Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Mountains can heal you

My hands swollen due to the cold. I could not feel my face. My lips fell numb. My nose dripping throughout making it difficult to breath. My legs were telling me to rest but my heart kept telling me to take that one more step. Looking down meant, the fear of height gripping you rather than the experiencing the joy of climbing up so far. But, don’t be afraid. Fight your fear. For fear is only as deep as you allow it to be in your mind. Every point I reached on my upward climb made me feel like I had reached the peak only to discover that there was more to go. Then suddenly there was nothing more to climb. My eyes narrow squinted due to the winds blowing could finally see the rays of the sun playing with the mist to display the range of mountains slowly with passing of time. Looking into the horizon, I saw some mountains stark and rugged while the others showed their beautiful snowcapped peaks.

The mountains are calling and I must go ~ J Munir
PC: Tulika Wadhi-Jha
As soon as I reached, I wanted to sit and relax on the rocks overlooking the mountains. I was wonderstruck by the majestic mountains. They stood rock solid for years. They stood their ground in all kinds of weather. Isn’t life somewhat to be live like that? For me it was not about climbing the summit to Kedarkantha peak. I guess it was more about what I learned or rather unlearned while trying to climb up. After all, just occasionally, you encounter things, your paths cross, and though you may part again quite soon, your life has changed in some indefinable way. The mountains did that to me.

The Landscape as you trek
Simply put, the mountain culture heals you. After all mountains create a powerful protective culture that is capable to insulate you from the harsh pressures of the modern world.  There is something about the community dinning with people, about sharing food with one another, about people slowing down to chat with you, about endless laughter, about the carefree mind not occupied with the daily hassles, about living under a tiny tent roof yet being content, about protecting one another while walking, about meeting people that inspire you. These are the mysterious and magical ways of the mountains. They conquer your heart and soul. Not to let the grip slowly loosen out with time rather to hold onto firmly with each passing day. It is the place and our changing perspectives in the mountains that heal us.

The candid fun in the mountains. 
The mountains did heal me and teach me.

On the first day as we were walking up to our first campsite at Juda Ka Talaab, I understood that we live far too much in the future. While climbing up most of us saw the long steep climb upwards taking away our energy and zeal. That is when I re-learnt that living in the moment is a more beautiful thing. Just taking that next step is all that matters. We let our future take away too much from our present. Such that we don’t live in the present to enjoy the wind riffling our hair, the leaves rustling, the birds chirping, aimless wandering along the path of angelic white butterflies or plucking fresh Red Rhododendrons to eat. Be in the moment. Be alive. Be present.

Red Rhododendrons
After we reach our first campsite, Juda Ka Tallab. I soon discovered that it was three or more ponds not interconnected but as years passed by, they morphed into one big pond that we see today. For just as the bounty keeps evolving, you are meant to be malleable. Keep looking at your reflection occasionally; unpeeling and growing to take new forms and shape. Always showing yourself you can be your better self.
Be a reflection of those that you admire 
 As we bid our goodbyes to our first campsite and proceeded to walk towards the next Kedarkantha base camp our tryst with the snow finally happened. Imagine all this while snow was eluding us. That is when you feel that the happiness in little moments is for real. The sheer joy of experiencing something that is at the back of your mind every minute, every step of the way is unprecedented. For thoughts are never honest, what you experience is.

A volcano of a sunset
The next day was a blur. We woke up (never slept really) at 2am to ensure we start our summit climb on time. I was late for the briefing before the start of the summit climb. I was so hassled that I felt my energy would run out soon. That is the day, I told myself to have the designated time for the right things at the right time. I do fail on most days still but I have made a start to say the least.

Majestic Mountains
Soon enough your thoughts start to fade away when you encounter sheer beauty of walking in the night. You get a new burst of energy. The stars feel like diamonds in the sky. You almost want to transform into that little girl who could pluck stars from the sky, like in the fantasy books read to you at night. You almost want to look up and walk along the path not missing a single sight. For not, everything you love stays forever. You must learn to make peace with that.

