Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Varnam- reviving and re-interpreting an ancient craft

Channapatna toys are wooden hand crafted toys manufactured in Channapatna, a small rural town of Bangalore, Karnataka. These lacquered toys are a traditional craft that can be traced back to Tipu Sultan's reign. 

As a result of the popularity of these toys, Channapatna is also known as Gombegala Ooru (toy-town) of Karnataka. Its traditional craft is protected as a geographical indication (GI) under the World Trade Organization, administered by the Government of Karnataka. 

The Channapatna craft industry, which has been facing hard times because of competition from cheap Chinese toys as well as changing demands, is making a come back with the help of the government as well as individuals like Karthik Vaidyanathan, founder of Varnam, who are working closely with master craftsmen to revive this industry and bring it up to date with the times and current aesthetic trends. 

That brings me to Varnam. Varnam is a social enterprise that has been working with artisans in Channapatna for over two years now to reinterpret this 200 years old toy craft. The result is a series of home accents, jewelry and originally designed toys. Varnam was awarded the Kyoorius-Blue Elephant award and the CII Design Excellence award for its work in 2013.

Each product in this series has been painstakingly handcrafted by an artisan from Channapatna, Karnataka using the age-old tradition of lac-turnery, a craft that requires tremendous skill and precision. 

On July 3rd Varnam opened its flagship store in Bangalore. This little store is exclusively for handcrafted products that include toys, home accents and jewelry. So if you are ever in Bangalore, drop into Varnam. I'm sure you will love what you see and it will be impossible for you to resist taking away a piece of Karnataka via its most popular craft form. You can learn more about Varnam here.

No. 444, 5th Main
Between 13th& 14th Cross
Indiranagar 2nd stage
Bangalore 560038

Phone: 080-25250360.

[Photographs by Ashish Arora]

Friday, 11 July 2014

My Space, My Style- Aradhana's Gorgeous Space

My Space, My Style is back after a bit of a break and I'm really excited to be sharing this amazing space with you. Aradhana wrote in to to me last month asking if I'd feature her room and I was just blown away by the space she has created.

After dividing the last twelve years of her life between between Delhi, Dubai and finally Singapore, Aradhana has returned to Delhi temporarily, and here's how she describes her desire for her own space- "I've always wanted a space, any space, a room, an entire apartment, a house, to be like a reflection of myself. A place I come back to after a long day; home. " 

I definitely think she has succeeded! Her room is a beautiful amalgamation of the exotic Orient and Indian chic; what an incredible place to escape to at the end of the day !

Aradhana has always been obsessed by dark colors and after a lot of experiments, finally settled on a beautiful charcoal black for the walls of her room. The choice of color for the walls was also important because  the walls would be playing host to all the art work, knick knacks and memories that she has collected on her travels.

I love the way Aradhana has mixed and matched different styles of furniture, as well as introducing a pop of color here and there to brighten up the dark walls and add interest. 

I don't think you could grow bored or tired of looking at and experiencing this space. There are so many things to captivate and interest you... It's a space that tells you so much about its owner... 

Thank you Aradhana for sharing your gorgeous bedroom with us. I'm sure you've inspired a lot of folks, me included:) 

To read more about Aradhana's room story, drop into her lovely blog.

[All Images courtesy Aradhana Anand]

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Some Weekend Fun with Mango Margaritas!

Looks good no?

I thought we'd get the weekend started a bit early, since it's almost Friday, almost the end of the week  and I know we are all dying for it to get here a bit sooner. The weekend is usually when the hubby and I go out, visit a pub or try out a new restaurant. But every once in a while, we decide to stay in and chill. That's usually when I get into cocktail making mode... not that I need an excuse for a good cocktail. Hmm... I think I should stop saying that or else you may start thinking I have a bit of a problem with the good stuff :) 

Anyway, last weekend I tried out these Mango & Chilli Margaritas and they turned out awesome! I was inspired by a recipe I found on Pastry Affair, a blog that's full of some fabulous recipes. It doesn't take too long to make. The trick is to get everything ready in advance. Then at the last moment you can throw everything in the blender, blitz and serve!

