June 18, 2010

Mango Mood

I have always been fascinated about writing about food or a raw material. There is this guy called Vikram Doctor who writes about food on ET and i am a regular reader of most of his vegetarian (:P) posts. Looking outside my train window now, i see water droplets from the slight drizzle. I realize that the the summer season is almost drawing to a close. And along with it the mango season. Hence my post as a tribute to the queen (i like it that way! ) of fruits- MANGO.
In my two odd decades of existence in the world, I have not come across one person who doesn't like mangoes. The adults go nuts about the fruit as much as the kids do. This is perhaps because it is the fruit that we used to eat during summer vacations, most probably at the native place where grandma would let you eat some more despite the strict warning from mother.

The whole color, texture and taste of the fruit are out of the world. Sometimes, a whiff of the fruit when you pass through the fruit stalls itself is sufficient to make you lust after it. The round and perfect Alphonso mangoes may be expensive, but a box of those would be the best gift to give anybody, any day. If you do not want to spend that kind of money on fruit, you can settle for the Mallika, Banganapalli or the Sinduri mangoes. If you like the tangy raw fruit, then the totapuri must be on your list of must-haves’. With a smattering of salt and chilly, it is an ideal snack to munch on. And how can I forget the Raspuri mangoes meant for milk shake or juice? The yellow colored drink may not be the perfect way to beat the heat but is definitely perfect for your taste buds. Forget your daily calorie count for a day and try the aamras and poori combination. It will be dil maange more after that.
People in Bangalore must visit Lalbagh to get a glimpse of the multifarious varieties of the fruit during the Mango Mela. It’s hard for me to imagine how people don't go crazy at the sight of so many mangoes! And repeating the advice i have heard over the years- after you’ve ODed on the mangoes, drink up a cup of milk to counter the heat it causes.
The season might have almost come and gone in a flash, but there is still the ubiquitous mango pickle to keep company for longer. Tender mango in brine, avakai, shredded mango, cut mango, a sweet version- there are probably umpteen lip-smacking variations in pickles. For those with a sweeter tooth, there is the mango pulp preserve also. Keep it all through the year and savor mangoes until the next season arrives. If you are a candy person, you will recollect days at school when mango bite, mango mood, kachcha aam candies were a big hit. They still are. As a bonus for the kids, there is also the mango ice cream in almost all popular brands.
If you still want to get the asli mango ka maza, then there is the Slice or Maaza option, supposedly. It might look tempting after seeing one Ms.Kaif drinking it on TV, but it’s still not the real thing. So until next year's season, I'll settle for eating other fruits which simply pale in comparison to the Mango. And also secretly hope that the seed/stone that i planted, of the yummiest mango from this summer, goes on to grow into a BIG tree which will give equally tasty fruits. That’s the stuff my recent dreams are made of!

June 14, 2010

Mysore matinee

I stumbled upon the collection of my tickets from some of the movies that i watched during engineering college. Looks like Srinagaraja was my favorite hangout :P Now ask me to go there and i will give a shudder and refuse.

Woodlands, Sterling, Srinagaraja, Rajkamal used to be the places to go to after bunking a class. Many times, we'd spot people from other branches waiting in the same queue. The pleasure of grabbing a ticket from the counter after a long wait is something you won't get when you book it online. At 45 rupees, any movie was paisa vasool! Now if i see a 45 rupees ticket, i can only say, those were the days. Makes me feel really old! :(

June 8, 2010

June outing: Pondicherry

Warning: This is a really long post. Dint know what to add, what to leave out. Read it in parts if you want to :)

A trip to Pondicherry will evoke a standard response from most people: yeNNe plans huh?( yeNNe translation for the uninitiated: oil/ alcohol: both are really cheap there :P)
Contrary to popular belief, there are many other things to do in Pondicherry, most importantly- Shopping and eating. A perfect cocktail for an all girls' trip ;)
Seven of us left from Bangalore on friday night by the Yeshwantpur Express. Choose the train if you are looking for a comfortable option to travel. It takes ages to reach Puducherry though- 10 and half hours for a journey that should ideally take about 7 hours.
On alighting the train we realized the autos there do not have a meter and drivers are waiting to take advantage of ignorant travelers. It is better if you carry a map or have a fair idea of the distance you'd have to travel. We had already booked a guest house in the heart of the city- Kailash Guest House on Mission road, which was about 3 kms from the station. Using our well utilized bargaining skills, we got the auto wallah to slash the price by half and paid 40 bucks for the ride to guest house.