Lonely bridge 
Slowly and suddenly, the sun starts to rise and shine. As the night breaks into the day. As the stars, disappear to bring out the clouds. I just stood there on the bridge, under the tree, by the stream and then just like spring, embraced the new. With that thought, I started my final climb to the summit.
With each passing step, fear was an ever-resounding companion. I was wondering if fear ever leaves you. For fear grips you like leeches, holding on, until you to breakdown. I was countering my thoughts, taking them away to the mountains on the horizon. For with each mountain, that stood rock solid, I had come to understand of grit and perseverance. Grit is like having stamina. The stamina to see your future unfold. Grit is living life like a marathon, not a sprint. So, with my grit, I finally made to the top. Quite literally and figuratively.

For fear is only as deep as the mind allows

PS: My first trek was with India Hikes. I would suggest them to everyone after a fabulous experience, to say the least. India Hikes ensures safety is their top priority. Duty bound trek leader and his very efficient team displaying sound knowledge and exemplary mountain spirit. Very efficient and organized.   

Friday, 2 January 2015

A Middle Eastern food medley in Old Dubai

‘As you walk the streets if you ever get asked about the origin of falafel, without batting an eyelid say “your country”’ jokes Arva Ahmed. People here could get quite personal about it and a sea of heated arguments could ensue. The entire group breaks into chuckles at Qwaider Al Nabulsi, our very first stop on the Middle Eastern food pilgrimage tour with Frying Pan Adventures.

A couple of us, some explorers from around the globe and some locals, have our first true encounter with the incredible soft, flavourful falafels. I had almost written off falafels as overrated until Arva introduced me to them. An extension of the humble falafel is the Falafel mahshi stuffed with chilli paste called shatta, sumac spice and onions.
We made ourselves comfortable at the wobbly tables outside to make our own flatbread sandwhiches – smash some falafel mahshi with your hand then take a spoonful of hummus with a coriander/parsley/capsicum/lemon sauce called tatbeela add some grilled aubergine and top it up with some toum, roll it up and bite into the goodness. Beware; suddenly Arva’s voice will fade into the background for a few moments.

As far back as UAE’s existence, the shawarma has been an omnipresent part of the culinary landscape. The humble shawarma has survived the cultural tsunami for years. Most shawarma places are around the corner. Now ordering a shawarma takeaway is a bit of an art. While approaching the place, you will hoot twice, long beeps, signalling them to take orders. The waiters race to the beeping cars where takeaway orders are dished out. Now, you don’t care much when you hold up traffic behind you as nothing can come in between you & your shawarma. The Middle Eastern variant places its importance on the meat, which I’m quite happy about. Eaten with pita bread, meat shavings are placed on top of the tahini with pickled cucumbers, turnips and chips.

Then comes a plate full of something that looked like a pizza only here it had a whole chicken piece unlike the scanty chicken pieces thrown in on our regular pizza. I had my eyes fixated trying to get my head around solving the puzzle about how it can be eaten. Arva comes to our rescue, breaks apart the chicken and already has our bread cut like pizza slices. The pizza lookalike is a Musakhan – a Palestinian sumac chicken with onions and olive oil, traditionally prepared during the oil pressing season to check the quality of the olive oil. The musakhan has spoiled me for life. Don’t think I could ever dig into a pizza with the same levels of satisfaction. After all the over indulgence, Arva confirms our fullness levels to 25 percent and we all give out a loud laugh.

No, a Kunafa can never be as fresh as heading to the kitchen to be made right before your eyes, made with kataifi noodle pastry at the base and akkawi cheese on top of a large flat pan. Once on the stove, constantly rotating the pan is critical to ensure it cooks evenly and perfectly, pouring jarfuls of sugar syrup and rose water subsequently, later to be topped with nuts generously. “In the Middle east, nuts are a sign of generosity and used abundantly to make guests feel welcomed’ explains Arva. One bit into the Kunafa, I’m transported to heaven with a well balanced savoury sweet combination. Old Dubai will always be fondly remembered for the Kunafa medley in my mouth.

