A weekend at the Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield & thoughts on food blogging sparked off by the IFBM 2014

IMG_8687

I was in Bengaluru last weekend as a guest of the Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield.

I used the opportunity to drop in at the the Indian Food Blogger’s Meet 2014 which was going on in Bengaluru at the Cessna Aloft Hotel.

From the IFBM 2014

I was a panellist there and the topic was ‘beyond blogging’. I was joined by blogger turned writer turned cooking studio owner Rushina Munshaw Ghildayal from Mumbai, bloggers turned authors, the Tadka Pasta girls from Bengaluru, vegan blogger and aspiring vegan food entrepreneur Harini Prakash from Mumbai and blogger turned food stylist from Chennai, Sanjeeta KK. The panel was moderated by blogger turned baking instructor Arundhati R from Hyderabad.

The panel was quite a lively one with a lot of audience participation. Topics discussed included how to build businesses based on one’s blogs, how to decide what to share for free and what to charge for, how to decide on the price for one’s services in a fairly unexplored market, barriers faced while charging for one’s services and so on. We also heard stories from folks who had moved beyond blogging, what had motivated them, their learnings and tips.

Of the various meets that I have attended the Indian Food Blogger’s Meet turned out to be one of the most enjoyable, educative and participative. The hard work that the organisers had put in in selecting the topics for discussion and getting the appropriate speakers is what contributed to making the event a success in my opinion.

IMG_8667IMG_8663

Pictures by Jyotika Purwar & Jayashree Mudaliar

I headed back to the hotel with bags full of goodies given by sponsors. There was so much in the bags that I was worried about excess baggage. The overload of goodies from sponsors was possibly an indication of the the importance that marketers gave to the event and therefore to Indian food bloggers.

Marketers on bloggers

Later that night I chatted with N who works in a PR agency. N told me that clients are increasingly giving a greater importance to bloggers and that this has changed even in the last one year. That clients feel that bloggers offer them an opportunity for localised reach and credible messaging which they miss when using mass media for PR. That this trend is going to increase with each day.

Well given that I was at the Marriott along with three travel bloggers to help promote their web check in app, N definitely did have a point. This is an app for Mariott Rewards members where you can check in and check out anywhere and don’t have to waste time at the check in counter. Checking out from the hotel bed was pretty cool.

I brought in the blogger’s angle by asking N what could bloggers have to gain from this and how could bloggers stay motivated. It can’t be a one way traffic after all. If marketers want blogs to be the next bill boards then they have to engage bloggers in a meaningful and reciprocative manner.

We discussed a few options. Getting paid for reviews would impact credibility and make bloggers go the mass media way. N, suggested ads on blogs. Would be interesting to see if marketers and their agencies see value in that.

What we did agree upon was that we were at the cusp of some pretty exciting times ahead as far as blogging goes even if we can’t predict how things are going to pan out. What should not happen though is the prostitution of food blogging that Kurush writes of here.

The Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield experience

Coming back to the Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield it was a lovely weekend’s stay. The room is pretty luxurious. K and I are big believers in staycations, staying at a nice hotel for a break, even if it is in your city. You can save on the travel cost and time and invest it in your stay. The Marriott room gave the sort of luxury that we look for. When we travel we like to stay in nice places while eating like a local. I am sure K would have quite enjoyed the room at the Marriott.

IMG_8660IMG_8661IMG_8662

After a long time I saw a bathroom with a tub which thoughtfully had bath salts amongst the toiletries and a warm soak in the tub while reading the  Mathew Hayden Cookbook which was in the IFBM goody bag was just what the doctor ordered.

As de-stressing as the tub was was the time I spent the spa. I just love a good spa moment and often go to spas in Bandra. The lady at the Marriott spa suggested an Avigyan Ayurvedic massage. This was a first for me as I usually go in for Thai aromatherapy spa. Well the hour and a half that I spent under the expert ministrations of the masseuse at the Marriott Whitefield was one of the most relaxing massage sessions that I have ever had.

IMG_8668IMG_1680

The first night we had dinner at Chef Alfonso’s Alto Vino in the Marriott Whitefield. Chef Alfonso told us that he is a big believer in simplicity when it comes to food and stressed on the Italian adage of ‘from farm to table’. Apparently he works with local farmers to source organic produce and makes his own mozzarella. I was pretty awed by the simplicity of the dinner that evening which was packed with flavours and revelled in the taste of the produce used. It is one of the best Italian food experiences that I have had. I must caution that I was last in Italy when I was 6 months old and that my perception of what makes good Italian food is based on what I have read, seen on TV and have heard from Italian chefs.

IMG_1667

Two dishes stood out for me that evening. One was the gently cooked seafood fritters which kissed you with every bite. The other was the full flavoured luscious New Zealand Kiwi lamb rack and the intoxicating baked potatoes that came with it. I quite liked the balance of the flavours of the seafood risotto.

IMG_1671IMG_1683IMG_1675

We saw an example of this simplicity that the chef spoke of the next day when we joined Chef Alfonso in Alto Vino during a set of challenges that the Marriott had set for us to explore the hotel and the city. The first was towel folding which, to no surprise of K, I flunked. The second was where we had to make a risotto. I am proud to say that I didn’t let the food blogger community down and won this one!

IMG_8714IMG_8721IMG_8718

The others, Jeet banik@travelingbeats @vishakhatalreja  @ajayjain with me were travel bloggers.

IMG_8722IMG_8747IMG_8746

Anyway coming back to simplicity, Chef Alfonso scored my risotto on plating over another which had a sprig of thyme speared in to it saying ‘this I won’t eat and is not required’.

