEMS where he got his first serious taste of Archaeology whilst doing his BA in History at the Wilson College. He then went on to do his MA in  AIHC and Archaeology at Deccan College, Pune (my old alma mater). Upon finishing his MA this May he decided to have a small and select dinner 'soiree' at his lovely family bungalow in Khotachiwadi.

He made elaborate slick invitation card (which we ribbed him no end about) and posted the event on FB. He set about collecting all the ingredients three days in advance and then set about doing all the prep, cutting, peeling and cooking all by himself! It was a complete 'one man show' and it surprised, impressed and humbled the entire gathering - of course not that we let him know ;)

The guest list included: Parth Chauhan, Rajesh Chauhan, Ruta Waghmare, Prateek Chaudhary, Rhea Mitra-Dalal, Andre and me.

I arrived fashionably late, at eight, and we shot the breeze a bit whilst we waited for Rhea who was caught in typical central-south Bombay traffic. The moment she arrived we were escorted to the beautifully set table. A lot of care had been lavished on the table setting as is abundantly apparent fromt the picture below

Andre placed some lovely Focaccia in front of us and then immediately served up the first course. Corn and Cheese Balls served with a lovely Mustard Sauce. The common complaint ... they got over too fast!

Rhea, Prateek and Ruta (l-r)

Rajesh and Parth (r-l)

Andre then brought on the second course: Spinach Soup - highly underrated, extremely subtle and superb!

The proud Host/Chef basking in the compliments for his first two courses.

The Maitre'd then proceeded to serve a very interesting, invigorating and healthy 'Bio-wine' (Rohini if you are reading this - Thank you) and Parth, who decided to stick to his beer, was rewarded with a small Pink Cocktail Umbrella!

Prateek looking most dubiously at a 'healthy' wine.

Course Three: Penne in a Marinara Sauce with bell peppers, very understated but very flavourful.

Course Four was the Magnum Opus as far as the Chef was concerned - a Mixed Vegetable Patty Stuffed with Cheese and Pineapples, pan-grilled and finished with a country-style mushroom sauce. It was sooooooo good that Rhea, who can't eat any fruit, polished it off and wiped her plate clean! The Sauce provided just the right amount of acidity and texture to a robust potato and vegetable cutlet stuffed with a slightly gooey, faintly pineapple-y, cheese-y centre.

The next course, Course Five, which I call Redemption Chicken, was a dish humbling in its very simplicity; Roast Chicken Breasts with Parsleyed Baby Potatoes, topped with a BBQ sauce. Now, any of you guys who have ever roasted chicken breasts know how tricky they are. Last year Andre had managed to slightly overcook them to dehydration and this was his attempt at redressing that wrong and showing all off us gathered there how it was done! The breasts were perfectly cooked - browned on the outside and and moist through and through, whilst being completely cooked. The sauce and the 'taters were perfect accompaniments.

Course Six - Dessert: Walnut Brownies with Vanilla Icecream and Chocolate Sauce - with a 'twist' ... the brownies had to be soaked in brandy to each one's own requirements.

Course Seven - the final course: A tongue-tickling Chocolate Liqueur. The very perfection of the Menu and the Meal evident in Rhea's smile.

The meal was perfect, the only complaint that most of us had was that we had only one stomach each and that it was full to bursting. We sat back and let the dinner settle a bit before Rhea and I made our way back to Kharghar, happy, proud, sated and humbled. Happy at catching up with old friends and students -  proud to have been invited; sated completely with the food, drink and company; humbled at being the beneficiaries of so much love and respect.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Botticino at the Trident, BKC, Mumbai

Last month I had the incredible good fortune of being invited by my friend Nikhil (the Nonchalant Gourmand) to a lovely Pasta demonstartion and an exquisite Italian Lunch at the Botticino - the fine Italian restaurant (with a contemporary twist) at the Trident, BKC, Mumbai

The Trident at BKC is a lovely boutique-ish business hotel tucked neatly off but yet a stones throw away from BKC's main thoroughfare. It has a small but tall lobby with some rather eclectic modern art scattered in it. We got there a few minutes early and were gently ushered into the waiting area at the Botticino - their speciality Italian restaurant. The Botticino is open daily for lunch and dinner services and apart from its amazing menu and extensive wine list it boasts a premium and exhaustive selection of  Grappa. A selection of such variety and in such graceful and artistic containers that they have mounted these bottles onto a specially designed Grappa Wall!

