Last Saturday was eventful. A sudden invite on Friday evening from Akshita of Blogathon India had me intrigued. The mail simply stated:
What’s in Store:
Meeting fellow food and lifestyle bloggers
Clicking pictures (something that all of us love)
Few Blogger contests.
Further, a quick scrutiny of the mailing list confirmed that all my blogger friends would be in attendance. That was enough motivation.
We headed out on Saturday afternoon to the Le Meridien, New Delhi. The event was organized at Eau de Monsoon; the beauty of monsoon beautifully captured on its external walls. We were greeted by Akshita from Blogathon India and Ms. Bhatia from Le Meridien. Ms. Anasuya S Basu ensured we were settled in and comfortable with a drink of our choice at the chic bar. I choose to try the Vodka Lichi while the hubby chooses a Cucumber flavored Mocktail.
Once all the invitees had arrived we were given a tour of their exquisite wine cellar. A modern day wine cellar, were the wine is stored in wall to wall glass refrigerators the very sight was dazzling. The wines here are maintained at the same temperature and humidity that an underground cellar would have. Even the lighting has been done in such a manner that the wines are unaffected. With chances of zero vibration, these wines are well stored and maintained. A separate cabinet also contains bottles of open wines for guests to taste and choose from. An array of different cheeses, olives, pickled cucumbers, crackers and grapes are available to taste with the wines. After a session of discussions on the different wines with Sommelier Simon we headed for lunch to the beautiful private dining room of the restaurant. Tastefully decorated, the dining room was a beautiful sight and my favorite was the under table lighting that emitted a warm glow.
After a few different presentations about Le Meridien and Starwoods Hotels & Restaurants by Ms. Bhatia and Ms. Anjali Mehra we got down to the main business of the day. FOOD & WINE. Magandeep Singh was our Wine Sommelier for the afternoon. He is India’s first French-certified Sommelier. A combination of wisdom and witty, he explained and discussed the essence of the three different wines white, red and dessert he had chosen to showcase that afternoon. He patiently answered all our queries and bantered with us throw the meal. The White Wine was Gobelsburger, Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, 2010 from Austria, the Red Wine was Villa Maria, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, 2009 from New Zeland and my favorite for the afternoon was the dessert wine Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro from Spain.
Over three hours and seven courses of food and three exquisite wines, conversation flowed like liquid gold.
Chef Davinder Kumar (DK) came in to explain the food that was soon to be served and his concept behind the whole new world view of old world cuisine. In his own words, “Monsoon’s cuisine is intriguing. True and traditional in its roots, the dishes are prepared embracing an assortment of innovative ways.” His words were soon proven by the food that followed.
The meal began with Amundagar. An asparagus cappuccino, warm on the top and cold below served in a chilled glass.
The first course was a new view of the age old samosa. Aptly named Deconstructed Samosa it had the delicious taste of the samosa but the new look was chic and elegant.
The second course was Twin flavored Chicken Tikka. The chicken was juicy and delicious. While one piece was an authentic Chicken Tikka the twin was a minty green avatar that was delicately flavored. Placed on pieces of fresh baked papri both the tikka’s were a bang of flavours.
The third course was Kaffir lime & Basil infused King Prawn. The delicate flavours of lime and basil created a nice balance and enhanced the flavour of the prawn to perfection. Every element of the dish from the rind of lime to the thin stick that attached the prawn and lime into a perfect symphony was edible and delicious.
A palate cleanser lemon sorbet was presented between the courses. A delicious hint of ginger made it delicious and soothing. I couldn’t help but remember a scene from The Princess Diaries.
The fourth course was Seabass, Madras Curry served with Asparagus and Flat Sweet Beans. Authentic south Indian flavours complemented the seabass and did not over power the flavour of the fish. Finger licking delicious.
The fifth course was Oven Roasted Chicken with Makhani Gravy baked potato stacks. This course was accompanied but an assortment of baked Indian breads. I opted for the Garlic naan which complemented the makhani gravy well. The oven roasted chicken was perfectly done.
The sixth course was Lamb & aged Basmati Biryani. The beautifully cooked rice had the right amount of flavouring and was delicious. I found the lamb pieces a bit tough for my liking but, they were delicious, none the less.
A palate cleanser made of guava and berries was presented before the dessert was served. A delicious hint of pepper and ginger reminded me of the plum chutney bengali’s make.
Chef DK came out again with his team of chefs and introduced them to us.
The seventh course was christened Discovery. Magandeep Singh introduced us to Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro, a delicious dessert wine from Spain. Served in little shot glasses, he recommended that we take small sips in 5 second intervals to allow the flavours to open up. The wine was sweet and we had wings. With oohs and aahs flowing about the wine, Discovery was served. A pure work-of-art on the plate, it was gastronomic bliss for me. Mascarpone Kheer with pistachio base and pistachio foam, Caramel Mousse Gulab Jamun and Alpohanso Mango Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulee and beautiful piece of delicious chocolate painted with gold food colour. A perfect end to a delicious meal. But wait, there was more.
The finale was still to be unveiled. During the course of the meal Ms Anjali Mehra had introduced Master Barista Manisha. She has participated in the ‘Taste of Discovery’ coffee championship in 2011 and has won the Meridien Coffee Championship in Trieste, Italy. She has won two international awards in the last two years for coffee brewing competitions. We had been promised a coffee surprise at the end of the meal.
Once the tables were cleared we were served mint chocolates to refresh our palates for the finale. It arrived in small shot glasses rimmed with brown sugar. One sip of this delicious velvety espresso sent me to coffee heaven. The top was warm and bottom of the drink was cold, what exquisite coffee. Let chocolate be the food of Gods, I am a Coffee slave.
Once we had tasted the coffee Master Barista Manisha came out to explain the combination used. Christened Illycinno, an award winning coffee made from a combination of espresso made with Illy coffee beans, Tia Maria and Kahlua. For the first time in the afternoon, there was pin drop silence in the room as everyone listed to her with rapt attention.
With this the afternoon came to a perfect end. Finally we were gifted delicious boxes of chocolate from Le Meridien’s very own Caffe e Chocol Art and little pots of wheat grass and mint leaves. The final experience was a trip to the 20th floor to see the beautiful mosaic work done in the lobby. It seemed like a beautiful sea of colours and water from that height. The Le Meridien experience was amazing. The hospitality, the food, the wine, the conversation all made the Saturday afternoon come alive.