Friday, April 4, 2014

Bread Winners

Here's another article featured in the DNA today. Listing down only 5 places for good sandwiches was a tough task, and am sure you might have something in mind that might be better than what's listed here. Do feel free to share your feedback in the comments below-

What's the first thing that comes on your mind when you are hungry and running out of time? And pat comes the thought, 'How about a sandwich?' The fact that it's super easy to prepare and can be made in varied styles, sandwich makes for the perfect snack for people on the go, for a tea-time get-together, or just for those days when you don't feel like cooking.
Referred to as Banh Mi in Vietnam, Cemita in Mexico, Hoagie in the US, or simply the Vada Pav in India, you will find sandwiches in every part of the world, and every time with a different name. Pune being the hub of the young people, sandwiches are one of the most popular snacks which you will find at almost every nook and corner of the city.
1. Marz-o-rin
This is the first recommendation that comes up each time there's a mention of the word 'Sandwich'. We recommend their chutney sandwich, which has a hint of sweetness in the green chutney and is loved by everyone. It is said that out of 1000 sandwiches sold everyday, around 700 are the chutney ones. You can also try the chicken sandwiches here.
Located on MG Road, Camp

2. Brooklyn Shuffle
Come here for the Chicken Club Sandwich. It's the presentation that you should look out for. Sandwiches (and burgers) here are served with a portion of onion rings, fries and coleslaw. You need no extra encouragement to pop in besides the magical mix of chicken, cheese and toasted bread.
Located in Koregaon Park
3. A1 Sandwiches
A simple roadside stall with no frills, this joint serves some of the best sandwiches in the city. Located in the bustling Camp area, this stall is popular for its Veg Club Sandwiches. The minimalist sandwich made of cheese and green chutney is priced at at Rs 40, which can be easily shared between two.
Located in Camp
4. Flavours
No place can make the chocolate sandwich the way these people do. Priced at Rs 50, their choco sandwich tops the list of best sandwiches in the city. One bite, and the blend of chocolate and butter will have you coming back for more. There are currently four outlets in the city, but if your are new in Pune, you won't find it dfifficult to locate the one in Fergusson Collage Road.
Located on FC Road, in Koregaon Park, Viman Nagar and Pimple Saudagar

5. JJ Garden
Since the Vada Pav is included in the Top 10 Sandwiches of the world, we would't leave this one out of the list. A tiny road side joint, this one is one of the most highly recommended sandwich joints by Puneites. Try the vada pav with their authentic green chutney, and we're sure you will not stop at just one.
Located in Camp

*Picture credit- DNA, Pune

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My first published interview! - Hiten Tejwani, DNA Pune

He balances a hectic professional life with a healthy personal life,stressful shooting schedules, and sneaks in a little me-time every once in a while. Yet, he's willing to learn more. Hiten Tejwani now has a Bollywood film, Tere Aane Se, up his sleeve.
After 12 long, hard-working and very successful years, Hiten is a face to reckon with on Indian Television. He’s currently seen on TV in Pavitra Rishta and Sanskar Dharovar Apno Ki. Why the shift to Bollywood? This and a lot more, on this candid chat with the humble actor-

From television to films- Why this shift?
Frankly speaking, I feel anyone who starts acting, be it in theater, TV , or even advertisements, is looking at Bollywood. After 12 long years in this industry, I have learned a lot, and there’s always something more to explore. I have always wanted to get into Bollywood. I have been an Assistant Director in the past, and have even edited many films. When I was offered roles in television soaps, I wanted to explore. All that I am today, every part of my success and experience- it’s all because of TV. 

How has your experience been so far, shooting this film?
It’s been great! It’s challenging. There’s not much that I can reveal right now, but all that I can say is that there is a whole lot of hard-work that I have put into this character I am portraying. The film starts with me, Sanjeev, a 60 year old, reminiscing about his life. And then you go on to see me play a college student, a mischievous young rock-star…and how his life unfolds, the circumstances that make him that 60 year old man. You’ll see the character evolving, and it’s a journey I want to take you through. It’s extremely challenging. Especially since this is not something you have seen before.