IMG_8725

I had earlier asked him about molecular gastronomy and Alfonso said that he believes that when it comes to food taste is classic while the rest, like molecular gastronomy, are fads. As someone who singularly looks for taste when it comes to eating I could completely identify with chef Alfonso and I felt that I was in safe hands when my meal was left to his care.

Before the #travelbrilliantly race started Nick Dumbell, the affable general manager of the Bengaluru Hotel Marriott Whitefield, took us on a behind the scenes tour of the hotel. It was great to see the massive kitchen space from inside, get to see people prep up for the upcoming brunch, to walk in to the meat and the pastry sections. As impressive was the laundry section where tonnes of towels were being washed. All over the employee floor were write ups on the history of Marriott and the Marriott family and guidelines on customer engagement. I also noticed that Nick greeted each employee that he came across with the same warm smile that he reserved for the guests.

IMG_8692IMG_8704IMG_8675IMG_8679IMG_8682IMG_8688

IMG_8706

Talking of the restaurants at the Marriott, I had a lovely breakfast at the mCafe. I am normally not fond of having breakfasts in hotels while travelling. I prefer to go to local restaurants or cafes to catch the vibe. In Bengaluru I have had some great breakfasts in the past at MTR, Sri Krishna and CTR. Since Whitefield is in the outskirts of Bengaluru I didn’t have access to its traditional restaurants so settled for the hotel coffee shop.

I gave my favourite egg benedicts and waffles a miss and went to the dosa counter. I just love the dosas at Bengaluru though I wasn’t sure if the hotel would be able to deliver something distinctive. Chef Rohan came up to me and suggested a ragi dosa which I have never tried before. He told me that it’s healthy as it is made with millets and is oil free. I became very suspicious though I agreed.

Well, each time I have had a dosa in Bengaluru, I have fallen in love with it and this time was no exception. Loved the textural crunch of the ragi dosa and just couldn’t believe it was oil free. The dosa was seasoned perfectly, had a distinctive and pleasant mouth feel and went very well with the spicy chutney and I liked the non-sweet Sambar too. This was a great discovery. I tried the rava masala dosa the next morning but that lacked the crunch I have come to associate with dosas in Bengaluru and didn’t give half as much pleasure as the ragi dosa.

IMG_8670

What did give pleasure were the soft baked dark chocolate cookies in the Whitefield Baking Company, the hotel pastry shop. These are soft unlike most cookies available in India, gooey inside and a dark chocolate lover’s delight. They cost all of 30 bucks a piece would you believe it!

IMG_8741

 

IMG_8742IMG_8744

They packed some for me at the hotel which I brought back for K. For all her calorie consciousness she finished all 5 in one night!

Made up for my larking off for the weekend I hope.

Disclaimer: The travel and stay were hosted by the Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield

I started a discussion on what readers want from Indian food blogs on the Finely Chopped Facebook page and here are some answers

Finely Chopped

3 hours ago

Am doing a post which reflects on the future of Indian food blogging. Would love to hear what you, as food blog readers, would want. Please comment here and I will post the ones that come in before I finish the post on the blog

LikeLike · · Share

  • Top Comments

    4 people like this.

  • Finely Chopped

  • Kunal Dhume I as a reader would prefer to read blogs that are not just a compilation of recipes but those that celebrate the food aspect of our heritage and that of other cultures within India and outside of India.

    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 2 hours ago

  • Perzen Darukhanawalla Patel In the future it would be great to see more mentorship projects happening between the old and newer food bloggers. Much has been said these past few weeks about the so called newer generation of bloggers so I think opportunities to work together with the more experienced folk would be invaluable

    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 23 minutes ago

  • Dhanya Samuel Indian food bloggers should reflect and recover the traditional recipes of the country which might otherwise face a danger of extinction

    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 2 hours ago

    • Finely Chopped Dhanya Samuel I think there are some food bloggers who are doing an excellent job in this and much more than mass media. I try to bring in a Bengali touch to my writings though I have lived all over and don't have an intricate knowledge of the same. A reader recently wrote in saying that I use a Bengali yardstick too often. But that's who I am

      Like · 2 hours ago

    • Dhanya Samuel totally agree with you; I do follow a couple of similar blogs myself but like you said, we often tend to write more about flavours or cuisine we like or have grown up with. So there are still cuisines of India that have been left untouched.

      Unlike · 1 · 2 hours ago

    • View more replies

    • Finely Chopped

  • Sangeeta Sharma I love to read about different food cultures, both regional and international...and stories behind them.

    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 2 hours ago

  • Bottledworder I am a new follower and I think you're doing an excellent job leaving it somewhat free-flowing.From what I've seen of the character of your blog, I think your perspectives would be greatly suited to posts on not just reflections on Indian food *blogging* but on the nature of the future of Indian food itself. I was away from india for a number of years and now that I'm spending some time here I see lots of changes and I think your style and culinary experiences suit comments on the future more than the past (just traditional aspects).

    Unlike · Reply · 1 · about an hour ago · Edited

    • Unlike · Reply · 1 · 3 hours ago

    • Nikhil Merchant I'm not sure about the future but the present is like over salted, overcooked and stale eggs !! I wish people would write more meaningful stuff rather than generic stuff (not elaborating, just seeing that trend set in- where are the stories the ramblings the expertise and factual opinions?)

      Like · Reply · 33 minutes ago

  • Rujuta Dnyansagar Ideally food blogger is someone who not just blogs about the good food that is available but also introduces us to different cuisines or new dishes..the most important aspect is meeting the people behind the dishes. .the stories behind the dishes and would love to hear about traditional and regional receipe that we have forgotten or those that are lost in time. ...

    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 22 hours ago

Kurush F Dalal more humour and love

Unlike · Reply · 1 · 22 hours ago

1