Monday, November 26, 2007

A day of experimenting and indulging

On Saturday we explored two new restaurants.
The first was Taam Falafel. I was surprised to find a falafel restaurant in Bangalore. I had only heard/read about how tasty a falafel is so I was not going to leave this chance to taste it myself. So on Saturday afternoon, I told Anurag that lunch is at Koramangala. He was scared at what he would have to eat since he had no idea about the food but being left with no choice ;) we landed at the restaurant at around 1:30. And there is no one there except the staff! I start feeling guilty about bringing Anurag to an unpopular restaurant. The staff was helpful, (they had to be coz there was nothing else to do) and told us about the food and were helping us to decide the order. There is not much to order there. Basically there are different combinations of pita bread, hummus, falafel and salad. There are also some juices and a dessert on the menu. We decided on a veggie platter which contains 2 pita breads, hummus, falafel, pickled veggies and a big bowl of salad and some chutneys. We have to assemble the whole thing on our own. So we started with the salad which could be eaten directly out of the bowl. It was quite good and so was the lemonade. By this time, thankfully, some more people came to the restaurant and we thought it is not unpopular after all. We started trying to fill our pita bread. They had given only 2 falafel balls. So most of the pita bread had to be filled with pickled veggies. Initially we were confused about how to go about filling the bread but later as we got the hang of it, it was enjoyable. But I personally didn’t like the pita bread too much. I have no idea if it was authentic or not but it looks uncooked. Maybe that is how it is but maybe I would have like it more if it was toasted a bit. We also ordered a pre-assembled taam falafel. So that we know what we did was ok or not. ;) This pre-assembled one had a lot more falafel balls in it and it was less messier to eat. The dessert was the show stealer. It was very different and very nice. It was something like the puff pastry sheets stuffed with dryfruits and some khova. I might be wrong about the khova but there was a milky taste to the dessert. It was different and infact quite good.

We discovered the other place quite accidentally. We had some work in Jayanagar 4th block and we saw this place called "Just Chocolate". That was interesting and so was the decor. We hopped in thinking a chocolate ice-cream will do no harm. But what we finally ate was a lot more than just chocolate ice-cream. :) It is a really chilled out place. Fewer crowds, is such a relief in Bangalore. We ordered brownie with a scoop each of chocolate and vanilla ice-cream which was floating on chocolate sauce with nuts. And boy! That was GOOD! The chocolate ice-cream was perfect, not too sweet, and not too bitter. It is difficult to find a perfect chocolate ice-cream in most places. Even the rest of the stuff was good. We also ordered a shake with chocolate and coffee. It could have been a little colder. But otherwise it was a perfect jugalbandi of chocolate and coffee. Each sip left the taste buds debating whether it is chocolate or coffee! We just sat there chatting even after finishing our drink. It is the kind of place where you feel at home and conversations flow easily. It would be perfect for dates and which is why most of the people there were college students. They also sell chocolates which are made there. I am not a huge fan of chocolates but I would still love going there often because it is the entire experience which made me love the place.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A peanutty craving - Satisfied

Yesterday I made a different gravy for my mixed vegetables. I saw The singing chef blog and a peanutty gravy was something that was tempting me in my mind since a few days. Although i have never had a peanut based gravy before. So I took the veggies lying in my fridge. 3 small carrorts, some beans, a potato, half a capsicum and some frozen corn. I cooked all of this in some oil which had mustard seeds spluttered in it along with some jeera, hing and turmeric. For the gravy i blended a around a tablespoon of peanuts with half a tomato, some curd, coriander leaves, ginger, some mint leaves, few pistachios, green chillies, cinnamon, some peppercorns and cloves. This goes into the almost cooked veggies. (And psst...a secret..the leftover tomato soup also went in ;) ) I had to add a bit of coriander powder and sabji masala and sugar, out of habit. Can be left out.