How have you prepared for this role?
The most challenging part is that there is absolutely no reference to any other character. I couldn’t refer to any material. Everything has been thought of carefully, it’s all my imagination. I take an hour before the shot, sit back in my dressing room, and think- about Sanjeev, what he would feel, what he would go through, and after 60min, I walk out of my room as Sanjeev. And once again, it’s not been easy. All the roles I have portrayed in the past, all the experience I have got from TV, all of this has contributed to this particular role. In the last 12 years, I have done a whole range of roles, and it’s all helping me today.

What do you prefer shooting for- television or films?
Well…they are almost the same nowadays. The main difference would be the time it takes to shoot a serial or a film. With TV, you don’t get much time to prepare. It’s all done that day itself, on the set. Shoot, and leave. But I don’t really feel there’s much difference now. Gone are the days when it took 3 years for a film to be completed. It’s all done very quickly now. I can’t really pick a favorite.

What next?
Let’s see. I have 3-4 scripts, will go through them once I’m done with this film. I’ll take it one step at a time
Any dream role?
I want to portray a character that becomes a classic in the coming years. I want people to look back, and remember this character distinctly, even years later.

How do you keep in touch with your fans? Any special message you’d like to give them?
I’m active on social media, I interact with them on Instagram and Twitter. I also reply to the text messages. Everyone’s been really kind to me, and I want to thank them for the appreciation. There will be roles that I will probably be experimenting with in the future, but that’s only because I want to learn more. I request you to keep the support coming in, and once again, thank you for being there for me.

And with this, we ended the chat. What was meant to be an interview left me feeling liberated. The zeal and enthusiasm to keep learning was overwhelming. We wish you all the best for the film Hiten!

Here's the link of the DNA article-

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Street Shopping, Pune: Featured on the DNA website

Oh look, I've been featured again! <Wouldn't have known had a friend not called me up to tell me about it. *sigh* God bless him.>

Here is the article-

As we enjoy the luxuries of globalization and modernization, it's difficult to let go of the habit of haggling with street vendors, something that most of us have grown up with. With prices almost skyrocketing, seeing the jealousy and disbelief etched upon your friends faces as you show off your best buys is turning out to be quite a delightful experience. Getting good deals from Sarojini Nagar, Delhi and Colaba Causeway/Linking Road, Mumbai are now passé. Pune is now opening up to the culture of street shopping.

Street shopping , though a little off-track, can be one of the most exhilarating shopping experiences of your lifetime. This is not something that a novice shopper can deal with.The variety of products available at astonishingly low rates, the sense of achievement on having bagged a good deal, picking up triple the number of products for half the amount you’d spend at a mall, and to end it with a finger-licking roadside chaat – this experience is not to be missed out on if you are in India. 

If you are looking at funky products, fabulous bargains, or simple photo opportunities, M.G.Road and F.C. Road in Pune are a must try.  Clothes, jewelry, bags, shoes, home décor items, ethnic items, you name it, they have it. Navigate your way through traffic, kids selling stickers and balloons, and other shoppers as you peruse the stalls. From branded items off the runways to dirt-cheap seasonal trends, MG Road and F C Road are a fusion of traditional and modern styles. These shopping destinations in Pune attract a whole lot of young college crowd, looking out for inexpensive trendy items. The quality of the products picked up is questionable, but something worth Rs. 300 that lasts for 3 months is something that most of us as shoppers can live with.

The people, the smells, the tastes, the organized chaos, the cacophony of sounds -  all of this combined makes for an enthralling shopping experience. There are 2 rules that we absolutely must not forget while street shopping-
1.       Don’t buy in haste, there is ALWAYS a better deal waiting for you at the next store
2.       BARGAIN.