Arva and her sister, Farida with whom she runs Frying Pan Adventures have grown up in this very neighbourhood much before the swanky, glitzy Downtown Dubai of today while some of the heritage food joints have been there much before both the girls were born. Arva fondly talks about most of them being etched in her childhood food memories and how she left her job as a consultant to come back and start what we today enjoy by exploring, tasting & savouring on the Rigga Streets. Our wanderings lead us to Al Samadi Sweets, piled high with different variety of Baklava. 

As the Arabic coffee flavoured with cardamom and saffron is poured into small cups and handed over, we guess the ingredients in the cream we are licking off the plate. After multiple hints, we get an answer which is random to be even considered, SOAP. Well, I learned that soapwart roots could be used in preparation of food as well.  The soapwart cream felt like a spreadable marshmallow, a delicate but unusual delight to savour.
With my tummy reaching alarming levels those jumping jacks were needed to come to my rescue before our next pit stop for the Egyptian feteer. As we cramp in the small open kitchen, the dough is stretched, swirled in the air and slapped on the marble platform (much like the typical Indian Roomali roti preparation). Cheese, vegetable and onion are sprinkled on the dough in copious amounts and then bundled and slid into the hot oven on either of the sides. Hot out of the oven, cut into small bites size cubes to be had with spicy shatta sauce, simple pleasures on a chilly winter evening.
A little part of me was glad that the rich, creamy Syrian pistachio boozah ice cream was slowing coating and cooling the inners my mouth to gently soothe the spicy shatta inflated tastebuds.
After the starter, main course, dessert, desert, starter, desert it was time to eat like a royal Emirati. At Al Tawasol, we got into a tent style eating place for our shared meal of Emirati Chicken Machboos (much like our Kolkatta biryani, light on the masala but flavourful) & Laham Salona (lamb curry with the traditional blend of Emirati spices) served over rice. All this paired with Laban (buttermilk without salt). After much tutoring from Arva, many still struggled to eat with their hands while I happily obliged and tucked in with my fingers.

All my excitement was bundled for the last stop - the Iranian Sweet & Spice Shop, after all Iran is where my roots are. Since we could not go to our last stop to indulge in Iranian fare, Arva introduced us to Makhloot Faloodeh here. Scrapping into the Saffron ice cream with vermicelli coated frozen sugar syrup and rose water warmed the cockles of my heart. It couldn’t end on a better note.

These ‘hole in a wall’ places are the true castles in sand instead of the modern skyscrapers and the fleet of malls in downtown Dubai, a few kilometre away. I bid my farewell, only longing to come back across the creek to indulge in the Iranian fare the next day.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Parsi Duo in Pune - Dorabjee & Kayani

I made a vow and hoped to keep it. Distractions along the way could prove fatal.

So there I was, early in the morning ready to leave for Pune on an empty stomach. Not sure if I could hold on to my own words. After all I had a simple plan. Bawa no nasto at Dorabjee’s!

In the early days, we would all squeeze into a big car to begin our journey to the Atash Behram. As soon as the car started my mom and aunts would begin the journey by remembering the God with ‘Shno Thare Ahure Mazdao’. Well, all I could dream of was a breakfast feast fit for the Kings.

As soon as we reach; I would always try to beat my brother and all my cousins to the table since I was the slowest eater of the house. It was like my second name. Mom would chant it at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Only chocolates were an exception. As soon as I would climb into the chair, the table would be filled with the breakfast spread. With a million options to the way you’d want your eggs; charvelu (scrambled), aakhi dar nu (sunny side up), meva ni akoori (burji), tamota par eedu, pora (omelets), kalaiji ma eedu and much more. And the best part you could gorge on bheja (brains), kalaiji (liver), febsu (offal) and even get sweet surprises like  crispy tareli boi with piping hot rotli and toddy.