The result was quite nice and did perfect justice to my peanut cravings. And to think i hated peanuts when i was a child! Well even now, I dont like eating whole peanuts as such but i am discovering the joys of peanut products like peanut butter and this gravy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Day 4 : Ride back home

6:30 : We get up and get ready for the ride. The previous evening's drive from chickmagalur made Anurag decide against leaving before there is daylight.
7:00 : We have bread, butter, jam and tea and do the check out formalities
7:45 : I had walked down the mud road and met Anurag on the proper road. We start the ride to chikmagalur. We drive through the mountains and the thump of the bullet was resonating among the hills. We had to stop to re-arrange the bags.

9:45 : We reach chikmagalur riding through the potholed roads. Stop for idli and tea. The weather and the hills seem to have incresed my appetite.
10:15 : Leave chikmagalur to reach Belur. Some more potholes before moving out of chikmagalur. Then the good roads seemed such a blessing.

Haleebedu temple
11:15 : Reach Haleebedu temple. As soon as we reach people start pestering us to buy some pictures or idols etc. We move ahead and into the temple compound. There is a small museum there for which there is a 2 Re ticket. Every inch of the temple wall is a fascinating piece of art. The photographer in Anurag surfaced and went on clicking pictures :) We were mesmerized by all the carvings and forgot all the worries we had about reaching home on time. But as soon as we tried to get out of the temple, those hawkers started troubling us again. It was quite frustrating. We leave from there for the Belur temple

Belur Temple
1:15 : Reach the Belur temple. This was much more organised and better. No hawkers crowding us. There is a parking attendent who helps with the parking and guides us to the counter where we can leave our bags and shoes. The temple compund is also much bigger. In this temple, it is the pillars inside the temple which are more fascinating than the carvings on the outer walls. The outer walls had fewer carvings than the Haleebedu temple but were nevertheless beautiful. We were glad we stopped at the temples and didnt miss these wonders.

3:00 : After having lunch which was ok to fill our stomachs, we leave for Bangalore.

5:00 : Leave from Kamat near CR Patna after a cup of tea. Then we ride nonstop till we reach home. At around 6:15 it starts to get dark and later the headlights of the other vehicles dont allow us to keep up a good speed. Around 70 kms from Bangalore, the traffic also thickens. It is almost like riding in the city and not on a highway.

7:45 : We manage to reach Tumkur Road. We see a diversion for NICE road and decide to try it to avoid traffic. But as soon as we enter it, we are doubtful about where it will lead us to. We finally land up on Magadi road and have no idea where we are in Bangalore. We ask a taxi driver for directions. He asks us to go straight for 12 kms to reach Majestic. Somehow we get lost in Rajajinagar. Finally we find the way out to Majestic and reach home at 10 in the night.

The 4 day saga finally comes to an end. It felt good to be home and on a familiar bed. :)

Day 3 : An overdose of the hills

7:00 : The day starts. Today we have hired a sumo to take us to Kemmanagudi and other places.

8:30 : We get ready and are served breakfast. I had the biggest king size breakfast which made me ashamed at how much I was eating but I couldn't stop. We devoured 6 dosas, 2 omlettes, and an entire loaf of bread, butter, jam and tea between the two of us.

9:00 : We start for our day in the sumo.

11:00 : We reach chikmagalur. Buy a new backpack. And start for Mullayangiri. We start the climb through the narrow winding roads around the hills. The last patch to Mullayangiri was very narrow and it was a mud road. That was scary. We had to climb around 250 steps to the top. It was difficult for me to even walk so climbing those stairs was getting increasingly difficult. But with Anurag providing the motivation, we managed to reach the top. There is a small temple at the top. This is the highest peak in Karnataka. We captured some good views from the top. The climb down was very easy. After this we started for BabaBudanGiri.