Street shopping is an exciting experience, you never know what you might find. Every buy here has a story. Plan out a day of street shopping with your girls, and shop till you drop! End it on a relaxed note with wine and kebabs at the Greek-themed bistro-By The Way if you are at F.C. Road, or with a Barman’s Pitcher and some Masala Fries at Thousand Oaks’s, Camp if you are looking at something fun near M.G.Road. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Beef Steak Burger

Yay to another feature being published!! DNA, Pune, Page 2 :

What seems like a millennium ago, a phenomenon called Burgers (previously known as Burger King) arrived in Pune. Back then, Pune Camp (M.G. Road) was populated with a cosmopolitan crowd; a mix of foreign students, Christians, Parsis and the elite. The crowd went wild for this place, and for someone who had started this as a small experiment, it ended up being a main business. 25 years since this phenomenon hit this town, Mr. Shapoor Irani, the man behind the burger joint, is still coming to terms with the fact that this place is one of the most famous burger joints in Pune.“I am an MBA graduate, I had nothing to do with this field when I decided to open this joint. I recognized the need in the market for burgers, had an empty space lying around back home, and decided to give it a shot. It’s become such a big hit, it’s not easy!”  

Considering it’s esteemed competition, this joint is surprisingly low-key.  Orders are taken over a small counter , while the cooks prepare the burgers in the background. While the orders are competently prepared, the options are straightforward- burgers, fries and drinks.All the customers are loyalists, and word-of-mouth publicity has got it this far.  If you are in Pune, looking for a fast-food quick-fix, you know where to go.

The Beef Steak Burger has established itself in the competitive market. Mr. Irani went on to tell us how people from Mumbai and Goa come over on weekends to get a taste of the special beef burgers. “On weekends, it’s maddening. There is a long queue of customers waiting to order, and the guys in the kitchen work at the speed of lightning. All the beef burgers are sold out EVERYDAY, there are people who settle in for the chicken burgers because the beef ones are over. I feel bad, but there’s nothing that I can do. I want to continue providing good quantity of quality food, at inexpensive rates.” On quizzing him about the daily sales he smiles and says- I can make 200 burgers, and I can make 10,000. Depends, you can never say. But we are always well prepared.” Does he wish to expand the business? “No not as of now. I have a tough time handling this, how much can one man do? Everything here is freshly prepared, I do not sell frozen patties. The shelf-life automatically decreases, so I can’t be looking out at franchises. I want to give my undivided attention to the 2 stores, I don’t want to compromise on quality, quantity, prices, or my attention” Mr. Irani’s passion for the business is reflected in the way he tells us how a burger is made, describing each step in detail while preparing a burger by himself. 

The store has 2 branches, one on East Street and the other one at Koregaon Park. The stores open at 11:30am and close down by 10:30pm, and are always buzzing with customers.  A beef steak burger is priced at Rs. 80. The customers know what they want, and they know they can get it here- cheap, filling, and most importantly, consistent. Majority of the customers are students, and that is something that has not changed since the store opened back in 1988-89. “The foreign students would come here for the beef burgers, you’d get the loyal AFMC guys coming in every evening, and every Sunday you’d find the NDA chaps occupying the whole place, all throughout the day. Pune has been very kind.”

A good burger is a beautiful thing, almost like an unimprovable piece of art- a satisfying messy presentation of ketchup, cheese, mayonnaise, beef and of course the custom-made buns. If you're looking out for messy American burgers that remind you of Jughead while you eat them,  you will definitely enjoy this place. And if you are lucky enough to get Mr. Irani to spend some time with you, you’d not want to leave.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Mediterranean Affair- Casero, Pune

Before I start, here's the link to the published article (DNA,Pune Edition):

With a whole lot of Italian, Indian, Oriental and Continental restaurants springing up all over the city, this one comes as a pleasant change. With absolutely no hint of an Indian touch, Casero takes you on a delectable trip across Spain, Morocco, Turkey and Greece. 

White stone walls, green doors, a strong breeze, a white fence lined with potted palms, little lamp shades at every table, and soft jazz music playing softly  in the background- this place will definitely remind you of a sea-side bistro in Greece or Italy. The staff is polite, courteous, and makes sure every need of yours is attended to.

The journey across the Mediterranean coast starts as soon as you are handed over the menu card. Hand-made paper clipped on a heavy wooden slate, the menu card provides a detailed description of all the food items. Casero means “home-made” in Spanish, and this is exactly what works for them. There is something about the place that will make you feel at home, and this is what makes the culinary experience all the more exciting.