To curb by hunger pangs with all the thoughts of food passing by, I grabbed a cold coffee to accompany me on the long drive. Not before long, I stood ahead of something grand that had been an institution for years. The old bungalow had such a charm. I chose to sit by the window.

Having it all planned in my head I dished out the orders as soon as we got there; Akuri, Bheja na cutlets, Bheja Masala, Mutton liver masala and Chicken Biryani. At 11 am it seemed like a Bawa nasto brunch loaded with cholesterol.

The Akuri was soft, luscious and fluffy.  The bheja na cutlets a melt in the mouth madness with the protein being let alone to do the talking with minimal ginger-garlic seasoning. The bheja masala on the other hand was all about bites of onion tomato masala accompanied by creamy bheja. The liver masala best cooked slow on natural wood fire was a delight while the biryani was flavorful but missed the creamy potatoes in them.  The meal was hardly complete without having the custard pudding; however must say I have had much better ones at home made by mom.

It was like having breakfast on the porch of a bungalow and being transported to an idyllic world far way.

As we bid adieu to one iconic establishment we walked the alleys to reach another, the omnipresent Biscuit King in Pune  – Kayani Bakery. My Pune trips always have a mission. To get truck loads of biscuit goodness back home. More times than less getting biscuits feels like getting into a battle field, only that here most times you come out as a winner with bags filled. 
You must sample the classic buttery English cookie that the British left behind in the able hands of Parsis, the Shrewsbury. I like mine dunked in a mug of cold coffee. But there is much more beyond the humble Shrewsbury. I’d place my bet on the Ginger biscuit and mawa cake. Though, a recent entrant that is climbing my favorites chart is the Chocolate orange cookies.

All I was itching to do now is sit in the car and dive in to be consumed by buttery goodness. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A flowery fairy tale, Kaas

It had to be this year. Each year I would plan to go to Kaas to see the exemplary floral display and then September would stare at me in the eye. This year saw me in a similar situation but I had vowed to go. So there I was, confirming myself for the Jumpstart Outdoors trip.

The day soon arrived, bags packed ready to go road tripping in the Sahyadri for the next two days. The drive was quite comfortable even though it took us 6 hour to reach Satara from Bombay.  We checked in had lunch and were ready to go.

On the way to the Sajjangad fort
The road to Thoseghar falls was flanked by windmill farms, small family homes and cattle grazing merrily.  Just about at the beginning of the Konkan region, the falls show all their majestic might with water falling at a 1000 feet surrounded by lush greens, an incredible pictorial sight. The next was to conquer the mighty Sajjangad fort. For one has to climb a hundred steps to reach the gate of the fort, but once you are at the edge overlooking the valley, you will be amazed to see the landscape that is being painted before your eyes. Well, the day ended with a treat for my sore Bombay eyes.
As the sun looks up early morning
The next morning we headed for the alluring landscapes of Kaas. I must say was indeed happy that everyone in the bus chose to keep their windows open. As the bus started the climb there was a certain nip in the air. The cool misty breeze of the early morning could transport you to a happy place. Along the drive as the sun was rising we took a halt to catch a glimpse.  And what a stunning sight it was. The sun had just started to peek from the corner of the mountain and the village below was covered in mist. I was glad to capture the beautiful moment. Well the morning had indeed started on a happy note. As we drove along the route, we started to catch glimpses of flowers blossom in patches along the way.

And then there was finally the sight of the plateau that guarantees a major adrenalin rush. As you step out of the bus the golden early morning sunlight greets you with warmth hugging arms giving you a glimpse of the flowers indicating the beautiful bounty that lay ahead.