1:30 : BabaBudan Giri was a unique experience. Two shrines - one Hindu and one Muslim stand side by side and they are visited by both Hindus and Muslims. 3 kms from there is Manikyadhara. Whoever calls it a waterfall must be joking. It is nothing bigger than a shower. It was a disappointing place with disappointing scenes like people throwing their clothes after bathing under that stream. It is supposedly a part of a legend to leave an item of their clothing behind. We left from there.

2:30 : Drive to Kemmanagudi starts. The roads get worse with potholes and flowing water on the narrow roads. The drive seems never ending with the same views and the same winding roads. We are hoping we reach Kemmanagudi as early as possible. But alas, the road seemed never ending.

4:15 : We finally reach Kemmanagudi. There was a canteen there. The only thing they could offer us as lunch was a bowl of rice, black channa, papad. After that we went to the garden on top of Kemmanagudi. We take a quick walk around it and start back to the estate.

5:00 : Drive back to the estate starts. By now I am fed up of the hilly roads and the coffee plants. Those are the only things we have seen the entire day. I am just counting the minutes to reach to the estate again.

7:00 : Reached chikmagalur. We had got cans with us from the estate. We filled petrol in them for the bike and started our climb back to the estate. Again those ghats and hill roads. I am nauseous now. But thankfully a while later I am in deep sleep. I wake up only once we reach the estate.

8:45 : Back at the Eagle eye estate. Freshen up and have dinner and sleep. That was a long day. Maybe we tried to see too many things in the same day.

Day 2 : A day at Eagle Eye

6:45 : The lizard's sound wakes us up more effectively than any alarm. We get up and hurry to get ready for the forest trek which is supposed to start at 7. After tea, the trek starts at 7:30. Within minutes from the start of the trek, we had to cross a stream of flowing water. One man tries to cross along with his kids but they slip and fall quite hard. That family aborts the trek and only 4 of us are now left for the trek. We follow our guide through the thick vegetation. I realize my fitness levels are the lowest as I am panting the hardest while the others are barely panting. We finally reach the top of a rock and great views greeted us. We sat there for a while taking in the views. And then we started our way back. I was glad I could complete the trek without falling and that feat was possible due to Anurag's support :)

8:40 : We are back at the cottage. We take bath and go to the dining area for breakfast. After a hearty breakfast, we get ready for the plantation walk

11:00 : We begin the plantation walk through the coffee estate. This time it was a larger and livelier group. We saw the two types of coffee plants: Arabica and Robusta. The guide told us that Arabica is costlier and more difficult to grow than Robusta. We had so go down a slippery slope. That was difficult. We saw the other plants which they had grown like pepper, cardamom, soapnut, cocoa, Jaiphal etc. It was pretty interesting. On the way we also saw centipedes, small crabs in the stream and a yellow frog.
Takeaways from the plantation walk

Can you see the frog?

After climbing back up the slope, we walk some more to reach the paddy fields. There is a lake behind it which is supposed to have a crocodile. We walk around the lake but no crok in sight. And we walk back up to the cottages.

1:15 : We reach the estate and to our cottage and just lie on the bed too exhausted to move. After a while, we go to the dining area for lunch. There was a waterfall nearby which we would have gone to, if the estate vehicle was free. But it wasn't and so a siesta was what came our way.

4:45 : We hurry down to the pond below for coracle riding and fishing. We wore the life jackets and got into the coracle with the oars. I was not able to get the rowing technique right and so my hands and shoulders also joined the other leg muscles in the list of aches in my body. There were water snakes in the pond. One of the snakes was right next to the coracle on my side, staring at me and Anurag had to warn me not to drop the oar in fear :) Then we were given the fishing rope and after a few attempts we managed to catch two fish. They of course throw the fish back into the water.

6:30 : Back to the estate reception area. After tea and snacks, we sit out there for a while. As it starts getting dark, I go back to the cottage to catch up with my book while Anurag plays badminton. In the cottage, I see a big lizard in the bathroom. I just close the bathroom door and lie on the bed and read. That was brave for a lizard fearing person like me. :) After a while I go out to watch the badminton match.