Warm, buttery, lightly toasted bread served with some light and refreshing hummus, and a couple of fresh fruit mocktails were brought to our table while we browsed through the menu. Mr. Mahesh Kini, the owner of Casero, came over to us and suggested we try out a few of their specials. “We use authentic Mediterranean style of cooking, which is why you will not find even a little hint of any Indian flavors in the food. “


Green Tomato and Goat Cheese
This is a fried patty, soft and cheesy with a thin slice of green tomato in the center, with a little hint of sweetness. This is served with a yogurt based dip, and if you are in the mood for a new (cheese) flavor, I recommend you try it.

A thin, soft, buttery pastry stuffed with spinach, this is a must try for all you vegetarians. The flavor of the spinach is refreshing, and mixes well with the buttery pastry.

Moroccan Style Lamb Balls
Oven baked, sautéed in the home-made tomato sauce, this one is a little tangy. The meatballs are soft, and the flavors are overwhelming. 

This is a grilled chicken preparation served on skewers, and has a fresh flavor of lime, olive oil and herbs. Very light on the stomach, do try it out.

Kalamar Tava
This one’s been highly recommended by many, and is a Turkish preparation of squids stuffed with shrimps. Fresh, soft, and full of flavor, this extravagant preparation is fit for a king. 

Main Course

Artichoke and Phyllo Parcel
This one is an oven-baked phyllo pastry stuffed with cheese and pan- sautéed leek. Buttery, cheesy, soft and light, this dish melts in your mouth.

Root Veg Saganaki
This is a deep-fried patty made our of root vegetables (carrot, beetroot and radish), served with some home-made tomato sauce. Tangy and sweet at the same time, this is served with feta cheese. If you like your cheese, do try it out.

Casero Signature Paella
This involves prawns, chicken, crab and pork sausages served in lemon rice. A good mixture of flavors, this too has been highly recommended by many.

Harissa Chgicken
This one was my personal favorite. It’s  chicken cooked in chilly paste and bell peppers in a foil. If you are looking out for something spicy, try this. The moment you open the foil, the aroma of the chilly engulfs you, and the flavor of the bell peppers and chilly seeped right into the chicken makes this quite a refreshing chicken preparation.

Lamb Shank Tagine
This is mutton served in thick gravy. A little sweet, with a strong flavor of all the right garam masalas, the mutton is cooked with caramelized onions and dates. The aroma will take you back to your history books, and remind you of the Turkish Sultans and their trade of spices, and their rich foods.

The advantage of  this cuisine is that it’s very light on the stomach, and even after all those dishes we had appetite for some desserts (tee hee)


Dark Chocolate Rum Torte
This  one has been highly recommended by many, and there was no way we were going to be left behind. 70% dark chocolate, with a strong flavor of rum- If you love dark chocolate, genuine dark bitter chocolate, there is no way you can be missing out on this.

Arabian Nights
This is a much lighter option compared to the chocolate torte. This is a platter containing a rich, creamy milk based dessert, a walnut filled baklava, and a refrigerated preparation of saffron milk.

A must-try for those looking out for a completely new culinary experience. I’m definitely going back for more. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Arthur's Theme, Pune

A hot and lazy Sunday afternoon saw us walking into Arthur's Theme.The place was empty, and I had my doubts about entering. But I've never heard a bad review about Arthur's Theme, which is why I decided to go ahead with this.

A small place with wood paneling and dim lights immediately takes you to a small café somewhere up in the Himalayas. Full marks for the presentations- lights, music, the wine bottle on the table; this is exactly what you want on a lazy weekend.

We took the table by the window, and proceeded to order. Because it was uncharacteristically hot (it’s only mid March!) I decided to go ahead with a non-alcoholic Sangria. The staff is polite, courteous, and extremely humble. My drink was served within 10 minutes. After having spent all of Sunday morning “café-hopping”, in search of that one drink that would make the heat bearable, I had finally found it. Sweet, cold,  and a strong flavor of apple-what more could one ask for? Once again, full marks for the presentation.

We ordered an Alfredo, which is batter-fried calamari, served with a garlic dip. This one arrived in 15 minutes, and just by the smell of it we knew we had ordered a winner. A rich buttery aroma filled the place while I tried to get a good shot. After a certain point I could not hold back any longer, so please forgive me for this poor quality image.