Topli Karvy
A walk along the guided pathways and you are distant enough to explore the bounty to your liking. Open yourself and be receptive to The solitude..The mist in the air..The cool breeze engulfing you and bringing along the flower perfume on the way.. Marvel the sheer beauty of the flowers.. The multiple colors that sooth your eyes and the omnipresent yellow of the sonki flowers along with mauve balsams the flock together.

Greater Cat Ears
Nature has its ways. To make you pause and enlighten you, that everything can be accomplished at a steady pace. The rush and haste that we fill our lives with are indeed not accomplishments, just a way to fill our days.
So every once in a while I let nature do the talking and just be a keen listener.

Few pointers/tips for future planners
      1. The best time period is from 15th – 30th Sept as suggested by a local from Satara who comes each year to the Kaas plateau
      2. The Kaas plateau does have a bounty of flowers but do stop along the way up at multiple locations as you drive towards Kaas plateau. You will be amazed to find rare variety of flowers blossom who are shy at the attention they get at the plateau. You could do this while returning to your hotel
      3.  Do go with a botanist to complete your experience.
      4.  Leave very early at about 5.30 am. As the day proceeds, you will see a surge in the number of people
      5.  Always walk along the marked areas. Do not cross into the fields as you may step and destroy some of the rare ones. Also, there are lots of snakes around this area
      6. The ecosystem around Kaas is fragile. It is our responsibility to protect it for future generations. Lend a helping hand by picking up any plastic bottles and plastic bags that you see along the way and contribute to the Swach Bharat agenda by not littering.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Unsung Heroes

Today my thoughts veer towards the unsung heroes who trained my senses to a variety of food.

Those people who cultivated my taste buds with each plate of food. Or to say, elevate my senses each time I discovered something new.  No. I’m not talking about my gratitude to my mother. That forever I will be indebted to. Instead today I want to talk about my baby sitter (Yes, I will not elevate to a more sophisticated word to please the world), my tuition teacher, the office boy from my father’s workplace, the unceasing  friend who took me to eat fish everywhere until my love for fish grew by leaps and bounds. I owe my sense of understanding of the food world to them.

In this world of over analyzing food, the techniques, the temperature, the pretty plating and more we have forgotten a simple rule. Food that delights our sense is what we veer close to. Is it so critical to consider the precise temperature the steak is cooked? Did we as kids even have these things in our consideration set? I think we have got a bit dishonest with ourselves and the world in the process. We should simply enjoy food that touches our soul. That is a non-negotiable. Nothing else matters.  After all it is a sense of feeling – the heart tugging feeling. 

In all frankness even as a child I could distinguish between the two.  That’s because I followed a simple principle. Else why then would I always want to have my babysitter’s kadhi chawal over my mums? Or for that matter my granny’s simple kheema papeta pattice. Nostalgia.  Or my fui’s parsi ravo. It all came from my discerning choice in food even as a 5 year old.

Fui's Ravo
Why would I eagerly wait for Rao to ring the doorbell way before the party started? For he would mesmerize me by the way he enjoyed cooking. There was something that kept him going. I had seen him do simple things with such passion. Like chopping onions while I cried or rub the meat. He would involve me at each step.  Smell each ingredient before adding it to arouse my curiosity in food. Or the slow cooking on kakra-no-chulo (kerosene stove) with constant adjustments to cook it to perfection. Even today I look to the kind of familiarity of those days, where the aroma that filled my home. 

So the next time you eat and you will of course judge as always. Do so with the judgment of a child. You might be pleased. 

Do you have any such unsung heroes?