We were welcomed by Nikhil and Kainaz Daver (Communications Manager at the Trident) and plied with an exquisite Prosecco. Nikhil then told us that the days plan was to tour the restaurant, check out the kitchens, have a tete-a-tete with the Chef whilst he demonstrated how they make their own pasta and then a lunch where we could sample the offerings of the kitchen.

Salonee, Nikhil and Vrinda

Kainaz and Rhea


More Grappa

Impeccably set tables.

Their famous floating table that hangs over their coffee shop (and where we were subsequently seated).

Clean classic white, crystal and silver service with a few pale pink roses and a lavender runner to add just that right bit of colour.

Their Bar.

The Kitchen with Chef  Vikas

The cold-kitchen where they assemble the salads and garnishes.

Megha and the crustacean tanks.

Chef Vikas (probably wondering what all these crazy bloggers would end up doing!!) the main man in charge of the Botticino's kitchen and menus.

Kainaz, probably wondering why they need to chain their fridges!

They keep their wine coolers chained and padlocked ... I guess mere fridge locks are child's play to the denizens of the kitchen.

Their quirky but lovely tea/coffee service.

Rhea, Saee and Vrinda looking quite cute in their caps.

Chef Vikas demonstrating how dough is put together - the first step in making any pasta. 

The dough resting.

Flattening it out through a pasta-maker.

Making ravioli.

Contents of the Pasta Fridge 

Making sauce, boiling pasta and assembling the Chicken Ravioli in Mushroom Sauce.

The finished dish.

(It was yumm!)

The Bloggers assembled at their table - ready to eat.

Delicious Ciabata bread fresh from the Trident's own bakery - served with pureed bell peppers.

The amuse bouche: Chef's very own take on the classic Mozzarella with sliced tomatoes.

Sea-salt encrusted Lavash.

The Argula, Pear and Pecorino Salad.

As an appetiser I chose the Pan-grilled  Foie Gras, it was truly sensational; soft, flavourful, perfectly cooked and very well complimented by a reduced red wine sauce. make sure all you Foie Gras lovers make the most of this as there is a move to ban its production.

For my Mains I chose the Herb encrusted Snapper with an Orange sauce, thinking it wouldn't hold a candle to the appetiser ... boy was I wrong, and very happily so, even if I say so myself. The fish was cooked to absolute perfection, soft flaky, firm, translucent and so fresh that it felt like it had been caught just that morning. The slightly sweet and tangy orange sauce was the perfect foil to the crusty saltiness of the fish. The only slightly puzzling feature were the cubed potatoes and carrots which appeared to have been placed there keeping in mind the Indian fixation with them. I for one would have perhaps preferred a steamed spinach. 

The Herb crusted Snapper with an Orange sauce.

Chef then came out to see that all was well and to bask in the absolute admiration of the gathered bloggers.

We rounded up the meal with Chef's signature dessert - A triple scoop of ice-cream on a white chocolate strip with a dark chocolate curl. The ice-cream flavours were an eclectic choice. We were served (from left to right) a Starcciatella - which was good; a Lemon cheesecake - that was mild and understated; and a Salted Caramel - absolutely the perfect blend of creamy chewy sweetness with small explosions of salt. 

The Salted Caramel ice-cream was a sure winner and I'd shamelessly recommend that if you like ice-cream you should go here just to eat this. 

At 4.30pm a very happy bunch of well fed and satiated bloggers slowly waddled their way out of the Trident promising themselves that they would be back.

The Botticino at the Trident was truly all that it claimed to be. It might be a trifle fussy and frou-frou, it might be a wee bit more than just expensive ... but it was worth it.