These were frozen margaritas... melted by the time I clicked the pictures because it's hot as hell here:) But who's complaining when you have a few glasses of these...lol. We sat around, watched some TV and toasted to a bunch of stupid things... effects of the margaritas I guess... got us in a very happy mood. 

If you aren't a fan of forzen margaritas, just add ice after blending. You can make them any way you like and you can make them as strong or as weak as you like- just stick to the 2:1 proportion. I'm going to whip of some next time I have friends over. Don't think it's possible to not like them! I'm also going to try making aam panna margaritas. Curious to see how they turn out.

Before I get down to the recipe, a few things that are important are, to make sure to prep and chill your serving glasses at least two hours before you plan to serve the margaritas, and to chill the container in which you plan to blend the margaritas.Finally, make sure that the mango is chilled. I would suggest you freeze the mango chunks for a better frozen margarita.

Recipe (about 3-4 serves)
To rim the glasses...
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp castor sugar
1/4 lime/lemon wedge

Mix the dry ingredients together in a plate. Use the lemon wedge to moisten the rim of the glass and then dip the rim into the dry salt/sugar mix. Tap the glass to remove any excess salt and place the glasses in the freezer.

For the actual margaritas you will need...  

2, 60 ml measures tequila

1, 60 ml triple sec
4-5 lemons, juiced (we get small lemons of about 1” diameter)
Chunks of 1/2 medium sized mango
1/2 small green chilli with or without seeds
4-5 teaspoons sugar (less if your not blending with ice)

1/2 tsp salt

4-5 Ice cubes (optional)

Now if you have a blender, then throw all the ingredients in and blend. If you happen to be using a Sumit mixer, then I would suggest you blend the mango, chilli, ice, sugar, salt and lemon juice together till it forms a slushy consistency. Then add the remaining liquids and stir. I say this from my previous experiences of trying to blend a lot of liquid in a Sumit and having to mop up the entire kitchen, walls included :( Not a pleasant experience I promise you! 

To serve, pour into the chilled glasses and decorate with a lime/lemon slice and enjoy!

[All images by Shalini Pereira]

Please do not use without prior written permission

Monday, 7 July 2014

Our Little Green Wall of Frames

My mind always seems to be churning with ideas about our home. When I'm taking a breather from work, I always find my mind wandering to this. I usually start thinking to myself, 'How can I make our place better?' When I share these ideas with the hubby I'm usually met with amused smiles and eye rolls but I never let that deter me :) Do you?

We are lucky that our rented apartment has a small foyer space just before the hall, which the hubby & I had painted green during our 'making our rented apartment into a home' phase. Lately, I've found myself fixated on our entry wall, which I've always felt was boring and dull. So I decided to sort of fill it up with as many frames as it can take.   

Some time ago my in-laws gifted me two lovely brass hanging lamps from Kerala and I've put them up here too. This tiny area is still a work in progress, and I've been adding frames one at a time, but I'm quite pleased with how it's shaping up. 

Notice the empty frame... I have a plan for that... will share soon... promise :)

[All images by Shalini Pereira]

Please do not use without prior written permission

Thursday, 3 July 2014

My On Going Quest for the Perfect Steak- Porterhaus, South Court Mall, Saket

I am in an eternal search for the perfect steak. It’s crazy, some of the places I’ve dragged the hubby to on this quest of mine. Luckily for me the hubster is amazing and gives into these crazy demands of mine. I think he’s amused by the fact that I can get so worked up about food :) So when I heard about this new restaurant in South Court Mall, Saket called Porterhaus, I informed the hubby that that’s where we would be lunching that weekend.