Sunday, 31 August 2014

A perfect day in the making at Bills & Three Blue Ducks, Sydney

Pictures have a way. They are more than just memories. For me they were an inspiration today afternoon.  Just as I was seeing them while the rains kept me company, I felt the sudden urge to write. I remembered the last day in Sydney’s CBD before moving to the Cabramatta suburb at my cousin’s place. The lovely Wednesday morning was spent retracing my steps on numerous occasions to find a hidden gem called Bills in the Darlinghurst neighborhood. Yes, I’m not very good with maps or directions. It has been like this since the beginning and I kind of enjoy wandering meaninglessly. Like this time around, I got lost in the alleys of Darlinghurst with beautiful houses lined up on both sides of the street. Along my way I must have sent out countless signals to the universe - 'let me own one of the petite pastel homes in the Darlinghurst neighborhood'. As I walked in complete awe of the picturesque homes lane after lane, I almost missed Bills.

At the corner of Liverpool Street stood Bills, the Mecca for many Sydneysiders who begin their day with beautiful breakfast mornings. As soon as you enter, the distinctive yet simple decor and the central communal table evoke a timeless charm.

At Bills it had to be one of the much talked about duo, either the scrambled eggs or the ricotta hotcakes. I went with the Ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter & banana. Especially after having tasted them at Perrotta’s at the Gallery in Cairns and falling in love with them instantaneously. And writing about it gives me a chance to cherish the delight once again. 

Ricotta Hotcakes..New Love
I can feel the feather like soft pillow like ricotta hotcakes melt away in my mouth, caressing my taste buds. The honeycomb butter caught my fascination, just like the chocolate gold coins in my childhood with its sweet and creamy character. Yes, someday I plan to make honeycomb butter. The maple syrup jug that accompanied it was so pure; light amber colour with a delicate clean light flavor. Felt as though I could drink a jug full without the sweetness tugging at my throat. The last time I tasted pure maple was at the Upper Crust Show a while ago, when the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association enlightened me and trained my palate to the authentic maple taste.
Ricotta Hotcakes
 Such was the morning, food perfection with a rather simplistic style. Now as I write this I dream about the Pavlova with berries and wonder what made me contemplate over such a simple decision.  
View from the cliff lookout 
On that happy note, I boarded the bus to Bondi for a cliff walk after taking directions from the staff at Bills. The Bondi  to Coogee walk is a picturesque coastal route that will take you through stunning beaches, bays, infinity pools, limestone cliffs and spectacular views that you will miss on many Mumbai afternoons in future. The good part this route takes you past the café strips of Bronte and Coogee.

As I worked up my appetite walking the entire morning, one café that charmed me the most was the Three Blue Ducks in Bronte. The restaurant has a very laid back feel and I noticed that most people had a good repartee with the staff making them regulars from the nearby Bronte community. The staff here are fun, friendly and you can almost feel the vibe with which they so passionately dish out food from their open kitchen. 
Crispy skin Mulloway with leek & garlic puree
With the walk along the ocean and the taste of it in my mouth I knew it had to be seafood. So I ordered the Crispy Skin Mulloway with leek garlic puree and pine nuts. The fish was so fresh, it melted like malai in my mouth. The fish skin done crisp to perfection. The leek garlic mash had subtle flavors to accompany the fish, ensuring the fish is still the hero. I loved the multiple textures of the fish, the puree and the nuts. The menu has a focus on simple local produce, mostly right from their back garden. You could eat here each day and never get enough of it. 

Photo By Three Blue Ducks

Lemon Meringue Tart
So I decided to treat myself to dessert with their Lemon meringue tart. These little bombs were sheer pleasure of tart, sweet and lemony goodness. Ooohh now I can safely say I have tasted the best lemon meringue tart in the world. During the course of my meal I chatted up with Sam (hope I have got the name right) and he greeted me with 'Namaste. Kaise ho?'. I then discovered he had back packed in India in the 90's for about 3 months and had been to more places than me in my own country.

As I looked them up on the internet later, I found out they had made it big on the world stage and numerous best breakfast lists in Sydney. 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Melbourne's top cafes to tantalise your tastebuds

Finally! Finally! Finally! It was decided; I was going to make it to Australia. Memories started to flash way back from 2010. The Sunday Adelaide central market with the fresh produce. The beautiful fill your day with brightness kind of flowers. The lovely long walks by the river. The cycle ride through narrow pathways to discover beautiful houses. And, yes the culinary joyride. The list definitely doesn't end here. All those culinary experiences have lead to one affirmation. If there was one country that could take the award for world’s greatest restaurant, Australia would bag it, time and again. 

