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.

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