The best meals of 2017 – Where and what I ate

How you begin the new year sets the tone for the rest of it…

It’s true. I started 2017 with a langar at a Gurudwara in New Bombay, wishing for  equally great meals in the coming year. And what a fabulous food year it was. I traveled to various cities for food. Took a trip to Pune to try the famous Bedekar misal and loved it, went to Surat to eat the locho and visited the ponkh market, traveled to Indore (done that twice this year already) and found another food city to fall in love with, took a solo trip to Calcutta and Meghalaya (where I ended up making some most amazing friends), traveled to Goa to learn sourdough which became one of the most brilliant experiences of 2017, traveled to Indore (again) and ended the year with a trip to Srilanka. Apart from all the good food I ate at these places, there were umpteen fabulous meals cooked by my mother, a couple of trips to Lucknow that involved loads of chaat, and some amazing beef curry/fish curry and rice meals at Chetna (PositivityAngel’s) house. Don’t think I can be thankful enough for this year.

I am an atheist, but somehow going to a Gurudwara doesn't feel like I am confirming to any religion. The idea of following a teacher and learning from his/her experiences sounds more logical to me than blind faith. Also, what fascinates me is their self-less service and the feeling of giving back to the community. Eating at a langar with people from different casts, religions and financial backgrounds and accepting your food with a feeling of gratitude is a humbling experience. So glad to start my food journey this year with such a beautiful meal. I hope the food that I eat this year helps me connect to my roots and make me aware of the efforts people put-in to put that food on my table. Also, here's a big thankyou to all the people who came into my life this past year, taught me new things, gave me new experiences and motivated me to be better than myself. I don't know whether all of you will be part of my journey onwards, but I will always cherish and value those times, learnings and experiences. Wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful new year. #NewYear #gratitude #CircleOfPositivity #Happy2017 #gurudwara #food #langar #feelinghumbled #thankyou #HappyNewYear

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Phaltan – A weekend getaway in Maharashtra

Around 250 kms away from Mumbai (110 kms from Pune), there’s a small town where the sky is clear blue and vast green hiils till as far as you can see. Located 50 kms from Satara, Phaltan was once a Maratha Princely state of British India ruled by the Nimbalkars, descendants of Naik Nimbaji Nimbalkar. The first wife of Shivaji, Sai Bai belonged to Phaltan.

The drive to Phaltan, although a bit bumpy, is made pleasant with pristine lakes and acres and acres of sugarcane farms, the main crop of the region. On my recent weekend trip (hosted by Jakson Inns), I drove around the length and breadth of Phaltan and the surrounding region only to be enamoured by the sheer beauty of Maharashtra.

Things to do in and around Phaltan

Windmill Farm in Pusegaon

Around 45 minutes drive away from Phaltan, exists one of the most dream-like places in Maharashtra. The windmill farms of Pusegaon can be one of the most romantic destinations in India. There’re huge windmills till as far as eyes can see on top of the hills, clear sky, light breeze and the most spectacular sunset. You can pack some food and drinks and have a little picnic here. If you’re staying with Jakson Inns they’ll arrange a cute picnic basket for you.

There were more than 200 windmills in the region producing enough electricity to supply to the whole Phaltan area.

Pusegaon Windmill Farm, Maharashtra

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24 Hours in Pune – What to do,see and where to eat

I think I am on to making some kind of a New Year traveling trend for myself – traveling to and exploring a new city within the country. Last year I went to Ahmedabad (read about the trip here) and 2017 started with a trip to Pune. Despite spending a couple of months in the outskirts of the city a few years ago and a few trips last year, this is the first time I saw the city like a traveller would. Here’s what you can do, see and eat if you are in the city for 24 hours.

Shaniwar Wada, Pune

Shaniwar Wada, Pune

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Farm-to-Table at Madhuban Agritainment, Roha

When was the last time you slept under the stars, ate a meal made with freshly plucked vegetables from the farm or spent an entire day sitting in the midst of trees with no mobile network to disturb you? Around 125 kms away from Mumbai, in a small town called Roha, a farm offers all this and more. Madhuban Agritainment is located about 5 km drive away from the main Roha city and is a beautiful location to spend a quiet weekend and detox (physical, mental and digital).

The 50 acre farm owned by Dhananjay Joshi, the third generation farmer, is completely organic. Joshi took a conscious decision to convert his farm in 2006 when his father died of Aesophagus cancer and realised that pesticides used in farming are the major culprit. Joshi grows all kinds of seasonal vegetables, fruits, millets along with mango, rice, cashew and kokum – the major crops of the Konkan region. The farm houses a cowshed which takes care of the compost and also provides organic milk. A man-made pond in the farm harvests rainwater and is also used for prawns and fish farming, none of which is on the menu (the food here is completely vegetarian).

Madhuban Agritainment, Roha

Madhuban Agritainment, Roha

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Konkanastha Brahmin Menu at JW Marriott Sahar and Panchamrut Recipe

Every trip that you make, to distant shores or a village close-by, leaves you enriched with new experiences, culture and abundant knowledge of food – something that’s been inspiring me to travel more. A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Konkan region of Maharashtra with the chefs and marketing team of JW Marriott Sahar. The idea was to learn about the Konkanastha Brahmin cooking straight from the people of that community.

I have written about the trip on India Food Network

We drove to Guhagar and Diveagar where we stayed at homestays and ate at the khanaval – local eateries. The locals opened their hearts and kitchens and taught us their family recipes. We watched young girls shaping perfect modaks, learnt to make hand-made rice sewai from an old grandmother and snacked on the most fabulous awla candy with cardamom flavoured raw mango sherbet. We even visited a mango farm and picked raw mangoes, fresh kokum fruit and cashews. Continue reading