Dining at Alfresco

On 16 October 2014, I came to Kolkata with my parents for my mom’s health check up at Quadra Diagnostics, Hazra Road. My dad booked at Great Eastern Hotel in Dalhousie for our stay tonight. It’s the oldest five-star hotels in all over Asia and its establishment dates back to 1840s during the East India Company rule in Kolkata. The hotel has been in top charts since then. The location of the hotel is very good as it’s in the heart of the main business district of Kolkata. All the big and reputed companies have their establishment around.

The hotel is quite huge with three separate restaurants. One of them is on the lobby named Alfresco, which is a multi-cuisine restaurant accompanied with a café. We walked in there for our dinner. Well it is a very beautiful restaurant. As the name literally suggests ‘outdoor’, all the arrangement is to suit like sitting in the outdoor porche or tent with circular glass cane table and cane chairs complimented with sweet chirpings of birds making you feel sitting at a garden in the open. The ambiance made us feel good. My mom was tired of the journey started feeling refreshed there.

We had a hard time discussing the menu since there were a lot new dishes on the menu card. Finally we settled for ‘mushroom cappuccino’ soup for my dad and me and my mom had ordered for hot n sour soup as she doesn’t like mushrooms. As the name mushroom cappuccino soup it was served in a coffee cup, yah truly in a coffee cup with cookie shaped baked breads! The soup was made up of like a paste of mushroom and served exactly like cappuccino. The froth and color was very much similar to the coffee we generally have at the café. The presentation was awesome. Along with that they served some breads and green salad. Also we ordered for chicken Caesar salad which was equally delicious. But for us the star meal of the diner was the ‘posto murgi’ which we ordered in the main course. The concept of posto (poppy seeds) murgi (chicken} was awesome. We had before posto with vegetables but posto with some non veg item was really novel. The taste was even more delicious than I had expected. The innovation was really appreciable. Along with that we had preserved breast chicken which was chef’s special. It was a chicken steak along with steamed omelets.

Lastly we had fresh lime soda (sweetened) before leaving the restaurant. The food was so great that I would say that this place should be visited once again and enjoy the foods here. I’m loving it!!!

Lunch with colleagues

My colleagues told me in the morning that they are planning for a lunch for the Investment Department and Back Office department. They requested me to join them too. Some of them decided to join with their spouse.

The lunch was planned at Bestoon Samad Restaurant nearby. I agreed to join them. It would be a nice way to meet my colleagues outside the boundaries of the formal atmosphere.

The table was booked by Zaid. Ibrahim volunteered to take us and drop us in his car. I got OK for our visit from security too.

After 3:00 p.m. we went to the restaurant. Although the restaurant is some 15 minute walk from our residence, but the car took a circuitous route due to some traffic restrictions in the neighbourhood. We were around 14 people gathered for the lunch. Zaid, Mustafa and Rana were accompanied by their spouses. Zaid came with his son too. He’s a lovely boy and very cool also. He has no inhibitions. He even came to my lap for quite some time.

Rana’s husband was sitting beside me. We met each other for the first time. Dia — Rana’s husband — is a nice guy. He’s presently doing his doctorate on complexities in architecture.

Our lunch started with soup and salads accompanied by huge Iraqi qubooz. The main course followed after we finished our soup and almost through our salads. I opted for chicken barbecue. We finished our lunch with tea.

After our great get together over lunch, we left for our homes. Ibrahim dropped us at the gate. Thanks guys for making my afternoon with nice company and good food.

Dinner at the residence of the Indian Ambassador

Yesterday, while talking over phone Mr. Dharam Veer Singh, HOC, Indian Embassy invited us for dinner. Mr. Singh is a nice, friendly person and I agreed immediately. He again called me in the afternoon to confirm our presence in the evening at the residence. It’s so nice of him. He also informed me that he’s now getting posted at Atlanta in Georgia (USA).