Breakfast was at Sri Krishna Sweets right opposite the guest house (yes, the Mysorepak people). I thought of sticking to mini idlis so that they are light and easy on the stomach. What i did not foresee was two big dollops of ghee floating on the sambar! With the "trip time mein sab kuch chalta hai" attitude, i gobbled the whole thing. The sambar was spicy and yum. A welcome change after the sweetish sambar served in Karnataka, which also i love. Most hotels there also serve a red chutney along the normal chutney we get to eat here. It just elevates the taste of idlis!
The guest house was a no frills place. The air conditioning was a relief( there i go again with my AC addiction!) since the city is really hot and humid. Once we were ready, we had to look for a way to travel to the places in the list. Auto/ two wheeler were the only options. Since most of them had not got their license along (the ever so thoughtful me had packed it) we resorted to hiring a three wheeler and a two wheeler. Two wheeler comes cheap at 150 per day. The auto guy demanded 500 bucks to show us around. Without another option, we settled for it. Five people piled into the auto and one person as my pillion. My only goal was to keep the auto guy in sight and follow him.
First stop: Auroville, a township some 12 kms from Pondicherry that transcends caste, creed and nationality. There are a couple of boutiques, a meditation place and the matri mandir itself which is a dome like structure. Watched the video about the history of the place and the significance of the Matri mandir. Had a simple lunch comprising chapathis and subji at the cafe there. Drove to Chunnambar backwaters from there. It is about 10 kms from the city.
From the backwaters, it is a half an hour boat trip to the Paradise beach. Ideal time to enjoy the view, reflect about whats happening with your life and taking stock of future plans with the background music from the motor boat and water. There are supposed to be dolphins in the backwaters but we dint spot any.
Once we reached the beach, all of us went crazy at the sight of the waves.We played around there until 4.45 and left for the famed Anglo-French textile factory from there. It was one BIG disappointment. The factory has been shut down and they have a really old stock of fabrics that i would probably bring back for dusting and mopping. The reviews on all the websites about the textiles were so misleading!
Despite the last hiccup, the day was nothing less than a joyride for me. Despite all the warnings from mother dearest about renting the vehicle, i ended up doing it and it was thrilling! Haven't told her about it yet!
Come evening, it was time to hit the roads. We split up and went shopping on the JN Street, MG Road, mission street. Met up for dinner at Hot Breads. The place has some tasty combos for dinner alongside the normal baked stuff like rolls, sandwiches, pizzas and buns. You can also buy some really yummy cakes, cookies and muffins at reasonable prices here. I had a hard time choosing what to buy and what to leave out!

The shops here remain open up until 10.30 in the night. So you can actually shop till you drop here. Around 11, all of us gathered in one of our rooms for a late night snack of the stuff we got from Hot Breads. Plan for next day: Wake up real early to see the sunrise on the Promenade beach.
We forced ourselves awake at 5.30 next morning. All the pictures from that morning have most of us with puffy eyes and sleepy expressions. It was drizzling slightly and i was maha happy for a moment. Then realized that we were going to watch the sunrise and it was cloudy! We walked along the Promenade to see the war memorial, Gandhi statue and some French guy's statue while we waited to get a glimpse of the round red sun. It was 6.45 and bright but no sign of the sun. The 24 hours open board on Le Cafe along the beach came as a savior. We were ravenous and among the first ones to go to the cafe early in the morning. To our dismay, they served only coffee, tea and juice in the morning.

I thought of having at least a cup of good tea before leaving. Ordered the breakfast tea and got raw deal- a cup of milk with a tea bag and sugar cubes. Not at all my idea of a nice cuppa. We went scouting for some other place to eat. Walked along the french quarters and landed at Indian coffee house just beside our guest house. Time for idli- vada again for breakfast.
The plan for the day was to simply explore the french area, do some shopping and eat to the heart's content. On spotting a cycle renting shop near the guest house, we impulsively decided to do our exploration on cycles. I struggled when i mounted mine. Could not balance initially and was looking for the accelerator! But after getting over the starting trouble, it was a breeze, literally too. The weather was good with the wind blowing onto the face;I was reminded of school days riding the ladybird with the basket in the front!
After cycling all along the beach to and fro, we paid a visit to the Manakula Vinayaka temple and get blessings from the elephant there. It nicely collects all the coins in its trunk and throws away the grass you feed it!

The french quarters with the yellow walls, paved perpendicular roads and mansions will transport you into an entirely different world altogether. There are cafes, pizzerias and boutiques all along the roads. Its a visual treat and best explored on foot or cycle. Even real old ajja-ajjis go around cycling there.

The Puducherry museum did not hold our interest for long- it had old coins, artifacts. So we split up and chose to ride around instead. If you ask me what i did the whole day that day, i'd just say cycled and ate. But it was fun - losing sight of another group and calling them up to find where they are, locate the place on the map and meet up with them.
All of us met up for lunch at Le Club.
The place came highly recommended. On reaching there, we were surprised at the prices and lack of options for veggies! Tried garden salad, sizzler and ratatouille. Was not very impressed or satisfied. So off we went to another place to gorge on pizza and mocktails. Soon as we finished, we wanted to just drop into this place called Choco La and check it out. Once there, you are in a world of pure chocolate. I wanted to eat everything that i saw. Despite having eaten to my full, i gobbled chocolate and more of it. The chocolate drink there is thick and you get chocolate cubes and chocolate spoon along with it! It was one sinful detour which ended in most of us becoming chocolate high! Somehow, i was extra happy after consuming all that chocolate. It really does good things for you- Chocolate. Doesnt matter if you eat that kind of chocolate once in while ;). But problem is when you get back chocolate muffins from there and eat them after coming back from office daily! :)

Burnt a few of the accumulated calories by cycling back to the guest house. Returned the cycles, took some rest, changed and set off on foot for another round of shopping. Did not get to do too much shopping. It was decided that we skip dinner and have something light. The something light turned out to be a proper sit down affair at Richie Rich!

After dinner it was time to say goodbye to Puducherry. One happy time i had at this trip. Got enough of sun and sand. The trip "hangover" has remained for two days. The tan will take a while to wear off! Jyo says that she still sees the beach when she closes her eyes. And i want to go cycling, where in Bangalore, i don't know! Will spend this week looking at the load of pics from there, over and over again. Plans for the next trip with the same gang are already on. Watch this space for an account of the next trip!