7:30 : There is a bonfire lit up and some music. Drinks were being served. We created our own drink by mixing strawberry juice with sprite. Not bad! After the bonfire and dinner, we check the cottage again. This time there are two lizards, two large hairy spiders and numerous butterflies in the cottage. We ask the manager to help. She sends a girl with a large broom who drives the lizards and spiders away and also gets us a mosquito coil.
Now I can sleep relatively peacefully. I guess this was the best day of our four day trip.

Day 1 : Reaching Eagle Eye Holidays

4:45 : The alarm goes off. I switch it off and we finally wake up at 5:45.

7:00 : It already 7 by the time we leave home. We reach Tumkur Road via Yeshwantpur at 8. It has lot of traffic mainly trucks. We finally get past Neelamangala.

9:00 : I am hungry and there is no restaurant in sight. We stop to eat biscuits and notice that the bags which we had hung on the bike were not holding well. So we tie the bag to the saree guard and hang the second bag on the other side. All of this takes around an hour. We decide aganist stopping at Shravanbelegola or Belur because we wanted to reach the estate before dark.

11:00 : We reach Kamat near CR Patna. The first thing we notice after reaching is that the bag which was hanging on the silencer side has burnt from the bottom. If we hadn't stopped here, things would have started falling out of the hole burnt in the bag. We access the damage. Our mobile chargers, camera cell charger, our sunglasses everything is burnt. It is a good thing that we had removed the camera from the bag. We eat idlis and dosas there and then use newspapers to line the bag so that things don't start falling out. Now Anurag hangs the bag around his shoulders towards the front so that it rests on the fuel tank.

12:30 : We reach Hassan and try to buy a new back pack but do not find anything good. Hassan is such a dusty, dry and hot city. And the roads are little patches between potholes. It was a pain stopping at Hassan.

1:15 : We finally leave Hassan and decide to move on without a new backpack. Belur to Chikmagalur was the best part of the route according to me.

3:00 : We are at Chikmagalur. The estate is 50 kms from here. We stop and call Eagle Eye for directions. We are on the hilly roads now. The roads have more and more bends and curves as we move ahead. At one stretch there was the hill slope on one side and a little bit of careless riding could land us into the valley below. Crossing some villages and coffee estates on the way, we reach a forest gate and the road after that was even worse. The final stretch was a mud road climbing up. All of this was keeping up our adrenaline and we thought to ourselves 'the estate better be good. The last patch was really steep and I decide to get down and walk to give Anurag and the bike a little less trouble. (Maybe to save my life too ;) )

5:00 : We are at Eagle Eye. Phew! Finally. I am in no mood to appreciate the scenic views greeting us. I am busy panting from the climb. We are offered the welcome drink. It was a strawberry drink and never before had strawberry juice tasted so good.

5:15 : We are shown our cottage. It was pretty good and neat. Anurag spotted a black lizard on one of the windows. I want it out of the cottage. The attendant says "It is ok. No problem". I have a problem. Please get it out. I say. The attendant seems to be more than half blind but thankfully with Anurag's help the lizard is out. After the much needed bath we feel better. As luck would have it, there was a problem with electricity at the estate. We sit outside in the open near the reception area. We are given snacks and tea. Some people are playing badminton and Anurag joins them while I sit with the cool breeze and the views.

8:30 : Dinner time and thankfully they had solved the electricity problem. After dinner we retire to our cottage. It was getting difficult for me to sleep between 12:30 to 3:30. I was surprised because I was one of the people who could sleep without any problem anytime. Some sleep is better than no sleep especially after all that happened that day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Happy Diwali

Hope all of you had a great Diwali and enjoyed your time with family and friends. I had a different diwali this time. I and Anurag had gone to Chikmagalur on a four day holiday. Details on that coming up next. So watch this space.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ras malai

I tried the ras malai recipe from this blog.

I added MTR badam fest to the milk. It is excellent stuff. Also added some milk powder. And finally some pistachios.