We reached the residence of the ambassador at 7:00 p.m. We had nice chat with Ambassador Ajay Kumar, Mr. Singh and Mr. Ashok Rawat, Consular over scotch whiskey followed a heavy dinner.

There was kaju barfi in dessert! They said that they got the barfi just today. It was fresh indeed. Kaju Barfi is an Indian subcontinent dessert. Kaju literally means Cashew nuts and Barfi is a type of Indian sweet.

We didn’t realize that it was almost 11:00 p.m. We wished them Good night and walked back to our residence.

We hope to see Mr. Singh again before he leaves for Atlanta. I wish him all the best in his new assignment.

Celebration of India´s Independence Day

Today is India’s 68th Independence Day and I am in Baghdad.

There was an invitation from the Indian Embassy, Baghdad for the flag-hoisting ceremony in the morning. We reached the embassy at 8:00 a.m. Soon the Indian flag was hoisted and the national anthem was sung. It was followed by customary reading of the President’s address on the eve of the Independence Day by Ambassador Ajay Kumar. A local Iraqi boy also gave a small, good speech. He gave a speech last year too.

There were some 30 Indian nationals also, who are returning to India tomorrow through Indian embassy. They are staying now at the premises of the embassy.

The embassy served us traditional Iraqi breakfast items — samoon and falafel.

A samoon is a rhombus shaped bread baked in brick oven. It is made with flour, yeast, water and salt. Quite conducive to stuffing as the interior is a bit more airy.

A falafel is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas and sometimes with broad beans also. Falafel is a common dish eaten throughout the Middle East.

Ambassador Ajay Kumar has joined the embassy a couple of months ago and this is our first meeting. We had a long chat with him after other guests departed. We walked back to our home at 11:00 a.m.

Happy Independence Day! Vande Mataram! Jai Hind!

Kahi and Geymar

One of our colleagues,  brought traditional Iraqi breakfast — Kahi and Geymar — to our department today in the morning.

Kahi and geymar combo is a popular, traditional breakfast in Iraq.

Kahi is a breakfast dish of Jewish Babylonian descent. It is made of very thin folded layers of filo-style dough, brushed liberally with butter/oil, and then folded and baked.

Kahi is eaten drenched in a light date syrup with a generous portion of geymar.

Geymar is another rich Iraqi breakfast food.  It’s thick, white cream traditionally made by skimming the fats off water buffalo milk.  A familiar counterpart will be the better-known clotted cream.

Thanks Ali for bringing this nice, traditional breakfast today.

An afternoon in Mansour Mall

It’s been long time that we went out in Baghdad. So, we decided today to go to Mansour Mall. It’s the social pearl of Baghdad. We arranged for our visit and went there at around 5:30 p.m. The mall generally remains busy, but today it was empty due to Ramadan.

We walked inside the mall at our ease and slowly reached the top floor that houses the food court besides children amusement facilities. It was empty then, with a few people sitting. This floor always remains very crowded. Most of the restaurants/ food joints refuse to serve before the iftar. We found an outlet that was serving. We had barbecued chicken breasts and cola there.

By the time we finished our snacks, the place was full with people and there was hardly any empty table. It was around 7:00 p.m. then. We walked down to the supermarket in the basement of the mall for purchasing some groceries. Then we went to the food court again for dinner. But that time it was overcrowded. We got a pizza packed and returned home to eat it in the comfort of our home while watching television.

Temi Tea Garden

We planned to visit Char Dham in Namchi. We left the hotel early after having our breakfast.

The road to Namchi from Gangtok is via Temi Bazar. The road cuts from the National Highway at Singhtam. The scenic beauty is excellent on the sides of the road.

A Sikkim tourism restaurant just above the river after crossing Singhtam

Temi is famous for its internationally renowned tea, which is sold under the name Temi tea. We stopped at the garden, which is about 60 kms from Gangtok.

One can savour the breathtaking view of temi tea garden from the road.

It’s one and the only tea estate in Sikkim, which produces top quality tea in the international market.

Temi tea garden is considered one of the best in India and in the world.

