Memories of a delicious birthday

Thank you for your wishes.
No, I am not sharing!

This blog post is about ten days behind schedule but I am writing it for all those who wished me a delicious birthday couple of Sundays back.

The good thing about Facebook and social media is that it reminds a whole lot of people about your birthday. It felt really good to read the wishes as they poured in. From family, friends and then people who knew one through social media.

One common strain through the birthday wishes was to ‘have a delicious one’. 

Like every year, except the one where I was in Goa and had carried a stomach bug from Mumbai, this year's birthday too was indeed pretty delicious.

The wishes pour in as I Instagram my food memories
The fun started on the birthday eve itself where we had gone to Indigo Deli in Bandra. I had a deliciously creamy and earthy portabello mushroom soup there. This was followed by a 4.5 hour braised slow cooked pork ribs strongly recommended by Clyde Comello, the young chef at Indigo Deli, Bandra. 

The meat was very tender and had a coating of a thick, interestingly piquant sauce.

Pork ribs at Indigo Deli

Turned out that the kick in the sauce came from the East Indian bottled masala which Clyde had used in the marinade. Clyde told me that being East Indian, he often brings in East Indian dishes such as ox tongue moile  and pot roast to the Indigo Deli specials. Our chat gave me the fodder for my next column in The India Food Network. The piece is about how East Indian chefs are bringing in their regional flavours to modern Mumbai restaurants. You can read the article here.

We headed back home from Indigo Deli and at the stroke of midnight K got out the cake she had bought from La Folie.

It was the 100 pc chocolate cake. Two layers. An intense dark chocolate mousse top on a bed of a very mildly crunchy praline base.  Very simple to look at. It was all about taste and texture. Had a nice touch of macaron shells too. Definitely has to be the most delicious cake I have eaten in my life. And most expensive too! 

I have recently begun to appreciate dark chocolate and the 100 pc dark chocolate cake from La Folie came into my life just when I was ready to welcome her.

The best cake ever? La Folie

I had written about the 100 pc pastry earlier in this post on La Folie. I had mentioned the good front of counter service there too. We had an example this time as well.  K said she had called on phone to order a cake. The ability of the person taking the call at La Folie to get the brief right led to my getting this epic cake.

For my birthday breakfast on Sunday before last, we went to Saltwater Café in Bandra and got a window by the table with backrest thankfully. I had the most delightful eggs Benedict there. The flavours of the sauce was perfect, the brioche toasted just right and it contained such good quality ham.

Eggs Benedict perfection at SaltWater Cafe, Bandra

Last year I was in Dubai on my birthday. Bengali blogger, Ishita had called us home for lunch that day. Her Phillipino house help, lady M, cooked us a brilliant Bengali lunch as taught to her by Ishita. You can read about that meal here.

This year too I had a Bengali lunch on my birthday. Rajeev Neogi and Siddhartha Bose of Bhojohori Manna sent me an East Bengal meets Mohun Bagan Bengali lunch of bhaapa ilish with rice and golda chingdi (scampi) malai curry with pulao. 

I was grinning like a three year old at the end of my lunch.

Clockwise: Shorshe ilish, pulao, bhaat, pabda curry, golda chingri malai curry.
Alu posto in the centre. Bhojohori Manna

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Lot of folks asked me whether I went to Goa this year for my birthday. Lack of time, fear of fog delays made us can any vacation plans. We did a staycation instead at the JW Marriott Hotel, Juhu. This was our second staycation here. 

The room was very tastefully done and relaxing. We could see the sea over palm trees from the corner of our window and this actually gave us a Goa feel more than the last time we were at JW when we had a window which looked directly onto the Juhu Beach. That was 100 pc Mumbai! This time's view allowed us to dream on.

Recreating that peaceful Goa feeling
at JW Marriott Juhu in Mumbai

We decided to go to Mezzo Mezzo at JW Marriott Juhu for an Italian dinner. 