The squids were fresh, not too chewy, and absolutely delicious! Perfect for beer and game nights. The dip compliments it perfectly, and I strongly recommend this dish for starters.

We then ordered a Mariana and a Duncan (I LOVE the names of the dishes here!) Here’s the verdict-

I expected potato skins, and was a little disappointed to see them being served like this-

But the disappointment was short-lived. The potatoes are crispy, tasty, and go well with the yogurt dip. You can’t stop after one. The garlic and herbs blend well to give a distinct flavor to this dish. Highly recommend it, do try it out.

Classic chicken wings in barbeque sauce. Even though it’s a standard preparation, no one has ever managed to do a good job. This one, however, is as close to perfect as you could get. It looked a little messy to eat, but once we started, we finished off 8 wings between the 2 of us within 15 minutes, I kid you not. The caramelized barbeque sauce does the magic. Try it, please do!

I’m glad Sunday ended on such a happy note. It’s good to see a few old places that have managed to keep up their standards. I am DEFNITELY coming back again, this time with the boyfriend. Good food, affordable prices, and an ambiance that gives you the experience of fine-dining somewhere in the mountains, Arthur’s Theme is highly recommended.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cafe Yezdan, Pune

Another feature in DNA this morning...I think I can get used to seeing my name in the papers every weekend (kidding) This one is a feature on Cafe Yezdan, one of the oldest Irani Cafes in the city. Have a look-

DNA e-Paper Link:

Here's the article-

For decades, Iranian cafes have been a popular haunt for youngsters looking out for their daily quota of bun-maska and chai.  Standing strong since 1964, Café Yezdan has seen modernization, contemporary problems, rising prices of real estate, youngsters unwillingness to carry on the family business, and a lot more.

Continuing the Iranian-Zorastrian trade of “chai-khanas” (tea-houses) in India, Café Yezdan was started by  Khodabanda Irani after having fled Iran. The Irani Cafes present in Pune are a mix of Muslim owned and Parsi owned cafes. The Muslim ones are much more in number, and Café Yezdan is one of the very few Parsi owned Irani cafes left in the city.

Situated at Sarbatwala chowk in Pune camp, this little café is always bustling with customers. From 6:00am till 8:00pm, there is not a single minute where you’d see the waiters idle. Before we met the manager, we decided to ask a few waiters about the place and business- “ Bun Maska chai aur Broon bahut famous hai. Broon bahut jaldi khatam ho jata hai, aur yahan ka bun-maska chai toh poore Pune mein famous hai” (the bun-maska chai and broons are very famous; broons get over quickly, and the bun-maska chai is the most popular item on the menu) The staff here is extremely jovial, helpful, and efficient.

Even with food prices going through the roof, Café Yezdan is still more competitively priced than several other eating places,and a good option for those who find it wasteful to spend much on a cup of tea. With the marble table tops, Irani chairs, tiled floors, and ceiling fans ambiance might not be their forte. But this has never stopped the customers from coming in for a plate (or more) of the special chai and bun-maska. It has developed it’s own style over the years, one very different compared to other restaurants -there is a distinct presence of the old-world style of the Iranis. This has, over the years, become an iconic feature in the locality.

“We recently renovated the place 10 months ago, and now we see men getting their families along. We have seen an increase in the number of women in the café. With the “No smoking” rule, women and children are feeling a lot better at our café” said Mr. Shapoor Irani, grandson of the late Khodabanda Irani. He continues,  “The buns are all out-sourced from Persian Bakery, and the broons from Imperial Bakery. We do not have an in-house bakery. Everything else is prepared right here. And majority of the sales are of the bun-maksa and chai.”

Majority of the customers are individuals with modest means, looking out for simple and wholesome meals and snacks. This café also sees a bunch of people meeting for interviews, or plain social gatherings. Like all the Iranian cafes, this one too has created a loyal following, irrespective of caste and class.

Bun-maska and chai for two cost us a total of Rs. 70. Unless you are not too particular about hygiene, there is no reason you should be missing out on the bun-maska chai they have to offer.
 Café Yezdan is a simple,homely abode to people from all walks of life, looking out for good and inexpensive food. The simplicity is what makes it unique. A musty try for all Punekars.