The garden is laid over a gradually sloping hill.

The tea produced in this garden is also partly marketed under the trade name “Temi Tea”.

There’s a restaurant selling hot momos and tea. Momo is a type of dumpling native to Nepal, and in some communities in Tibet, Bhutan.

 

We enjoyed the lovely tea with hot momos and fale. Fale (falay) is another Himalayan cuisine but not as popular as momo. Fale is TIbetan style puff pastry filled with minced goat/lamb meat.

Then we drove towards Namchi.

Banjhakri Waterfalls

Banjhakri waterfalls is a popular tourist spot near Gangtok in Sikkim.

We visited Gangtok for a couple of days with Jaya’s father. He wanted to see the institute of Babai and the place too. We reached Gangtok yesterday.

We decided today to visit Bankjhakri waterfalls with him due to its proximity to the city of Gangtok.

It’s around 4 km from Gangtok. The falls is set amidst dense greenery and the theme park itself is littered with ethnic sculptures and figurines of the Jhakri culture.

The waterfall roars down from a height of say 70 feet. Enough facilities have been provided for the tourists to go closer to the waterfall.

The word ‘Banjhakri’ means a forest shaman. A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing.

These shamanistic practices are depicted via the figurines in this theme park. Some of these depict rituals, some healing ceremonies and others the initiation process in the life of a shaman.

Sikkimese style bridges have been built over the water streams and that lead to small view points from where one can get great shots of the waterfall.

Baba couldn’t walk up the stairs to reach the waterfall area, so he sat near the stairs leading to the waterfall and was watching some local boys catching fish in the stream.

It even hosts some decent momo stalls.

Nothing beats a hot plate of momo, aloo dum and a steaming hot cup of tea on a afternoon here. The items were nicely cooked that we repeated the orders.  Then we returned to our hotel in Gangtok via Hanumantok, Ganeshtok and MG Road.

It’s a nice place and worth a visit. It should be on every Gangtok visitor’s itinerary.

Dolma in office today

Today, our colleague Ms. Khalida brought dolmas for the Back Office. It was so nice of her to cook and bring the dolmas to the office in good quantity for all of us. The dolmas were very nicely cooked and tasted very good.

Dolma is originally a Turkish food that has many varieties generally stuffed with ground meat. Dolma word has derived from “dolmak”, which is a Turkish word that means “to be filled, be full”. The use of grape leaves to wrap food is believed to date back to the days of Alexander, the Great.

In Bangladesh and Indian state of West Bengal, pointed gourd (potol) is used for stuffing fish, meat, or vegetables and goes by the name of dolma or the local variant – dorma. A mixture of poppy seeds, grated coconut, raisins and/or shrimp is commonly used for stuffing. During the times of the Nawabs of Bengal, this dish came to the region with its Turkish name, with the only noticeable change being the vegetable used for stuffing.

Thanks to Ms. Khalida for cooking and bringing dolmas for us.

Dinner at Akhtar’s house

Yesterday, Akhtar called me on phone. He arrived Baghdad last Sunday. He invited me for dinner at his home. He also invited Mr. DV Singh, HOC, Indian Embassy, Baghdad.

I went to his home around 7.30 p.m. walking as he stays very nearby. He stays just opposite to our old house. Mr. Singh also reached his house as I reached there along with Himangshu Pant, PA to Ambassador and Tarun Tyagi.

Akhtar served us drinks. The embassy people preferred coke while Akhtar and I had whisky. It was followed by huge dinner arranged by Akhtar. He served fish fry, aloo dum, paneer curry and chicken curry along with rice and qubooz. After that he served us fruit ice cream. It was a nice, heavy dinner. All the items were well cooked.

Mr Singh informed us that the new Ambassador is expected to join by the end of this month. He is coming from Indian embassy in Tehran, Iran.

They left after 10:00 p.m. I also then walked back to my house. I enjoyed the evening and the dinner. Thanks, Akhtar.