Years back we had eaten at Mezzo Mezzo when it was new. This was in the early 2000s, we were young and it was one of our first five star hotel meals. We didn’t take to the ravioli and crème brulee we had then. I wonder whether it was because the food was not that good or whether our palate was not as evolved then and the fare was too ‘authentic' for us then?

Back at Mezzo Mezzo. Older. hopefully wiser

This time we were pleasantly surprised to see my friend in law (he is married to my college class-mate Jonaki) Matteo Arvonio, the new Italian chef of Mezzo Mezzo, come in to man the kitchen himself. 

The restaurant was pretty full for a Sunday night.
Matteo joins the party

During a shoot together I had found Matteo to be a pasta whizz. He packed the pastas he cooked with flavour just as they did in what he had eaten in Italy. I find the pastas I have eaten in Mumbai lacking in this flavour quotient. Perhaps the lack of ingredients one gets in Italy works against the Mumbai restaurant pastas?

During the shoot Matteo made a Roman cacio pepe for me and then a rocket pesto for the shoot. You can check this video to see how to make the rocket pesto as taught by Matteo.

For my birthday, Matteo made a goat cheese ravioli which had both K and me in a spell. The ravioli was perfectly formed. Neither limp, nor chewy. The goat cheese unrestrained in its love and the bell pepper mousse at the base offering the perfect canvas for the ravioli to flower.

Matteo's mind blowing goat cheese ravioli at Mezzo Mezzo

Since he has no access to beef here, Matteo experiments with other meats here and made a juicy and vibrant ostrich (from Australia) carpaccio and a surprisingly tender turkey. I’ve rarely eaten tender turkey dishes in Mumbai before this.

Then there was a 12 hour slow cooked suckling pig which I had my eyes on through the week ever since I saw it on the menu during our shoot Mezzo Mezzo. You can imagine how tender the meat was after almost half a day in the oven. Matteo had cooked this in two ways. The pork was cooked in juniper berries and dark chocolate which added an acidic intensity to the meat which helped balance the fat and yet was not chocolatey, unlike the Mexican Mole. Nor fruity. 

I couldn't finish the portion of suckling pig though just as I couldn't finish the pork ribs at Indigo Deli the previous night. One sign of growing old? 

That apart, I have enjoyed my 40s fabulously so far. I remember being anxious and edgy at 39 wondering what the 40s held. Felt a lot more at peace after crossing the milestone a couple of years back and it's been a good run since then. Touch wood.

Suckling pig cooked two ways in Mezzo Mezzo with lots of TLC

They had given us a lovely old school chocolate cake at JW but we ended our dinner with a love packed, very homely (as matrimonial ads in The Statesman said in my growing up days in Kolkata) chocolate pudding made with delectable dark chocolate.

Matteo bids us good night with some Limoncello and
then this dreamy chocolate pudding

Before heading the back the next morning we went to the massive breakfast spread at the Juhu Marriott. K had waffles while I had a dosa and then some Mumbai breakfast favourites such as missal, kheema, poha and upma. It was nice to see regional favourites on offer in a 5 star menu. We bumped into Himanshu Taneja, executive chef of JW Marriott Juhu who was justifiably proud of the wide spread and great croissants on offer. I actually had the kheema with croissants rather than Pav. Made me realise how much nicer buffets in Indian hotels are in comparison to that in Italy 

People who eat with me had to take pictures of me while I ate in the past. Now I make them shoot vlogs on my iPhone which I then put on my Facebook page and YouTube channel, The Finely Chopped. Subscribing to the channel could be the best birthday gift you could give me. 

The icing on the cake, no pun intended, was the Icecream cake at the IndianFood Network Office a few days later which I cut while the folks sang 'hurry up, the cake will melt'.

And thanks for your wishes for a delicious birthday. It indeed was.

Disclaimer: The stay was hosted by JW Marriott, Juhu 

Here's my vlog on why I choose dosas over egg Benedicts and bacons when I eat in 5 star buffet breakfasts in India. Plan to do more such short, in the moment vlogs, so hope you like this.