Here are some of my top picks in Melbourne over my short six day visit.

 Short Black Café

My friend suggested perfect morning happen at Short Black. But it was a wet grey cold morning in Melbourne where all I felt was curling up and have warm soup. With a little nudging from my friend D, we finally venture out into the brutality of cold Melbourne mornings. Once inside the café we were in a warm pleasant cocoon. 

Salmon Stack

Lovely on the palate: The Salmon Stack

A bite of the Salmon stack and you take a walk in fairyland. Gooey yolk, fresh in the pink of health salmon, clean smooth flavors. Just the welcome one needs. 

Church & Main

We left in the morning and headed to Healesville Sanctuary, a short drive from Camberwell. The thing about Melbourne is that you can experience every kind of weather on your short drive. As soon as we entered the sanctuary we were so mesmerized by the birds and the special bird show that we almost forgot about lunch. With not many options available inside the sanctuary we headed out towards the main street. That’s when we spotted the place ‘Church & Main’. It was just a gut choice. Something felt right. Plus we wanted to go back and see the Wombat, Tasmanian Daredevils, the Dingo and much more . Time was running out.

Mango Chicken Crepe on a bed of Rice
Mango chicken crepe over a bed of rice sounded an interesting option to bet on. Simple fresh seasonal produce accompanied with minimal cooking to bring alive all the goodness it has to offer. The subtle mango flavor was just right. 
At Church & Main you are guaranteed a great seasonal menu.


Well it was Sunday morning and I was keen to make a good start to the day. Especially after a very disappointing dinner the previous night, where the pancake was topped with half a tub of vanilla ice cream. 

Luscious Eggs Benedict 
So it had to be my favourite combination of eggs benedict & dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). After all, there is something magical about sitting in a relaxed café feel with luscious eggs benedict and watching the world go by.

 Pancake Kitchen

Melbourne did it again. It became grey and cold all of a sudden in the Gold City, Ballarat.. Suddenly while walking, I spotted a fire place. A real one. It was inviting me with warm open arms. A little peek into the place, we spotted an empty table right besides it. The aroma of pancakes being made in their open kitchen was so inviting that we just settled in without another thought.

Photo by The Pancake Kitchen
TaaDaa! My eureka moment - Raspberry and Rhubarb pancakes. I owe it to Masterchef Aus for adding Ruhbarb to my vocabulary and the fascination to discover Rubarb with all my sensorial. And Pancake Kitchen was making it happen. Well it stood pretty close to the masterchef tasting I had imagined. The R&R pancake was a beautiful amalgamation of sweet and acidic taste with moist melt in mouth perfect pancakes.

The cold definitely brings with it a big appetite and I did try some of the Best breast of chicken Schnitzel pancake from a friend which was good but would have preferred the chicken to be moist.

Victorian at Sovereign Hill

By day, Sovereign Hill is where the gold fields history comes to life. As you step in you feel like you have taken a step back in time to experience the hustle bustle of the main street with horse carriages plying the roads studded by old artifact shops on both sides to where ladies and men parade in their new found wealth. The biggest excitement was for school children at the Red hill digging where one could shovel and pan for real gold. The best part, it is for you to keep once found. I did try my luck at gold digging. Quite an effort though.

Hot soothing Pumpkin Soup
After the extensive and exhausting gold digging manual work, I was hungry. And decided to go with the classic soup and bread combination that most gold mine worker families would sustain on in those times. The pumpkin soup was well seasoned, smooth, creamy, tasty and served hot just the way I like it.

Melbourne did pleasantly surprise me on this culinary journey!