Porterhouse is a cut of steak that is cut from the rear end of the short loin. So I think Porterhaus is the ideal name for this steakhouse. We arrived around 12.30 and basically had the place to ourselves. I think this is because the mall in which Porterhaus is located is still not fully complete and most of the stores are unoccupied.  

The ambience is really nice. The dark green walls and the walnut tones of the furniture seem like the perfect setting for a steak house. It’s also attached to the Harley Davidson Showroom next door, so there are a lot of references to that in the d├ęcor too. When we entered Ol' blue Eyes was playing- they have a nice selection of Jazz and blues which is perfect for the setting.

While Porterhaus is a classic steak house, it’s menu is quite impressive and there is a wide selection of seafood options as well as some great options for vegetarians. For starters we ordered a carpaccio of tomato with goats cheese dumplings and some Kingfisher beer. Porterhaus has some great options of international beers on tap, but I was in the mood for some some good old KF that day :)

While we were waiting for our starter, we were served with a complimentary bread basket that came along with some flavored olive oil and what seemed to be a tapenade of some sort. All the bread served at Porterhaus is baked fresh in-house and it was excellent, as was the tapenade.

The starter, when it arrived was really good. A decent sized portion for one, although we shared it. The goats cheese dumplings were basically goats cheese that that been batter fried. I’ve never tasted anything like it and it was delicious. A lovely fresh plate of food that was rich and tart and perfect for a summer lunch. Loved the balsamic drizzle that accompanied it, the sweet, tart balsamic worked beautifully with the rich, salty goats cheese.

For the mains the hubby ordered the Chipotle potato and bean burger and I ordered the New York Strip. The steak comes with choices of different rubs, sides and sauce/jus. I went for garlic and rosemary mash and our server recommended the Porterhaus special rub and red wine jus so I went his recommendation.

The food arrived after a short wait and the first thing I did was cut into my steak. I usually ask for medium rare, and I’m always disappointed because the steak always ends up somewhere between medium to well done… closer to the later :) But when I cut into it… the joy! It was beautifully pink and the meat was so tender and succulent, it almost melted in the mouth. The mash was excellent too, as was the jus and I have to also mention the mustard served on the side. It’s made in-house and is divine! There was very little to complain about, but if I were to be really critical, the jus was slightly over seasoned for my taste and the grilled carrots served with the steak had a little too much bite for me.

The hubby enjoyed his burger. Says it’s the 2nd best burger he’s had so far. Taste wise he rates it number 1, but he was a little disappointed with the fact that it sort of fell apart and was very difficult to pick up and eat with his hands. He liked the beans in the patty which made it stand out from the regular aloo patty which he sees in most burgers. One other small negative was the potato wedges, which were a little soggy and not at all crisp. For me the perfect wedge should be nice and crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy in the inside. 

Sadly when it came time to order dessert, the unthinkable happened… we were too stuffed to eat another bite! But since their dessert menu had a lot of things that I’d like, I made a promise to myself that I’ll make sure to save room for dessert on our next visit:) 

Porterhaus is a must visit for meat lovers and especially those of you who love your steak. So nice to visit a place where the steak is prepared exactly how you like it! Our meal came to about 3K including drinks, which is not too steep considering the quality of the food. Service was also excellent… no issues there at all. If I were to rate my experience at Porterhaus out of 5, I’d give it a 4.5/5. We were both very happy at the end of our meal.

As a postscript, I’d like to mention that I was so happy with my meal that I wrote in to Porterhaus to let them know. I also had a very nice chat with Porterhaus’s owner Kuldip  Tolia. He very kindly spared the time to chat with me about the restaurant, his team and their future plans for Porterhaus. He also clarified to me that Porterhaus is not part of the US Porter House chain, it in fact a standalone restaurant and brand that he has created with a view to providing as many different options when it comes to steak. 

Plot 158-161, Ground Floor, DLF South Court Mall, Saket, New Delhi  
*Note that we were not invited to review Porterhaus, but visited as paying customers

[All images- Shalini Pereira]

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